How old were you when you first started cycling?
I think I was probably about five, so I’ve got a photo of me on a bike with stabilisers, which obviously I spend my entire life going don’t put your kid on stabilisers! My Dad taught me in the park, I can’t remember it 100% so it can’t have been too painful, learning to ride, but I do know that he taught my brother at only 2 and a half without stabilisers because I think he realised pretty quickly that stabilisers were not the future.
What motivated you to become an instructor?
I’ve always worked in education, I’d always worked with young people, and I did try working in a school for a little bit, and I realised that actually I really love working with the kids but this wasn’t what I wanted to be, I didn’t want to be in the same establishment the whole time.
Being a cycle instructor and a cycle coach gives me that freedom to work with young people all day long but in different schools, different areas, and gives me that diversity to my job. No day is the same and that’s what I really love about being an instructor.
What is the best part of the job?
Well for me it’s Learn to Ride, in Bradford we have a lot of children who can’t ride a bike by the time we go in to do the instructor led course, so there’s always instructors who are put on Learn to Ride when doing a school.
For me that’s my favourite part, I just think Learn to Ride is quite a quick skill in terms of other skills that you learn in your life, you know the fact that sometimes in 15 minutes, even an hour, a child can have gone from not knowing how to ride a bike to being able to ride one. You never really achieve anything that quickly that can actually be so life changing. I’m on about 6,000 children I’ve taught to ride now, but it’s a feeling that never gets old.
What is your favourite cycling experience?
Fairly recently for me I’ve started doing more work with women who are returning to cycling or trying to get back on their bikes, or just start cycling for the first time. Bradford isn’t necessarily known for its cycle routes and things like that but we do have one really good piece of cycling infrastructure called the Canal Road Greenway that runs all alongside one of the biggest roads going into Bradford.
I always run rides on there for women because it opens up a new world for them, they’ve never known that they’d be able to cycle on infrastructure, it’s separated totally from the road, you never have to be involved in traffic and yet, you’re cycling into Bradford, there’s masses of cars and traffic all in your view but you just feel so safe. They cycle a good 8km to get into Bradford on it and it’s such a great sense of achievement and also just to make them realise that can do it, that there’s places that they can cycle and it’s just a case of knowing where they are.
What do you like to do in your spare time (other than cycling!)?
I swim, I love taking my children swimming, again just another really great life skill, but other than that for me it’s just being outdoors, we love camping, we love skiing. I went for the first time last year to take my children skiing and just to see small children in skis on a mountain is pretty phenomenal.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
I think it’s probably Denmark, I’ve been there twice now and I would definitely go back. It’s just a good country that seems to have its head screwed on so well and everything they do seems to be thought about. The people there are unbelievably friendly, they can’t do enough for you. The countryside they’ve got is beautiful and the cities are just really well kept and there’s no litter.
I just think everything you see in Denmark you just think oh god someone’s actually put some thought into this before they do it. And again there’s a massive cycling culture in the cities. Everything seems well thought out and they seem to have such a good system for everything, it always really impresses me.
Do you have any top tips for people who want to start cycling or cycle more?
I think the big thing really is to either find some friends who are in a similar situation and want to get out a bit more on their bikes, that’s certainly happened to me, there was a group of us who all had children about the same age and we all just started mountain biking together. At first it was when we could fit in, an hour or so after we’d put the kids to bed and it’s grown more and more from that, we go out quite regularly.
Or join a local group, people are put off by joining teams, but there’s always every level within most cycling groups. I know in West Yorkshire there’s free adult cycle training for anyone who wants it all year round, so if you just want that one-on-one time with someone to give you that advice about riding on the roads. Finding out who can help support you and keep you going so that you don’t get overwhelmed with it all, or spooked by a bad experience. And sometimes you need someone else to be going are we going out then?
Who’s your cycling hero?
For the last few years we’ve been really heavily involved in BMXing, both my children ride BMX and my husband, so we watched the Olympics with a lot of interest and Bethany Shriever for me is the epitome of someone who obviously has a lot of skill, she’s the female BMXer who won gold in the Olympics, but she self-funded her trip.
She wasn’t eligible for funding, they gave all the funding to the men’s team, but she worked and crowd-funded for her place to go to the Olympics. I think if you’ve got that level of dedication to get yourself there, she knew she had the skill, she knew she could do well and she wasn’t going to let the people who said we’re not going to fund you to go there make her give up on her dreams. I just think it was really inspirational that she got herself to the Olympics and came back with gold!
If you weren’t a cycle instructor, what would your dream job be?
I think I’d have to be a paramedic or something, for me the important things are that every day is different, you’re meeting people day in day out, I love meeting new people, I love finding out people’s lives, all the things I get to discuss with people as I teach them to ride a bike. As a paramedic you see people in the most vulnerable times but I think it would be interesting. And I’d like to think that I’m good in a crisis, that I can organise my thoughts to get something done, so I think it would be a paramedic or something along those lines.
Are there any other projects you’re working on at the moment?
Myself and a colleague were lucky to get the Widening Participation funding earlier this year. We work in Bradford and we identified that children from a South Asian background were less likely to pass their Bikeability in year 5 or 6 than children from other backgrounds.
So our whole widening participation programme is about trying to work with schools with high South Asian populations to try and bring them up to the standard so that they’ll all be able to ride a bike confidently and therefore and be able to achieve the outcomes on their Bikeability in year 5 and 6. It’s been really interesting.