Subversive Suburbanite

All the best Christmas presents have wheels


Everyone was out trying their new wheels when we went to Cardiff Bay yesterday (it’s the turn of Mr Suburbanite’s mum in Wales to host us for Christmas). You can cycle a six-mile circuit, including a bridge across the mouth of the bay,  taking in novelties like the Doctor Who Experience as you go. Provision for cycling isn’t great – pedestrians and bikes are bottlenecked along a narrow shared space at one busy section – but it was proving popular, and there was no motor traffic to mingle with.

I think half the population of South Wales had been given wheels for Christmas. We saw several grown-up families on bikes,  small children cycling accompanied by parents on foot, an older woman on a beautiful pale blue Dutch-style bike complete with dress guard and basket; and kids on skateboards, rollerblades, roller skates, normal scooters, and those odd scooters with a v-shaped board to stand on. We saw no less than FOUR tandems, and the stoker on the last one was a woman with one leg, her crutches strapped to the rack behind her. I wanted to burst into applause.

We also saw three children riding hover boards (those mini Segway things with a motor) and couldn’t help noticing that each one was overweight. Draw your own conclusions…

Meanwhile our own kids were trying out their new heelies. (They’re the ones that freak you out in the supermarket, when a child wearing apparently normal trainers glides idly past you in the salad aisle as if she’s ice skating.) They were a hit, and the Redster both mastered her own (grown-up, single-wheel) heelies and helped the Cutester with her (younger style, double-wheel) heelies. After owning them for two days the Redster complained of pain in leg muscles she’s clearly never used before. Unlike her sister, she gets the bus to school and has yet to discover a sport she loves…. so this was a great result. Definitely worth the £60 that I suggested other family members spend on her (thanks Nanny and Cycle Campaign Aunt).

It has not been a car-free Christmas, I’m sorry to say, even though we discovered at half term that train travel to the Welsh in-laws is not just possible but actually  more enjoyable. But we were defeated by the logistics of Christmas presents on this occasion. (I’m so impressed that Father Christmas manages every year without motor transport. Though are our diesel emissions necessarily more harmful to the climate than reindeer methane emissions? Has anyone calculated Santa’s carbon footprint?)

Plenty of opportunity, then, to play Sign Cricket. I will now, as a belated Christmas present to all three of you, my faithful readers, share this game with you. There is nothing better (other than an iPad for every child passenger, obviously) for whiling away long car journeys. It’s based on Pub Cricket but brought up to date for modern roads, now that we no longer come across a quaint painted pub sign every half mile.

Players keep their eyes peeled for road signs that symbolise anything with either legs or wheels. This includes cars, buses, planes, wheelchairs, bikes, pedestrians and animals. You take turns to ‘bat’, and when batting you can claim points per wheel or leg represented in the signs you spot: a car is 4 points, a plane 3, a pedestrian 2 … and areas with cycling facilities are best because you get loads of those round blue signs with a bike plus an adult and child, which makes 6 points. When a speed limit sign appears, it’s the next player’s turn. First to 100 wins.

It’s also a great test of mental arithmetic – like when you’ve just seen a plane sign so you have an odd number of points and then pass three 6-point cycling signs in quick succession plus a bus stop (4 points) before arriving at a roundabout with a council sign on it that features a crest held up by a lion and a unicorn.

There you go – enjoy your next family car journey, if you really have to go on one.

(Needless to say, this game can also be played on a tandem.)