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.