Cyclist of the Week June 26th 2020

Heather, her family and their lovely Sparta.

How long have you been cycling? Off and on for the last ten years – mostly off.  I had a city bike in Hoboken, NJ to get to and from the underground but sadly it was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy.  Years later I am now cycling for the first time in the UK and London – I just bought my current bike a short while ago.  I am guessing it is about 10-12 years old and was brought over from Holland for the original owner who used it for her children.  I love that it has a history and will last for years to come.  My Dutch ancestors from many generations ago would be proud.

Why do you cycle?

At present I am cycling for many reasons, most importantly necessity.  I use my bike for almost everything – carrying my two children, school runs, grocery trips, visiting friends (hopefully soon), and for my business.  It is getting a bit comical at this point – I just need to figure out a way to string up a hammock to it and I would be set for life.

My son is on the shielding list and the idea of getting on mass transit terrifies me.  He is two years old so can’t follow any guidelines or even keep a face mask on.  I will be using it for the school run every day as well.  I do not have a driver’s license here in the UK and I was due to be taking my lessons and testing for it now but that is now out of the question.  Lastly, I am using my bike to make local deliveries for my business, Heather Victoria Designs.  It seemed pretty silly to belabour Royal Mail to send a parcel a mile or two away – with my bike I can deliver my artwork and stationery quicker and easier – plus mother earth is a teeny bit happier.

What do you most enjoy about cycling (if that’s different to the answer above)?  The Freedom.  As a single mum without the use of a car I often felt trapped – I was taking 2-3 journeys a day on the bus or walking for hours each day.  So many journeys are too far to walk but very time consuming on mass transit.  I like to get things done now and quickly – a bike allows me to zip around whenever I want. It is truly life changing.

Did you have any fears about cycling when you started? If so, what helped you to overcome those?  I still have fears since I had such a long hiatus, and now I am carrying my children.  Trying to navigate the disappearing bike lanes in London always makes me nervous.  I often steel myself and fake the confidence it takes and that helps a little bit by bit.  I think since the bike is larger and I am sitting upright it is a tiny bit more visible – but I worry about many of the tight streets.  

If you could name one thing that the council could do to make things better for cyclists, what would it be?   REAL BIKE LANES.  With physical barriers that the cars have to respect.  That don’t disappear after a half a kilometre. Not just here and there – but real routes that are useful.  They can encourage people to avoid mass transit all they want but until they make it easier for less confident or newer cyclists most will be too scared to try.

What advice would you give to anyone who might be thinking of starting cycling?  Don’t be intimidated.  When I was doing my research I felt a bit stonewalled by the fact that the majority of merchandise and marketing was all geared toward a) advanced cyclists b) men.  I had a few fleeting moments where I felt like I just didn’t belong or it must not be for me.  But the truth is you don’t have to be the sleek, Lycra-clad, professional vision of a cyclist that most people have.  Don’t be intimidated – you can also be a mum in her leggings, huffing up and down hills while her two kids yell “weeeeee”.  Cycling is for everyone