What journeys do you currently do cycling/walking/and/or using public transport to get to work, to do the school run, to go to shops, to get to leisure activities, for example?
I prefer cycling wherever possible – to get to work (pre-pandemic), to go to shops, and also to visit places in and around Belfast if they're within an hour's distance on cycle each way. I have occasionally ventured further, mainly along national cycling routes. I usually cycle alone, but occasionally also with my partner. My partner prefers walking, so we occasionally walk to shops. We sometimes walk together for our weekly shop with my cycle, and use it to carry groceries back in the panniers. My partner does not drive, so she uses public transport if she needs to get somewhere beyond walking distance. She has a folding cycle that she can take on buses with ease. I also like swapping items for free over networks such as freecycle, and I have explored a lot of Belfast on cycle while collecting and dropping off items to other like-minded freecyclers.
What are the benefits for you of walking and cycling and or using public transport for everyday journeys?
I feel more connected to my locality, and have also learned a lot more about my neighbourhood and Belfast in general. As a newcomer to the city, cycling helped me learn the layout of Belfast and explore it in a way I wouldn’t have if I got around by other means of transport. Joining a few walking groups has helped me meet people and socialize when I was new to the city. I occasionally cycle with friends, during the pandemic, as this has been the only safe way to meet people outdoors. I have recently also started walking with people from my local area as a way to connect with my neighbours.
When, if at all, do you walk, cycle or run during your leisure time, simply for the purpose of getting exercise? What do you do?
I cycle as a means of combining exercise with my shopping/commute, and take detours or lengthen my rides when I have the time and energy to turn a chore into something more enjoyable and fulfilling.
I walk with my neighbours and partner, and especially have taken to exploring cavehill on foot as it’s very close to my home.
I have taken up running in the past as a means of exercise, and while I found it very energizing and fulfilling, I find it much harder to maintain my fitness to the level that I can enjoy running, when compared walking and cycling.
What impact did lockdown have on your walking, cycling, use of public transport and exercise habits?
I avoid public transport wherever possible, cycling instead. Lockdown has put greater focus on my health and I have tried to maintain a healthy schedule of walking and cycling to keep my body fit. Working from home had caused me to become overly sedentary and I had to commit to doing two hours of cycling every week to maintain my physical and mental health. Before lockdown, I would have a much higher activity level as I would cycle to work daily.
Why you would encourage people to participate in the active travel challenge this year? Did you take part in 2019?
I did not feel the need to take part in the active travel challenge in past years as I was already primarily getting around on cycle after my move to Belfast. I have found that cycling is a great way to get around, beat traffic, stay healthy and enjoy the outdoors. Even when the weather is not perfect, cycling is still fun if you’re prepared and dress appropriately. My own experience with cycling has been immensely positive and I would encourage others to try it, as there is an impression that cycling is expensive, unsafe, and impractical, but it’s neither of these. I will take part in the 2021 active travel challenge as I have now realized that my example might inspire others to follow my footsteps and embrace getting around on cycle and on foot.
Saturday, June 26, 2021
My story for the Sustrans Active Travel Challenge 2021
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