From football to bicycle
My journey, like many wasn't an epiphany or kicked off by a major event, but the important thing was that it has a beginning. For over two and a half years I’d been driving the seven miles from St Albans to Hemel Hempstead each day, typically a 20-minute journey with a free car park at the end of it.
Naturally sometimes it would take much longer, for instance if the M25 or M1 needed to spew its contents onto the local road network. Each day I would pass cyclists making their way across country on a busy A4147 admiring their endeavour as I wafted past in my Radio 5 live updated cocoon.
Then it happened - a culmination of: My car needing major surgery for a couple of days. The end of my Saturday league football season and therefore a large chunk of my regular exercise. The recollection that I used to regularly cycle 3 miles to school and back 20 or so years ago, so 7 miles even at a snail’s pace it shouldn’t take more than 45 mins at most. The realisation that I was lucky also in that there was both cycle bays at work, lockers and showering facilities… In other words I HAD NO EXCUSES.
So decision made! Only I didn’t have a bike – the last one I owned was stolen in Dublin in the last century!! A quick phone call to my brother later and I’d secured a mountain bike for the journey – not ideal but it was only a short trip.
The two hills of any significance slowed (and tired) me a little but passing vehicles were no issue and the trickiest bit was a double-laned roundabout which was fine and in any case it was serviced by a footbridge a few feet away. So half an hour after departing on Monday morning the first journey was complete with no issues whatsoever. Now I was a cycling commuter!
For me, the best thing about cycling is the fact that my mind seems more active during the journey – including noticing things that sometimes are missed on car journeys. I felt more invigorated arriving at work after cycling than driving.
The most challenging things for me when cycling are extreme cold and potholes! That said these can be avoided through getting the right cycling gear and judicious route selection respectively.
My favourite places to cycle are pretty much anywhere in the countryside that affords great views – the Yorkshire Dales is great example, but there are also loads of places local to me such as Gorhambury in St Albans.
I think cycling has increased my awareness, whether that’s of fellow road users, finding new and interesting ways to get to places or seeing more of the countryside, as I found myself are more easily able and are more inclined to ‘stop and smell the roses’ whilst cycling as opposed to driving.
A little bit of advice:
Take the first step (or pedal) and go from there. You won’t look back…. Although technically you should do before you pull away at stop signs