Thursday, 25 September 2014

She spoke to Leeta about bikes in Birmingham

Leeta Maiju, with her Raleigh Star Mountain Bike

I normally go out looking for people to chat to and blog about. Today I wasn't on the look out. However, I was delighted when Leeta, cheerfully called over  to say  hello, as I sat in the park having my lunch.
With just enough power in my mobile phone to take a few photos and make a voice recording, we chatted for a short time to create this blog post. 
Leeta really couldn't have come along at a better time to tell her story about cycling, and it's impact on her life, health & wellbeing.  
I found Leeta to be a great advocate for cycling for anyone young or old. She really says it all about the benefits of cycling for physical and mental wellbeing.  
She also has a great admiration for Birmingham's open spaces  and the  current developments that are happening with cycle paths across the city.

Here's what Leeta had to say.

Tell me about your bike and where you got it.
"May 2013 was my 1st opportunity to ride a bicycle. At the canal boat shop in Brindley Place.
(Cycle Chain) I saw them working on bikes from their boat. After sitting watching  them for about an hour, I plucked up the courage to ask them to teach me how to ride. They kindly allowed me to ride a bicycle for about an hour. I took to riding very quickly.
On that very day they picked up this bicycle from their warehouse. It was a Raleigh Star. I paid a deposit of £10 and then paid the rest off later. Since buying my bike, I go out cycling  for  about 3 hours each day. I go to all of the parks and open spaces near to where I live. If I fall off, I just get back on. I'm not giving up.
I'm now very good at cycling and I love it to bits. I'm now well into my 60s, but I'm not saying how old I am.
Being out in nature on my bicycle is so wonderful and so free. I was diagnosed with a Bipolar Disorder, but I take no medication, because being out in nature on my bike is my salvation, and it makes me feel great. I would like to tell the whole world to go cycling if they want to feel good."

Why do you cycle?
I cycle because it makes me feel so wonderful and free. It clears my head of any troubles. Cycling has been my life saver and I'm so very happy to be a cyclist. I only wish that I had learnt to cycle many years ago. As long as I am mobile, I will cycle until the end of my time."

Where has your bike taken you today?
"I got on the canal near Brindley Place. From there I cycled along the canal  and road to Edgbaston Reservoir to feed the ducks and swans as I always like to do. Then I cycled to Small Heath to visit a friend, but the day is still young and I haven't finished yet."

What is your favourite place to cycle to in Birmingham or the West Midlands?
"I like to cycle along the canals. My bike takes me to water and nature. I find cycling by water is so very comforting and soothing. I like the canal because you can go such great distances along them.  It's a shame that some of the canals are cut off now because of the resurfacing. However, the new resurfaced parts are wonderful, so very smooth and easy. It has made it so much easier for me as a cyclist.  I liked the canals before, but it is now so much better."

What do you think Birmingham could do to make the infrastructure more user-friendly for cyclists?
"More cycle paths would be great. Unfortunately car drivers don't seem to see cyclists, so more dedicated cycle paths would be great. Also to encourage and teach children to cycle and use cycling networks, so that they keep themselves physically well and they don't need to depend on Doctors and medicines so much."

"Whoever thinks that cycling is not good for us, can go away!  it's great that we are not in our tin cans anymore, causing congestion. but that we are out being physically active and seeing more of what is around us.  I know too many people who don't know the great places that are around them."

As I left Leeta with a selection of maps of new routes for her to explore. I continued my 5 mile trip from Yardley to Digbeth I witnessed people of all ages and nationalities going about their business by bike.   As I passed through Small Heath Park  I spotted a group of women cycle training,  I thought "Deirdre Alden, you really need to come out and see this."  

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