12 min read

Mums on the Run

Many parents in Stroud are ditching cars for the daily school run in favour of electric cargo bikes that can carry smaller passengers. We caught up with Iszi who has done just this to find out why
Mums on the Run

Iszi Rudman interviewed by Robin Layfield

ISZI MOVED TO STROUD around 18 months ago. Soon after arriving in Stroud, Iszi and her partner John bought a Tern GSD primarily to transport their children to school, back and forth. Prior to this, Iszi lived in London and used to ride and commute around the city. Iszi works in clothing, specifically product development and has worked for a number of cycle brands.

“I worked for Vulpine for a couple of years and I developed their clothing ranges for them. And that was like commuter wear, and transitioning more into race wear, which definitely isn't my area of cycling but it's very interesting to work in.

“I worked with Chris Hoy on bringing a product range to market with him. And then after that, I worked freelance, which I still do now, but I did two contracts with Rapha so working specifically within racewear products again and for a short time I worked at Fred Perry - we worked with Bradley Wiggins there too.

How did you come to be cycling up Rodborough Hill every day on a longtail cargo bike with two young children on board?

“So the whole time I had lived in London, I hadn't driven for obvious reasons. You don't need to in central London. And so when I moved to Stroud - I'm from Gloucester and Worcester originally and driving is part of the culture of living in towns like this because the public transport is genuinely terrible. And cycling infrastructure is generally not there.

“I suddenly remembered that I had to drive but I also had to hit the ground running. My partner was still working in London for the first six months, so we needed a form of transport very very quickly to get us from home to school and back again, with a nursery drop off as well at that point. So the cargo bike offered a really good alternative and actually it was only supposed to be a stopgap between me starting to drive again.

“Now I think it is going to be part of our lives for a long time. As long as we can keep the kids on the back and they are not too big, it will be part of our lives and I love it, I love it. I love riding every day.”

RL: Transport and transport planning is often framed around the "Pipeline Problem" - about getting someone from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. But a more common experience for people and especially for mums, I would say, is multi-point journeys.

“Yeah, it's school to nursery, wherever you have to get to and I think that's not really thought about as much as it could be.

“After today, I'm going to go down [to town] and pick up some parcels. I've got to go to Tescos, I'm probably going to go back to the doctors and then I'm going to go home.

“I know on my cargo bike that I can do that quicker than if I'm in a car because I don't have to park, I don't have to think about paying. I can just whizz around, park right outside where I'm going, generally lock the bike and go in. Done. It's so quick.”

What do you think of transporting the kids on the bike? Would you recommend it to others?

I ASKED ISZI ABOUT THE PRACTICAL aspects of transporting children on a cargo bike.

“I absolutely love it. The kids absolutely love it. Even if it's raining, they would opt to go on the bike. We have a working Transit van and my partner, if he's at home and it's raining, he'll say 'Would you rather go on the van or the bike?’ The kids always opt for the bike.

“I love it. It's fresh air, it's good exercise for me but it's not overly strenuous, because it's electrically assisted. The kids get fresh air, they get to see so much — the line of visibility is just huge. And yeah, they love coming up the hill to the top of Rodborough, they can see so far, look at the alpacas, we can stop if we see something interesting, to take it all in. Yeah it's brilliant, it's really good.”

The bikes aren't cheap. Would you say there is any kind of economic benefit to owning a cargo bike?

RL: EBIKES AREN'T CHEAP. SOME OF them are the cost of a small secondhand car. But then cars aren't cheap either and there are obvious environmental and mental / physical health benefits to cycling.

“I would say to run them — I've been surprised by how cheap it is. So to charge our battery - we probably charge it twice a week. We ride on a high power setting!

“Two kids, hills, Stroud, yeah we do ride on Turbo setting. But then to charge up actually twice a week is pennies - maybe 10 or 20p, it's nothing. So yes, the initial outlay is big and perhaps the bike service costs more than we anticipated. It's more like a motorbike than a bike if you think about the maintenance of it in that way. But the running costs are extremely low and the payoff — the physical, mental, emotional health for all of us, you can't put a price on that.

Advantages and disadvantages of eBikes as transport

RL: I've seen more and more parents making the switch to bringing their children to school by bike. This is something I very much welcome.

Can you walk through the benefits and the disadvantages of this mode of transport for us?

“The benefits are being out in the fresh air, the exercise and also for me - I'm busy with work, I'm a working Mum, so building exercise into my daily routine means that I don't have to do anything much outside of this cycle.

“The mental health benefits of being out in the fresh air and doing that every day. And being in nature. Every day is great, not driving a petrol or diesel car.

“We are about to hit 2,ooo miles on our odometer and for me that's a huge achievement and we really don't travel far each day, it's a 10 minute ride there and back to school, but it all adds up. So I'm proud of that ‘Environmental Achievement’ for us as a family.

“So advantages - the kids love it, we skip all the traffic.

“Disadvantages - I would say that on a wet, dark, cold morning. It is hard to get going. But it's never a regret, once I've done it.

“And I would say it's just the cycling infrastructure. The more people that cycle the more people invested in cycling as a way of life, the better the infrastructure will become to support them. At the moment it's pretty terrible - and yeah, I wouldn't have the kids riding their own bikes on the route that I do.

“So I think there's a bit of an assumption that cargo bikes handle like a one-person bike and perhaps that's why routes like towpaths have been made into cycle paths but actually I don't think they're suitable for anyone that's less than super confident on a bike and that could squeeze through a gap - definitely not a cargo bike carrying a load or with young passengers.

“It would be nice to see more shared road space - segregated routes, that sort of thing, like what's happened in London where cycling has been really pushed. The more people you see cycling, the more acceptance there is from motorists for bikes to be a part of everyday journeys.

“Sometimes I feel like I'm being judged for putting my kids on the back of a bike and into what others view as a dangerous situation.

“The difference between how I feel when someone passes me at 20 miles per hour to when someone passes me at 30 miles per hour is marked - the tension is there at 30 miles per hour or more.

“You always get a few close passes but the recent changes in the Highway code have really helped and people are giving us more room on the road.

“We have a small plastic 'lollipop' reflector that sticks out about a foot to the right at the rear of the bike and this is really helpful as drivers instinctively avoid contact with it.

Will you let your children cycle on the road by themselves?

“In all honesty, until cycling infrastructure is improved drastically, I wouldn't have my older children riding on the roads that I ride.

“You could argue that I learned to ride on the road locally and I didn't have any issues. But the roads are so much busier now than when I learned to ride and I don't have the confidence. I could have my child right next to me on the pavement but then on the routes that I ride that wouldn't work either.

“My short answer is when the kids are bigger, we are probably going to have to look at a car. I really want to buy an electric car but again, they are so expensive to invest in.

RL: Micromobility - smaller eBikes, e-carts and e-scooters - we are going to see a lot of movement in that space over the next few years and this may help to get more pedestrians making short journeys out of cars which could potentially make the shared road space safer for everyone

“Yeah. I feel like there is some catching up to do on methods of transport and it will take a huge collective attitude shift.

RL: There are fundamental problems with cycling in Stroud, just because of the terrain, because of the narrow roads. Something people don't often think about is that road safety is not just about avoiding cars or being careful at junctions, it's being aware of the condition of the actual roads themselves.


I ASKED ISZI WHAT SHE thought about Stroud, and how different it was to London after she left to move here.

“After leaving home at 19, I've lived in very urban environments so Liverpool, Manchester and London. I think Stroud is a really wonderful town and we are making it our home to bring up our children. And it is very different to where we've come from.

“Where we lived there wasn't the privilege that's here in Stroud, and I know that Stroud has gone through some huge changes in the last 20 years. So, the differences in schooling, just being out in the streets, the community, play environments - those differences are huge. Where we were in London, we were really struggling to create a safe environment, a community for our kids to grow up in.

“That was one of our main drivers for moving, so there is a big difference from where we've come from to where we are now.

Stroud is sometimes described as a "Hopeful Town" — there was a study by Hope Not Hate on what makes a town hopeful and key markers are people having a sense of place, heritage buildings, decent jobs and good public transport networks.

“There seems to be a lot of people here who are really invested in their community, that are making change. And I feel like it's really easy to get involved here if you are also a person that wants to make change and push things forward, that's my impression, drawn from having everyday conversations that these things come up in.

“Community happens in lots of different ways and within lots of different bubbles but I think here I've really noticed that a lot of people you talk to are really invested in change and making things better - for me it makes a lot of sense.

HOPE not hate | Hopeful Towns
Hopeful Towns is exploring resilience, hope and anti-fascism in English and Welsh towns.

Will you ever sell your Tern?

“Yeah we will at some point, because we will have the need not to have a two child bike when we have to graduate to another method of transport, whatever that is, we will have a smaller bike, possibly for one child because we would still like to carry one.

“I'm actually waiting for Beki [Aldam] to decide what she is going to do because she's about two years ahead of us and so I'll be watching how she gets on.

Editor's note: Beki Aldam is a District Councillor (Green, Thrupp) who rides a similar bike with her children and who also leads the regular monthly bike rides from Brimscombe Mill.

“We will be selling it and part of the reason we chose this model is because of its strong resale value. It's an absolute workhorse.

“It was a leap of faith buying our bike and if there had been a hire scheme around when we were first looking, we would have done that first as a first stop.

RL: I think that the hire scheme at the moment is just for regular eBikes but there was talk about providing cargo bikes that could carry passengers that would be hugely beneficial, so let's watch this space.

want to try an e-bike? – Transition Stroud
“The other thing that I think that is quite interesting that's happening, is that electric bikes - I'm seeing older people on them now.

“I think that for older people, electric bikes are actually a really amazing potential asset, to keep movement, active travel, indepdence as well. It really does span generations.

RL: The only barrier to eBikes is the physical weight of them, that older people might struggle with. We're all watching and waiting for a really lightweight eBike, maybe short range model that can just get you up and down a hill, that's all we need, perhaps one that is adapted for different levels of physical mobility and comfort.

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“I struggle with the weight of our bike for sure, it can be really heavy and one of the disadvantages that we haven't talked about is that they can sometimes topple when you are loading them.

“The Tern is really well-engineered but again - and this ties into the infrastructure issue - we've had one topple, everyone was fine, but it was where the pavement was on a really steep camber.

“I was I was trying to move off, so I was going very slowly. The kids were wiggling around, it was raining, dark, a real recipe for disaster. But that's it. We've been riding for 18 months, done nearly 2,000 miles and we've had one topple. And that was down to infrastructure.”

RL: Any final thoughts to share?

“The resurfacing of the roads through Stroud town has made such a difference. It was like Christmas cycling through there on the flat, flat tarmac after it had been done!”

Stroud has an active Cargo Biking community

Stroud Cargo Bikes
Cargo and e-biking community based around the Stroud District

Access Bikes offers second hand bikes for sale and women-only bike maintenance training sessions

The Access Bike Project | Stroud | Community Workshop
Welcome to the Access Bike Project - Stroud’s one and only community bicycle workshop! We sell refurbished bikes, run mentor schemes, upcycle and provide a space for Stroud’s young people to make friends and learn new skills!

The Bike Drop is based by the Long Table and offers eBike servicing and apprenticeships in bike mechanics.

The Bike Drop
The Bike Drop is a community interest company that offers training and employment opportunities and generates revenue by providing a sustainable pedal-powered delivery service for Stroud District.