“It’s liberating”: why more people who know how to ride a bicycle should ride a bicycle

“I save money, I save time and on a small scale, I help save the planet by commuting by bike,” says Alicia (Getty Images)

I hadn’t ridden a bike for at least a decade when two years ago I took the plunge and bought a used bike.

I was working full time in a restaurant during a break from my studies and needed a reliable way to get to and from work, especially at night.

When I first rode the little pink bike (in hindsight, too small), which I bought for around £ 50 from Gumtree, I felt a bit like Bambi on ice.

But I had to get home somehow, and I wasn’t about to push my new courier along the hour-long walk home.

Within half a mile I was flying.

That’s what I love about cycling: it feels like you’re flying in the sky.

For me, choosing to ride a bike was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I’m not alone.

Louella, 25, based in London, started cycling after a lockdown break – and she will never look back.

“It gave me a whole new way to see London and explore my city,” she says.

“I also feel much safer at night: I will happily come back to a friend’s house late at night, because it’s safer than walking from the bus or metro stop.

“I understand that not everyone is able to ride a bike, so it’s really a privilege to have that security, but for me personally, it really helped me feel more confident on the streets. . “

England, London, Cyclist Commuting to Work

“As a woman terrified of coming home when it’s dark, I feel incredibly liberated and safe when I cycle,” says Alicia (Getty Images)

Alicia, 23, also from London, echoes this.

“As a woman terrified of coming home when it’s dark, I feel incredibly liberated and safe when I cycle,” she told Metro.co.uk. “Being able to see the city at night alone without the burden of anxiety is a lifeline.”

Alicia started cycling a few months ago, after a year of convincing herself to give it a try, and says it has improved every aspect of her life.

“Gone are the days of commuting in a subway car with hundreds of other sweaty bodies piled up like sardines,” she says.

“Instead, I’m still a sweaty body, but for the right reasons, and I’m free to ride along the amazing cycle paths London has to offer.

“I save money, I save time and I contribute on a small scale to save the planet by making my trips by bike.

Louella has saved a lot of money since she started cycling.

Before the pandemic, when she had to travel to the office, Louella was spending around £ 150 a month on transport.

“I’m able to save that money instead, and since it’s actually a huge chunk of the average monthly salary, it makes a bigger difference than you might think,” she says.

“I also found it really liberating not to be at the mercy of a Tube app or map,” she adds. “I knew where I was going and loved seeing how different parts of my city come together. “

“Freeing” is what Birkenhead-based Ellis, 26, would call cycling.

Due to cerebral palsy, which affected his balance and hand-eye coordination, cycling was never really an option for Ellis.

“I used to see people riding bikes in London and I was like ‘I wish it was me,’ he recalls.

Ellis heard about the handcycle from a friend. He had never heard of it before, but he did some research and found that the man who makes his wheelchairs also makes handbikes and has been doing so for over a decade.

Hand cyclist

Before cycling, Ellis depended on public transport and taxis (Ellis Palmer)

So he made the investment just as the first foreclosure approached in March 2020.

“The lockdown has been a blessing for me in terms of learning to ride a bike,” he said.

“I had to cycle in my region, with my father at the start, 95 days out of 100, which boosted my confidence enormously.

“Then I started cycling independently. I cycled around town and through the park, and I just remember that feeling of independence; to be able to go somewhere and do my own thing without depending on anyone else. It was liberating.

Before he started cycling, Ellis relied on public transport and taxis – “I once waited two hours for a taxi in the freezing cold,” he recalls – but now he enjoys being able to get out into their local community, connect with people, and find and support local businesses.

While he admits that buying a handcycle was very expensive and a privilege, he is grateful for what learning to handcycle allowed him to do.

“This is what hand cycling is to me,” he says. “This is liberation; it’s freedom.

Tips for people wanting to start cycling:

Find cheap but reliable used bikes on Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and other local initiatives

For people with disabilities, check out Wheels for All and Wheels for Wellbeing, which specialize in accessibility and inclusion of biking.

If you’ve never learned to ride or need a refresher, check out your municipality’s free cycling training service and online bike safety courses.

Work out in a quiet lane or in a local park before heading straight down the busy road.

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