1000th Freewheeler for Sheffield

Posted on May 27, 2010 by


Sheffield’s 1000th urban cycling trainee, Wendy Melia, says she can’t stop riding her bike now she’s back in the saddle after a break of over 25 years. 

“I cycle everywhere now, I’m addicted to it!” she said. “I’m saving loads of money, and it makes me feel much better and much fitter. I arrive at work and I’m alert and raring to go!”

 38 year old Wendy, from Heeley, took an urban cycle skills session with Sam Robb-King from Pedal Ready cycling cooperative. She was later told she’d become the 1000th Sheffielder to take part in the scheme, funded by Sheffield Council’s transport department. 

“I’d been thinking about cycling, but like a lot of people, I was scared of going on the roads,” said Wendy. “So when I heard about the free road training, I thought it was a great idea.”

 Wendy works as a civil servant for the Department of Work and Pensions, and now commutes two miles through central Sheffield every day on her new bike (which she’s named ‘Pearl’). Her journey took over half an hour by bus, but now she cycles to work in nine minutes. She’s also saving £60 a month in bus fares, she says.

 The unique ‘urban cycle coaching’ scheme is open to all Sheffield residents and employees, and has been carried out in Sheffield by professional cycling instructors from the Pedal Ready cycling cooperative since 2004.

 The council reckons the cost of training new cyclists pays for itself seven times over in health savings and reductions in pollution, congestion, and CO2 emissions. Transport officers also believe the programme has helped Sheffield become one of the fastest growing cycling cities in the country, with a 70% increase in cycling since the scheme started.

 Wendy was inspired to take the lesson by her friend Andy Jackson of Heeley Development Trust, who run the Recycle Bikes youth training and bike recycling initiative, and who provided Wendy with many of her new cycling accessories.

 “Sam from Pedal Ready came over and first of all, we looked at my bike and how to keep it running ok, then she showed me how to ride more confidently on some quiet roads nearby,”’ said Wendy.  “We decided to have a look at cycling to work, and we rode it together and kept stopping to talk about how to tackle different things on the route.  Sam was brilliant, and because I was with her, it made me feel more confident too.”

 “It was a life changing experience,” said Wendy, who now also cycles regularly with her family, and says their fitness is improving too. “If someone had said I’d have been cycling to work a few months ago, I’d have said no chance. I used to think I was too old and too fat, but not any more. Up until the lesson with Pedal Ready, I’d not been on a bike since I was 10, but now I cycle every day and I feel brilliant.”