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.
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.
I am one, nearly five years ago, I was cycling around with a toddler and a baby in East Cambs. Then my eldest got his first bike and I realised just how impossible it would be to use a bike as transportation and certainly riding with two kids.
I joined the Ely Cycling Campaign, became their secretary, we were and still are very actively working with the local authority to improve the lot of cyclists. I became a city councillor, I was determined to make where I lived safer. After a year or so, having been fobbed off with schedules so little and so late, I realised nothing could possibly change fast enough to help my kids.
After 18 months of planning, last August I moved my family to Utrecht NL, my eldest child is eight, both my boys now ride everywhere and love Utrecht. Fanancially we are flying by the seat of our pants, but hopefully I get to provide my kids with something much more valuable than an iPad. We can’t afford a holiday, but our life is one big adventure 🙂
I am glad to see the stop killing cyclists and the die in this weekend I have wanted to see this happen for 20 years. I have had one near fatal hit and run 14 years ago in London and my youngest almost went under a 40tonne hgv on the way to school in June. It was pure luck he hit the tank and not the wheels.
The emotional frustration of trying to bring up my kids as cyclists was more than I could take. Moving to NL might be crazy but it’s so much better being a kid here, that’s what matters, it’s not about the schools, they are no better or worse, but life in general, for kids here is very different. A lot is down to cycling and the prioritisation of non motorised mobility.
I am angry and feel cheated by the UK government, my entire life they have cheated cyclists and in many places it’s effectively banned, certainly for kids.