Sept 2023 Kidical Mass action weekend

Last weekend saw us back on the route of our first ever Kidical Mass, Palmer Park to Forbury Gardens. We’ve been focusing more on circular routes recently, and I hadn’t realised how long we’d been away. When I asked the younger Kidical Mass intern (Mr 3) if he remembered starting rides there, he said no. I suppose just under a year is a long time when you’re three years old!

Speaking of growing, the Kidical Mass movement in the UK is certainly doing just that. Across this September over 30 Kidical Mass rides and bike buses have been recorded, with more than 3,000 participants – at least double the numbers from April. Here in Reading over 40 people came to our ride (which was only two weeks after the last ride), including Cllr Rob White from Reading and Cllr Al Neal from Wokingham. It’s heartening to think that there are so many people out there who share our aims – safe streets and children who are confident to ride on them, in families who are supported by a cycling community.

For our family, this was a very special ride, as it was the first time our three year old has been able to ride his own bike. We took the recommended approach to teaching him to ride – put him on a balance bike first to learn to steer, then when he was ready we added in pedals. This is the opposite to how I learned (pedals first, with stabilizers, that came off later, so I learned to steer properly quite late in the process). I can see why the balance bike route is recommended!

To be honest, Mr 3 has been ready to ride at least part of the route with Kidical Mass for a month or two now, but with Simon and I involved in organising the rides we have needed him on our bikes so we can keep track of him. This time we had a much-beloved grandfather with us who agreed to man mark him. Mr 3 made it all the way along the Kennet before he asked me to pick him up. At the end of it he was very pleased with himself – and so were we!

The weather this time round was great, and it was lovely watching the children play together in Forbury gardens after the ride. The adults, however, had a bit more of a serious conversation. The Kidical Mass Organisers WhatsApp group has had much to say recently on the subject of the new school (River Academy) being built by Rivermeads, and the routes that children will take to it, especially from Caversham. Between the river and the road and the big roundabout there’s a lot of hazards, and we’d like to see these mitigated. If you agree, please do sign our petition.

In that post ride conversation, Nick (our marshal who brings a cowbell to the rides) showed us all how to use a throw rope – one of the things that would help is if the council installed these along the river. He also talked about the danger of cold shock, and how if you fall into water the best thing to do is to float “like a starfish” for a minute or so until your body adjusts. So now we all know that safety advice, and so do you, Dear Reader.

Assuming, however, that we all manage to stay safely out of the river, our family is looking forward to attending the next Kidical Mass ride – all four of us on our own bikes again as the Wokingham team are organising this one. Sat 7th Oct, 2pm, Elms Field. See you there!


September 2023 global action day

Today was a very joyful (and dry!) ride from Palmer Park to Forbury Gardens in Reading. It was also a Kidical Mass Action Day globally, with 500 similar rides organised all over the world.
Did you miss it? Don’t worry there’s always the next one!


Kidical Mass and friends at Reading Cycle Festival

Kidical Mass Reading returned after the Summer with a circular ride from Reading Cycle Festival. It was a wonderful event, which really highlighted that we aren’t alone in our goals. We want to see kids out having fun on bikes, and they were certainly able to do that on the ramps courses set up by Avanti (who run Bikeability training in Reading). We want to see cycling infrastructure put in that is safe for children to use, and both Reading Cycle Campaign and WATCH in Wokingham work hard towards this goal. Finally, we want to build a sense of community between cycling families, and that was present at the event in spades.

We were so lucky with the weather, as we were able to disprove a common cycling misperception. The ride started in the dry, meaning that we had a good turnout – just over 60 riders joined us. However, about ten minutes from the end of the ride the heavens opened. There were a few pauses as people who had remembered to bring them put on waterproofs and rain covers. One marshal joked over the radio that we would have to stop as it’s obviously impossible to cycle in the rain. But of course that’s completely untrue, as most of us demonstrate every few weeks. As winter approaches we will have even more opportunities to demonstrate this ability. At least in December everyone usually has a coat with them.

It was great to see so many families, and a few other special guests! All of the Reading councillors have been invited to our rides, and Cllr Dave McElroy joined us again. Cllr Al Neal, who is a regular at the Wokingham rides, kindly rode over and helped out with marshalling. Also, for the first time in Kidical Mass Reading’s history we had a police escort! Fortuitously, they had the stand next to us at the festival (for bike marking against theft) and – I’m not sure how as I wasn’t party to the conversation – two of them were persuaded to join us. By all accounts they enjoyed the ride, even if they did peel off near the end to take shelter under a tree until the rain died down.

Back at the festival, Kidical Mass attendees got closer together than ever as everyone who didn’t leave immediately huddled under the gazebo to eat cake (thanks Kat!). The rain didn’t last long – it often doesn’t – and our kids enjoyed an afternoon of riding on the ramps, watching the amazing stunt show and playing with their friends.

Finally, the old adage about waiting all Summer for a Kidical Mass ride and then three show up at once is basically true. There will be a ride on Sunday 24th September, starting from Palmer Park at 2pm, to tie in with the International Kidical Mass action weekend. Then, on Saturday 7th October we will be back in Wokingham Elms Field, again at 2pm. I hope we see you there!


September 2023 ride

A ride from and to the Reading Cycle Festival today, which got a little wet in the end 🌧️🌧️🌧️


Palmer (car) Park

As part of my daily commute to the Reading station, I cycle in the Palmer Park, through the little car park at the corner of Wokingham Road and Palmer Park Avenue. I mean the one here, near the church:

It’s one of the most stressful parts of my commute, because in this little space, you can usually find:

  • a lot of potholes
  • pedestrians, sometimes running
  • dogs, sometimes connected to the pedestrians with a leash
  • cars parked haphazardly, sometimes moving in unexpected ways
  • and not much light at night!

The combination of all these is quite dangerous, and I’ve seen a few near misses. More frequently, the cars are lined up so close to each other that I struggle to pass with my bike — and forget it if you have a cargo bike, a pram or a wheelchair.

The video below (and the picture above) give a good idea of the issue: you’ll see a car driving on the footpath, then deep puddles and finally a cluster of cars preventing access to the footpath.


The park should be a safe space for people. Allowing cars there is annoying, and dangerous. Here are a few ways we could improve it:

  1. Add more light! A few lampposts will make it easier to see the potholes and the people 💡
  2. Fix the potholes 🕳️
  3. Confine the cars. They should not be able to cross the footpaths at all. And I mean: physically, with fences, bollards, planters, etc. 🪴
Satellite view of the car park, with clearly delimited zones for cars and NOT for cars!
  1. Actually, you know what? Ditch the cars completely! Maybe we can keep a couple of blue-badge spaces ♿♿ for easy access to the church, but otherwise cars are able to stay in the very nice, recently extended car park in the middle of the Palmer Park, just 30 seconds walk away.

Our children deserve a better, safer environment, whether they are in a pram, a wheelchair or just walking their dog.
If you agree, do join us on our next Kidical Mass ride!