Familiar yet foreign. That’s how I would describe driving the car. It’s something I know how to do, yet now, it feels a little different. In fact, driving the car feels a little weird.
It’s nearly nine months since this experiment began. That’s nine months of driving less. And riding my bicycle more. Much more.
The experiment was never framed to eliminate the car but to test the boundaries of where the bicycle could replace the car in my everyday living. What could I realistically use my bicycle for and where would the car need to step in? And also where could I combine public transport for a better option? After nine months, I drive the car a lot less. The bicycle has taken over. And that means something very interesting has happened.
When I drive the car, it’s a very different experience to nine months ago. I no longer drive on automatic pilot. I have to concentrate. I have to open up the memory of driving. Well not the part about ignition, brake, accelerator, reverse, forward and the techniques of driving. They’re still engrained into my memory and available as soon as I sit in the driver’s seat – which I must add feels very big. In fact, the whole vehicle feels H U G E.
No, it’s not the skill of driving that needs the refresh button. It’s my navigational memory that needs re-booting.
There’s a view in the popular press that women can’t read maps, and although that might be true for some, I’m not one of them. Navigation is something I find easy and enjoyable. I like the mental gymnastics of mapping out a path. Sorting through the different options, noting what each offers, reading over a map, and making a mental image of how the streets and turns relate to each other, is cognitively stimulating.
Whether I’m driving the car or riding my bicycle, it’s the same process. So now that I’m riding my bicycle more, guess what’s in the front of my navigational mind?
I don’t want to tell you how many times I’ve thought of jumping the gutter onto a footpath, only to remember that I’m driving the car! No, no, no, that’s just not possible. Stay on the road.
It’s not endangering anyone. These are fleeting thoughts appearing because, for the past nine months, the footpaths and cycle ways are my most used pathways. They’re the tracks worn into the maps of my mind. It tells me how adaptable the mind can be and how small changes have substance over time.
So I have to concentrate and navigate the way by road. Automatic pilot won’t do… which I think might be a good thing. It means I have to concentrate and be precisely where I am – in the car, driving. Mindfully driving.