Sarah Ford-Hutchinson: diary of a cycling commuter

In the first of a new series, Communications Coordinator Sarah shares her experience of ditching her bus pass to take up cycling to work.

It’s 8.27am.

The one and only Toby
The one and only Toby

The cat I’m looking after (Toby. Ragdoll. Nae brains.) has left a trail of litter through the kitchen to the living room where he is currently chewing my rucksack straps.

I clean it up, and give him a quick brush to show there’s no hard feelings (but I better get a cuddle later in return).

It’s chucking it down outside. And I’m going to miss the bus.

Before I have time to talk myself out of it, I’ve put on my waterproofs, grabbed my (borrowed) helmet, and unlocked my bike (also borrowed).

Location of the Innocent Railway tunnel. © OpenStreetMap
Location of the Innocent Railway tunnel. © OpenStreetMap

A quick whizz along the Innocent Railway cycle path, and I’m turning the key to our office on Hope Park Square.

It’s now 9:02am.

I’ve got to work on time (almost), dry (mostly), and feeling very much the master of my own fate – Happy Friday me!

And that, my friends, is why the 29th April will forever be the day I cycled to work without really thinking about it.

 

A bit about me: I work in the Communications Team in the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability. When I’m not filming, tweeting or writing, I spend most of my time outdoors – snorkelling, surfing, camping, walking.

I’d like to think I’m pretty active, hardy and weather-proof, yet for the last 15 months of working at the University, I’ve been getting the bus to work (and paying £54 a month to do so). Lothian buses are great, but after a Winter spent standing on board and catching a different strain of the sniffles every other week, I’d had enough.

My trusty borrowed bike
My trusty borrowed bike

So 3 weeks ago, I asked a mate if I could borrow her spare bike (Raleigh, retro, heavy). A neighbour lent me her helmet, and I pre-warned my manager that I’d be in trainers and a tee (department branded of course) for the next while.

I was going to try commuting by bike!

My cycle route to work couldn’t be easier – I jump on the John Muir Way path at Craigmillar, pedal for 15 mins along the Innocent Railway path, then cross over a few roads to the Meadows. If I leave at the same time as the bus and pedal quite gently, I still tend to beat the bus.

The Innocent Railway Cycle Path
The Innocent Railway Cycle Path

3 weeks in and I’m pretty much convinced that this is for me. Every morning is a mini-nature fix: dappled sunlight, wafts of wild garlic, bullfinches collecting nesting material. Yes I get a bit sweaty but I’m energised and can now totally justify that 10:55am double chocolate muffin from the Business School café (£1.40; delicious; addictive).

On nice evenings, I head North around Holyrood Park and take the road to Portobello for a swim (in the sea; energising; baltic), to read a book in the sun, or to meet a mate for a drink. Quite quickly, commuting starts to lose the monotony of A to B and I look at the journey home as a chance to explore.

Blossom on the Innocent Railway Cycle Path
Blossom on the Innocent Railway Cycle Path

It’s now the beginning of May, and I’ve signed up to the Cyclescheme and picked a shiny new bike out at Edinburgh Cycle Cooperative – one of many ways (including showers, secure bike storage and cycle training) that the University supports staff to use ‘active travel’ to get to work.

I’ve also signed up for the Scottish Workplace Journey Challenge happening all of this month to record how much extra exercise I’m doing per week.

And so here endeth part one of my tale – in which the protagonist is cautiously optimistic about the journey ahead.

Tune in next month to see what’s happened over the course of May…

 

Tweet Sarah at @sarah_fordhutch

For more information on cycling to work, visit http://www.ed.ac.uk/transport/cycling.