As a primary school child, I cycled through the Sussex countryside for miles, it was a freedom I took for granted and of course that was a time when there were very few cars on the road! My parents were very relaxed and we would be out for hours. Then I was sent to Boarding school and totally lost that connection. And since then when I have tried to ride on the streets, I have felt overwhelmed by the size and speed of vehicles, the sheer volume of traffic. In London this has been particuarly acute.
I am one of the unknown millions of people who would like to cycle but don’t feel safe or comfortable. So here I am on a cycling training UK lesson with David Dansky. We meet up at Finsbury Park on a crisp Autumn morning. There is a great open tar mac surface on which to go through the basic safety issues and in my case finally learn how to mount a bicycle by holding the brakes and tipping it to one side. So obvious I think doh!
David allows me to follow him as he goes through some basic manoeuvres that will allow me to interact more safely and skillfully on the roads. Making eye contact with other road users, emergency stops, gear changes and preparing at junctions to name a few. I realise that I have been very under prepared to meet the challenges of on the road cycling.
We then venture out on the roads in Hackney, making use of some of the cycling infrastructure in the filtered permeable network. I notice that traffic is immediately slower in this section, some larger HGVs slow down to let us pass, but we still need to keep well away from parked vehicles on the side of the road as they could open doors and obstruct our path. I’m going to need to become more familiar with the main roads so we arrange for a second lesson.
It’s been fun being back on a bike and negociating some of the roads in London. I feel like I’ve learnt some invaluable skills and understanding of cycling. Homework is getting on a Boris bike and scouring some of the back roads on my own. That will test my confidence. Is it a psychological fear or have the new skills prepared me for a new experience?