‘I felt free’: Southwark’s deputy mayor cycles bike for first time

Having never ridden a bike before, one borough’s deputy mayor is now learning to cycle.

Naima Ali, Southwark council’s deputy mayor, is taking part in free cycle training sessions as part of the council’s Streets for People initiative.

The programme sets out plans to improve air quality in the borough by encouraging more people to choose cycling, walking and public transport over cars.

Cllr Ali said: “I never had the opportunity to learn or ride a bicycle as a child. Walking was our main way of getting around. 

“There was also a stigma surrounding women cycling, driven by largely conservative views. 

“I want to break the taboos, empower and encourage other women in the community to know it’s possible.

“At first I was scared and doubted if I could even balance while cycling but surprisingly within the first 30 minutes I was able to peddle and ride a bit. I felt free and exhilarated.

“I did enjoy my first session and have booked myself onto some more – I can’t wait to see myself riding around Southwark.”

Cllr Ali said she did not have the opportunity to cycle when she was growing up (Picture: Southwark council)

More than 1,800 people have taken part in cycle training in Southwark since July. 

Sessions are funded by the council, and run by local charity Joy Riders, for individuals and families, as well as special sessions for women. 

Attendees can borrow a bike and learn to ride with qualified instructors.

Southwark councillor, James McAsh, said: “We know that more people want to cycle but aren’t confident enough so this training has been set up specifically for them. 

“They’re ideal for people who are new to cycling, or those who rode a bike when they were younger and want to get back into cycling.”

Pictured top: Southwark’s deputy mayor, Naima Ali, cycling in Burgees Park (Picture: Southwark council)

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