Short changing city’s future

Sally Brown nails it. Where’s the sense in all this? So much talking and reporting, so little sense or action.

If one thing was continuous in 2014, it wasn’t Newcastle’s comfortable cycleways, but rather their absence. Newcastle’s cycleway construction is still lacking progress and, more worryingly for cycling safety, attention to detail. And that with a bigger backdrop of climate change and carbon emissions, public health endemics and squeezed economies. What must we do to finally see some ingenuity and enlightenment? Where is our pioneering spirit that Newcastle is so famous for?

Letter to Cllr Nick Forbes

So we have knuckled down, and hinted a way out of this to Cllr Nick Forbes. Whilst Nick apparently sees the advantages of enabling cycling, his executive decision makers are still rather quiet, shy or undecided how to really prioritise cycling and walking, or whether just to stick to the path of least resistance: keeping the status quo in planning and engineering and doing ‘private motors only, fatally’ when the city is gagging for more transport diversity.

I believe Pat Ritchie, chief executive, is key here and still needs informing and ultimately persuading. Not one word from her in 2014 relating to cycling. On yer bike, Pat. That is metaphorically speaking, as the sensible cycleways aren’t there, so you can’t actually cycle around in ease, safety and comfort until your council officers deliver some smart transport planning and engineering.

Local councillors have to smarten up too; so the political elite needs to be lit up too, to fire up inspiration and incentives. It’s often misunderstood, but there is glory in providing inclusive transport systems.

All in all, I suspect in 2015 we’ll spend some time educating folks on why and how to enable everyday cycling for everybody, elucidating on the economics and the design philosophies of inclusive cycling for all ages and abilities.

However, as we’ve highlighted to Nick, an experienced urban expert with a dedicated delivery team would really do the trick here.

A patron for a stronger voice

It’s good to know high-profile people ‘get it’. So it’s been absolutely wonderful when I heard from Claire in July that Christian Wolmar had agreed to be our patron. With allies like Christian, we are looking forward to campaigning for high-quality cycle conditions in 2015, and beyond!

National success

In 2014, we linked up nationwide with other local campaign groups and national organisations through the Space for Cycling initiative. And Newcastle was hailed a success: with two thirds of city councillors in support our council was in the lead of the Core Cities. I wish I could tell you what the next steps are going to be for Space for Cycling but for the time being it seems that the national groups, CTC and CycleNation, have both over-exerted themselves – so we will have to wait for their recovery first before we can let the boat float out into calm and charted waters.

Organisational goings-on

In March we started our campaigning year with the motto “Shifting up a Gear” – a call to get more people involved with Newcycling. We want to grow organically but we also knew that we would have to be a bit clearer about our own internal workings and needs. I recently wrote “Structuring the Campaign” which is attempting to do just that – for starters at least.

Thanks to those who’ve already been in touch. To the rest, keep your eyes peeled! There might just be a satisfying little slot for your volunteering effort you always wanted make… a range of contributions is ‘up for grabs’: a task, or a position, or even a role on the Committee.

Have a think.

And do let us have your thoughts too.

The Committee has started pulling together the campaign plan for 2015/16 which will be presented at the AGM. See you there, in March 2015, if not before – you are all invited.

See you around,

Katja

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  1. Pingback: Councils must get down to human scale | NewCycling

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