What I Wheely, Wheely Want!
Local Dorset mum, Mel, looks back fondly on her days cycling as a child, and talks about her hopes for safer, greener cycling provision in Dorset in the future.
As a child I loved to cycle. Living in a village with quiet roads meant I could hop on my bike and explore on and off road and have a bit of independence. I kept my trusty 1990s mountain bike through university, where I used to get up early in the morning before my housemates and set off down the canal path or used it to get across town to choir practice. I always used my bike if I needed to travel somewhere in the dark winter evenings on my own – it made me feel safer to have a bit of speed. And then my ever squeakier and creakier bike followed me on my various moves around the UK, where it continued to usefully provide transport for shorter trips until I moved to Dorset and started a family. At this point it began to moulder away in a basement and feel really sorry for itself.
My children had bikes from the first opportunity, and I’ve always felt it was a really important skill for them to have. As they’ve got older, they’ve wanted to travel further than just doing laps around the local park so I knew that at some point the time would come when I’d need to be brave and get back on board.
The quiet roads and family time of the first lockdown gave me the nudge I needed – the time had come! After a terrifying foray down the road and into our nearby nature reserve with my brakes squeaking so loud they made me (and everyone else for at least a mile around) jump out of my skin and my eight-year-old cringe… I decided I should look out for some new wheels. While lockdown provided the impetus, it unfortunately didn’t provide the bike as they became as scarce as hens’ teeth on both new and second-hand markets.
After rather a long time searching, I finally found the bike of my dreams! With my step-through frame, locking wheels and (best of all!) my dynamo light, you can see me swishing about in style with a huge grin on my face. I go for regular short rides with my son and enjoy the speed I can use to nip to the local shop, or pub, now we are allowed to socialise again.
I am gaining confidence on two wheels, but I do worry about the traffic around me. Out on family rides with both my children I’ve had vehicles pass so close and fast I’ve felt like designing my own tabard with ‘wobbly six-year-old in front – please don’t be an idiot!’ You should be giving as much room as if you were overtaking a car – check your highway code if you don’t believe me – and more if you’re passing kids… But families should be able to get out on bikes. It’s fantastic for learning road safety, for keeping active and for doing our bit towards the environment. I know, though, that many families are reluctant to get out on bikes. They feel the risk is just too great.
This is why schemes like Transforming Travel’s Transforming Cities Fund project are great news because they provide safe, segregated cycling routes. Infrastructure allowing my family (and my children, on their own, when they’re older) to cycle without mixing with the main road traffic; with more than just a painted line separating their precious, soft selves from the metal tonnage and associated laws of physics, would be a ray of hope for our future. It’s great to see progress with this and I hope there is more to come!