Why we cycle: Kate Ball

Where are you based?

Derby

What do you do?

I’m a full-time carer, trustee for a small charity and part of a community interest company that is setting up to provide care and outdoor sessions for people with disabilities and vulnerabilities.

How long have you cycled for?

About 33 years. I learnt when I was 4 or 5! I’ve never not had a bike or cycled places. 

Why do you cycle?

It is fun. It gets you places quickly. I’ve always been interested in the environment. When I was 8 years old I got given a book called ‘The Young Green Consumers Guide’ and I tried to make everyone in the house stop going to the toilet to save water and stuff like that! I think I’ve become slightly more sensible than that now so I try to stick with the transport, having a well insulated house, trying to buy local food and that kind of thing. Cycling fits in with that quite nicely.

Where is your favourite place to cycle in Derby?

I’m very much a utility cyclist. I use cycling to get from A to B so I like cycling out into the countryside and if we get a day off then it is nice to go out from here. Going west is quite easy and going south is reasonably easy. North and east are quite difficult. You can get to Elvaston Castle going east. My favourite direction to head is west and there are loads of little roads you can explore and there aren’t very many cars. It is really good fun.

What is your best piece of kit?

The e-bike. I really love the e-bike! It’s a tandem so I can go on my own on it and then I go and pick up a child from somewhere if they need picking up. It can take quite a lot of cargo. If you’re just feeling a bit under the weather or something, instead of going on a drive or thinking ‘I can’t make it there’, it will help me. I can get up the hills, it’s not a problem.

What do you think could help more girls and women to cycle?

I think the big issue with cycling is that a lot of it is either designed for families but it is off road and it is miles from anywhere. Places like the Tissington Trail are lovely but they’re not actually very helpful for getting people cycling day to day. You have to put your bikes in a car to get there. Or it is designed around commuters so on road bike tracks which are just not friendly enough to get people cycling. I think what is really needed are bike tracks that are not isolated so they need to be with the roads. They need to be on the routes that people actually want to go on and all the major roads need segregated bike paths because if it is with the traffic people who are less confident, girls and women in particular, are just not going to be able to learn to ride well enough to cope with the busy roads. Segregated bike paths need to not just be a line of paint. The bike tracks that are with pedestrians on the pavement are good. They’re annoying if you want to go at speed and there are pedestrians wandering all over them but they feel safe so I think they’re good. You need to be either with pedestrians or even better, for them to be wide enough and clearly enough marked that they are not wandering over the bike paths so you don’t worry about hitting anybody. Definitely not with the traffic though. The ones I like the best are the ones that are just bikes. They’ve got some in Nottingham and quite a lot of other places, just not Derby! It is effectively a road that is just for bikes.

How do you feel when you cycle in three words?

Free, peaceful and energetic.

Anything else to add?

My big bug bear is the bike lanes thing of people saying that they’re keen on getting people cycling and giving training but there is nowhere people can go just from their house. People need to be able to ride from their house through any quiet estate roads they’re on and they need to be able to actually join things up because at the moment it is like having a huge wall in the middle of your route for a lot of people. It just doesn’t work, we need better bike lanes.

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