Meet our volunteers: Melanie Carroll, campaigner and ride leader

Melanie Carroll
Melanie from Lincoln volunteers in many different areas of cycling
Cycling UK member Melanie Carroll was one of our 100 Women in Cycling in 2017 – and with good reason. The bookshop owner from Lincoln is not only a volunteer campaigner, she is also a ride leader for Cycling UK Lincolnshire and a freelance cycle instructor. Melanie tells us how and why she volunteers

Full name, occupation, area you live in and name of group or activity you support

Melanie Carroll, bookshop owner, but I also freelance as a Cycle Instructor (mostly for adults).

I live in  Lincoln and am the Campaigns Officer (previously known as the Right to Ride/Safety Officer) for the Cycling UK Lincolnshire member branch. I’m also the Ride Leader for the Cycling UK Lincoln Women's Group, and an active local campaigner.

What made you decide to volunteer your skills with Cycling UK or a Cycling UK registered group?

Honestly, in the first instance the previous Safety Officer, Rodney made a good case for needing help and collaborating on things (I already volunteered for another cycling body) and from there it was a slippery slope...  Next thing I know I'm also being asked about helping out on stands, promoting rides to women, then how about leading specific rides for women, oh how about a bit more campaigning.. Go on sign up... Oh good and now how about at the next AGM, you take on Rodney's role as he wants to step down... So yeah first off it was Rodney, and then Andy and the rest of the Committee, and then Jaki - and it just went from there.

I guess the fact that Cycling UK (CTC as it was then) is a real campaigning organisation, and much more about the sort of everyday and leisure cycling I like to do made it a really easy choice, once the question had been asked and seeds sown.

How much time are you able to commit?

I lead the Women's Rides once a month or once a week during the Women's Festival of Cycling. They usually take up an evening/late afternoon. Committee meetings are five to six times a year and take up a morning or so, and actual campaign work probably works out at about the equivalent of a couple of days a month (sometimes it can be a bit more if there's a large transport project going on in the area/county).

If I didn't have to work, I'd cheerfully give more time to campaigning and rides.

Which activity or activities do you support?

Lol see above! Ride leading (slow, sociable rides), supporting our local member group activities, and key for me - campaigning!

What is the greatest challenge you have encountered?

Not having as much time as I'd like to... Because of my actual jobs, it means I don't get to do the daytime or longer rides I'd really like to do as part of the Women's Group Rides (except for the WFOC month, where I committed all my Sundays off to really making something of the festival), I also don't have the time in campaigning to get into really making inroads into the officers and networks needed a lot of the time.

Describe a typical day in your volunteer role


Ride Leader

Recce route, and risk assess the rides, advertise them well before, then on the day show up 20 minutes before the ride and look friendly! Do an intro and quick check of details and bikes, then go for a ride with a nice group of women chatting along the way. Stop for refreshments and more chat (and usually laughter) before leading everyone back to the end point. Check in with everyone at the end, remind them of the next ride date, cycle home and write up a ride report/share pictures etc.

Campaigns Officer/local campaigner

Keep an eye on local council's transport agenda and forthcoming roadworks, planning proposals etc.  Make contact and request info where needed, attend consultation meetings, prepare objections as needed, write letters and emails, ask for meetings, share info out to others. Liaise with other agencies, promote the issues to members and the public, work the local press and generally promote cycling as a positive thing. Encourage others to do some of the same things (sounds a lot but it's not that bad and it certainly is worth doing).

Of all the tasks you have helped with, what are you most proud of?

Wow. Ride leading would be last year's SLOW 100km Ride during the Women's Festival of Cycling. All about encouraging those that hadn't ever ridden such a distance to do it. All about basket bikes and as you are cycling. At the end, when the ones that had never gone more than 20-30 miles before, arrived after six hours of cycling with smiles of achievement, confidence, and pride to be awarded their certificate... Yep that was all worth it and amazing on a number of levels.

On the campaigning side it's about working with people just as committed as me and the work the member group has achieved in safeguarding and trying to safeguard infrastructure and bicycle riders work, it's the fact we are now invited to consultation meetings, asked to give comment by the media.. Yeah That feels good but there's so much still to do.

What do you get out of the experience of volunteering?

Friends...lots of friends.  And insight and experience and a sense of doing right.

How has volunteering enhanced your passion for cycling and do you have the chance to get out more on your bike?

I've always been passionate about cycling - not as sport, just transport and leisure cycling - but volunteering has made me passionate about speaking up and sharing that passion and about encouraging others. It hasn't given me the chance to get out more on my bike (I already cycled daily... it's my transport!) but it has given me more people to go out cycling with... and a fuller fixed diary of cycle rides I know I’ll be taking. 

Could you describe your volunteering experience in three words?

Fun, fantastic, frustrating

Ride leading can be a very real joy and a brilliant way to make new friends and help others make new friends too.

Melanie Carroll, Volunteer Campaigner and Ride Leader

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Cycling UK or its local groups supporting cycling?

Do it, do it right now. Sure, doing the campaigning stuff it can be frustrating at times, but even the small gains make that worthwhile! And ride leading can be a very real joy and a brilliant way to make new friends and help others make new friends too. We've all got skills and talents to share and volunteering for Cycling UK is a great way to share those skills while doing something you love and enjoy - you (probably) won't regret it.