Caroline Barwick was 16-years-old when she was hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing. She suffered life-changing head injuries as a result of the accident. Now at fifty, Caroline has been learning to ride a bike. We caught up with her to chat about the confidence she has regained through cycling.
Caroline Barwick: "Cycling is a really nice hobby for me and it came at just the right time."
Recovery through cycling
“It’s been a challenge,” said Caroline, who started learning to cycle with the encouragement of some friendly faces at the Watford Cycle Hub.
Caroline was in a coma in hospital for some time after her accident and still experiences problems with one side of her body.
Caroline’s had bouts of depression because of everything that’s happened to her.
“It’s not been that easy for me but cycling has improved everything,” she said. “I’m still affected by what’s happened but actually cycling makes you feel so much better when you’re feeling down.”
Learning to balance
Learning to balance again is just one of the challenges she’s conquered along the way.
“When I first started I kept falling off a lot but thanks to the encouragement of everyone at the Hub I stuck at it and my confidence just grew and grew,” she said.
“I started out on some of Sustrans’ traffic-free routes and despite not having much control over the bike I really enjoyed it.
“I used to have a bike as a child but I didn’t really cycle on the road and I never did any kind of cycling proficiency while I was at school.
Traffic-free routes make all the difference
“I’ve never driven so it’s been quite hard for me to learn to cycle on the road. I didn’t have any knowledge of road signs, who gives way to who, or when to stop and when to go. I’ve had to learn a lot.”
Sustrans traffic-free routes, such as the Alban Way, Ebury Way and Richmond Thames Path, have been instrumental.
Caroline is a regular Breeze participant, happily cycling around 20 miles and uses her bike to travel locally as well as for longer leisure rides.
Cycling brings independence
Epilepsy caused by the brain injury means Caroline is unable to drive and so by cycling, she has been able to travel under own steam for the first time, instead of by public transport.
She said: “I used to ride horses as a child and riding a bike gives me that same sense of freedom.
“My children are now 23 and 18. Cycling is a really nice hobby for me and it came at just the right time.
“It makes me feel good, both physically and mentally. I just really, really enjoy it – being out in the fresh air, in the countryside, meeting new people and making new friends.
“I go out on my bike and I don’t have a watch on, I don’t know what time it is, I don’t need to know what time it is.
“I don’t need to worry about anyone or anything. Cycling is something I can do for myself.”