Monday, 19 May 2014

On the road to independence

Our guest blog this week is from 13 year old Kika Hendry. If you'd like to try free individual cycle lessons like Kika, please contact Cycle Confident. We'd also love to hear from others who might like to share the story of their journey to school.

"Do you love riding your bike like I do? There are many reasons why cycling is good for everyone: less pollution, less congestion, more exercise, better health, perhaps even saving some money. But I like cycling to school and to my extra-curricular activities because I like the feeling of independence. It’s fun being in charge of my own transport, timings and schedules. It gives my mum a break from being my chauffeur and puts her in a good mood too. 
I started cycling regularly fairly recently, I had just outgrown my bike again (the ones that only saw Dulwich park once in a blue moon) and my mum persuaded me to get a good bike. So I did! I then got some free individual cycle lessons too with Jawad, a cycling instructor who works for Southwark council. Together we explored my way to school from my house, finding the safest route, working out how to approach tricky junctions and where to position myself on the road and at crossings. Equipped with some lessons, a helmet and other essential bike equipment I now take to the Herne Hill and Dulwich roads all on my own. 
Cycling is not only great fun, it's an excellent form of exercise.  Cycling strengthens the leg muscles and increases cardiovascular endurance … I can tell I’m getting fitter when riding up that Holmdene Road. At first, I thought I’ll never make it to the top in one go… now it’s just part of my everyday cycling routine … no sweat. 
I’m aware that my mum and other people in her cycle group are campaigning for safer cycle roads and yes, it would be nice to have dedicated cycle lanes like they have in Germany or Denmark. It would make it safer for everyone. Still, I can’t hang around for this to happen … God knows how long that will take to sort out. 
In the meantime, I love riding my bike, it means I can stay longer with friends at school if I want to, not having to fear that my mum and sister are waiting for me somewhere. I also got to know my neighbourhood tons better and feel much more part of it now. My bike rides let me really enjoy these spring mornings. I hear the birds chirp and soak up the colours of the sky, and watch the trees and flowers come out in bloom all around me. Had I driven, I would have missed all of that, too absorbed in the radio and sectioned off from the outside. I feel the morning breeze, cool on my cheeks. Had I walked, I would have moved too slowly to experience the crisp wind whipping against my face. Only cycling can I reach that perfect tempo, that perfect balance between motion and stillness, where I am actively going somewhere and can take the time to appreciate the scenery around me. 
Riding my bike, I feel free and fast … I don’t even mind cycling in the rain. So in conclusion, bike riding is very important: it helps your health and your mind. Oh, and also the planet we live on. "