Shifting up a gear: AGM 2014

Absolutely thrilled to report a record attendance at our AGM last Tuesday: 42 people invaded the excellent Cycle Hub to listen to our speakers, debate the state of city cycling and campaigning and plan the next steps. We formed a new Management Committee: with a warm welcome to Geoff Turnbull who is joining Katja Leyendecker, Scott Dawson, Rod Joyce, and Claire Prospert on the committee for 2014/15.

Scooting through the ‘business and organisational matters’ we saw that the Campaign is in good shape. You can of course read the Annual and Finance Report [pdf] and check for yourself.

Our politicians put in a good show: Cllr Stephen Psallidas and Cllr Rob Higgins spoke in support of cycling. We all recognised again that only with political consensus on transport policy, we’ll move Newcastle to a better, more inclusive, fairer and healthier place. While Rob raised the issue of class when it comes to everyday cycling, Stephen was more concerned by the annual election system which prevents continuity of vision. But all agreed that the cycling message must grow, must reach out and link up to a wider agenda, one of a fair and sustainable city which everyone can relate to. Cllr Ged Bell, cabinet member, in his written message to the AGM concluded that “the relationship with the Newcastle Cycling Campaign is not always an easy one but we welcome your contributions as a critical friend”.

Chris Peck from the CTC talked about the new campaign Space4Cycling, which asks for a better built environment and road space re-allocation for cycling, and how national and local campaigning can work together to apply political pressure. Newcycling is on board.

The situation in Leeds, as Lizzie Reather from the Leeds Cycling Campaign told us, is not much better or different compared to Newcastle and we all need to “fight smart”, employing a campaigning arsenal ranging from pleading to shaming. Reporting concerns and issues to the council, being vocal about the schemes we don’t like and talking to Councillors about these things do matter and can bring about change, if not on to road design straight away then at least in attitiude to start with.

Sally Hinchcliffe is an active cycling campaigner and joined us to speak about Cycling Embassy of Great Britain (CEoGB). The Embassy is developing an online library of good designs, practice and schemes. Th Embassy also plans to lobby for national quality cycling engineering design standards. Never tiring, Sally is also involved in Pedal on Parliament which saw thousands of cyclists take to the Edinburgh streets in 2012 and 2013. Set up in 2011, Pedal on Parliament is there to push for quality cycling infrastructure, so that everyone (not just the fit and brave ones) can cycle, and a budget to match that vision.

A lively discussion followed, and here is a sample of points raised (we will post detailed minutes soon):

Why is progress so slow: is it because the engineers lack expertise or interest? How can the politicians make it happen like in Sevilla? Public opinion is important, we are told.

• Car parking versus space for cycling: what happens to the cycling money when the proposed schemes are so heavily compromised that they don’t do much for cycling? Budgets are kept separate but we are still unsure about levels of scrutiny applied to the design and progress.

• Would making a case around health benefits help? Most surveys show that people don’t choose to cycle for the environment / health benefits. It’s because it is convenient and/or driving a car is made difficult. Encouraging people to cycle now is like putting the horse before the cart. Let’s build safe and quality infrastructure, that then can be promoted and marketed. Installing temporary provision on a trials and test basis works (as evidenced in NYC), it multiplies the emerging demand and support.

• They are no clear and decent standards to design for cycling. Cycling is still a low priority for the government and capacity within DfT is very limited. Important to keep the momentum after The Time’s ‘Cities Fit For Cycling’ and the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report. There is a big push from CEoGB, the CTC and other groups to put in place quality standards for cycling.

• Is it worth for local campaigns to lobby for better legislation at national level? Always worth writing to your MPs but other organisations are better placed to campaign for it. Local campaigns need to focus their energy on local schemes.

• How can we reach people who don’t cycle and enthuse them? Very difficult, we need to keep showing how it could look like, and promote a people-friendly urban environment.

• Proper enforcement is also needed and the Police play an important role in protecting vulnerable road users, tackling the problems that matter and disseminating information in an inclusive way. The Campaign will follow up discussions with the two police officers from Northumbria Police who attended the AGM. Thanks to Dave and Richard for taking the time.

One thing is for sure; our speakers said it loudly, clearly and many times: Write to your Councillor! Engage (with) your elected representatives! Tell them where road improvements are needed and where cycle safety has to be taken seriously. Politicians need to hear these things from us; they want to hear from us.

As for ourselves? We must build and nurture our community, our voice and get active. It is definitely time to shift up a gear.

How? Here is our Campaign Plan for 2014 and it is our promise to you – and also outlining how you, as a member, can get involved:

Slide Campaign plan 2014

Please click here for more details, the AGM2014 slides and all the speakers’ presentations

Cllr Rob Higgins speaking at AGM2014
2014-03-25 at 19-41-34

Cllr Stephen Psallidas speaking at AGM2014
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Chris Peck CTC speaking at AGM2014
2014-03-25 at 20-13-21

Lizzie Reather, Leeds Cycling Campaign, speaking at AGM2014
2014-03-25 at 20-24-03

Sally Hinchcliffe, Cycling Embassy of GB, speaking at AGM2014
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Katja Leyendecker, Chair, quickly summing up and intoducing the Campaign Plan 2014 – then decamp to pub!
2014-03-25 at 19-18-18