Amazing attendance today, despite the weather being both wet and cold! But we had a very special guest 🎅
What is your current family bike setup?
I currently own a second-hand bike that my partner got for me from Reading Bike Kitchen, and I must admit, I absolutely love it. There’s also the added benefit that I can leave it in Central Reading without constantly worrying about it getting stolen.😊
How does cycling fit into your life?
Cycling has recently become a significant part of my life. Although I used to cycle as a kid and teenager, the allure of four-wheeled vehicles took over once I got my driver’s license. However, rediscovering the joy of cycling happened when I started dating my current partner. Initially, it was just casual rides around Reading and its surroundings, but now, it has transformed into my preferred mode for short distances. Whether it’s meeting friends in town or commuting to work (especially on rain-free days), cycling has seamlessly integrated itself into my lifestyle.
Why did you get involved in Kidical Mass?
My journey with Kidical Mass began when my partner invited me to join a ride in Inverness. The experience was intimidating at first, cycling on an A road before joining the rest of the ride in the city centre. However, this initial challenge piqued my interest. Upon returning to Reading, I participated in the first Kidical Mass ride here. It turned out to be not just fun, but also an eye-opener. These rides helped me discover new routes in Reading, boosting my confidence to cycle on roads and encouraging me to incorporate biking into my daily activities.
What is your role in Kidical Mass?
Initially, I assisted as a marshal, ensuring the safety of the riders. I still take on this role when the need arises. Now, I actively participate in the rides because they’re enjoyable and enriching experiences. I also collaborate with other organisers to secure funding that can sustain and expand this initiative. Being part of Kidical Mass has not only enhanced my biking skills but also ignited a passion for promoting cycling within the community.
If you were paying attention last week you may have seen that Kidical Mass and friends made the local news (radio and TV) with our “Light up the Night Ride” where over 30 cyclists rode through town together after dark. We were all lit up like Christmas trees (figuratively in some cases and literally in others – my bike and several others were sporting sets of fairy lights).
The point of our ride was threefold:
- To highlight the benefit of being well lit.
- To highlight the need for cycling infrastructure which is well lit (it’s a double whammy for female cyclists if cycle paths feel dark and deserted in Winter)
- To have fun!
(I feel I would be remiss, having mentioned that well lit bikes are safer than poorly lit ones, to not also mention that black cars statistically get into more accidents than bright ones. Do with that information what you will, drivers of Reading – I’d personally love to see more yellow coloured cars on the roads, they’re very cheering.)
To further ensure that aim 3 was achieved, the end point for the ride was the Fisherman’s Cottage, a lovely pub on the Kennet which has lots of railings outside to secure bikes to, and happened to have live music that evening. The ride itself was great fun. We took in some important local landmarks, including the Oracle riverside (where we rode slowly and in single file at walking pace around pedestrians who gave us lots of waves and smiles – thank you!) and of course the completed parts of the new bike lane on Shinfield Road – it was lovely to be in our own space.
A complaint that’s often heard about cyclists (when we are forced to share space with motorists) is that we are slow and therefore get in the way of emergency vehicles. At one point on the ride we heard a siren and saw blue lights behind us. We had managed to get all 30+ of us to the side of the road and out of the way before the cars behind us had also managed to get out of the way to let the ambulance past them. There are certain advantages to being very narrow on the road. The ambulance breezed straight past us with a wave to the ride leader.
The ride was co-organised and promoted by Reading Cycle Campaign and Avanti Cycling. As it was a ride for adults, the route used busier and faster roads than we would on a Kidical Mass ride, and I was grateful to the very experienced riders from those groups who helped us to hold the lane where it wasn’t safe for motorists to pass the group (some, of course, did try). Still, most motorists were calm and friendly and waved as the group passed them. I think we were quite a festive sight! As Kat mentioned in her radio interview, most cyclists are nice people and most motorists are nice people and by and large we all want each other to be able to get where we are going in a safe and timely fashion.
At the pub, we set the world to rights by chatting all things bikes – the different groups were swapping stories of plans they have coming up (our build-a-bike workshop idea was met with much enthusiasm). As I expected, our kids were the only kids on the ride (they went on the triplet at the front with my husband and I was at the back yelling at him over our helmet headsets if they started going too fast for the group), but they had a grand old time chatting bikes and being included in all the conversations. Littlest even asked to stay and doze in my lap rather than going home at bedtime with his grandfather as had been the original plan. Ah, the joys of a Friday evening with no school the next day!
Many thanks to everyone who joined us – I hope we see you again next year!
A lot of women stop cycling when the days get shorter, because they don’t feel safe. To raise awareness for infrastructure that are well lit, we had a very joyful “Light up the Night” ride on Friday evening. Nearly 40 of us, all decorated with colourful lights, rode in town, from the Lido to the Fisherman’s Cottage.
At one point, an ambulance came past the group, after it got stuck behind cars. We were able to quickly and safely go into single file, ensuring it could reach whoever needed help as quickly as possible. And that’s yet another way cycling saves life!
Oh, and we got some mentions in the BBC too: read about us here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-67389970
Or watch this short clip, which includes a powerful statement from our very own Kat:
Has your child outgrown their old bike or never had one? Would you struggle to be able to buy a new bike? Would you regularly use a child’s bike to cycle as a family?
On Saturday 25 November, from 1:30, we’ll be running a 3-hour workshop at the Weller Centre in Caversham, where children will learn how to put a new bike together. They will also learn basic skills, like: repairing punctures, tightening breaks and adjusting their saddle height. Participants will learn how to check bikes and the basic bike fixes, as well as being involved in building their very own bicycle.
We’ve got places for two 8-9 year-old and three 10-11 year-old, who do not have bikes and will use them. The cost of the session will be £30. If you fit in with the criteria yet cannot afford this, then please contact us.
When you’ve grown out of your bike, or if you don’t end up using it as much as you thought, then get in contact with us and we’ll help unite it with another child who will use it.
We’d love it if the bikes could go to families that might not otherwise be able to afford a bike, so if you know someone who would fit this, then please share with them.
Avanti will also offer a free post-workshop training session to families who come, so they can learn to cycle together safely as a family. Of course they’ll also be invited to Kidical Mass rides, to meet other families that cycle. We really want to be able to help as many children cycle as possible, so please do tell us what else we could do to make that a reality.
If you’re interested in being involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can send you the booking form and details. Please let us know if you can’t make it any more, so we can make sure another child can get a bike.
I would hardly be the first to observe that being a cyclist in a car space is a bit like being a woman in reality. The world isn’t really designed with you in mind, and you are a bit more vulnerable that those around you, often in ways that they don’t realise. As someone who identifies both as “woman” and “cyclist”, here are five similarities I’ve noticed between the two.
1. We worry about our friends…
When my husband goes out riding late at night I ask him to share his location with me. This is mostly so I can see how far away from home he is and have an idea of when he’ll get back, but there is also a little voice inside my head that thinks, at least I’ll know where to send the ambulance if he gets hit. Women do this for each other too – tell me where you’re going, let me know when you get safely home.
2.…Because we know someone who has been hurt.
Some years ago my husband was knocked off his bike by a car that turned straight into him from the other side of the road without looking. He got off relatively lightly, but still had to make major adjustments to his life for months of recovery time. We know it’s a risk, but we still get on our bikes and live our lives every day (with sensible precautions) because the alternative is unacceptable.
3. We are expected to move around in spaces where we are very vulnerable
Yes, not all men. Yes, not all drivers. But still, when I’m on the road I don’t know which drivers think that getting to their destination thirty seconds faster is more important than my life – so I have to cycle defensively and position myself protectively on the road around all of them. Many drivers don’t recognise that the actions we take are for safety reasons, they think we’re just being awkward.
4. If something does go wrong, everyone will ask what I was wearing
No helmet, black clothes, and killed by a car? Guess what the narrative in the media would focus on if that happened to me. What would actually make me safer as a woman and a cyclist is a change in culture and infrastructure, not a bigger focus on how I can “make myself safe”.
5. We still need to look out for other, more vulnerable groups
It’s easy to notice situations where you have been disadvantaged, but sometimes it’s harder to recognise situations where it’s you that has the upper hand. As cyclists, we (rightly, I think, given the climate crisis) are asking motorists to make space for us – but we also need to make sure that we are treating pedestrians with caution and respect. Just because we’re a vulnerable minority doesn’t mean that we’re the most vulnerable minority.
On that note, we’ve said before and I’d like to take this opportunity to reiterate that, regardless of your ethnicity, religion, gender, sex or sexual orientation, you and your family are welcome at our rides if you want better cycling infrastructure for children in Reading.
Aside from women and cyclists having a lot in common, women who are cyclists can face additional barriers, especially around cycling in the dark. Together with Reading Cycle Campaign and Avanti we are hosting a Glow Ride on Friday 10th November at 6pm, meeting at the Thames Lido (see the Facebook event). We hope to draw attention to the issue of safe cycling at night. The ride will be at a comfortable adult riding pace and will not be marshalled. Come and join us for the ride and please do stay for a drink afterwards.