Volunteer interview: Tom McKeown

Tom with his son.
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Tell us about you and your cycling journey.

I’ve been cycling in one form or another for a long time. As a kid I had a BMX; I would set up brick-and-plank ramps in the garden to ride over. At school my bike was a means to visit friends’ houses, and for us all to get away from parents. Later on, exploring bridleways by mountain bike was a way for me to relax. Only after moving to Cambridge for a graduate job did everyday cycling really ‘click’ for me. Those occasional transport trips by bike became a daily commute. I’ve now a young son so value my bike as the family’s second car.

When and why did you join Cambridge Cycling Campaign?

I’d initially become involved in cycling advocacy on Twitter, I suppose as a reaction to the bad drivers we all encounter from time to time. It gave me an opportunity to explain why riding centrally is a good idea, or how ‘road tax’ is irrelevant, that isn’t possible when an idiot drives past too close, too fast or yelling abuse.

This naturally progressed to taking an interest in local issues and joining the Cambridge Cycling Campaign. Especially so as I found my tolerance for poor cycling infrastructure dropped markedly when riding with my son on the bike.

What volunteer activities have you been involved in?

I had received requests via my Twitter account to become involved on the Committee. Though initially reluctant I came around to the idea and stood as the Recruitment Officer at the 2014 AGM. I’ve helped to take the stall bike out to fairs and festivals where we speak to members of the public about their cycling concerns, collect petition signatures and hopefully sign them up as Campaign members. I also organised ‘Thank you’ flyers for riders on the Reach Ride. These were slipped round handlebars of parked bikes thanking them for riding to the fair, and encouraging them to join the Campaign. Most recently I project-managed the photography and design for our new membership leaflets.

What has been the best thing about volunteering with the Campaign?

Working with like-minded individuals on positive changes has been hugely rewarding. I’ve also found the social aspects of the Campaign to be important to me.

What would you like to happen in the future of the Campaign and cycling in Cambridge?

I’m keen on increasing the diversity of the Campaign’s membership, particularly with young families, as I believe these have a very strong case for high-quality cycling infrastructure. I think routes that keep people cycling as they have children will be routes that work for new cyclists too.

Centre spread from Campaign leaflet, Cyclingmatters, even if you never ride a bike!, the project which Tom managed.
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What would you say to others who are considering active involvement with the Campaign?

I would say to go for it. Don’t be put off by concerns about time commitments or specific technical knowledge. We’ve a huge range of activities to suit different interests and availability. We can find something that is both enjoyable and rewarding to take part in.

Sarah Rodger