This article was published in 2015, in Newsletter 120.
The Campaign recently announced the appointment of Roxanne De Beaux as the new Cycling Campaign Officer. Roxanne is the first full-time employee of the Campaign and will be providing support for our many volunteers.
My mother cannot believe that I have grown up to be so passionate about cycling. She still remembers the little girl who just could not learn to ride a bike and who seemed to have an uncanny knack for finding the one and only tree in the vicinity, and then crashing into it. I remember longing to have the freedom of two wheels and wondering when I would finally master the elusive bicycle. I got there eventually – but I was certainly not a natural. Perhaps now I am making up for lost time?
Once I had conquered the bicycle, I loved it. I think I was from one of the last generations in Australia to have the freedom to roam the street with my friends, and with our bicycles we really had some adventures. However, as a teenager it was no longer cool to cycle and sadly I put my bike away and joined the car-centric world of suburban Perth.
I relocated to Melbourne after university and had to sell my car. I was lucky to move into a share-house with two keen cyclists who encouraged me to get a bike. I found myself a very cute (but not very practical) red, vintage, three-speed bicycle. It was not very practical because I lived at the top of a very steep hill, and once the gears broke it was impossible to cycle up. But my bike fulfilled its purpose and I was able to get to and from the supermarket and get my weekly chores done without having to rely on the slow and overcrowded tram.
Despite the high number of bikes in my household, cycling was not common in the rest of my world. I did not know anyone else who cycled and my friends saw me as a novelty. However, I had realised the flexibility my bike could offer – I could go anywhere, at any time, for free! One party I attended was at a friend’s house, three kilometres from the nearest train station from which I used my (now gearless) bike to cycle to the party. I am not sure how it happened but for some reason the rumour spread that I had instead cycled the 30-odd kilometres to get there. But maybe it was fate because one other cyclist became a particular admirer.
Meanwhile, a new manager encouraged me to start cycling for my commute and I realised the amazing benefits that cycling to work could offer. I had an off-road cycle route along the beautiful Yarra River, giving fantastic vistas of the city. The money I saved on transport provided a guilt-free coffee every day with change to spare. I was less stressed, and didn’t have to worry about missing the train, which was often filled to bursting point. I arrived at work earlier with significantly higher levels of energy. I could also use my bike to zip around town to meet friends for lunch.
By now my confidence had grown so much I was looking for a new challenge and I would follow my ‘big brother’ housemates on weekend rides up to 60 kilometres, all on my rusty red bike. It was time to brave the world of carbon fibre, disc brakes and other technical mumbo-jumbo to buy my first road bike. Now I could go further and faster and just over a year after I purchased that old red bike I completed the 210 kilometre ‘Around the Bay Challenge’. Waiting for me at the finish line was a certain aforementioned admirer.
Not many people can say that their first date with their now husband involved an awkward bump to the head with a helmet – but it must have been an effective strategy because here we are today. Our early romance was in the middle of a beautiful Melbourne summer where we would ride into the city centre to meet on the banks of the Yarra River to share picnics, race each other and head off on adventures. From our first date to the present day, the bicycle has been central to our story. So much so that we cycled together to our wedding, alongside the Yarra River, much to the delighted surprise of our family and friends. Bigger and better adventures awaited us: during our travels in South America my husband was flown to Cambridge for an interview. While I was sitting in a hostel in Bolivia he sent me picture after picture of summer in Cambridge and cyclists everywhere. I had never been to Cambridge, barely even to the UK, but I knew that this was the kind of city I wanted to live in and immediately started making plans for the move.
So here we are, nearly two years later, living in Cambridge. I now have a shiny gold, new and improved version of that old red bike. I love exploring Cambridge and its surroundings by bicycle and while the city has lived up to all my expectations, I know that it can be so much more. I am absolutely honoured to have a job that allows me to work with so many people who share my passion for cycling. I am beyond impressed at the extensive knowledge and the amount of hard work that has been applied to the Cambridge Cycling Campaign – which has been run by volunteers for 20 years. I hope my appointment as the Campaign’s first employee will help to take these efforts even further and help make Cambridge one of the world’s leading examples of a cycling city.
Do you have a passion for cycling? Why and when did it start? Has Cambridge changed during your cycling years? As part of our 20th anniversary we would like to hear your stories, and see your pictures and share them with our members. Please email email@example.com to share your story.
Roxanne De Beaux