Benjamin Smith - Partnerships Manager at The Bikeability Trust
Benjamin smith works for The Bikeability Trust as Partnerships Manager, and enjoys riding a bike for leisure, commuting, utility or competition, but is always happiest when out on the bikes with his children. He is passionate about getting more people on bikes, and seeing the next generation inspired and equipped for life-long cycling.
FM: What does cycling mean to you?
BS: Freedom! It gives me freedom & time with the family and opportunity to explore.
Cycling gives you time to clear the head from work and life stresses. You can enjoy going to new places & seeing new things. I have 3 young children and it’s a great chance to go and spend time with them in a way that isn’t in the house (on electronics..) meaning we can explore the countryside together.
FM: What’s the best thing about choosing to get on a bike over public transport or getting in a car ?
BS: Independence and sustainability.
It gives you a sense of achievement: instead of driving or getting the train to work, the fact that you cycled there gives you some bragging rights! Joking aside - the health & wellbeing benefits are obvious and well known. You got to your destination under your own steam, doing yourself a lot of good in the process.
Also, the environmental benefits are massive, if everyone (where possible) made a sustainable transport choice, either walking or cycling, then we would all benefit from reduced carbon emissions and cleaner air.
FM: What would you admit is the worst thing about being on a bike?
BS: The occasional bit of bad behaviour, or unpredictability of other road users. It’s not pleasant to experience other road users passing you close-by or maybe not seeing you.
FM: How could new riders change their behaviour or thinking to have a good time out on a bike?
BS: Think about 4 things:
- Observation: make sure you’re looking around you as much as you can. Similar to when you’re driving, think about people around you. This is something that has to be practiced.
- Communication: make sure you communicate clearly with other people. You can do this through eye contact, clear arm signals, being in the right road position.
- Positioning: be assertive, control the space around you. This is not to annoy other road users! Just focus on protecting them and protecting yourself.
- Priorities: obey them! Make sure you understand the road system and the priorities within it. If you’re on a bike, the same rules apply to you, and you have a reputation to uphold. If you have to stop, another minute to your journey really doesn’t matter. Just enjoy the experience of being on a bike!
FM: Where’s the best place to be on the road?
BS: In Bikeability we teach 2 road positions:
- Secondary position’ - This is your normal riding position which should be an arm’s length away from the kerb, going straight. This means you’re not in the gutter or right next to the kerb. That keeps you safe from the gutter but also not in the middle of the lane meaning other users can pass you when safe.
- ‘Primary position’ - This is the centre of the lane. Whenever you are turning left or right or approaching a piece of traffic infrastructure, you should occupy this position. It does two things:
- Stops people from trying to overtake when there might not be room.
- Makes you a lot more visible - it’s a lot harder to miss you and a lot harder for you to miss anything!
At the end of the day, make sure you’re assertive, not aggressive.
FM: What would you say is the most important attitude to take when starting commuting to work?
BS: The attitude of ‘I am going to do it!’
Of course it is harder in the winter, but giving yourself that accountability that you have made the decision and will stick to it will be really helpful.
In practical terms, be prepared: think about what you need to be ready to be able to do it. If that means getting ready the night before, then do that. Why not reward yourself with an extra pastry or coffee once you’ve got to work? You’ve definitely done the hard work!
Also, pick a route that you like and that doesn’t stress you out too much. A shorter route with busier roads might be more stressful, but picking a slightly longer route which could have nice scenery, or enjoyable landmarks, will make it so much nicer.
Finally, use a bike that you enjoy: pick one that you like riding!
FM: What are the important things to think about when going to school via bike?
BS: Choosing a route that’s enjoyable for you and your child(ren) is really important.
Also, you can learn how to cycle together on the road by getting some training together as a family. It’s helpful to learn how to cycle as a unit so traffic can respond to the ‘unit’.
To really help yourself out, remember to reward the kids! Find ways to make them want to do it. Sometimes they’ll be up for it, sometimes they won’t but you can work out what makes it a positive experience. For me, this might be picking up a snack or going to the park or going past a friend’s house and waving. The more imaginative the better!
Finally, leave earlier than you think you need to. This means you can avoid rushing, traffic & stress. If you are looking to build a workout or bike ride in for yourself, you can take a longer loop on the way home or on to work.
How can we find out more?
At Bikeability.org.uk which provides lots of resources. Can find a local provider & a book into training. Encourage the school towards the website to provide cycle training. There are also lots of stories for inspiration on kids and adults who have done great things on bikes.
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