Pedalling beyond fear: student's bike-riding achievement encourages others to embrace new challenges

It is said that once you learn how to do it, you never forget. But what if you never learned to ride a bike in the first place?

Most cyclists learn the skill in childhood, which has led many of those adults who never tried – around 12 million, according to a 2019 survey - to shy away from taking it up later in life, too embarrassed to begin.

Until recently, student Daria Brazhnyk was one of them. But after starting work in De Montfort University Leicester’s (DMU) Sustainability Team, she became determined to learn.

It started with a simple comment in the office.


“I didn’t even think anything of it when I said it,” said Daria. “I was just chatting to DMU’s Sustainability Coordinator, Mark Hopkins about sustainable transport and next thing you know I am having personal cycling lessons from Leicester City Council!”

Not only did Daria learn how to ride, she used the experience to help inspire others to do the same, creating The Daria Project, which has so far seen more than 100 staff and students sign up for lessons.

Daria, a second year Fashion Buying and Marketing student, grew up in Ukraine and always wanted to learn how to ride but never actually did.

So when she started to learn, at DMU, she began to document the process, hoping to show others how possible it was to learn later in life.

“I decided to document my journey learning to ride a bike in hope it would encourage others to do the same,” she said.

“I also used it as my driving force to learn and keep going, on those days in the cold rain, falling all over the place, with no end in sight, I just kept thinking to myself, I want to do this, I want to do this for the community.

“I am not going to lie it was terrifying, everyone kept telling me I was doing great, I didn’t believe them, I was just so focused, consistency is key and bit, by bit I got there. I can ride a bike!”

Daria’s personal journey, along with a collaboration between DMU’s Sustainability Team and the Leicester City Council has led to the creation of The Daria Project - an initiative which offers staff and students free bike riding lessons.

Daria added: “I still can’t believe it. I can’t believe the entire sustainable initiative is named after me!

“So far over 100 staff and students have registered, and we already have some new cyclists in the DMU community through the project, which brings me so much joy.

“DMU has helped me and now I am helping others embrace new challenges at the same time as reducing car usage and transport emissions at the university, it’s a crazy but wonderful feeling.

“I feel like I have made positive change and I beam with pride as I watch others learn to ride, because of me!”


Daria laughs at the irony, she wasn’t even sure about her placement on the Sustainability Team, she didn’t think she would be very good at it, given her fashion background.

“When I applied, I really wasn’t sure. Don’t get me wrong sustainability is one of my passions, I just didn’t think I fit a role as a ‘Sustainability Supply Chain Coordinator’, but the role is much more than that, I have had some great opportunities over the last year.

“The main part of my role has been to work with the Procurement Team to embed sustainability improvements into the procurement process, but I have also had the opportunity to get involved with wider engagement work including promotion events and campaigns.”

In just one year in the team Daria has gained invaluable experience, can ride a bike, has an initiative named after her and now is pushing her career in a whole new direction.

“The role has changed me so much, it feels right for me, things that didn’t make sense for me now do. If you are open to change, I believe good things will happen.

“It has changed my habits from eating to transport and beyond, I am much more mindful of our planet, but mostly it’s changed my career I want to be involved with policy making working with the United Nations.

“My next steps are to finish my degree and then move on to a Master’s Degree, but I have big ideas, so watch this space!”

Daria has been shortlisted for Staff Sustainability Champion of the Year at this year’s Green Gown Awards alongside the Daria Project.


Posted on Tuesday 8 August 2023

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