Saturday, 22 January 2011

Critical Plymouth?

Together with two of my kids, I attended a Critical Mass ride in Plymouth today, and I must admit it was a bit of an eye-opener.

No, not the ride itself, but rather what happens (cycling-related) in Plymouth.

Recently-ish a new cycling forum was established in Plymouth. According to the minutes of their first meeting, there were representatives from one of Plymouth's cycling clubs, YOGi, as well as CTC and Sustrans, as well as a few others, like the good people of Natural Cycles.

All of those are on the mailing list, as am I, even though I haven't been able to attend any meetings (so far they've had two). It was via an e-mail sent to that mailing list that I learnt about the Critical Mass ride being organised by Transition Towns.

Now personally I feel the event could have been better publicised, but that isn't a major failing. See, the fact is had all the people on the Cycling Plymouth forum supported it then loads more people would have turned up. And despite the initial low numbers, by keeping this a regular event I'm sure it'll grow and become better supported.

I must admit I didn't go asking people on the ride which organisation they represented, if any, as I believe that may have made some people feel uncomfortable. Despite this, I'm under the impression that not one member of Yogi or Plymouth Corinthians showed up, nor anybody from Sustrans, CTC or indeed Natural Cycles. If I'm wrong here I'll happily update this post to say so.

This total absence made me wonder if especially the Yogis and Corinthians only support events they themselves have organised? A few years ago I organised a charity bike ride in aid of the NSPCC, and I e-mailed both clubs, asking them to support the event. They didn't even bother to respond, and that experience of total lack of support from them tallies with what happened today.

Is it because the event was organised by people who don't use a motto of "no falls, no balls", like the YOGi's do, or who aren't lycra-clad skinny-wheeled racers like the Corinthians? Is it because the event was organised by - GASP!- normal people? You know, they kind of people who often are labelled as PoB's (Person on a bike) as opposed to Cyclists.

But enough of telling what the ride wasn't - now let me tell you what it was:

We started off gathering opposite the Crown Court's main entrance, and we joined Royal Parade by the pedestrian crossing, heading toward the Theatre Royal. From there we went around the roundabout and cycled back up Royal Parade.
Well most cycled - I hopped off my bike to grab hold of my youngest daughter's handlebars and I ran about halfway of Royal Parade, dragging her along. When you're only seven, and you've already cycled a bit to get to the start of the ride, then your legs tire easily, even on not-so-steep uphills!

We went round the roundabout at St Andrew's Cross, and returned to where we started. We didn't cause total traffic mayhem, and we left the bus-lanes clear for the buses to be able to drive along as normal.

The only incident caused a bit of a chuckle: one of the organisers, who was riding right at the rear of the group, turned and waved at the irate driver of a Land Rover, who was beeping his horn at us. In the Land Rover were a bunch of kids who enthusiastically waved right back. This visibly annoyed the driver, who was obviously trying to get the kids NOT to wave at the cyclists in front of them.

It was a very short little ride, with only a few cyclists, but the enormous grin on my daughter's face at the end said it all! My son, coming up to 13, enjoyed it so much he pretty much made me promise to take them to the next one.

And yes, there will be a next one. According to Josie, the organiser, it'd probably be in February, and I'll post details on my blog as soon as I have them. Come along! Bring your friends, family and neighbours! You might just discover that you like it a lot!

Thanks Josie, and everybody else that helped organise the ride.