Tag Archives: cycling

The Taff Trail – a Cardiff story, by Kerri Webster

What makes a city a home? That’s the question I’m asking myself today as I ride back to my flat. There’s an intermittent, gentle precipitation, rays of sunlight pierce through a cool breeze, reviving the senses. In mere minutes, I have shifted from a bustling city centre, to a garden oasis.

The Taff Trail, it’s a place I frequent, in fact I’ve rode this path hundreds of times and yet, just when I think I know every bend, every bump, every fissure in the tarmac, I am reminded that each season will leave its stain, meaning no two days can be the same.

Today, I’m riding home from the centre of town, a total of six miles, hardly strenuous. I can afford to take my time and breathe it in, or maybe just rejoice for the early spring. Starting at the castle gates I follow the river north. The path stretches an impressive and mostly traffic free 55 miles into the heart of the Brecon Beacons.

In the Bute Park section alone, you’ll find a rich ecosystem, hundreds of plant species surrounding quaint cafes, the perfect setting for a picnic, or perhaps you’ll just want to admire the sculptures that hide shyly amongst the thick shrubbery. I pass by numerous joggers, dog walkers, meditators, conservationists, and of course my fellow cyclists. We all benefit so greatly from this space, or might I say, this escape. Though I have to wonder, how many people come here to work, or to study, and then leave, all the while staying completely oblivious to the fact there’s this gateway to rural freedom, right on their very doorstep!

The idyllic Taff Trail makes Cardiff a utopia for us cyclists. And as we all know, the benefits of cycling are indisputable, save the environment, save money, save yourself! In our city, cycling is generously facilitated. So, if you’re fortunate enough to live within the vicinity of an access point to the trail, why not consider leaving the car at home and instead taking the scenic route?

Four miles into my ride and without haste I’m pedalling through shallow puddles, with plenty of time to admire the daffodils standing triumphantly and in ubiquity, the soft sounds of a distant weir reverberating and the enticing aroma of wild garlic, in less than a month these flowers will blossom, transforming this setting yet again.

Not to worry though if foraging is your game, you’ll not miss out as edible plants grow in abundance along the entirety of the trail! I find a quiet spot on the bank of the river, the sun reflecting upon its surface warms me, awe inspired I bask in its glow. As I watch its ripples swirl before me, I ponder, and suddenly it becomes clear, what makes this city a home, that is. Home is not necessarily some formation of brick and cement to return to after a long day. Nor is it a hefty storage box to which we apply fickle sentiment. Though the very definition is subjective, I believe that home is simply a place where peace is found, because ultimately where there is peace, there is belonging. You see, although I wasn’t born or bred in Cardiff, somewhere within this tranquility, I belong.

Kerri Webster is a cycling enthusiast and professional tree hugger. Follow her on Instagram @dankmusings

***

Cycle path success!!

You may remember a while back we ran a very unscientific study on the worst cycle path in Cardiff.

Unfortunately, this was a hotly contested award (as anyone who has ever tried to cycle from one side of the city to the other can tell you), but we did come up with a winner:

Considering the compact size of the city and the traffic woes it suffers from (full gridlock around the centre in rush hour, morning and night) it seems incredible there isn’t more investment in the cycle network around the city.

So we did what we always do. Posted some stuff on Twitter, asked people their views, came up with the winner, engaged in a lengthy (seriously lengthy!) discussion.

Anyway, a Cardiff city councillor (Richard Cook, Cardiff County Councillor for Canton Ward) ended up getting involved in the chit chat … (people from other areas – anyone else wish their councillor was this proactive??)

And then last week, we were taken by surprise with a whole load of Twitter notifications one morning from cycling commuters: Fitzhammon Embankment was being resurfaced!!!

And just look at this baby now.

While we’re not sure whether it was us whining about it or whether it was due for resurfacing anyway (let’s face it, cycling along that stretch of path was like taking a road bike over Swiss cheese), it’s a victory for cyclists around the city!

Also of interest:

Cardiff by Bike: Cardiff’s Forthcoming Cycling Strategy, what we would like to see

Follow @CardiffByBike / Cardiff by Bike website for more cycle-specific Cardiff news.

***

 

 

And the winner of Cardiff’s worst cycle path is……

We recently conducted an entirely un-scientific poll to ask our 40,000 followers to choose one bit of cycle path in Cardiff that needs to be repaired.

The overwhelming choice was …. FITZHAMON EMBANKMENT!! This bit of pavement is probably one of the most used paths in the city, but the surface is nearly unrideable to all but mountain bikes. It’s incredibly dangerous to brake on the loose gravel, and the endless deep potholes mean that you have to constantly swerve to avoid pedestrians and holes! The road next to it isn’t much better, and it’s only one-way. In the autumn when the leaves drop, it’s even more dangerous….

So please, Cardiff Council – we know you don’t have much money but please prioritise this bit of cycle path so people aren’t put off cycling in our beautiful city!! 

Second choice was the tiny, inexplicably un-paved bit of path down the Taff near Sophia Gardens:

Another popular choice was the North Road bike path:

Any other suggestions? Let us know below!

From Cardiff to Istanbul and back, on a bike

In 2012, John Chick decided to ditch his job in Cardiff for a few months and bike to Istanbul…. nope, he wasn’t escaping the law, he was raising money for charity. On 28 March, he released an e-book documenting this adventure, and within a couple of days it made it into the Kindle top ten cycling books! Today, he tells us a bit about how the bike ride became a best-selling book. Kind of.

man on bike

Writing a book about my adventures rolling around Europe’s less travelled roads was never on the cards at the inception of the 10,000k challenge. The ‘challenge’ of the title was supposed to reflect the difficulties of a solo bike ride from Cardiff to Istanbul and back. That, as it transpired, was the easy part – the cycling turned out to be an extended holiday with me sauntering across the continent, getting lost, getting sunburnt and getting drunk with friendly locals (repeat to fade).

It would be more accurate however to say that the challenge actually refers to two other things: raising £1 for every kilometre that I cycled for local charities; and finally putting pen to paper – or rather finger to keyboard – and capturing the adventure for posterity.

I always anticipated that the fundraising was going to be a difficult slog, the real challenge where my mental fortitude and resilience were to be tested. In the year before I set off, I spent countless hours on a variety of cunning plans to try and persuade, bribe, cajole, or emotionally blackmail people into parting with their cash. In return, all I could offer was that they could avoid having a guilty conscience for a short while. And maybe a raffle ticket.

Selling emotional salvation though isn’t an easy gig but luckily there are some energetic, optimistic, creative people out there who, unlike me, are fantastic at this kind of thing. Even more fortunately, I managed to round up a gang of them to support me. The result was that we eased passed the £10,000 target not long after I set off and finally raised over £15,000 by the time I sauntered back. Every penny I should point out, as was our mantra, went to charity.

A decidedly short while after returning however, when the pain of the fundraising and the joy of the cycling had diminished, I decided to submit to underwhelming public demand and ‘publish my memoirs’. This, it has to be said, sounds rather grand and was also very optimistic on my part. Up until that point, the sum of my written body of work extended to signing birthday cards and scribbling notes around the house telling the kids to tidy up while I was in work. I immediately wondered if I actually knew enough words to fill a book (personal research revealed that you need at least 60,000, but fortunately you can use the same word more than once).

Apparently everyone has a good book inside them and so maybe the story of cycling to Istanbul and back would be mine. The motivation of course would be to share my experiences with the world, leave a permanent record of my adventures and demonstrate my literary credentials. And become rich.

I had kept brief notes on my smart phone during the trip which could possibly form the basis of a book but converting the excited ramblings of an endorphin-fuelled and occasionally drunken cyclist into any sort of coherent order was another matter. Most cycle-touring books are written by cyclists who write, as opposed to writers who have cycled. Unfortunately, I am neither cyclist nor writer, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I envisaged knocking off the novel in a month or two, then kicking back and watching the royalties flowing in.

The final book!
The final book!

When you’re a kid, you dream of being a racing driver or a ballet dancer, maybe an astronaut. As an adult, in my experience, people dream of opening a coffee shop somewhere exotic or maybe writing a best seller. In this technological age however, the opportunity to actually be a real live novelist is open to any of us who have access to a PC and a modicum of imagination – it’s like the new punk, anyone can do it! Although again like punk, there is no quality control and for every Clash, there are many thousands of Crispy Ambulances and Stinky Toys.

As I write, I have just finished the long ordeal of having my work re-written, deconstructed and rebuilt, and then battled my way past the Amazon survey process which bizarrely included a check that I am paying the correct amount of income tax. Amazon being in charge of income tax checks is akin to putting McDonalds in charge of a healthy eating initiative. After Amazon had conscientiously ensured that I wasn’t avoiding my tax obligations, my crack IT team (daughter and her boyfriend) then suffered endless formatting problems as we converted a Word document into the correct format for web publication.

The book has finally just been published and its already been read hundreds of time! Unfortunately each time by me as I corrected and re-corrected things I had earlier missed, ad nauseum. After two days sales, my son proudly informed me that it was at number 503,114 in the worldwide eBooks best sellers list. Never mind encouraged my wife, it’ll be different tomorrow. She was right. I was at 613, 438. It may be a while before I can add writing a resignation note to my oeuvre.

You can download the 10,000k challenge e-book for just £2.49 here: 10,000k challenge

Street seen: cycling on weekends

street-scene-cycling-web

“It’s a lovely city to cycle through. I try and go out cycling every weekend.”

As seen in: Riverside

Photograph by Helia Phoenix

***

Street seen: on your bike

street-scene-on-your-bike-web

“I live in the bay, I like cycling up to the centre of town. It doesn’t take long. It’s so nice to be able to get around so quickly.”

As seen in: Riverside

Photograph by Helia Phoenix

***