25 Years of More, Better and Safer Cycling

This article was published in 2020, in Magazine 147.

Image as described adjacent

In June 1995, an organisation was formed that would change the way Cambridge moved. Many of the cycling facilities such as paths, lanes, cycle parks and bridges would not exist without the campaigning of our dedicated team of volunteers (and in the past five years, staff too!). Camcycle’s Executive Director and first employee, Roxanne De Beaux, explains what this milestone means to her.

I’ve rewritten this piece several times over the last few weeks as so much has happened. No doubt, by the time you read this, things will be different again and I’m optimistic that there will be several temporary cycling schemes installed across Cambridgeshire. This latest revision takes place on Camcycle’s 25th anniversary and what a big day we’ve had! Not only are we celebrating 25 years of campaigning for more, better and safer cycling but we are also celebrating the milestone of 1,500 members. What’s more, the county council today passed proposals for an ambitious list of temporary cycling schemes across the region, one of the biggest steps forward for cycling that we have seen in a generation of campaigning. There is still more to come and we expect this to lead to a range of permanent improvements.

A cycling community

While there is so much to celebrate, it is important to remember that Camcycle is not just a cycling campaign, it is also a community. We have many members and volunteers who have been involved since the very beginning. Friendships have been formed through shared interests, and partnerships and enterprises like Cyclestreets established. We look out for each other and our meetings and events are also important social occasions. The lockdown has certainly been felt by our members as we’ve missed catching up at our monthly meetings and our biggest annual event, the Reach Ride. It is sad that we have not been able to get together for our 25th birthday party, but I hope we will soon be reunited for a cycle ride and some cake.

Camcycle is part of a local, national and international movement working for a better future. Cycling is one means by which we believe this can be brought about and Cambridge is one of the places leading the way.

The Camcycle and Cambridge communities have become incredibly important to me. It’s over five years since I started working for Camcycle. This role ticked all the boxes for what I wanted in a job and more. Not only do I get to ride my bike to work every day, but I ride for work too – it is in the job description! Some days I can easily accumulate 20 miles cycling to and from work and meetings. Here in Cambridge, I’ve learned what it is like for cycling to be a normal part of everyday life. What I have discovered with Camcycle is a vocation. Once you become a cycling campaigner, I think you will always be a cycling campaigner, as you can no longer ignore the injustices you see when cycling on our roads and experiencing the urban environment. You will drive partners, family and friends mad with your constant analysis of the world around you. It will become completely normal to take a tape measure on holiday.

Making a difference

One of Cambridge’s newest cycleways, by the Ninewells development in the south of the city (photo: Margot Sargent)
Image as described adjacent

I love cycling around and noticing the many differences we have made to Cambridge’s roads and infrastructure. Things like the dropped kerb, which thanks to Simon Nuttall is at just the right place and angle for a smooth transition from Victoria Avenue onto Midsummer Common, and ‘Woodburn Way’ – the contraflow cycle lane on Corn Exchange Street due to the campaigning efforts of James Woodburn, Riverside cycle bridge for which Clare Macrae was on the design panel and Marmalade Lane with cycle parking shaped by Hester Wells. Soon there will be entirely new developments like the new town at Waterbeach which has been influenced by the contributions of Paul Bearpark, Robin Heydon, Matthew Danish and others.

Of course, I must also mention the Chisholm Trail which after nearly 25 years of campaigning effort by Jim Chisholm is finally about to become a reality. I regularly cycle past to note the progress of the Abbey-Chesterton bridge. There’s cycle parking all over this city where, without the extensive scrutiny of nearly every planning application and interventions of Camcycle members, there would be unusable wheel benders or stands too close together. Instead, there are well-spaced and secure Sheffield stands and an entire underground cycle park at the Grand Arcade. We also can’t forget all the barriers that we don’t see any more, removed (sometimes within just days), following our campaigning.

Camcycle is part of a local, national and international movement working for a better future. Cycling is one means by which we believe this can be brought about and Cambridge is one of the places leading the way. What makes us particularly effective is the technical knowledge we have, from the detail of transport policies to technological solutions like Ensembling and Cyclescape developed by members to support our organisation and our campaigning. We’re now working on our policy project to communicate and share this knowledge to help more people to campaign here in Cambridge and beyond.

The Camcycle and Cambridge community, network and friends that I have made have truly changed my life. I’ve enjoyed regular ‘payment’ in homegrown vegetables, honey and baked goods, help with deliveries (by cargo bike of course), advice on the purchase of new bikes and cycling banter over beers in the pub. Through this community, I’ve learned all about cycle touring and have become more adventurous with every trip. I’ve explored the cycling mecca of the Netherlands and learned just how good cycling-oriented planning can make our cities and lives.

Reaching the cyclists and campaigners of the future

Events like the Cargo Carnival have attracted more women and families to support Camcycle’s work.
Image as described adjacent

As we look to the future, there is still so much to be done. The need for more, better and safer cycling infrastructure is obvious. What is less obvious is how Camcycle needs to develop to meet the challenges of the future. Our Spaces to Breathe campaign has made it clear that we need to do more to support the wider Cambridgeshire region and shown that we can empower local people to progress their own campaigns. We also need to ensure that we are truly engaging with and representing the whole cycling community. In the last few years, we’ve seen a broadening in the diversity of our members and I’m proud that we have more representation of women, families and disabled cyclists. We’ve documented and followed our values including inclusivity, but are we doing enough? Recent movements call on us to consider our privileges and biases based on race and gender and this is relevant to our campaigning, our inclusiveness as an organisation and our understanding of people’s needs and experiences of transport and public spaces. This is a discussion we need to keep having.

We need to ensure that we are truly engaging with and representing the whole cycling community. I’m proud that we now have more representation of women, families and disabled cyclists, but are we doing enough?

When I started at Camcycle I knew that I wanted to be able to ride my bike, safely, enjoyably and every day. Thanks to this community, I’ve learned that cycling is not just about the bike or the cycle lanes. It is about the better places we can live in and the better, happier and healthier lives we can lead and the connections we can have with the communities we live in. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I have personally had through Camcycle and for the dedication of our Camcycle members and volunteers who have worked for 25 years to make and keep Cambridge a special cycling city.

On that note, I must attend yet another online meeting to present our Spaces to Breathe campaign. It is a busy time dealing with the present challenges, but it is important we keep an eye on the future and take time to celebrate the past. Congratulations Camcycle on a wonderful 25 years! I look forward to seeing everything else this group of dedicated campaigners will achieve. I’d also like to welcome the many new members who have joined us recently: look out, you might find that campaigning for better cycling is your vocation too…

  • If you’re not already a member, join us online at camcycle.org.uk/membership
  • If you’d like to get involved in one of our campaigns, contact us through our Cyclescape member forum, social media channels or by email at contact@camcycle.org.uk
  • Are you working for cycling in your area? Let us know and we can help grow the movement across Cambridgeshire.