Reading parents push for better roads for child cyclists

Kidical Mass Reading is a group of families that get together to undertake regular cycle rides around the town to build the confidence of their children on their bikes and highlight the need for safer cycling routes in Reading.

The group has a blog and has a presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Kat Heath, the organiser of the group in Reading explained: “Kidical Mass is a grassroots organisation that’s pushing to make active travel a reality for non-confident cyclists, particularly children and the vulnerable.

“Oxford Road for example is busy and an 8-year-old would not be able to navigate it.

“People are scared that they will be killed or hurt.

“The idea of this campaign is to make things better, to have towns and cities designed with children and vulnerable people in mind.”

Kidical Mass has therefore been set up to advocate for safe routes throughout the town.

Since the pandemic, the council received funding from the government for schemes to promote cycling and active travel.

READ MORE: Reading measures to boost cycling made permanent

That funding has been used to establish cycle road markings on a number of roads, including Oxford Road, Redlands Road and Reading Bridge.

But one member has argued these measures that have been taken are not enough.

Pieter De Boiserie, 35, lives in Emmer Green with his daughter, 7 and son 4.

Reading Chronicle: Pieter De Boiserie, member of Kidical Mass and recently a Liberal Democrat candidate for Emmer Green ward in the local elections. Credit: Reading Liberal DemocratsPieter De Boiserie, member of Kidical Mass and recently a Liberal Democrat candidate for Emmer Green ward in the local elections. Credit: Reading Liberal Democrats

He said: “We recently had a cycle at Thames Lido but I had to get there with our bikes because going downhill from Emmer Green through Caversham to the town centre is not safe for a child.

“The Reading Bridge cycle lane is rubbish.

“We’re highlighting the big lack of infrastructure for cyclists.

One of the controversial active travel measures was to block off the southbound lane in Sidmouth Street to create a two-way cycle lane which was made permanent in September 2022.

READ MORE: Sidmouth Street cycle lane decision slammed after hundreds object

Giving his verdict on that project, Mr De Boiserie said: “That’s a terrible one because it’s not connected. You have an over-the-top cycle lane there just to go onto the road again.

“They [the council] did something in a panic, they did some active travel stuff but didn’t think about how it would fit into the rest of the town.

The two Kidical Mass members had divergent opinions on the cycle lanes.

“Sidmouth Street would be great if it was connected.

“In some cases shared routes are viable if they are separate from road, if they are on the pavement they are not ideal.”

Previously, a council spokesperson argued the Sidmouth Street cycle lane would link to a wider cycle network in Reading, including those currently being established in Shinfield Road.

Mr De Boiserie supports the possibility of allowing cyclists to use the station underpass, which they are currently not allowed to do.

He said: “Opening that tunnel would be brilliant.

“Dismounting is not very attractive and is just quite annoying.

“If you keep having to dismount you might as well walk.”

READ MORE: Views sought on letting cyclists use Reading station underpass 

Types of cycle lanes are split into segregated ones, where cyclists have their own space, or those which are shared, either with cars on the road or pedestrians on the pavement, which is the situation in London Road.

Giving his verdict on sharing highways, Mr De Boiserie said: “Shared space is not good enough. In a way, it’s better than nothing, but it’s not encouraging people to go on a bike.”

While he praised changes to the highway code which gives priority to walkers and cyclists over cars, Mr De Boiserie was sceptical about how that would work in practice.

He said: “You take your life in your hands if you just go. It’s not good enough.”

Both parents argued cycle lanes need to be connected to provide continuous routes which are wide enough for users.

Ms Heath gave the example of a bridge over the Holy Brook on a cycle route between Southcote Lock and Prospect Park which is too narrow.

She said: “If I have my child on my bike I have to leave my son with someone to walk my bike across and then bring him along. That’s not a good option.

“What there needs to be is these little connections.”

Ms Heath, 38, lives on Wilson Road and cycles around the town with her two-and-a-half-year-old son in tow.

Reading Chronicle: Kat Heath, one of the organisers of Kidical Mass Reading. Credit: Kat HeathKat Heath, one of the organisers of Kidical Mass Reading. Credit: Kat Heath (Image: Kat Heath)

She supports school streets which block access to streets for cars to provide a safe route for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Wilson Primary School near where Ms Heath lives has a school street.

Both Kidical Mass members argued that better routes for cyclists would also improve routes for those with mobility scooters or wheelchairs.

Mr De Boiserie said: “It’s not just for cyclists, we have people with disabilities and wheelchairs getting involved as well.”

Ms Heath summarised: “We need to do better, we need highways design with children and vulnerable people in mind and not putting cars first all the time.”

You can take part in Kidical Mass Reading by getting in touch via social media.

Kidical Mass is global, with other groups in Bath, Cologne, California and Oregon.

The group had an international weekend where it is thought that 150,000 people participated.

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre