We are all creatures of habit. We like our coffee or tea just so. We have a routine in the mornings. We have our preferred routes to get to work quickly. If there is too much traffic or to avoid the annoying colleague, we plan another route. There are opportunities to break our routines but generally we stick to them. They are soothing, mindless, familiar. They make it easier and more efficient for getting through our days and back into bed again. My question is: Is changing one’s routine beneficial from time to time, especially on the bicycle?
Two months ago, I changed my routine and started bicycling to “Make and Learn,” a sewing and craftmaking studio in Kingsford a few times a week. Why? I wanted to re-learn how to use a sewing machine. I needed to learn how to drape fabric. I used Google Maps terrible bicycle function and my own experience to plot a route to Kingsford. I took my e-bike because of the distance and the temperature which has been steadily rising this warm spring.
I adjusted to a new routine. I’m no different to you. It takes time. The first few commutes, I forgot supplies and took a few wrong turns. When does the unfamiliar become familiar? After a week, I had the route mapped out in my head. It was smooth as silk. A bonus was running into a friend on Wednesday and Friday mornings on Doncaster Avenue. I could gauge whether one of us was running late when we would pass one another, with a smile and arm raised in hello.
For a month, I came home to pick up my supplies before heading out to Kingsford on Thursday nights. Our nanny made dinner and I ate with my kids. It was a treat to eat with them and to hear about their days at school. Afterwards, I would take two pannier bags laden with supplies to Kingsford.
The ride home on Thursday nights was ethereal. The quiet streets and cool air along Centennial Park were refreshing. I once ran into the same friend on the way home and we stopped for a chat. Another night, I took the intern at the studio to Darlinghurst in the Nihola. She was visiting from Copenhagen. I was so pleased to be able to take a Dane in my Danish cargo bike. The now-familiar commute home for me was a sightseeing tour for her.
Taking Lotte the scenic route along the same dreadful infrastructure on Houston Street. Don’t worry, we took the lane.
Having learned the skills for draping and sewing, I found that I needed more time in front of the sewing machine. Consequently, my commute changed again to start sewing at “Bobbin and Ink,” a workshop in Petersham. Google Maps bicycle function let me down again. After ignoring the suggestion to ride on congested Parramatta Road, I tried riding through Annandale to Surry Hills one afternoon and a tradie cut me off in his van on Booth Street. The older style “bicycle path”was directly in the door zone. The tradie gestured that I should be on the left in the door zone. I shouted at him as he passed 10cm in front of me. I vowed not to take this route again. After two days, I found a quiet route to Petersham. I also worked out that I needed to bring along a phone charger as I was not carrying my laptop. But I had a sense that this change was good for my mind as I adapted faster this time to a change in routine.
A better route through O’Dea Reserve in Camperdown.
My knowledge would be tested on day three as my daughter had a doctor’s appointment in Randwick which I needed to attend with her. We arranged for our nanny to drive both our kids to the hospital from school. The plan was that I would meet them at the hospital. After the appointment, I would bicycle back to Petersham to continue working. Our nanny would take the kids home. Later that evening, I would bicycle home to Surry Hills. Fortunately, Omafiets Dutch Bicycles in Redfern was en route to Petersham. I stopped by for a top-up in battery power. The hearty salad that I had left in the fridge at the workshop was so delicious at 6pm.
I slept deeply that night. We are creatures of habit but it is possible to expand our possibilities as well as our routes. It takes a bit of perseverance as well as a positive attitude. I treat navigation on the bicycle as a puzzle. The first time is the most difficult. I suspect it has brain expanding powers as with all new things. But with time and practice, as with all activities, it improves. I find that afterwards my concentration is needle sharp and I feel refreshed. And I’ve lost 2kg of the four that I’ve been carrying this past year.
A friend on Facebook suggested that I include the routes on Mapmyride. He said that he enjoys my my “quiet back streets” approach to commuting. Consequently, I’ll start recording my routes on the app. Please let me know how you find them.