Saturday, June 26, 2021

My story for the Sustrans Active Travel Challenge 2021

  1. What journeys do you currently do cycling/walking/and/or using public transport to get to work, to do the school run, to go to shops, to get to leisure activities, for example? 

    I prefer cycling wherever possible – to get to work (pre-pandemic), to go to shops, and also to visit places in and around Belfast if they're within an hour's distance on cycle each way. I have occasionally ventured further, mainly along national cycling routes. I usually cycle alone, but occasionally also with my partner. My partner prefers walking, so we occasionally walk to shops. We sometimes walk together for our weekly shop with my cycle, and use it to carry groceries back in the panniers. My partner does not drive, so she uses public transport if she needs to get somewhere beyond walking distance. She has a folding cycle that she can take on buses with ease. I also like swapping items for free over networks such as freecycle, and I have explored a lot of Belfast on cycle while collecting and dropping off items to other like-minded freecyclers.

  2. What are the benefits for you of walking and cycling and or using public transport for everyday journeys?

    I feel more connected to my locality, and have also learned a lot more about my neighbourhood and Belfast in general. As a newcomer to the city, cycling helped me learn the layout of Belfast and explore it in a way I wouldn’t have if I got around by other means of transport. Joining a few walking groups has helped me meet people and socialize when I was new to the city. I occasionally cycle with friends, during the pandemic, as this has been the only safe way to meet people outdoors. I have recently also started walking with people from my local area as a way to connect with my neighbours.

  3. When, if at all, do you walk, cycle or run during your leisure time, simply for the purpose of getting exercise?  What do you do?

    I cycle as a means of combining exercise with my shopping/commute, and take detours or lengthen my rides when I have the time and energy to turn a chore into something more enjoyable and fulfilling.

    I walk with my neighbours and partner, and especially have taken to exploring cavehill on foot as it’s very close to my home.

    I have taken up running in the past as a means of exercise, and while I found it very energizing and fulfilling, I find it much harder to maintain my fitness to the level that I can enjoy running, when compared walking and cycling.

  4. What impact did lockdown have on your walking, cycling, use of public transport and exercise habits?

    I avoid public transport wherever possible, cycling instead. Lockdown has put greater focus on my health and I have tried to maintain a healthy schedule of walking and cycling to keep my body fit. Working from home had caused me to become overly sedentary and I had to commit to doing two hours of cycling every week to maintain my physical and mental health. Before lockdown, I would have a much higher activity level as I would cycle to work daily.

  5. Why you would encourage people to participate in the active travel challenge this year?  Did you take part in 2019?

    I did not feel the need to take part in the active travel challenge in past years as I was already primarily getting around on cycle after my move to Belfast. I have found that cycling is a great way to get around, beat traffic, stay healthy and enjoy the outdoors. Even when the weather is not perfect, cycling is still fun if you’re prepared and dress appropriately. My own experience with cycling has been immensely positive and I would encourage others to try it, as there is an impression that cycling is expensive, unsafe, and impractical, but it’s neither of these. I will take part in the 2021 active travel challenge as I have now realized that my example might inspire others to follow my footsteps and embrace getting around on cycle and on foot.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

dear diary

during the times i've kept a physical diary (about 10 years, but with very erratic frequency), i've found that my diary helped me put things in perspective, give structure to my day, or sometimes, just give me a private outlet to vent my inner feelings.

during the times i've kept an electronic diary (my first blog, i.e.) which spanned about 3 years of almost daily writing, i found that i got none of those benefits - but it was more accessible, and i think i ended up going back to it to read more often.

now that both are temporarily inaccesible (my physical diary is in another country, and my electronic diary is in a database which I could probably read if i tried, although the website designed to present it is long-defunct), and I feel like i really need the things that writing a diary gave me, i'm wondering what I should do - restart a physical diary, or restart an electronic one?

i.e., do i write a diary that's more useful to write, or more useful to read?  

Thursday, June 17, 2021

optimism, pessimism, realism... or none of these

i used to think of myself as an optimist: one who sees the best possible outcome in everything.

but i realized that optimism unfounded in reality is not just pointless, it's self-defeating.

and so i decided to be realistic.

but there is actually no such thing as realistic.

reality continues to confound me in unpredictable, unforseen ways.

sometimes, when i realize this, i become pessimistic.

at other times, i just choose to ignore the realization and plod on, mindlessly.

eat, sleep, work, repeat.

at those times, i try not to think too much. because when i start thinking, i can't stop.

what's the point of it all?

what happens when the things (i use that term loosely) that are supposed to give meaning, actually end up taking it away?

it's a strange place to find myself in, and i find myself in the same strange place time and again.

perhaps it's still time to eat, sleep, work and hope i can keep this repeating until things change. in my head, or in the world around.

Saturday, June 05, 2021


it's ironic that a little under a year ago, I wrote a blog post about the pandemic being over. it certainly wasn't!

once again, pandemic restrictions are easing up, we can finally do things we couldn't do for the last few months, like travelling, meeing friends, eating out. and all of that is nice.

but there's evidence that this isn't the end of the pandemic. there's already the numbers creeping up in parts of the UK, even though everyone with authority is currently maintaining it's not cause for concern.

there is a research paper I read yesterday about how the most popularly administered vaccine in the UK (and India) isn't very effective against the newest strain of COVID-19.

and of course, the situation in some parts of the world hasn't improved as much as it's improved in the parts we've been paying attention to.

on one hand it makes me happy that most of the world has learned to live with the pandemic.

on the other hand, it makes me sad that the divide between those who have and those who haven't has widened.

i feel that more than ever, it's time the "haves" step-up and focus on helping the "have-nots" level up. not just for altruistic reasons, but because the world really needs it. the pandemic happened for the same reason, and it has played out exactly the way it has, for the same selfish reasons.

the sooner we realize selifhs behaviour only works in the short-tem, the sooner we can build a better world for everyone (including ourselves).

Friday, June 04, 2021

the heartbeat of memories

it's strange how easy it is to fall into this mode of "nothingness" even though you're doing the right things.

I think I have observed this over and over again, but never realized why.

Funnily enough, today, I ended up listening to a podcast by Dr Julia Shaw (more like the soundtrack of a recording of a presentation she gave employees of my workplace) that reminded me why, in a simple line: "the heartbeat of your mind has been missing"

Life during the pandemic has (for me) actually been objectively better than pre-pandemic. Yes, I might be among the lucky few who can say that.

But it has also been more of a blur than any other time of my life. And it's probably because my mind has been missing its' heartbeat.

I've been too bored to shake things up, when there have been more opportunities than ever to do so.

Luckily for me, it's Friday evening, I have taken up a few new challenges (8000 steps a day for the month of June, 51 minutes of cycling or running a week to celebrate 51 years since the start of the "pride" movement), joined a book club with old friends I've been out of touch with, and hopefully, in a week or two, I'll be embarking on a new project.

Let's hope I can keep my mind active and beating, and keep changing things over the months and years to come!

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