Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Reclaim the Bike - Women's Evening Ride Friday 18th June

Calling all ladies!!

Get on your bikes and join us for an evening ride around Birmingham. Meeting at 7pm outside the Central Library, (Disclaimer: Chamberlain Square NOT Centenary Square as publicised previously by my awful geography) on Friday 18th June. Reclaim the night and feel empowered by the freedom of cycling as well as meeting lots of other lovely women cyclists. You don’t have to be the best cyclist, you don’t have to have the best bike. In fact if you have any issues with your bike, we will take a look beforehand. It is not about cycling the route the fastest way and you can leave at any point. What is important however, is that you get back on your bike and join us!!

Free rosettes and badges to all. 


PS. Men are welcome to join in too but we're aiming to encourage more women cyclists to get back on their bikes so tell your wife/girlfriend/sister/lady friend to come along too!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Bicycle Treats

I found this take on the old 'Keep Calm and Carry On" poster earlier today. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath when some idiot pulls out in front of you or steps in your path. It's all you can do not to shout/swear/take a good kick at their bumper!

Some other goodies I found:

These ladies were cycling in 1898!

Cyclists Reclaiming the Roads...yeah!

I know this is quite an old video now but I used this strip of Bedford Avenue nearly everyday when I lived in New York last year and it was pretty dangerous with cars turning and people walking in the street. Brooklyn used to be an amazing place to cycle and I think it's brilliant that these guys took it upon themselves to reinstate the bike lane. I am not condoning vandalism but if anyone wants to do this on the Pershore Road/Rea Valley route, be my guest! x

Critical Mass

On the first Friday of May at 6pm, I quickly made my way to St Philip's Square in the city centre. It was the first time I'd been able to make Critical Mass since moving back to Birmingham and I was pretty nervous having only taken part in the London CM as part of a big bike gang. I'd totally forgotten it was that evening and was sitting in the pub (not drinking!) when I bumped into another Bike Foundry member and they coerced me into going with them. Luckily, I'm always on my bike so I went along to see what it was like.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about; "Critical Mass is a monthly bicycle ride to celebrate cycling and to assert cyclists' right to the road. The idea started in San Francisco in September 1992 and quickly spread to cities all over the world. Critical Mass has a different flavor from city to city -- there's a big variety in size, respect of traffic laws (or lack thereof), interaction with motorists, and intervention by police. So if you want to know more about Critical Mass, you'll really need to find out what your local ride is like. Critical Mass has no leaders, and no central organization licenses rides. In every city that has a CM ride, some locals simply picked a date, time, and location for the ride and publicized it, and thus the ride was born."

I arrived to find a group of fifteen or so cyclists grouped around the benches. I floated around the edge of the group offering awkward smiles whilst CM regulars exchanged news, jokes and took photographs. We waited for any late comers and then left around 6.30pm. The pace was quite relaxed, people chatted as they cycled and I realised I was concentrating so hard on not cutting anyone up/crashing into another bike (silly worries because I am of course an excellent cyclist) that I barely noticed the route we were taking. I finally lightened up and found I was having fun! We cycled down Broad Street blocking two lanes of traffic and then circled the Five Ways Island twice. It felt great to be cycling as part of a big group and to be making such a blatant statement.

We came back down Broad Street and took over both lanes again, everyone spreading out to block traffic trying to squeeze past. A few cars beeped but nothing out of the ordinary. As we went along, cyclists on their evening commute joined us and asked what we were doing. A cheerful man on a red frame said he wished he didn't have to get home as he'd love to ride around with us! I chatted to some people about the London rides and about their bikes - there was a great mixture of  different kinds of bicycles and different  kinds of riders. I noticed another two ladies besides myself. One of whom was a friendly young girl riding a traditional looking step-through which seemed to be single speed or more than one gear as I noticed her stop and start. The other lady had a lovely pink fixie, I wanted to ask if she built it herself but I was too intimidated! There were also racers, commuter bikes, mountain bikes and a chap on a strange small push-bike which seemed to look quite tiring but good on him for going for it! 

Unfortunately, I had a deadline the next day and had extended my 'little break' quite considerably so once we cycled towards my normal route home I peeled off and waving my goodbyes vowed to come back in June. There was absolutely no need to be nervous and it felt really liberating to be able to ride down the middle of the road safely. Now that the sun is shining and the nights are lighter, there is definitely no excuse for any cyclist in Birmingham not to come along!! As its states on the flyer, you don't need to have a great bike...in fact any kind of non-motorised transport is welcome.  So what are you waiting for?! Critical Mass in Birmingham is the first Friday of every month (not the last Friday like some cities) and meets in St Philip's Square at 6pm for a 6.30pm start. 

See you in June? x

PS. thankyou to Igor for the photographs!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Weekend of Cycling Pursuits

I had an inspiring weekend which brought back to my attention the multi-faceted, revolutionising, liberating invention which is the bicycle.

On Saturday I was part of a critical mass/ plane stupid ride from Birmingham City Council to Birmingham International airport. Despite the rain, I was one of a cheery bunch of waterproofed cyclists dancing along the A45 to the tunes from a bike-powered sound system. We were a relatively small group but were nonetheless able to make a real impact on drivers heading to the airport and on arrival at the airport itself. We had a police bike escort for the first mile or so but then they got tired and switched to 4x4s (more's the pity, the cops on bikes seemed to be enjoying it). Read about it more on the Plane Stupid blog. This was a reminder to me of the power of bikes in demonstrations and geared me up for the planned 'reclaim the bike' ride coming sometime soon!

On an entirely different note, on Sunday I went out with a touring club in Coventry for the first time which was an interesting and wonderful experience. 75 miles along winding countryside roads, past lakes and hills I never suspected to find in the midlands (and probably wouldn't have otherwise). The bike remains, as it was hailed at its beginnings- a democratic means of discovering the countryside. I was privileged as a newcomer to the midlands to be out with a group of seasoned tourers who know the best bike routes, the best hills (up and down!) and the best views. There was (as, sadly, you might expect) a significant gender imbalance in the group- 6 men and 2 women - but most noticeable of all was the age gap: I was the only person under 50. Respect to these hardened senior cyclists but where are the young folk? Sheila, the other woman on the cycle was telling me fondly of the days 30 years ago when they'd have dozens of people of all ages out on the weekly cycle. But it's nice to know some things don't change - just like 30 years ago, the contribution for the ride remains just 5p...