Re-CYCLE-ing. (With beery bribes and barter)

I love cycling.

When we lived in Germany we could safely cycle with the children through bike friendly streets. Cyclists actually have priority over cars at junctions (yes you read that right) and cars give riders ample room when overtaking. The cycle trails were extensive, well maintained, and liberally peppered with beer gardens for refreshments . During the summer months, I barely used the car at all (not least because I was full of beer!)

Fast forward a few years, back in dear old blighty, and our bikes hardly ever leave the shed. We have been burgled so many times that we have to keep them hidden in a padlocked shed. Propped behind a lawnmower and some furniture, and chicken stuff for chooks we no longer have (god rest their souls). So inaccessible are the bikes that it has become our habit to hop in the car. And yet we live in a tiny and very flat city. Most of our local journeys could easily be cycled and sometimes, it would actually be quicker than a car journey.

This car habit has negative implications for our health, and my pocket.

So, the first step to rekindling our love of cycling is to ensure that we can all actually get to the bikes. We need somewhere safe from burglars, safe from the weather, and that is easily accessible to the kids.

We need a bike shed.

A quick look on ebayzon revealed that you can pick up a good one for £150. And in years gone by I would have forked out. But, this is the new me. How could I build one for less? With no building skills whatsoever?

Hello bartering and freecycle. I may not be able to build anything but I can sew, cook and keep children happy. These are my special skills.

My friend has a dog food delivery business and always has pallets hanging around. In return for my making 10m of bunting for a float in a local parade, she donated some of these pallets to my cause. I put a wanted out on Freecycle for items and was gifted some roofing felt. My brother, who is a wiz at making stuff, agreed to come around and bring some bits of old wood lying around in the back of his van and to have a go at designing and building something. We agreed that in return for a days labour, I would bring him unlimited quantities of beer and tea, keep him well fed and his kids happy. My husband and children were willing apprentices and on a lovely sunny afternoon everyone worked together to built the best bike shed the world has ever seen.

I am thrilled with the result, and throughly enjoyed the process of family and friends coming together to create something. It felt a bit like an Amish barn raising but with beer and electricity. We even had an official opening ceremony with bunting and cupcakes.

I estimate that if the kids and I use our bikes for every journey of less than 2 miles, we will save about £20 per month in petrol. But much more importantly we will be healthier, fitter, and every time I go to my bike store, a little bit smilier.

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