Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Bikeability 2

I did my first Bikeability course today. I was working with a bloke called Ryan, who was one of these ex-marines, police, fire-service chappies. His pecs were straining through his T-shirt and he was about seven feet tall. I wobbled gracelessly around the playground demo-ing various things for the kids, whilst he looked on in a super-fit kind of way. We had nine kids from a tiny rural primary school. They were a mixture of ages and abilities (8-11 years old).

It was interesting to see the different problems we had to face. One girl had a flat tyre that wouldn't pump. She ended up sitting out most of the morning until she could borrow a bike. Some of the kids were quite wobbly, but they improved loads with practise.

After lunch we went out on the road. It was a very quiet road but there were still a few cars. The kids practised going past parked cars and junctions and stopping safely and things like that. We set them up doing a circuit with a U-turn at each end of a stretch of road. I was blocking the one end of the circuit from traffic by dint of having my bike across the road. Ryan had the other end.

One car came through, actually quite slowly. He'd clearly seen the cyclists. I mean we were all wearing tasteful fluorescent yellow bibs. He hung behind one of the girls for a while and watched her signalling to turn. Then, just as she was starting to turn, he tried to get past her. Stupid idiot! He screeched to a halt and shook his head at the cyclist! Completely dangerous driving.

Anyway, the girl was shaken up and bit, but the member of staff from the school was worse. The girl hadn't made any mistakes. She'd stuck to the Highway Code and done exactly what Ryan told her to do. The driver was at fault.

So here's the quandary: the member of staff was all for blaming Ryan for the near miss because he told the girl to cycle and signal instead of pulling over and waiting for the car to go past. Bikeability is all about giving kids 'realistic' road experience - which means you can't stop cycling everytime a car comes past, or you might as well do the course on the playground. Having said that, I wouldn't have personally pulled a U-turn in front of a moving car, precisely because they don't expect it and do stupid things like that driver did.

So who was wrong? I would have made a different call to Ryan, but I wasn't in charge at that end of the circuit. That doesn't imply that Ryan did anything wrong. I don't think he did. There is no way of anticipating every idiot driver. There could just as easily have been a boy racer come screeching out of a side-street. It wouldn't have been our bad for being in the way.

Maybe we should wrap everyone up in cotton-wool and not let them cycle anywhere, just incase.

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