I spoke to Ayo Sokale, who is a Labour and Co-operative Councillor for Caversham and Deputy Mayor.
She had attended a cycle training course for Councillors, which was run by Avanti Cycling (avanticycling.co.uk) on the Saturday of storm Dudley, and I asked how she found the experience.
She told me that she found the session very useful, considered it was very professionally run and that it gave her a real insight into the problems facing cyclists on Reading’s roads.
When I asked her if she would be cycling more regularly now as a result, she gave me a very diplomatic answer along the lines of “We have to put in better facilities into place to make it safer for children and inexperienced cyclists”.
She admitted that while out on the training run, she had a scary experience when a car got too close on Vastern Road. She definitely wanted to see more dedicated routes separated from the traffic so children can cycle to school.
The problems of delivering schemes that worked formed the main part of our talk. Formal consultations are expensive and time consuming and there are pressures on the Council to get things done on time and within the budget.
These pressures come from the way that monies are allocated from central government and Reading Borough Council does not always have the freedom to do things differently. She was also very aware of the high level of demand on the Transport Committee budget and also the problems of enforcing measures, such as 20mph speed limits.
Moving away from the subject of cycling and active transport provision, I asked her how she was enjoying her term as a Councillor and what she was most proud of.
She is obviously a busy lady, sitting as she does on both the Adult Care and Housing Committees and also being Deputy Mayor, but she has found time to get involved in sustainability issues, founding the Plastic Free Caversham Group and crowd funding a campaign to get a water refill station for the ward.
This venture allows folk to ditch their single use water bottles and refill their own.
To end our talk, I encouraged her to join the Reading Cycle Campaign and to consider getting out on her bike with Cycling UK, where she could meet lots of friendly and like-minded people, who I am sure would be as impressed by this lady as I was.