The rise of the parent of young children cycle campaigner

Over the past few years I’ve noticed a huge rise in the number of parents, particularly of younger pre-teenage children getting involved with cycle campaigning. This was particularly evident in the discussions at the November 2014 Cycle Ipswich meeting, where several parents commented about the problems that they have with cycling locally with children.

One of the local parents has had abuse shouted at her for cycling with children in Ipswich, with several noting that some people see cycling with children as child abuse. Yet in other parts of Ipswich there are some of the highest levels of cycling to school in the country due to the quality of the cycle infrastructure. There are some schools where letting or encouraging your kids to cycle is seen as a bad thing, however it is simply the lack of a suitable cycling environment, or the head teacher and/or governors not understanding the cyclists often choose alternative quieter routes, that cannot be used by car.

An interesting comment by the local MP Ben Gummer at the meeting was that he felt safer cycling in London, than in Ipswich. My wife on the other hand has the opposite opinion. So if the local politician avoids cycling locally, when they will happily cycling in central London, what hope have we with other people?

Parents are increasingly concerned about the school run, the obesity crisis, and safety on the roads when their kids cycle. There is an increasing recognition that streets could be much safer to allow kids to be able to cycle, whereas currently there are so many barriers to getting good quality, segregated cycling facilities that allow everyone to happily cycle without a fear of being killed or seriously injured at some point on the journey. Fake “20s plenty” school safety zones don’t make the roads safe for kids.

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Of course one cheap solution, such as what is happening in Haddington, and Edinburgh, where the use of cars is banned on streets surrounding schools during school arrival and home times, would be much more likely to make it safer for kids.

I believe that the increasing number of people who are considering cycling with children as a mode of transport is helping to fuel the dramatic shift in cycle campaigning that has happened. There is still a long way to go until there is consistency by campaigners, council officials, and politicians in the recognition that the current infrastructure isn’t good enough, and there needs to be a dramatic improvement in the quality of the infrastructure to be able to get more people cycling.

What if drivers really had to think horse towards cyclists

On Sunday I was cycling from near Needham Market back towards Ipswich along National Cycle Route 51, when an incident occurred that reminded me of the Nice Way Code’s “Think Horse” video. It got me wondering what if car drivers had to treat me the same way I had to treat that horse?

As a bit of background to the video and campaign I’ll leave it for Bez/Beyond the Kerb’s excellent and detailed blog post, which is somehow not playing for me on YouTube any more.

The section of the cycle route I was cycling along is a bridleway with a couple of tire tracks. As I approached the horse, rider, and person walking the dog beside them, I slowed to the same pace as them in the hope that they would wave me past.

 

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Shortly after the point in the picture above, the path curves around and then drops down the hill. The horse seemed a bit timid hence why I did just try to pass. The horse rider then turned round and asked me to wait until she’d got to the bottom, which I happily did.

Now going back to the Nice Way Code and the “Think horse” video. Does that mean if I’m at the bottom of a hill and feeling a bit scared by the drivers passing me, I can turn around and say that they need to wait at the bottom of the hill until I get to the top? I wonder how the driver would react? Would being able to do this encourage more people to be able to cycle? Or would drivers just think you are completely bonkers? Maybe it could be seen as a light punishment to all drivers for the few bad ones out there? Surely there can’t be anything wrong with tarring all motorists with the same brush?

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