For February’s ride, we ventured North of the river in Reading. Or rather, from my perspective, I did not venture South of the river (Caversham is our home turf). The weather looked fairly ominous, so we were delighted that 38 riders turned up at Hills Meadow for the ride.
We cycle as our primary form of transport, but actually our kids don’t get to ride their own bikes much except through the local park. This, of course, is one of the reasons that they LOVE the Kidical Mass rides – they get to ride safely on the roads with their friends at a pace that’s comfortable for them. The smiles on their faces are the main reason we keep coming back month after month to do the rides.
The other reason that we organise the rides is to campaign for and raise awareness of the need for better cycling infrastructure. The lack of infrastructure was really driven home to us as we were trying to plan a route through Caversham that – with the marshals help – could be made safe for the children.
Star Road and Briants Avenue are both a nightmare for cyclists. There are cars parked such that there is only one usable lane, but it is still two lane traffic. Even if you wait for a gap in oncoming traffic to go past parked cars, in the time it takes to cycle through the narrower bit a car can come round the corner and decide they are going to drive towards you, pushing you into the door zone of the parked cars. We realised that there is no bicycle route which is safe for children to use to access the Amersham Road estate, a point I have now raised with one of the relevant councillors.
In the end, we took the ride along Hills Meadow, through a few quiet roads and then briefly across Gosbrook Road (our wonderful marshals ensured the children could turn safely on and off it) before swinging up to South View Avenue, through Westfield Park and back onto Gosbrook Road (again very briefly) before passing through the back roads back to the river. We received many waves and smiles from passers by – everyone seemed to enjoy the sight of children out on the road. We look forward to the day when it can safely happen more frequently!
On that note, the council is considering opening up the tunnel under the station to cyclists, which will remove a major pinch point when planning routes that are safe for children (there are only so many places you can cross the railway, and most of them are decidedly cycling unfriendly). If you’re reading this before 23rd February when the consultation closes, go and show some love for the proposal!
After the ride there was again cake (Steffi baked madeleines!) and the kids played together on the meadow and in the park. I saw quite a few adults sharing local cycling tips and test riding each other’s bikes – we have quite a wide range of experience and bicycles on the rides, so its a really useful place to discuss options if you’re considering switching some of your regular journeys to bicycles.
Outside of the rides, Kidical Mass has been invited to participate in CAST and Kat has attended several meetings. We aim to give the next generation a voice and raise the need for cycling infrastructure that suits ALL road users. We are grateful to everyone who has ever attended one of our rides, because you help amplify that message. Do join us in March in Wokingham, or in April in Reading.