He’s with his partner and their teenage daughter. They signed up for a free family Cycle Skills session with me, a local cycling instructor.
They want their daughter to be more independent, to travel to school and around their community safely and healthily, and also to learn how to ride together as a family.
The role of cycling instructors is to metaphorically hold their clients’ hands on their cycling journey to ensure their experience is a positive one, show how risks can be managed effectively, share the skills and knowledge to navigate their streets and demonstrate cycling behaviour that will encourage more cycling.
Cycling has long been celebrated as an eco-friendly and healthy mode of transportation. However, to fully unlock its potential and ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience, cycle training plays a crucial role.
Dozens of instructors dedicate their professional lives to doing just that for the people. It’s not a very known public service, but an important piece in the puzzle towards more healthy streets and lives. It’s not a substitute for safe cycling infrastructure, rather it complements it.
First and foremost, cycle training promotes road safety.
With practical lessons on all aspects of road riding, participants become better equipped to navigate traffic confidently and responsibly. This not only reduces risk, it empowers riders to anticipate and deal with the hazards they’re likely to encounter on their trips.
Instructors work with complete beginners up to those facing the most complex of road riding scenarios. Often at your local primary schools delivering Bikeability, leading community rides, working with families or in one-to-one sessions.
The instructors out in the rain training kids to cycle so they are safe getting about independently don’t largely do it for the money – they do it for that first time an adult or child feels confident cycling about their streets. But that doesn’t mean they should put up with poor working conditions or be paid a pittance.
Indeed – when the number of instructors in London have dropped by 50% over the past five years, the vital service we provide needs recognition by our employers.
It’s great news that Instructors and Dr Bike mechanics in Camden, Islington and Barnet have recently had wages reparations. A 25% rise, the first pay rise in over a decade. Though – because of London’s fragmented funding for cycle training – instructors in Haringey and other London boroughs have not received any significant increase.
That might mean that James, his family and countless others can’t have follow up cycle skills sessions to build up their confidence and ensure years of happy cycling.
Suami Rocha is chair of the Cycling Instructors Branch of the IWGB Union.