The three talks from the Sustainable Transport public lecture on February 10th are now available at the UEL Sustainable Mobilities Group website. Transcript available too.
Archive for February, 2011
I have started the four-day course to train as a cycle instructor (although I’ve put off the final two days till my other work quietens down a bit). During the Hackney phase of the research, a number of our interviewees mentioned having been encouraged to cycle through training, and I bumped into a few cycle instructors at events. In Hackney, it seems like cycle training often attracts people who are working in the arts; most trainers are self-employed so the job is flexible and provides additional income. Other people I met were juggling childcare with working as a trainer.
I wanted to find out more about how cycle training works and training as a National Standards Cycle Instructor seemed a good way to do it. Training groups of children is ‘bread and butter’ for cycle trainers, with funding available from boroughs for schools training, and this is what the course focuses upon. One-to-one adult training is also often funded, but as this is usually requested by individuals rather than arranged by organisations, the work is more sporadic. However, trainers I’ve met often say they particularly like doing one-to-one training because you can teach a skill individually and really concentrate on that person’s development.
Cycle training pulls together lots of different skills – time management, teaching skills, being able to relate to young (and less young) people, being professional and approachable – and of course being able to show someone how to ride a bike. And being able to deal with the unexpected… if you are going to a school for the first time, you don’t know what level of skill the kids will have (years 5 and 6 can be very diverse in terms of development), you don’t know what their bikes will be like, you don’t know what the parents and teachers have done to prepare, and so on. Teaching in a playground may be interrupted by other children on breaks, while teaching on-road has its own challenges. A lead cycle instructor must scope out on-road routes beforehand identifying any risks and how s/he will deal with them. As one of my co-trainees said after an on-road drill – ‘There’s so much going on and we’re trying to make it simple for them’. There’s a parallel here with the academic teaching work I do – trying to help students create a coherent narrative out of what may at first appear to be a sprawling thicket of confusion. (Although on a bad day, I can feel like I’m doing the opposite!)
What is also interesting about the training has been the ease with which our instructors can slip between ‘teaching 10-year-olds’ mode, and ‘teaching adults to teach 10-year-olds’ mode. Learning the drills, one moment we are listening to a description of the drill, the next moment being a 10-year-old learning to ride, and then being an instructor teaching 10-year-olds. We also made an eye-catching group doing drills in our hi-viz – one postie put down his mail sack to get a better view of us wobbling past a line of parked cars!
The two events that I was involved with this week both went well. The benefit Vive Le Tour, in Dalston, attracted around 50 people. Here is a picture of Emily and the Woods playing, with the speakers fuelled by bicycle power (looked hard work to me, relaxing with a beer after my short talk on the Cycling Cultures research):
Lots of interesting people there from various Hackney (and London) cycling cultures. Short writeup from Marcus here.
The second event was our UEL public lecture, with Richard George from the Campaign for Better Transport speaking on planning and permeability, and Justin Spinney from the UEL Sustainable Mobilities Group on Fixies: Green and Cool? Plus me musing on the concept of Sustainable Transport. All three talks (particularly Justin’s!) generated lots of discussion among the 20 people attending and we were still animatedly debating the ideas after the event finished at 7pm. I will be posting talks, slides, and possibly an edited transcript but probably not for a few weeks as I’ve got a lot of other stuff on. In the meantime, another picture:
UPDATE: here is a short video of my slides from Thursday – which are probably a bit cryptic without the audio/transcript – this will be coming soon and will explain the chocolate cake/salad animation…
I will be speaking about the project at the event Vive Le Tour in Dalston on Monday – more details and flyer here. The event seeks to bring together cycling cultures in Hackney and London more generally, with film, music, and speakers.
Recently I’ve been spending more time on the project after my teaching-heavy term finished. I have been starting to go through the Hackney interviews, listening and correcting transcripts, cutting up and searching them and seeing what I find. Yesterday I looked at safety (and associated words) with my mind on a potential paper and found a lot more mentions of safety in women’s transcripts than in mens. Within each gender though there was a lot of variation – some men and some women described particularly bad experiences of harassment or conflict on the roads, while others did not.
Many of the mentions of safety in the Hackney transcripts didn’t refer to safety of people but of things – a number of the women we interviewed have kids and they tended to talk a lot about having to figure out how best to secure other family members’ bikes, which is not easy where storage space is limited and a family may have four or more bikes.
Ideally, you do not just secure the bike (“lock the wheels and the frame”) but all its bits, which may otherwise wander. Recently my own bicycle dynamo has been tampered with and this morning I discovered that someone had stolen my saddle, from my front yard. Again I was envious of the Rotterdam cycle parking I had seen last year…