Why I Cycle – Naheeda

This month’s story features Naheeda Maharasingam, Head Teacher at Rathfern Primary School in Catford. She tells us how and when she decided to get on two wheels.

“I decided to start cycling to school to arrive quicker and more reliably than driving or taking public transport. Although my commute is under two miles the journey by any other means could take up to an hour which I felt was a waste of time, and also not helping our climate emergency.

I am a novice cyclist having never owned a bicycle as a child. This summer,I took lessons with Lewisham for free this included learning to cycle and cycling to school and back a couple of times supported by my tutor Claudine.

Fear is the mind killer – it has been a real challenge conquering my fear of cycling, learning to use brakes, steer and navigate roads .
However the process of gaining confidence by learning to ride my bicycle and then cycling to school on roads and cycle routes has been a deeply rewarding and enriching experience.

During lockdown, the lull in traffic prompted me to give it a go. I am gaining confidence as a cyclist although I’m still adjusting to other road users and thankfully have a reasonably quiet route. I get extra motivation from the children when I arrive at school. They love seeing me on the bike and it has encouraged some of them to try cycling or scooting to school.

We’ve recently been made a school street, so I want to lead by example and show that cycling or walking to school is practical, often quicker than getting the car out. It also energises me for the day ahead and is a great stress buster at the end of the day. Some of my staff colleagues are also cycling and I think during the spring we’ll get some more converts.

I’ve got a folding bike and can carry my books and stuff easily on the bike. My route is pretty flat door to door, and I can secure the bike at either end of the ride.

I have to negotiate Lewisham Gateway and Catford Gyratory – possibly two of the worst junctions in the Borough, but with continued practice I’ve found shared pavements and crossing points that avoid some of the pinch points. These would be a barrier for most people who may consider cycling to and from work. I’d recommend cycling to work for anyone, as long as you have a route that works for you, and a means of securing your bike at your workplace.

I’m looking forward to the day when motor traffic is greatly reduced and more children can get to school without having to be transported by car. Parents will have more time for other things and the children will be healthier, more active and arrive at school much better equipped for their learning day at Rathfern.”