In all the years I’ve been running a school cycling club we’ve never been rained off. The weather has always lifted just in time. But on one Friday in early October I received a call from school asking whether I was likely to cancel that afternoon’s session. It was heaving it down and it seemed like a rhetorical question. Of course I would be cancelling cycling club, nobody would want to cycle in this weather.
I had no choice, I always cycle to school to pick up my daughters. I cycled through road flooding to get to school and joined the parents huddled inside school reception (we would normally be outside in the playground). I formally cancelled the club and was chatting with the school secretary, who was half way through retrieving parents’ phone numbers to tell them of the cancellation, when my foot was run over by a muddy front wheel. One of the club’s youngest members had cheekily cycled into school and was wondering why I wasn’t out in the playground. I turned and looked outside. Half of the cycling club was outside, riding around. The other half had been taken home already, parents deducing there couldn’t possibly be any cycling club held in such foul weather.
Turning to the school secretary I cancelled the cancelling and went out into the pouring rain. The kids I mentor on Friday afternoons are all under ten. None of these wee ‘uns were bothered by the rain in the slightest. In fact, they loved it. At first I suggested they not ride through puddles but this quickly turned into part of the session. Parents took home some seriously soggy kids that night. But all of them went home smiling (the kids, not the parents).
Never underestimate childrens’ love for cycling – but they should be taught early
This bodes well for the bike trade you might think, but talking to one of the (bike-mad) parents afterwards brought me down to earth with a bump. She said her son was only one of a very few in his class who could cycle unaided. Many of the others were still on stabilisers, but the great majority don’t have bikes at all.
I blame the parents. Cycling, like swimming, is a lifeskill that really ought to be taught early. But this can’t be forced. If the parents don’t cycle, they might not see cycling as a lifeskill at all. It’s well known we’ve lost a generation to cycling and the bike trade’s future is heavily reliant on getting today’s kids hooked on cycling.
There are lots of schemes out there making this happen. Bike It, Bike Club, Bikeability, Go Ride and others. Does your shop support any of them? No? Maybe it should. Think of it as saving up for a rainy day.