Meet Bev and Rob: A couple who have a vision for a cycle-friendly Sheffield

Bev and Rob have been cycling together for 10 years now, after Bev took a Pedal Ready course after she retired. Now they have cycled all over Sheffield, the UK and even Holland!

Bev and Rob moved to Sheffield in 1979 and have lived here intermittently ever since, with one or two year gaps where they worked abroad. They have travelled to Canada, Papa New Guinee, the Maldives and New Zealand. Both are now retired, Bev from being a lawyer working for the Peak District National Park Authority and Rob from being a Paediatrician at the Children’s hospital. Cycling has become a central part of their retirement, cycling regularly for both utility and for fun!

Have you cycled all your life?

Rob: I’ve cycled to work for 30 years, it was just so much easier than driving as parking at the children’s hospital became increasingly difficult. Cycling was just functional for me really, rather than it being particularly for pleasure. I used to run a lot – up the hills and the tracks and always felt that cycling was quite a cumbersome thing to do compared to running. But as I didn’t age better and my knees didn’t age better, I can’t really run anymore so cycling has taken over as a recreational way of getting out.

Bev: I cycled as a child but pretty much gave it up when I had children, until I retired, when I took it back up, and now I’ve been cycling about 10 years. I went on a Pedal Ready cycle confidence course which was really good, as when I started back I wasn’t too sure how to deal with traffic and my positioning on the road. It was definitely worthwhile as it certainly gave me more confidence – and it was free!

How has cycling become a part of both of your lives now?

Bev: A big part of cycling for me is the social side – I’ve met a lot of people (Bev is a member of the Porter Valley Tour de Force).

Rob: Since retirement, cycling is definitely as much for exercise and fun than it is for functionality. During lockdown, we would go out for an hours cycle ride and we’d come back feeling exercised and we’d got out but hadn’t been in contact with anyone.

Bev: What it’s done for me is help me discover parts of Sheffield that I didn’t even know existed, you can really explore a city on a bike. We have a rack so we can take the bikes all over. We also have folding bikes so we can take them on the train which is great.

Rob: We used to long distance walking holidays in the alps and the Pyrenees that we would do regularly. However, as we can’t really do this anymore because of our joints, we have taken up cycle touring instead. We’ve cycled in Holland, but the UK is actually great for this too.

Bev: We’ve done the Way of the Roses cycle route (170 miles between Morecambe and Bridlington). We’ve also done the Outer Hebrides from South to North and across Devon – all on cycle routes which are really well designed and are off road or on low traffic roads and all really well signposted.

How does cycling in Holland compare to cycling in Sheffield?

Rob: My view is that cycling in Sheffield is getting better, but is still unfortunately not that cycle friendly.

Bev: I think what highlights this is when you cycle in Holland – which is so safe and comfortable to cycle round.

Rob: Whereas here, in Sheffield, you might get into a cycle lane and if it’s not in peak hours, chances are people will have parked in it so you have to pull out into the road and then the cycle lanes seem to suddenly end. Although I’ve cycled on busy roads for years so I’m very used to it.

Bev: Whereas, I don’t like cycling on roads and find the traffic quite daunting, so having good cycle lanes would be great. Saying that though, there are an awful lot of roads and routes you can take to avoid traffic.

Rob: Oh absolutely – Sheffield has some great routes. There are parts of Sheffield which are really easy to navigate on a bike, there are routes in the city centre and to Meadowhall that are actually really nice. But you have to know them, and they aren’t everywhere. It’s not that people aren’t trying, it’s hard because there are a lot of narrow roads and congested areas. There’s potential for cycling lanes on paths instead of roads – this is something you see in Holland.It’s understandable that Holland has progressed so much with cycling because it is so flat, so naturally, cycling is more popular – it’s like in Cambridge.

Bev: It is a mindset as well – the Dutch have made cycling a priority and ensured that cyclists are safe.

Rob: There is also this ongoing correspondence in newspapers between motorists and cyclists where motorists express their frustration at cyclists. Although it’s rare to actually experience anything other than consideration when on the road, there is this underlying culture.

You’re clearly big advocates of cycling, what are the benefits?

Rob: If we do want to have our next few generations above water then we do need to start making active travel more accessible! There are obvious environmental barriers.

Bev: There are such advantages to cycling, for example, when we cycled here today, we knew we would arrive on time as there isn’t that question of getting stuck in traffic. It’s also so good for fitness and health.

Rob: Definitely, I mean that’s one of the reasons I used to cycle to work, it added up to a good 30 miles a week. On top of that, it’s de-stressing – if I’d had a difficult day at work, by the time I had got home, I was feeling fine again.

Bev: We do most of our shopping on our bikes as well – we bring rucksacks and have bags on our bikes.

Rob: Obviously, there are occasions when cars are more convenient, so it’s not to say people should solely transfer to bikes. But if everyone swapped some journeys they take by car, by bike, then I have no doubt Sheffield could be as cycle-friendly as Holland.