Me and my bike: Sourovi De
By Kathryn McNicoll
Sourovi has been living in Oxford for 11 years but it is only recently that she has decided to take up cycling.
As a child in India, she used to cycle around the yard, but the streets near her were not safe for cycling so, as she grew older, she gave up using her bike. There was no infrastructure for cycling where she lived then.
She gained a degree in Economics in Delhi and then came to Oxford where she graduated with an MSc in Development economics. Now she uses this knowledge to advise on education policy in West Africa.
For a long time she lived in the centre of Oxford and didn’t feel the need for a bike but she has recently moved to the outskirts of the city and, as a non-driver who did not want to rely on buses for transport to work, she decided to go back to cycling. In order to gain confidence, she chose to have lessons at Broken Spoke, which she found excellent. Her trainer took her all through the different stages of Bikeability training on a Broken Spoke bike until she felt ready to buy her own bike. Luckily for her, her company has a Cycle to Work Scheme, so she was able to acquire a bike through the scheme, paying the money back over a year.
However, going out on her own was daunting, especially after a fall, and she limited herself to short rides in her neighbourhood. Then she saw a mention on Facebook for JoyRiders: Joyriders’ motto is empowering women by introducing them to the joys of cycling. Many women see themselves as less able to cycle regularly because of their age, fitness, dress and appearance: they worry that cycling is not for them as the classic image is of sport cyclists (usually men) whizzing past in lycra. Women can lack confidence in their ability to deal with any sort of traffic and many of them don’t believe it’s safe for their children to cycle either.
JoyRiders started in London but there is now an Oxford JoyRiders group and this was just the sort of group that Sourovi needed. She needed to cycle with someone confident who gave her confidence.
JoyRiders are welcoming and easy going, she says, but very well organised. The routes are carefully planned for different levels of ability and they create a safe space for new and nervous cyclists. The rides can be geared towards working out the best way for riders to get to work, or just exploring new areas which are accessible by bike. She highly recommends people to give it a try. And there’s not an inch of lycra in sight!
Sourovi has now been on several JoyRiders rides and has progressed from easy rides to longer, slightly more difficult rides. She also cycles to and from work and loves it: it is a way of de-stressing from the pressures of the day. She feels more independent now and plans to take her bike on the train on holiday in future. It is her main form of transport and her main form of exercise: cycling has become part of her way of life.