Campaigners workshop in Leeds – a member reflects

Patrick, Sally and Katja attended the Space for Cycling Campaigners workshop in Leeds. Patrick sums it up here.

In May, a healthy North East contingent made the train bound for Leeds and the recent Space for Cycling campaigners conference. Space for Cycling is a campaign theme which started in London, by the London Cycling Campaign, but has resonated nationally and was launched by CTC and local campaign groups at the conference. It’s a great way of communicating the sometimes fuzzy and disparate needs of people on bikes into themes that decision-makers can recognise, and act upon. The six themes of Space for Cycling are handily explained by John Snow in this short video. They are:

  1. Protected space on main roads
  2. Removing through motor traffic in residential areas
  3. Lower speed limits
  4. Cycle-friendly town centres
  5. Safe routes to school
  6. Routes through green spaces

Conference workshops were relevant and interactive, including building a campaign from grassroots, working with officers (make friends with your cycling officer!?!) and using social media. It seemed Newcastle Cycling Campaign was held as a bit of a beacon in all these areas – people kept asking me how we did things – indeed our own Katja delivered a workshop on myth busting and rebuttals (see all Leeds presentation here). For our inspiration I’d keep an eye on Leeds Cycling Campaign as one to watch. As hosts they were incredibly welcoming – as campaigners they are seeing spades in the ground for cycling.

It was refreshing to see CTC – an organisation with which I have a long association – move into the forefront of campaigning for high quality segregated infrastructure, from a position of being ambivalent at best on separate provision. What we saw from Mark Treasure of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain were examples of where it’s been done well, and not only from continental Europe, but from right here in the UK. Other workshops are summarised by Chris Peck, CTC here .

One message which resonated was that if we design for cycling, we get people-friendly spaces for everyone to enjoy. We get liveable city centres populated by people, not cars. We get play streets with no through traffic. We get space on strategic routes and pleasant places to ride, not either/or. That’s the vision of Space for Cycling which takes it beyond a campaign for cyclists, into cycling as a ‘vehicle’ for improvements to everyone’s public space.

One final theme was setting a high standard with ambitious goals. Pragmatism, easy wins and working with the willing has only got us so far. We’ve seen incremental improvements for existing riders, but not the step-change that sees new people in their numbers turning to a bike as ordinary transport. What infrastructure we do have tends to be easier to install, along simpler roads where there’s already space. So we have cycle “routes” that aren’t routes at all, and end at the very junctions where we need them most.

As Rachel Aldred from London Cycling Campaign said – we can hold the Space for Cycling themes not as something to aspire to, but as standards not to fall below. With that level of ambition we are sure to see space for cycling on our streets.