Christine finds the best Stockton cycle routes with help from her local Hub
Christine Pratt is a pupil and family support worker at a primary school in Stockton. With a three-mile journey to and from work, hopping on a bike is second nature to the 61-year old who uses a bike on her daily commute.
“Riding a bike is something I’ve done since my paper rounds.” says Christine, “I was inspired by my dad. He always cycled, even when we had a car. It was quite a long way for him to work and back but it kept him fit.”
Christine is supporting the Let’s Go Ladies #WheelWomen campaign to get more women cycling in Tees Valley. We spoke to her to find out more about her love of bikes and cycling in her hometown of Stockton-on-Tees.
How do you find the best routes for cycling?
“I mostly cycle locally. In Stockton there are a lot of cycle paths which makes getting around on a bike really easy. A lot of people just don’t know about them but they’re there.
“We’re lucky to have a great source of support in the town in the shape of our active travel hub ‘The Hub’ on Stockton High Street. The staff and volunteers are extremely helpful and can give you all sorts of free maps and advice, it’s how I find the best routes. They also run guided rides during the week for all abilities.
“There are some lovely country parks and places you can go. One of my favourites is along the disused railway line, going up to Wynyard Woodland Park or going up from Preston Park to Castle Eden. It’s easy and traffic free so a good one for families.”
What advice can you offer parents who may want to start cycling?
“I know from my own life and from working in a school that parents and carers do a lot of journeys to different places during a given day, it may be why they may feel that they can’t cycle. But it is a great way to get around with kids though and it’s so easy when you know the best routes to take.
“Yes, it is quicker by road but if it’s nice or you’re travelling with younger children there are quieter routes and cycle paths you can take. I love to ride along the river when the weather is good. I’ve even seen seals on my way to work.”
Christine loves to share her love of cycling with others
“We do rides out from the school, taking groups of children to the Stockton Cycle Festival for example. The staff and volunteers at The Hub in Stockton have been great at helping us with group rides for the children.
“A few years ago we did a ride with the children from the school through Teesdale. We started with short rides over a six-week period and then did a residential weekend. They loved it and it gave them so much confidence.
Christine has also introduced colleagues to cycling: “We have quite a few female staff members who cycle to and from work now. There are around six of us. Some, like me, have always cycled, two or three we’ve recruited through Love to Ride, the cycle challenge that runs at regular intervals throughout the year.
“When there’s a Love to Ride challenge on I will cycle through any weather, even the torrential rain during bike week this year. People thought I was mad when I came in soaking wet, but I’m not doing it for nothing, I was aiming for one of the prizes.” she laughs.
How would you describe yourself as a cyclist?
I have to admit, I’m a bit of a bike freak. Being able to access the cycle scheme through work is one of the things that really got me back into cycling as an adult. I bought a hybrid, it’s a few years old now. It’s a great general purpose bicycle as it has a combination of mountain bike and road bike features making it very comfortable for commuting.
I have a road bike, which has things like built in lights and panniers which clip on the back. I use this one the most for work as it is really comfortable.
I’ve recently bought myself a folding Brompton bike. It’s great. I can take it anywhere, on the bus, or the train. If I go somewhere and I don’t want to leave my bike outside I can fold it up and take it with me. It handles differently to a normal bike, when you ride it you feel like a child again.
What is the best thing about travelling by bike?
I like the fresh air before I get to work. You’re not stuck in traffic and you’re not stuck in a car. If I’m just going to and from work or nipping into town at the weekend I go by bike, unless I’m going for a lot of shopping. It’s so much quicker.