Civic Ride 2015 – on the day

Speeches – transcripts and video

Peter Macdonald – welcome  video – 00:00:30
Katja Leyendecker – Space for Cycling video – 00:01:30
Peter Macdonald, Ride Coordinator video – 00:07:00
Cllr Marion Talbot, Cycling Champion video – 00:17:00
Cllr Ged Bell, Cabinet Member video – 00:18:30

Photos in our flickr group
Claire Prospert start here
Duncan Buckingham start here
Peter Wesolowski start here
Other contributors will be added here as they are uploaded to flickr

Thanks @TeessideCyclist for taping!

Peter Macdonald – welcome


Good morning everyone

Welcome to was going to be our third Civic Ride around Newcastle which unfortunately has now transpired into our first ever Civic Stand About. At the very last minute we had to make some changes and I’ll explain why this came about in a couple of seconds, but first off I’d like to hand this massive megaphone over to Newcastle Cycling Campaign’s chair, Katja Leyendecker. [Applause]

Katja Leyendecker – Space for Cycling


Morning everyone

We all know why we are here today, yet again, and this is for the third time. As you gather, maybe you see when you look up, that we haven’t quite controlled the weather this time. The last two rides we did last year were absolutely fantastic, super sunshine. It was amazing. So we got a bit of rain today, a bit of cloud, and the cloud doesn’t just extend to the weather. As Peter alluded to, it’s more a gathering – a Space for Cycling gathering – today than a Space for Cycling Civic Ride. So we are still civic. Civic is what we are and what we are exercising today is the civic right of getting together and having a bit of a chat and talk about things.

So to briefly summarise: we are here to ask for space for cycling that means – and I’m going to read this out to get it absolutely right –  there are six asks that space for cycling is asking for:

It asks for protected space on main roads.  I think that’s the really really important one out of the six and that’s the one that to me if at all to be the one in very very bold and in very very big font.

But it also asks for – and this one is not to be sniffed at either – removing through traffic and that is motorised through traffic. There’s something called filtered permeability – is the technical term – and that is something the Dutch and the Danes and the Germans are quite good at. And if you want to learn more about it, speak to the campaign. We have quite a few ideas about how to bring this about. It’s not to be sniffed at at all. It is actually a really important tool in a toolkit of highway engineers and specifically planners.

We’re also asking for lower speed limits and 20mph residential areas. Now. Newcastle has vastly done that. There’s still a little bit on the fringe that could be to be done and improved. Recently we have seen a really good ‘traffic regulation order’ for the civic centre 20mph area to be expanded. Great. We are getting there.

Cycle friendly town centres: to me that rings Northumberland street question. What we are doing on that street is great. It’s pedestrianised. It’s for walking. Yet cycling is not allowed, not even out of shopping hours and we are not having at the same time a safe bypass that gets us around on that North-south route – so it is difficult. There are plans on John Dobson Street. The campaign thinks they are great, and we want to see those implemented. It might be a starting point to getting this North-south axis of safe cycling through the city centre. But cyclists are of course not just cycling through – cyclists are stopping as well. Cyclists are shoppers and cyclists are actually really good at that – stopping and shopping. We don’t want to forget that either. And that brings us onto discussions on Acorn Road and Gosforth High Street and how we are re-designing those.

Fifth is routes through green spaces – so, anything where we can unbundle the network and where we can use shortcuts through parks notwithstanding security regards and concerns. You know, they need to be well-lit and all that kind of thing, as well, not to be forgotten about.

And last but by no means least at all, safe routes to schools – just to highlight that what we are asking is cycling for for all ages and all abilities, it’s not just for us, the fit and the brave, thanks for turning up today, the fit and the brave, (but – sorry, can’t hear me at the back?) Safe routes to schools! (Team work, thank you very much.) Safe routes to schools, very very important. (Have you waited for long to tell me that you can’t hear me. The English. Amazing.) And I’m saying – again, last but not least, safe routes to schools. The campaign, the Space for Cycling campaign as well as NewCycling, the Newcastle’s cycling campaign, is for making cycling possible and convenient for everyone, of all ages and abilities – that’s the young, the old, women – everyone.

We know that other countries and other cities have done that very well, the solutions are out there, I’ve briefly talked you through them and this is what we are asking for.

Well, today turned out to be a bit different and I’m going to hand the megaphone back to Peter and he’s going to chat to you just briefly about what happened over the last 24 hours. This is notwithstanding at all that we have been talking and holding talks and communications with the council and other authorities for months. Peter would you like to have a few words?

Thank you very much.[Applause]

Peter Macdonald, Ride Coordinator


I need notes. Kat’s supreme at speaking off hand. The first thing I want to say is Thank you all for coming despite the fact that we had to cancel the ride. It’s really really important as you will well know that we show support for space for cycling. And the other people I would like to thank are all those volunteers who put tons and tons of hours and effort to make sure we rode round the city centre safely and look after our children.

So, if you don’t mind, I would like you to give a round of applause to all the marshalls and anyone who promoted this ride [big applause, bell ringing].

As you will probably know, we have done two successful rides in the city centre. We didn’t have a single issue. We ended up with 20 marshalls volunteering who all took the time out to cycle the ride, assess the safety and risk. Fifty percent of those are qualified ride leaders and first aiders. You were probably have been in the most protected safe bunch of people in the whole of Newcastle in that moment.

Which will bring me to the huge irony that we face in trying to implement space for cycling in Newcastle.

Decision to cancel the ride was an incredibly difficult decision. And a really difficult decision wasn’t because all the volunteers’ energy that was burnt to date. It was the kids that want to come along and want to cycle across the Tyne Bridge in safety. After the two rides last we had never-ending list of people coming to us saying: You got to do it again – it was a fantastic special experience that you can’t normally do when you cycle in the city centre.

What happened was, unknown to us from our two previous rides, inside the council there is a Safety Advisory Group. And we were asked to engage with the Safety Advisory Group which is perfectly reasonable. We did not have any problem in doing it. And we went to a couple of meetings and we rapidly discovered that it was going to be challenge to satisfy the Safety Advisory Group. I won’t go into all the details.

What we need to do as a campaign is to think about how we want to respond to the experience with working with the Safety Advisory Group. We are obviously really bitterly disappointed and we don’t want emotions to take over careful thought.

But one of the fundamental problems that we face, was that I could not persuade the Safety Advisory Group that people cycling in large numbers through our city centre was infinitely more safer than cycling as individuals or as twos.

As a result the Safety Advisory Group could not sign off our event management plan [crowd expresses dissatisfaction by booing]. One of the things we have is an insurance policy via CtC which covers us for public liability. We make sure that we are conforming and actually the Safety Advisory Group helped us with a couple of points where they made further investigation where everybody was covered by insurance. And we are. Despite we know the safest thing we could be doing today.

However we went through that process, and we hit a point where they said: We can’t sign off your event management plan because we believe it is unsafe for a large number of people if we are cycling through our city centre.

Now, the problem that happens with insurance is that – despite we know we are we know nothing is going to happen – if something did, we would be uninsured because the insurers would say: It does not really matter that you looked at all your terms and conditions, you are conforming to them, you ignored the response of a public safety advisory group. And that would be irresponsible for us.

Consequently we really had no choice but to cancel the ride. We can’t be seen to be endangering people, which of course we aren’t.

The frustration of course is – I have no issues with individuals who are sitting on the Safety Advisory Group, they are just trying to do their job – it is a system which just doesn’t work. It doesn’t apply common sense and, naturally, they are hugely risk-averse because they are in the health and safety world.

And what we need to do, we need to help them. We need to help them and educate them, and get them to move along with how times are changing.

We are an exceptional city in the whole of the country, because we are the only council that has 67% of our Councillors pledging to support Space for Cycling [crowd clapping]. And it is really really important that we support our Councillors to do that. But what we need our Councillors to do now is to put pressure inside the council officers to make the change happen. We have seen the impact when the design is there. There are a lot of good council officers who are trying to make change and the outcome of the design for John Dobson Street which had overwhelming support.

There is a number of council officers which I think which would be unfair to name although I am sure they are sitting quite proud – council officers who are working really really hard on our behalf. And I think what’s important around that whilst we are bitterly disappointed we need to help our council. We need to get them to the level of education and understanding and safety which we all experience.

And they are five years behind us. And it’s hard work. And the campaign relentlessly has been working for five years trying to get the council to that situation. And what’s really important is that we take this negative and turn it into a positive. Because it’s ridiculous: we all know it’s safer if we cycle in a large group than it is as ones or twos.

Because Purdah is on and we have an election coming up, I can’t actually name some people who are here to speak. However, we are very fortunate. Because one of our marshalls is also our Cycling Champion; and in a second I would like Marion to say a couple of words. She works tirelessly with us, and not least she has reccied with all the other marshalls to make sure you guys are all safe.

One of the frustrations that I personally have – and is expressed inside the cycling campaign – is that inside our council we have a huge amount of promotion, encouraging people to take to the roads. Our councils are going round schools telling our children to take to the roads. And I personally have a massive problem with encouraging people, particularly children on infrastructure that is unsafe [crowd applauds].

By not signing off our event management plant it is proof that we need urgently to have safe infrastructure across our city.

And it is not really about me as an old grey-haired old fart but my children here, and your children and the legacy that we leave behind for them.

Last year Christian Wolmar, the eminent Christian Wolmar who is the campaign’s patron, who made a speech here on the very end he said: The most important thing is making your voice heard. Every time we organise a ride it demonstrates to our council and our city, that we want safe space for cycling infrastructure. I actively encourage you to join the campaign, get involved and help us organise our next ride – which in turn will be a protest ride [big applause from audience].

Thank you very much for coming.

Cllr Marion Talbot, Cycling Champion


Hello, it’s lovely to see so many people here today. I’m as disappointed as you are that we are not riding around the city today. I would have been at the front with Claire had we been doing it. Although to be honest I had a little accident on my bike last night so I haven’t got a bike at the moment but I would have found one from somewhere. And I was okay. The bike is a bit knackered. I, however, I’m not.

You have our full support. As Councillors, we fully support Space for Cycling. We are fighting to get that. We will continue to fight to get that and we would like your support to help us to be able to achieve that goal, because that’s really what we want to do. [Applause]

We have Councillor Ged Bell, who is the portfolio holder, the cabinet member for Investment and Development. He is kind of charge of all this; I am not. So I’m going to pass over to him but before I do that I’d like to thank the council officers that I know is here today who have worked really hard behind the scenes to try and get this to happen.

And I kind of echo Peter’s comments. I know you are angry. I know that you are frustrated. I know you are fed up. I know you want to have a go at somebody, fine – but actually let’s turn that into a positive. Let’s turn that into an emotion that we can use to achieve something because anger and frustration doesn’t’ really achieve anything. It’s just makes people defensive.

We want to work together to make sure we can cycle through our city safely.

Thank you. [Applause]

Cllr Ged Bell, Cabinet Member


You’ll be glad to know that, as a politician, I’m not going to take up too much more of your time with long speeches. Because I’m standing here, I’m starting to freeze and over the years I have been a keen cycling and also well one that loves running, sports, activities – you feel that but that’s middle age:

I found a wonderful way to of keeping warm which is cycling. So. After this, after the short speech, what I’m doing is I’m going for a cycle to get warm. I would love some friends and colleagues to come with me and we’ll have a little cycle.[Applause]. One of my routes is from the Civic Centre and I’m going through the town, I’m going across to the bridge and I’m going to come back in a loop and end up back in the city. So if anybody wants to join me that’s what I’m doing. I’m going to get myself warm again. [Applause].

Newcastle City Council, and the Councillors, you’ll see four Councillors here today. I will name them, we have Marion, we have got Rob, we have got Chris and myself, and others, have all signed up and have shown our full commitment to cycling.

I love cycling, I always have done and I will continue to love cycling.

What we need to do is to put the infrastructure in place for a modern city.

A modern city that includes cycling, a modern city that includes access to the city for all. So what the council is trying to do (and I have got to be careful because it’s a certain time of the year) what the Council is trying to do is to make sure that the infrastructure is put in place.

You will be aware that we have went, that we have won because we had to bid for the money; and we have got £14.5m funding for cycling infrastructure and pedestrianisation [applause] making the city safer for people to cycle and walk around.

Making the city safer for people to get around, so that they come to and enjoy the city.

That’s what we trying to do, and that’s what we are committed to do.

Yesterday I issued a press release, please read the press release; and that shows our commitment to cycle within the city. You will soon see the work start on one of the major improvements which will give space for cycling. And that’s going to be John Dobson Street. That is probably the biggest change that you will have seen in a generation of this kind – and I’m really looking forward to the first time to be able to cycle up and down John Dobson Street safely and able to just participate in my life within the city centre.

That is a massive change and that’s just a start.

Our strategic routes are taking us out into the suburbs. Our strategic routes are starting to link the suburbs with the city centre. So commuting to work, to school is going to be easier in the future, and safer in the future. At the end of my statement, I did say one thing, we need to do this together so please let’s all get stuck in and do this together.

Thank you all for turning up today. It’s not a warm day, but I’m sure that if go for a couple of miles around the town it will warm us up, thank you for everybody that has been involved and let’s crack on, cycling.

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