I (Polly from Play On Pedals) spent an evening in Edinburgh last weekend with the Women’s Cycle Forum – speaking alongside an inspirational and international mix of women talking about cycle campaigning, cycle fashion, social cycling, cycling with families, transport research and infrastructure: the list of speakers can be found here.
After hearing about what cycling meant to all our speakers and how they engage with it in their lives (find out more here, here, here and here) and how it has adversely affected their lives – addressed by an Australian woman given a criminal record for not wearing a helmet – read her story here, we broke into groups to discuss further the things that everyone else in the room was concerned with.
I was joined on my table by a primary school teacher, a mum who cycles with her two young children, another new mum who had cycled while pregnant and received lots of negative comments as a result, and a lovely woman who volunteers with Spokes.
We had been asked to decide upon a ‘burning issue’ as a group, which proved at once easy and difficult. Here are some of the initial points we put on the table:
– How to empower parents to cycle safely and confidently with their children?
– How to cycle with young children (on pavements or the road?) when they are first learning as parents aren’t legally allowed on the pavement but most parents would not want their child on the road.
– Where to cycle with children when the current cycle routes are not well joined up, safe or reliable?
– Bikes for young cyclists are expensive and of limited sizes which makes it difficult for families to source appropriate bikes for their children
– Cycling when pregnant is not well received by other road users or members of the public, even if the cyclist in question feels safe and happy doing so
– Some parents put obstacles in way of schools teaching children to ride (and vice versa)
– Money available for schools to deliver cycling activities can be a problem or a benefit – a strong parent council can really influence a school’s ability to deliver cycle training
We decided that the three main things that interlink these issues: cultural change leads to infrastructure change and for this to happen we need better training and resources. We also decided that it was important to ‘big up the positives that are happening, no matter how small and use these examples as leverage for more change’.
We then proposed some examples of positive things that could be done to address the above issues, as well as some that are already happening:
– City of Edinburgh has committed to teaching Bikeability Level 2 (which gets primary children out on the roads) to all primary schools in the capital by 2016
– Organisations like Spokes, Edinburgh Bike Station and others already offer a mixture of training and led-rides for families and parents as well as great resources on cycling with families – let’s promote these resources more!
– Could there be a Belles on Bikes model adapted for families?
– Could there be an increased effort to train parents alongside training children in cycling safely on roads?
– Drivers should pass their Bikeability test before taking their driving test! (This one slightly less achievable perhaps?)
– School-run street closures are being piloted in some schools in Edinburgh to reduce car traffic (and encourage alternative means to transport?)
More ideas and examples would have no doubt continued to flow had the delicious buffet not arrived, however we made a great start and I look forward to hearing what other ideas came from the 7 other tables across the room – all buzzing with activity – as the Women’s Cycle Forum develops and evolves. It was a pleasure to have been part of the first event!