In this SheCycles post, I get to introduce you to Anne Ramsey (she’s on Twitter as @anneramsey740 – do follow her). Anne is a regular cycle commuter, who often posts videos of her rides.
In case you didn’t know, SheCycles is a series of posts highlighting a range of women, all different, and all awesome in their own way. I really suggest you read them all, by clicking this link.
Enough from me – here’s Anne, in her own words.
What does it mean to you, as a woman, to also be a cyclist, and how (if at all) do you feel it’s different from what men experience?
I never knew the name of bicycle parts – the most I could do was fix a puncture, so as a woman I always felt most stupid in a bicycle shop. The male staff always had ways of making you feel absolutely dumb.
Not many women cycle in my city, so I tend to receive a lot of unwanted attention. Drivers would shout from their cars or groups of youths would jeer and shout an array of silly comments. I have learned to ignore these now, mostly.
Do you feel women are treated as equals in the world of cycling, and if not, what can be done about it?
I don’t follow sport cycling probably because it’s a very neglected sport where TV coverage is concerned. Though my cycling heroine is Lael Wilcox the ultra endurance cyclist. Women’s sports in general have always been underrepresented.
I believe if there was more safe cycling infrastructure in my area more women would cycle, and I think the same could be said for anywhere in the UK. I work in an NHS hospital and I took on a casual role of transport champion. Our mission was to encourage people to ditch the car and think of other ways to commute to work. The feedback I got was it was lack of safe cycling infrastructure put women off – they would try only if they could cycle on the pavement. The guys were more willing to try it anyway.
What got you into cycling?
It has never been strange or out of the ordinary for me to cycle. For me it has always been as normal as walking. I never learned to cycle I got on my first bicycle at aged 5 and I rode it right away as if I had always done it, this is one of my earliest memories. From that day, wherever I had to go, I cycled there.
I got a Triumph 20 second hand from Smithfield market and at from the age of 11 to 15 I had a paper round around Glengormley village. My Triumph allowed me to do my round and then cycle the three miles to take care of my pony. The bicycle enabled me to earn money, be self-sufficient and independent. I later became a bicycle messenger for Courier co. in Belfast, to earn extra money whilst attending college.
To you, what’s the best thing about cycling? And the worst?
I love the freedom of cycling. I love being able to travel everywhere self-powered. I love shopping by bike, stopping right outside the shop, not having to wait in the traffic, or having to find a space. Commuting by bike is amazing, it sets you up for the day. It invigorates and you arrive at work ready and rearing to go. I like the challenge of looking at a map and planning adventures, always pushing my distance a bit more every time.
The downside of cycling is sometimes it feels like a war. I have been a lifelong cyclist and in recent years traffic volumes have increased to such an extent that drivers are finding it hard to share the road with anyone. They drive too fast and dangerously. My family worry about me cycling and follow me everyday on a tracking app to be sure that I arrive safely wherever I go. I also wear a special ID bracelet with my name and medical conditions just in-case.
Tell us some of your cycling dreams and aspirations?
I want to get fit and cycle further and maybe collect some medals. I am planning to ride the Lap of the Lough – hopefully in 2021 if it is finally allowed, after the pandemic restrictions. I want to make a positive difference to road safety.
My 15 year old nephew was killed whilst cycling and I witnessed a few road deaths during my time as a bus driver. I used to have a mantra I would recite to myself before I started my shift, I would ask myself “is this the day I kill someone?”
I believe everyone who drives should ask themselves this question before they take command of the wheel.
As a woman, what can you do to make cycling more normal, and more inclusive? And what are the biggest obstacles in your way?
I think the best thing I do to encourage other women is to show by example and to keep fighting for better traffic enforcement, and safe cycling infrastructure. The biggest obstacle in my way is negative police engagement regarding cycling incidents, and the Northern Ireland law regarding video evidence for traffic violations. It’s not as simple as just uploading footage and points and fines being awarded. All reports that need to be actioned must go before a judge so it’s hard to get a conviction for no impact incidents.
Tell us about you – what motivates you, what scares you, and what makes you happy?
I am a very motivated person and I like to finish things I started. My career was forged at the tender age of 8. I was going on a primary school trip to Shane’s castle in Antrim and my Granny lent me her little kodak film camera to bring along. I took shots through the day – group shots, landscape shots and obscure images. When the film was processed, I brought the photos into school to show the class. We had a substitute teacher at the time and when she looked at them, she was amazed. She said I had an eye and that I should become a photographer, so I did.
I love photography as much as cycling and I like to combine the two. I have been dubbed the gay archivist by P. A. McLaughlin, a leading LGBT activist,. My images chronicling LGBT life in Northern Ireland are freely available on the internet. at http://www.belfastarchiveproject.com/anne-ramsey.
This voluntary work has been my artistic outlet as I am a scientific photographer and as much as I love my work, I always need my artistic outlet.
My day-to-day work entails taking medical images mainly based in ophthalmology. I find my role very fulfilling I like to feel that I am helping people in some way.
My family is very important to me. I have a wonderful wife and two grown up children and two Granddaughters. They are all my heart and soul. I am afraid of something happening to me and not being around for them as they age and grow. I wish drivers would see us as human beings with families who rely on them.
What was the biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve had to face?
I have faced quite a few obstacles in my life, though I don’t consider myself a victim, but a survivor. I had a post-partum haemorrhage during childbirth and was lucky to be alive to tell the tale even having a near death experience.
I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder 15 years ago, but I look after myself very well and if you didn’t know you wouldn’t guess. I was one of the lucky ones. I have been homeless but fought my way out of poverty and back to health.
Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?
I am proud of my academic achievements my career and my family. I have achieved everything I set out to do in life and I have no regrets. I was awarded the Queer Of The Year award by the Belfast pride committee and I am really proud of that.
How did cycling change you? How has your cycling impacted on your family life, and your life overall?
As my children grew, I relied more on my motorcycle. It was a time thing – I walked the kids to school then went back home for the motorbike. This was the fastest way to commute at that time. I could never abide sitting in traffic, I suppose I had done enough of that in my time as a bus driver.
Unfortunately, because of my mental illness I had to sell my house and my three motorcycles. It coincided with the big financial crash. So to get to work I bought an old bicycle for £10 to get to work. This was my cycling rebirth. I bought another on the drip from a friend, a Claude Butler and I rode that until I bought my ebike through the cycle to work scheme 5 years ago. Then in 2019 I bought a Specialized Sirrus tourer. I haven’t looked back.
Cycling has really gotten me through the tough times. It’s the ultimate feeling of freedom. Makes me happy, makes me feel alive. I could not have fought my way back to health and financial stability without it.
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you?
My life now is so full of laughter and happiness its very hard to think of a specific event. Recalling and retelling the very serious things that don’t kill you, that make others laugh I find funny. Things like being savaged by a dog and as the dog was dragging me off my bicycle, I tried to get into a car that had just pulled up beside me, but the occupants locked the doors and left me there with the crazy dog. Or climbing the cliff face of Cavehill and realising at the top that there was only muck and grass to grab hold of to pull myself up. I lay laughing for quite a while when I finally pulled myself onto the top. Or getting ambushed whilst cycling in Amsterdam aby a gang of youths, and me and my three sisters beat the lads up and sent them packing.
Where would you most like to go cycling? Why there?
I would love to go cycling in the Netherlands again. I did it in one of those 4 seater bicycles when I was a child but would love to go again as an adult. I want to know what it feels like to cycle without conflict.
If you could change ONE thing about cycling, what would that be?
I want the roads to be safer for everyone.
What bike do you ride? What made you choose that one?
I have a Specialized Sirrus, which is my main commuter I love the style and shape and I have saddlebags fitted. A Liv avails for my pleasure rides, she’s just beautiful. I have a mountain bike, a Carrera Subway with spiked tyres which I rode through the winter.
If you have multiple bikes, which is your favourite, and why?
My favourite is my Specialized – she’s called Cornicorn – and we have done many miles together. My eldest granddaughter has named all our bikes. My Liv is called Pegasus and the Carrera Subway is Gwenevere .
What advice would you offer to women who are thinking of starting to cycle, or are new cyclists?
Just try it and stay on safe routes away from busy traffic. It may be a bit longer but better not to be put off at the start. Maybe get a buddy to cycle with you.