John clinches the yellow jersey for big green commute

111833-5060 CYCLIST (CO) MRW 19/5/2011 ''' Green cyclist ' John Talbot (65) at Farlington beside the busy A27, en-route from his home in Felpham West Sussex to St Mary's Hospital on a round daily trip of 52 miles ! '''Picture: Malcolm Wells (111833-5060)
111833-5060 CYCLIST (CO) MRW 19/5/2011 ''' Green cyclist ' John Talbot (65) at Farlington beside the busy A27, en-route from his home in Felpham West Sussex to St Mary's Hospital on a round daily trip of 52 miles ! '''Picture: Malcolm Wells (111833-5060)
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WHEN it comes to green commuting John Talbot must win, dropped handlebars down.

Each day he pedals an energy-sapping round trip of 52 miles from his home east of Bognor Regis, West Sussex, to St Mary’s Hospital in Portsmouth.

And the 65-year-old is not just doing it this week, but every working day for the past nine years.

But as we approach the end of the Big Green Commuter Challenge week, Mr Talbot is the perfect example of how giving up the car can develop into an unshakeable habit.

He fits artificial limbs at St Mary’s and usually sees his first patient on the Milton site at 8.30am.

By then he’s been up for nearly four hours and in the saddle for the hour-and-a-half it takes him to ride the 26 miles from his home at Felpham.

Although he does it to keep fit, the catalyst which drove him to switch from four wheels to two was Portsmouth’s traffic.

He said: ‘It was in 2002, when they were rebuilding Eastern Road yet again, that I thought there must be a better way. I was sick and tired of sitting in interminable queues going nowhere.

‘I’d always been a bit of a cyclist so I got the bike out, planned a safe route and set off.’ Mr Talbot only intended to see if it was possible and to judge if he was fit enough.

‘One day became two which became a week, and so it went on,’ he said. ‘I began to get fitter. I was really enjoying it and it quickly became the natural way to get to work.’

He is now part of the fixtures and fittings on the morning commute on Eastern Road. Trying to have a conversation with him beside the road is difficult as dozens of cyclists and motorists toot and shout greetings to him. ‘You see the same people day in, day out when you do something at the same time each day,’ he said.

His route? It takes him along Bognor Regis seafront from where he takes the back route towards Chichester via Runcton and Hunston. Then it’s a quick burst down the A27 towards Fishbourne and the now, near-deserted old A27 (now the A259) to Havant.

‘From there it’s virtually cycle paths all the way to St Mary’s. We’re very lucky in this part of the world.’

But does he really do this every day? ‘Just about,’ he added. ‘Except when there’s a south-westerly blowing into my face and I’m getting soaked.

‘The beauty about this ride is that there are so many escape routes. I can nip on a train anywhere from Bognor to Havant if I want and get the train to Fratton. But that doesn’t happen very often.’