We’re in the National Archives!

Sophie and I started this blog in 2012 to record our bicycle trip up the east coast of Australia exploring simpler and more sustainable ways to live.

We never intended it to last very long, but it took off and grew to more than 100,000 words, then became a book.

After the whirlwind tour ended, Sophie and I moved into one of the remarkable communities we had visited on the trip – Murundaka Cohousing in Heidelberg Heights. (Cute aside: we actually got married there too!)

In 2015, was included in the National Library of Australia PANDORA web archive. Like a Fowlers jar filled with home-grown fruit, this story has now been pickled for posterity. We thought that as good a reason as any to call it a day, and take a rest from regular blogging.

You can access the archive here: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/155356/20151202-0715/simplelives.com.au/index.html

In 2016 we had hosting issues and this site lost some posts, so the archive link above is the best place to access all the original content.

Thanks for reading, commenting and sending in your story suggestions…we hope you enjoyed the ride as much as we did.

Signing off,

Greg & Sophie

 

 

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A pedal-powered essay

I’m excited to announce a very special event in conjunction with the Melbourne Writers Festival on 24 August and 30 August. It’s called “Ride: Pedal-Powered Essay”, and it’s a cross between a social bike ride and a public lecture, exploring the past, present and future of cycling in Melbourne.

To prepare for the event, I ordered cycling journals from the 1890s through the State Library of Victoria and spent many days pouring over their musty, faded pages, gleaning some interesting (and rather quirky) anecdotes about Melbourne’s early cycling history.

I discovered, for example, that an early sighting of what we might consider a bicycle was in an undertaker’s shop. A group of young engineers had heard about this novel device – called a ‘velocipede’ – and decided to check it out. Perhaps not knowing that it needed momentum to balance, the young men tried to get it to stand up while stationary, but it kept flopping to one side. Puzzled and disappointed, one of the engineers suggested that the undertaker had probably concocted the apparatus from “a purely business point of view”, anticipating that its introduction would be “immediately followed by a startling and desireable increase” in mortality.

Here’s the full story in Australian Cycling News, November 10, 1883:

'An Antiquity', WOne of my favourite images came from a journal called The Austral Wheel, published in Melbourne in the 1890s. Mr. Chas. E. Duryea, described as “a leading American cycle mechanician”, is quoted as saying that the diamond-frame bicycle design is inferior and will be surpassed by a triangular design. With utmost conviction, he declares: “Ages hence, when by the slow process of blundering along, progressing and retrogressing by turns, we find ourselves using the perfect bicycle, it will look something like this.”

Triangle bicycle of the future, Austral Wheel, 1896 close upSorry Chas., old chap, but I think history may have proven you wrong on that one.

Details of the event are here, here, and on the flyer below. Please share this with any cyclists you know in Melbourne.

MWF pedal-powered essay 24 and 30 Aug flyer

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Slow food in winter

SLOW19-magpackThe latest issue of Slow Magazine is out now. I’ve contributed a story about Artist as Family‘s incredible bike-camping adventure up the east coast of Australia documenting wild edibles for a book about free food. I caught up with them when they were in northern New South Wales, and as I write this they’re heading north-west from Gympie, Queensland, trying to avoid the nasty Bruce Highway.

If you pick up a copy of the magazine, make sure you pass it along to someone who is interested in living a simpler way of life, but hasn’t made many changes as yet. A magazine such as Slow is a good way to spread the message.

More details about the magazine here: http://www.slowmagazine.com.au/current-issue

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For a leisurely life, cycle

Street art

Say you’re in the market for a second car. You’ve already got the station wagon to drop off the kids at school, but your partner drives it and you want your own set of wheels, something zippy and hassle-free. You travel into the city for work so it’s got to be small and easy to park in tight spots. And fuel efficient, that’s important too. Money’s tight enough as it is.

If you went shopping for a vehicle with all these characteristics – small, fast, efficient and suitable for short trips into the city – what would you end up with?

You’d end up with a bike.

When you think about it, a bicycle is the ultimate inner-city car. All the reasons to buy a Barina, Fiesta or Yaris are magnified in the much-underestimated bicycle. Manoeuvrability? You can hug the road by leaning into corners and practically U-turn on the spot. Price? Under $1000, ride-away, no more to pay. Fuel efficiency? All you need is calories, and the cost of a salad sandwich is remarkably stable. Parking? Every street pole is a potential spot.

Of course, a car is more convenient for travelling vast distances quickly, especially with luggage; for moving house, picking up friends from the airport or transporting pets. But for regular trips under 10 kilometres – the bulk of most inner-city travel – the bicycle is far and away the best tool for the job. Sydneysiders are starting to realise this, which is why the number of people riding to work in metropolitan Sydney has increased by 50 per cent since 2006.

The NSW government’s December 2013 cycling strategy, Sydney’s Cycling Future, states that “riding a bike can be quicker than a car for trips up to 5 kilometres and faster than public transport for trips up to 8 kilometres”.

That’s an understatement. In commuter races in Sydney and Melbourne, the bicycle has outpaced the car over much greater distances than that. But even if the car had crossed the finish line first, its average speed would have been slower. That’s because a holistic analysis of “speed” takes into account not just the minutes spent travelling, but also the minutes spent working to earn the money to own and operate the vehicle itself. Rego, petrol, parking, tolls, infringement fines – all these have a “time cost” in terms of the hours we need to work to pay for them.

Associate Professor Paul Tranter, a human geographer at UNSW Canberra, has used this holistic analysis to calculate the “effective speed” of a car in Australian cities. His calculation uses the standard formula – speed equals distance divided by time – but all the time costs are considered. In Sydney, a driver of a small, efficient car who earns an average wage crawls through traffic at 12.7 kilometres an hour. Your typical commuting cyclist can beat that without breaking a sweat.

The clincher is lifestyle. Judging by ads for the Barina, Fiesta and Yaris, would-be hatchback owners are hoping their car will help them to reap the rewards of living in a hip, inner-city location. Stopping by the cafe with friends. Visiting an art gallery. Picnicking in the park. And yet all these lifestyle benefits rely on drivers having a single scarce commodity: free time.

This is where the promise of small car ownership stalls. According to NRMA figures, even the least expensive car to run in Australia, the Mitsubishi Mirage, has operating costs of $4851 a year. If you earn $35 an hour, each year you’re working 18 and a half days just to pay for your mode of transportation.

With a yearly cost of well under $500, a decent commuting bicycle enables a fuller city lifestyle simply by freeing up time to enjoy yourself. It turns out that the secret to securing the rich, leisurely social life depicted in car ads is to not own a car.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, Sunday May 25.

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Latrobe consumption project – survey

A La Trobe honours student (Bachelor of Psychological Science degree) has contacted me about a research project looking at consumption of goods and how this affects our experience of life. She needs people to fill out a survey, which should take about 30 minutes.

Details are provided below. Please get involved – research into consumption is vital if we are going to address the ecological impacts of affluence in rich developed nations like Australia.

You are invited to participate in a study into the way we consume goods and how that affects our life experiences. Why does it matter? Because there is currently not enough understanding in this area; and understanding can lead to change for the better. But to understand we need you!

All you are asked to do is spend thirty minutes of your time completing an anonymous questionnaire. It can be completed online or in paper form on request. Easy! Participation is entirely voluntary and you can opt out at anytime before completing the questionnaire. There will be no repercussions either way.

The study is being conducted by an honours student in the Bachelor of Psychological Science degree at La Trobe University, Wodonga campus. For more information or to get involved, please click on the following link: http://latrobepsy.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_3t0Ig6VSdWFBLkV

Alternatively you can email the investigator at sarich@students.latrobe.edu.au for more information or to receive a paper version of the questionnaire.

Thanks for your help!

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