Cathy Bussey

Cathy Bussey is an author, journalist, mother and mad-keen cyclist. Her book, 'The Girl's Guide to Life on Two Wheels' was published in 2013 and she also contributes to a blog of the same name:

Cathy is also guest columnist in this quarter's London Cyclist magazine.

What does space for cycling mean to me?

At the moment it’s not so much space for cycling with which I’m preoccupied. It’s time. I had my second daughter in August 2013, just 20 months after my first. Getting out on the bike is an operation that requires military-style planning. My younger daughter is still breastfeeding and everything hinges upon the timing. But what a joy it is when I do manage it. What clarity of thought, what headspace.

Parenting isn’t an exclusively female concern of course, but it’s safe to say women bear the brunt of it, particularly in the early years. I have more times than I care to remember heard women speak nostalgically about how they used to love to ride their bikes, until they had children.

Tearing ourselves away for a bike-ride, even just for a few hours, can feel self-indulgent at best. Finding the time becomes difficult, making the time is ‘selfish’, and incorporating cycling into our everyday lives by, say, taking the kids to school on a bike looks downright foolhardy on some of London’s less fit-for-purpose routes.

The roads around our little corner of suburbia are narrow and heavily used. Rush hour looks awful for everybody. As I push my buggy past nose-to-tail traffic I often think ahead to when my children are at school. I see the odd mother cycling their children to school, dodging pedestrians on the too-narrow pavements. Presumably they can’t face weaving through the unmoving block of furious, beeping, revving traffic? Their reception on the pavement is not warm or welcoming. "Those bloody mums and their brats. Holding everybody up. Why can’t they be out there on the roads, annoying the motorists instead of the pedestrians?"

But the ones I see braving the roads fare no better. "Those bloody mums, insisting upon taking their kids to school! Holding everybody up from inching torturously closer to the next red light, the next jam-packed junction. Why can’t they just get out of everybody’s way?"

And so I think for me space for cycling looks like me on a bicycle with my two girls behind me. Firstly in a trailer, then a tow-along, and finally on their own bikes.

It looks like an ecosystem whereby I am not a nuisance, "that bloody mum on a bike with her stupid brats holding up the important people going about their important business of going to work to be important."

It looks like a culture whereby I am not insignificant in three ways: insignificant because I am on a bike, insignificant because I am a female on a bike, and insignificant because I am a female on a bike with my life’s work and greatest achievements pedalling furiously behind me.

 

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