My daughter is at school quite a way from home, and as a result, when birthday parties occur, there is usually a long drive involved. Rather than try and get home and then go back again, I find it easier [assuming the weather is decent] to take the camera and find somewhere nearby to take some photos for a couple of hours. Today was just such an afternoon; the dog refused to get into the car, so I could not spend the time walking him. Instead, I took two sets of pictures. The first is of Pin Mill, a small hamlet that sits on the south bank of the River Orwell as it flows from Ipswich out to sea at Felixstowe. The light was very clear today, and the still water provided some great reflections.
Being based in Suffolk and being a cyclist, this item from today’s Road.cc news pages caught my attention. I’m not going to have a Daily Mail style rant about it, because that will not achieve anything, however it does raise an interesting issue about the place of cycling (and a lot of other things) in our car dominated society today.
The Headmaster of St Helen’s school in Ipswich has been asked to implement the removal of the school’s cycle racks following a decision at a school governors’ meeting. The reason given is that the school is close to the busy Woodbridge Road, and this makes cycling too dangerous an activity for the pupils.
Naturally, the Green Party leader in Suffolk, John Mathissen, is outraged, and argues that this is the wrong direction for schools to be going in. And in principle, not many people would disagree with him. With whole generations of British people seemingly following the Americans on the route to obesity, heart disease and general inactivity, cycling is one of the best and most sustainable forms of personal exercise available, as well as fulfilling the supposed imperative towards making personal transport cleaner and less energy intensive. Who would seriously believe that pavements choked by 4×4’s is a more desirable outcome for British society than packs of children cycling to school, learning all sorts of independence skills as well as exercising themselves?
But the flipside is simply that the governors’ decision is pragmatic. It may seem unpalatable, but I know Ipswich and, like any other town in the country, the roads are clogged and lethal at rush hour. And they are a challenge to any cyclist even at quieter times. The simple fact is that, increasingly, cycling is a dangerous activity because the car is supreme. Drivers (and I count myself in this group, sadly) have no patience for each other, let along pedestrians and children or adults who have the audacity to attempt to use the road for their own uses. And so it goes, a vicious circle – the kids cannot now cycle to school, therefore unless their parents have time to walk them there, they will end up being driven.
So, on the day the Copenhagen Climate Summit begins, will we begin a revolution that will make St Helens reinstate their bike racks? Errr, don’t hold your breath!