A cycling celebration

On the bank holiday weekend of 6th-8th May there were two very important national celebrations. As I’m sure all of our readers are aware, it was an International Kidical Mass action weekend. Here in the UK over 1500 riders took part in 20 rides, 55 of them here with us in Reading. The more alert among you will also have noticed that King Charles III and Queen Camilla were crowned that weekend.

It was a cause for celebration all round! Several of our riders wore crowns (despite the difficulty of combining these with bike helmets) and our recumbent tricyclist decked out his bike in flags that he had previously used when riding to Henley to celebrate a royal wedding with friends. Steffi, our lovely star baker, and her two young assistants went above and beyond on the cake front, with crown shaped biscuits, red white and blue meringues and sceptre themed cake pops.

Both of Steffi’s daughters cycled the ride completely confidently – I remember on the first Kidical Mass ride her youngest did a small part of the route on a balance bike and most of it in their box bike (the rides are a bit too long to just scoot). My three year old son now rides on the tandem with my husband, and he used to sit in a bike seat. One of the real joys of being involved in Kidical Mass has been seeing the kids’ skills and confidence develop, and having new young people join us.

Of course, developing confidence in young riders and community between families are two of the main points of Kidical Mass rides. The third is to try and campaign for improved cycling infrastructure, and for that we need the rides to be visible. The route we used was the same as the one we took last time through the town centre, and many people noticed us. As the back marker (the person at the back of the ride who makes sure no one gets left behind, and tells the leader if they need to slow down) I had several conversations about what we were doing and why. I hope some of you can join us for future rides. Do bring your friends!

Speaking of friends, one local family had invited some friends visiting from Cambridge. After the ride we had a chat about what drives differences in cycling rates between the two cities. Of course cycling infrastructure in Cambridge is well ahead of Reading, and the topography probably helps too (though with an e-bike all hills are possible, even for an unfit middle aged woman hauling two kids. Don’t ask me how I know).

The Cambridge residents mentioned that they thought driver attitudes in Cambridge are probably more cycling friendly too. Cycling is so common there that drivers are used to dealing with us and are often cyclists themselves. There’s a real virtuous circle, the more we can normalise cycling the easier it becomes for new people to join us.

Part of campaigning for better infrastructure means engaging with our councillors, who make the decisions about what to prioritise in Reading. There were local elections on 4th May and we reached out to all those Reading councillors who had been elected/re-elected to invite them to see our ride. Of course they will all have been very busy with their election campaigns and perhaps looking forward to a quiet weekend, but we were delighted that Anne Thompson of the Liberal Democrats came to see us off.

Anne said

It was lovely to see so many children (and adults) heading out on their bikes today. It was a timely reminder to me as a councillor that we need to keep pushing for joined-up cycle routes in Reading. The current provision is nowhere near enough. Safe cycle paths have to be a priority for our town.

We couldn’t agree more.

If you also agree and you would like to come and join us for our next ride, we will be meeting at the same place (the bike racks by Thames Lido) at 12pm on 10th June, to ride to the climate festival in Forbury Gardens. We hope to see you there!