On Sunday 14th January Kidical Mass Reading held its first AGM. The purpose of this meeting was to officially adopt the constitution, define a list of members and elect the committee, all of which we did. We also heard a report from the Chair (Kat Heath) in which she thanked everyone for their involvement and the Treasurer (Samuel Langlois) updating us on how the £3.8k grant received from the university last year has/will be spent.
Per the constitution, membership is open to anyone who has attended 3 or more rides, and anyone who wasn’t at the meeting who would like to be on the list of members should let the membership secretary (currently Hilary) know. Being a member gives you a vote in selecting the committee — this is the only purpose of membership, otherwise we make no distinction between members and other volunteers/marshals.
Kidical Mass is largely organised by WhatsApp. The two members and friends groups are “KM Reading+Wokingham” which has a lot of organisational chatter/conversation, and “KM Reading Marshals” which is used primarily for letting marshals know details about the rides and is deliberately low chatter. Anyone who is only in the marshals group (or vice versa) and who would like to be added to the other one should let us know. We agreed that minutes from the AGM (which is what these are) would be circulated in both WhatsApp groups, and that any members who did not want to be in those groups should let us know how they would otherwise like to be contacted with the minutes (there were none this time).
The first bullet point I listed when drafting this write up was a very happy one, “People showed up!” This was not necessarily a given on a freezing mid-January ride on new territory for us, so we were delighted to have around 50 riders present, including several new faces. It’s great when so many families show up to celebrate cycling together, helping children to build confidence and campaigning for better cycling infrastructure.
The new territory was the University of Reading site. I’m afraid, Dear Reader, that the pun in the title of this article is slightly gratuitous as we did not in fact have any unicyclists join us (though, going for an increase rather than a decrease in wheel count, we did have several tricycles). You will see on the list of upcoming rides that we will be back on the Uni site on Sat 18th May, and many brownie points (if not actual brownies) will be available for anyone who shows up on an actual unicycle, thereby enabling me to use this pun more legitimately.
The 4km route was probably our calmest and easiest to marshal yet, and involved lots of segregated bike paths. Where we were on the roads, they were (at the weekend anyway) very quiet, and the cars that were moving around were relatively slow and calm. We passed several other groups who were clearly out for an afternoon’s ride together. It was great to see how infrastructure like that enables families to get out and ride together even without the friendly Kidical Mass marshals present to keep traffic at bay.
There was only one point on the route we had any issue with, and that was a spot where there were a couple of bollards quite close together on a bridge – most of us could get through but some wider trikes and bikes had to take a slightly longer route around. We’ve flagged this to the university in the hopes that they might be able to make this pinch point a bit more accessible.
The quality of the infrastructure would have been reason enough to want to run a Kidical Mass ride on the university site, but we are also have another link to the University of Reading – they kindly awarded us a community grant last year. This grant has enabled us to ensure we continue to have insurance and relevant safety equipment for the rides, funded the build a bike workshop and helped us to publicise the rides more widely. We are so grateful for their support.
On the subject of insurance, Dear Reader, if you have happened upon this blog and don’t live in Reading and are thinking, “I need to get one of those Kidical Mass things in my home town” (an obvious conclusion after reading about the all the fun we have here in Reading) our own Kat Heath has helped to put together a guide to setting up a ride, which includes instructions on how to affiliate to the UK network of rides and get covered by the insurance:
This was a particularly special ride for Kat as her little one balance biked the whole thing independently – his first one. The younger of our Kidical Mass Interns (Mr 4) also rode on his own pedal bike with me at the back of the ride and helped me to make sure that we didn’t lose anyone. You’d think that after what is for little legs a very long ride that at the finish point they’d want to stop and rest, but nope, most of the kids got back on their bikes to ride around the square. Karen Roberts from Avanti Cycling, who joined us from the ride, organised them into a race and then very liberally declared EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM the winner. “You are the winner of the under 5’s!” “You are the fastest balance biker! “You two are the joint co-winners of the under 10’s category!” Hi-fives all round.
And indeed, as we piled into the pub afterwards with many of our Kidical Mass friends to hold the AGM, elect the committee, and discuss the successes of last year and the plans for this year (more on this in the blog next week), it did feel like at Kidical Mass we can all be winners. I’m looking forward to seeing many of our Kidical Mass friends again (and perhaps you, Dear Reader?) at the next ride on Sunday 4th February, meeting at Thames Lido at 2pm.
We had a lovely, sunny ride away from traffic today, on the campus of the University of Reading, enjoyed by 50 people. We also had our Annual General Meeting there, but there will be more on that later. Check the pictures!
Also, for the people asking: the hot chocolate at the end of the ride was Twinings Swiss, and it is indeed very nice ☕
We are a family of three: two parents and a 9 year old. We have a fairly basic bike setup: boring hybrid bikes for mum and dad and a much cooler mountain bike for our beloved son. To transport groceries and other items we use low-cost, low-tech solutions such as panniers or a crate tied to a bike rack. To transport heavier or larger objects I have a flatbed trailer.
When our son was smaller we shared a bike, using various versions of Yepp bike seats. At first he was seated at the front of the bike, on the stem of the handlebars, then moving to the rear before graduating to his own balance bike (his first bike was an actual BMW convertible, btw).
How does cycling fit into your life?
Cycling has always been my primary mode of transport, in all of the 6 different countries I’ve lived in. We’ve never owned a car and so many beautiful moments in my life are inextricably linked with cycling. Cycling to Sydney’s scenic Bronte beach or Copenhagen’s fantastic indoor and outdoor playgrounds with my son are some of my most precious memories.
I really loved to have my child on my bike with me, either happily chatting about all kinds of things we’d see along the way, or him quietly dozing off with his head resting against my back after a busy day out. I’m very grateful for these wonderful moments that we wouldn’t have had if we’d have been in a car.
Why did you get involved in Kidical Mass?
If you had told me ten years ago that I would get into cycle campaigning, I probably would not have believed you.
Growing up up in Flanders, cycling was such a normal part of every day life that I never gave it much thought. Where I grew up, no family was considered to be a “cycling family”, every family cycled! As a child, I could visit friends and explore my neighbourhood by bike. My bicycle was a very important part in the development of my sense of independence.
Many years later we moved to the UK and even though I’m a very experienced cyclist, I still vividly remember how anxious I was the first time cycling on UK roads. Nevertheless, we still cycle nearly everywhere as a family for many reasons. It keeps us fit, it’s sustainable, and we don’t put others at risk, or pollute the air.
Here, my child isn’t free to cycle independently at all, though. Because of the dangerous UK roads, I constantly need to supervise him. I got involved in Kidical Mass because I want him to have the same freedom I had. I want him to have safe public spaces to explore. I want him to have clean air to breathe and a liveable future climate.
What is your role in Kidical Mass?
I only participated in my first Kidical Mass ride less than a year ago, so I’m a newcomer to the team. I’ve marshalled a few rides, I’m working with other organisers to obtain funding to support Kidical Mass and I’ve helped to spread the word about Kidical Mass by distributing leaflets.