Women In Cycling – Daisy Narayanan

Introduce yourself (and your bikes…)

I am Daisy Narayanan, Deputy Director, Built Environment for Sustrans Scotland. I am an architect and urban designer, originally from India, but now very much an adopted Scot. I live in Edinburgh with my author husband and two feisty little ones, Ethan (6) and Elena (3).

The four of us have an assortment of bikes between us – right from a bright purple balance bike to a minty green mountain bike. I am looking for a good road bike now, all suggestions welcome. My son also owns a ‘dinosaur helmet’, something that I am deeply envious of!

What is your connection to the world of cycling?

In my role with Sustrans Scotland, I lead a team that helps to design and deliver walking and cycling infrastructure projects in partnership with statutory organisations in Scotland. I am fortunate to work in a field I care passionately about. It also feels great to be part of a (slow but steady) transformational change in attitudes and perceptions about everyday cycling.

What got you into cycling? (or back into it?)

Cycling has always been integral to my life, but like many people, I have had stretches of time away from everyday cycling.

As a child growing up in India, my friends and I would hire bikes from the neighbourhood ‘cycle shop’ every Sunday for Rs 2 per hour (2.5 pence). These bike rides were an excuse to have fun, to make new friends and have carefree adventures. (They were also an excuse to sing incredibly cheesy 70s Bollywood songs at the top of our voices – like this one! (Main Chali Main Chali).

When I lived in the US, cycling was a leisure activity, to be done safely on beautiful trails. Day-to-day transport was unquestionably and undeniably by car and I felt worse for it, both mentally and physically.

When I moved to the UK in 2004, I made a conscious decision not to drive; easy to do in London and Edinburgh where you can live a car-free lifestyle. I have seen, experienced and fallen in love with both cities on foot and bike – in ways unimaginable if I were stuck in traffic and moving in a metal box, from one place to another.

What would you say was your most significant achievement (so far!)?

Professionally there have been many highs with my role. It has been wonderful to watch families enjoy the Caledonia Way on the National Cycle Network.  It has also been great to to see the growth of the Community Links Programme and progress being made on segregated cycling routes/networks in Edinburgh, Glasgow and other Scottish cities and towns.

Personally, watching my little boy fall in love with cycling and enjoy every moment on his bike inspires me and gives me fresh perspective on what I do.

What’s your biggest frustration?

The narrative around everyday cycling is frustrating! I find the terms ‘cyclist’, ‘pedestrian’ and ‘motorist’ tend to be quite divisive. The hostility fostered by this narrative then has an impact on the quality and ambition of infrastructure projects that get delivered on the ground.

If you could wave a magic wand, what’s the one (cycling-related) thing you’d wish for?

A complete network of routes as well as a welcoming and integrated sense of place that makes it easy for everyone to choose to use the bike for short journeys. Personally, I would love for my two children to be able to cycle with me across the city centre of Edinburgh and to enjoy everything this wonderful city has to offer.

What’s your typical day/week on cycling? And what are the rides you dream about?

I am lucky to work in an organisation where I can hop on a bike for meetings or site visits as part of my workday.

I would love to cycle across South America, what an incredible way to discover somewhere new.

I would also love to cycle across parts of India (inspired by Suzanne Forup!) – wouldn’t it be wonderful to rediscover ‘home’ through a completely new perspective?!

One of the purposes of the Women’s Cycle Forum is to promote women who are in cycling and make them more visible – and particularly to see the end of the dreaded all-male panel. Would you be interested in speaking more on panels or at conferences and if so what about?

Yes, I am interested in talking about gender and diversity, especially in transport – specifically related to my experiences and perspective from diverse places where I have had the good fortune to live and work. The end of an all-male panel is long-overdue. We are in 2017 after all!

Who are the women in cycling you’d like to hear from next and why?

I think it would be good to hear from people not specifically related to cycling, but who completely and wholeheartedly support what we do within their own spheres of work. I would love to hear from Sara Thiam, Lesley Hinds and Kirsty Lewin. I have been hugely inspired by these amazing women.