by Julie Anne Genter
Disclaimer: the purpose of this trip is not any of the following
A. To reduce my own carbon footprint (I try to do that, but the reality is that I have to fly back)
B. To encourage others to risk their lives cycling on state highways
C. To say that everyone should always cycle or take the bus or train, regardless of their circumstances.
There’s something I want to say to all of you. It’s a little personal.
It’s not your fault.
It’s not your fault that it’s difficult, inconvenient and expensive to take the bus or train most of the time. It’s not your fault that it’s difficult and frightening to walk, cycle or send your kids to school on their own.
It’s not your fault that the goods you buy or sell are mostly moved by truck. And you can’t change the transport system on your own through your consumer choices.
But you CAN tell the Government that you want a smarter transport policy. One that will make it easier for you (or others) to spend less money on cars and petrol. One that will stimulate economic development in our town centres. One that will reduce the road toll, and reduce our collective carbon emissions. One that will make it possible to travel between some cities on a train, or even a bike, if you choose.
We can do this, and the Government can SAVE money. And you don’t have to stop driving if that’s the best option for you. (Though you may have pay a little more directly for parking and fuel emissions, but you’ll find it easier to find a park and you’ll get stuck in fewer traffic jams).
That’s my message, just wanted to make sure it was coming through clearly…
Today was a fantastic day. I cycled the 80-some km from Timaru to Oamaru with the wind at my back. The highway signs informed me it is called “The Strawberry Trail”. I stopped for an excellent lunch at a cafe that’s just over halfway to Oamaru, at the turn-off to Waimate. They even had gluten free pancakes and organic museli! But I opted for a salmon frittata.
I passed a few fellow travelers on loaded touring bikes, both going the opposite way. Liz, from San Francisco, has been cycling all over the South Island for the past 5 weeks, and this is her last week before heading home. She’s loved her trip, but finds the trucks overtake uncomfortably closely and the shoulder of the road is significantly bumpier than the road itself.
Shortly before arriving in Oamaru, I saw the typical road signs that had been informing me just about every kilometer how far it was to Oamaru and Timaru, but something was different. These signs had the distance to the South Pole and the Equator — and I was just over halfway. The 45th parallel. Pretty sweet. It’s the sort if subtle thing one might miss if not on a bicycle.
Tonight I cycled into the heart of old Oamaru and watched the little blue penguins come in from their day at sea. Unbelievably cute. The town has a well preserved and very charming historic quarter, but typically the main street is mainly oriented to cars and car parking, and development stretches out thin along the state highway. Still, there’s a bike lane the whole way and it’s well lit. It’s got potential.
The cycling seems to be getting easier (knock on wood), though everyone I meet warns me about the big hills into Dunedin, and I am starting to worry about the 75km I have planned for Thursday. I may yet have to revise the itinerary down a bit.
Tomorrow, I leave the highway for a while to cycle by the sea, and then I head up into the hills. Eek…!
Next post: Day 5 — Serendipity and Community