Many of the more seasoned cyclists among us may take small things like third exits of roundabouts and hand signals for granted whilst on their bikes, but for me this was all new (and quite terrifying) territory.
Having started working with Club Peloton in November, I eventually took the plunge and purchased my first road bike in April. Now getting geared up to officially make cycling a part of my life, I soon realised that I lacked basic road safety skills that others could demonstrate in their sleep. I have never used a bicycle as a frequent mode of transport before, so the concept of navigating my way around Angel roundabout was enough to make me run for the pavement – bike in hand.
After anxiously practicing in Finsbury Park/anywhere where there are as few people as possible, I discovered that Camden Council offer a service perfect for someone like me. From basic cycling lessons and bicycle maintenance to advanced urban cycling and building cycling confidence, these courses aim to create a safer cycling culture in London and encourage even more people to get out on the road on two wheels.
After applying for an ‘Advanced Urban Cycling’ course online, I was soon contacted by my instructor, Diego, who arranged to meet me at Finsbury Park at a time convenient for me. We discussed what I’d hope to achieve from the session, and the first half of the 90-minute lesson was spent in the park, practicing emergency stops, signalling, road positioning and personal safety.
We then set out to practice the first half of my would-be commute to Coram – Diego led first, as we made our way through evening rush-hour traffic towards Holloway Road. Once we reached halfway, I then led us back. Afterwards he gave me feedback on my road positioning, signalling and filtering. I found it so valuable to have one-to-one time with an experienced cyclist and to be able to ask all the questions I had (e.g. are you allowed to jump the lights on a bike like lots of people do? Answer: no). He taught me my rights on the road and to be cautious but still assertive. Much like driving in London: if you don’t stand your ground you will get pushed aside.
After the 90-minute session, Diego encouraged me to continue practicing the commute route in quieter times and that in a few weeks we would have my second free session in which he would commute to work with me in morning rush-hour. Until then, I am finding that I am far more confident on the roads, and I learnt so much in such a short space of time.
Cycling needn’t be intimidating or scary but it certainly can be if you feel out of your depth or that everyone knows more than you. Before this session, I did not feel that I belonged on the road and felt like I was completely in the way. This session taught me that I have every right to be on the road, and how to be there safely.
For anyone keen to cycle more, or to try cycling in London for the first time: do it! Cycling is of course a healthy and fun way to get around and with help from courses like those offered by Camden Council, even complete newbies like me can start cycling to work.
Amy Story, Coram Partnership Executive