Bike Week (6-14 June 2020), an annual UK-wide celebration of everyday cycling for everyone delivered by the charity Cycling UK, is underway.
As part of the celebrations, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority is getting behind the charity’s #7DaysofCycling challenge through its CityConnect programme, aimed at enabling people to travel by bike and on foot.
Cycling UK is calling on people to get on their bike for seven days in a row between Saturday 6 and Sunday 14 June.
Any journey counts, whether that involves cycling to work, the shops, meeting friends and family while following the latest Government guidance on social distancing, discovering a new route or pootling around the park.
Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, said:
“Cycling and walking are excellent ways to support your mental and physical health and undertake essential travel while maintaining social distancing.
“Through our CityConnect programme, we have invested significantly to enable more people to travel by bike and on foot, which will be crucial to meeting the transport challenge created by the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring capacity on public transport is there for those who really need it.
“By 2027, we are aiming to increase the number of trips people in our region make on bike by 300%. This will not only boost people’s health and save them money, it will also help us to achieve our aim of being a net zero carbon economy by 2038 at the latest.”
Find out more information about Bike Week and the #7DaysofCycling challenge.
From route information to support for businesses, find out how CityConnect can help you cycle and walk more.
Breaking down barriers on a cargo bike: Meet Stephen Roe and family
Ask people why they either don’t, or can’t, cycle and the challenge of dropping children off at school, doing the weekly food shop or transporting bulky items will feature heavily.
But transporting shopping or your precious offspring as cargo doesn’t need to be a problem. More and more people are turning to cargo bikes to plug the gap in their transport needs, including Stephen Roe and his family, who live in Hunslet. Before the lockdown we caught up with him to find out more.
A leap of faith
We bought our cargo bike second-hand from e-Bay for £300 around this time last year.
I’d been looking at them for a while as we were expecting our third child. Up until that point I’d been doing the school run with Edie strapped to my chest, carrying my bike in one hand and holding Islie’s hand in the other. Short of strapping our third child to my head, I just couldn’t think how I was going to manage the school run and that’s when I started thinking about a cargo bike.
It was a bit of a gamble. I’d never ridden one before and I didn’t know how it would work out. My wife, Kim, was also very sceptical to begin with, but she fell in love with it after one ride as did I.
We use the cargo bike to drop the kids off at nursery and school. After that I go home and pick up a different bike and cycle to Headingley, where I work as in the IT department at Leeds Beckett University.
Ahead of the crowd
One of the benefits of the cargo bike is that, in a lot of cases, we can literally go door-to-door, meaning we’re ahead of the crowd at the school or shop car parks.
We can park right next to the door and I can lift Remy straight from the box into a shopping trolley or, if we’re at the park, straight onto a swing.
From our house we can ride along the Leeds Liverpool Canal towpath for picnics at Thwaite Mills, or into town for the swimming pool or Kirkgate Market.
We do all of our shopping by cargo bike. We might have to shop little and often but doing the shopping by bike is actually a pleasure instead of a chore.
In the evening Islie and I sometimes go for a Dad and daughter cycle to the shop and it’s a really nice way to spend some quality, one-on-one time together.
We find travelling by cargo bike allows us to connect with each other more than if we were in the car – the children are ahead of us, rather than behind, so we can all talk to each other as a group, unless there’s a lot of traffic around.
There’s also a sense of magic, like Hagrid’s bike from Harry Potter or something out of Mary Poppins, which really appeals to children’s sense of fun.
When we arrived at the school playground on the first morning all the kids gathered around the bike.
Wherever I go people are stopping to look at it and ask questions – how it’s made, what it’s like to ride, where I bought it and how much it cost.
All of this positive attention prompts Islie, in particular, to ask why other people rely on cars so much when they too could be having the sort of fun we are and it’s also made her more aware of the environmental damage caused by pollution.
We hope drawing attention to the potential of cargo bikes not only helps our own children think about transport in a different way, but that it also triggers other people to consider changing their own travel habits.
And why wouldn’t you? Cycling is not only saving us money – even with the cost of a new bike I’m still halving my travel costs – it’s also saving us time.
I’m getting my exercise for the day, it’s a stress buster and I arrive at work invigorated. I’ve managed to lose two and a half stone cycling over the last four years, without dieting or making a conscious effort to lose weight.
Stephen’s advice on buying a cargo bike?
First and foremost, do your research. Consider your needs, the area you live in and what kind of cargo bike would work best for you.
Where we live is quite industrial so there’s less traffic than in other parts of the city and we’re usually going against the flow, makes handling the cargo bike a bit easier than it might be elsewhere.
Our cargo bike isn’t electric but you might want to consider that as an option.
Don’t do what I did – make sure you try before you buy. Find out where you can access a cargo bike and take it for a test ride.
CityConnect’s top cycling tips
Remember you don’t have to be a cyclist to cycle and what’s more it doesn’t require an unwavering commitment to cycling everywhere, every day of the week.
Don’t let the weather get the better of you. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”, so the saying goes. We may have had a good run of sunshine for the last couple of months, but it’s always worth packing an extra layer or two and some waterproofs in case the weather changes.
Be seen. Make sure you have a working set of lights to hand, even if there’s only a slim possibility you’ll still be out at dusk or after dark. It’s also worth carrying a spare set of lights or batteries so you don’t get caught short. Many people choose to wear reflective clothing, belts and strips. If you cycle in everyday clothes try and choose a light colour to increase your visibility.
Plan your route. Cycling need not involve tackling busy roads but your route choice may vary between the seasons, from a more scenic route in the summer months to, for example, a well-lit, gritted route, such as the Bradford Leeds Cycle Superhighway, during winter. Plan your route with our handy online map.
Recruit a bike buddy. If someone you know already cycles ask them which routes they use or even better ask them to ride with you as a bike buddy, while following the latest government guidance on social distancing.
Make sure your bike’s in good health. Make sure everything is in working order and well lubricated. Sustrans 11-step M-Check is a good place to start or if in doubt take your bike for a once over at your local cycle shop.
Last but not least, enjoy it! Cycling can save you time and money, and it has been proven to boost health and happiness. What’s not to love?
This post is based on a press release issued by West Yorkshire Combined Authority