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Opinion: Why I’m swallowing my pride and going back to school


Life Cycle’s Communications Officer, Becky, tells us why she’s finally taking the plunge and booking some free, 1:1 cycle skills tuition.

Happy New Year! Nowadays I don’t normally ‘do’ New Year’s resolutions (tellingly, they have stayed the same every year). But here we are at the dawn of 2019 and I’ve decided to practice what I’ve been preaching since I started at Life Cycle: 

"This year I’m booking myself some cycle skills tuition."

I’m not sure why I haven’t done it yet – it’s completely free of charge, taught 1-to-1 and I get to decide when and where it takes place. 

I suppose that up until now I’ve not felt I’ve needed any training: For the last five years I have cycled to work 99% of the time, rain or shine, ice and snow - without incident. So, I always felt like I was pretty on the ball. I also have a clean driving license and my own car, so I feel OK with the rules of the road.

However, they say "you don't know what you don't know" - and given that I failed my cycling proficiency (a crushing blow, aged 10) I’m starting to wonder whether I should have a bit of a refresh!

I spend a fair bit of time on cycle forums and reading articles on cycling. There are some interesting debates going on about the way cyclists are treated by other road users, and equally, the way cyclists behave. Phrases like ‘own the road’, ‘primary position’, ‘shared space’, ‘vulnerable road users’, and topics such as ‘close passes’, and ‘cyclists running red lights’ are hotly debated. 

An example of a 'close pass'                                                                                             
Raising awareness through Road Safety campaigns


"These differences of opinion have left me wanting some hard, objective facts – about how cyclists should be using the road, and what we should be expecting of other road users".

My heart sinks when I see I cyclist doing something wilfully dangerous: I know we’re not a ‘tribe’ and that one cyclist’s actions shouldn’t reflect badly on others. But I also believe that there is a cycling community – and many of its members are keen to win hearts and minds: So that motorists treat us considerately, and more people will be inspired to join us.

I work alongside a team of talented and experienced cycle instructors – all of whom are trained to the Government’s ‘National Standard for cycle training’. They are cycling and teaching every day, and use their extensive knowledge to tackle a variety of situations. By actually getting out on a bike and learning from them, I'll be able to have some light shed on my queries.

Route planning for a more pleasant ride                                                                           
Trainees riding together (there is the option to bring a friend with you)


In fact, simply working in proximity to these instructors has already changed the way I cycle: I have definitely calmed down. I take my time, I am more self-aware. I feel I am a more respectful road/shared pathway user… 

In the past I have occasionally skipped the odd red light, when I was ‘sure’ it was ‘safe’. Since I started at Life Cycle I have stopped doing this altogether. I have also changed my route to work, now I have a greater knowledge of the cycle path networks and quiet roads. These days the majority of my ride is on cycle paths. It’s wonderful.

"Despite shaking my ‘need for speed’ and avoiding main roads, my daily commute does not feel longer, I don’t have a sense of getting anywhere slower – in fact I feel less stressed and enjoy my journey more. I can breathe and look around me".

All these changes happened simply by osmosis! I am keen to find out what I could learn in a 1:1 lesson that’s tailored for me.

If we are serious about getting more people cycling, I believe as cyclists we should be setting an example of how to share space with others – and that means being considerate, but also knowing our rights. Feeling confident to take our place on the road, communicating effectively with other road users. And above all, taking steps to ensure we really enjoy making our journeys by bike.

So I will be booking my lessons, and I urge you to do the same – or recommend it to a friend. Whatever your ability and experience level, I guarantee there is something new you can learn. And our instructors are a lovely bunch!

Find out more about which areas we cover, what the lessons entail and how to book: https://www.lifecycleuk.org.uk/learn

*Courtesy of Bristol City Council. Life Cycle also offers this service in BANES, Derby and Salisbury thanks to their respective local authorities.