HOME’s Projects & Sustainability Coordinator, Alison Criddle, shares her experiences using TfGM’s Cycling Training services.
Back in 2019 I purchased a lovely road bike from my local bike shop through HOME’s cycle-to-work scheme and I was excited to get in the saddle. With secure cycles facilities at work and being signed up to the Serious Cycle scheme that provides free legal cover for bike accidents, it was a no-brainer that I should take up two wheels. Then I broke my foot, and I had to put on the brakes.
Now fully healed, when Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) relaunched their training sessions three months into the pandemic, I thought the time was now. I wanted to know that with safety measures and social distancing measures in place, I could rely on myself and have cycling as an alternative mode of transport. This would enable me to reach HOME in the future (my usual train pass having sat unused throughout lockdown), free up public transport for those who needed it the most, and make cycling a habit. As a form of active travel, cycling is not only great for health and wellbeing, getting me fitter whilst contributing positively to cleaner air, it enables me to reduce my personal carbon footprint in line with Greater Manchester’s 2020-2025 framework to cut direct carbon emissions by 50%. I’ve always been in quiet awe of several friends, high-vis’d and hauling panniers, who think nothing of cycling everywhere. I too wanted to make my bike a habit, but the thing I lacked was confidence.
In my role as Projects & Sustainability Coordinator, I work closely with the Sustainable Journeys team at TfGM. In June, a regular newsletter announced the return of training sessions with social distancing measures in place to ensure safe practice. The sign-up process was simple, I registered my interest through the TfGM Cycle Training website. I opted for the One to One session and within a few hours I had a reply from a local instructor, Marina, offering some dates and times to book my first session. We discussed what I hoped to achieve from the sessions and if there was a particular route I’d like to have a go at riding.
On the allotted day, Marina met me outside my home to start the session. After introductions, we did our essential bike checks and did a short cycle around my quieter neighbourhood streets so that she could get a sense of my ability and road awareness. Marina made me feel completely comfortable to ask any questions or raise uncertainties of anxieties that I might have. We then discussed the route (from Levenshulme to HOME, avoiding the always-bustling ‘anything goes’ A6 wherever possible) and set off with me in the lead. Whenever we needed to discuss the route, we’d safely pull over, and Marina took the lead on the bigger, busier intersections.
After a quick breather and a chat about honeybee swarms – having discovered that we were both urban apiarists! – we set off to retrace our tracks to Levenshulme.
On making it safely to the destination I had all the good endorphins flowing and very rosy cheeks! Cycling a section of the Dutch cycle lane of Oxford Road by the universities was a dream, the difference between the dedicated road space and the more pot-holed and congested streets was stark.
The session ended where it had begun, back outside my home, where we reflected on the past two hours. Marina told me I was able to book up to a total of four sessions with her to continue to build skills and confidence. I felt this would be really beneficial – I’d really grown in confidence during the session but still had some reservations about ‘owning’ the busier roads and asserting that I had as much right to be there as the cars and wagons around me. It was helpful to be reminded that my own road confidence is as much for the benefit of all other road users as well as myself; by making clear, decisive actions, I was actually helping to make travel safer.
TfGM offers a range of free training options available from beginners sessions to road riders, to one to one sessions and family confidence training. There are also maintenance sessions (basic and intermediate) for a small fee as well as safe urban driving to support LGV and PCV drivers to become more aware of cyclists by having a go on a bike on the road. I can wholly recommend the training experience. You can sign up today by visiting TfGM’s Cycle Training page.
*At time of writing, due to the need to maintain social distancing safety measures, only one to one and family sessions were available to book.