From being a member of both London Cycling Campaign and CTC (as Cycling UK was previously known) in the 1980s, to her current role as chair of Lewisham Cyclists, Jane Davis’s long commitment to cycle campaigning has helped transform the lives of many cycling Londoners.
Before turning her attention to campaigning full time, Jane was a primary school teacher and a single parent. Even with a busy home and work life, she still became secretary of the Lewisham Borough group of the London Cycling Campaign and also began to lead rides for the group.
However, following a nasty encounter with breast cancer in her 40s – a period during which, Jane says her bike helped her cope mentally and emotionally – and then early retirement in her 50s, Jane has taken on further cycling roles.
First, she became more active with Lewisham Cyclists and is now the group’s chair. One of her first jobs was to involve the group in starting a community bike maintenance project, which particularly helps children in low-income areas look after their bikes. With the support and experience of one of the mechanics from London Bike Kitchen, she set up Lewisham Cyclists' first workshop in Grove Park Community Centre, using a grant from TfL’s Cycling Grants for London.
She now works with community group Deptford Folk to run another workshop in Deptford, plus a weekly Dr Bike in New Cross, a monthly one in Deptford Library and regular Dr Bikes for local schools and community groups throughout the year.
She has also developed links between Lewisham Cyclists and local youth clubs. One club's summer project - which involved leading rides, bike skills and maintenance sessions - has already been a success and funding has been secured to develop that work further.
I saw increasing levels of motor traffic becoming more and more problematic for the city I loved.
And that's far from all she does. Jane also trained as a Bikeability instructor and has done the level 2 bike mechanics course, so she now personally trains people to ride in London and work at the workshops herself.
Having been inspired by Wheels for Wellbeing, Jane also works as a regular volunteer at their weekly sessions in Herne Hill Velodrome and Ladywell Day Centre.
She also works with community interest company, Community Cycleworks (CCW) in Burgess Park, which runs regular bike fix sessions and bike skills sessions for young people in Walworth. With CCW she works in local schools, teaching groups of children bike maintenance skills through Build a Bike sessions; she helps run balance bike sessions with the nursery classes; and she also works with a youth club, leading ‘mini adventures’ which involve riding out of London for a couple of days.
So, while she hasn’t actually done the long tour to Istanbul that she planned after retirement, Jane is still cycling. Visits to Scotland, the Peak District, Wales and other great domestic destinations are the highlights of her personal cycling calendar.
Jane said: “I started being interested in cycling campaigning in the 1980s because I knew I loved cycling and I knew what it had given me and my daughter. Namely: cheap, convenient, accessible transport around London that was actually fun as well. It had also given us affordable, rewarding holidays, plus a decent level of general fitness.
“I really wanted to show others these benefits, partly to share something I loved and partly because I saw increasing levels of motor traffic becoming more and more problematic. I wanted the roads to be safe for my daughter, too.
“Cycling has given me so much freedom and independence throughout my life. Cycles and public transport for longer distances works really well in London. And not only does cycling give the rider so many benefits, it also helps reduce pollution and congestion in the city I love.”
Cycling has given me so much freedom and independence throughout my life.
Jane was nominated for 100 Women in Cycling by a number of people, all of whom praised her tireless efforts to improve the life of cycling Londoners.
One said: “Jane is the chair of Lewisham cyclists, but she doesn't just do the administration work. She volunteers at bike repair sessions in the most deprived parts of the borough. All the while she is calm and friendly. It's inspirational to see so many people who are able to keep on riding thanks to her hard work."
Another said: “She invites cyclists from our local homeless shelter to one of the many cycling workshops she runs across Lewisham and shows them how to use the tools, lets them get on with the repairs, and makes sure safe and free transport is something they don't need to worry about. I'm sure she's single-handedly helped more people in Lewisham cycle than anyone else.”
And another simply said: “Jane is amazing – she is an inspiration!”
What is 100 Women in Cycling?
Cycling UK’s 100 Women in Cycling is an annual list celebrating inspirational women who are encouraging others to cycle.