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.

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

Safer Streets Now!

Last weekend’s ride was a 4km loop from the Lido which went through the town centre. Some of our riders were very small, but still very nippy, and we had great fun riding together. After the ride we enjoyed swapping advice on different cycling setups with other families. We had a good turnout from the Reading Cycle Campaign – a group with which we share the common goal of pushing for improved cycling infrastructure in Reading.

Joe Edwards, the chair of RCC, mentioned that he had seen my recent article about Kidical Mass which was published in “Cycle” (from Cycling UK). Cycling UK also shared the article on their Facebook page. The vast majority of responses were enthusiastic and kind, but there were (naturally) a few idiots complaining about kids being “used to make a political point.”

This bamboozled me. The framework in which we all live our lives – what rights and responsibilities we are given, what options there are available to us, what safety we have – is dictated by the politics of our countries. Kids cannot escape the effects of politics. They generally spend a large proportion of their time in government run institutions. They are relatively small and powerless – a teenager who cannot travel safely by bike does not have the option to drive themselves independently. They are the ones who will have to live the longest with the consequences of the action we do or don’t take on climate change. To insist that it is somehow not fair play to make these points is to say quite clearly that you don’t care about them.

So, yes, the families here at Kidical Mass Reading do believe in engaging with our political systems to ask for better for our children. We were therefore delighted to have representation at April’s ride from three different political parties. Labour Cllr John Ennis, who is the lead councillor for climate strategy and transport gave a candid speech at the rally after the ride, in which he asserted that the council is determined to make cycling in Reading easy and safe, and acknowledged that at the moment it often falls short of that goal. He placed the blame largely on the lack of funding available for active infrastructure, and certainly this is part of the story. We were able to offer our thanks that he and his colleagues were able to reinstate (and in some cases improve) the cycling infrastructure on Lower Henley Rd that the council removed earlier this year. Mr 7 used it to ride his own bike to school on Friday, and we are very glad about its return.

Henry Wright, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Reading, also joined us for the ride. Speaking to him afterwards he said that he regularly commutes by bike to work, and he sees that the cycling infrastructure we have is not good enough. He too wants to see a bigger investment in making our streets safe.

Cllr Dave McElroy of the Greens and Cllr James Moore of the Liberal Democrats also joined us, and were brave enough to ride together on our tandem (after an initial test run twenty minutes before the ride). As they were slightly wobbly they stayed near the back of the ride, and as back marker I was able to take the opportunity to point out the wonderful placement of my favourite bollard near Forbury Gardens (more of that sort of thing, please).

Having the two of them on the tandem was a great metaphor for the kind of cross party collaboration that we need to see at all levels of government if we want to see investment, action and change on cycling infrastructure.  If you too think this is important then don’t forget to vote in the local and Police and Crime Commissioner elections on the 2nd May – and please do join us for our next ride on Saturday 18th May.

Categories
Ride

April 2024 Reading ride

We had an amazing ride today, for the national action day of Safe Streets Now, with around 40 people, including 3 Reading councillors!
Full report available next week, but photos available right now:

Categories
Life on bikes

The grass is always greener

Here at Kidical Mass Reading we are unequivocally in favour of cycling as a way of transporting children. It’s environmentally friendly, it models and encourages healthy habits, and cycling is simply great fun.

Lots of people think there are physical problems with having children and not owning a car, but products exist to solve all of them that I’ve found. Hills? E-bike. Multiple kids? Cargo bike. Rain? Waterproofs. Distance? Trains. That one journey every two months that is really hard without a car? Car club. (If you have a particular problem that isn’t listed here and you don’t know how to solve, I recommend asking in the Facebook group Family Cycling UK, which is a fount of useful information).

However, and I’m going to be honest here and hope you will think kindly of me, there is one element of car life that I envy. It is the fact that the family car is a portable, private space which is usually in your vicinity. In it you can legally and safely restrain an overtired, overwhelmed and overstimulated small child (yes, I do mean one that’s screaming like a banshee) and get them home, whether they want you to or not. Being a car free family forces us to do more of our parenting in public.

I recently found myself about three hours from home (by a mix of walking/public transport) with two children, including one that was very suddenly FINISHED. Hungry, tired, 50% trying to drop to the pavement, 50% trying to run away, 0% trying to cooperate. He wasn’t being particularly quiet about his distress either (and boy do I love getting those looks from passers by). I had a few hairy moments of wondering what would happen if I couldn’t calm him down enough that we could safely acquire more food, until I remembered that I had a slightly stale sandwich in my bag from the day before. He ate that, and sufficient harmony was restored that I could get us onto a train with more food. All hail the stale sandwich.

On the school run when my youngest is in a particularly contrary mood, he occasionally decides to throw his weight around. He’s big enough now that I don’t feel safe riding when he does this, and I have to pull over and wait until he agrees to stop, or walk the bike home. I’d love to make the consequence of doing this that he has to walk home himself (which I think would be a big enough deterrent if done once to turn that “occasionally” into a “never”), but I can’t safely manage him and push the bike when he’s in that mood so that isn’t an option.

I guess, in theory, I think it’s better for our kid’s emotional growth and resilience that when they hit meltdown we help them to find a way to control it and make a better behaviour choice. In practice, I would sometimes welcome the ability to remove all their choices by strapping them into a car seat.

You might be wondering why I wrote this blog post – I’m partly wondering that too. Overall, I obviously love being a family that bikes. I really, really don’t want to put anyone off. Those meltdowns were easier to handle physically when the kids were small, and they’re rare now the kids are older. I think that’s down to a combination of more adult responses from them, and better planning from us to avoid getting to the point where they are that hungry and tired without a plan for dealing with it (there were reasons, that day, why that wasn’t possible).

I suppose I’m hoping for two things from writing this. Firstly, if you have little ones and you travel in public, and you have had bad days that look like my bad day, I hope you feel a little less alone. Secondly, whether you have little ones or not, if you see parent carrying a screaming toddler like a potato sack (whether that’s towards a bike or a car), please be kind to them. They’re having a really awful day.

P.S. we know travelling in a car with a screaming toddler is also hard. Actually, we know some parts of parenting are just hard, whatever options you choose.

Categories
Infrastructure

The missing pieces of bike infrastructure

Before spending a lot of time cycling in UK towns for my commutes, I used to spend a lot of time cycling in French towns for my commutes. I wanted to highlight pieces of bike-friendly infrastructure, which are mostly unknown on this side of the Channel. I think they would make a nice addition to the toolbox of town planners.

The tiny traffic light

Traffic light in a French street

In the UK, there is often a secondary signal across the junction, after the stop line, so that if you’re the first in line, it’s easy to see when it’s your turn. In France, this is achieved by having a tiny traffic light on the same pole, called a “répétiteur”.

Of course, this is also convenient for cars, but as a cyclist, it’s quite handy to have the signal right in front of you, instead of looking across the junction, where it can be hidden by a bus or a lorry.
Plus it’s so cute!

The sign to ignore a traffic light

Traffic light with the triangular sign to jump the red light in Paris

Right next to this signal, you sometimes see a strange triangular sign with a yellow bike and an arrow. This means as a cyclist, you can jump the red light!

You don’t have the priority though, so you have to let pedestrians and cars pass first. This sign is quite common in Paris at all the pedestrian crossings: once the road is clear, you can go… and beat the cars!

The contraflow

Contraflow street in Paris

Cities usually have narrow streets, but bikes are narrower. On one-way streets, it’s usually possible to fit a bike going in the other direction. This allows more freedom for cyclists — and also forces cars to slow down, if they don’t want to damage their bumper.

I have a LOT of ideas where this could be super useful in Reading town centre! Luckily, the lovely folks at the Reading Cycle Campaign made a map which already includes most of them. Check it out!