Categories
Life on bikes

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

Maths was my favourite subject as a kid (and I still love it now). One of the interesting problems I remember learning about is the Prisoner’s Dilemma. The premise is this: you and a pal are suspected of wrongdoing. You are taken into separate rooms and questioned. If both of you say you didn’t do it, you both serve a short sentence. If both of you say you did do it, you both serve a medium length sentence. But if one of you admits to the crime and the other does not, the one who talked goes free and the one who didn’t fess up gets locked away for a really long time. What should you do?

The mathematically correct answer to the dilemma is this: if each prisoner acts solely in their own interest, they will always turn each other in, even though they would be better off if they both kept quiet.

Sometimes I think that the choices people make around transport modes are a kind of prisoner’s dilemma. Except the losing option if we all act solely in our own interests is “large parts of the planet become uninhabitable”.

“There’s so much traffic on the road that I wouldn’t feel safe riding a bike.”

If everyone who could ride a bike to get where they were going chose to do so, the roads would feel a lot safer for all of us.

“I drive a big car because I feel safer around the rest of the traffic.”

When I walk my children through car parks I have to remind them to stay extra close to me around SUVs, because the drivers are so high up they might not be able to see them.

“There’s no space for dedicated bike infrastructure on our roads because they are too narrow.”

I agree, our roads are narrow in places. If I were queen for a day I would bring in legislation around bringing down vehicle width. When I’m on my bike, I really feel the difference between being overtaken by someone in an SUV or someone in a smaller lighter car.

SUV Share of registrations: 2021: 50%, 2022: 57%, 2023: 60%

I gave you the mathematically correct answer to the prisoner’s dilemma above. However, I’ve always felt that the actually correct answer is to associate with the kind of people who won’t turn you in. I also reckon the morally correct answer (leaving aside the issue of the crime committed at the opening of the problem) is to be the kind of person who is willing to do what’s right for your friends.

We are in a climate crisis. I know you all know this. I do think we see more and more bikes on Reading’s roads as the years go by. I’m grateful to all those people who make the sometimes difficult choice (I know we don’t have the best infrastructure yet) to travel this way. The more people make that choice, the easier it will be for others to do the same.

So, Dear Reader, if you want a new year’s resolution but haven’t yet settled on one, how about this?
When you travel, look at the options reasonably available to you and consider as a factor the impact that your choices make on other road users.
When your car reaches the end of its life maybe a car with a smaller footprint would be sufficient to transport your family.
Perhaps public transport is viable for your commute.
Maybe some of your journeys could be moved to active travel.

And if, after all of that, you sometimes find yourself on a bike in Reading, do pop by to join one of our rides.

Categories
Ride

February 2024 Wokingham ride

We had a rather low turnout of ~20 for our ride in Wokingham today — maybe because of the yellow warning of rain, issued just before. 🌧️⚠️
In the end, we didn’t have any rain, and this just meant we had more cake at the end. We have photos to prove it! 🍰🍰

Categories
Next rides

Our next rides

Save the dates for our next Kidical Mass events, in Reading and Wokingham. No need to book: just turn up and enjoy a safe, family-friendly, joyful ride with us.

Sat 20th April, 2pm

Rides for the Safe Streets Now action day:

Sat 18th May, 12pm in Reading

Ride in the Reading Campus, for the University of Reading community festival.
Location and time to be announced.

Sun 23rd June, 10am in Wokingham

Ride for the Wokingham Bikeathon, from Cantley Park

Sun 7th July, 2pm in Reading

Summer ride ☀️ — start from the Palmer Park

Sat 10th August, 2pm in Wokingham

Circular ride from Elms Fields Playground.

Sun 8 Sep, 12pm in Reading

Circular ride from the Reading Cycling Festival in Christchurch Meadows

Sun 20th October, 2pm, Halloween rides 🎃
Sun 1st December, 2pm in Reading

Christmas ride 🎅 — circular ride from the Thames Lido

Sun 15th December, 2pm in Wokingham

Christmas ride 🎅 — circular ride from Elms Fields Playground.

Categories
Report

New Routes and Old Problems

Last year we found that (apart from Christmas) our Winter rides were generally low on numbers. I believe we discussed this and decided that, as much as people love free, fun, family friendly bike rides, they love them slightly less when the weather is freezing.

We clearly forgot that we’d learned this when we scheduled the rides for this year, as between us and Wokingham we’ve had monthly rides between November and January, finishing with a double ride month in February. However, numbers have not been bad at all – last week we started off with 33 (including several new faces), and finished with 38 (thanks to excellent recruitment efforts from the marshals to passing cyclists).

Perhaps this is in part because of how mild February has been to date – the temperatures are in the double digits, daffodils are growing and I am trying not to think about whether or not this is something I should be worrying about from a climate change perspective.

On a positive note, we had a last minute route change – which we’ve had before due to path closures and roadworks (our planner always checks the route in the day or two before the ride). However, this time it was for a very good reason – the route on the North side of the Kennet is finally open. It has been closed for a very long time whilst the area was under construction, to the great frustration of our official route planner Simon Smart (which I have heard about at length, Dear Reader, because he is my husband and we have the best pillow talk, if your definition of “best pillow talk” is chat about cycle lanes).

This is a much easier connection into the centre of town with children than we have previously had from Thames Lido – it avoids several points that require our marshals to be on alert, including cycling alongside Kings Road for a short way after passing the Narrowboat (previously known as the Bel and Dragon), merging out onto Duke Street and cycling past Reading Central Library. It’s now a route to Forbury Gardens that we would consider doing as a family with the kids on their own bikes, whereas before there is no way we would have attempted it outside of a Kidical Mass ride.

The only fly in the ointment is a boom barrier between Chestnut walk and the Abbey archway, where you have to push your bike up onto the pavement without a drop curb and walk around (unless you are four, in which case you can limbo on under the bar – a very rare case of a route being more accessible to kids than adults!). Kidical Mass will be using our voice at the cycle forum to ask the council to look at improving the connectivity here, as it is otherwise a lovely and much needed low traffic route into town from East Reading.

Coming through town we had the usual run ins with rail replacement buses parked on the “no stopping” section of the route past the station (there seem to be some almost permanently stationed there at the moment, which is something of a problem), and the occasional impatient driver who really didn’t see why they shouldn’t drive straight through a group of very young cyclists – all ably managed by our marshals, of course. I would be remiss, of course, if I didn’t mention that most drivers we encountered were friendly and polite.

At the end of the ride the kids had a great time riding around with their new friends – and many of our new faces let us know that they hope to see us for the next ride as they were heading off. We look forward to seeing them (and perhaps you, Dear Reader?) in Wokingham next week on 17th Feb, or in Reading or Wokingham for the Safe Streets Now action ride on 20th April.

Categories
Ride

February 2024 ride

Slightly wet ride today, with about 35 people, and a new route that brought us on Blake’s Wharf through Filbert Street, which many of us discovered today! Hot chocolate was de rigueur at the end.