This morning, as I sat upon my trusty steed, dodging the Bristol buses, cars, and lorries (many of whom seem dead set on, well, seeing me dead) it occurred to me that cycling to work isn’t dissimilar to other, more formal, sports. I’m on team “make it there in one piece” and then there’s team “vehicles-with-engines” who I need to outsmart and outwit if I’m going to win.
And, really, what better way to think of arriving at work than winning? It sure beats showing up tense and stressed, having sat behind a wheel in heavy traffic for however long. No, I always arrive at work with a smile, having just conquered not only the other team (who are still sat in traffic; still tense, still stressed) but all the other obstacles thrown along the pitch for good measure. This morning it was rain but it could just as easily have been blinding winds or deep-bottomed pot holes.
I haven’t quite worked out the scoring system. Maybe 2 points per mile and 3 points for signalling at each junction. But then there’d have to be penalties too – maybe 5 for every red light. And at least 10 for venturing on the pavement (not that I’d ever do that!). Any other ideas?
In all seriousness though, cycling is a great way to start the day and I do feel better for it. Cycling to work has introduced me to the wider benefits of two wheels, such as fresh air (when you’re not behind a bus, mind) and exercise. And these are things that I’ve discovered come with cycling for leisure and pleasure too. And maybe, eventually, for sport? I wonder how many of our greatest athletes started their love of cycling with commuting?
And this is why it saddens me when speaking with friends who are petrified of giving cycling a go or who do cycle to work but take the longest and most bizarre of routes to avoid ever having to go anywhere near the other team (“vehicles-with-engines”).
So it was with great excitement at “Make Sundays Special” that I came upon the group Life Cycle UK. Why was I so excited to learn of this organisation? Well, it turns out that Bristol City Council are funding them to provide free cycle training! Yes, that’s right – free cycling lessons for adults.
Adults who live, work, or study in Bristol are entitled to up to 3 free one-hour lessons on a one-to-one basis. I spoke to the kind lady at the Life Cycle UK stall on Sunday and she said that the lessons are customisable – so, if you really wanted to cycle to work but weren’t confident with the route then the training could be targeted at this journey. Cracking that big roundabout you’ve been too nervous to try – now think how many points you’d get for that!
And if you want more great cycling support, there’s also the Breeze Network Bristol. This group (I’m not biased, honest!) is amazing – they offer group rides led by women, for women. It’s a supportive environment to build your cycling skills and get out there and enjoy the city (and the countryside too). Breeze also offer more advanced rides for those of us who’ve already discovered how fab cycling is.
With the encouragement of the Council, Lifecycle UK, and the Breeze Network, it’s my hope that team “make it there in one piece” will just keep growing in numbers. And, trust me, it’s the winning team.