From childhood adventures, to university transport, even to her choice of commute when she qualified as a junior doctor, the bicycle has been a constant presence throughout Ruth-Anna MacQueen’s life. So when she had children, it seemed obvious to continue cycling with them.
However, when Ruth-Anna started researching the best ways to transport babies and young children by bike, she found there was limited unbiased information available. So in 2014 she started the Facebook group ‘Family Cycling UK’ for anyone interested in cycling with their families to discuss equipment, routes, tips, sell second-hand equipment and support each other.
She also became involved in her local London Cycling Campaign group, as she found that cycling with children really emphasised how few safe routes there were around where she lived. She has been a strong voice within and outside the LCC campaigning for safe, protected infrastructure to enable the advantages of cycling to be accessible to a much wider variety of people.
In 2016, she founded the Hackney Family Cycling Library with the support of Hackney LCC. Soon after she teamed up with social enterprise CarryMe Bikes and they are now in their third year of offering free advice and equipment loans to local families who want to cycle with their children. This helps families save money and make the right decision to get the whole family cycling, instead of going in the car or on public transport.
And alongside Isabelle Clement from Wheels for Wellbeing, Ruth-Anna co-founded the Beyond the Bicycle Coalition, lobbying for improvements to funding, facilities, infrastructure and other shared issues that affect all users of 'non standard' cycles such as cargobikes, handcycles, tandems and more.
When you have young children, cycling can give you an immense freedom.
Ruth-Anna said: “When you have young children, cycling can give you an immense freedom - no being stuck in traffic or having to look after multiple small children on the bus when someone needs a wee or is hungry for a snack!
“Cycling widens your boundaries so you can reach parks, clubs, friends and museums you couldn't access otherwise.
“As a family we genuinely couldn't manage our busy lives with two full-time working parents, shift working, volunteering, attending committee meetings, three children at two different childcare settings with multiple activities and playdates.
“Cycling is also incredibly important for my mental health and wellbeing. It’s the only time in my day I can't physically be doing anything else and therefore I think of it as a kind of mindfulness.”
Ruth-Anna was nominated for 100 Women in Cycling by Pamela French, who said: “When I got pregnant with our first child, the Family Cycling UK Facebook page was the only place I could find practical and realistic information about cycling pregnant and cycling options with small children.
“Ruth-Anna has a wealth of experience and insight into cycling with children. She has created a Facebook community that can share advice on all types of family biking solutions. It's a refreshing break from competitive, male-centric cycling sites.
“She has done so much to encourage families to cycle, from acting as a role model for pregnant and new mums to setting up the Hackney Family Cycling Library. She has inspired many thousands of parents to start or keep cycling with their children.”
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.