By Yara Al-Wazir
One of the things I was most excited about when I moved to the UK was the abundance of recycling facilities and the fact that I’d finally be able to use them on a daily basis. However, I soon realized that being green wasn’t just limited to using different bins, but that there were a variety of ways to be green, healthy, and save time as well.
When I first moved to the UK, my heart would skip a beat every time I had the chance to use a recycling bin. But when I moved into a different dorm and was no longer able to recycle, I felt like a part of me died and needed a new daily eco-friendly habit to keep the sun out. On this day, I discovered cycling.
When I bought my bike, I was told the only ‘law’ was to have lights on my bike, but two months into my purchase, I realized there are many unwritten laws about cycling.
- Don’t cycle on the sidewalk
Cycle on the road. Especially if you’re taking any main paths in the morning, as the sidewalks are usually busy with students. There’s usually also an angry old lady that will wave her cane at you and tell you to get off the path. Occasionally, she’ll be walking her husband who will stand there twiddling his thumbs. She doesn’t care if there’s a bike printed on the path, clearly indicating that bikes are allowed on this path as she almost never wears her glasses. Sadly, as Arabs, we’ve been raised to respect our elders and so we must respect her.
- Don’t cycle on the road
Cycle on the sidewalk. Drivers over the age of 30 will honk their horn and tailgate the back of your bike till you get off the road. If the road is in stand-still traffic and you manage to squeeze in between a car and the sidewalk and cycle happily, expect angry looks from the drivers stuck in traffic, and maybe a few curses. Also, if your luck is as bad as mine, it is likely that something will hit your back tire and you’ll fall off your bike and require stitches on your chin.
- Your bell means nothing
Generally speaking, there are two types of people who choose to walk to get around: students and retirees. It doesn’t matter how many people walk in front of your bike, they still won’t hear you. Students walk with their noise-cancelling headphones plugged into their ears blaring Kanye West, and retirees… well, they don’t wear their hearing aids. So save your thumb the trouble and don’t use your bell. Be patient instead.
- The most convenient place to park your bike is one that will shelter it from the rain.
Would you rather cycle in the freezing cold on a soaking-wet seat, or would you rather walk an extra 3 minutes to the sheltered bike-storing area? I thought so.
- Cycle during rush hour
Let’s face it, if you’re not on a bike during rush hour in Town Centre, no one is going to budge and they’ll continue to walk so slowly that you’ll think they’re walking backwards.
- Don’t cycle during rush hour
Rush hour can be frustrating, and sadly, people on two-wheeled vehicles are the punching-bags of angry people during this time. If you absolutely must go somewhere on your bike during rush hour, take your tricycle. Alternatively, if you don’t have one, buy a pair of trainer wheels and stick them onto your bike during rush hour.
- Expect hate
It comes with the territory of being an incredibly awesome biker, or if you’re cycling during rush-hour traffic as you’ll bypass all the people stuck in traffic driving their cars to get to the gym so they can ride their stationary bikes.
- Always have your lights attached to your bike.
On a more serious note, this is an absolute necessity. Not only do bike lights help you see at night, and they help others see you, which ensure your personal safety.
- Choose a ‘D’ lock over a ‘swirly’ lock
Bikes, like everything else in the Western world, are often stolen. Although getting insurance on your bike is a worthy investment, going above-and-beyond to keep your bike from getting stolen is also worth it. D-shaped locks are harder to unlock and steal than the traditional cheaper ‘swirly’ locks, and so you’re less likely to make an insurance claim.
Living an eco-friendly lifestyle can sometimes be draining, both physically and emotionally. But I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s worth it, psychologically speaking, I’ve convinced myself that cycling to lectures, combined with my pedantic recycling and energy-efficient lifestyle is responsible for the days that the sun comes out in England. Perhaps I should cycle more often.
Yara Al Wazir is an activist and student currently based in the UK – her monthly column reflects on her experience of moving away from the familiarity and comfort of Kuwait, to the UK in pursuit of a university degree. She can be reached via Twitter on @YaraWazir.