It was truly wonderful to welcome Chi Onwurah MP to our AGM. Since I was away for the AGM (and still am now), I nonetheless could enjoy reading her speech online here. After Claire cordially introduced Chi to the audience, our Newcastle’s Central MP took to the stage with much gusto. She was warm and genuine, her style engaging and she was really convivial and open in her address to the AGM audience.
Chi outlined vividly the problems that exist in our city. She even seemed to understand them intimately, perhaps linked to recently taking up cycling herself after some years off the bike. Cycling can be such a wide array of different things. I got to hear that she is rediscovering the full range of feelings that urban cycling supplies: of great freedom and independence on the one hand, and frustration and danger on the other hand. This is, sadly, a very familiar story for anyone who is cycling.
It is rather refreshing to listen to a decision maker talking about sustainability with clarity and enthusiasm too. Over the years newcycling has consistently raised the subjects of social equity, sustainability and resilience with our council and stressed the need for fairer transport planning. Personally I could not agree more with the point Chi made about cycling and social fairness. Chi said
“I’m quite clear that we cannot go on with the level of growth in car use. We want our cities to reflect people and not to be built around cars”
Cycling also has the great potential to be a class equaliser. But only if we let it. It all hangs on our local authorities providing sensible cycle infrastructure to its citizens. This is why our Campaign Plan focusses on getting network planning and design standards recognised and embedded at the council.
Chi expressed that she would like to have closer cooperation with the campaign. We have ideas, of course. Especially in the absence of a strong national campaign for cycling infrastructure and urban design, writing to the Minister and Secretary of State on behalf of the campaign remains a necessity. We hope she might find time to meet with us again to discuss ideas.
Locally, a review of transport, communication and budgetary structures is vital if we are to make progress towards creating an equitable liveable city where civic society is properly engaged and nurtured. We would be enormously grateful if Chi could raise our concerns and aspirations with the council leader, Nick Forbes.