Echoes of the past: Getting ready for cycling proficiency test

In this weeks featured mid 1970s photograph many readers who were the same age as these youngsters were at the time will I am sure recognise this open space
In this weeks featured mid 1970s photograph many readers who were the same age as these youngsters were at the time will I am sure recognise this open space

Back in the 1970s the must-have for most young lads was the Raleigh Chopper bike, it was described as a cultural icon of the period.

Its appearance was based on the Chopper motor cycle, and the new bike gave the young lads of the day the inspiration or perhaps wishful thinking to be the Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper or even the Jack Nicholson of Brighouse. These of course were the three stars of the 1969 road film Easy Rider.

In this week’s featured mid 1970s photograph many readers who were the same age as these youngsters were at the time will I am sure recognise this open space and what is going on. I also attended here in the late 1950s – it’s Blackburn Road and it is that time of year we all went for a week’s tuition in the school holidays and then hopefully passed the cycling proficiency test.

Getting my first bike was great - a deep shiny red colour with wooden blocks on the pedals because my legs were not quite long enough. Mates soon came to look at it, giving it the once over. Back in those days if your bike had a least five gears and you knew how to trap a lolly stick between the rear brake block and the spokes and make it sound like a 500cc BSA as you went hell-for-leather through the estate. You certainly turned a few heads.

I did pass and still have my cycling certificate to prove it, and probably with a bit of searching I could probably find my badge as well.

Little did I know in 1959 that 25 years later along with PC Jenny Sharp I would be visiting schools and training young cycle riders the very same cycling proficiency test.

Every year we would put hundreds of children through their paces with training at most schools was actually on the roads outside school. So there was at least an element of reality unlike at the Blackburn Road site.

The first job on the first day I had to do was to check that each bike was road worthy and whilst many were very good there were a few that had bits falling off, one lad even turned up with a bike that did not have a saddle.

‘You have no brakes lad’,

‘Mi dads doing it for me tomorrow’

‘But how will you stop your bike today without brakes today?’

‘Slur mi feet On’t ground’.

He came the next day with a bike that was in perfect condition, but neither PC Sharp nor I chose to ask where he got it from. Some bikes we later discovered to have been, let us say, ‘temporarily loaned for the week but always found their way back to the owners again!!! – don’t ask.

Shouting out ‘ged-out ta way’ was not really a good substitute for a bell according to the Highway Code. No one was ever given a free passage through the written test or subsequent cycling test they had to pass it on their own merits. Whilst some did fail most did very well and were thrilled when we came to school to present the certificates. Those that did fail were usually the younger students who were able to come back the following year and show everyone how it should be done.

Here we see a group of young cyclists being put through their paces. On close examination the man stood on the veranda leaning against the post is Ambrose Broomhead a well known councillor in Brighouse and former mayor.

Please take the opportunity of looking at my new website www.chrishelme-brighgouse.org.uk I will be putting some mystery photographs in the Brighouse heritage section and would like some help with names and where it was taken. The first group I will be showing first are from the 1976 and 1984 period. If you know anyone or can identify where it was taken you can either email me: enquiries@chrishelme-brighouse.org.uk or reply through the contact facility in the website.