By a Ripon Mum
This is a follow-up to The Challenges of Cycling to School in Ripon.
When my two young daughters returned to Sharow Primary School on keyworker places in June 2020, we challenged ourselves to a new routine of cycling to school at least once a week. School is about a mile away and I had been feeling increasingly guilty about using the car every day. Besides, it would be good exercise.
Easier said than done.
The roads were filling up again and cycling with young children suddenly felt like a very dangerous undertaking which left me feeling furious every time – with the cars that broke the speed limit as they zoomed past us on the narrow road; with the council who are responsible for providing safe cycle lanes and paths but don’t; even with school for not allowing the kids to store their bikes somewhere sheltered; and with other parents for parking inconsiderately on the pavements outside the school entrance.
Harrogate District Cycle Action group helpfully suggested I write an article describing the challenges we were facing, which I did and you can read it on this website.
This follow-up article examines the progress we have made since then.
Julian Smith MP
I sent the article to several influential people. Firstly Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon. I was
disappointed with his slow, generic reply. No promises of support there.
Councillor Mike Chambers
I had better luck sending the article to North Yorkshire County Council, namely Don Mackenzie with whom I exchanged emails and who then put me in touch with Mike Chambers, my local councillor. Mike phoned me directly to offer support which impressed me. He wanted to allocate a significant chunk of his locality funding budget to pay for a bike shelter for the school. You don’t get very much for £900 but school should be able to afford a shelter for 6-8 bikes with a decent cover to keep the bikes dry. As long as school make their application by the end of January 2021 (fingers crossed).
Frustratingly, Mike had agreed to come and cycle the school run with us one morning in January and this has had to be postponed because of the latest national lockdown. I was especially pleased as he had acknowledged he would have to “dust off his bike after several years of being in the garage”. Surely just getting him out on his bike and experiencing Ripon from a cyclist’s perspective would stand him in good stead for the next time he’s in the council chamber discussing funding for cycle infrastructure.
Mike has also been helpful with signposting and supporting with getting the roads and pavements cleaned up. (Although top marks go to HDCA member Malcolm who was first on the scene to battle the nettles). NYCC and HBC have now cleared sections of the pavement and gutter along the narrow road, making it wider and safer, which has made a significant difference. Most recently they have also cleared leaves from Ripon’s only section of off-road cycle track (underneath the bypass).
School are obviously very pleased with the offer of funding for the bike shelter. They have commented positively on my article and shown their support by sending it out to all parents as part of the weekly newsletter (their idea, not mine). The head teacher was also planning to introduce a cycling module into PE one half term but lockdown has postponed that plan, too.
On a personal level we have motivated two other families to cycle occasionally to school with us. I’m hoping that once Spring comes we encourage more families to do the same, especially if we have a shiny new bike shelter to use. There is also talk of a “School Streets” campaign being launched in the area which I hope my children’s school can be involved in.
Quick Wins and More Fundamental Problems
Frustratingly of course, I am aware that all the positives I have listed are, in reality, “quick wins” and don’t detract from the real issues at stake, that Ripon as a city has virtually no functional off-road cycle lanes which would enable safer cycling for younger children and less confident adults.
However, I’d like to think that in the past three months I have contributed to raising the profile of
children’s cycling locally and will continue to do so. Our cycling date with Councillor Mike Chambers is only postponed, not cancelled. I also intend to send my article to local Ripon councillors, again to raise awareness. I’m also aware of a planned consultation by the council around local travel infrastructure and hope to be more involved in this, along with other long term members of HDCA.
We have a long road ahead and this is the very beginning.