Back on my bike after 20 years
My dad recently bought himself a new bike and in turn offered me his old one as a hand-me-down. I haven’t really ridden a bike since I was a teenager so was a bit apprehensive but thought I’d give it a go. The good news is that I’m quite enjoying it and of course any excuse to do some exercise and put off the full-on arrival of my middle-aged spread is welcome.
Due to its proximity to the Peak District, Sheffield is a bit of a hub for outdoorsy types and cycling seems to be up there with climbing as one of those things that a lot of people do. Team GB’s cycling success at the Olympics will encourage even more people to take it up. So how have I found my first few weeks of cycling here? Below are five observations about cycling in Sheffield I’ve made since being back in the saddle.
1. Our roads surfaces are rubbish
As a car owner, of course I already knew this. But only when you experience all those bumps, cracks and potholes for yourself on a bike do you truly appreciate the rotten state of our city’s roads. The cycle lane on some is even worse than the car lane, which doesn’t really encourage you to use them. Hopefully this will be addressed by the £2bn highways PFI project, which has promised to make Sheffield’s roads and pavements better for everyone.
2. Sheffield isn’t yet a truly bike-friendly city
Although the council has made some effort to make it easy to cycle around Sheffield, more could be done. We have some cycle routes, but they aren’t brilliantly joined up. We have cycle lanes and crossings, but these aren’t always in locations where you need them most, for example trying to navigate – or preferably avoid completely – University Square roundabout. We have a council cycle map PDF, but this would work much better as a proper interactive map, plus I soon realised that many of the cycle parking facilities are currently missing off it. Thankfully the cycling campaign groups are pressuring the council to do more for cycling in Sheffield.
3. The hills are steep
Brilliant for cycling down but not so much fun on the return leg. I live near the top of one, which means that nearly every bike ride ends with a punishing slog back home. I suppose it is better having it this way round, instead of needing to shower at work in the morning. No doubt I’ll eventually find them easier but in the meantime I’m still having to push my bike up some of our hills so when you speed past please do give an encouraging thumbs up.
4. Cycling is different to driving
You tend to see roads and particularly junctions differently when you’re on your bike. I’ve needed to brush up a bit on my highway code and look up some of the advice online regarding things like what a cyclist should do in terms of passing stationary or slow-moving traffic. So far, I haven’t had any run-ins with motorists, touch wood. I’ve also made sure I’ve avoided things like cycling through red lights, which is something that can drive you mad as a car driver. You obviously feel less safe on a bike compared to in a car and if there were to be an accident, it is likely that the cyclist will get hurt, regardless of who is at fault. But so far so good. One bonus of cycling over driving is that you don’t have to pay stupidly high petrol and city centre car park prices.
5. Recycle Bikes is great
The old bike I was given needed some basic repairs and someone recommended that I take it to a social enterprise called Recycle Bikes, based in Heeley, It’s an independent, not-for-profit bike project which is involved in loads of worthwhile stuff including recycling old bikes, running youth and adult training and doing very reasonable repairs using recycled parts. They are part of Heeley Development Trust and I think are definitely worth considering if you need a repair, are looking for a cheap recycled bike or even have an old one to donate.
What are your experiences of cycling or cyclists in Sheffield, ? Is there anything else I should know?