I have always been car free, never even driven one, I don’t actually know what the pedals do. It was never a really big lifestyle choice, I cycled to school and to friends houses and just never felt the need to travel any other way. When I was 17 I began touring and 100 miles a day was a breeze, I could go anywhere by bike.
My first cycle rides were on the narrow lanes around the village where I grew up. I remember many wonderful family rides, zooming around the Somerset levels and stopping for picnic lunches. We almost never saw a car and the sun always shone…happy days.
In 1990 a most significant cycling moment came with my first ‘Young Bell Ringers Cycling Tour‘, a week long adventure ringing in churches around Oxfordshire. We stayed in youth hostels and cycled to around six towers a day. The 30 strong group of cyclists made quite an impression on me and I knew then that I would always want to make the bicycle my primary mode of transport. I went on two further tours and remember them with great affection. Geoff the organiser has continued to run the tours and I am sure has inspired many more young people to become serious cyclists.
Fast forward 20 years…I am married with two young children and a demanding full time job. I no longer have time for endless days of touring but I still ride my bike every day. I have a trailer for shopping and to take the children around and ride to work every day. I love the feeling of whizzing along and day dreaming about the long summer days of my youth.
OK, so I know I have rather rose tinted spectacles on when it comes to my memories of childhood cycling, but the point is I have positive memories of cycling from a very early age. In my teenage years I flew around everywhere by bicycle and just remember the pure freedom it gave me. Are today’s children having the same positive experiences? Some maybe, but with the roads increasingly clogged by maniacal car, van and lorry drivers the experience of those lucky enough to be allowed out on a bike is likely to be much less satisfying. The 21st century teenager is probably far more likely to be a car driver or passenger than to be using a bicycle for daily transport.
If we are to see more young people cycling we have to make it feel safe and fast. The only way I can see this being achieved is if we adopt the Dutch model of segregated infrastructure. When parents feel cycling is safe they will begin to use the bicycle for everyday transport and children will be able to cycle to safely school. Cycling children will become cycling adults.