Tell us a bit about your personal involvement in walking and cycling.
I’ve been cycling for about fifteen years and I was interested in York Bike Belles when I first heard about them. Cycling is such a big part of my life and I was especially encouraging my female friends to take up cycling. I’m always meeting women who are too nervous to start cycling and Bike Belles really helps people like this – I wanted to get involved. I’ve led a few cycle rides for Bike Belles which I’ve enjoyed. When I found out about ‘Cycling Without Age’ I wanted to get involved in that too. I used to be on the ‘Travel and Transport’ Committee at the hospital I worked at in York – my reason for getting involved in that was to improve cycling facilities at the hospital.
How did you get involved in ‘Cycling Without Age?’
As mentioned, I found out about it through Bike Belles and thought that it sounded great. I definitely fancied a go on the bike ‘Trixie’ – it looked quite fun! Working at a hospital, I see a lot of the older more vulnerable community, therefore I wanted people like this in care homes to get the chance to do something enjoyable. I really enjoy it.
Tell us more about what inspired you to volunteer through ‘Cycling Without Age’.
I find volunteering to be a really positive experience and have volunteered in the past. I’ve been involved in ‘Keep Your Pet’, which is linked to Age UK. This is looking after older peoples dogs for them when they go into hospital on short notice – I really enjoyed it. Giving your time up for others is very rewarding. It’s very easy to get caught up in a selfish life, where all you’re thinking about is yourself and things like money. It’s good to set out some time to give to someone else.
How do the care home residents respond to the rides?
They seem to really enjoy them – the weather has not been great for most of the rides I’ve done which initially concerned me, however it does not seem to bother the residents and they just really enjoy being out. I love talking to residents – they can be very chatty on the rides which is great. Some people don’t really see members of the older community as the unique individuals that they are, but from talking to them I’ve found out about the fascinating lives that they’ve led.
How would you like to see ‘Cycling Without Age’ expand in the future?
I’m not quite sure how this could be accessed yet, but it would be great to get members of the older community involved who aren’t in care homes. I volunteer at the Chocolate Works Care Village, and whilst the same people benefit from the rides, I’m sure that there are plenty of other people in York would benefit from this. There are older people who live independently in York that will be socially isolated – finding a way to access these people would be positive. It would just be lovely to pick someone up from their house, that doesn’t get the chance to go out much. We could perhaps transport them to lunch clubs and things like that.
Why do you think cycling is important for York?
There is no doubt that York is full of cars – there are always queues of cars trying to get into car parks. Reducing car traffic in cities like York is important I believe, and whilst York has made and continues to make positive changes towards this, there is still a long way to go. Other places around the world, like Holland, have made major changes to facilitate cycling. There are a lot of people that cycle in York for sure – the hospital I work at has a huge cycle shed. When it was first built I thought that it wouldn’t get used that much but it’s always full. Cycling is of course important for the environment and from a sustainability point of view.
What do you think would improve walking and cycling in York?
Having segregated cycle paths from traffic would definitely increase the amount of people who cycled in York. The city layout needs to reconsidered to facilitate cycling more. People often don’t choose to cycle because they don’t feel safe, especially amongst traffic, which is understandable.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
The health benefits of cycling are huge – I’m a doctor and always encourage it. The benefits are both physical and mental – and why would you want to spend your life in a car anyway?