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Just Pedal

I must say, as a new rider, what really did help was shin pads! I was getting bruised so badly from the pedals. But I felt I needed to ride because my grandchildren are riding. I can't be going somewhere and they've gone off and left me behind, or I'm trying to keep up because they're riding and I'm walking. It’s been a journey. A few lumps and bumps along the way. But now that I can ride with them, it feels absolutely fantastic.  

I heard about this scheme from a colleague of mine who works for Oxford Hub. She told me about these bikes, so I put my name down. Learning to cycle is important for me because some of the cars on the road these days, people don't stick to the limit. At times I've been driving at 20 mph and other people have been beeping at me. If a car should overtake you, and something else comes up, you've got to be aware that there might be a cyclist. How will you react? What will happen to that cyclist?  

I’ve been learning where to position yourself, how to signal at a junction, what to do if nothing’s coming, all that kind of stuff. It's being more aware of those things - although a bit of it is already there, because that's what you would automatically do if you were driving. We tend to do a lot of lessons at Kassam Stadium because I need to get my confidence up. We've then gone on to the road, side roads, and cycle tracks like from Littlemore down to Tesco’s roundabout and back up. But it's the major roads - that's where my big fear is. You're so aware of what can happen, and you'll hear of all these accidents in the city. 

I've had three falls on the bike. The first one was in the early days of riding. I tried to miss a pothole and went down. The second one my grandson came riding into the back of me. He had been riding too close or he wasn’t looking where he was going. I’d really grazed my knee from the pothole, and this incident was like the very next day, so you can imagine falling on that knee a second time! But my grandson is slowly getting there. He can ride. He needs to start doing the signals and staying on the road because there are times he’s on the pavement instead of the road. When there's a lesson booked for him, I will say: 'This is your lesson and you need to listen to what Cedric is explaining because you need this for when you go to secondary school!’ 

The first time I went out riding with my grandson all I can remember is Cedric saying, 'This is what you need to do,' and explaining how to sit on the bike and how I needed to get going to get balanced. But what he was saying just wasn't registering, because I had it fixed in my head that I need to go down the hill. The next lesson, we went into the Kassam Stadium and there was a little bit of an incline. I went down it and that's how I managed to get my balance. Balanced properly, I could start pedalling. My grandson kept saying to me, 'Nanny, pedal, pedal, just pedal.’ The transition from not being able to ride to then being able to balance the bike - you're riding, you’re pedalling! - it's amazing. 

We’ve mainly been riding around Littlemore because when we start off we tend to meet Cedric in the car park in Kassam Stadium. We'll ride around in the car park and then we go into Littlemore, ride around that way and Minchery farm. And then we’ll go down the cycle track and back up. We feel comfortable, and safe enough, in that area. It's a 20 mph zone. Of course, some people stick to it, and some people don’t. But it's okay. My grandson just needs to be more roadworthy, and more aware of what is around him.  

He says: 'Nanny, come on, you can do it. You can do it nanny!' And in the week he’ll text and say, 'Nanny, how is riding going?' I say, it's brilliant. It’s about talking more often and having more to talk about, instead of him being on his gadgets. He’s one of these children who if they’re sitting down, he’s bored. If he’s doing something that’s not what he wants to do, he’s bored. So therefore, if we're in the house, we'll say, 'Okay, we're going for a ride,’ or on a Saturday morning when I'm doing the Covid clinic, I'll say, 'Come on, we're going to clinic.' And he'll come. 

It’s great - absolutely great. It's the whole feeling of being outdoors. I was born and grew up in Jamaica, and it's so much different compared to here. We’d play outdoors. But here, you don't get much of that anymore because of all these gadgets that children have. The very first time I rode a bike was in my late teens in Jamaica. I wouldn’t say it was riding, it was more balancing. I was basically going downhill. This is why I've got this fixation on hills. I will go down the hill and when I get to the flat, I will get off the bike. I’d go for a mile or over and then I would push the bike back home. 

I appreciate the scheme because it’s helpful, and it gives children more meaning, something to do, instead of being in the parks or hanging around the shops and doing nothing. There's more and more children riding because petrol is so expensive as well. With everything going up, it does make a lot of difference for parents to let the kids ride. I suppose it's something to think about, how we all could network. I’ve got this friend of mine and I've been telling her that she needs to start riding so she can go out with her granddaughter. She says her bones are too old to break. And I said, 'No, they’re not. I fell off my bike and I didn't get a broken bone. You can do it as well. You just got to know where you're riding and how you ride, and that will make all the difference.'


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