This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 104.
It is official. We are the champions. In all of England and Wales, Cambridge is the cycling capital. According to the Department for Transport, 52% of the population mount a bike once a week, and 58% do it at least once a month.
Most of these trips are pleasant, refreshing activities in the lives of our residents. Some get up in the morning, feel grumpy for breakfast, and will discover their smile only when the foot hits the pedal.
They use the power of their own legs to go places, do things, meet people, enjoy the greens and ride along the river. They rarely visit a petrol station, they take up very little space on the road, they do very little damage to the road surface, they get exercise and they are ready to smile at you if you show your smile. They observe other cyclists, hear the humming of the chain, check their lights. They lock their bikes and pump their tyres. Hair in the wind, fast or slow, sitting upright or bent over low: has anyone seen an unhappy cyclist recently?
52% once a week on the bike: this is a world class number, something to be really proud of. Sure, much needs to be done, very much could be better, the car mentality is still firmly embedded in many places. No doubt, we need to talk to the 42% of our residents who do not ride a bike even once a month, who do not know how to open the secret door to better smiles and stronger legs.
The city and county councils know the numbers, but they have not yet woken up to their significance. I am not seeing the sense of achievement and the celebration that should go with being the cycling capital of the nation. Local leaders and the local press have an opportunity here to emphasise a common achievement, a shared value of a city fit for people, a vision of sustainable transport and liveable streets. The mayor already wears a golden bike-chain when joining us for the Reach Ride. Now it is time to put a bicycle on the city flag, to mint a local coin which shows our favourite mode of transport. The local newspaper will not only organise bike rides but issue its weekly ‘Drive’ supplement under the more comprehensive title of ‘Getting Around’. Those who arrive by train in the cycling capital of the nation will find a hotel on the right, housed in a building which also offers 3,000 bike parking spaces. In large letters the hotel proudly displays its name. It will be called ‘The Bicycle Hotel’. Why not?
Does this sound like a winning streak you want to be part of? A fantasy you want to turn into reality? Now is a good time to get involved. At the Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 6 November our members will elect a new committee. If you can find 4 or 5 hours in a week, if you like to work with others, meet new people, follow through with one project, and be part of the winning cause of cycling in the cycling capital of the nation, please get in touch. We need all the experience, expertise and diversity we can get, but we need to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line ‘well, I really don’t, but perhaps’ would be a good beginning.
Michael Cahn, Co-ordinator