Following on from our borough insert feature, Anita tells us what cycling means to her.
I have been cycling since I was seven, using my bike to get to school both at primary and secondary. I have been a London cyclist off and on for the last 25 years. When my son Merlin was born I was keen to be able to cycle with him as soon as possible. He was on the back of the bike in a child seat as a baby and used to love the cycle rides for sleeping. He started with a balance bike and has been on his own bike since he was 4, sometimes with a tow bar in the early days and now cycles to secondary school as well as weekend and evening rides with me. It is important to me that he is a confident cyclist and feels safe as well as being active and in the outdoors. We have been on cycling expeditions up the Lee Valley and to Debden House for camping on our own and with Newham Woodcraft Folk.
When I took on my current job it involved a lot of changes and one of those was committing to becoming a daily cyclist as it was the only way I could fit everything in with both work and childcare and also saved me the cost of the annual travel card I used to need before. I work as a Baby Feeding Specialist for Barts Health in Tower Hamlets, cycling for work involves more than just commuting as I am not only cycling to work but around during the day to visit clients, move between work places, attend meetings and trainings. Cycling is the most efficient way to get around, when I work with students who are not cyclists I usually give them a 15 minute head start on public transport and usually still arrive ahead of them. I use the Cycle Super Highways but also the canal and riverside paths.
I cycle in all weathers. Wearing specialist cycling clothing and shoes isn’t really an option as I can’t change easily every time I visit clients in their own homes so I have had to come up with a work wardrobe for cycling which can take me from my bike to a hospital ward, meeting or client’s home. I’m not cycling fast aiming to get a best time on the commute but aiming to arrive in good time without breaking out in a sweat! Knee length skirts and dresses that are not too wide nor too narrow are great as they keep clear of the chain and wheels and dry quickly if caught in the rain! Long leather boots are good in winter and can be wiped down after a muddy cycle along Limehouse Cut!
I am a keen Geocacher (www.geocaching.com) and go out on cycle rides after work seeking out hidden containers around London or attending events. This has taken me further afield by bike than ever before and using google maps to find cycling routes to geocaches has expanded my cycling knowledge, fitness and confidence in London taking me on routes I never knew about. I also combine train and bike for longer journeys.
I am now trained as a Ride Marshal and Ride Leader with London Cycling Campaign and hope to be able to encourage more women to gain confidence in cycling.
With our first official ‘Women’s Ride’ coming up, we’ve been chatting about the things that put women off getting on their bikes. There are many things – and the next issue of London Cyclist magazine will have a feature on this.
It’s pretty obvious that infrastructure – or lack of it – is a huge factor, but it’s more than that. Some women feel threatened by having to share a cycle lane with more confident, faster cyclists, others are concerned about the safety aspect of using quieter routes through parks and along towpaths.
Some are just put off by the clothing!!
The infrastructure and safety aspects are harder to tackle quickly – but the clothing one is not. It is perfectly possibly to ride a bike in your normal clothes! If you’re just doing a short journey, it’s really easy – you’re not likely to get too hot and sweaty and saddle comfort isn’t really an issue. If you’re doing longer rides – commuting or travelling around for work – and are worried about comfort, it’s not much harder. There are some great brands out there who have started to think about simple things like nice light floaty tops that don’t make you all sweaty and shorts or trousers that are cut so that there are no seams where you don’t want them. There are also some very stylish padded knickers out there – one particular brand you would hardly know they were padded to look at them.
One of our members and regular marshals (soon to be ride leader too) rides miles around Tower Hamlets every day in her job as a breast feeding specialist. Wearing a helmet & sometimes gloves is her only concession to the fact that she’s on a bike. In fact when I bumped in to her earlier this week, she looked positively glamorous in her summer dress and heels!
Our ride later this month will very much be embracing the social and relaxed aspect of cycling – wear whatever you will be comfortable and feel yourself in.
Don’t forget, if your bike needs a bit of TLC ahead of the ride, we’ll be at the Forest Gate Festival on the 15th – bring your bike along and learn how to do the basics (fixing a puncture etc). If you’ve got a friend who would like to come on the ride but doesn’t have a bike – they’ll be able to hire one from our lovely friend (and Newham Cyclist member) Nigel at View Tube Bikes.
On Sunday morning, thanks to the nomination I received from the group, I got to ride in a celebration of Women’s Cycling, on closed roads in central London as part of the events preceding The Women’s Tour.
It was a short ride but the women taking part were all there because of the part they play in inspiring other women to ride – whether by providing training, or leading rides, or campaigning to make the city a place where women feel safe to cycle with their children. Some of the other LCC local groups were represented as was LCC HQ. There were bikes of all shapes and sizes – cargo bikes, side by sides, an elliptical bike and even a penny farthing!
Both the Mayor of London and his walking & cycling commissioner, Will Norman, were there to wave us off as we rode out on part of the route that was ridden much faster later in the day by the elite women in the final stage of the Tour; along Piccadilly, Regents Street, Haymarket and around Trafalgar Square, before finishing on Pall Mall.
We had a great day on Saturday at Woodgrange Market, helping a number of people of all ages and from all backgrounds get their bikes back on the road. One of our favourite visitors was Jan who had not ridden her bike for 4 years and wanted to get back on it. She had a lovely dutch Gazelle bike which had a flat tyre & needed some general TLC. We helped her replace the inner tube & get the wheel back on her bike. She was spotted riding around Forest Gate the next day!
Our aim is to teach as many people as possible – especially women – to deal with basic problems, in particular fixing a puncture!
A few weeks ago, Woman’s Hour had a whole feature on cycling including this great video with Jenni from London Bike Kitchen which does just that, with some great tips & tricks!
Our next stall is on Saturday 10th June – see you there!
I’ve made two rather exciting purchases recently – a swanky pair of John Fluevog brogues (www.fluevog.com) and my gorgeous vintage bike. The brogues were a holiday present from me and are not only the most stylish, but the most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever owned. ‘Poppy’ is an Elswick Hopper Safeway manufactured around 1975 and purchased from the gang at The Emporium, Number8 Forest Gate (Twitter: @number8FG).
Poppy came with all the original fixtures and fittings including Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub gears, y-breaks (I think that’s what they’re called) and an enormous double sprung saddle. Unfortunately, despite being well cared for she did need some renovation. The rubber of the original black tyres was cracked and dry so they’ve been replaced with funky cream Schwalbe ones (www.schwalbe.co.uk/) to match the plastic pedals and handlebar grips. The saddle, sadly (and despite the springs) was too painful to contemplate and has been put into storage. I’m now comfortably ‘resting my laurels’ on my Brooks Team Pro saddle – bliss (www.brooksengland.com).
Whilst I can change tyres and break pads I’m no way near clever enough to know whether a bike’s road worthy or not so my friend TR’s coming round to give her the once-over (https://facebook/LondonBicycleClinic) before we go whizzing (ever so sedately) into the sunset seeking beautiful cycling accessories!
In celebration of International Women’s Day LCC will be linking to blogs from women talking about LCC and their ‘Space for Cycling’ campaign. They’ve kindly asked if I’d like to participate so here goes!
Hmmm, maybe a bit of background about me first. My name is Lisa and I’m a gardener based in Forest Gate. I can usually be seen trundling my kit up and down the local streets in a shopping trolley with red roses stuck to the front. My sister-in-law’s nickname for me is ‘born too late’ as my heart resides in the 1940’s, hence my business being called London Land Girl. As far as my cycling style is concerned that also seems to be stuck in the 1940’s. I’m a heel wearing, no helmet, anti-Lycra, no to hi-viz kind of girl.
I started cycling again in 2008 as I suppose like many adults I hadn’t been on a bike since I was a kid. At the age of 7 I can remember being very proud of my brand new, shiny, bright red Chopper bike and riding it round and around the square of grass outside our flat in Bethnal Green – no particular place to go and for no other reason than I could and because it gave me such great joy to do so! Today the joy’s still there but the bike is not so shiny or new as I’m riding a 38yr old Elswick Hopper Safeway. Still bright red though!
For me LCC’s ‘Space for Cycling’ campaign is about sharing that childhood joy with as many people as possible by fostering a society of competent and confident cyclists and ensuring they have a secure environment in which to pursue that joy. Hopefully the provision of safe integrated cycling in our towns and cities will not only improve the overall environment of town centres (benefitting everyone not just cyclists) but also relieve the tensions that exist between pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, of which I’m fully aware as I am a cyclist, pedestrian and car owner all rolled into one.
For me not being a member of LCC is pure madness for anyone who cycles – why wouldn’t you want to be part of an organisation that’s fighting your corner for you?
LCC is the voice of reason in a sea of nonsensical and contradictory legislation so join up today -Â your cyclists need you!
The pic says it all really. I love cycling and I love my bike but often feel underrepresented by the cycling fraternity at large.
The majority of street cyclists are male and despite the impressive achievements of the British women’s cycling team (and female cyclists in all fields) cycling can still be viewed as a big boys’ club.
Girls Love Bikes Too! is a blog for anyone who experiences the childish joy of riding your bike for no other purpose than peddling around in circles. For those who remember a time when we were unencumbered by bewildering techno jargon, unflattering clothing and safety concerns.
Warning: Girls Love Bikes Too! is a hi-viz, Lycra and gadget free zone!