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My local councillor tells parents cycling isn't suitable for them. Is that fair?

(27 Posts)
Dannyinthecity Mon 04-Jul-11 12:07:22


My name is Danny. This is my first post on mumsnet so please go gently on me. I contacted mumsnet directly after talking to my sister about something that happened to me last week and they suggested I post about this. My sister has two children, 2 and 5. She takes them to the same school. She sometimes cycles them. And she says that many of the other parents at her school would like to cycle their children to school. But they don't because they're too scared of the roads. Last week a colleauge of mine was cycling her children to school and someone stopped their car, got out and called her 'a child abuser' (I'm not kidding)

I write a blog about cycling and walking in London. And last week I received some correspondence from the transport spokesman for the Conservatives in the London Assembly (the London governing assembly). He wrote this to me:

"Whilst we strongly support those who have the choice choosing to cycle, there are those for whom cycling is not feasible. The introduction of a road user hierarchy penalises those, such as parents with young children, whose personal circumstances might be less suited to cycling."

There's a big debate going on in London at the moment about whether roads should be prioritised to process as many cars as quickly as possible or whether they should be designed to allow people to walk and cycle through them safely as a priority. His mention of a 'road user hierarchy' is a reference to a decision by the Conservatives in London to specifically not reject a report agreed by the rest of the London Asssembly that would have made road safety for pedestrians and people on cycles a priority on London's roads rather than fast motor traffic.

What surprised me was his comment that cycling is not feasible for parents with young children.

In Denmark, most children cycle to school on their own when they're old enough and with their parents when they're younger (55% get to school by cycle). I think many people would like to cycle their children to school if they felt the roads were safe enough. It would save people a lot of time and money if they could do so.

My blog isn't a political blog. I'm not trying to be anti or pro any political party. I also know that cycling can be a contentious topic for some people. But I am really curious. Do most parents agree with his statement that it's not suitable for parents with young children to cycle? I can see why people would choose not to cycle on our busy roads. But I don't agree that people shouldn't be able to cycle with their children, provided they felt safe enough.

I've written more about this here

I'm looking forward to hearing what people think and whether they would like to feel the roads were safe enough for them to cycle with their children, like it is in many other countries now.


xstitch Mon 04-Jul-11 12:11:32

Child abuser? Were the children wearing cycle helmets. That would be my only concern if they weren't.

Dannyinthecity Mon 04-Jul-11 12:13:05

She wasn't wearing a helmet but her children were. She tells me that this sort of thing happens at least once a week. Different wording perhaps but generally someone will shout at her for taking her kids to school by bicycle.

VivaLeBeaver Mon 04-Jul-11 12:13:40

Road safety isn't the only reason a parent may not cycle. The letter talks about personal circumstances. I can't cycle kids to school as I work and have to get to work eight miles away after school runs. I feel safe enough to bike but am very rural.

GeekCool Mon 04-Jul-11 12:13:45

Surely the roads would be safer with less cars, helping children and parents get/stay active?

I think YANBU

Dannyinthecity Mon 04-Jul-11 12:16:32

@vivalebeaver, yes, I'd agree with you on that. Distance is a big part of it. I wouldn't cycle either if the distances were too long. But I also know my niece loves being on the back of my bike, for example but I'd be terrified of tackling most of London's roads with her on my own bike, let alone on her bike. And that's where I think this councillor's comments are a real shame. He thinks people with children wouldn't want to cycle with them. I am not sure he's right.

OrangeHat Mon 04-Jul-11 12:17:34

Well I think YANBU at all.

And also would be grateful to know if there is anywhere official I can register my support for the idea of prioritising pedestrians and cyclists over cars in London.


switchtvoffdosomelessboring Mon 04-Jul-11 12:20:18

I am very surprised. I regularly sometimes cycle with my twins in one of those pull along bike trailers and not once have I heard any negative comment. In fact the complete opposite, people are always making very positive comments, even teenagers and workmen.

I will cycle on the pavement if its not busy but have found that if I am on the road traffic gives me a real wide berth.

Dannyinthecity Mon 04-Jul-11 12:25:31

I think the best way to comment is to send a personal email to Richard Tracey or other London Assembly members. Richard Tracey is the councillor that sent me this comment and his email is here

To @switchtvoff...yes I agree, I was quite surprised. She lives in Bristol rather than London but she swears it's a common occurrence. I don't think she's exaggerating..

flipthefrog Mon 04-Jul-11 12:26:03

it's a great idea but won't happen, cars rule - though boris is trying isn't he

the child abuse comment is just weird

love all the yanbu posts, this isn't in aibu

VivaLeBeaver Mon 04-Jul-11 12:27:01

I wouldn't cycle in London with a child under the age of twelve on their own bike. Apart from quiet suburbs or wide cycle paths.

CQrrrneee Mon 04-Jul-11 12:27:46

I also think YANBU. Other cities manage to accomodate lots of traffic and cyclists. Manchester for example.

CQrrrneee Mon 04-Jul-11 12:28:14


greycircles Mon 04-Jul-11 12:31:00

I have to say honestly that where I am, cycling is very dangerous. On my way to school just this term, I have seen 2 bad accidents where cyclists have been knocked off, needing ambulances. I therefore would not allow my children to cycle this route to school, nor would I cycle towing them in something. It would be different if there were dedicated cycle paths, but here, there aren't and I think it would be nutty for me to cycle/have the kids cycle given what I have recently seen.

MarioandLuigi Mon 04-Jul-11 12:32:48

Child abuser?

swanker Mon 04-Jul-11 12:33:37

Well why isn't she wearing a helmet? If something happens to her, her children will suffer!

I think in general it isn't safe for parents to cycle with young children- drivers do not take due care a lot of the time, and many cyclists behave badly- riding on pavements, not stopping at traffic lights/give way junctions, riding side-by-side in narrow roads instead of single file etc. I do a lot of driving in a large city, and I see a lot of poor road use by vehicle drivers and cyclists/motor-cyclists.
Sadly I see a lot of accidents, frequently very serious/fatal.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 04-Jul-11 12:37:11

I'd love to feel that the roads were safe enough to cycle on with children. Heck, I'd love it if my DH felt they were safe enough for us to cycle on without them. We live on a road which is designated as an official cycle route... winding country lane with too many impatient drivers, he has the heebie-jeebies at the mere thought of it. We have to stick to off-road cycle paths, which there aren't enough of sad

jenniec79 Mon 04-Jul-11 12:38:20

I cycle in Bristol too. No DCs yet, but the roads are insane in places with a large number of cyclists taking their lives in their hands and acting as if lights etc don't apply to them. I'm terrified of hitting cyclists when I drive some routes around town, especially in the morning rush hour. Having said that there's a lot of non-cycle friendly driving goes on too - I've got fairly picky where I'll cycle tbh.

The only accident I've been in as a pedestrian was being hit by a cyclist on the pavement, so very anti riding on the walkways, too.

Dannyinthecity Mon 04-Jul-11 12:43:34

I wouldn't disagree with any of the responses so far to be honest. But i think what bothers me is that this councillor is responsible for deciding that nothing's going to change. So, no space for people to cycle in safely and therefore it's no surprise that people will drive rather than cycle isn't it? If it doesn' feel safe enough, why would you? I'm trying to see if people think that it's acceptable to just leave things as they are (which is what this councillor is suggesting) or whether people think we should create safe spaces for people to cycle and that are safe enough for them and there children to use? So, should we leave things as they are or try and make things better in summary?

flipthefrog Mon 04-Jul-11 12:46:47

to me it isn't just a matter for cyclists either, road safety campaigns are far down the list of this governments policies. no tv ads (like we had) at all, people have to campaign themselves to get lower limits near schools, no lollipop crossing people, not enough zebra crossings, etc

i have to admit i'd like to see this tacked as well

greycircles Mon 04-Jul-11 13:56:59

In an ideal world, we'd make things better. Then there is the issue of money...or rather the lack of it.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 04-Jul-11 15:26:24

flip, I reckon it makes sense for most of the issues you mentioned to be handled at the local level - provided that level is empowered to actually install the crossing or impose the school speed limit or whatever, once the pros and cons have been weighed up by local people who know what the conditions are really like at different times of day.

Cycling is different because - in the absence of patient, considerate drivers - it requires (literally) joined-up infrastructure. Either proper cycle lanes along roads - which may necessitate road widening - or the extension of offroad cycle paths. Integration of railways and cycleways. You can't just magic these up in an existing environment.

LieInsAreRarerThanTigers Mon 04-Jul-11 15:36:26

I always cycled in London (outer, not inner) with small children but only knew one or two others who did. Most of them just weren't cyclists anyway, tbh. I did once get shouted out by police to 'get off and walk' when I had my son on a crossbar-mounted seat. When I refused they drove off and the WPC shouted "Well I hope it dies!"

I got an official apology for this treatment. Other than that I was aware of people thinking I was 'brave' or 'mad'.

He does have a point that it is not always practical for this group - I only had one under five at a time and if you want to transport more than one you have got to be fairly committed to that mode of transport as the special equipment gets a bit expensive and needs storage space. However I think it is much more to do with the culture and a lack of inclination to cycle with children. Most of my NCT/post natal group friends didn't even own a bike.

jenniec79 Mon 04-Jul-11 17:30:38


That's awful! How did you get your apology?

LieInsAreRarerThanTigers Mon 04-Jul-11 20:57:30

I complained via the Met website (I noted the reg of their car and the time of day so they knew who was driving). I initially got a rather soggy letter which I replied to saying it wasn't really enough, can't remember the exact proceedings but I was suddenly phoned at work by a very senior officer who said they would be severely reprimanded or something like that. I didn't want them to get into really serious trouble, just get told off, which I think is what happened.
I still felt kind of anxious from then on along that stretch of road in particular, and it is the worst experience I have had with the police.

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