Healthy, fun and environmentally-friendly: Getting on your bike in Havering couldn’t be easier
- Credit: Archant
What sport significantly improves physical and mental health, saves the NHS millions and is available for people to do every day?
The answer, of course, is cycling.
Whether commuting to work, popping to the shops or heading out into the countryside for a leisure ride, biking is a brilliant way to do exercise and get around.
Despite the recent bad press, cycling, when done responsibly, is a safe and cheap way to travel around London, and the good news is it’s getting easier by the day.
Transport for London (TfL) has been investing in cycle superhighways – separated bike lanes along main roads – and quietways, routes throughout the capital using backstreets and parks.
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And if you’re just a beginner, or you’ve never cycled before, in Havering and east London there are lots of ways to get into the sport and get confident on a bike.
Spencer Littlechild set up Hornchurch Cycle Club in 2014.
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The 41-year-old had injured his knee playing football, and was looking for ways to get fit when he caught the cycling bug.
The club now has more than 200 members, and organises four rides a weekend for varying abilities from the Queen’s Theatre car park, in Billet Lane.
“I think a lot of people are worried about cycling due to the image,” he said.
“They see groups of men in lycra and get put off, but cycling is open to everyone.”
Spencer explained men and women who have never cycled before have joined the club right up to the age of 60.
“For us it’s all about community,” Spencer continued.
“We are a local club, and we want to try and get as many people cycling as possible.”
Each week Hornchurch Cycle Club holds a beginners ride out into the Essex countryside, with experienced cyclists helping newcomers.
“As the weeks go by people get better and better and then they can progress onto the social rides,” Spencer explained.
And for people who have concerns over safety, Spencer shared some tips.
“The key is being confident on the road. If you have the right equipment and cycle sensibly you will be ok.”
Havering Cyclists is a group dedicated to promoting cycling and cyclists’ interests in the borough.
And chairman Terry Hughes has some great advice for people who want to start cycling away from traffic.
“If you don’t want to use the roads at all, there are several places with off-road facilities where you can hire a bike or bring your own such as at Thames Chase Forest Centre, the RSPB at Rainham Marshes or at Redbridge Cycle Centre at Hog Hill.
“There are also cycle routes such as the Ingrebourne Valley Way which has large off-road sections,” he added.
Terry explained he got into cycling 20 years ago, when his employer moved the office to Ilford.
He researched the best routes, made sure he had somewhere safe to lock up his bike and began cycling to work.
“I quickly realised how much fitter and more energetic it made me feel and I knew then that I’d never give it up,” he said.
“Twenty years on I still enjoy my work, but my ride to work is the best part of the day.”
Terry explained that Havering Council offers free cycle training for people working or living within the borough.
And if you choose to commute like Terry the health benefits are huge.
University of Glasgow research has found that those who commute to work by bike have at least a 40 per cent lower risk of premature death and developing heart disease and cancer.
And if you work central London you can take Quietway 6, which runs from Barkingside, down back streets and through parks, or the Cycle Superhighway 3, which goes down the A13.
Theresa Hughes, from the walking and cycling charity Sustrans, explained: “With the new infracture and real investment, it’s all to play for.
“It’s now about people getting involved and getting on bikes.”