101 reasons to love cycling in London #31; liberate Mums!

The last time we talked about 101 reasons to love cycling in London, it was all about poo.  So we're washing our mouths out before we press on with reason number 31, because it's all about Mums, and, well, we don't talk like that in front of our mothers, do we?

I was deep in discussion with an architect friend recently about the perils and pitfalls of suburbia and he made a very interesting remark;

"Pity the poor Soccer Mom - she is the ultimate victim of bad design.  Because in suburbia the spaces between A and B are so wide, and the roads between each are so big and fast and full of motorcars, there's no way she'll let her children ride a bike.  Thus, in order to preserve her offspring she is chained to Mum's taxi in order to give her kids the wholesome suburban life she had always dreamed of for them.  Soccer practice, ballet class, after-school club, even play dates at other houses - all must be done by car, with the kids in the back, as the roads grow ever busier, her personal time ever smaller, and all their waist lines wider."

Start 'em young.

It's not something I'd thought of before, and it made me feel hipster-smug for living in the city, but for thousands of ordinary Brits who want a better future for their kids, this is the actual day-to-day reality of living in a world where letting your kids loose in the street is a no-no.

But when conditions are appropriate, and kids are able to lead independent lives making their own way to school, to soccer, to go hang out with friends on their bikes down by the river, not only do you liberate the kids, you liberate Mum, too.  And let's face it, they're worth it.

Giving Mum a break?  It's reason 31 of 101 to love cycling in London!

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Adam said...

What year are we living in? 1971? Dads too please! I am one of many of my friends who share or do all of the child care and are equally trapped or liberated by bad and good infrastructure for cycling. Dads also have all the same issues getting pushchairs along pavements blocked by cars that Mums do and all the other problems that come with simply getting about town in one way or another.

"Liberate parents" would be a much more appropriate title to this post!

Catherine said...

Boy, you're telling me! As a cycling mother myself, who is dying to be cycling WITH the kids in the city, it feels like my day is one constant decision-making process... it I let them take their bikes too today, can we weave a way there and back that is sufficiently safe enough, can we manage all the gear, the scooter in the basket, the swimming kit, is there somewhere to leave the bikes without the horror of returning and they've been pinched, will we even make it out ALIVE! When we do manage to all get out en masse however, it's bloody marvellous and we all have such a good time! Oh to be in The Netherlands...! WE WILL GET THERE THOUGH. Times are a' changin'...

ibikelondon said...

Hello Adam, I did think about this quite long and hard before I published, but then I thought to hell with being PC (which I am usually very!), let's reflect the reality of the situation... the 'Dad' at work 'Mum' at home model is still pretty prevalent, so I wanted to reflect that, and seeing as women are grossly outnumbered by men in terms of how many actually cycle it was worth going down the route of talking about Mums.

But of course you are right in that the situation applies to both parents, men and women, and indeed it's as much about liberating the kids as it is about liberating the parents - I doubt they enjoy being stuck in the back of a car much more than their folks do driving them around :o)

ibikelondon said...

@Catherine Thanks Catherine, good for you for getting out there and persevering! With regards to carrying stuff, I think this is where really practical bikes will come in to their own - bikes like yours!

Anonymous said...

Thankfully German 'suburbia' isn't like the UK: Usually we have a smallish urban core and fairly high density housing. 'suburban sprawl' is about but nowhere near as bad as the UK.

Mind you, trying to organise a ourselves would be a darn sight easier if the streets were designed for people to use them other than by car...

Adam Edwards said...

Perhaps the next feature should be on family bikes (for the very little ones e.g the itChair for Bromptons) and then good childrens bikes (Puky and Islabike)? The other key thing to have is a Network Card or Family Railcard so you can then get the bikes on the train cheaply.

Adam (a different one!)

ibikelondon said...

That's a great idea Adam! I've started a series of Practical Town Bike reviews, beginning with the Moulton TSR2...
...and I hope to soon have a couple of other bikes up for review soon too. A couple of family bikes should definitely be included in those. Thanks!

Karl McCracken (twitter: @KarlOnSea) said...

The bicycle has always been a freedom machine - from it's positive impact on the depth of gene pools in previously remote 19th century villages, to being one of the spurs to get women into sensible clothes rather than crinoline cages. When we were kids it was the ultimate freedom, and meant that at ten years old, I had a territory of fifty square miles to run feral in!

This modern angle you've highlighted is one of the tragedies of the decisions taken by planners in the post-war period - and in the UK at least, right up to today. But it's also one of the great opportunities - the beauty of riding a bike with kids is that unlike driving, everything happens that much slower. You have the time to talk, look at the world around you, stop & small the roses, and basically be with your kids rather than just taxiing (is that a real word?) them from A to B in terror of the world around you.

But for the majority of mums (and dads - though you've already addressed this point!) to feel safe with their most precious of cargos, exhortation, training, and lorries being fitted with blind spot mirrors that their drivers can ignore isn't going to cut it.

Any other readers, please feel free to insert your rant here about the shocking lack of cycling infrastructure in the UK!

don_don said...

My two girls are 3 and 5 and desperate to cycle everywhere.

They are in the back of my mind every time I read David Hembrow's blog (and this blog and others like it).

Then I look at the media and ride on the roads in this country and it makes me want to puke.

I'm not pessimistic enough to believe there will never be change in this country, but will it ever come in time for my children to see it? I really wish I knew..