Young families across Blackburn and Darwen have embraced walking and cycling more often – or ‘active travel’ during the last 18 months. For getting to and from work and shops, but also for leisure and wellbeing.
One BwD mum was particularly surprised, after some encouragement from her young daughter, to find herself on a bike, and actually enjoying it!
Meet the family: Dad – John, Mum – Samantha, Daughter – Olivia, and Granddad – Kevin.
Mum Samantha shares her story:
“During the initial lockdown period in April 2020, Olivia had her 6th birthday. One of the gifts we got her was a new bike with stabilisers.
“Having a cycling-mad granddad, Olivia had already grasped the hang of using a balance bike but was a little unsure and nervous about now incorporating the use of pedals. After her birthday, we felt exceptionally fortunate when we had some weeks of brilliant weather, and in this time Olivia’s confidence on her bike grew and grew. On a Sunday morning in June, I asked Olivia if she would like to try her bike without stabilisers which was something she was dreading. By the same evening though, she was happily riding around our estate without her stabilisers. Of course, she wasn’t a hundred per cent stable, but she did a fantastic job.
“Around the same time, John’s workplace offered the Cycle to Work scheme (where he was able to loan money via payroll for a bike to use for commuting) and after much research into different types of bikes, he settled on the idea of getting an electric ‘e-bike’. On the days he is working, he cycles to and from the work, which is roughly a daily 13-mile round-trip, three to four times a week. This has massively reduced the amount John uses his car, with it being effectively redundant most days.
“On the days John wasn’t working, Olivia and her dad started going on bike rides. We’re very lucky to live near the canal and so they enjoyed leisurely rides up and down the towpath.
Just a few months later, John found that Olivia’s beginner bike was no longer suitable for how fast she was progressing. We decided to upgrade to a bigger, more advanced bike. On the new bike, Olivia has absolutely soared, and has been going further and further afield with her dad, pushing to see how far they can go, comfortably.
“After a few weeks of going on bike rides with her dad, Olivia was feeling really confident. Even cycling home with her granddad from his house. This is a five miles ride all the way from Pleckgate, over to Feniscowles. They even stopped at Corporation Park to let Olivia have a go on the fantastic cycle track to give her a feel for cycling on a road. And, she still had the energy to have a run around and play in Witton Park when passing through. Olivia and John even managed to do a seven-mile bike ride, which for a 6 year old is a fantastic effort.
“Being massively proud of Olivia’s progress, and seeing how much she was enjoying her bike, I started thinking about joining her and John on their rides. With plenty of coercion from all sides, including grandad Kevin, I relented and we invested in an inexpensive bike for me. Initially, I was very reluctant. I felt cycling wasn’t something I would ever enjoy. In order to build my confidence on the bike, Olivia and I started going on a couple of short rides during the day while John was at work.
“With lots of encouragement from Olivia, and being persistent even in the wet weather, we’ve stuck at it and are now getting out at least three times a week for bike rides.
“To my delight, I’m really enjoying it. I absolutely love going out with Olivia, seeing her have so much fun, and getting plenty of exercise. We love riding along the canal towpath, it’s really beautiful and we feel safe away from busy roads. We’re often waving at boats and barges on the canal, and we stop at parks that we pass by so Olivia can have a play, and generally we’re both really enjoying the great outdoors.
“And the most surprising thing of all is, it’s now me, the reluctant cyclist, pestering Olivia and John to go on rides when we haven’t been out for a couple of days. I’ve gotten hooked on enjoying the fresh air and the family time out and about, of being active together. Pre-lockdown, John and I often talked about how we wanted to live a healthier and more active lifestyle. The new bikes have made it a reality.
“We’re teaching Olivia about bike etiquette, making sure she slows down around people and animals, using her bell to alert people in plenty of time. Hopefully in the future, when she gets a little older, we will be able to start using the local cycle routes, and teach her about road safety when cycling. There are helpful apps for routes across the borough.
“All in all, we’ve found that this a fun activity to do as a family, helping us all be more active and do more exercise, without having to really think about it.”
And now there’s a new learn to ride track at Witton Park, there’s never been a better time to get pedalling with your family!