COMMENT:

This year was meant to be the year I got back on my bike, but it hasn't really happened yet.

Yes, I joined the entertaining family-friendly Frocks on Bikes as part of the Whanganui Women's Network La Fiesta event with my children, but that's about it.

However, the arrival of more affordable e-bikes has got me thinking. Is it so bad to use a bit of electricity to get myself back up the hill if I do start biking regularly again?

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When I was a teenager, I biked everywhere in Whanganui (mind you, I lived on the flat back then): to school, to the beach, to rowing, to Pacific Helmets for my summer job, to friends, to town. But I realised recently, prompted by the arrival of a Facebook memory, that I've got scared. I'm scared of falling off my bike.

When the kids were younger, I used to bike with them on cycleways – one on the back, and one on their little bike. I even attempted to take the dog on a lead with us, until one day that ended in minor disaster with me coming a cropper, getting more of a fright than an injury.

Whanganui should be filled with bikes given our wide roads, flat central city and lovely river to bike alongside. I've noticed a wide range of ages on bikes. In fact, I have a number of friends over 60 who bike a lot more than me.

This week I dropped into the Sour Bros bakery and admired their bread-delivery bike, all set up to take the recycling away this time. A friend in Levin posted a pic of his bike set up with a trailer to take his green waste to the dump.

The e-bike I admired this week was set up for panniers to carry my bags. Bikes are not just for those wearing lycra – they can be a practical way to get to work and to run errands, too.

During Horizons' submissions to the annual plan, the value of cycleways was highlighted again. People want user-friendly tracks to make cycling a realistic option across the region.

The new shared pathway along St Hill St is an asset and apparently it's going to run alongside the train line, popping out near the Country Cafe and Playland on London St. That will work for me. And a new cycle track opened at Keith Street School recently, too.

I want to start biking with my children to school, but the experience to date is not working out as planned. The way there is just fine – they have the energy and there's a bit of downhill, too. The home journey is another story. Tired kids and an incline do not make for an enjoyable trip!

In my memory, I always used to walk to school and so have expectations that my children can, too. In writing this column, I thought I'd compare the distances and turns out my memory is tricking me, at least a little. Both my primary school walking distances were under 1km, but I'm expecting my boys to walk (or bike) 2.5km. It still doesn't seem too far, but is more than twice the distance (although not quite barefoot through the snow).

There are many benefits of getting back on the bike: fitness, saving money, reducing carbon emissions, getting fresh air, and getting out of my car "bubble". It is too easy to live in a bubble when you go everywhere by car, particularly in a town our size where a car park outside your destination is often likely.

I've been thinking about the absolutely shocking and tragic loss of 26 people in the previous week on our roads, all in cars and mostly on open roads. What is happening with our driving? Is it risk-taking? Is it rushing? Is it tiredness?

Whatever it is, we need to take more care in cars. The consequences of inattention or misjudging a situation is too great, and irrecoverable. And please take care around cyclists – it might be me, wobbling along, getting back on my bike.

Nicola Patrick is a councillor at Horizons Regional Council and leads a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mum of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.