Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Towing a Dead Bike (that's cycling speak for a bike without a rider)

I can only presume its a dead bike as it has no pulse to propel it. I do love a good 'term' for something.

Please feel free to educate me on any other cycling terminology that's amusing or the real reason why a dead bike is a dead bike.

There are many times I want to cycle to school with Ol but cant.

Wednesdays are a good example. In my effort to get people off their arses, we started a Walking Bus one day a week. One day a week meant it was manageable for even the most hardcore of bone idle parent. Even those at the mercy of their work schedule were cajoled and coerced into submission.

But it also meant that I had to, if I were to be such a vociferous advocate of the merits of walking and more importantly, not driving, be there week in week out to help coordinate the bus. It is sometimes thankless (although not very often), the kids love it and thanks to the school being bold enough to prevent parents parking along half of the road (dont ask) we have managed to create social convention.

It is now very much a social faux pas to drive on that particular day. It has made the road a wonderful environment for everyone and its means that the staunch car users get a better deal, as they no longer have to negotiate the hideous traffic outside school. They simply drop off their children with us and leggit. No waiting for ten minutes to turn around or the ever familiar gridlock of a small residental street plagued with the school run traffic.

So back to the cycling issue.

There is also the problem that the school has no cycle parking. Not a sausage. Ol has a nice bike. I'm not about to leave it chained to a fence that is easily cut.

This left me with a dilemma. If he cycles to school, what to do with his bike??? Or if he doesn't cycle there, how to get his bike in so he can at least cycle home?

Today I attempted my first basic tow. The plan was to strap the front wheel with bungees to the Blackburn rack on my bike.


I had only got 20 metres along the road by the time it had gone sideways and was trying to sneak past me! A few minor adjustments meant that as long as we went in a straight line it was ok. (we? Why am I saying we??)

Roundabouts were a disaster. Never to be repeated and in the end I got off and pushed. But nevertheless I got his bike and mine to where it needed to be.

It did make me long for the simplicity of the tagalong. If you are at this stage with your kids enjoy it. It all becomes some much more complex when they are independent cyclists. I have thought about a trailgator, but I am resisting as I am sure we can find a solution from what we have.

Any thoughts or suggestions very gratefully received!

I probably need a good engineer.....

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Cycling in the National Curriculum

I write this not with a cast iron view, but more as a cathartic process to explore my own thoughts and to open the floor to the views of others.

As I write, the collective 'powers that be' in cycling, British Cycling and the CTC are asking their members to urge the DoE to put Cycling on the National Curriculum, utilising a consultation the department are going through. 

"This consultation sets out the Government’s plans to reform the National Curriculum in England. It follows a review of the National Curriculum which was launched in January 2011 with the following aims:
  • to ensure that the new National Curriculum embodies rigour and high standards and creates coherence in what is taught in schools
  • to ensure that all children are taught the essential knowledge in the key subject disciplines
  • beyond that core, to allow teachers greater freedom to use their professionalism and expertise to help all children realise their potential.
The National Curriculum continues to be statutory for all maintained schools. It also guides much of what is taught in many schools that have opted for academy status."
On the surface, the idea that the collective membership of the CTC and BC are called to arms for the greater good of preserving childhoods, seems like a noble cause.  But part of me cannot help but feel cynical.
The idea that all children having Bikeability training will somehow result in a mass uptake in cycling is laughable at the very least.  In Trafford, all children in year 5/6 receive Bikeability training, yet where are the bike sheds in the local secondary schools groaning under the weight of these newly converted to the church of two wheels?
Its simply doesn't happen.  The danger their parents feel they will be in when they cycle, whether real or perceived, means that more often than not, most children never touch their bike again apart from the odd ramble in Centreparks or the local park. 
I also can't help shake the feeling, that certain organisations are trying to line their pockets. An increase in cycle training provision, sounds like jobs for the boys to me. Especially when one of the main campaigners also provides said training....
"British Cycling has delivered Bikeability training to thousands of adults and children since 2009 through schools and summer holiday courses. Over 2,000 young people have participated in Bikeability training with British Cycling since 2009. British Cycling has also trained over 600 Bikeability instructors"

And a surge in people cycling isn't going to harm BC's or the CTC's membership figures now is it?

I do concede we have to start somewhere. I also realise that those who have had training are more likely to cycle.  And that if more people cycle then 'we' are a greater lobbying group with a bigger collective voice.  But I just do not believe training kids to 'cope' with the current situation and then using them almost as cannon fodder for the greater cause is acceptable.

Using the momentum of the Olympics, the surge in popularity of cycling recently and the fantastic Times Campaign, I can only feel that the combined voice of BC and CTC could've been put to better use to ask for safer routes to schools for example.  

I just feel like the National Curriculum request, is one big fat red herring.  

But then again, if enough people ask for it, does it demonstrate to the government the importance of taking cycling seriously? Or does it tick a box for them to say they are at least providing training rather than sorting the problem at hand?