Why we cycle: Eloise Thatcher

Where are you based?

I live in Derby.

What do you do?

I work at Rolls-Royce in Sinfin and I cycle to work every day. I am an aeronautical engineer and I am the Assistant Chief Design Engineer for Civil Technology Programmes.

How long have you cycled for?

I cycled as a child, though not so much as a teenager. A couple of years into my first job I got a bike through the cycle to work scheme, but as I lived 14 miles away from my work I only cycled once a month or so. Then, five years ago, when I moved to Derby, and was only 4 miles from work I started cycling to and from my job a couple of times a week. Two years ago I made a commitment to myself to cycle to work every day, and I have pretty much stuck to that. So my serious cycling is really quite a recent thing.

Why do you cycle?

Because it’s quicker to get to work by bike. Actually, that’s not strictly true, but it’s definitely quicker to get home by bike! It takes around 15 minutes to drive to work in the morning, and 20 minutes to cycle, but in the evening it can take up to an hour to drive, so that is my main motivator. Also I like being outside and getting some exercise. I don’t have a lot of spare time, so using my mode of transport as a form of exercise is really efficient, I like being efficient. Cycling also makes me happy! If I drove to work I’d arrive a lot grumpier; this way I arrive in a good frame of mind. It’s a good way to start the day, and it’s also a good way to end the working day. I can switch off from work on my ride back and then be ‘family ready’ when I get home. There are lots of reasons why I cycle.

Where is your favourite place to cycle in Derby?

I’m not sure I have a favourite ride. However I do like taking my toddler son out in the bike trailer to Markeaton Park. It’s not far and we can take a route that is mostly cycle paths and back streets. We go to the play area and he has an awesome time while I feel good for having gone out on my bike.

What is your best piece of kit?

I have recently got a new front light, it’s a rechargeable one and I plug it in at work, so it’s ready for my ride home. It has 7 different settings ranging from flashing to seriously bright! It’s a major step up from my last one.

I also like my bell, but I do think it’s sometimes difficult to use correctly. For example, just the other day an older couple were stood off the side of a shared use path looking at something. As there was plenty of room I didn’t use my bell, but then the woman suddenly stepped back into the path and I nearly hit her. She said to me ‘why didn’t you use your bell’ and I kind of agreed with her, but hadn’t wanted to alarm them, and it can be seen as a bit rude or aggressive. In general though, most people thank me for using my bell.

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

That’s a difficult one as everyone has a different reason why they don’t cycle and there are a lot of personal hurdles and barriers to overcome. If we think about cycle commuting, then better facilities at work are important. We need decent changing rooms, with sockets for hairdryers, and the location of the changing room is important too. Some women find it intimidating to walk through the office to a changing room wearing Lycra, or whatever you’ve cycled in, and be seen before they are ready for work. I think more education is needed about the types of routes available, as everyone has a preference as to the type of routes they prefer. For me, there are about six different routes I could take: fast, slow, on road, off road, back streets etc. Women need to know there are different options available. I think more information about the rules is also important: for example, is it ok to ride on the pavement? Well, no, not really, but you are unlikely to be prosecuted for it so if it makes your route easier or safer, don’t worry too much; you can always hop off and push to make way for pedestrians.

How do you feel when you cycle in three words?

‘Happy’. ‘Cautious’. ‘Positive’.

Additional comments:

I would encourage any woman to have a go at cycling, and borrow a bike initially if they don’t have one. They would be amazed at how good it makes you feel. There is so much you can do with a bike; get to places, get exercise, have fun, just be outside. Try it once and take it from there; you may find it is kind of addictive!

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