Our campaign – 5 years in 15 minutes

Claire with Mikael Coleville-Andersen and Philippe Crist at Nantes, VeloCity 2015 conference

Claire Prospert, our Secretary and co-founder, was invited to speak at the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences. You can listen to her enlightening talk summarising 5-years of campaigning in 15 minutes here (whereas the full day including other talks by speakers from academia and activism is documented here). Claire reminded us that we are a young and fresh campaign, only five years old, and that we have always kept a good campaigning focus on improving urban design and road engineering. She finishes on four thoughts for the future.

Listen to Claire’s talk here

Our Secretary says “We put cycling on the political agenda”. We articulated a case for cycling infrastructure like Space for Cycling, and created a voice for the future of city cycling. The beginnings were similar to any campaign’s, cycling or otherwise. It was this sheer feeling of injustice – that something wasn’t right and that something had to be done to change the situation. She outlines a simple recipe. Two things came together to form the campaign:

PetitionAward = campaign (as suggested by out patron Christian Wolmar)

Claire continues to explain that it’s not just about cycling, it’s also about safer walking, an altogether better transport system for our city. We have always tried to build alliances, and we are still doing that now. We decided to focus on the city of Newcastle rather than Tyneside on the whole – and within that it was the local authority that we knew had the power to change our city for the better. Their politicians and officials remain our campaigning target to date.

She also took us to see the funny moments. Being called “bike-mad” by the local newspaper, or when the campaign was accused of “hijacking” an open public consultation. To this day, we do not know what that means! Some changes took place and the powers that be have come quite a way with us and towards our vision for a cycling city. Claire points out to us, that we really have done and achieved a lot in five years. Here’s a run through:

  • Cycling Strategy (adopted by full council)
  • City Chief Cycle Challenge, Nick Forbes commenting that “our cycling infrastructure is bonkers”
  • Cycling Manifesto (adopted by full council)
  • Putting a focus on Strategic Cycle Routes
  • lobbied for traffic engineers’ training (there was a session, a one-off sadly, should be Continuing Professional Development)
  • Haddrick Mill joint report with Living Streets
  • formation of Jesmond branch now chaired by Sally Watson
  • mapped 20mph coverage for city centre to highlight its gaps (3 years later, and we have seen some action)
  • making a case of safe cycling infrastructure, full council (locally) and Transport Committee (nationally)
  • Go Dutch conference, the Dutch visit and spell out their view and vision
  • You Report, our members report about international cycle infrastructure on their business trips and holidays
  • Space for Cycling campaign and rides, organised by Peter Macdonald
  • many a cycle infra safari has been held, including chats over much coffee and cake
  • campaign policies and setting up of the Infrastructure Team with Scott Dawson at the helm

Now in 2015, we are talking about building the transport transition. We think the gap is very wide between what policy wants to achieve and where we are in reality. We must help council to bridge that gap by outlining simple steps and breaking it down into clear asks and tasks. This entails analysing the problems and communicating solutions much better than has been done in the past. As such, we need a movement plan for the city to see the network and understand our city’s best use of space. Politicians must be brave when taking about cycling – must be clear that they really want to prioritise it over space for cars, driving and parking. It’s a big realisation. There only ever is limited space in a compact urban setting, and we have to talk about managing that space better and more equitably.

Claire wraps up giving us four thoughts for the future

  1. A consistent and clear message is essential to manage and grow a successful campaign group
  2. Potential for city cycling campaigns to link up and add their voices to the LCC and CEoGB at national level
  3. National voice must be more coherent, clearer and louder – Inclusive voice
  4. Academia and research needs amplifying by advocates

Listen to Claire’s talk here

Here’s to the next five years!