Juggling childcare with cycling to work

Mother with her children pose by bicycle

"I cycle just over two and a half miles every day between Jesmond and the hospital or university, and I drop off the children at school on the way."

Dr Vandy Dhawan is an Associate Clinical Researcher in the very dynamic Institute of Neuroscience (ION) at Newcastle University. In this article, she talks about her experience of cycling in Newcastle.

"When I was first thinking about cycling to work one of the biggest issues for me was what I would wear. I did not want to give up wearing skirts to work, but they are restrictive when cycling and my husband would comment that my skirt was riding up.

"But when I started working at the university I saw lots of people going to work on a bike. Because the clothes were less formal I decided to overcome these inhibitions and find a way around it and do it for myself.

"A lot of my male colleagues will wear lycra shorts and then change when they get to hospital, but I would always find it tricky as I was rushing from one place to the other, juggling childcare. By the time I dropped off the kids at school, there was no time to get changed, so I wanted to wear my own clothes.

"For me, it was about changing my mindset to realise that it’s fine and you will live! I think I evolved with the children. I wasn’t super confident on a bike but we evolved together. I wanted them to be able to cycle with me too. My little one used to bike in front of me and the other on the back. It’s like any family activity. There are little challenges which you overcome and they get used to it. You don’t need to be a super biker but you have to have a certain level of confidence.

"I cycle just over two and a half miles every day between Jesmond and the hospital or university, and I drop off the children at school on the way. I chose to live close to work and I think if I lived any further away I would have to reconsider whether I could cycle the distance with the children. I don’t like the start of the route. There isn’t a bike lane at all and I go on the pavement. I know I shouldn’t but I’m nervous on that bit. If I see an old person I get off the bike and walk.

"Then afterwards, I go through Exhibition Park, which has a bike lane and is closed to vehicles. I really enjoy that part of the route, it’s a fresh green expanse and the views are nice. My workplaces are very close to Exhibition Park so I’m lucky, but I don’t like the end of the journey. There’s a busy roundabout and a main road with no separate bike route into the entrance of the hospital. I accept it as it isn’t too far to go, avoids car parking hassles and is obviously beneficial for health.

"I think women feel rushed off their feet and have to multi-task so much especially after having kids. At the moment I’m trying to find a nanny but I really want the children to carry on cycling to school. This is very restrictive as I’ve found out that most nannies are not confident enough on a bike."

Find out more about our 'Bike Life - Women: reducing the gender gap' report