Here at See.Sense, we have had the pleasure of being in contact with Lucy Wellings, a Paediatric nurse based in London. Just before the lockdown in the UK, Lucy very unfortunately had her bike stolen, as this was her means of getting to work at this crucial time it left her really stuck. However, this sparked something which has helped out many others who need to get to work safely as well.
We will let Lucy tell you the rest about what cycling means to her right now...
Hi- I am Lucy. I have been living and working in London for nearly 2 years after moving down from Leeds. I am a Yorkshire lass but also have close family and friends in London so decided to make the move. I am a Paediatric and Adolescent Research Clinical Nurse Specialist at University College London Hospital. I work within various multidisciplinary teams at the hospital to ensure our patients and their families have the opportunities to participate in clinical trials offering the newest treatments, for example; Sickle Cell Disease, Thalassemia, Type 1 diabetes, Obesity, Epilepsy and so on.
Cycling is now a daily activity for me. Before I moved to London I became increasingly interested in cycling as a way of keeping fit and getting about, so I made the leap and purchased my Cannondale through the cycle to work scheme. I used to live right by the canal in Leeds, so it was a perfect commute. When I moved to London I was more road wary so initially I tended to ride my bike through parks and the canal. Now I have had to get over my fear of the roads in London as I need to use the bike to commute safely and to protect myself from others and others (potentially) from me, and ofcourse, my patients. Many of my colleagues had come to the same conclusion and I had already noticed a sharp increase in NHS staff cycling to work.
The day my bike was stolen, I had been on a walk with my friends in the park (this was before the new social distancing rules). I was already concerned about the impact of Covid 19 and had literally just been telling my friends that I had decided it was no longer an option for me to use public transport. My friends shared my anxieties. Finding my bike stolen an hour later was quite literally soul-destroying. I felt helpless. I walked around the park for hours checking if anyone had dumped it but to no avail, so I simply had to report it to the police and have a little cry. That night I took to Gumtree and sure enough I found my bike being sold within a stone’s throw of where it had been stolen in East London... but was it safe to try and get it back? I certainly couldn’t afford to buy it back.
I also, ofcourse, told my friends and family. Everyone was so supportive and truly understood my feeling of helplessness, and I think in a time where people should be pulling together they were also a little enraged - so they took to social media to help me find a bike to use to commute. The response was overwhelming. Social media has its problems, but it also has real power for good. Before I knew it I had friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends contacting me, reposting for me, offering bikes, and even offering to go and ‘fetch’ the bike (I even had a bunch of Navy men on HMS Elizabeth routing for me to get it back). The ultimate sleuth in the operation was, however, a friend of my sister who we have not seen for years but who is a triathlete and therefore a fellow bike enthusiast. He was so upset someone had stolen my bike that he made the step to ‘trick’ the seller into meeting ‘him’ to ‘sell’ the bike. He got his number and postcode. I had tried this myself and gotten nowhere… So armed with our ‘intelligence’ from Magic Mike (his new nickname) the police then sent an officer to help me meet the ‘fence’ and we got my bike back through a combination of the police officer being a bit of a legend, and some under cover Bourne identity moves from myself and my friend. I couldn’t believe it. I knew how rare it was to get a bike back after being stolen, and all within 24 hours!
The response I had on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook was so heart-warming. It really showed me how people can come together for each other in times of need and with the current situation with COVID-19 I don’t think we’ve ever seen such an example – certainly not in my lifetime. So many people offered to help that I wanted to channel that generosity into something practical and… voila, Tour De Thanks was created. Here I need to give a special note of thanks to my friend Charlie who, despite just having lost her job to this awful virus, created the amazing logo for me overnight (and has offered two bikes!).
TourDeThanks is a campaign to encourage people to offer their bikes within their community to NHS staff and other key workers. Not only will cycling help people have a safe commute to work by avoiding unnecessary contacts, it will also be important for their physical health and mental well-being. These workers are currently going through a very stressful time and we know that having that time outside and exercising can help people keep up their morale and boost their mental wellbeing.
The uptake of the message has been amazing, from friends sharing the logo on their social media, letting people know they have bikes to lend, to people getting in touch through Twitter after seeing the campaign asking us to help them find a bike local to them. We have even had offers from bicycle companies who have seen our campaign and was to make their bikes available to key workers.
This experience has not only made me fall in love with my bike more and realise how much it gives me, but also has opened up an entirely new community to me. And they’re awesome. People love bikes. The biking community has been so kind, warm, generous and has made me feel like I’m being given a virtual hug. In a time of such loss, so many people are willing to give, and I think that is my message here – let’s give what we can, even if its ‘just’ a bike.