Cycling for Sustainability - A ride to the summit
My alarm buzzed at 03:40am, bleary eyed I stretched across to switch it off assuming I had made an alarm-setting mistake… then it dawned on me that it wasn’t a mistake, and that I had signed up to cycle from Oxford, home of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, to the Royal College of Nursing in central London, to help mark the launch of the new Guidance for Commissioners of Financially, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Mental Health Services - See more at: http://networks.sustainablehealthcare.org.uk/networks/psych-susnet/psychiatrists-cycle-deliver-sustainability-pledge-mental-health#sthash.2bfudEki.dpuf
I jumped out of bed, put on my cycling gear and went down to meet the others undertaking the challenge: Dr Adrian James – Forensic psychiatrist and College Registrar, Dr Phil Davison – Psychiatrist and College Sustainability Lead and Dr Julian Mason – Older Adult Psychiatrist and avid cyclist. These three are passionate about the issue of sustainability and undertake active transport (cycling) daily in their jobs.
After some promotional photos and fervent twittering from Adrian, we set off into the darkness…
The route was 65 miles and took us over the Chilterns and then into North London before dropping down to central London on larger A-roads. The night riding was exhilarating, and luckily we had prepared well with good lights. We knew we had to keep a good pace up early before the morning rush hour traffic started and it was then that it became clear to me that these other guys are hardened cyclists! I managed to keep up by fuelling with regular snacks. As navigator I had the added pressure of not getting us lost and apart from a couple of route-related wobbles, this became easier as daylight set in.
My personal highlight was cycling in the quiet of the Chilterns as the dawn started to break and morning mist lifted. It was beautiful and made all the preparation and early start worthwhile. This contrasted with the noisy hustle and bustle of central London later in the journey, but even this part was enjoyable. The scare stories I have heard about cycling in London did not hold true and in the main the morning commuters gave us plenty of room and there were no accidents.
We arrived on time and were ushered into the hall for the conference. The rest of the day was well organised and enjoyable. Please see the link above for more information about the event and pledge.
I hope this blog post helps to demonstrate that cycling, even this distance, is fun! I think cycling 65 miles to work every day might be a little too much for even the most seasoned cycling veteran, but most people’s commutes are not nearly this far, and there are dedicated cycling routes and quieter roads in most areas. This challenge has certainly inspired me to try to fit in active transport wherever I can.
We know the benefits of cycling and active transport on our physical and mental health, on the environment and the lives of those around us. We also know it leads to massive cost-savings for the NHS. Dr Daniel Maughan, recent Sustainability Fellow, talks about this in another interesting blog: http://networks.sustainablehealthcare.org.uk/networks/psych-susnet/effects-active-travel-costs-nhs
Thanks for reading and happy cycling!