Martine Rolls: There's no better time than NOW

By Martine Rolls

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The chances of being knocked off your bike are high.
The chances of being knocked off your bike are high.

We're just one week into 2014 and although I never make New Year's resolutions, a new year automatically means time for setting goals and making positive changes.

Aren't there always a few things you've been thinking about doing for a while, but have never really acted upon? Isn't it true that there's no better time than the present?

New year or not, for me the time has come to make some very small but significant changes. Nothing too hard or challenging for me though. I am simply taking one small step at a time.

On Facebook especially, but also within our community, I've seen a growing move towards buying locally produced goods and services. Have you noticed that there are markets all around Tauranga and the Mount now? It's where locals buy and sell fresh produce, original art, and handmade, upcycled or recycled products. I've been to them all and have found the atmosphere awesome.

I moved to Greerton a month or so ago, and I've discovered that it has some really great shops, quality eateries, and a very friendly community. I walk to Greerton Village from my place, which only takes around 10 minutes, and as long as I don't pay twice as much for what I'm buying, which I don't, I'll happily avoid the chain stores and supermarkets.

I enjoy that I get to know my new neighbourhood this way. The local shop keepers always have time for a chat, the products on the shelves are fresh and often unique, and I particularly like that I'm now doing my bit to help keep jobs and dollars within my own community. It gives me warm fuzzies.

Another thing I've wanted to do for a while but never bothered with until today is bike to work.

Moving away from hilly Welcome Bay and into flat Greerton has certainly made this easier to do. I am quite unfit but it really was an easy ride this morning, which made me feel refreshed and energetic.

There's only one thing I don't like about riding my bike and that's wearing a helmet. As you may have figured out from looking at my photo, I have a lot of thick curly hair and that means my head gets really hot and itchy when wearing a helmet. I am so tempted to yank that damn thing off around the half way mark, but I'm putting up with the annoyance. It's like a friend of mine from Christchurch said on Facebook the other day: "Anybody who has had, or knows anybody that has had a brain injury would consider 'helmet hair' a small price to pay for an intact brain."

I know that helmets don't ensure a miracle when you get knocked off your bike, but they do offer some protection and that's better than nothing.

I did see that most of the people who cycle in Mount Maunganui don't bother with them, and that's locals and visitors alike.

The Bay of Plenty Times had a few stories and an editorial about this topic in the past week or so.

The most recent one was published online on Monday, and it explained that police officers will be cracking down on people cycling without helmets this week. It's called Operation Skid Lid, which made me laugh, and it means police will target all cyclists who don't wear safety approved head gear and slap them with a $55 infringement. I'd rather have a hot and itchy head, give a better example to our children, and be relatively safe.

It's always amusing to read how drivers and cyclists have a go at each other on news websites and online forums. One of the comments on the Operation Skid Lid story on bayofplentytimes.co.nz read: "Well done Western Bay Police. If it's good enough for motorcyclists it's good enough for push bikes. I would also like to see better enforcement of the riding on footpaths and two abreast. Why do Tauranga cyclists think that cycleways are for everybody but them? Why do they think the road rules are for everybody else and not them? Cyclists should also learn to keep their head up and anticipate what might happen next as all good car drivers do. Head down and doing 40KPH is a recipe for disaster."

I think that if we would just consider each other a little more, there shouldn't be any issues.

When riding my bike around town I stay to the left, use cycle lanes, I don't bike on footpaths, and I use hand signals and make eye contact in a bid to communicate with people behind the wheel. But if you'd ask me if I feel safe biking on our roads, I'd have to say no. Helmet or no helmet, the chances of getting knocked off are pretty high for any cyclist. There are many crazy drivers on Tauranga roads.

By the way, my reasons to bike to work and walk to the shops are not motivated by an urge to lose weight (as I'm munching on a piece of chocolate cake while writing this). Neither do I feel a real need to get fit, save money, or reduce my carbon footprint.

I do have a nice bike which is otherwise gathering dust underneath the house and I enjoy a nice walk from time to time. I must admit that the benefits mentioned above are nice extras. I think I'll keep it up.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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