Siew-Ching signed up to the LCC Cycle Buddies programme in summer 2020. We caught up with her a year later to find out how the programme had helped her with her cycling and if she’d recommend it to others.
How did you find out about cycle buddies and why did you decide to sign up?
I cycle with a group that organises the weekly Southwark Cyclists Healthy Rides, and the leader of these rides, Bruce Lynn, mentioned the Cycle Buddies programme. I thought that it was an excellent opportunity for me because I was contemplating cycling to work. This was in 2020, just coming out of lockdown. I wasn’t very confident about riding from my home in Lewisham to the West End. So I thought I’d sign up on this programme and get a buddy to show me a suitable route.
Were you a confident London cyclist at this point?
At this point, I was more a ‘once a week’ cyclist with the Southwark Cyclists Healthy Rides group. I was happy cycling in a group with others, but not on my own because I’m didn’t have the confidence and didn’t know the routes that were safe or enjoyable. So I thought that someone from the Cycle Buddies programme could be an excellent person to take me around.
It was very important that I was shown a route from home to work that was on quieter streets. I didn’t want to take any main roads, and I wanted somebody patient who could show me it, because I don’t cycle very fast.
Can you tell us a little about your history with cycling?
I’ve lived in London for a long time and I always thought that cycling in London was very dangerous. And then I went to live in Sydney for a couple of years where we cycled a lot because we didn’t have a car. However, as I was cycling with an under-twelve, we were allowed to cycle on the pavements with some on the roads. But we got around quite well in Sydney by cycling, which I found I enjoyed.
However, when I came back to London, I was still of the mindset that it’s very dangerous to cycle here. I’m wasn’t sure I could manage it if I couldn’t cycle on the pavement, particularly if traffic was heavy. But I was prepared to give it a go, so I resolved to cycle once a week with Southwark Cyclists Healthy Rides. But even after quite a few years of cycling with them every Saturday, I didn’t have the confidence to cycle on my own.
Could you share how your cycle buddies session went?
I was matched very quickly matched with James who lives locally. He made contact and we arranged to meet. James was very kind and agreed to take me out on a Sunday. We met locally and he had plotted the route from my home to my work in advance. Off we went.
Speaking with James, he joined the programme because he had also helped his wife to recce a route to her work! So he was very patient and understanding of my nervousness. I had only one session, because I wanted help with planning a very specific journey. Since the session, I started riding into work. Slowly but surely my confidence has increased to the extent that I cycle everywhere now, even with it getting dark very early. I feel quite confident in getting home now.
How have things changed for you since your Cycle Buddies sessions?
I love my journey now in to work, riding my bike into work on a lovely bright morning. It’s such a pleasant way to get into Central London and for decompressing after work. It feels to me that there’s just more people cycling in central London into their workplaces or just to get around. Locally, during school drop off and pick up time, I notice a lot more parents cycling with kids to school now in Lewisham.
How have you been developing your cycling skills and confidence since the Cycle Buddies programme?
After Cycle Buddies I found out about the free cycle training programme run by Lewisham Council. When the programme started again last summer, I got one training session from a cycle instructor, to build on what I’d learned from my riding with Cycle Buddies and Southwark Cyclists Healthy Rides.
We’re aiming to help over 1,000 people with the cycle buddies programme this year. What would you say to someone thinking about signing up for Cycle Buddies?
I’d definitely encourage it – I’ve been encouraging a couple of my friends to take up cycling and to sign up. I’ve spoken to a couple of people I’ve met through Southwark Cyclists Healthy Rides who’ve done the programme. One individual I spoke to was starting with cycling in a park with her buddy, and aiming to go further each week with her buddy until she feels confident. Her buddy was also very considerate of her level of experience and confidence. The scheme can allow for a customised experience based on what the buddy wants to get out of the programme, provided that both parties agree!
Thank you for your time, Siew-Ching. Ride on!
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