by Catriona McAllister, CEO, Jersey Sport
Cycling to and from work is a great way to improve mental health, increase physical fitness, spend less money on petrol, save time stuck in traffic jams and play a small part in the environmental issues we face as a planet today.
The Government of Jersey has started a new initiative called Love to Ride which aims to get more Islanders discovering the joys of riding a bike. The campaign aligns with the Government’s Sustainable Transport Policy and plays a role in its Carbon Neutral Roadmap. As CEO of Jersey Sport, I’m thrilled that we can support this initiative through our wide range of cycling programmes on offer for people of all ages and abilities.
For me, as a child, having my own bike was my lifeline and gave me the freedom to explore, be independent and get to my friends’ houses without needing to rely on anyone else. Now, as a busy full-time working mum of three, commuting by bike helps me to mentally prepare for the day ahead and to wind down and reduce stress on the way home. It’s supported me to lose weight and improve my fitness, plus, I can cycle from home to work faster than if I took my car in rush hour!
Of course, while I’m a confident rider, I understand that not everyone is comfortable riding a bike in busy traffic, or even on the roads at all. Our Move More Cycle programmes have been specially designed and are expertly led to transform even nervous cyclists into confident riders. If you’ve never ridden a bike but would love to learn, our Adult Learn to Ride programme is the best place to start, progressing onto Sofa2Saddle for those who want support in becoming more confident when riding. Gaining Momentum is designed to add saddle time to cyclists who want to feel more confident on longer routes and different types of terrain.
In addition to these programmes, we offer a timetable of women-only rides at six different ability levels which are a great way to meet other like-minded people whilst enjoying our beautiful island on two wheels. All rides are led by friendly, qualified leaders who are experienced in supporting people throughout their cycling journey.
This is all about getting people to fall in love with cycling!
We want to encourage people to learn how to ride safely and sensibly and to understand how to put themselves in a position of safety so they can always be seen by drivers. In some of our courses we also teach riders how to fit a helmet correctly so that they’re better protected in case of an accident.
Unfortunately, there will always be both vehicle drivers and cyclists who don’t play by the same rules, jumping red lights and performing dangerous maneuvers on the road. However, it’s important that drivers don’t live with a judgmental attitude that tars all cyclists with the same brush. Most of us are safe, happy riders who just want to get from A to B while enjoying Jersey’s fresh air and sea views.
I sincerely hope that one day our culture will shift so dramatically that cycling becomes the norm, with families riding together to school and work, and islanders of all ages exploring the island or visiting their friends on two wheels. In the six years that I’ve been in Jersey, I have noticed a significant change in the quantity and type of people riding regularly. Back then it was mainly hardcore riders and cycling groups, but I think lockdown has really encouraged more families to get outside together.
There are some great initiatives currently in place to support young riders, including the ‘Cycling Crocodile’ at Les Landes School. After being supported for many months with Learn to Ride cycle sessions by our schools teams at Move More Jersey, the school wanted to encourage the children and wider school community, including parents and teachers, to continue putting into practice the skills they’d gained. Now, at least 50% of children cycle to and from school most days.
Our children are the future of our island, so investing in their wellbeing and building skills for the future is a key priority for us at Jersey Sport. We are aiming to ensure that over the coming years, every child finishes primary school at age eleven being able to safely and confidently ride a bike on the road. Even if they don’t use this skill immediately, we’re setting them up to be the healthy, eco-conscious commuters of tomorrow.
To find out more about the Move More Cycling programmes offered by Jersey Sport, please visit: www.movemore.je/cycle-more
This article was originally published in the Jersey Evening Post on 8 April 2023.