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Changing The World

I’m a cycle instructor at Broken Spoke. The first reason I joined was to help, at a small level, create more cyclists.  

I believe in a society where we are more kind to each other. With more cars, it doesn't make people any nicer to each other. It’s my belief that the car industry makes people feel that by car everything is better. You have the spot where you can put your drink, you can listen to your radio, it's safer. It's warmer when it's cold. You can even open windows. And I think that they’re counting on making people feel that driving a car is just way more comfortable. But too much comfort kills innovation, the spirit that we can have for trying new things. The more comfort you have the more you want to keep it, and then you never come out. That's what I experienced during lockdown. I was comfortable inside. For a week, I didn't come out because I was nice inside and then you don't go out and then you smell bad. So I think as a society, all together, we just need people who are willing to try new things.  

I see Broken Spoke as a family where everyone has different skills but everyone has the same interest: helping people understand bikes better. ‘Connecting Riders’ - the project with Blackbird Leys - aimed to make a change in people who don't see cycling as a way of transportation. Some of the kids were willing to do it, some of them were not. Some of them had the skills, some of them didn't. So it was not very straightforward. Sometimes those who were not willing to do it were the ones with the skills, and sometimes the opposite. So, it was a bit challenging. But the challenge doesn't make it impossible. 

The target was to get them engaging in the fun part, even if they're not very capable or not very willing, at least they're taking part, even if it’s for just 45 minutes. At least they were doing something. It's still better than playing video games. I was telling them things like - oh, if you go around the blue cones, then you win - very simple tasks. I actually bought some biscuits from Tesco and stuff, saying - oh, the winner of that group wins this - so in the end, they get a prize. But again, some lost interest. I ended up with only one or two kids that day. But it was really engaging, trying to grab their attention. And I kind of succeeded at it for about half an hour. They were changing the gears and signalling. But again, at some point, they were like - I'm going back inside. But at least they did some cycling. So that was good. 

I sort of assumed that Blackbird Leys would be more complicated or more challenging than Summertown for example, or Jericho. And I was wrong. I've met quite a few people who were really engaging and interested in cycling. There is a bigger involvement out there. I wish and I hope that Blackbird Leys won’t be just an experiment or a project. I hope that it will be a thing for the future. It could spread involvement to Rose Hill, Barton, and help young people to understand what the world really is. 

Learning to cycle can be more of a psychological journey than a physical journey. And so in a lot of sessions that I do people tell me in a positive way that my training is more like a life lesson than cycle training. Because I base cycle training or cycle skills, first, on confidence. If you spread confidence, like butter on a piece of bread, it can really change your life and turn it around. Because then with confidence, you can achieve great things. 

But again, a lot of people are not confident cycling, because of how heavy the traffic can be. I will always tell people who I train that I do understand how they feel, but it shouldn't matter. We shouldn't be changing our journey based on the fact that you don't feel safe. There are ways of making things easier, which always relate to a stronger community. If you go through a bad neighbourhood alone in the dark, fair enough - you're scared and you don't like it. But in a strong community, you’ve got 50 people in the same neighbourhood at night, then people can feel safer. 

I've had a few situations outside the project where the kid would be properly very grateful, saying thank you for helping me. And that's really touching. Most of all I want to cry. And on the other side, I feel like I'm making a difference. Who knows, maybe one of these kids later will be in politics? They could make cycling more of a thing across society. There was another kid, he was okay cycling but he was not in control of his bike. I did a one to one with him for like 15 minutes. I explained to him what to do for looking behind, signalling, going straight, and what he needed to work on to get better. At the end of the training, which was over two days, he came to me and wanted to give me a hug. He said that now he can signal and he can look behind when he’s cycling. And that made a big difference in his life. It might be just one person. But we are all related. By changing the life of someone, that can have a domino effect on somebody else. We haven’t changed the world but maybe we changed the world for them. And I think that as a cycling instructor, that's all you can hope for.

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