Cycling Counsellors?

Earlier today I tweeted as follows:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/magicroundabout/status/133945796117790720″]

And…it turns out, several people were intrigued.  So I ought to explain myself in full.

The National Childbirth Trust

Yeah, yeah, you all know, we’re having a baby (real soon!) right.

We decided, after some good feedback from friends and family, to go on the National Childbirth Trust’s ante-natal class.  This is worthy of a post of its own, but in general was very good.

One of the sessions was dedicated to breastfeeding.  We won’t mention the fact that I got to wear lipstick.  We WILL mention the fact that it was run by a knowledgeable woman who obviously cared greatly about the welfare of women and babies at what can be a very stressful time.  She said “if you have any problems, call me any time, we can give you help and I can come around and help you work out what’s going wrong and how you might be able to make things easier” – or words to that effect.

And it’s true. We have her number. We can call. She will help. She reinforced the fact: “call me, I want to help”. The course tutor reinforced the fact “call her, she wants to help”.

What a fantastic service! And she, and the team of breastfeeding counsellors in Swindon (and, I believe, around the country) are 100% voluntary.

So What’s Breastfeeding Got To Do With Cycling?

I was impressed by this. Very impressed. And it got me thinking.  Here’s someone who:

  • passionately believes that a particular activity is good
  • understands that that activity isn’t always simple/easy
  • longs to help others take up and sustain that activity

I’m like that.  I’m like that about cycling.  Many of the regular readers of this blog are like that about cycling too.

And so I find myself thinking, what if we had “Cycling Counsellors”?

What if there were people you could call and ask questions like:

  • I’m thinking of buying a bike, what sort of bike should I get?
  • How can I easily get from A to B on my bicycle – I don’t know the safest/quickest way
  • What simple safety checks should I do to my bike every now and then? How hard are they? Can I do them myself?
  • My tyre’s flat/chain’s come off/handlebars wobble/brakes aren’t very good, what should I do?

Why Not?

I mostly had very positive responses to this idea. I think it’s a good one. But I, myself have questions about it, and some people pointed out some useful things.

It’s all online!

There’s masses of books, internet forums, blogs, Twitter accounts, bike shops anyway. Don’t these provide that service?

Yes, to some extent they do. And, in particular, there’s LOADS of good information online.

But despite reading lots of books, articles, blogs, and so on, about birth, parenting, and breastfeeding, Sally and I still found the one-to-one, practical, visual stuff in the NCT course massively valuable. And exploring some of the issues and difficulties with other, real people has been really important.

I think there’s a lot to be said for personal, local knowledge. My experience of riding in London is testimony to this. As is Town Mouse’s trip through Newcastle.

Surely someone else is doing it already?

This is a great question – and one of mine! But I don’t think they are. Councils do personal travel planning, explaining to people their travel options. CTC have local groups, but, from what I understand, they’re mostly about social rides and for already-experienced cyclists (though I’m sure novices would be welcome too). Sustrans have rangers who look after paths, and maintain the national cycle network. And I’ve heard of Bike Buddy things where you can get someone to show you a route for your commute.

But there’s no centrally co-ordinated, trained, recognised means of doing such a thing. Is there?! (Please comment if you know something I don’t).

I’m sure it would be great to get CTC, Sustrans and local councils to take up this idea. But, to my knowledge, no one’s doing it yet.

Is it needed/wanted?

Who would take up such a service? How would they find out about it? Wouldn’t people abuse it as a way to get cheap bike maintenance?

I don’t really know the answers to these questions. It’s just an embryonic idea. It would be great to tie in to personal travel planning projects that councils might be doing and to other local cycle/transport projects that are going on. But…hmm…needs thought.

What are you going to do about it.

Ah, it’s just a flash-in-the-pan idea. I’ll forget about it in a few days time. And besides, I’m having a baby any day now.

I dunno. What do you think? Is there mileage in this? Or is the notion of a nationally co-ordinated team of cycling counsellors a crazy dream?