I remember being given my first bicycle, in the 1950s, on the farm outside Limavady in Northern Ireland. I remember getting aboard and hurtling down the bumpy drive, across a (happily not then very much trafficked road) and into the hedge on the other side.
I learned about brakes later that day.
Over the years, cycling has given my huge joy, not least when Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park were opened up to cyclists. In the process, as with many migratory birds, my commute got steadily longer. In the early 1970s, it was from Covent Garden to the Belgrave Square area. When we moved to Barnes in 1975, it took me until the early 1990s to get back into longer haul cycling, initially to the Notting Hill area (when SustainAbility moved there), then Kensington High Street, then Knightsbridge, then Bedford Row in Holborn, and (when we founded Volans) Bloomsbury Square.
As noted below, for much of this time there was an undeclared war between drivers and cyclists, with the result that in around 40 years of cycling I have been left unconscious in the road no less than four times.
My trusty companion through the past 25-plus years has been a Dawes (appropriately named, as it turned out) ‘Mean Streets’ bike, which is pretty heavily built, but its crossbar still shows the scars of the second major accident. Strikingly, another cyclist slowed down alongside me as I pedalled north parallel to Park Lane a few years ago, and offered to buy the bike. I was pleased, of course, but couldn’t imagine parting with it.