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Grief and Cycling

“There’s something special about cycling and unlike anything else I’ve experienced.”

In October 2021 my mum died suddenly, aged 71. She was admitted to hospital with what turned out to be a bowel obstruction and died just a few days later. I had Covid at the time so was isolating and ill in bed. I was with my mum and siblings whilst she died but by video call only.

My dad died of cancer when I was 18, so I know grief is a long and difficult road and one that can’t be avoided. You just have to put one foot in front of the other and deal with all the bumps and twists and turns as they come. Some days feel awful and others totally fine but one thing that always feels good is getting on my bike. 

There’s something special about cycling and unlike anything else I’ve experienced. When I drive to work I find myself stewing on things. I feel stuck in my head and that big metal box is isolating and lonely. So often I’m in a rush, feeling harassed by traffic or parking. Walking should be good as it’s active and in the fresh air but ‘going for a walk’ can  feel directionless when my mood is low. Plus a mild neurological condition means I walk a bit slowly, it can be tiring and at the moment my feet hurt from new insoles. But when I set off on the bike my mood lifts.

I feel connected to the world and the loneliness of grief is lessened. The fresh air feels good and the wind whipping on my cheeks is invigorating. I’m moving under my own steam but the bike’s electric motor makes me faster than I could ever imagine. I don’t enjoy sport and would struggle to motivate myself to exercise for exercise’s sake but with the bike I’m getting from A to B.

I made a commitment just over a year ago not to drive within Brighton and Hove where possible. I use the bike to do local errands, go to the shops, get to appointments, meet friends. There is purpose and direction but it’s unhurried. I speed past traffic jams and a wait at a traffic light can be a welcome break from a steep hill, a moment to look around and appreciate the spring bulbs, or to share a ‘hello’ with another human being.

On the way home I always cycle along the seafront cycle lane. The best bit is where it dips behind King Alfred Leisure Centre, I’m away from the road and right by the sea. I can see the waves, hear them crashing, take in the view. Cycling and the sound of the sea, that’s some pretty powerful medicine. 

The constant battles for better infrastructure and improved safety for cycling can feel exhausting but I’m so lucky to have found cycling during the pandemic. Let’s make sure this powerful medicine is available to everyone.

Sarah lives in West Hove with her husband and 2 children, aged 5 and 8. She started cycling during the pandemic thanks to the temporary cycle lane on the Old Shoreham Road. The family have since invested in e-bikes to transport them around Brighton & Hove and beyond. Sarah suffers from a mild neurological condition (Charcot-Marie-Tooth) which causes weakness in her hands and feet. She is passionate about the need for better cycling infrastructure in our city to allow cycling to become truly accessible for all.

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