Wheel Spiels is a regular feature in which we ask members and non-members alike to share their stories of cycling. Sarah tells us how she’s faced various barriers to cycling over the years but has hope that they can be overcome.
Like most people I cycled often when i was a child, occasionally as a young adult to get to work and when I got a car my trips by bike dwindled to none.
I look back at that time and think what stopped me from using my bike more often for trips to the shop or to my sports club? Now that I’m in my 30s and I’m a reasonably confident person with few financial worries cycling is relatively easy.
So what changed? It seems it was a mix of factors, for example;
Old me didn’t have a swish pair of Ortlieb panniers (I had never heard of panniers), couldn’t afford to have my bike regularly serviced, didn’t know you could plan routes to avoid the main roads, couldn’t afford fancy super lumen bike lights, wasn’t organised enough to have waterproofs, didn’t know about cycle maps (though I guess there wasn’t a cycle map for Doncaster in the 2000s?). I lost 3 bicycles to thieves in as many years, and didn’t really see other people using their bikes in the way you do here in York. I even remember friends pointing and laughing at people on bicycles like it was an embarrassing thing to do.
My cycling started to pick up again when I moved to Norwich, the main factors that gave me a push start were having somewhere secure to keep my bike (at the time a second hand bike my Dad had got for me, unprompted; a subtle push from an avid cyclist) and living in a compact, largely flat city that lended itself to cycling. Even in this liberal cycle-friendly city I recall my (soon to be ex) boyfriend making fun of my hi-viz cycle jacket.
The real final boost into cycling confidence was only achieved by giving up my car, it started as a trial (or perhaps that’s just how I gave myself the courage to do it), I said I’ll try 6 months without a car and if it’s too tough I can get one, that was 3 years ago and now I can’t imagine ever owning a car again.
The barriers of knowledge, opportunity and culture impact on all of us in different ways.
So what barriers are left to me now? Surely it’s all free wheeling? Well, mostly it is. The only barriers left for me are physical ones. York is a fantastic City, I’ve lived here for 9 months and I’m building up my cycle route knowledge bit by bit but there are some missing pieces in the cycle infrastructure puzzle.
Where I live in Poppleton the route to the North of York is over the A1237 road bridge, this has a shared path that is there clearly an afterthought rather than by design; it’s dangerous and awkward and impossible to use if maintaining the current 2 metre social distancing rule. It’s such as a shame as it’s the only route across the river and railway line for miles and it must deter so many potential cyclists and pedestrians. So how to smash these barriers? Well I have been writing to anyone who will listen (with no progress to date) so I was thrilled to see York Cycle Campaign launch the Safe Streets York project so we can create a picture of our physical barriers to cycling and work together to push for action.
I hope that by reflecting on our own barriers to cycling we can understand how to support others who are less confident/knowledgeable/prepared so we can give them a cycling boost and that by working together with YCC we can dismantle the physical barriers and help spread the joy of cycling further.
If you have a story you’d like to share with us please email YorkCycleCampaign@gmail.com. We welcome stories from anyone so long as its related to your own personal experience of cycling, whether positive or negative, and it doesn’t even have to be about York – we love hearing about other places.