We tend to dwell on the negative aspects of cycling in Reading rather than celebrating what we have.
I’m not saying there isn’t a need for a fully accessible cycling infrastructure, such as safe segregated cycle paths, secure cycle parking and clearer cycling signage, but Reading Borough Council is engaged with the local cycling groups, has successfully applied for funding, and several projects are underway.
Unfortunately, with so many stake-holders involved, even making the smallest change often requires extensive consultations and costly input from consulting companies, making the whole process frustratingly slow.
So, what do we have to celebrate and what can we do to add to this list?
Here’s some reasons to be cheerful:
- Chris Boardman MBE has been confirmed as England’s National Active Travel Commissioner on a permanent basis. Active Travel provides funding sources, evidence, research, information/ guidance and case studies relating to local cycling and walking infrastructure plans for local authorities.
- Changes to the Highway Code urge drivers to pay close attention to vulnerable road users by giving extra distance and prioritising their safety when they’re sharing the road. Pedestrians sit at the top of the hierarchy, followed by cyclists, horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles.
- Increasingly setting 20mph as the default urban speed limit. Sustrans reports that studies suggest 20mph streets encourage more people to walk and cycle. We certainly saw an increase in cycling during the lockdowns as the roads felt so much safer.
- Growth of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). LTNs minimise through-traffic from using residential neighbourhoods to avoid main roads, while still retaining local access for residents and visitors.
- Greater availability and choice of e-bikes making cycling accessible to more people, more of the time. Not only do e-bikes cut commute times and traffic congestion, but they can also be used by a wider group of people and (as an e-bike owner) I can assure you they’re certainly fun!
- Cargo bike delivery services are starting to be used by large companies such as Amazon and independent micro-businesses offering a last mile delivery service.
And specifically for Reading:
- School Streets give children the chance to walk, cycle or scoot to school safely in the street of the school without danger from traffic. There are currently trials at Thameside Primary School, Wilson Primary School and schools along Crescent Road. Visit here: reading.gov.uk/vehicles-roads-and-transport/travel-to-school/school-streets/
- KidicalMass landed here in Reading earlier this year and are already making a huge impact! Kidical masses are family-friendly mass bike rides, designed to increase families’ confidence in cycling together, and to highlight the need for better cycling infrastructure so that kids can cycle to their schools, parks, doctors, etc. Visit kidicalmasreading.co.uk to join the monthly rides.
- Reading Bike Kitchen is a volunteer run community bike project where you can fix your bike, with or without help. You can donate old bikes to be refurbished and sold on. The Bike Kitchen also offers free cycle maintenance courses. See readingbicyclekitchen.org/ for more information.
- Avanti Cycling, the cycle training specialist, helps more people onto bikes by teaching children how to cycle in traffic, giving adults confidence to ride and helping organisations implement sustain-able transport policies. A number of free courses are sponsored by Reading Borough Council and CyclingUK: avanticycling.co.uk/.
- Finally, for those of us that like to get out of Reading:
- CyclingUK Reading is a thriving, friendly club which is part of the national CyclingUK organisation. It provides a wide range of social cycle rides and encourages people of all levels to enjoy being out on a bike. Non-members are always welcome. View the planned rides here: readingctc.co.uk/rides/.
CyclingUK has launched a series of long distance bikepacking routes, namely the North Downs Way (2018), the Great North Trail (2019), the King Alfred’s Way (2020), the West Kernow Way (2021), the Cantii Way (2022) and most recently, the Rebellion Way. The King Alfred’s Way passes through Reading so look out for weary bike packers and give them a smile!
There’s no time to be complacent, but it does feel like changes are starting to happen nationally and locally.
If you’d like to help us maintain momentum here in Reading, why not volunteer to support the Committee plus amplify our work through sharing our social media posts.
You can meet us at this year’s Reading Cycle Festival, Sunday 25 September, 11am – 4pm, Christchurch Meadows. Come along and celebrate all thing cycling!