Quicker by bike, slower by bike?

This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 103.

A licensed bat handler from the Cambridge Bat Group with some pipistrelle bats, probably the same species
that I saw down by the river judging from the time of day and mode of flight.
Image as described adjacent

I normally leave the house at 7.45am to get to work at Addenbrooke’s for 8.30am. Unless it’s very windy, I’m on time. The other day, I needed to get the bus to work. I left the house at 7.10am to walk to the bus stop to get the 7.30am bus. I got to work dead on time. The traffic wasn’t even that bad. It was just a normal journey not in the bike lane. And I didn’t get to see anything interesting or uplifting on my way, but got to work vaguely depressed. I think it’s quicker by bike, even when the weather is horrible.

The flip side is, you can get terribly held up if you go by bike. I’d been out for supper with friends at India House by the Mill Pond. It must have been about half an hour or so before sunset when we left. I did rather get delayed as I was unlocking my bike, by the sight of a bat swooping over the water. As I needed to run an errand, which incidentally would have been impossible to run efficiently if I’d been in a car, I tore myself away and got on. As I then headed home, I saw a bat on Riverside, but was a bit disappointed by the lack of bats on the Long Reach, as it was clearly the right sort of evening and time for them to be out. However, a bit later there was the proper hold up. I must have been stuck sitting under the A14 bridge over the river for more than ten minutes marvelling at the agility of the bats, presumably, catching the same insects that the swallows that nest under the same bridge catch during the day. I wonder if the bats live in similar places under the bridge? I then went really slowly all the way to Baits Bite lock, watching more of their amazing flight.

So, a bit of an elongated ride home really. But a rather irreplaceable experience. The other thought I had was that in a car or on a bus, or indoors, we never experience the joy of dusk. That gradual darkening of the sky, particularly on a clear evening, and, especially in spring, accompanied by the birds’ dusk chorus. It’s a very peaceful time of day, accentuated in this case by the world, exemplified by the vehicles on the A14, rushing overhead, whereas I had total solitude. I think I enjoyed my slow cycle journey home which felt like a mini-holiday!

Heather Coleman