You say coke I say caine*

by Stephen Tall on December 21, 2006

I recently bought a bike. In itself, that is (I readily accept) pretty uninteresting. What intrigued me, a little at any rate, was my rationale.

I don’t drive, do not own a car, have never driven one. Having lived within a mile (at most) of Oxford’s city centre since I was 18, I’ve rarely had the need. I’m sure if I had one I would use it, but – to quote that most abstemious of self-denying clichés – what you’ve never had you don’t miss.

But since my student bike departed for the great rack in the sky, years ago, I’ve not cycled, instead relying on foot or bus. My flat is some 15 minutes’ walk into town, just under 30 minutes into work. Not a great distance, by any means, but I’m sufficiently impatient for an hour-long daily commute to irritate me (even after I bought my iPod). Catching a bus cut my journey-time by roughly one-third.

But buses in Oxford are not cheap (not much is: that’s the price you pay for living in a great city). I used to pay £44 a month for my 4-week PlusPass.

Then (and here I reach, not before time, the point of this posting) in November they increased the price by £2. Less than 5%, which, considering the recent increases in fuel costs, is by no means unreasonable.

But it was enough.

They had stretched my personal price elasticity to snapping point, and beyond. £44 a month I could tolerate; £46 I couldn’t. A new bicycle was purchased for the cost of six months’ PlusPasses.

The result? On the plus-side, my daily commute is now just 20 minutes. The debits are that I have had to learn the code of the cyclist:

  • traffic lights do not apply to us;
  • hand signals are unnecessary;
  • lights, even in winter, are an optional extra;
  • pavements are part of the highway; and
  • weaving between cars is de rigeur.

I’m still a beginner, and have yet to master all these techniques.

* in case you’re wondering why the title, click here.