Modeshift have been introducing an inspiring Active Travel Champion from time to time to celebrate every day people inspiring every day journeys. We are delighted to continue this celebration of travel champions.
A celebration of walking and cycling, this week we meet, Sarah Javaid, Active Travel Champion.
Tell us about you and your active journey?
Do you roll or stroll?
My name is Sarah and I live in north-east London. I started cycling again in my early 30s after a 20 year gap since childhood and now cycle pretty much everywhere!
Where do you roll?
I cycle mostly as my mode of transport. I’m very fortunate to have a cargo bike which enables me to transport my children around to get to school and various activities without needing to drive. I do around 70-100 miles per week which is made up of multiple short journeys and the occasional longer leisure ride with friends or as part of Cycle Sisters, an organisation which I started in 2016. Cycle Sisters aims to make cycling more accessible for Muslim women and we’ve grown from a couple of people to over 1300 women with groups covering 10 London boroughs!
What motivates you to ride?
When I started cycling again as an adult, initially I thought it would just be a good way to save money on commuting and multi-task fitting in exercise into the busy life of a working mum. What was unexpected was the discovery of how great cycling makes me feel and how it would change my life! When I cycle, I feel free from the worries and stresses of day to day life and it leaves me feeling positive and energised. I have also found cycling to be a really empowering experience which has changed the way that I see myself and what I am capable of – being able to fix a puncture by myself or transport all my children around in my cargo bike makes me feel like a superhero when I’m just on the school run or going to the shops! I feel really passionately about sharing this experience with other women like me and supporting them to discover how cycling can change their lives too!
How do you champion the cause?
What words of encouragement or advice would you give someone to follow in your footsteps /tyre tracks? Many women don’t see cycling as something for them or think it’s a realistic mode of transport – this was my own experience of coming back to cycling as an adult and finding it inaccessible and overwhelming. There are many challenges including a lack of relatable role models, fears around safety and harassment, particularly as visibly Muslim women, and lacking confidence and skills. As well as prioritising quality cycle infrastructure, it’s so important to understand that not everyone has the same experience of cycling and to invest in programmes which will enable under-represented communities to cycle. Inclusive cycle groups such as Cycle Sisters enable people to access the right support and networks to begin their cycling journeys. My advice would be to see if there are any groups like this near to you as it really helps to build your confidence within the safety of a group and have the chance to learn cycle routes around your area. Most local councils offer free cycle training (you may be able to request a female instructor if preferred) which is also a great way to get back into cycling if you’ve not done it for a while or to learn to cycle as an adult. Last week I taught a very inspiring 65 year old woman to cycle for the first time in her life which shows it really is never too late to start cycling!