Life on bikes

Get your body moving!

One of the things about being responsible for small people, and liking a quiet life, is that I have become a lot more conscious of what a human body needs in order to function. All of us need sufficient food, drink, sleep and movement. Nine times out of ten when one of the kids has a meltdown and we run through this basic needs checklist, there’s a contributing factor. The kids are even starting to be able to recognise this in themselves, which makes conversations about early nights after difficult days a lot smoother.

If I’m honest, I’m much better at managing this for the kids than I am for myself. When the kids were small and waking up several times in the night, the biggest challenge was sleep (for everyone, but especially the grown ups!). At least as babies they could always be relied upon to nap in a bike seat, a fact we made copious use of during lockdown when we needed to get the baby to nap three times a day, manage our own exercise, and make time to play with the preschooler. It was a constant multitasking exercise in trying to make sure that the ways we were spending our time were meeting different needs for different people simultaneously.

Thankfully now they are older sleep is much less of an issue. In a packed week, the first thing that slips is movement for me. Given a choice between clean clothes for everyone the following day or a walk in the sunshine it often doesn’t feel like much of a choice. This is one of the reasons I’m glad that we are a family that cycles – doing the school run by bike builds a bit of movement into my day every day and helps keep me happy.

I’m grateful too to see the boys starting to set good habits of their own. Young children naturally move a lot through the course of the day, but I can see that as they get older there will be far more demands on their time in terms of school, homework and other focused activities that require them to sit still for many hours a day. Like us, they will have to become a lot more intentional about making time to move their bodies.

Our current school run is about a 10km round trip. When my husband is taking them, he uses an acoustic triplet, which means the kids are able to be active too. I am less strong, and less confident in balancing them if they wriggle, so I ride an electric long tail with a super low centre of gravity, where they are just passengers. But Fridays are special – we have a bit more slack in the schedule and Mr Seven is allowed to ride his own bike to school if he’s ready early enough. We never have to nag him to get going on a Friday morning!

I’m hopeful that when they are teenagers getting about by bicycle will be second nature to them.  We’re taking a multi pronged approach to safety – they will have been riding on our bikes and observing our road positioning for years, we will help them plan the safest way between the places they want to go, and we are campaigning (through Kidical Mass) for better connected cycle routes across Reading.

And, who knows, maybe one day they might have little people of their own and find themselves struggling to meet everyone’s basic needs with a newborn around. Perhaps they will be grateful to find (from the other side) that a bike ride is a great way to get a baby to nap whilst its parent also gets some exercise.

Life on bikes

Topics to avoid at the dinner table

Somewhere along the line growing up I learned that there are some topics that it’s impolite to discuss in casual conversation – most notably religion and politics.  To those weighty items I would also add that I am reticent to discuss my feelings as a cyclist about road safety. I have STRONG feelings on the subject, and I do not want to subject my (lovely, well meaning) driving friends to a breathless tirade. So, Dear Reader, I thought I’d subject you to it instead (since you are here voluntarily and can leave when you like).

  1. Remember how vulnerable cyclists are. The best visual I ever saw explaining safe passing distances first showed a hand being slammed down hard on a table close to a hammer, and then showed the reverse. 🫱🔨 Only one of those things made me wince, and I bet you would have the same reaction. The cyclist is the hand, your car is the hammer.  Don’t risk our lives just because it feels safe to you inside your car to be that close to us.
  2. Be a bit more chilled out about cyclists when you’re driving. I particularly hate pulling up Peppard Road going away from the Last Crumb. The road there is not wide enough for a car to safely pass a cyclist (you can tell this, Dear Rider, because the separate bike lane doesn’t start until a little further up). The number of drivers who CANNOT BEAR to wait twenty seconds to get to a safe passing place is ridiculous (I am better now than I used to be at road positioning to stop this happening). Yet, when it is other cars (instead of bicycle traffic) causing the (much longer!) delay coming down that road they all manage to queue nicely without trying to rear end each other.
  3. If you are in a SUV and you cannot generally give safe passing room when overtaking cyclists, then get yourself into a narrower car. There’s no need to hog that much of the road. Same goes for the drivers coming down Peppard Road who feel the need to keep one set of wheels permanently in the bike lane, thereby making it unusable. Almost all of our road space is allocated to cars, stop stealing the little that isn’t.
  4. Always, ALWAYS look all around you before pulling away from stationary. It gives me a little mini heart attack every time I see a car lurch forward then stop just before hitting something as the driver clearly decided to do their mirrors check AFTER they started moving. That should never happen.
  5. Stop parking your car on pavements and in bike lanes. ESPECIALLY on Henley Road where all the houses have massive driveways and many schoolchildren commute along the path. If you don’t have the fine control of your car to manoeuvre it safely into your driveway please turn in your driving licence immediately.

I suppose I don’t say these things to my friends because they are all lovely, well meaning people. However, I also suppose every driver who has ever close passed me, or undercut me on a roundabout, or parked their car in a bike lane or on a pavement is probably in most circumstances a lovely, well meaning person with lot of friends. Perhaps if it became more acceptable to talk about these things we would see less of them.


A community ride

Last weekend the University of Reading held its annual community festival, and Kidical Mass Reading (and our own community) had a stall and ran a ride. We were delighted to be back on the university site, which has a great network of quiet roads and off road paths. In terms of planning how to marshal the rides, it’s definitely the easiest location we use and I would thoroughly recommend it for a weekend family bike ride.

We had hoped that our route would be a able to briefly leave the site to take in part of the new bike lane on Shinfield Road, but sadly some road works popped up a few days before the ride rendering it temporarily usable. That was a shame, as it is a nice bike lane. However, it did mean that the whole route was very low traffic and the drivers we encountered were very patient and calm. Generally traffic tends to move slowly around the university site, which I’m sure is good for everyone’s stress levels!

Leaflets galore

Our stand was shared with Reading Cycle Campaign and Avanti Cycling (who run the Bikeability training in schools). This meant that we had an abundance leafleting material, in addition to the Kidical Mass flyers, stickers and temporary tattoos. We also had two Super Keen preschoolers who were determined to carry on distributing stickers and post ride until they were all gone, despite their parents best attempts to get them to move on towards lunchtime. (Yes, Dear Reader, one of them was Mr 4). The stall was manned throughout the afternoon to continue spreading the word about cycling in Reading.

Dr Bike DrBiking

One of Mr 4’s birthday presents last year was a kickstand for his bike, and whilst we were waiting for the ride to start he decided to use it as a makeshift turbo trainer, balancing the bike on it and pedalling backwards. It isn’t really designed to take that kind of weight so it ended up pointing off at a completely random angle. Dr Bike (aka Santa’s Elf) was positioned next to our festival stand. He is adored by Mr 4, who was delighted to have a repair to request (the kickstand was very quickly and easily realigned). After the ride it looked like there were a fair few people bringing their bikes for tune ups, and it’s great to see that service being used.

Three balance bikes on a single picture!

With the new location came some new faces on the ride, including a few slightly bigger balance bikers – a great sign that their families had done the research on how to teach a child to ride a bike. The stabilisers I remember from my childhood are not currently the recommended approach. They completely change how a bike behaves (you cannot steer by shifting your weight), and when the stabilisers are removed the child then has to relearn how to control their bike. Rather it’s suggested that everyone starts with a balance bike, which steers in the same way as a pedal bike does. For bigger children a pedal bike can be temporarily transformed into balance bike by removing the pedals and lowering the saddle. It was great to have some kids riding in this manner out with us, and they did brilliantly at covering the distance. Scooting a bike is rather harder work than pedalling!

If you missed out on this wonderful community fuelled ride, then please do join us for one of the ones coming up:

  • the next Wokingham ride will be on Sunday 23rd June
  • the next Reading one will take place on Sunday 7th July.
Life on bikes

A bicycle made for two

April’s ride featured two councillors from different parties riding on our tandem, Daisy. Daisy is the only bike in our family “fleet” that has a name that’s stuck. She’s been with us longest, and, although (or perhaps because) she was bought second hand about two decades ago when we were both fresh faced students, she’s probably the bike I’m most emotionally attached to.

It’s been a while since I rode on her – at the moment “my” seat is usually configured to bring the pedals high enough for a four year old, which means if I tried to ride her it wouldn’t be very comfortable! Seeing two adults on her bought back memories from our earliest days of cycling together, when there were only two of us, and I was rather less keen.

Hilary and Simon looking young and in love

It was the early 2010s. My then-boyfriend had convinced me to try out camping (a first for me, I came from a decidedly indoorsy family). He had found a suitable campsite in Dorset and suggested we get there by a combination of National Express bus and bicycle. I nervously agreed, on the basis that he would be in charge of logistics and route planning.

Travelling by coach with the tandem was an…interesting…affair. The bike had to be dismantled and the pieces wrapped in bubble wrap before it could be loaded into the coach hold, which added a fair amount of time to the journey. Even more interesting, however, was the route between the coach stop and the campsite.

I suppose I should have been concerned when my partner showed me his printed out map and explained his plan. “Look, it’s suggested three cycling routes. The first is long and flat, the third is short and hilly, and the second is somewhere in between. But LOOK there is another route which it hasn’t found which is even shorter so we’re going to do that.”

(Yes, Dear Reader, this is the man who currently plans the Kidical Mass Reading routes. I promise he has developed some common sense in the last decade and a half).

I think my favourite part of the journey (at least now that it’s just a fun story from the past) was when, having just pushed the bike up a long 17% hill on foot, we stopped in a village to check directions for the rest of the journey. The lady looked at us, and, like a character in a sitcom, just shook her head and said, “Ooo, I wouldn’t have come this way.”

Simon and the 2 boys on the tandem

Nevertheless, both we and (spoiler) our relationship survived the trip. We had a lovely holiday, and amended our bus ticket home to go from a stop closer to the campsite. After that experience, any bicycle camping we have done with the kids have been (a) actually glamping, not camping, (b) combining trains+bikes not buses+bikes and (c) had me on my cargo e-bike. But, hey, maybe as the kids get bigger we’ll get more adventurous.

For now the tandem mostly gets use ferrying Mr 4 to and from his Friday afternoon Kindermusik class. But one day, when the kids are bigger, it will be converted back to two adults permanently. I imagine my husband and I will still have a use for good old Daisy long after the kids have left home and the newer, shinier, kid carrying bikes have found a new home.

I don’t, however, think I will ever again agree to a tandem bike camping trip in Dorset.


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.

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.

Life on bikes

Hello! Bonjour! Guten Tag!

My four year old has a gift for starting conversations with everyone. No one he does this to seems to mind, but my inner British person cringes a little whenever he bypasses Proper Social Protocols and does something completely unsanctioned like talk to a stranger on a train.

To bring him a little bit more in line with normal behaviour I have taught him an acceptable opening sentence. “Hello-my-name-is-Sebastian-what’s-your-name?” tends to come out in one breath, sometimes so fast that it has to be repeated, but at least the proper introductions have taken place before he starts demanding to know what the person did that morning or similar.

We recently went to France and it transpires that “Bonjour-je-m’appelle-Sebastian-comment-t’appelles-tu” also works perfectly well for making friends, even if that’s all the French you know. Kids in general often surprise me with how effectively they communicate even if there isn’t a shared language. I suppose it shouldn’t be that unexpected – after all, we all start off with all of our communication being non verbal. One year olds can perfectly well make themselves understood through a combination of noises, gestures and facial expressions.

🇧🇪 🇫🇷 🇩🇪 …

From the outset, Kidical Mass Reading has had a good representation from multi-lingual families. Many European countries are rather more advanced than the UK is in terms of cycling infrastructure. When people have grown up knowing the impact of good cycling infrastructure campaigning for the same here seems to be an easy sell. The predominant emotion that I’ve heard from them around this is sadness that they aren’t yet able to offer their children the same freedoms and independence that they enjoyed so much themselves.

Our boys’ first “Kidical Mass friends” were the children of one of the other organising families, two wonderful girls who are very similar ages to our kids. The family is German, and late last year an opportunity came up for them to relocate to Bonn (which is much closer to their extended families) which they (sadly for us) took. Unfortunately (for us) they seem to be very happy there and show no signs of coming back, so when my other half’s work took him that way recently over half term we took the opportunity to go out with him and visit them.

The kids hadn’t seen each other for about six months, and we wondered on the way over how long it would take them to rediscover the friendship they’d had before. The answer was that within twenty seconds of reuniting they were halfway up a tree together. Kidical Mass friends really are the best friends.

We enjoyed hearing all about their Kidical Mass experience in Bonn – a very well attended affair, with hundreds of riders and police marshals closing down junctions for the ride to pass through. We were a bit envious, but at least we could boast about our Father Christmas ride (their rides don’t run through Winter).

The cycling infrastructure in Bonn is much more advanced than it is here – my husband’s observation having been there a few times for work is that you can cycle in the direction you want to go and mostly it just works. Meanwhile, here in Reading, our route planning sometimes involves Google street view. Still, our friends were able to point out plenty of things that could use some improvement – I guess a cycle campaigner’s work is never done. 

If you too would like to help campaign for better cycling infrastructure in Reading (and possibly make some new friends whilst you’re at it) please do join us for our next rides on 20th April.

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.

🧒 🚙 🚚 🚗 🚙 🚗 🚐 🚗

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.


Five (Bike) Things I Love About Forbury Gardens

As a campaigning group, we work to draw attention to areas of Reading where improvements to cycling infrastructure are needed. However, I think it’s also important to notice where cycling infrastructure works well. Here, therefore, is my list of things I love about Forbury Gardens.

1. Bike Specific Infrastructure

A proper bike lane

Approaching Forbury Gardens from the South, after crossing Forbury Road, cyclists find themselves for a short stretch in their own specific path. In most of Reading cyclists are either expected to mix with motor vehicles (with a painted line to protect us, if we’re lucky), or to share space with pedestrians (with a painted line to suggest that we take half the path each, if we’re lucky) which substantially reduces the speed at which we can safely travel. Here the bike path runs along side the pedestrian path, but, crucially, at a different height to it. It makes a big difference, and I’m glad the new bike lane on Shinfield Road has been built this way too.

2. Low Motor Traffic Levels

Cars are definitely permitted on the roads around Forbury Gardens – there’s parking and you see the odd one driving around – but for whatever reason (presumably the combination of one way streets/bollards/bus only zones) it isn’t an area that gets used as a rat run and the traffic that comes through tends to move at a sensible speed and observe give way lines. I think I see more buses than cars here, and the low traffic levels mean that it’s one of the few places (outside of Kidical Mass) where cars are allowed that we’ve let our children ride their own bikes.

3. The Amazing Bollard Placement

3 bollards being not equidistant

Presumably contributing to those low traffic levels are the bollards under the Abbey Archway. Every time I come through these they make me happy. The central one isn’t quite central, which means that one of the gaps is bigger. My cargo bike is (slightly) wider than a standard bike, and I can slip through easily without worrying. It’s a great example of how accessibility improvements can help multiple groups of people – wheelchair users, families with pushchairs and unusual bicycles can all benefit. I’m really glad someone put a bit of thought in when installing the bollards here.

4. Accessible Cycle Parking

Speaking of accessibility, I love that there is bike parking right by Forbury Gardens, and that the pavement is profiled such that I can walk round to it without having to push my bike over a kerb. I can do that, if I need to, but with two kids on the back it can get pretty heavy! So I really notice here that the bike parking is easy to navigate.

5. Kidical Mass Memories

All of our early Kidical Mass rides finished at Forbury Gardens, and some of them still do. We’ve ridden to climate festival and children’s festival events there (two causes very well aligned with Kidical Mass goals). I’ve eaten some excellent cake in that garden, and seen kids visit with Santa (and have their bike given a tune up by his elf). When I’m in the gardens it brings back lovely memories of seeing the kids run and play together.

If you too would like to come and make memories with us, please join us for our next ride on 20th April. We’d love to see you.

Life on bikes

Proportionate policing please

Back in November, one of our number messaged in the Kidical Mass WhatsApp group (where all the cool kids hang out) to say that they had been surprised to find a strong police presence outside Caversham library that morning. Five officers had been present. It’s great to see officers out in the community, and he asked them if they were there for a particular reason. They said they had been sent there because of complaints about cyclists riding on the pavement and ignoring red lights.

Now, I will be clear that I do think everyone including cyclists should follow the rules of the road. And, as a pedestrian, I understand the frustrations around having cyclists whizz past you on pavements that aren’t shared paths (though, as a mother, I’m not going to judge another family who decide that their small children are safer riding on the pavement than on the road).

However, do you know what else happened in Caversham in that same spot in December? A crash involving six cars and a van, in which five people were injured. The consequences when people in control of fast, hard, heavy chunks of metal are reckless on the roads are far, far worse than they are for cyclists. Despite the fact that cyclists and pedestrians are often forced to share the same spaces, between 2012 and 2021 98% of pedestrians who were killed or seriously injured in a collision were injured by a motor vehicle rather than a bicycle.

I do think it’s antisocial when riders of illegally overpowered e-bikes (often working for delivery companies) whizz through pedestrian spaces at inhuman speeds. I know that many of these riders are in very precarious situations, and that the delivery companies make it very difficult to make a decent hourly rate. To get paid, riders take more risks in order to take on more jobs.

It’s like that age old ethical conundrum: riding what’s effectively a small motorbike antisocially is wrong, but if you have a choice between that and watching your family starve, which is the greater evil? For me the blame here lies squarely with the delivery companies who are happy to incentivise these behaviours and then hide their head in the sand about the consequences whilst raking in the profits. And, mostly, I think those riders endanger themselves rather than others.

Do you know what else makes pavements and bike paths difficult to navigate? When cars are parked on/in them. This forces pedestrians and cyclists (often young ones) out into traffic they shouldn’t be having to navigate. It can block routes entirely for wheelchair users and make life very difficult for families with pushchairs. Those cars often aren’t just there momentarily when passing through, they can be an almost permanent hazard (e.g. on the shared use path alongside Henley Road).

I’ve tried reporting pavement parking in Reading. The council has a website where you can submit photos but when I’ve tried it for the Henley Road bike lane I’ve got a (very quick) form response letting me know that the council have no power to enforce anything there, and the police have no resources. However, it seems the police have managed to find resources to conduct an operation to seize a few souped-up e-bikes in the town centre.

I know there are some really good people in policing – I love seeing some of them out on their bikes and we were delighted with the pair who joined our ride from the cycle festival in September. They aren’t the ones making the decisions about where their time is spent.

In a world where policing resources are so limited, can we not focus traffic enforcement on vehicles that do the most harm? We have an election coming up for the local Police and Crime Commissioner, who has the power to set the priorities for road safety enforcement. If you’d like to see a change, make sure you let the candidates know that what’s important to you and use your vote on 2nd May.