This article was published in 2018, in Magazine 141.
It’s been a year of growth for Camcycle from an expanded staff team and increasing membership numbers to a record-breaking Reach Ride. Executive Director Roxanne De Beaux looks back on the last 12 months.
From my perspective, 2018 has definitely been the biggest year since I started working for Camcycle. I’m not quite sure where the year has gone, but I do know that time has moved fast and things have changed a lot compared to this time last year. There is too much to write about in this small space, so here are some highlights.
Growing and improving Camcycle
Growing our staff team
In late 2017, we began a flurry of work to prepare proposals and budgets for our second staff member. We were successful in gaining funding and began recruiting in January 2018. By May 2018 our new Communications and Community Officer, Anna Williams, had joined the team. During this time we were also successful in our application to the Cole Charitable Trust for funding for a paid summer intern. So not long after Anna started we were joined by our first intern, Emma Pritchard. The amount of work and the quality of work we have been able to achieve with this additional staff support has been incredible, but it still seems never to be enough to keep up with the many demands on our organisation.
Improving our resources
We’ve been able to make progress on many big projects this year, a number which have been achievable thanks to funding from the Co-op. Our stall bike project is now complete. The new e-assist cargo bike with customised box has served us well in the second half of the year, and it is now hard to imagine Camcycle without it. Our bike has led the way on many rides, captured attention at events and inspired others to think about creative ways in which they could use a cargo bike. We also purchased a shed to store the bike in, that has added much-needed storage space for our growing amount of equipment and materials. We’ve furnished our office with desks, chairs and equipment to accommodate our growing staff team and our increasing number of volunteers.
Behind the scenes, we’ve been migrating our website to WordPress so that it is easier for us to update and improve the design. We’ve developed our financial systems and reporting. Our membership management systems have been upgraded, making it easier for us to serve our members. We had to deal with General Data Protection Regulations and ensure our policies, processes and systems were able to deal with new requirements. The trustees have also been working very hard on improving our governance and management processes to meet the needs of our growing organisation and increasing demands placed on charities.
Increasing our engagement
This year, we launched Camcycle’s first ever ‘Cambridge Festival of Cycling’. What was intended to be a pilot festival with a few events somehow took off and became a month-long extravaganza with more than 20 cycling events. We also conducted our first ‘Cambridge Cycling Survey’ which had over 1,100 respondents. This closed a few weeks ago and we are now in the process of analysing the responses. What has surprised us is just how many unprompted, positive comments the survey participants made about Camcycle. With Co-op funding we’ve published our ‘Welcome to Cycling’ animated video and series of tips which have been well received at events and online. Anna’s excellent work on social media has seen a substantial increase in the number of followers and their engagement, especially on Instagram. We know this has led to new event attendees, members and volunteers.
Our campaigning efforts have paid off this year. We’ve finally seen a clean-up of the Cambridge Station Cyclepoint and have made progress with getting some collaboration between the various stakeholders involved in dealing with cycle theft. We can’t promise there will be more action taken on stolen cycles, but at least with the police, station staff and various contractors now communicating with each other and understanding the process, reporting of thefts should be more straightforward. Our intern Emma provided support on our Street Cycle Parking project, which is being led by volunteer Simon Nuttall. We conducted a survey of local residents to find out about their cycle parking needs and presented the results in a report to councillors. We’re confident we will see street cycling parking including in the residents’ car-parking scheme on which Romsey residents will soon be consulted.
Cambridgeshire Police have started taking some action on close passing. A few operations have been held, including one on Road Safety Day that I was able to attend. There is still some way to go for the police to perfect their activities but we are pleased to see some action being taken at last and we plan to keep working with the police to develop this operation in Cambridge.
The Chisholm Trail
The Chisholm Trail continues to make steady, if slow, progress. There are now visible signs of activity on the ground, including the beginnings of work on the Newmarket Road underpass. Perhaps by this time next year, we will be celebrating the new walking and cycling bridge over the river Cam.
The Greater Cambridge Partnership
We’ve continued to keep up the pressure on GCP consultations, as well as trying to work more proactively with the GCP wherever appropriate. We attend the occasional GCP ‘sounding group’ meetings to help improve the way the GCP engages with the community. We’ve been involved in the Local Liaison Forums for Milton Road, Histon Road and the Chisholm Trail and provided feedback on cross-city cycling improvements and the Greenways. Often, the result of our work is positive, and we see officers taking our suggestions forward to improve facilities for walking and cycling; however, we have also frequently been frustrated when many hours of work and consultation involvement seem to have little impact on GCP schemes which roll ahead with substandard cycling infrastructure, in particular, dangerous junctions.
We’ve probably responded to more planning applications than ever this year, and this is mostly due to the incredible work of volunteer and Camcycle trustee, Matthew Danish, who has been very efficient in posting the applications on Cyclescape for discussion and then writing and submitting responses. This has resulted in improved developments as councillors and officers push applicants for revisions to their plans or add ‘conditions’ to ensure cycling receives adequate provision. Matt also organised a ‘planning application responders’ workshop a few weeks ago to develop the skills of more volunteers so that we can help to share the workload and knowledge.
The Cambridge Festival of Cycling became a month-long extravaganza with more than 20 events
What’s in store for 2019 and beyond?
Ensure Camcycle is sustainable
Over the next 12 months, it is essential that we take some time to ‘catch up’ and make sure our organisation behind the scenes can continue to support the growing demands for our campaigning work. We need to increase our fundraising efforts to ensure we can sustain our office and staff.
Our website still needs some work. Once we have completed our migration to WordPress, we will need to invest time and resources into updating the design, structure and content. There is so much potential for our website to improve our delivery of resources, communication of ideas and policies and to encourage more people to join as members.
Keep up the campaigning pressure
Cambridge station area
We still have a long way to go to get improvements to the cycling conditions in the area around Cambridge station. With the development of the rest of the site due to start in 2019, we need to step up our campaigning to ensure mistakes are fixed before new work begins.
The Greater Cambridge Partnership
The GCP will be forging ahead with its transport schemes. The Greenways projects present the opportunity for excellent cycling infrastructure to connect villages to Cambridge and each other; however, we will need to keep up the pressure to ensure they are built to the required quality and specification necessary to support everyday cycling.
We’re continuing to see compromised schemes from the GCP which fall back to designs prioritising motor vehicles and bus lanes over the safety of people walking and cycling. As pressure mounts to spend GCP funds, we must keep up the campaigning pressure to ensure cycling is not compromised. It is vital that we forge strong alliances with other community and residents’ groups to show that cycling improvements will benefit everyone in the local community.
In 2019 the plans from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority will be taking further shape. We must ensure that the mayor’s promises to include cycling in the emerging Cam Metro plans are kept. We must continue to push for cycling to be seen as a key strategic piece of the transport and development puzzle.
The proposed closure of the Mill Road bridge in the summer of 2019 presents a huge opportunity to trial our ‘vision for Mill Road’. We need to work with the local community to push for investment in trying something innovative during this time to ensure the street remains accessible and vibrant, and hopefully to inspire more permanent improvements.
Growing and celebrating cycling
After a year which saw a record-breaking number of people on the Reach Ride and the launch of the Cambridge Festival of Cycling, we’ll be looking for ways to improve these events in 2019, celebrating our city’s cycling culture and encouraging even more people to try cycling.
We also have the opportunity to work with the county council and other stakeholders on a European-funded project called City Changer Cargo Bike, to grow and promote the use of cargo cycles to businesses and families. Activities for this project are still to be confirmed but we’re fairly sure it will mean the return of our popular Cargo Carnival event which we hope will be even bigger and better in 2019!