As part of Cycle SOS’s new initiative to encourage road users to consider cyclists as real people, with real stories, we’re speaking to everyday cyclists to hear their own experiences of life on the road.
This week we spoke to Helen Upton, a speech therapist, Putney resident, and mother of two.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’ve worked as a speech therapist in London for the past fifteen years, and currently live in Putney with my husband, two children, and Labrador, Charlie.
How long have you been cycling for?
I’ve been using a bike to get around London for the past six years after owning and running a second car in London became too expensive, and inconvenient.
How long is your commute?
It depends on my day: my patients are dotted around London, and some are even further afield. I often find myself cycling twenty-to-thirty minutes between appointments, sometimes cycling up to two hours a day.
And what were your general experiences of cycling and commuting?
Fantastic! It’s tempting to catastrophize cycling in London, to say that it’s dangerous, or that road users are all demons. This isn’t true. It’s an incredibly liberating activity, and I love the independence it gives me, and the exercise too.
Yes, I’ve found myself on the receiving end of some abuse from one or two drivers, and, occasionally another cyclist but generally I find it a safe activity.
Would you let your children cycle in London?
Not yet! They’re only 8 and 10, but one day I hope they’ll be able to get around on their bikes too. I will, however, make sure they receive some basic safety training.
What do you wish other road users would consider about cyclists?
Put simply, I’m a mum. One of the reasons I wanted to speak to Cycle SOS about this initiative was that I loved the idea of giving cyclists real personalities! I’ve always said that if other road users saw me as a mum who, at the end of the day, just wants to go home and see her beautiful children (and husband!) they might think a little differently about overtaking suddenly, not using mirrors, or even hurling abuse at me.
It’s so tempting to see all cyclists as aggressive, and rushing round, jumping red lights. But they’re not. We’re not! Almost everyone I know cycles, at least occasionally, if not every day. And most of the time, it’s because it’s cheaper, healthier and more convenient than driving or taking public transport. Not because they’re training for the Tour de France!
We’d like to thank Helen for taking the time to be interviewed for Real Lives. Real Cyclists. If you would be interested in appearing, or have a story to share, please get in touch with us on our Facebook page, through Twitter or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org