Space for Cycling rides 2014… and the next one!

In this article, Peter Macdonald, Campaign member and Ride coordinator tells us all about last year’s Space for Cycling rides and how it felt being part of it. Catch the bug like Peter, join us on 25 April 2015 for the next one. Pedal power at its best. 

“Fantastic!” One word that only just about describes our two Space for Cycling campaign rides in 2014.

Our first ride

To be honest, the first ride in May came at us a little bit at the last minute – well, two weeks to be exact. After a few late nights organising the ride we arrived at the Haymarket with a great deal of trepidation. The press said they would come and bring their and tv cameras along. The two greatest fears of all organisers loomed heavy, would it rain and would anyone turn up?

The sun shone, and of course they did, we thought maybe 50 people, but we were both shocked and delighted that about 200 arrived, of all ages, on all types of bikes, and squeezed into the area around the Haymarket Metro. How silly of us of to doubt that the people of Newcastle wouldn’t want to turn up in numbers to show their support for making cycling safe for everyone! A great speech from our Chair Katja Leyendecker and Councillor Marion Talbot and we were off for two laps around the City Centre smiling and ringing bells ending up outside the Civic Centre.

I ride around Newcastle every day and no one has ever smiled and waved at me from pavements as I pass by, but that Saturday morning we managed to get our Space for Cycling message across and were greeted by hundreds of people waving and smiling at us.

ShannonRobalino_s4cCrowd2014

Space for Cycling riders gathering outside the Civic Centre, May 2014 – Photo: Shannon Robalino

At the same time the core objective of the Space for Cycling campaign started, get political support from our Councillors to pledge support to the six simple common sense principles of Space for Cycling.

We vowed to perhaps do another ride in September and in the meantime set about getting our elected representatives to pledge their support. Three months later Newcastle City Council topped the table of Core Cities with 67% Newcastle Councillors supporting Space for Cycling.

The second ride

Our next ride had to be bigger and better. It was really important that we said a big “Thank You” to our Councillors for pledging their support, so we would start and finish at our Civic Centre and do just that, say thank-you loud and clear.  It’s always been a personal dream of mine to see the Tyne Bridge flooded with people on bicycles, just like all the images we see every year of runners taking part in the Great North Run.  So the route was an easy decision.  Cross the High Level Bridge and back over the Tyne Bridge. The biggest challenge was to ensure we got hundreds of people around the city together and safely with only an 18-second transition between traffic light changes – and we have a lot of traffic lights in Newcastle.

Throw in several really difficult junctions with heavy traffic, the arrival of our patron Christian Wolmar all the way up from London, our Leader Nick Forbes, and many Councillors, joining us, people on bikes of all ages – the youngest self-pedalled being just 6 years old and many more children being carried on tandems or trailers – and the worries mount. Then the night before, half the route is closed due to a gas leak!

But of course again it was all needless worry, we had planned and planned and planned and the sun once again shone down on us! We had a fantastic team of marshals to keep everything moving along safely and about 200 or so of us took to our streets supported at the key junctions by our Northumbria Police force who ensured we all got through the lights safely and kept us together as one big group.

Then the magical moment of crossing the Tyne Bridge, both lanes filled with smiling people, even the drivers on the opposite side smiling and tooting support.  It was an unbelievable sight.  It would be fair to say that the city centre was pretty chaotic due to the gas leak road closure and we found ourselves stuck amongst buses on a few occasions, but it didn’t knock our spirits.

Cycling down Grey Street . Photo: Shannon Robalino

Cycling down Grey Street . Photo: Shannon Robalino

Back at the Civic Centre we rounded off with great speeches from Christian and Nick and then petite 12 year old Jeannie took the megaphone from the adults and asked our leader when she’d be able to ride her bike to school safely.  A week Tuesday would have been a great response, but as we all know getting safe infrastructure takes long time, sometimes too long. We are slowly getting there, our campaign keeps growing and importantly we now have the political will behind us.  The Space for Cycling campaign continues.

We cannot thank our police enough for their support, they were brilliant and carried out their duties with great professionalism, our marshals who gave up their time to recce the route with us, provide advice and guidance and looked after everyone. Most of all, a big thank-you to all of you who came along to support Space for Cycling, thank our Councillors and make the ride really quite something very special.

Third ride coming up

We’ve been asked by many people, will we be doing another?  Yes. Pencil Saturday 25th April at 10:00 in your diary and let your colleagues, friends and family know about it too.

Third Civic Cycle ride details on: http://newcycling.org/event/space-4-cycling-ride-2015/

Facebook page for registration: https://www.facebook.com/events/805289226173586/