Cardiff Council plans to reduce the city’s environmental issues by holding a Car-Free Day in September. To do our bit we gave reporter Emma James the task of learning to ride a bike — at the age of 21.
When I heard Cardiff Council wanted to encourage more cycling in the city, my initial reaction was a sense of inadequacy, as I had never learned to ride a bike as a child.
The fact I can’t ride a bike has perplexed many friends and colleagues over the years. Yes, I am a 21-year-old adult who can’t ride a bike, but learning was of no interest to my three-year-old self.
But as one of my friends pointed out, riding a bike is usually seen as something everyone does as part of growing up, like learning to walk or speak.
So now is as good a time as any to get some practice in.
Initially, I was concerned because I am quite possibly the clumsiest person in the world. Anyone who knows me will tell you I have all the balance and grace of a baby elephant ice skating.
Surprisingly the most difficult part of riding a bike is actually trying to get on. It may look easy but trying to balance while searching frantically for the pedals is a hard task. I don’t know how three-year-olds manage it.
Once I was lifted on to the bike, I didn’t know what to do. My friend kept shouting for me to pedal faster and move the handlebars to make sure I kept my balance. While I frantically writhed along the road, I felt like a floppy fish that had never learned to swim.
What I actually felt when I tried to follow his advice was fear. Fear of the unknown. How was I meant to stop? What did I do once I was set free to ride by myself?
People say riding a bike makes you feel free and relaxed but all I could think was “I am going to die.”
Why did I chose not to wear a helmet? I still don’t know. I threw the bike down the minute I started to fall – it was the only way I thought I would survive.
Unfortunately for the bike, it didn’t. It was broken by the end of the day.
When you are able to move by yourself, with hardly any help, it is exhilarating. Once my friend let go, I finally understood how a child felt when their stabilisers are taken away.
“I’m doing it! I’m doing it!” I shouted, but the moment soon wore off and I fell yet again.
I may only have lasted a few yards by myself, but I guess I can now say I can ride a bike.
While all this was going on a man smoking in a nearby doorway was laughing at my lack of ability. To make conversation I asked him whether he knew how to ride a bike. “Yes” he said, with a quizzical look as if I had asked him whether he had knees.
The best way to learn was to go for it – even though I fell off the bike more times than I could count. I may be covered in bruises but the whole experience was enjoyable.
So now, although I may not be the most competent cyclist in the world, I’m not quite ready to hang up my helmet.
If you are in Cardiff on Car-Free Day in September, I warn you in advance, that I will be there on my bike, and I will not be held accountable for any danger I may cause.