Feet first (though cycling comes close)

This article was published in 2018, in Newsletter 137.

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Martin, the Liaison Officer for Camcycle, says that (sometimes) you should go beyond what you think you can do in life. I think setting up your own advocacy group to campaign for better walking facilities seems to fit that!

Walking and cycling are closely related yet there is often – too often – a perceived conflict between them. We’ve all heard rants about people cycling on pavements and claims that ‘I nearly got knocked over’ because someone has been surprised by a bike coming up behind them. Most of the trouble here is that cycling on the pavement is seen as less risky than on the road and parents sometimes prefer their offspring to be out of the way of cars. It’s a battle to convince councillors and others that providing a shared-use path does nothing to help people on foot or riding cycles. Whatever age they are, neither party wants to share because of the difference in how each moves. The people walking perceive that the people on bikes are speeding past when they probably aren’t. It creates an environment in which the walker gets irritable with the person on a bike and the person on bike wonders how they can navigate round the grumpy walker without making the situation worse.

20mph speed limits are valuable for pedestrians as well as those on bikes, as is encouraging councils to reduce motorised traffic. These are the type of arguments I want Feet first (which is what this group will be called) to make. I have no desire to spend time ranting about how badly behaved people are on bikes or how I want the city centre to be totally pedestrianised so that not even bikes can use it. I hope we could work closely with, though not be in the pockets of, Camcycle to encourage real consideration for those on foot. I would want us to be active in commenting on and trying to influence the design of new developments and crossings as well as trying to ensure that construction work makes space for pedestrians outside the site as buildings go up. This doesn’t happen as often as it should.

To this end, I’m really keen to hear from people who want to take this forward. I particularly want some campaigners who are comfortable with and reasonably savvy about social media. I’m not wholly comfortable with it myself, but the reality is no campaign group will get its message across if it doesn’t use Twitter and have a WordPress blog, at the very least. There may be other platforms we need to look at too, of course.

I’m also keen to hear from those who would be able to work out how to set ourselves up as a lightweight, transparent organisation that enables supporters to campaign, if possible. If you have any expertise in these two areas and want to be involved, let me know by emailing me at: feet_first@gmx.co.uk

Bev Nicolson