Sarah works for the Public Health Agency in Belfast and has cycled to work for as long as she can remember. Now that she has two young children to take to primary school before her working day even begins, commuting by bike makes more sense than ever. Here she reveals the reasons why.
Q: Why do you cycle to work?
A: Mostly, because I really enjoy it. I love getting some fresh air before I start working. I always feel much better by the time I reach the office compared to when I take the bus. Cycling is also the quickest, cheapest and healthiest travel option for both me and my kids. I simply don’t have time to commute any other way! The traffic from east Belfast is dreadful in the morning. Cycling is the quickest option.
Q: So you have kids to consider in the mornings - how do you factor this into your journey?
A: I have two young children in primary school. Fitting as much physical activity as possible into their day is a priority for me, so cycling to work really helps with that. I walk my bicycle with them to school and then cycle to work from there. Sometimes they prefer to take their scooters or bikes. All of those options can be accommodated if I’m on my bike.
Q: When did you first start cycling?
A: I started cycling while I was at university in Dublin because public transport was expensive, especially on a student budget. My flat mate cycled and persuaded me to join her on her daily commute. The traffic was chaos, there was no cycling infrastructure, and I was terrified.
However, my confidence improved after accompanying my flat mate and very soon I was able to make the journey on my own.
I can still remember the feeling of cycling around Dublin one early Sunday morning when the city was so quiet. It was a crisp sunny autumn morning and the city looked gorgeous. I think that was the moment I got the cycling bug.
Q: What do you do if it’s really poor weather or do you just cycle through anything?
A: A few years ago I invested in some really good waterproofs: shoes, gloves, trousers and jacket. Together they cost more than my bicycle but they are worth every penny. On a rainy day I’d say I arrive in work drier than most people.
Q: You use the road on your commute. How do you find cycling on the roads from east Belfast where you live?
A: I’m so used to it now I barely notice. This morning I arrived at work and can’t really remember how I got here. I think there is a bit of a cycling revolution at the moment. I see more cyclists on the road now and as a result feel the drivers are a bit more aware. Also, there are new cycle lanes popping up all over the place. Over the years I definitely feel the roads in Belfast have become more cycle friendly.
Q: Do you ever use your bike to get to work meetings, and how far would you be prepared to travel by bike?
A: I use my bike for work meetings all the time. It’s easy because I work in Belfast and most of my meetings are in Belfast.
Q: What would you say to anyone who would like to start cycling at least some of their journey to work or riding a bike for work, but who may be hesitant?
A: The best way to start is to accompany somebody. Most cyclists I know would be happy to go out of their way to help somebody get started. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you find your confidence and start making the journeys by yourself.
I’ve been cycling to and from my place of work in Dublin and Belfast for more than 20 years now and have never had a cycle related injury. So contrary to what you might think it’s a very safe way to travel.