Pedal Power

Issue 44
July 2003

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Pedalling Picnic 2003

In bright midsummer sunshine on Sunday 22nd June, the platform at Quorn GCR station was thronged with a colourful medley of more than 50 cyclists and their assorted bikes. Mostly young families, they were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the steam-hauled 1059 a.m., which would take them into Loughborough Central, then back along the line to Leicester North before returning to Rothley station. Knowledgeable enthusiasts noted that the loco - which carried the headboard of the Cyclists' Touring Club - was a U.S. Corps of Transport engine, built in 1945.

For the numerous bikes the GCR laid on their special vintage "Pigeon Van", teak-built in 1943. A cheerfully busy five minutes were spent loading this, before everyone settled down on the train - getting to know each other as they enjoyed the courtesy tea and coffee which were included in the trip.

At Rothley, everyone disembarked for their picnic in the warm June sun. Nearby, the carefully landscaped model railway was a magnet for children and fathers alike. Amongst the many youngsters enjoying this annual "Pedalling Picnic" was young Jonathan Mee of Glenfield, for whom the trip was a 3rd Birthday treat.

After lunch, the large party headed off for Swithland. Every kind of ingenious 'family outfit' was to be seen on the road. As well as traditional bicycles, there were trailer bikes towed behind tandems, baby trailers, junior-back tandems, kiddy-seats, tiny mountain bikes - all strung out over nearly a mile behind leaders Ray Clay and Elizabeth Plumptre on tandem.

Passing Swithland Triangle, the party sailed down Brand Lane, then turned on to the track which took them across Swithland Reservoir dam. A hard climb from the reservoir was followed by a steep descent to Mountsorrel, where refreshments at Stonehurst Farm were very welcome after a hot ride. The last leg took the cyclists back to Quorn, many of them already saying "We'll be back next year!"

The above was almost totally plagiarised by John Catt from a press release drafted by Peter Hopkins.

The Welsh Festival of Cycling organised by CTC Cymru

The above event takes place on the weekend of 25th/26th/27th July in Rhayader, Powys. It is intended as a weekend of sociable cycle rides for cyclists of all ages,sizes and abilities, with rides suitable for families with youngish children( ie 15 or so miles), right up to the CTC National 400k Audax. Camping is available at Rhayder Rugby Ground, or B+B information can be sent out.

Details : CTC Welsh Festival of Cycling, New Image House, Pwllhai, Cardigan, SA 43 1DB
Tel 01239 621275.
E-Mail : info@cyclefestwales.fsnet.co.uk

FALLING APART AT THE MUSEUM

Hi there, cycling dudes! You can tell I'm into the final year of my term as Chair; the headlines are getting conspicuously weird! I am thinking about the chair in the British Galleries of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which children small and large could attempt to build from the pieces. The problem when I took my girls there was that this activity had proved so popular that the joints had become worn and the pieces would no longer hold together. As I start my Chair's Pieces for the next Pedal Power I suspect they will be like that chair's pieces; not holding together too well. But they'll help Sophie fill her pages and maybe somebody will enjoy reading them...

I was also taken to the V&A by my parents as a child. I remember it as a dry and dusty place with lots of things in glass cabinets. Children too could be seen but not heard. The changes that have taken place in museums are mirrored by changes of all sorts in all corners of life over the last generation: some good; some not so good. But whenever you are talking about a future cycling culture and somebody says to you: "Nothing will ever change," just think of that broken chair at the V&A.

Picnic In The Park felt like a wild success after spending the previous 24 hours glued to TV weather forecasts with increasing gloom and despair. Yes, it did rain, but only from time to time and the event was certainly not cancelled because of this. I hope we managed to inspire some of the young families who passed by and paused for one of the parents to say: "We used to cycle a lot before the children came." And then there were the 'old boys' with their tales of youthful pedal powered exploits: Skegness and back in a single day with football on the beach in between.

But the most moving story was that of a gentleman who had suffered a stroke ten years ago and had a long struggle to claw his way back to relative fitness. Now he has a power assisted tricycle (pedal when you can; don't worry when you can't). His story reminded me of the massive benefits tricycles can bring to their disparately challenged riders. A tricycle has certainly enabled me to raise a car-free family. And it reminded me to hold back not one ounce of my strength when opposing anti-tricycle measures such as barriers on Sustrans paths and speed cushions in traffic calming schemes.

How do you define 'cycle friendly'? I'm not sure, but I know it when I experience it, and one can always draw conclusions about the nature of something from that. I think it's more to do with expectations and practice than infrastructure per se. Fearon Hall, where Isobel attends Playschool, is definitely cycle friendly. You can roll up to the front door, slip a lock around your machine and the fence, and just pop in. Many of the staff and the older people who attend lunches there actually bring their bikes in to the main hall at the back. Perhaps the key is that the Head of Centre and the Vicar of All Saints (who has an office in this building which once used to be the church hall) are both often to be seen rolling up on their bikes. If the community leaders do it, it's part of the culture.

Holywell School is also cycle friendly. One of the things we liked about it when we selected it as a school for Sophie was the prominently sited cycle rack. The rack itself leaves something to be desired, antiquated wheel-benders, but the fact that it has been there undisturbed for so long has made cycling again part of the culture. Nobody ever gets any hassle for bringing or sending their children to school by bike, which is, I believe, very different from the case in many primary schools around the country.

Tesco is reasonably cycle friendly. The store is only about ten years old, so tradition is not the key here, and provision seems to be something of a mixture of accident and intent. The original stands are still in use, provided, as I recall with some satisfaction, as a result of a letter written by myself to the Chairman of William Low, the company which ran the store when it first opened. Now I roll up on my trike after dropping Isobel at Fearon Hall and it is no hassle. The only cause for anxiety is on sunny Friday mornings when all official and unofficial cycle spaces may be already occupied!

Cycle friendly means being taken for granted and not treated like a freak show. As the four of us were preparing to leave a party one cold wet winter night, another guest proclaimed: "The cyclists are getting ready for the road!" and everybody came out into the hallway to watch us don warm and waterproof outer layers. That is not cycle friendly.

Sometimes cycle friendly is subtle. Do you consider brick paviours cycle friendly? Neither did I until my daily playschool run across town demonstrated how the gaps between them act as conduits for broken glass. Perversely, purpose-built cycle facilities are not necessarily cycle friendly. I only once ever attempted to use the cycle path out to Hathern from Loughborough. One attempt to dodge across the dual carriageway just where the drivers open up their throttles after mounting the top of the hill is enough. And appearances can be deceptive. The green-painted cycle lane through The Rushes might feature in a picture essay of barmy cycle facilities due to the way it suddenly ENDs. But many are the times I have used it to accelerate gratefully past queuing traffic in the pouring rain.

So what will a cycle friendly future look like? I really cannot say. But I'll know it when I see it, because cycling will be taken for granted and no hassle.

Now, as ever, a Campaign activity plug. For many years now we have used our July meeting slot as a time to ride around the cycle facilities of Loughborough. In recent years this trip has been used to compile details of necessary maintenance for Clive Davis to present to the Borough Council at the Cycle Consultative Committee. But it has become clear that this is not a particularly effective method of pressing for maintenance work to be done, so the Committee has decided that this year we will promote the ride as an 'Invitation Ride' for members to invite non-members who wish to become better informed about the whereabouts and usefulness of the local cycleway network. Attached to this newsletter is a copy of an invitation from me to whomever each of you wishes to invite. I look forward to seeing you and your guests on that evening.

Finally, thank you to everybody who took some action against the Government's helmet promotion campaign showing x-ray pictures of skulls, whether it was writing to Ministers or making a donation to the CTC for their work opposing it. Research continues to fail to demonstrate any benefits from helmet-wearing amongst whole cycling populations, which must translate to the individual - how could it do otherwise? And there is one very clearly demonstrable outcome of helmet promotion (anything from prominent wearing by prominent local cyclists through to the worst case, compulsion): the suppression of cycle use. This helmet promotion campaign is particularly insidious as it links cycling unambiguously with images of death. If you are not 'on line' and have not played a role in the counter-campaign yet but want to, please contact John Catt.

Ariadne Tampion

Margaret Hopkins

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of Margaret Hopkins, one of the districts most stalwart cyclists, often to be seen out on early mornings with her husband Peter on their tandem. Margaret and Peter have been strong supporters of the Campaign during its existence and our condolences go out to Peter and his son Colin at this difficult time.

Any letters or articles for inclusion in the newsletter should be sent to the Editor at 32 Bramcote Road,Loughborough, LE11 2SA or E Mailed to john.catt@ntlworld.com.

CAMPAIGN MEETINGS are usually held on the second Monday of the month at John Storer House at 7-30pm.

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