Young mum Maheswari couldn't cycle last summer but thanks to Sustrans cycle training she is now cycling for pleasure as well as to and from work in Belfast.
When walking to work last summer, Maheswari spotted the noticeboard outside the Sustrans Active Travel Hub at CS Lewis Square, advertising FREE beginner cycle training for adults. The free training available is part of the Cycle Highways for Innovation and Smarter People Transport and Spatial Planning (CHIPS) project, which aims to reduce air pollution through encouraging more people to cycle commute. The Active Travel Hub is strategically placed at the intersection of the Comber and Connswater Greenways at CS Lewis Square.
“ My journey to work by bike takes just 15 minutes and it saves me time, as previously I walked to work. It’s also better for the environment than driving. ”
Beginner cycle training
Maheswari booked a place on a one-hour beginner cycle training session and very quickly learnt to ride a bicycle. Maheswari was motivated to learn to cycle because her son could already ride a bike and she said "I felt bad seeing other people out visiting parks and enjoying cycling in family groups." She also wanted to cycle to work.
Not having her own bicycle Maheswari was able to complete the cycle training using a city bicycle, available to loan as part of the CHIPS project. The one-to-one training session took place at CS Lewis Square, an ideal place to learn as it is flat and spacious. By the end of the session Maheswari was cycling round the square on her own. Maheswari was keen to gain more skills and confidence cycling and several weeks later returned to CS Lewis Square to complete Level 1 National Standard Cycle Training, which provided additional skills for cycling and manoeuvring a bicycle. Initially, during the training she found it challenging to take her hand off the handle bar to make a signal to indicate turning but with practice her confidence grew.
Last August, following her training, Maheswari began to cycle to work using the Belfast Bikes. There is a docking station conveniently located, close to where she lives in the Titanic Quarter and another situated at the Connswater Shopping Centre, where she works in the Netra Brow Studio. Her route took her on the Comber Greenway from Titanic Quarter, along the Sydenham Road and Dee Street, joining the shared path between Tamar Street and Severn Street to CS Lewis Square and onwards along the Connswater Greenway to the Connswater Shopping Centre.
The first time cycle commuting was ‘a little scary’ comments Maheswari but she very quickly built up her confidence and was able to time her journey to avoid peak rush hour traffic. With more information on route planning from Sustrans staff, Maheswari became familiar with the turn off from the Sydenham Road to the Titanic Quarter Railway Bridge, the route along Island Street to join the shared path to CS Lewis Square. This allowed her to have a journey on quieter roads, with more cycle lanes and reduced traffic.
Benefits of cycling
Maheswari works part-time and cycles to work two days per week on a Wednesday and Sunday. She has noted health benefits including reduced weight and better fitness. "I feel good and have more self-confidence," she said. "My journey to work by bike takes just 15 minutes and it saves me time, as previously I walked to work. It’s also better for the environment than driving."
She is looking forward to cycling to the park with her son this spring and plans to complete her Level 2 National Standard Cycle Training, to increase her confidence when cycling in traffic.