Riding a bike feels so empowering – so why don’t I cycle more?

three women in front of Station south cafe in construction

Pauline Johnston (left) with Station South co-directors Mark Jermyn and Abigail Pound

Our new Bike Life report found that 73% of women in seven major UK cities don’t ride a bike, with 30% saying they would like to start cycling. Pauline Johnston is a freelance public relations and content campaign manager and a director of 'Station South', which will become a destination cycle café and co-working space on the Fallowfield Loop cycle route in Manchester. In this article she tells us what she feels would make cycling more accessible to her. 

Along with the obvious bike users we hope the cycle cafe will attract, Station South will be for local people in Levenshulme who don’t necessarily cycle. A lot of people will come on foot from the surrounding area, then we expect to attract commuters from the A6, which runs past the café, and other areas along the Fallowfield Loop.

I still think that cars own the road here in Manchester.

- Pauline Johnston, Station South

I have a bike and I really like cycling but it’s always leisure cycling, off road. My husband cycles to work three times a week and he wants to go out cycling with me but I always want to go off road. I will cycle sometimes on the roads on a Sunday but I can’t bring myself to go at other busy times. There’s a confidence issue there for me of how to overcome that barrier of fear and anxiety about being on the road with traffic.

How I could benefit from feeling more confident while cycling 

I would really like to cycle more and have the confidence to get on a bike in the same way as I would walk to a bus stop or get on a train. I could be my own boss then, with no extra expense! But I still think that cars own the road here in Manchester. It feels like there is a sizable minority of hyper-aggressive drivers and that really frightens me. I have an anxious nature and if one of those drivers came up behind me I think I could lose my nerve.

When I’m on a bike I feel free and joyful, like anything is possible. I’m not particularly fit or healthy and I know if I did it more it would be good for my health, including my mental health. But these barriers prevent me from cycling regularly.

Protected cycle paths are the only thing that would make me want to cycle. Cycling is a mode of transport which shouldn’t mean if you make a wrong move you’ll be dead. There’s no reason why you can’t have protected cycle lanes down all the major routes in Manchester. They should be on the A6, on Hyde Road, on main roads everywhere.

Protected cycle paths are the only thing that would make me want to cycle.

- Pauline Johnston, Station South

Drawbacks due to lack of infrastructure  

I see what lack of cycling infrastructure does to people. I see people taking children in the car for a five minute trip to school. I’d like to see more children starting cycling earlier in their life. Wouldn’t it be amazing if all those cars taking children to school were off the road at that time?

I live really close to the Fallowfield Loop and I moved there partly because I can get onto the Loop easily, but as soon as I come off at the Fallowfield Junction onto the road to Manchester I feel lost as there’s no real guidance as to where to go. Later on the infrastructure gets better but that section puts me off. I don’t think that any of the transport in Manchester is linked well. It would be great to have a simplistic tube style map of cycle routes around the city.

I attended the Green Summit in Manchester recently which was a really exciting day with lots of promises of cash for cycling and walking improvements in the city and region. I have faith that work is being done to make the city better and safer place to walk and cycle in. I just want it faster!

I want the culture of cycling to be for everyone. I want to encourage people who don’t feel that cycling is for them. I want to be part of a new kind of city where cycling is part of the everyday infrastructure. 

Find out more about the 'Bike life - Women: Reducing the gender gap report'