Cycling Spring Conference

Mark Irving and I attended the joint Spring conference of the Cyclists’ Touring Club and the Cycle Campaign Network in Norwich on May 10. Ian Gibson, the new Labour MP for Norwich North, gave a brief introduction to delegates along the lines of ‘The sky’s the limit, change is possible under a Labour government, go for it!’

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Phil Liggett is a racing cyclist, TV cycling commentator and new President of the CTC. He introduced himself as proud owner of three expensive cars, but also as an advocate of cycling. As a world traveller, he observed that if we think we have problems, we should look at Malaysia. There it takes two hours to do a 20 km journey because of the congestion, and pollution is endemic.

Julie King from Sustrans gave a run-down on sources of funding for cycle provision, an area in which Sustrans has had to become expert. 77 per cent of the funding for the Millennium Cycle Network has to be raised from a wide variety of organisations after the lottery grant of 23 per cent of the required funds. Gone are the days when local authorities and the Department of Transport would fund all traffic and transport infrastructure.

Chris Wood, director of a transport consultancy in Norwich, showed a set of slides on the integration of public transport and cycling, here and abroad. The slide that sticks in my mind is the train in Copenhagen which has life-size bicycles painted on many of the doors, indicating that this is where you can enter with a bike.

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Peter Gazey from the Cyclists’ Public Affairs Group (the parliamentary lobby for the cycling networks) said that the Bicycle Association is funding a six-month project to investigate the cycling profiles of all the new MPs, to get an idea where our allies and opponents are in the new parliament.

Rosemary Sharples, a long-standing cycle campaigner, but professionally employed to administer the Cycle Challenge budget, reported on the projects funded by the scheme, which has now finished. Our own Cycle Friendly Employers scheme was funded partly through this money; also the cycle racks on Anglia Railways trains. One idea I hadn’t come across before was a ‘Fresh air miles passport’: recording the money and pollution saved by cycling, a kind of cycling diary.

I was sad to find how little traffic had been excluded from Norwich city centre since I lived there 15 years ago. Cycling schemes have been introduced, but very little has been done to limit traffic in the centre, and a huge new shopping mall right in the middle brings in traffic from a wide area. For Environment Week, Castle Meadow was closed to private vehicles. Maybe one week will be made permanent in the future.

Oh, and the chocolate mousse at the Waffle House is just as good as ever!

Dave Earl