Where are you based?
I’m based from home but most of my meetings are at the council house in the centre of Derby. I’m probably there on average three days a week.
What do you do?
I am a city councillor and a local campaigner. I suppose I also try to look after the house but I’m not very good at that!
How long have you cycled for?
I can’t remember when I couldn’t cycle. Going back to when I was very small in Derby I can remember the excitement of sitting on the back of my father’s bicycle just after he’d got a seat for a child on the back. I’m pretty sure I had my own bicycle by five years old. I’ve never stopped cycling.
Why do you cycle?
It is the easiest way to get around the city. It enables me to exercise without having to plan it into an overly busy schedule. It means I’m not sitting in queues very often. I know it is good for the environment. I enjoy being out in the fresh air, usually even if the weather isn’t that brilliant!
Where is your favourite place to cycle in Derby?
I don’t do long distances. I go where I need to get to in Derby. Most of these places are in Littleover ward which I represent so I’m often going to see what has happened, for example if someone has reported something to me that I need to check on. Cycling down through King George V Playing Fields, through Griffe Field Park towards Millennium Wood is a really nice route.
What is your best piece of kit?
Can I talk about the best piece of kit I don’t have?! I don’t wear a helmet. I did get a helmet when I was commuting to work after my daughter was born 30 years ago because I thought I ought to be responsible but what I noticed was that at that time if I wore my helmet I was more visible and people gave me more space. When I started cycling again after my son was born, there had been a lot of publicity about cycle helmets and safety. If people had their helmet on they were starting to give you less space. Now there has been research done in Oxford showing that if you’ve got a cycle helmet on, drivers give you less space by about an inch which is all it takes to knock you off or not. You as a cyclist may also take more risks because you feel safer too. So I don’t wear a helmet. But I’m also conscious that it is not only your head that can get injured. There is now a really nice inflatable helmet that sits round your neck like a scarf and it erupts like an air bag in a car to cover your head in the event of an accident. That’s what I’m wanting! They’re coming down in price. When I first saw them they were £450. I’ve now seen them at £250. If they get below £200 I might invest in one. Then you cycle around looking as if you’ve not got a helmet on so everyone is giving you that extra inch but you have got a helmet and if anything does happen it isn’t just your head that is protected but your neck as well. If you’re a safe cyclist and you don’t normally fall off then it is worth investing in it. If you’re a very active cyclist doing tricks the whole time then you probably need a different solution as otherwise it is going to cost you a fortune!
We have a bicycle trailer, maybe that is more important than a helmet as a piece of kit?! Shall I change my best piece of kit…?! We’ve had the cycle trailer for three or four years now. One of the things I do is take leaflets out to people who are going to deliver them in the local area. You can’t carry that many on a bicycle because of stability but give yourself a trailer, it is almost like a cargo bike but it is more flexible. It suddenly means that you can carry boxes, collect stuff from the supermarket, you can put in extra long things like posts, you can put in your spade and fork to go to your allotment. It is so exciting and it means you’re not carrying the same weight. It rolls beautifully. Lovely thing.
What do you think could help more girls and women to cycle?
I think it’s not feeling as though you’re different in doing it. I’ve never worried that much about standing out from the crowd but I am conscious that other people would feel it is a bit weird to be a cyclist and a woman. Having more role models will make a difference.
Women also tend to be more risk aware and therefore safer cycling routes and publicity about these routes is also important. If you are normally a driver then you’ll normally drive on are the busier roads, the roads that go somewhere. You may not know the routes that take you from your house to your destination without going on the main roads. These may be routes which you might feel safe using. But if the routes are too unused there are then issues of women feeling safe or not.
There are two issues there and they both need addressing.
How do you feel when you cycle in three words?
Free, relaxed (usually!) and (can I have a phrase?) – ‘on-my-way’.
I think that one of the other things that we need to be more aware of with women cycling is cycle repair and also immediate maintenance. So if something happens, I think there is a bigger barrier for some people who say ‘Ok, I’ve got a flat tyre what do I do now?’, ‘My bicycle is making funny noises, what do I do about it? or ‘Where is my nearest bicycle shop?’. All those issues that are to do with maintenance and repair, women tend to be less confident in. I don’t think they ought to be less confident but I think there is still a confidence issue which needs to be addressed. It may also be a barrier for some men too.