Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Multi-modal commute experience

I've now finished for maternity leave. Last week Stephen took time off work to get the baby's room sorted, so I was heading into the office on mi tod every day and well, it was pretty snowy & icy last week, so the commute required a bit more thought than usual, especially with my now very low, very big beech-ball of a bump (I literally look like I've put a beech-ball under my top - sitting at my desk, you wouldn't know I'm pregnant).

I did something I'd been contemplating for a while and tried out a multi-modal method since a 30 mile round trip in the icy cold in traffic when heavily pregnant was not fantastically inspiring (the weekend traipsing round the shops had left me totally drained, I knew my energy could just vanish at any moment).
So I cycled the 3 miles to the train station, literally pulling in just as the train did (phew, good job I didn't dawdle), the train was ram packed already so I decided to stand and hold my bike; there was already one bike in the cycle area and people stood in front of it, plus a lady sitting opposite the area who was clutching hold of her bike to stop it falling. She saw my obviously pregnant tummy and offered her seat, but since we'd have to switch positions with our bikes and all the standing people around us, I declined (although after a few minutes of standing I really wished I had been sitting down). 18 minutes later I piled off and began the three mile ascent up the converted old railway line up to the office (no dog walkers today, it must have been cold!).

So other than being heavily pregnant and having less disposable energy than usual, were there any benefits to getting the train for part of my journey?

I set off from home about the same time as when I ride the whole way. I did not get into the office any earlier than if I'd ridden the whole way. I did not cut off any hills, in fact the train follows the only 'flat' section (its not flat, but compared to the bits I cycled, that stretch is) and I forked out £4.20 that I wouldn't usually pay, which is a lot when you dont save any time (it was the stopping train, so it pulls in to all the little stations about every 2 miles).

On the way home, I got to the station in good time and after 3 miles of freewheeling down hill, the wait made me very cold indeed. I got the express train that stops at a different part of town. So was only on the train for 8 minutes. From here I'd be cycling up to my mum's (I pop in every day on the way home from work to make sure she takes her pills). This was NOT fun. The train had coincided with the worst of the commuter traffic leaving the town centre and from this station there's about 3/4 of a mile on a moderately steep (around 7%), arterial road that is unavoidable. The road is wide, but not straight and 90% of drivers passed me far too close (ie less than 3 feet) and most cars were tailgating each other too, so it was persistent. I pulled onto the side-streets that run parallel to the main road as soon as I could (which I do anyway). It was plain sailing from there and then my usual route home from mum's house, which is always enjoyable.

Can I see the benefits of doing a multi-modal commute in the future?
For my particular journey, no not really. It cost me money that I'd not usually spend and for the distance I was travelling, it saved no time at all. There was the added stress of getting to the train on time, plus the uncertainty of there being bike space available (or a train guard nice enough to let me on when there were already bikes on the train).  It did cut out some very busy bits of road, but I'm now so used to these sections that I take them in my stride (although it was nice that 85% of my cycling had been on quiet roads or cycle routes, cutting out a good 9 miles of A-road riding).
Perhaps if I worked at the town beyond, then yes, I would see a benefit because surely the train would be faster... (although possibly not by much - but that's the issue of the stopping train that serves all stations). 

Later in the week there had been weather warnings for blizzard conditions, so my boss agreed that I could work from a touch-down in my home town (I got loads done and really wish it was an option at least twice a week). I walked, but it really was a bit much- my hip was shouting at me and I took twice as long to walk the distance (to be fair it was snowing like mad and I did look like the Abominable Snowman after a couple of minutes).

So now I dont have to think about commuting for a couple of months, which is great - the commute can be the best & worst part of my day. I LOVE riding so it's always good, but working somewhere 15 miles from home is a PITA. I really miss those days when the office was in the town centre and my daily commute totalled 6 miles so any other cycling was purely for fun and I was more inclined to pick a scenic route home where these days I find I opt for the most direct (busiest) route to save time.

As for last stages of pregnancy pedalling. Well I'm still riding, albeit much much slower. These last few lovely sunny crisp days would usually have me off on adventures far & wide and I'm trying not to be too grumpy that I'm in the house getting the last few jobs sorted and 'relaxing' (most people would love it I'm sure, but it is tedious for me).


  1. Your multimodal commute was a valuable learning experience. Sure, it's more expensive, but it saved you some energy which was the right thing to do for your body. Congratulations on staying home for a while.

    I am so thankful for my new 5 mile commute - I can't wait for the weather to mellow a bit so I can get back on my bike.

    1. I'm missing being out & about in all this lovely cold weather. The snow has mostly gone now, but it's now cold and dry, which I love! I've missed three days of crisp sunshine taken up instead with errands, building work & visiting my mum up at hospital (she's coming home today). Not much resting, but that's how life rolls by I guess.
      Hope you're back out soon & you build up to full cycling health soon.