If you're interested in cycling and want to find out more read on below for first-hand experiences from our AstBUG members of:
Wheel of misfortune,
Diary of a novice cyclist,
Cycle to Work scheme.
As I have a Birmingham Leisure card I was emailed about free cycling lessons. I booked some 1 to 1 lessons and the first one was excellent. I have lots of cycling experience but had never had any proficiency training or testing so my main issue was confidence.
My lesson lasted just over an hour. The instructor checked out my cycling and also spent some time giving very clear guidelines about road positioning generally and specifically at junctions. We did lots of work around junctions initially in Sutton Park then on the road. We also talked about use of the range of gears. I picked up lots of tips and have been practising since the lesson. I have another one booked and have now enrolled on one of the free cycle maintenance courses. I already feel much more confident about my cycling. This seems a terrific initiative and it’s free! [S]
Cycling Consultation Notes [6.6 MB PDF] Campus diagrams (.PDF) One, Two, Three
On Your Bike! Aston Aspects July 2007 (p6)
I always used to think that it would be nice to be able to cycle in to work - all that fresh air and sunshine instead of stuffy trains which aren't always dependable, but I never quite got around to doing anything about it.
Now, I live in Redditch, which is not that far away, but there are a few big hills to negotiate and my fitness levels are not quite what they might be, so I decided to try a compromise. For the past year I've been cycling the mile and a half from home to the station at Redditch, putting the bike on the train and then cycling the mile and a half from New Street to campus.
The good things about this are:
I save £35 a month car parking fee at Redditch station
I get more exercise each week
I can leave the office late, but still catch the train as it only takes me 5 mins to get to New Street by bike!
Likewise when the trains are running late going home and we get turfed off at Barnt Green, I can cycle home, arriving at the same time as I would have if the train had carried through to Redditch instead of having to wait for the next train which is usually at least half an hour later.. This is really important for me as I have three kids to collect from school each afternoon.
The train starts at Redditch so there's not usually a problem getting the bike on in the morning and because I work mornings only, I'm travelling home at off peak time so the same applies
London Midland, who operate the line I travel on have a cycle policy and bikes are transported for free.
The bike fits easily in the carriage which has pull down seats to provide space for wheelchair users, buggies and bikes.
You meet other cyclists on the train, which so far has been very pleasant!
There are passenger operated lifts at New Street so it's not usually a problem getting up and down to the platform.
It's a bit of a nuisance having to change clothes on arrival and then change back again before leaving, but to some extent that's my choice - I see plenty of cyclists wearing their work clothes, I just prefer to wear cycle gear for safety reasons and so that I'm not sitting in wet or sweaty clothes all day.
The usual warnings about pedestrians and buses apply in Birmingham - you really have to try and be one step ahead of them! I know the parts of my journey from New Street now where I'm likely to encounter daft pedestrians with ipods who can't hear you shouting a warning at them as they saunter across the road in front of you without looking, or the buses which ignore the cycle lane outside Boots. It's just common sense of cycling in a City Centre.
It can be a pain when it's raining to have damp cycle clothes hanging round the office to dry.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm really pleased I decided to give it a go. In the summer months I even CHOOSE to ride home from Barnt Green for an extra bit of exercise and fresh air. I'm looking forward to all the proposed improvements for cyclists on campus taking place over the coming months.(DS)
...Chris Rissel, an associate professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, has highlighted a serious lack of road etiquette. He found that an alarming number of motorists did not know some of the basic road rules relating to cyclists, such as when cyclists had right of way. "Thirty-seven per cent of motorists didn't know that cyclists were entitled to use a whole lane, and 69 per cent didn't know they were allowed to overtake on the left of cars," Professor Rissel said. "Eighty-one per cent didn't know cyclists were allowed to ride two abreast and 13 per cent didn't know they were allowed to use the roads at all. That is definitely a contributing factor to the level of tension and danger on the roads." (SMH)
The etiquette of bike parking (BBC): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7534963.stm
DC is to blame for my mission to cycle to work. For a while, I’d seen him passing my house or at the children’s school, on his bike, and when I found out he worked at Aston University, I suppose I thought if he could do it, then so could I. And then of course the work of AstBUG and the Cycle to Work scheme provided a great incentive to change.
I made my first attempt to cycle about 6 months ago and quickly realized I wasn’t as fit as I thought. I used to cycle everywhere before I had enough money to buy a moped, and then a car and then had children to ferry around. But getting back on my bike has taken me back a few years – a reminder of freedom and a life of fewer cares - cycling to lectures at university, or out and about around town. My first cycle to work wasn’t a great success. I arrived at work huffing and red-faced and drew a few looks (not admiring) from colleagues. My yellow jacket was particularly outstanding. So that was it. Decision time – time to get fit. So I joined my local gym and am now one and a half stone lighter and probably fitter than I’ve ever been. I say this with a note of caution as I hope to keep the cycling up, but I’ve noticed a regular twinge of pain in my right knee.
The other day, I had to be back at the children's school a half-hour earlier than normal, so I thought I’d take the car to work to save time. I soon regretted it though, as it took me longer in the car than it takes me to cycle. I found myself wishing I was on my bike route rather than stuck in slow moving traffic. So the next day I was back on the bike.
So these are some of the things I’ve enjoyed which I would have missed in the car. Well – for starters a great cycle route to town from where I live. Secondly, a sort of camaraderie amongst cyclists (with the exception of the guy who shouted “LADY” to me, on cycling towards me at about 40 miles an hour, to warn me to get out of his way). Thirdly, the details of the back streets of central Birmingham, reminding me of the continuing life-energy of the city:
• an African lady carrying shopping bags on both arms and a suitcase on her head; • builders everywhere – working hard up scaffolds, on top of towers, laying road paving, building the new coach station;
• youngsters hanging round on street corners (I nearly fell into the not-so welcoming arms of one, as I stumbled in anxious anticipation trying to avoid him and got my feet caught in the bike toe clips – “I’m going to fall”, “I’m going to fall” I called out in warning. He imperceptibly stepped back, taking care not to notice me);
I think my best experience to date was getting caught in a thunderstorm – a strangely exhilarating baptism to my fast approaching forties. I couldn’t believe I was cycling through the torrential rain and thunder and lightening. I waved to my friend as I cycled past her house – she was looking out of her front window holding her baby to show her the downpour. We all laughed together at my yellow apparition struggling along the flooded road (a memory that will stay with me for a long time).
Well – will the excitement continue? I expect not, as I now find myself drifting-off in day dreams, only to be surprised-alert by a near miss with another cyclist. (I thought cycling on cycle paths was safe?) However, I sincerely hope to keep it up, as I am getting fitter and saving petrol money at the same time. So to end my cycling diary where it began, “DC, AstBUG and Cycle to Work Scheme - you are all to blame for my mission to cycle to work – I suppose I should say thank you.”
- but I still haven't given up my parking space so that could be my final accomplishment - symbolically and literally handing back the car fob. (LM)
As soon as I arrived at Aston I bought a bike, and lots of kit, through the cycle to work scheme(.PDF). I have saved approximately a 1/3 on the bike and have spread the cost over 12 months. I've been able to buy a properly road-worthy bike, and have all the right safety equipment including a great lock. Cycling has made my commute to work a lot easier, quicker and enjoyable and the scheme was easy to use. (LG)
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