As you know the premise of our website is to celebrate the local heroes, the salt’s of the earth’s, the creatives and the batshit crazy types that migrate to this amazing cycling life. Today we are talking to a cyclista that could have a foot in every one of those camps…if she had four feet that is?! However, rest assured, two feet she has. Two feet that she uses with great affect, not only to propel herself across and around Glasgow on her beloved Flanders Fixie, but also to stand up as an active agent and influencer in affecting and championing positive change for cyclists near and far.
So without further ado, let us introduce you to Iona Shepherd. We first met Iona and partner Graeme ( featuring in a forthcoming post) two years back when we joined a ride organised by mutual friend Graham McQueen around Arran. At the time we thought we were into cycling, that was until we met the charismatic Iona and realised we are only playing at it.
So you are in for a treat. Grab a beer, Wine or Coffee and take five minutes to read and enjoy our conversation with Iona. The Cyclists Cyclist.
Can you tell us a little about you and your cycling life
I live in Glasgow and work as a photographer although I previously helped set up and work at the Stirling Cycle Hub with BCR friend Tank. I ride my self-built Flanders fixed gear about town, Tifosi CK2 for the hills, Kinesis Tripster AT for touring and cobbles, and currently trying to rebuild my first love, a Fuji Track fixed gear dream machine. Mostly commuting but love a bit of long distance too.
Favourite places or routes to cycle ?
Everywhere! My commute currently goes through Pollok Park which is really special. I love the loop around Loch Tay, Glen Lyon and up Ben Lawers. Bealach Na Ba is totally epic too.
You recently rode Paris Roubaix sportive. How tough was it versus normal Sportives and what was the standout memory of the experience?
Oh man. I thought I was prepared for the ferociousness of the cobbles, expecting them to be really really hard. But they were that times a million. In terms of distance and climbing, the sportive is no problem, but in terms of pain, it was the hardest by far. When you’re small there is just no controlling the bike on those secteurs. I managed to stay upright but only because I was holding on for dear life. Oh yes and because I may have walked the majority of the Trench d’Arenberg… The whole event was amazingly organised though – the spectators who’d arrived a day early for the real deal race were really great at cheering us on, and finishing in the velodrome in Roubaix was so super special. Seeing Sagan win the following day was the cherry on the cake.
Favourite moments in Cycling?
I think just getting to the point that I was confident to cycle around the city and realising that with the bike I was totally free, would have to be my defining moment. I went from sitting in congestion, bus timetables, travel costs, set routes, to suddenly knowing I could go anywhere, quickly, whenever I wanted, for free, with added fun and exercise, and that pretty much changed my life.
Favourite piece of cycling gear or kit you own under £100?
My London Cycle Courier Emergency Fund top is my number one favourite. Couriers don’t earn much and often encounter injury – the fund go to couriers in need and their clothes are awesome. https://lcef.wordpress.com/ Here I am shouting at Donald Trump in it and riding around Ardnamurchan in it.
Favourite cycling Cap?
Love my Cinelli Copenhagen European Messengers Championships cap although my nephew wears it best.
What one ride or challenge have you still to do?
I’ve completed the Struggle Double so my sportive life is now complete. I don’t know, maybe Africa? It’s always a challenge keeping up with Graeme my cycling and everything else partner in crime, but riding loads more with him is always a challenge I look forward to.
Why do you cycle?
Why do people not cycle?!
Some machines enslave us and some set us free. You admirably use yours as a vehicle for change through protest rides or simply as transportation to demonstrations When, why and where did you first get into Cycling Activism/Advocacy?
Ha ha thank you! I started out taking some time out my career to help set up the Stirling Cycle Hub. When I left working in cycling I continued volunteering with various cycling projects and then started flyering for Pedal on Parliament. The following year I became part of the core POP organising team and ran the first ever Pedal on Parliament in Glasgow. After that I was asked to help lead GoBike, the cycle campaign for Glasgow and surrounding areas, which I now sit on as co-convenor. We fight to make conditions safer for people cycling, not just confident or experienced people on bikes, but people of all ages and abilities.
What one aspect of Cycling advocacy/Urban Cycling Development are you most passionate about and why?
I would like to see cycling become a natural and easy choice for transport in Scotland – not just because cycling is so liberating, but also because the wider benefits to our environment, congestion, the NHS, and our mental health as a nation are so massive. It’s my opinion that safe cycling networks are absolutely key, and at the heart of changing not just the embarrassingly low levels of cycling we have in Scotland, but also our wider car-centric culture.
What does a modern ‘fit for purpose’ URBAN CYCLING infrastructure look like to you?
We need people cycling to have their own safe space, and segregated cycle lanes on main and direct routes are so important to this. Shared use pavements just don’t cut it and cause so much friction. All too often people cycling are generalised as “always cycling on the pavement” despite half our provision being actually on the pavement, and the roads not being safe enough for the majority of people to brave them anyway. Traffic speeds in urban areas also desperately need to be reduced.
We still have councils putting in new roads projects that don’t include provision for safe cycling. That is not on and is an easy thing to change.
What Cities or Towns (uk or abroad) should we be taking a lead from in improving infrastructure, safety and provisions for cyclists and what is it that they are doing differently?
Copenhagen. Utrecht. Amsterdam. Barcelona. Seville. Even London and New York are now slowly coming around to the idea that space for cycling is a game changer. The best recent example I can think of is that of Janette Sadik-Khan, the former Transport Commissioner for New York, who over six and a half years from 2007, managed to install 400 miles of cycling routes across the city. Over the next year in Glasgow we should have an additional 10 miles in total, if that. When our council and parliament tell me that cycling provision takes time they need to take a long hard look at what Janette did.
Use your bike for transport. Swap it out for your shorter car journeys. Use it to go to the shops. Wear your jeans. Help us show that cycling can be a normal way to get around.
Nearer to home: What COULD be an easy change for the better and what MUST we change?
We need more money allocated to active travel budgets. We recently had that doubled but it is still nowhere nearly enough to get us to the cycling levels of cities in Europe. I appreciate that is not easy, but it is possible by reallocate money from roads projects towards active travel. We still have councils putting in new roads projects that don’t include provision for safe cycling. That is not on and is an easy thing to change. We HAVE to change our dependency on the car. Our planet depends on it and the longer we leave that, the worse state we are going to leave things in for future generations to deal with, if we are even still around.
How could someone get actively involved to improve and/or promote progressive change through cycling?
Use your bike for transport. Swap it out for your shorter car journeys. Use it to go to the shops. Wear your jeans. Help us show that cycling can be a normal way to get around. If you’ve got time to give, get involved in your local cycling campaign. If you don’t have one, start one up! Join us at GoBike (http://www.gobike.org/ ) or come and help us organise the next Pedal on Parliament (https://pedalonparliament.org/ )
Last but not least….One album, One Movie, One book and One beverage?
Album: No matter what I’ve been listening to recently I always come back to Bonnie Prince Billy – Ease Down the Road.
Movie: The sweetest most loveliest film I’ve seen recently that I’d highly recommend is Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Favourite cycling film – Belleville Rendezvous.
Book: Recently read Bike Nation: How Cycling can Change the World by Peter Walker. Really inspiring stuff. And true n all.
Beverage: Coconut water, Duval, Pinot Grigio, or Mojitos depending on work/training/party/head status.
Links to connect with Iona and what she’s into
twitter – @isersmalone
facebook – Iona Shepherd Photography / GoBike / Pedal on Parliament
A huge massive chapeau to Iona for sharing her cycling life with us but before we leave its Competition time.
A picture from a recent protest Iona cycled to. Finish the sentence below………to win a….Strava KUDOS
Next article we will be hearing from Ultimate Cyclist Graeme cook ( picture left)