Back on my bike

Back on my bike

By Jane Buekett

Jane is a Cyclox volunteer

In the early spring I had an unfortunate encounter with the stone tiles of my kitchen floor and found myself with a broken arm. ‘No driving for at least 6 weeks, no cycling for 12,’ the minor injuries medic said, as he wrapped my arm in warm wet plaster and cheerfully pointed out the ‘many challenges’ I would now face.

I live near the rail station and city centre. Not being able to drive was no big deal. But cycling…. How would I get to the shops, the gym, the cinema, and perhaps now more important, the John Radcliffe and Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospitals?

On the bus

Cycling has been my main mode of transport in Oxford since I bought a bike for my commute to Temple Cowley, decades ago. Now I had just two options – walk or get the bus. I learned two things on my journeys to Headington, Summertown, Abingdon, Marston.

(1) Oxford is remarkably well served by its buses, which are punctual and frequent, provided you can get your head around the complexity of the different routes.

(2) For journeys within the city, catching the bus takes about the same time, door to door, as walking. It’s less exposed to the weather and not so hard on the feet of course, and the current £2 fare cap is a big help. A trip up Headington Hill is a lot less daunting on the bus. And I found myself passing through parts of Oxford I had never seen before.

An unexpected bonus of bus travel was the comment by a friend that I had started dressing much better. You can wear skirts that would be indecent or dangerous on a bike, and avoid helmet hair, if you travel sedately by bus.

As easy as…riding a bike

At the start of my 12 weeks’ abstinence I couldn’t wait to get back on my bike. I highlighted the date in my diary, made plans. But when the day came round, my hand still hurt more than I’d anticipated, and I was reluctant. It seemed a huge challenge – too difficult, too perilous, too much like hard work. Would I even remember how to ride a bike? In my imagination I went back to the 6-year-old me, balanced precariously on a too-big bicycle held up by my mother, while she said encouraging things like ‘If you fall off I’ll be the one who has to clear up the mess.’ I did not look forward to fighting for my road space with cars, dodging the vans parked in bike lanes, anticipating the reckless swerves on and off pavements by couriers on souped-up e-bikes.

It was week 14 before I got the bike out of the shed and set off for a trial ride down my street. And found, of course, that my muscles knew exactly what to do on a bike. It was easy and familiar. All I felt was that sense of freedom, the joy of sailing along under your own smooth power, that only cycling and swimming hold for me. It was so much lighter and easier than walking, liberating rather than terrifying.

I expected my first cycle ride across town to leave me saddle sore. I must be fitter than I thought. My legs were fine, my backside painless. I wish I could say the same of my damaged wrist. Gripping the handlebars over all those potholes and bike-unfriendly speed bumps was not exactly comfortable. But I did get home in less half the time it would have taken on the bus.


One Response

  1. […] the group that campaigns for safe cycling in Oxford, has a weekly blog. This week it is by me. The article should also appear in Saturday’s Oxford Mail (29 […]

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