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Bike enthusiast: Francesca’s story: “If I can cycle to work then anyone can!"

Published: 19th August 2022

CLCH is proud to support Net Zero 2022, a spotlight campaign to raise awareness of the importance of net zero and the efforts we must all make to achieve a better future, as well as to shine a light on the incredible developments made by the Trust's green team in reducing our environmental impact.

Studies have indicated that cycling is one of the lowest carbon-per-kilometre modes of transportation – even better than walking. It emits very little CO2 into the atmosphere; therefore, it has a huge environmental advantage right away.

In today’s Q&A blog, Francesca Annesley, Specialist Paediatric Physiotherapist (MSK) reveals why she began cycling to work, her experience with cycling classes and the benefits she gained, as well as tips for practising cycling and staying safe on the roads.

Please read on to hear her story.

Tell us a briefly about yourself and your role?

I work as a Children's Physiotherapist in the South West division and I am located at the Polyclinic in Mitcham. My job is primarily clinic-based, but at times I do see children in their homes, schools, and nurseries.

Why did you decide to join the CLCH cycle network?

On my first day working at CLCH I was encouraged by a colleague to join the Trust's cycle network with the aim of improving the cycle storage facilities at the Polyclinic. The network has helped to get these improvements moving forwards, which is great. 

You attended free riding classes in your borough, which gave you the courage to ride your bike to work. Could you share your thoughts on how you found the lessons and what benefits you gained?

I've only begun cycling seriously in the past few years. Prior to that I had learnt to ride a bike as a child but had done very little cycling since then. When the ‘Boris bikes’ were introduced in 2010, I tried cycling again and loved it, but never considered cycling to/from work.

It was only when I returned to work after my second maternity leave that I realised I couldn’t get to work on time by public transport within the constraints of nursery and school drop-off and collection times (something I’m sure many working mums can relate to!). So, I thought I’d try cycling for my commute, and I haven’t looked back. The key for me was having free cycle lessons through the local council where I live. The instructor was incredible and cycled with me from my home to my workplace to help me plan the safest route and gain my confidence. I would really recommend anyone who is lacking confidence with cycling to take up cycling lessons. There is so much support out there once you start looking!

How would you encourage non-cyclists to incorporate cycling into their lives in order to be more environmentally conscious?

I strongly believe that that if I can cycle to work then anyone can. I am by no means a super-fit lycra clad pro cyclist, just a 40-year-old mum of two. At first, I found cycling to work tiring, but pretty quickly my fitness improved. Cycling has now become such an important part of my life and I'm so glad I discovered it. It's by far the cheapest way to commute to work and the most environmentally responsible choice.  

Any other comments you would like to share?

If you are tempted to try cycling to work but are lacking in confidence, then maybe find a friend or colleague who can take you for some practise sessions at your local park. I started by doing lots of laps up and down the park practising hand signals. Then investigate having lessons from a qualified instructor (free if you live in a London borough). 

My main priority when cycling is keeping safe, so I always make sure I’m clearly seen by wearing a high-vis jacket and gloves, and I’ve invested in good lights. The kit doesn’t have to be expensive – I use my husband’s old bike and have sourced most of my cycle gear from online second-hand sites. Getting into cycling can also have benefits for your family - now my children are confident cyclists too. 

What is your ideal cycling destination?

My ambition is to one day cycle through the Surrey Hills.
 

Discover more:

If you need more reasons to get on your bike and understand why cycling is a way forward to becoming net zero, you can read the articles below:

15 benefits of Cycling

Cycling more is far more important for achieving net zero in cities
 

Sustainability is one of the four core priorities of the CLCH Trust Strategy 2020-25.

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