Cyclist Profile: Sylvia Gauthereau

Sylvia riding her cargo bike with her children

Tell us about yourself - name, age, anything else you’d like to share.

Let's say I am in my mid forties :), Sylvia Gauthereau, originally from a Parisian suburb, landed in London 18 years ago with big dreams of making a better life for myself.

What it is about yourself that you don’t currently see represented in the cycling industry’s images/marketing material?

People who oppose cycling or cycling infrastructure don't seem to realise that for many people this is not a leisure exercise or a sport, it is an inherent part of every day life's logistics. Like many, our household doesn't have a car. Our bikes are our main way to get around, do the school run, go to the shops, meet up with friends, go to work, etc... It is a life choice we made on financial, ecological and logistics grounds. In a city like London, we found this was the best way to get around, even with two children.

It saddens me that most of the time, cyclists are seen as one pack. The sporty type mostly male with special clothes and racing gears. As a result, most people think it is too scary to even consider. And something you only do in mild weather.

How long have you been cycling?

In London for 5 years daily.

What made you get into cycling?

I needed a solution to do the school run while keeping my job. Like many other families we were not offered a place in our local school and the only one we could find and were happy with was 3 miles away. Public transport wasn't an option as it would have meant busing through one of the most traffic jammed road, the A5. Before we got the cargobike, I spent almost 4 hours a day in buses, and tubes leaving the house at 7:45 coming back just before 7pm with my then 4 years old. It wasn't sustainable.

What type of cycle(s) do you ride?

My main one is a Christiania cargo bike. I also have a Dutch type single speed bicycle. My husband rides a fixie and both my daughters have their own bicycle. One Dutch type for the eldest and a Frog bike for the youngest.

What do you love about cycling? Why do you cycle?

The autonomy and independence. I don't have to rely on train/bus time tables or others people to drive me around. Having a bicycle that allows me to go anywhere with my children is incredible. Opened up so many possibilities and we can still be spontaneous. Others have say that but any trips however small is an adventure, it is never the same.My kids use the bike as an extension of their home. They read, they talk, they laugh, play, listen to music (occasionally play the guitar!), sing, eat and fall sleep in it. And I am part of it as they are in front of me. This is an amazing feeling, such a quality I could not have elsewhere.

Where do you cycle?

Around my local area and for the school run, in North West London and to commute to work or socialising/meetings into town. Latter has been made so much easier with the cycle superhighways.

What challenges do you face in terms of cycling?

Some motorists don't realise how lethal their actions can be. Some clearly think I am worth less than them just by the transportation I choose and feel free to dispense parenting advice and insults at random. Thankfully, this isn't the majority but you only need one to kind of spoil a ride for you or worse. In practical terms is the close pass, door zone, cars on advanced stop sign and pedestrians who don't look before stepping in front of you. I also dislike other riders who go through red lights when there is no need (unlike at some dangerous junctions, when it is preferable to head first) and I cringe when I see some them squeezing through buses just because they can.

What would you say to someone like you who doesn’t currently see themselves as a cyclist, to encourage them to try cycling?

It will change your life! It makes you happy because it will contributes to your well-being. It makes you feel good because you achieve something every time you are pedalling yourself somewhere, and helps keep your energy level up. It's faster and easier to go places, to stop for errands, so less stress overall. It's cheaper than a car or public transport.


Would you like to be featured on the Velo Sister blog? I want to showcase the diversity among women who cycle as its not just sporty types / young women / white women / bicycle-riding women. Get in touch to let me know you're interested and I'll email you back.