So how is summer treating everyone? We have recently enjoyed (or suffered, depending on your viewpoint), the longest heatwave in seven years! How have you spent it? Lebs and I have been having great lots of fun! We have had some indoor and outdoor picnics (Bulmers for mummy please!), and plenty of trips to Brockwell park. It’s great to ride there by the way, very bike friendly and perfect for beginners!
Well I can proudly say I have more or less DOUBLED my use of Caroline, my Boardman bike, on the once terrifying roads in and around Streatham, South London. I wasn’t using her as much as I could be for the following reasons:
- I needed to go everywhere by turning left because turning right was super scary (*blushes*)
- I had to get off and walk up and over any lump or bump in the road vaguely resembling a hill causing Lebs to laugh at me
- I was even more afraid of the main road (I still am a little but not so much that I won’t use it)
- I was convinced through a lot of trolls on social networking sites that all cars hate me and want to kill me.
It took a near miss to spur me to action against all these inhibitions. One day I was cycling with Lebs on the back to his nursery when I turned left out of a t- junction and found that two cars were coming towards me, and one behind me was about to follow me around the bend. I was instantly afraid and so sought the nearest passing place and tucked myself in. It hadn’t occurred to me that the driver turning left behind me would swing round quickly, become spooked by the two cars approaching and swerve into the same passing place without looking first, very nearly taking me and Lebs off the bike. I was shaken up(more even then my first ride out on a bike with Lebs), and not only that, I couldn’t help but ask myself; was there some way I could have avoided that situation?
That night, I took to the Lambeth website with hopes of finding some information on cycling courses which would help me. There was lots of information to be had (see here), but best of all I saw that anyone living, working or studying in Lambeth could get FREE cycle training! One-to-one! No download speed in the world could have opened the page fast enough for me!
I found myself on Cycle confident website, where I left a session request briefly explaining my fears and what I felt my experience level to be. A few days later I received an email from Nick, inviting me to book a session.
Nick was very flexible. I originally had asked to meet at a local park but after a phone conversation about my abilities he was happy to meet at my house and go straight onto the road.
On the morning of the session, Nick was nice and early. He was warm and chatty, so I felt a little less nervous (it felt a bit like being in school again). He checked my bike over to make sure it fit me correctly and that it was road worthy and then off we went!
We did a few basic loops in the streets near to where I live in Streatham Hill. I am lucky in my area in that there is a good mixture of hills, and flats, back streets and main roads, cycle lanes and junctions. Nick cycled slightly ahead of me initially and then behind me. He tutored me on using gears and my road positioning. It seemed the simplest adjustments made the world of difference. Within 5 minutes, having changed my hand and foot positioning, I was already feeling more confident. Better still, Nick lives and rides locally, so he was a gold mine of information about local roads, routes and even cycling groups.
My fear of hills was swiftly conquered with some guidance and practice on using my gears. I learned what it is to ‘spin’ (owwww), and conquered my first proper hill. Not just a bump or a lump but a proper up-and-over hill! I had breath to spare too! I was so pumped I think I broke the world record for saying ‘thank you’ in 1 minute.
Next my fear of turning right. This involved schooling on my road positioning. He showed me how staying in the gutter as religiously as I was could become potentially a hazard for other road users or cause me to panic. In fact, all of my other fears were calmed by Nick demonstrating to me how important it was to look ahead, stay calm and stay SEEN.
He also consulted my attitude towards drivers. He understood that people might be grumpy sometimes but if I am staying seen, making a little eye contact where possible, not swerving in or out of lanes and signalling clearly before maneuvering, then road user grumpiness will be minimal.
Next we hit the main roads. Nick showed me how to position myself safely at the traffic lights and how to use the cycle lanes safely. I was finally feeling very confident and Nick tested me out! We did a big loop along Streatham High Road back to my home where the lesson ended. HE told me that we had completed 7 miles and I almost passed out with happiness! I had never thought I could do 7 miles and still have breath! I wanted to straight back out (and I did, the next day).
Since my lesson I have not only used my bike more often but I have had some waves and compliments from drivers (they can SEE me yah), and conquered a few more hills! The best experience of all was when I took Lebs to nursery and he said “mummy lets take the flat road ‘cos you can’t go up the hill”. I cleared the hill and he whooped for joy “Well DONE mummy!”. I was so proud!
What’s your proudest cycling moment?
I have now decided that since I am with Caroline more often, I would like a new saddle. The search is on…
*Do you live or work in Lambeth like me? If so then why not see how easy it is to get cycling for yourself? Let me know how you get on! http://www.cycleconfident.com/sponsors/lambeth/