“It’s improved the quality of my life.” - Meet Joy, who did our free Journey Practice one-to-one cycling course

Joy is a music examiner who lives in a flat in Leeds City Centre. We caught up with Joy to follow up on her experiences with cycling after she took our free Journey Practice one-to-one cycling course.

A freelancer from Barnsley, now living in the city 

“I moved to Leeds only a year ago,” says Joy. “I used to live in Barnsley where I’ve been living and bringing up family and working full time.  

And then over recent years I’ve gone into a freelance work role which means I can live anywhere, because my work can be anywhere.  

I needed to move out of Barnsley for personal reasons. All through Covid, I was saying to myself I need a new life, so I decided on city centre living in Leeds.” 

Joy moved to the city centre for practical reasons. “A big thing about moving to the city centre was moving somewhere where I was near transport links, so I got rid of my car.  

“A big part of that has been getting about by bike and on foot, so for about the last year I’ve mostly been walking everywhere and using the train and public transport.  

Cycling made sense for Joy, because even though she enjoys walking, she found it could be too time consuming for her lifestyle. “I’ve been a bit reluctant to get out on my bike, but I’m now starting to use my bike much, much more." 

She wanted to cycle, but was put off by traffic 

Before doing the Journey Practice course, Joy had a long history with cycling, but never in places with lots of traffic, so she just didn’t feel prepared for cycling in Leeds city centre. “Since Covid, and my move to Leeds, I’ve had a year of virtually no cycling, and a lot of that’s been that I’ve been too scared to go out.  

“Well, not scared, but apprehensive about traffic because Leeds is so busy.” 

Still, Joy could see that cycling would be useful for her, so she sought help to build up her skills and confidence. “I wasn’t doing anything until I went to bike maintenance course at Leeds Bike Mill.  

“One thing about going out on a bike as a female on your own, you need to be able to do the basics if something goes wrong. That was another obstacle to me using my bike.  

“So I did [the bike maintenance course] and it was while I was on that course that I said: I’m a bit apprehensive about cycling in Leeds and the city centre. And that’s when I was told: you know you can get some 121 training for this? 

Joy got one-to-one support for free 

Joy signed up for Journey Practice via the Combined Authority website. “I met up with [cycling instructor] Ali and I told her that I’m just apprehensive of using the bike lanes, and just the sheer volume of traffic!  

“I decided I’d try a route before I met Ali, just to see how I was on my own, so I had a go going across the city and up to Roundhay on a Sunday morning when it was quiet.  

“Ally repeated that journey with me and showed me some other route options, and different ways to use the cycle lanes. And that was it really.  

“There’s quite a bit of time in the session, so we did a few other bits and she showed me out onto the Cycle Superhighway [the fully segregated route between Bradford and Leeds]. I wasn’t aware of that before then – I’d seen the signs but not really realised what it was! I now use that quite a bit because I go out that way to go and visit my Dad. So I’m using my bike for that route which saves me a lot of walking.” 

Joy says that doing Journey Practice improved her relationship with cycling. “It gave me the boost that I needed, the confidence. It was just the confidence and somebody saying no you’re fine, do this, and various suggestions about how to manage yourself in traffic, how to position yourself. I found that a real confidence boost. 

Now cycling is a massive part of her life 

Joy now uses a bike to do most of her practical journeys in Leeds. “Because I don’t actually need it for work, I use the bike very much for my social life.  

“I have quite a busy life with different activities and I now have no problem in just hopping on my bike and going, several times a day! Not just several times a week. It might be 2-3 times a day I’ll just hop on my bike to go somewhere. 

“I can get to my gym on my bike. I can go visit my Dad. I can go do shopping. I can go see friends. I can get to the parks. So it’s all the things that I do aside from work. 

“If it weren’t for cycling, I’d mostly be walking. I was finding it got to the point where I could be walking half an hour, an hour just to get somewhere. Whereas on a bike, it was 5 to 10 minutes. 

“Plus I just love the freedom and the feeling of being on a bike. I also think it’s great in Leeds knowing that you’re quite safe from the traffic because of the cycle lanes. 

Joy’s confidence has improved so much that she now actively chooses busier but more direct routes. “I’ve often got the option where I can go along the [Leeds Liverpool Canal], or go on the main road. And I’d have thought I’d have opted for the canal, over and above the roads all the time. But I’m now so confident with the cycle lanes that it’s often much easier and quicker [to use the main roads], if that’s my priority. Just because they’re so accessible and so direct.” 

Joy recommends the course to anyone who feels like cycling would improve their life, but doesn’t feel ready to ride on cycle lanes and roads. “I was just really grateful for the experience. It was exactly the kick I needed.” 

Sign up for Journey Practice on our website