A Clean Air Day Case Study: Tom Howell, Leeds resident
“I live in Leeds and work at a school in Bradford. It was taking me over an hour to get home in the evenings and I was becoming more conscious of the impact of traffic on public health and climate change as well as my own lack of fitness and mental wellbeing as the long hours of working as a teacher began to take over my leisure time.
“I made the decision to start cycling the 11 miles to school 7 years ago. I initially car-pooled with a colleague getting a lift one-way and cycling the other way and gradually started making more journeys by bike over time. I would set myself targets such as cycling 10 journeys a month and then adding one extra journey by bike every month. I gradually built up my confidence, strength and endurance and after a couple of years began to do my full commute by bike. It took a long time to build up to but I always felt like I was making progress.
“Even one journey by bike is another car off the road. I now even go the long way round by using the canal towpath to provide a beautiful start and end to my day. As a teacher, I have found the hour of thinking time before and after school absolutely invaluable in managing stress and wellbeing and I have planned some of my best lessons on the bike on the way to school. All this whilst getting fit and still getting home quicker than when I drove.
“I still don’t get hung up on having to do the whole journey all the time and since the opening of Kirkstall Forge Station I sometimes treat myself to a train journey for part of my ride if I have a parents evening or need to get in early.
“I have never bought any expensive equipment, I don’t wear lycra and I don’t have a fancy bike. I upgraded recently via the cycle to work scheme which means I got a £500 bike for around £350. I have bought panniers and a child bike seat and I am lucky enough to be able to do most of my shopping and journeys locally and by bike. I never even think of using a car anymore, no matter the weather or the 6am wake ups to get into school on time. I lost 2 stone in the year when I began to cycle full-time and feel healthier than ever – I’ve saved around £2,000 a year in gym membership fees and not using the car.”
Find out more about cycling in Leeds here: www.leeds.gov.uk/parking-roads-and-travel/connecting-leeds-and-transforming-travel/cycling