Life on bikes

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

My Dad likes to play the long game. I don’t remember this, but I know (because he tells me at least once a year) that the first thing he said to me after I was born was, “In eighteen years you are going to leave home, and I promise that both you and I are going to be ready for it.”

I’d like to think that I’m a bit better at living in the moment than my Dad is, but I understand the sentiment and why he thought it was important enough to say to a newborn. It is our job as parents to help children grow into competent adults, and that’s not something that happens overnight when they turn eighteen. Freedom needs to be given to them gradually, in baby steps, as they are ready for it.


Our kids had a small milestone recently. They are seven and four, and I asked them if they wanted to go out together without a grown up to post their letters to their friends. The post box is a two minute walk away. We live on a quiet street, with footpaths connecting the houses and a small communal garden. Cars are relegated to a road around the edge, away from the houses, and there is no through traffic. After agreeing some ground rules (hold hands, the older one is in charge of deciding when it’s safe to cross the road, look both ways, don’t run) they decided they were up to the challenge. They came back having safely completed their mission and absolutely delighted with themselves.

The space we live in shapes how we live. We know many of our neighbours because we see them heading out on errands, gardening, or walking their dogs, and the boys stop to ask questions. Where are you going? What are you planting? Can I stroke your dog? The space is pleasant to be in, and peaceful, and encourages conversation. It won’t be long until the boys can go out and play in the communal area without me hovering next to them.

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One of our Kidical Mass friends lived on a side road off Oxford Road, and her experience of life outside the front door could not have been more different. There are cars parked down both sides of the street, often blocking the pavement. There is nowhere to encourage neighbours to linger and socialise, and nowhere for children to play. The traffic on the main road is fast, and there aren’t traffic free alternatives. (In unrelated news, she’s recently moved).

How many years does an environment like that add to the point when a child can have some freedom and independence? Measures to bring down the speed and volume of traffic in residential areas would make a huge difference to the safety and quality of life of our kids.

On 20th April Kidical Mass Reading and Wokingham will both be running rides. These tie in with two very important action events, an international Kidical Mass one and the UK based Safe Streets Now. We want to raise our voices to make a clear statement. Our kids deserve safe bike infrastructure. They deserve safe streets. Allowing them to experience independence when they are ready for it should be a priority.

If you agree with us, do come and join us for a ride.