How weekly bike rides with a group of supportive women showed me a route to joy squib

When Tanya Frank joined a group of ‘joyriders’, she rediscovered her love of cycling and found a caring community

I always thought that joyriding meant nicking cars and taking them for a spin, often when drunk. It was what some of the wayward lads did on the Chingford Hall council estate where I grew up. So, I was surprised when the Waltham Forest newsletter reported a different kind of joyriding: a cycling group that is free, for women, and that loans bikes to the members who need them. It has grown since its inception, but JoyRiders started right here in my borough where we have an infrastructure of 27km of cycle paths, known as Mini Holland.

London was edging out of the last lockdown and one of the most isolating years we have ever experienced when I discovered the group. I had returned to my roots after living in California in the hope that this country might be kinder to my youngest son. He had bounced around in the mental health system in the USA for almost a decade, where the “cure” had been worse than the diagnosis. But the pandemic hampered my plan. When my son was admitted to a psychiatric hospital yet again, only here instead of in America, I knew I needed a better road map to find my way through the pain.

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