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Environmental tips for your household and beyond by Bernadette Thomas

I got my first bike when I was six years old – a beautiful gold Malvern Star ‘girl’s bike’. I rode it to school, the corner shop, friends houses and the local swimming pool. Riding kept me fit and healthy and independent. Fast forward to 2017 and things are a little different.

With so much to do in the space of one day, it’s hardly surprising that we all try and make things as easy as possible on ourselves and those we live with. And in any given day we make lots of trips – to and from work, school, uni, the shops, to visit friends, to the movies, sports practice. Some of these trips are long and we might drive or take public transport. But some of them will be short, less than five kilometres, and give us an opportunity to do something different.

Run through your day in your mind, from waking to lights out at bedtime. How did you transport yourself (and your kids or significant other) through the day? How did you get to work, school, do the shopping; the gym, netball practice, piano lessons; your haircut, a coffee with your mate, or the library? How many of these trips did you do in the car? How many did you do on foot or by bike?

One measure of live-ability of a city is the ability of its residents to get to where they need to go without taking the car – by walking, cycling, public transport, or a combination of either. The Walk Score website – www.walkscore.com – will give you a score out of 100 for how walkable your neighbourhood is (you probably already instinctively know this). The most useful part of their website is the map which allows you to find out how far you can travel in a specific number of minutes by walking, cycling, bus or car – so you can make a comparison between the different modes of transport. If riding, get your hands of a copy of the Travel Smart Map relevant to your council area (go to the www.vicroads.vic.gov.au and search for bicycle route maps) to map your ride.

At a medium pace, most people can walk one to two kilometres or cycle five kilometres in about 15 minutes (the faster you walk or ride, the further you get in the same time!). Think back to your daily diary; which of those trips would be less than a few kilometres? And which of those could you swap the car for the bike or runners?

Of course, some suburbs are easier to get around without a car than others. If this sounds like your suburb then you might have to work harder to find those trips that you can make without your car.

Like many people I get a lot of pleasure from walking and riding my bike; it’s a freedom you can’t experience any other way. Even though I love riding, I could do it more often, especially for those shorter trips when I might be tempted to drive on the pretext that it will be quicker. I should definitely follow my own advice.

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