Legs, wheels and co-wheels: My car free journey.

23 November 2020  |  by Helen Frederick

As a teen I cycled everywhere, tearing up the roads to friends, to towns, to nightclubs. Two hands, one hand or none, I was at home in the saddle.  While friends begged parents for lifts, I loved my independence and the thrill of sounds on my Sony Walkman. Once in London, I walked or tubed and all of life was there.

Then I was given an ancient Triumph, sailing it round Hyde Park Corner to work- and I was hooked. When the rain came through the floor I adopted a chain of rescue cars and for three decades I loved it. Ferrying children, dump trips, camping holidays… And with the train to Lewes cheaper than petrol I would still jump in the car and turn the speakers up.

But in February my car died and I vowed to try one year car free.  I went cold turkey. Off the train in the mornings I’d leg it up the hill and my buttocks lifted. Lockdown soon arrived and in my one hour a day I would pedal along the seafront to Morrisons and back, or to Newhaven, noticing the small things.. rabbits, blooms and painted pebbles. Who could ask for more, with the sea, the sun and the cycle paths. The wind didn’t bother me or my grey hair and the knowing smiles from walkers made me laugh as I stood on the pedals like a kid and heaved the panniers forward, once with onions bouncing from the back.

Since then, I can count on one hand the times I have needed four wheels: A taxi trip to the vet with an elderly dog; a lift to Hastings for a march and a solitary bus ride to Eastbourne Hospital. For the Big Uni Drop-Off I used Co-Wheels. Renting by the hour from Lewes, and paying a set mileage, the thrill of the road came back with the automatic hybrid making cooler runnings than any car of my own.

So will I get another car? I’m not sure, but for now I am quids in. I fear if I did I’d be driving to the corner shop again, for I am a recovering car addict. Someone told me recently that nowhere in Seaford is more than 1.5 miles from the centre. For me it took car loss and lockdown to make me experience my 1.5 in a new way. And I have a new soundtrack: crashing waves, the birds and the howl of the wind- and the ting of my bell followed by a light murmur as walkers turn, maybe thinking, well if she can do it… and… is that a cabbage?

Co-Wheels Car Club has cars in Lewes and would consider locating one or more in Seaford if there was enough demand. If you’d be interested in this, contact Helen via hello@seafuture.org.

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