Blogger profile: Annisa Chand from Radiant Riders

In a new series of guest bloggers for the London Cycling Campaign, we find out a bit more about Annisa Chand, co-founder of Radiant Riders, a sub group of the Shoreditch Sisters Women's Institute. Radiant Riders is held once a month and is a great chance to socialise whilst gaining more experience and confidence in cycling.

Do you remember your first bike and how you learnt to cycle?

I got my first bike when I was 7 years old as a Christmas present.  My Dad taught me to cycle in our driveway.  My bike was a cream-coloured Apollo folding bike.  It still lives in my parent’s garden, although it’s a bit rusty now.

What was your first memory / impression of cycling in London?

I started cycling in London in the middle of winter, so I remember it being very cold, wet and dark.  I used to only do short trips on quiet roads but after living in London for 7 years it felt like freedom compared to using public transport or walking.

Has that impression changed now and if so, how?

Yes, I cycle further and almost every day now.  My bike is my main mode of transport.  I got involved in cycling activism, which made me realise how my choice to get on a bike goes beyond a journey from A to B.  It’s a lifestyle choice as well as a political statement. 

What’s the best thing that has happened to you from cycling?

I found love at a cycle protest…

What style and colour bikes do you have?

I have two bikes.  One is a lilac Gazelle Dutch bike from the 90s, with two baskets and step-through frame.  The other is a purple single speed with a 70s road bike frame that I custom-built myself.

Do your bicycles have names?

My Dutch is called Starla and I named her after the Smashing Pumpkins song.  My single speed is called Controversy (after the Prince record) because she’s purple and building her was tougher than I expected it to be!

Tell me what your 3 great things about cycling in London are.

I’ve discovered lots of amazing places in London, there’s a really strong bike community who all come together to make London a better place to cycle and through being in the Shoreditch Sisters WI I was involved in filming a BBC programme about the 2012 Olympics where I was filmed riding my bike.

If you could change one thing about cycling in London, what would it be?

Better infrastructure, which is built using the knowledge and experience from other cities where cycling is safer and more practical than London, like Amsterdam or Copenhagen.   We also need the people in power to exercise the political will to challenge the idea that motor vehicles should have priority on our roads.   We all pay for our roads but there is a culture of entitlement (the “road tax” brigade, for example) that needs to change.

How do you rate the cycle routes and paths around where you live and work?

I live in the borough of Islington, which has done a lot to make sure there are joined up quiet routes throughout the borough, similar to what has happened in Hackney.  However, I cycle through the City of London to get to work, where the roads and facilities for cyclists are very poor.  The conditions are changing slowly, thanks to lots of work from cycling campaigners, but considering the City is so small there are an awful lot of HGVs, buses and other vehicles clogging up the roads.  The City has one of the worst cyclist and pedestrian casualty rates in London and it’s about time this was addressed. 

How accessible do you think it is for people to start cycling?

Honestly, I would say it’s not very accessible to people who don’t know anything about bikes or who haven’t cycled in a long time.  You only have to look at a busy central London junction during rush hour to see that the majority of cyclists tend to be young or middle-aged white men in Lycra on road bikes who treat their commute as a competitive sport.  Even as someone who cycles I find it hard to identify with these cyclists.  There are a lot of negative stereotypes perpetuated by mass media about what a “cyclist” is, which further alienates people who might consider riding a bike regularly.  That’s one reason why Martha and I started Radiant Riders, because we wanted to make cycling accessible to those who don’t fit the stereotypes.

Do you have any advice / words of wisdom for people thinking about taking up cycling?

Feel the fear and do it anyway! Come to Radiant Riders, we can help you get started, or find your local LCC group and go to one of their meetings.  Once you have a taste for the freedom that bicycles can bring you then you won’t look at any journey in the same way again.

You can follow Radiant Riders on Twitter @RadiantRiders.

Are you blogging about cycling in the city or would like to write articles for London Cycling Campaign, please send an email to info@lcc.org.uk

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