We're delighted to announce our first iTravel Inspiration prize winner. Sarah has won a £25 York Gift Card and kindly took the time to send us a photo and answer some questions.
How did you find out about BetterPoints York and how did it help you ditch the car?
I saw it promoted on the Council's Facebook page. I had already been considering whether we could ditch the car and travel more sustainably, and the promise of voucher rewards once you had gained enough points was the final incentive I needed. I also liked the fact it would track and log my journeys, it's motivating and gives me a sense of achievement.
I found it very motivating. You get points for every journey and can see them accruing. I also like the fact it shows you how many calories you have burnt, as another motivation of mine is getting fitter. We live 2 miles from school, and then another mile to my workplace, so the distance was really helping the points rack up.
What benefits have you experienced since walking and cycling to school and work?
There's been loads of benefits! Firstly, we are getting fitter and I do find I feel more energised after I've been moving. I'm going at my daughters pace, and she's 8, so we are not zooming along, but it feels like a nice bit of exercise.
Perhaps the biggest though, is how much less stressed I am. There is only a window of about 15-20 minutes from the school bell to me needing to be in work. It's just over a mile, but I had convinced myself I needed to use the car in order to make it in on time. I'd rush from school to the car (which I had parked after spending some time trying to find a space), to sit in traffic on Tadcaster Road until I got to work. Now it doesn't matter what the traffic is like, as I can cycle past in the cycle lane. It's one fewer car on the road, it takes me 10 minutes (if that), and I feel much calmer and ready to face work.
We've also discovered alternative routes that cars can't go. To start with, we would cycle as I would have if I was driving. It was fine, but it's a narrow road and my daughter is still quite a novice cyclist. So I researched some routes and found one that went over Hob Moor, and round the back of the school, mainly off road cycle paths with some quiet roads. It takes an extra ten minutes, but it's most definitely worth it to be away from the morning traffic. You see lots of people cycling and walking, so it feels really pleasant. My daughter uses the quiet back roads near school to practice her on road cycling. Coming home from work, I've discovered a walkway over the rail tracks with a cycle ramp, which shortens my journey considerably.
What do your children think of the switch?
My daughter loves it and definitely holds me to account. A few days into the switch, there was going to be heavy rain in the afternoon. I told her I would pick her up in the car as the weather was going to be bad. She told me: "No mummy, you said we would cycle!" And I thought 'yeah I did!' So I dug out my waterproofs and went to get her on the bike. And it was fine! If she is feeling too tired, then I push my bike with her sat on it, and then I cycle on to work. My middle son, who also used to come in the car, has just started secondary, and loves using his bike to get home quicker at the end of the day!
What's your advice to anyone who is thinking about switching to walking or cycling for the school run?
Give it a go for a day and see how you feel! If you are worried about the traffic, have a look into alternative routes that may take a little longer, but are off road or have better cycle lanes. You may find you have to set off a little earlier without the car, but then sometimes, depending on traffic, it's actually quicker to cycle or walk.
How do you plan to deal with worse weather over the winter?
I definitely think there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing! So I've started to make sure we have the necessary bits and pieces for when the weather isn't so good. We've already got waterproof jackets and overtrousers, and gloves/scarf for when its colder. I think most people tend to have most of these items anyway so it's not like you have to make lots of special purchases. We've already cycled in heavy rain and stayed dry, so I'm hopeful! I think it would be sensible not to cycle in icy weather, but then it's not always sensible to drive either, so I reckon we will be walking. I think walking across the Moor when it's snowy will be fun!
Make sure you take the iTravel Inspiration survey before the end of the month to be in with a chance of winning a £25 York Gift Card!