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.