NUS talk Unicycle and everything bike

National Union of Students (NUS) Communities Programme Manager (in the Sustainability Team) Charlotte Bonner talks about the pilot project 'Unicycle' and her own experiences with cycling.

When I got to university as a cyclist, I faced a quandary – did I leave my trusty steed in the bike stands round the corner from my halls, where it would be rained on and probably stolen or, go against the accommodation rules and store it inside? Neither seemed ideal…
 
I ‘borrowed’ my dad’s Brompton (a folding bike I could keep under my desk in my room) whilst starting to ask questions of my college, students’ union and university to find out where to keep a bike safely.
 
The answer to my questions came from the students’ union’s ethical and environmental committee. I knew nothing about either ethics or the environment, but a few meetings later, and I was a sustainability convert; a few months later, and I was standing for election as my college’s sustainability rep, a few years later, I was starting a career in sustainability. A decade later, I met my now husband on a cycling holiday. My bike has been with me all my life, and has truly shaped who I am.
 
Now I’m not suggesting that cycling has this impact on everyone. But I truly believe cycling makes the world a better place. That’s why I feel lucky to be working on UniCycle with Love to Ride and the EAUC.
 
Getting more students on bikes can only be a good thing – it’s quick, cheap, convenient and keeps you healthy. Students tell us the 3 most important factors for choosing how they travel to university are: how long it takes to complete the journey, cost and convenience. But only 7% of students we surveyed cycle regularly, so what’s the problem? For those students for whom bikes work with their bodies, road safety, traffic, having too much to carry and the weather are the biggest cited challenges, so UniCycle works with universities to develop interventions that help overcome these barriers. In terms of framing this for the student body, here are some top tips…
 
  1. Be safe – stay visible, know your Highway Code and get some training.
  2. Get together – riding with friends is fun and cycling with a group is safer so find the local cycling club or join a group ride.
  3. Get the right kit – it doesn’t have to be expensive, but make sure your bike is road worthy, you have some good panniers to carry your stuff and invest in a good lock. There’s a huge diversity of bikes and gear available to reflect the diverse bodies that make up the student population.
  4. Know your way – you may know the way the bus goes, but take some time getting to know the quieter, more scenic routes.
  5. You don’t have to get wet – there’s no shame in being a fair-weather cyclist although waterproofs have come a long way. Capes, trench coats, water-resistant jeans… no longer does cycling clothing mean lycra (although good for you if that’s your thing). 

Remember, knowledge is power! Lots more tips and FAQs can be found at the UniCycle website. The key message is: give it a go – it doesn’t have to be a daily commute (although that’s a great thing!), people can get involved with a summer ride in a park with friends, ten minutes to the shop, or a charity group ride. And you never know, getting on two wheels might just introduce you to someone, or something, that could change your life…
 
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Charlotte Bonner is the communities programme manager in the sustainability team at NUS. You can email her at charlotte.bonner@nus.org.uk or follow NUS’ sustainability work on social media @NUS_sustainable.
 
UniCycle, is a pilot project funded by the Department for Transport and delivered by Love to Ride, NUS and EAUC, to get more people on bikes in Higher Education. For more information visit www.lovetoride.net/unicycle or follow @GeniusWheels. They’ll also be some EAUC webinars sharing the learnings of the pilot coming soon.
 
NUS talk Unicycle and everything bike
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