Tag Archives: Starbucks

Why don’t we do things the easy way?

Today I nipped out to join Jane for lunch at Starbucks after she finished work (nice to get away from kids on school holiday).

I checked when I was locking up my bike, which I can park right outside Starbucks, and it had taken me exactly 5 minutes to get there. As I looked around it seemed that people were taking nearly that long to park. One person took several attempts to fit a Porsche Cayenne in a space before giving up and parking it diagonally across a space and access to the ramp for wheelchairs, pushchairs and bikes.

My estimate is that a very slow bike rider can comfortably get to Asda or Starbucks at the Thurmaston Shopping Centre in under 20 minutes including locking your bike up. That is for an absolute maximum distance of 2.5 miles (it is approximately 1 mile from Syston Station and I don’t think anywhere in Syston is anything like 1.5 miles from the station). 20 minutes means an average cycling speed of 7.5 mph if you live at the furthest part of Syston and less for everyone else.

If you drive it will take between 5 and 10 minutes (unless you get caught in a queue in Syston or at the Thurmaston roundabout which could easily double your journey time at peak periods). If you visit Asda and another shop you will probably have to park twice (or spend 5 minutes walking) and you will frequently have to hunt for a parking space.

I estimate that if you live in the parts of Syston furthest from Asda a car can at very most save you a total of 20 minutes. However, most times it will save you much less and sometimes (particularly on very busy days around bank holidays) it will take longer.

I estimate that if you visit Asda and another shop (in the other part of the shopping centre) a car will never save time over cycling. You will lose the gains in either finding 2 spaces or in walking between the two centres.

Obviously this is based on going to out of town shops with huge free car parks. If you drive to the more local shops then a car will almost always be slower than cycling from anywhere in Syston.

So why is it that we make life so much harder for ourselves?

Why don’t people choose the easy option?

  • It is often faster to cycle.
  • Here it will never take you more than an extra 20 minutes per shopping trip to cycle (for just a few people on quiet traffic days)
  • The car will cost you far more in fuel and other costs
  • If you drive you will need to get exercise at another time or be less healthy and probably die younger
Why do the Council not do anything to help people choose the easy option that is good for the community? (eg a decent cycle path)
Seems that only if we were addicted to something could we ignore the costs and miss the benefits of alternative solutions.

If it could always be like this #ride:7miles

This afternoon to aid in my rehabilitation after my wisdom tooth operation Jane and I ventured out into the cold.

Yes we went to Starbucks, but we went the “pretty” way through Watermead Park. The roads from home to the northern entrance to Watermead Park are quieter than the main Melton Road. We then had a nice ride around the lakes coming out into Thurmaston at Miller Street (the only way from Thurmaston in and out of Watermead accessible for a cargobike).

We went very gently and it was lovely.

When you can ride on good separated cycle routes (and Watermead is at least separated from cars if not from pedestrians and dogs) then a gentle potter of 7 miles is really easy.

If people in Syston had a segregated cycle ride to Thurmaston Shopping Centre (and therefore also to Roundhill College) then I am sure lots of them would ride because it is so easy (the direct route is only about 1.5 miles). Instead almost nobody cycles because the route has been made so cycle unfriendly.

Similarly if the cycle route from Syston into Leicester City Centre worked properly ie

  • was actually complete (the last bit from Abbey Park into town is dangerous and very unclear)
  • properly surfaced (the bit between the Space Centre and Abbey Park has cracks wider than many bike tyres and huge bumps caused by tree routes)
  • with proper access from Syston itself (replacing the new “traffic calming” on Wanlip Road with something that does not make cycling more dangerous would be a start, but much more is needed).

then many more people would ride from Syston into the city which would help considerably with the congestion that makes Leicester one of the slowest cities in the country.



Snow problem for a bullitt cargobike

Today we have snow, Leciester has got off lightly but with some snow in the night and snow all morning we have maybe 5cm of snow.

So it was a good opportunity to try by new Schwalbe winter tyre with studs.


I had decided to only buy a front studded tyre. Maybe this was a mistake as it turns out to be fantastic. I rode a couple of miles to Thurmaston in quite heavy falling snow with 5cm on the ground over mixed terrain of cyclepath, side roads and main roads (surfaces included everything from virgin snow, to packed snow and deep slush) with some gentle hills. The front tyre was amazing, it did not slip at all and was very confidence inspiring. I found myself using the front brake while going downhill on packed snow with no problem at all. My only problem was losing traction with the rear wheel when going uphill, some big sideways slides but no falls.

On the way home I called in at Starbucks (getting practice for January as I was given a set of dated 50p off vouchers, one per day). Sadly the cars were busy queueing to get in and then struggling to find spaces, cargobikes have no problem though 🙂


After Starbucks it was over the road to Asda to get the Turkey and a few other bits. Poor car drivers were again queuing and then having to walk through the wet slush. Cargobikes get special treatment right by the entrance 🙂 The Sleigh disguise seems particularly appropriate in the snow carrying the ingredients for Christmas lunch.

You get plenty of great comments from kids, I heard one Mum explaining to her son that I had borrowed Santa’s sleigh.


Back home the shortcut avoiding the long queue to get out of the Asda car park means I beat all the cars home as well.

After the recent discussion about 4×4’s, I was feeling very sorry for the 4×4 drivers as they were stuck in the same queues as all the other cars. Must be frustrating to spend all that money and then have a bike zoom by, coping with the snow better than anyone else thanks to a £35 tyre.


Beating the bus

Today we had a “proper” race against the bus.

Jane wanted to do some shopping in Leicester. Rather than stay at home to work on some service plans for the next few weeks I went into town to work at Starbucks, might as well use their heating instead of ours 🙂

As we were about to leave our middle son phoned to say all the trains were delayed and his first had just been cancelled. So he joined us and we walked him to the bus station. We set off to cycle home as he climbed on the number 6 bus to Thurmaston Asda.

Despite cycling very gently due to the ice (ave speed 8.4mph) we beat him home. We also had the added benefits of not having to actually carry the shopping by hand and saving £2.20

It was not really a fair contest, if we had left him to find the correct bus route and stop we would have been further ahead. If he had waited for the 5 or 5A bus to Syston we would have still beaten him, we saw the bus going through Thurmaston and overtook it in the traffic, but it was a bit cold for standing around waiting for a bus.


Oop’s trolley nearly too full for Bullitt

Just back from Asda. This trolley load:


Just fitted in my Bullitt. Here we see it loaded at Asda (and nice not to have to push the trolley across miles of car park). At this point I was beginning to wonder if I need a cargo net to put over the top.


But as you can see from this picture of the Bullitt ready to unload at home everything stayed in place with no problems. Yes, the handling was absolutely fine. Before long I am going to need a front light in front of the cargo as it is starting to block the front lights from lighting up the road just in front of the bike 🙂


One of the nice things about riding in this weather is that the frozen stuff stays frozen on the way home 🙂

I confess that before going into Asda I did nip into Starbucks for a coffee. It is nice to be able to park pretty close – especially as there was not huge demand for the outside tables 🙂



Connecting the day

I debated whether to title this post “Civilising the day”. Today is a good example for me of how cycling as transport makes better connections for the day. With three different places to be during the day it would have been possible to use the car but so much less efficient.

First stop a staff meeting, sadly still at the unholy time of 9am on Monday morning, I am still wondering how my Superintendent wrangled that one past me 🙂 This week in Birstall, so my turn to travel. As I gently pootled out of Syston, I thought this is not so bad, as I overtook about 15 cars in a queue for the Thurmaston roundabout. Slightly nicer, I thought, as I gently bounced along the Melton Road through Thurmaston village centre (lots of speed bumps and poor road surface). Even laughed to myself at the car that just had to overtake me just as they reached a set of speed cushions where they had to brake hard while still nearly breaking their suspension (not to mention the discomfort of moving your breakfast up and down that viciously – ugh!). Then very nice I thought during the lovely ride across the top of the southern part of Watermead Park, just enjoying it and not sparing a thought for the frustration in the cars queuing up to and through the junction with the Melton Road and Troon Way.

After the staff meeting my next appointment is at the Royal Infirmary for a pre med check up (I am having a wisdom tooth removed next month). The appointment letter reminds me to allow 30minutes to park my car. So instead I continue from Birstall, drop my bike at the Bike Park in Leicester and retire to Starbucks for some lunch (cheaper than the car park and diesel?) and to catchup on some paperwork (with a bit of time for blogging). From here I can make my way to the Royal Infirmary without any queuing or problems parking.

Then on my way home I can pop in to visit someone.

How would this have been by car?

Firstly, I would have to leave home at least 5 minutes earlier to get to the staff meeting (traffic and a much less direct route) and I would not have had the gentle wake up on the way.

Secondly, I would have had to choose between going home for a short while before the appointment at the Royal (which would have meant an extra 15 miles of driving) or coming into Leicester and paying for another car park.

Thirdly, I would lose all that time queuing to get into the Royal Infirmary car park (and paying for the privilege).

Visiting someone on the way home would be easy enough but given how close it is to home I would probably go home, leave the car there and walk. That is good for me but much slower than calling in by bike on the way home.

When your work, like mine, involves moving around between lots of places during the day all in a relatively small area (for me about 8 miles across) a bike is so much faster and more convenient than car that even ignoring the financial, health and environmental costs I don’t know why anyone would choose to drive.

Of course the fact that I can enjoy chocolate Yule log at Starbucks for lunch without guilt or worries about what the scale will say in the morning is just another added bonus 🙂

I am wondering how many miles this way of working is suitable for. Obviously the worse the congestion the more miles you can cycle and still be quicker than the car. Also as you get fitter the more miles you can cycle without affecting your work. For me I think I am up to about 20 or 25 miles per day on my Bullitt. This week I will have three days at around 20 miles and the others a bit shorter (say 5 to 15 miles). So I guess about 80 work miles in total. Clearly there has been some conditioning over the past 3 months as in the past 80 miles in a week would have sounded a lot, now it is just about connecting the day in gentle and civilised ways.


Should I feel guilty about gloating?

Just been to Asda and wondering whether I should feel guilty because I enjoy it being so much faster and easier by cargo bike than by car.

Asda is approx 1.5 miles from the centre of Syston. Today on a busy Saturday afternoon the car drivers were queuing onto the Thurmaston roundabout  and from there it was slow up into the shopping centre and on into the Asda car park where they were cruising around looking for spaces.

I chose to nip into Starbucks to gain strength for the Asda crowds. But that would have added ages to your shopping time if you had been in a car as the car park on that side was complete full and blocked up. On a bike it was straight in to the bike racks outside Starbucks and then on the cyclepath from there to the cycle racks at Asda right by the entrance  (and under cover as well).

When I left I wheeled the trolley the whole 3 metres to my Bullitt for loading (still under cover although it was not raining this time). Meanwhile others are having to fight through the cars still looking for spaces to get their shopping back to the car. When I’m packed the cycle path takes a short cut out of Asda avoiding two roundabouts, both with queues.

There is no way that a car is going to catch up all that lost time.

So in summary the bike has the following advantages:

  • faster getting there
  • more flexible, allowing you to easily visit different parts of the shopping area
  • much faster to park
  • gets parked much closer to the shop entrances (thanks Thurmaston shopping centre for getting this right)
  • is quicker to get out of the car park
  • is faster getting home
  • gets me gentle exercise in both directions that will help me avoid heart attacks
  • zero emissions
  • no fuel to pay for (and there is usually a long queue for that at Asda as well)

So in Dave’s Bullitt today we had:

That is some light stuff on top (crisps, cofee, salad etc) and underneath it 9 litres of milk, 8 litres of fruit juice and 5 litres of car screenwash (given we are now down to weekly use it lasts a long time:-) ). It is good to be able to save money through multi-buy when you shop by bike.

Better than queuing :-)

This afternoon I went over to the Royal Infirmary in Leicester again. This time I went via Starbucks at Thurmaston for lunch with Jane as a special treat (might even have bought some new smaller jeans if Burton’s had any for people my size).

Going to the Royal Leicester is around about 15 miles as a round trip. It is a very nice trip with very little road riding now that I have sussed out the route better.

But that takes a long time you might think. You might think it would be much quicker to drive. On the other hand one visitor I spoke to had spent 45 minutes queuing to get into the Hospital Car Park. I just swept straight in and there was plenty of space in the (free) bike rack by the hospital entrance. In one ward where I was visiting I could even look out of the window and see my bike 🙂

With short visiting hours available a potentially long queue makes visiting by car very hard to plan.

Plus I arrived refreshed, awake and unstressed which hopefully means I was able to be a better minister while I was there. Also I was able to enjoy a skinny stem ginger muffin at Starbucks without worrying about my weight 🙂

On top of all that I did not hold anyone else up, take space in the car park from others who had come a long way, or cause any pollution.

Being good for other people and the planet has never been this enjoyable before 🙂

Bike transport wins all round!


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