Public Transport Shortcomings
The reality is that living in Northern Ireland, and outside of Belfast, there are times when not having a car can be a real challenge. My car sharing figures are a bit higher than usual over the past couple of months – because travelling bigger miles on public transport is just not cost effective when there is more than one of you. And because more often than not, the public transport options are slow, tedious, involve lots of waiting around, and may still not get you to within a reasonable journeying distance from your destination.
As an example, this past weekend I was itching to get down to the Mournes. Partly because I wanted to pick up a second-hand mountain bike that I’ve just purchased, and also because I really wanted to hike into the hills. All my car-driving weekend playmates were busy working, so I looked at my public transport options. No chance. Getting from Ballymena to Newcastle was going to take around 4 hours – and then I’d still have to get to the starting point for my hike. Plus the thought of a 4 hour return journey (including a lot of waiting around) really didn’t appeal to me. And there was no chance of picking up my bike – taking a bike on a train is great, but the trains don’t run to Newcastle, and N.Irish buses have not yet developed a system for allowing passengers to carry bikes. My only option to collect the bike next weekend is to borrow a car, or to spend several hours on buses before cycling from Castlewellan to Belfast to catch the train. Not a great option for a mountain bike.
However, public transport failings aside, I did work out my savings for the year so far, and that made me feel a little better about my car-free state. So far in 2016, I’ve cycled 828 miles, spent 3175 miles on the train, and 358 miles on buses. I’ve travelled 2144 miles by car (1552 miles have been car-sharing, and included a holiday to the Lake District). So of the 6505 miles I’ve travelled so far this year, I’ve managed to keep my solo car journeys (in a borrowed car) to 592 miles – approximately 9% of my overall travel. This is a massive reduction on my car usage compared with last year, when probably at least 70% of my journeys were made by car.
As before, it’s in the financial savings that I notice the biggest impact. To date in 2016, combining both my work and personal travel, I have saved £1718 in comparison with doing all of my journeys by car. When I look at just my own personal travel, I have spent £326.60 so far this year getting about. If I was to exchange all those bike & public transport journeys for a car, it would have cost me £1249. That’s a personal saving to me of £922 so far this year.
If that seems like a lot, remember that I am working out car costs based on 42p per mile – this is how much my car was estimated to be costing me to run, including not only fuel costs, but the cost of the car, maintenance, servicing, insurance, parking, tax, etc. And it certainly feels like an accurate reflection of the savings I am noticing in my bank balance every month.
Cycling is not entirely cost-free. I spent a bit of cash on Jem, my touring bike – replaced the cassette & chain, added new brake pads. And I needed a full service on Finn, my road bike, that included replacing the bottom bracket, gear cables, and servicing the headset. So in total, £155 on bike maintenance. Oh, and I splashed out on a new cycle jersey & cycle gloves as well – another £95. But with personal savings of £922, I felt ok about that – I’m still £672 up. Plus, it’s a really nice jacket. 🙂