Me and my bike: Iona

By Kathryn McNicoll

I met Iona on a bright May morning in a park in Barton. Iona is the Community Health Development Officer for Oxford City Council in Barton, a part of Oxford in which she lives and works and one she obviously feels passionate about. Her job involves community activation which means, among other things, that she is helping to organise the Barton Bash on 25th September with Barton Community Association, teaming up with Cyclox and Joyriders (led bike rides for women who’ve just learned to ride, or are returning to riding) to organise cycling events on that day: she is also teaming up with Cyclox on the Barton underpass mural project in June.

So what is Iona’s interest in cycling? 

As a child, she never felt confident on a bike, especially after coming off her bike at the age of 8 and breaking an arm. She was a self-conscious teenager and when she started thinking about fitness again as a working adult, she felt awkward – she didn’t have the right clothing she thought, it just wasn’t for her. Besides, her professional job meant a lot of driving and no exercise. 

However, in 2018, after her second pregnancy, she decided she needed to get fit so, when given a bike for her 30th birthday, she decided to try cycling to work at the council offices in the city centre. She started cycling just once a week: at first she was nervous and anxious but she also found it empowering. She soon realised that this commute was very achievable by bike and, what’s more, it was quicker and more reliable than the bus.

Although she now works closer to home, she still cycles her young son to school before work in the bike trailer, passing the other Mums in their cars on her way home – the bike is much faster than the car. Her older daughters now also cycle to school and are very proud of the badges they received for doing so; her partner has a child seat on the back of his bike and the whole family cycles for leisure. 

They made the best of lockdown, cycling as a family, even giving up their car altogether during the winter.  Iona feels the pandemic has given us the opportunity to promote Active Travel. During lockdown a lot more people were out and about, on foot and on bikes, using the parks, and we need to keep this momentum up.  

Iona has a special connection to the Barton Underpass too. 18 years ago, her grandfather, a Barton resident, went to meet his wife, collapsed in the underpass and died (despite attempts by two young men to resuscitate him). Since then, the underpass has become very run down but it is about to get a facelift: two artists are going to spend a weekend painting it in June, putting real faces in the mural including that of Iona’s grandfather. 

It was time to go and I left Iona with the Early Learning group sitting out on the grass by the playground. Community activation starts young.  

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