You’ll learn to love those big hills

This is the article we submitted for the July edition of the Hayling Islander. The published article was subject to editing by the Islander.

Thank you to everyone at the Donkey Derby who popped in to the Cycle Hayling & Portsmouth CTC stand. Lots of you tested how far you could cycle in 1 minute on our turbo challenge, and we had some amazing efforts, especially from kids. Aren’t they competitive! Several adults were off the top of our scoreboard, at well over 40 mph simulated speed. When we asked how they were so fit, they all said ‘cycling to work’.

Not that we had any problem getting to sleep that night, but many people do, and cycling is helping. Stanford University School of Medicine researchers asked some of them to cycle for 20-30 minutes every other day. On average, they fell asleep in about half the time, and slept almost an hour longer and more deeply.

Did you see in The News recently the debate about a cycle helmet law? While we strongly recommend cycle helmets, especially for children, we’re against forcing them by law. Sounds crazy – so why? Because everywhere it’s been tried, it has put people off and cut cycling by 30-40%, making many people less active, with little improvement on head injuries. Thousands and thousands more people will die from inactivity than could ever be saved by cycle helmets. More details at CyclingUK.org/helmets.

Cycle Hayling has just been reviewing the plans for Hayling cycling improvements with the council. Hampshire County Council has the overall responsibility and the money, but they delegate the work to Havant Borough, who have better local knowledge. Overall, two heads are better than one, so we get a better solution, but the additional delays are frustrating, and it’s slipped again.

But before autumn, Legion Field should have a tarmac path from Elm Grove to Mengham Junior School, the play area and across to Hawthorn Grove. It’s currently planned at 2 metres wide, and we hope the council will be able to find the extra money to make it 2.5 metres, to give more room for pedestrians and cyclists to share safely.

Hayling Park will also get wider paths to encourage safe sharing. Part of the delay has been the need to protect the roots of our beautiful park trees, so the council is experimenting with new materials.

Both of these will make vital training grounds for new cyclists, especially children, but adults too. Not only do they provide safe ‘a to b’ routes away from busy roads, but they provide a place to practice riding and build up confidence. As always, we need to respect other path users – ‘Share with Care’ as I saw on a sign recently.

Many more improvements for cycling and walking are in the pipeline, although some of them are waiting for landowner approval, and in some cases, money. Watch this space!

Do hills put you off cycling? Well we gave our Cathedral Challenge riders 13 helpful tips, and feedback has been positive. For example, ‘build up your strength and fitness’, ‘slow and steady’, ‘get to know your gears’, etc. You can see the full set at https://www.portsmouthctc.org.uk/tackling-hills/. You might even get to enjoy them. Every hill that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger for the next one.

My personal favourite tip isn’t on the list – breaking hills down into smaller challenges, such as the next lamp post, next tree, next corner. As you do each one, the next one looks more achievable, and suddenly you’re at the top. And it works for journeys too. 20 miles is just 2 miles, 10 times. People say “I could never cycle 60 miles!”, but they might do 20 miles to elevenses, 20 miles to lunch, and 20 miles home again.

Finally, police are reporting many bike thefts, so encouraging us to lock up our bikes securely, even in the garage.

Do visit our websites: CycleHayling.org.uk and PortsmouthCTC.org.uk.

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