The evolution of cyclists

Reflection of bridge 2-2511

Make hay while the sun shines. That’s what I say. Get out, spin your cranks, feel tarmac, pave, gravel and mud beneath your wheels. I quietly wound my way to my daughter’s school today. She scooted happily beside me whilst I turned slow circles. The schoolyard was full of activity and bikes. A hive of frenetic energy beneath a warming sun.

Riding along the Taff Trail I was struck by tranquility (if that statement is not an oxymoron). As trees and bridges were reflected perfectly in still waters, traffic was something happening elsewhere. It felt good. Very good. There can be few better ways to start your day.

On a related note, I was struck by a statement at a business event recently. I commented how much the kids enjoyed the Sustrans big pedal – especially now the sun has returned from spending Christmas in the Antipodes – and how things have changed since we were kids (in my case, the 70s and 80s). I lamented that some parents were cheating and driving the children to the school, for a scooter or bike to be whipped out for the last 50 yards. And all under this sun! Tsk tsk. Was that doing the children any favours at all?


A tumbleweed rolled past.

A distant clock chimed.

Wind whistled through the latticework steel of the roof.

“We’re lucky to have survived our childhoods”. The comment was cast like a fly to lure in sympathisers. “Yes. It was dangerous”, someone else chipped in. ” I drop mine as close to the gates as I can”. Survived.Survived? I had no idea that we were that lucky to make it on the urban Savannah. It was, therefore all part of our evolution*. Clearly – and by extension –  the ‘survivors’ from this bleak era in our history must also be the strongest riders, the best readers of the urban landscape and the best genetically equipped cyclists, surviving to pass on these lucky genes to the following generation. Sadly this was not the place for full on flippancy. “I suppose……” I replied, “It rather depends on how far away you live from your local school, how busy the road sections are and how much effort you put into it”. The subject was swiftly changed.

Right now however, the only subject of any interest to us cyclists is how long the clement weather will last, and how much time we can wangle in it. I wish you every luck in maximising both.

*This piece in no way demeans the risks posed by traffic. I do hope however, for a little sense of perspective and a little imagination in route planning.

2 replies »

  1. I think it could be an evolutionary thing, each succeeding generation wants their kids to be “safer” than the last, while forgetting how much of us miraculously survived into adulthood. And since the age of widespread infant mortality and pestilence has passed (mostly) in the developed world, we (meaning the parents, which I am not) have to look for other things to worry about. I too grew up in the 70s and 80s, and while it was “wilder” than what we have now, the big fears in the States (besides global nuclear war) were things like razor blades and poison in Halloween candy. And of course bicycle helmets for children were unknown where I grew up.

    • There’s no question that the world has changed. People are used to greater convenience, have an increased awareness of risk and a resulting tendency toward risk averse behaviour. The media doesn’t help either; there’s nothing more juicy than an emotive news story (helmets, accident stats, images of the scenes of accidents). Yet the vast majority of these school runs can be done safely with a little planning and support. Commute 15 miles on busy dual carriageways? Maybe not. 0.5 miles to 1 mile in a quiet(ish) suburban area? Go for it. Pump those legs. Learn one of life’s great lessons – self sufficiency is good for you.

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