Jonathan Kelly is a local resident, a co-founder of Better Streets for Kensington & Chelsea and Divisional Manager of Barts Heart Centre at St Bartholomew Hospital. He’s helped and encouraged his staff to cycle to work during the coronavirus crisis and he’s also been instrumental in Brompton’s scheme to loan bikes to NHS staff across London for free.
Jonathan was already in talks with Brompton on behalf of the hospital before the coronavirus crisis hit and they were keen to help. He put them in touch with NHS London, and Brompton are now loaning their bikes for 30 days to NHS staff for free – and will extend the scheme as long as the crisis lasts. Two hundred NHS workers in London have taken up the offer so far, with over 500 registered for the scheme.
And today, London Cycling Campaign has announced an offer of free membership (which includes insurance) to every NHS and hospital worker in London – staff can sign up here.
“The pandemic has really made our staff think about how to get to work,” says Jonathan. “We have to avoid the risk of infection on crowded tube trains and buses. Those who own cars and live ten or more miles away have started driving because there’s no congestion charge, but for those who live nearer and don’t own cars, a bike is the only real option. Especially with such quiet roads right now.”
The pandemic has really made our staff think about how to get to work
Jonathan cycles to work daily along the notoriously dangerous Holland Park Avenue, where Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea council are debating a road safety scheme, Cycleway 10. Normally it’s hellish, but now, “I could do the entire journey with my eyes shut. It’s empty.”
Of the 60 or so staff at Bart’s Heart Centre who have just started cycling to work, about half are women. Zoe Carter, a cardiac physiologist at St Bart’s, hadn’t cycled since living in London but took up the free Brompton offer to avoid the tube. Another is Sandra Mulrennan, a clinical nurse specialist, who hadn’t cycled since she moved to London from Cambridgeshire.
“I avoided cycling in London because of traffic, the speed of other cyclists, pedestrians and road markings and also getting lost!” says Sandra. “What prompted me to dust the cobwebs off the wheels? I saw lots of encouraging tweets from Jonathan and also I thought I need a contingency to get to work if public transport fails me.”
I avoided cycling in London because of traffic
Jonathan put Sandra in touch with her local London Cycling Campaign group for tips on route planning, who she says “took into account my fear of the Old Kent Road and navigating Elephant and Castle”.
She says, “It may take me an hour but I have done it a few times now, and feel a sense of accomplishment. It was a bit windy today going over Blackfriars Bridge but I kept thinking of a coffee once I got to Bart’s!”
“We talk a lot about the psychological wellbeing you get from cycling,” says Jonathan. “It’s a good way to decompress after a stressful day at work.”
The question is – what will happen when the crisis is over?
Safe, segregated cycleways are needed across every borough … Then people like Zoe and Sandra can keep cycling when the pandemic is over
“Now is the best time to do it,” says Sandra. “It will be a different story when London gets busy again.”
Jonathan is clear that safe segregated cycleways are needed across every borough in London. “Then people like Zoe and Sandra can keep cycling when the pandemic is over.”
Are you returning to cycling during the coronavirus crisis? LCC are offering free advice by phone, email and online chat – find out more here.
And to support Brompton’s #WheelsForHeroes appeal to equip every NHS worker with a Brompton bike, find out more here.