We at Croydon Bicycle Theatre wish to do all we can to support all the female trailblazers and role-models who help make the world of cycling a little more friendly for us all.
Our most recent project for the Croydon Cycle Fest focused on the legacy of Tessie Reynolds, one of the earliest London-Brighton record holders and attributed with inventing ‘rationals’, a kind of cycling bloomer which horrified many a Victorian writer.
Cycling UK are this year hosting an inaugural Women's Festival of Cycling, with events taking place across the length and breadth of the country, all aimed at getting more women out having fun on their bikes.
In this vein, we have added our ‘Tandem Two Arnhem’ ride to the calendar of events for the festival, as we venture off across the ocean to find out how it it is that women have freed themselves from the shackles of the school run (though we have a sneaky feeling safe walking and cycling routes to schools may play a rather large part in this….).
Our path from Croydon to Arnhem will take us through Utrecht, which rumour has it is the most cycle friendly cities in the world. And also one of the most beautiful. We are very excited to be meeting Rina-Mae Acosta there, co-author of ‘The Happiest Kids in the World’, a book describing her experiences as an American ex-pat raising two children ‘the Dutch Way’. (Spoiler alert: being able to get about safely and independently on their bikes with their friends might have something to do with it). We think she will be interested/shocked/horrified/fascinated by our tales of what it’s like to cycle in London with a toddler and look forward to hearing a few of hers too.
It might seem reading this that we are talking about cycling as a family hobby, but really what we want to unpick is how it is that day to day family cycling seems such a remote prospect for us in the UK. The majority of us don’t use the bike to get to school, work, nursery, the shops or out to see friends, but is perhaps something that is reserved for weekends away at Centre Parks.
In particular, we want to find our about the Dutch school run, as for us, the school run is one of the biggest barriers to both children and women’s independence. We have been galvanized by the words of Alison DuToit, an urban realm designer at Gehl Architects, who sees the school run as not only in an inconvenience, but as one of barriers to financial equality. ‘If kids and parents can safely walk or cycle, then the parents might be able to continue their journey rather than sacrificing the cycle because of practical reasons’.