West Yorkshire residents share their cycling stories to inspire others
A group of West Yorkshire residents have shared personal stories about the impact cycling has had on their lives as part of a campaign to inspire more people to travel by bike.
The ‘Make Your Move’ campaign is an initiative by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s through its £60m CityConnect programme aimed at encouraging more people to cycle and walk shorter journeys.
Two-thirds of journeys made by West Yorkshire residents are under five miles, yet according to data from the last census, although 11% of journeys to work are already made on foot, just 1.3% are by bike.
Through the CityConnect programme and in partnership with others, the Combined Authority is not only building new cycling and walking routes and improving existing infrastructure, it also offers a range of free services, including adult cycle training, bike maintenance courses and support for businesses.
Whether it is cycling to work or to school, for fun or for health reasons, on their own or with family and friends, each of the campaign’s ambassadors have a story to share that shines a spotlight on the benefits of travelling by bike.
Five years ago Rob Glover, of Luddendenfoot, was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukaemia.
“Cycling has been a bit of a saviour really,” he said. “Cycling has allowed me to take up physical exercise again which has helped me reconnect with the rest of the world rather than staying at home.
“You can tend to feel a bit sorry for yourself but actually being able to get out on your bike and feel the wind on your face makes a lot of difference, and the more you do the more you feel able to do.
“Cycling has rebuilt my confidence from what was obviously a big surprise and a big knock-back.”
Annika McDonald, of Whinmoor, started commuting into Leeds by bike earlier this year following the completion of the latest section of the Bradford Leeds Cycle Superhighway between Seacroft and Leeds city centre.
She said: “You get to work and you feel so refreshed. That feeling you get when you arrive at your desk in the morning and you have already accomplished something is amazing.”
Employers accessing support through CityConnect’s Bike Friendly Business scheme, including free expert advice and grants of up to £5,000 to encourage more staff to travel by bike, have seen a 25% increase in cycling.
Dr Rajinder Singh commutes from Apperley Bridge along the canal towpath into Leeds, which was resurfaced as part of the CityConnect programme in 2016. He said:
“Cycling to work has cut down my commuting time. I find it energising. I don’t have to worry about parking spaces or parking fees and I have met a variety of different people through my commute who are also commuting and who share the same love of cycling.”
Since resurfacing works undertaken as part of the CityConnect programme on the Leeds Liverpool Canal towpath between Kirkstall and Shipley in spring 2016 overall usage has increased significantly, with 150,000 trips recorded by counters at three locations between May and July – a 30% increase on the same months in 2016.
For Chris Widdop, cycling is not only a way of getting from A to B, it has also provided a route into employment.
Chris, a cycling instructor and bike mechanic at Bradford Capital of Cycling, said:
“Cycling for me has been a route from unemployment to a happy career where I’m contributing to society.
“At peak times I’ll regularly cycle along 15 to 20 miles. At peak times I can set off along the Bradford Leeds Cycle Superhighway and I’m flying past the traffic.”
Between May and July almost 120,000 trips were made on the award-winning Bradford Leeds Cycle Superhighway - an overall increase of 26% on last year.
Helena Romanowska is a member of Queensbury Queens, a cycling club for women. She said:
“I’m fitter, healthier, lighter and I have such a massive social life now that I can’t believe I never had cycling in my life before.”
For Emma and Rob Young and their two young sons, who live just off the Bradford Leeds Cycle Superhighway in Pudsey, cycling to school as well as to work, is a way of life.
“We are just a one car family now whereas before we were two,” said Rob.
“The kids cycle to school every morning. They get out in the country, in the fresh air. We visit new places, they get to go to different cafes or playgrounds and they are keeping fit and healthy.”
Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, said:
“We know encouraging more of us to cycle and walk not only boosts people’s health and saves individual’s money, it also brings wider environmental and economic benefits.
“According to Sustrans Bike Life 2017, the UK’s biggest assessment of cycling across seven major cities, up to 111,564 cars - equal to a 333-mile tailback - are taken off the roads by bicycles each day. In addition, people riding bikes brought a total annual benefit of £281 million to those seven cities.
“We want to make cycling and walking a natural choice for short, everyday journeys across West Yorkshire and it’s inspiring to hear stories from some of the people across our region who have already taken the plunge.”