Never too late
Vincent Walsh , Bikeability tutor, describes the experience of two of his trainees under GMCC’s adult cycle training programme.
As an accredited national standards cycle instructor I am familiar with excited, sometimes truculent, ten-year-olds escaping numeracy to do wheelies around the head’s car in pursuit of certificates and badges. So it was a different challenge to tutor highly motivated adults as part of the free cycle training scheme offered by GMCC.
School children start their Bikeability training in the playground. Adults require an off-road environment such as an empty car park or airfield. The first part of our programme is similar to Bikeability Level 1 so I sought a stretch of flat tarmac in south Manchester.
I met Liz Roper beside the lake in Platt Fields Park watched by a gaggle of bemused geese. Liz had just celebrated her 21st birthday. Her parents presented her with a Pashley bike. Preparing for her final year philosophy and psychology exams, she was also planning for postgraduate independent travel, “I have not been on a bike for several years and want to commute from Fallowfield to the University. I would like more confidence to tackle the buses and other traffic. I heard Wilmslow Road is the busiest bus route in Europe and I believe it. Through driving lessons I know what I am supposed to be doing on the road but signalling makes me nervous, as do all the motorists that do not drive with cyclists in mind.”
After her first session Liz was feeling positive, “Having knowledge (of the primary position) and where I should be on the road, I have the confidence to ride there.” Next time she was tackling turns, “It was extremely helpful as this was something that made me nervous. Previously, I would just hop off my bike and push it instead of making a turn, even on relatively quiet roads.”
“The following week we did the final exercise, a right turn from a major to a minor road – which has been particularly difficult. I was then shown the best route for my commute and was able to practise the right turn on a busy road. The Manchester Cycle Map showed me other useful routes and I was given other web-based resources. Thank you, GMCC.”
One year on, Liz is aupairing in Rennes. In between changing nappies she told me how much she relishes cycle-friendly Northern France, “I have just bought a Vintage Mixte Aquilon but look forward to being reunited with my Pashley in Timperley.”
Luke, a website designer in his late twenties missed out on childhood cycling. Before he contacted GMCC he needed two buses to get to his Hulme office. “My goal was commuting to work. If I succeeded people would stop looking at me like an alien when I told them I couldn’t ride a bike.” Luke pushed his bike from his Victoria Park home to meet me in Platt Fields. Soon saddled up, he overcame his wobbles to weave around cones and Canada Geese “When I arrived I was quickly put at ease and riding a bike within 10 minutes. It was a truly empowering experience and incredible how much progress we made in two hours.”
“Next time I had the confidence to ride (most) of the way to my lesson. After a short session running through a couple of rudiments we went out on the road. It’s still not the easiest experience, to be seen in public as an adult being taught how to ride a bike, but it’s well worth it. My instructor is excellent and has made the process as painless as possible.”
By the end of the month we were ready for Luke’s big ride to work. For the maiden voyage we avoided rush hour but still had to negotiate Moss Lane and Princess Road. Luke arrived intact and in half the bus journey time, proving it is never too late to learn a great life skill.
Vincent Walsh (Thanks to fellow trainers: Richard Alderson, Ernie Buck & Rob Raikes)