Your Stories – Bridget Clark 

e-cyclist in Scotland

I took up cycling in my 50s when advised by my physio, as a good way to regain fitness after a health problem kept me off work for nearly 2 years. I borrowed my daughter’s old bike and met a lady with ME who used to cycle to work, and we propped each other up for a weekly cycle to local cafes for lunch…

On our first ride I fell over twice down an old railway grassy bank. But we built up to 35 mile rides up and down mountains and judged every café for miles around. We nearly wrote articles for the local paper called ‘ladies who lunched’, but work took over. I identified a route to cycle to work, a lovely 7 miles avoiding the busy roads. My hair and makeup became adjusted to helmet and wild weather. I turned up to meetings and inspections bright eyed but sometimes forgot to check for mud spray.

My husband sadly died as we retired, but people then asked me to make a map of local paths and to help provide cycle training in schools. People also told me their suggestions to improve routes so I collected them and feel obliged to remind key people at every opportunity.

A stupid leg break which hasn’t repaired properly kept me car bound on crutches, unable to walk and cycle to any greenery. For an outdoor gal I found that very depressing. But once I could get my leg to move a pedal round, my new electric bike opened up the world again and gives me such joy and freedom. A single pannier and crutches strapped on, means I am turbo charged and free to ferry hop to the Western Isles, or catch the train to London and cycle the 8 miles along the canal and through parks to my daughter. What a difference from trying to cycle in London in 1972; bikes were rarely seen, parks were no go, and pavements illegal, though I cautiously scooted down empty ones when I was too scared of the roads. I soon gave up, took the bus and walked, and got out of London!

Where I live now in Central Scotland towns it is gorgeous country, and pretty good for cycling once you know how to avoid the busy roads. Design and landowner permissions are the main problems to improving cycling routes. There is still a frustrating fixation for barriers which block brand new paths to cycles and disabled people. A new housing developer by local High School has put in rows of ugly barriers – more like agricultural pens, along a new off road link. What is the purpose?

A new housing estate on the National Cycle Network 76 has added 2 new cages, as apparently advised by the police, to the 3 barriers already there within a stretch of about 500 metres. Since I broke my leg I can’t manouvre my electric bike through them so have to divert a mile or so on the busy main road, with trucks breathing down my neck at my maximum 15 mph.

Another large estate has a small central playpark – but there are 6 barriers across the path to get to it plus some more in the area.

One of my regular frustrations is that I can no longer go shopping on my bike over the traffic free footbridge over the railway with lovely river views. It has a barrier and no dropped kerbs and is very underused. I have been told that because it has a slope it is not seen as suitable for disabled people and cyclists, so now I have to go the long way round by the main roads merging in and out of part cycle lanes, parked cars and impatient overtaking traffic. It is an intimidating and unpleasant journey in comparison, and I don’t always feel up to the challenge.

These are simple and cheap things to sort out, but it is difficult to explain to people who don’t feel the restrictions. I used to enjoy being a fit, capable outdoorsy person, so it has been quite difficult to say I am disabled and want to have access too please. I love being part of cycling and meeting lots of nice young men, but how about everyone else – families, older children, novice cyclists, older people. Why can’t we all get on our bikes?