Highlights of our AGM (Part 2)

This is the account of the second part of our AGM 2016 where we gave the floor to two speakers: firstly Cllr Ged Bell from Newcastle City Council and then Paul Gasson from Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign. Speeches were followed by a panel debate about bikelash and how to work together through change.

We’d like to thank the speakers, panelists, and all the members who came to our AGM – to another year of campaigning for a better city!

Le local politician

Cllr Ged Bell, Cabinet member and portfolio holder for Investment and Development at Newcastle City Council, made clear that he strongly supports cycling improvements and better, safer streets:

  • A culture of change is needed, he is too often criticised by people who want to use their car “from their lounge to office desk” and claim the right to their own individual “highway”. This has to change.
  • Our roads have seen and will continue to see significant investments, the council was successful with CCAF, key junctions monies and more than £60m have been secured for highways improvement
  • One of the council’s priorities is to develop decent neighborhoods, places and communities which are safe, enjoyable, pleasant and where people would want to move to. Councillors have shown support to cycling with 67% in support of space for cycling – so broad political support is there.

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  • At the same time there is opposition to change and Acorn Road in Jesmond is a prime example with shop owners initially strongly opposing improvements for cycling and walking. Now the debate has changed, and support is growing.
  • Pedestrianisation, safe space for cycling divide opinions so do not be silent and make your voice heard.
  • Changes happening or planned in neighbourhoods or in the city centre, such as John Dobson Street require strong will and political resolve – and community and individual support is essential too – people are needed to make cultural change happen.
  • Strongly believes that these changes will create a better city and benefit all of us, and that future generations need it. Already now, walking along John Dobson Street without all the traffic is an amazing thing.
  • Pollution created by traffic kill – more than 40,000 people die prematurely every year in the UK because of air pollution.

Read more in the draft minutes attached at the end of the article.

The campaigner and the community volunteer

Paul Gasson from the Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign (part of London Cycling Campaign) was our second speaker of the evening. Paul spoke about the Mini Holland in Waltham Forest (East London) which aimed to create liveable neighbourhoods. His presentation can be viewed here. This scheme sparked a heated debate at local level and despite some loud opposition, went ahead as a result of the strong council leadership and the collaboration and effective working together between the council and local campaigns.

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As research has shown, there is a huge proportion of people who would cycle if it was safer. So the key principles of Mini-Holland were very much based on that potential shift (see slideshow below).

Waltham Forest has about 275,000 residents, 45,000 of whom live in the Walthamstow Central area where the most controversial traffic management measures are being implemented. The scheme combined different elements: through traffic removal measures (villagisation), a cycle superhighway, secondary town centres and complementary measures.

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Read more in the attached minutes attached at the end of the article

Bringing it together

This concluded Paul’s presentation and John Dales from Urban Movement introduced the panel members for the Bikelash debate: Cllr Ged Bell, Paul Gasson, Ali Lamb (Community facilitator, Newcastle City Council) and Sally Watson (Newcycling). We are trying to make our cities more liveable and provide a better environment for all. How to counter car-centric opposition and mobilise public support? It is not the existing cyclists who will benefit most it is the wider community. A full account of the discussions can be found in the draft minutes (attach or insert link); to wet your appetite, here are some of the questions:

  • Is there cross-party support for cycling and public realm improvements?
  • Which engagement tools work better than others? How can we use temporary measures to their best effect?
  • How can we use air quality data to support traffic reduction?
  • What can be done to counteract opposition to the closure of rats runs and show how it makes areas more attractive to all?
  • Are there public realm investments in deprived communities too?

Read more in the draft minutes attached below:

NewcyclingAGM2016minutes_draft