Cambridge Festival of Cycling celebrated

This article was published in 2018, in Newsletter 140.
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The Cambridge Festival of Cycling was launched to celebrate the city’s cycling culture and raise awareness of Camcycle and our mission for more, better and safer cycling. A month-long series of events took place across the city in September. It attracted both new and familiar faces to everything from social rides and cycling exhibitions to a Family Cycling Event, Bikes and Bloomers talk and the first ever Cargo Carnival! Here we report back on some of the key Camcycle events.

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Social ride to Eddington

Saturday 1 September 2018

The month-long Cambridge Festival of Cycling kicked off on Saturday 1 September with a social ride to Eddington. A group of around 50 friends, families, marshals and volunteers braved the sunshine and idyllic conditions to join in with the fun.

The ride wound through the city centre, along the delightful segregated Coton Path and via West Cambridge. With such a large group, our pace was naturally quite leisurely; we may have been overtaken by an enthusiastic jogger at one point!

We ended up at the Brook Leys nature area for a picnic, where Caf-fiend of Cambridge and Verrecchia Ice Cream cargo bike traders were there to make sure all adults were caffeinated and the kids were loaded up with sugar.

ITV News Anglia came along to cover the ride so members of the Camcycle team and ride participants appeared on the news that night.

As a newcomer to Cambridge, it was a great opportunity for me to get to know some of the lovely nearby trails and meet the people involved with the Campaign. I’m looking forward to the many other events lined up for the festival!

Liz Irvin

World Bicycle Relief

Tuesday 4 September 2018

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At our September monthly meeting, Alec Seaman from World Bicycle Relief gave a fascinating overview of the work that they have been doing giving bicycles away to those who need them the most.

This started after the 2004 Sri Lankan tsunami created a huge need to enable people to move around Sri Lanka. The original plan was to raise money from donors to purchase locally sourced bicycles. These bikes didn’t last very long as they were being used to carry large loads that they weren’t built to cope with. Soon, Sri Lanka recovered enough not to need World Bicycle Relief’s help and the charity was encouraged to move into Africa.

The move to Africa, and the disappointing experience of commercially available bicycles, led the charity to design its own. World Bicycle Relief also decided to be a mobility charity and not just a bicycle distributor. This meant that they not only designed the bicycle, but also created a whole supply chain for spare parts and trained mechanics to fix them if they did break. World Bicycle Relief worked with local governments and village leaders to determine which villages would benefit most from their services and who from those villages would be given bicycles. However, the bicycles are not free. Each person, typically a child in the last two years of their schooling, would be provided with a bicycle for those two years and if they attended school it would become theirs at the end of those two years. This increased attendance in schools by 28% and boosted academic performance by 59%. Most impressively, it was the young girls who benefited most, continuing their education, marrying later, and thus being able to control when they started a family of their own.

The design is key to how this whole operation works. Called the Buffalo Bicycle, it has a single speed with a backpedal brake for the rear wheel. This means that the handlebar is just a bar, with no additional cables for hand brakes or gearing. There are no lights, because in most of the countries where they are distributed people don’t travel after dark. The bicycle is a plain gauge frame rather than a more modern butted frame because this is much easier to repair. It has a standard one-inch threaded headset, a square tapered bottom bracket, and a standard seat post. The idea is that parts should be easily sourced not just from World Bicycle Relief or one of their trained mechanics, but from any other supplier of parts.

There are two key components of the bicycle that make it stand out. The first is that the frame has a small downward kink just in front of the seat post. This allows people in more conservative countries to ride a bicycle in skirts without risking loss of dignity. This small design choice makes a huge difference for the girls and women who ride these bikes. The second is the remarkably strong rack over the rear wheel and rear centre stand, which is designed to carry a load of 100kg. This could be the charcoal that you’ve just produced, the agricultural produce you need to take to market, or a couple of your friends who need a lift.

The bicycles use strong wide wheels and have mudguards. They are manufactured in Taiwan by Giant and shipped to Africa by the container-load for just £95 a bike. When the cost of delivering the bicycles from the port to the rural villages is included, a bicycle delivered to a school-age child costs £135. However, the bicycles don’t arrive fully assembled. They arrive in boxes, and the mechanics build them up in Africa.

The charity also supplies bicycles for other NGOs, especially those providing local health services. Such services enable health workers to visit more families in remote villages per day than they previously could, expanding the reach and quality of the healthcare. They also sell the bicycles directly to end-consumers in these countries and provide micro-financing to enable entrepreneurs and farmers to expand their available markets. Most people in these counties can move around only on foot. Walking miles to school, or the local market, with only what you can carry, is neither productive nor a good use of time. A bicycle increases the speed of travel four times and also allows people to carry more at the same time.

World Bicycle Relief has delivered 400,000 Buffalo bicycles and trained over 2,000 mechanics to build and maintain these bicycles. The charity has already noticed that bicycles are being handed down within families and, together with other NGOs, has noticed that the prosperity of the areas they have been able to touch has been improving. Small enterprises have also started making accessories for the bicycles, including trailers for moving immobile people to local health care facilities.

If you would like to donate to them, please go to their website at

Robin Heydon

‘Why We Cycle’ film screening

Friday 14 September 2018

‘Priorities for children and for bikes are good priorities for happy politics,’ said one of the interviewees in the film ‘Why We Cycle’, which explored the hidden benefits of the cycling culture in the Netherlands, a place where cycling is as normal as breathing. Psychologists, economists, architects and other specialists gave evidence that cycling delivered much more than just health, environmental and financial gains. Creativity. Improved mental health. A more open public culture. A more egalitarian society.

To an upbeat soundtrack, the audience in the Storey’s Field Centre in Eddington watched teenagers chat and giggle on their way to school, older cyclists smiling in the countryside as they cruised past fields of bright tulips, a pre-schooler learning to ride his first bike and a marketing manager who cycled to client meetings in Amsterdam. Cycling was normal, unremarked-upon and even, in some cases, a form of ‘conspicuous non-consumption’. In a country where people were less concerned about displaying their status through their possessions, it was normal to ride a beat-up old bike in everyday clothes. For the Dutch prime minister and royal family, this meant that to be seen cycling made them seem real and down-to-earth. Not so down-to-earth that it wasn’t important to be captured on camera doing so though!

For me as a Cambridge cyclist, the film reflected some of the good bits about our city’s cycling culture and gave inspiration for the areas we need to work on. In the Netherlands, dedicated cycle roundabouts soared above the roads and schoolchildren swooped into a huge on-site cycle park built for their needs. The filmmakers discovered that cyclists often ignored designated routes. They moved like murmurations of starlings, seeking variety and social interaction. Cycling gave children early independence and teenagers safe space to grow up. It exposed people to diversity and turned streets into quality spaces to spend time in. The benefits to a city reached far beyond transport.

As the movie drew to a close, discussion began amongst the audience on how we could improve infrastructure with inspiration from the Netherlands, and convey Cambridge’s own cycling culture on film. We already have several videos from past years and launched a new one, ‘Welcome to Cycling’, at the beginning of the evening. This video is an animated version of our popular leaflet. Both video and leaflet were developed with support from the Co-op Community Fund. Thanks go to illustrator Alison Norden and volunteer voiceover artist Helen East for their help with this project. As students return to Cambridge, we’ll be rolling it out across social media to give new cyclists top tips on safe and considerate cycling in the city. Thanks also to all who supported the film screening; to MacDaddy and Tribecca for delicious pre-movie food and drink, to the volunteers who helped on the night and with promotion, and to Storey’s Field and Eddington for having us. We’ve had several requests for another screening and hope to be able to show the film again soon. Watch this space!

Anna Williams

Camcycle Family Cycling Event

Saturday 15 September 2018

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Bike seats, trailers, children’s bikes, a cargo trike that could fit six children, a triple tandem made just outside Cambridge and even a comfortable rickshaw (dubbed the ‘sofa bike’ by one of the kids): these were just some of the options on offer to try at the Camcycle Family Cycling Event, held at The Grove School on the afternoon of Saturday 15 September. Cycle specialists Outspoken Cycles, Power to the Pedal, The School Run Centre and Circe Cycles had brought so many exciting types of cycle that it was hard to persuade families to go inside for the panel event, but there was a lot to look forward to when they did.

We were delighted to welcome family cycling champions Ruth-Anna Macqueen from Hackney and FamilyByCycle from Wellingborough to join our panel of Cambridge experts. The panel answered questions on everything from how to stay safe when cycling with your child on the road to the best kit for children when cycle touring. Other topics covered included cycling with newborns, the best bikes to get children cycling independently and how to consider the cycling requirements of children with special needs. It was also inspiring to hear about the Hackney Family Library set up by Macqueen, a popular monthly initiative offering free hire of cycle equipment to local families. The event finished with a presentation by Katie Jones of FamilyByCycle, a family passionate about cycle touring who recently cycled with their two young daughters on trailer bikes from Land’s End to John o’Groats. Many families at the event had followed their progress on social media and were delighted to meet the family in person and later watch them tearing round the playground in a selection of cargo bikes!

Feedback from the event, which also included a quiz and colouring sheets for the children, has been really positive, with attendees also suggesting new ideas for a follow-up day next year. This was the first time such an event had been held in Cambridge and we were pleased to welcome families new to cycling and several familiar faces. Thank you to all those who supported the event, the volunteers who made it happen and Outspoken Cycles and Power to the Pedal for their sponsorship.

Anna Williams

Cargo Carnival

Saturday 22 September 2018

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We were delighted to welcome over 70 cycles on our parade as part of the Camcycle Cargo Carnival, the flagship event of the Cambridge Festival of Cycling. Held on World Car Free Day, it was a great way to showcase sustainable transport within cities and celebrate all the things that can be transported by pedal power.

The majority of the riders travelled on cargo bikes, demonstrating the many different options available from three-wheelers laden with children in fancy dress to two-wheelers carrying a dog, a garden shed and even a beehive. Our favourite was Caroline and Cosmo’s Bakfiets bubble bath (left) with balloon and cotton wool bubbles, plus dressing gown and loofah accessories!

The cycle procession travelled from Lammas Land to the city centre and back, where several cycle specialists and cargo bike traders set up ready to talk to visitors. Event sponsors Outspoken Cycles, Power to the Pedal and the Greater Cambridge Partnership were joined by local businesses Stir Bakery, Beanissimo, Verrechia ice cream, Bespoke Carpentry, Overstream Clean, The School Run Centre and Circe Cycles. St John Ambulance also came along with two of their specially-designed bicycles loaded up with life-saving equipment. You can find out more at our next monthly meeting when Tom Daly, their Regional Operational Cycling Lead, will be our guest speaker.

Cambridge MP, Daniel Zeichner, who attended the event, said, ‘On World Car Free Day, it’s great that the city’s cycling community are showcasing what can be done on a bike. If we want to tackle climate change and dangerous levels of air pollution then we will need to seriously think about how all parts of our economy can operate in a greener and more sustainable way’. One of the parents on parade, Andrea Constable, said, ‘The kids really love our Kangaroo bike and thought today’s Cargo Carnival was great fun! We can’t wait for next year’s parade’.

Anna Williams

Bikes and Bloomers

Saturday 29 September 2018

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It’s not often that you sit in a historic church watching a lady stand on a chair to reveal her undergarments, but then Bikes and Bloomers was no ordinary event. The audience sat rapt as Dr Kat Jungnickel explained how a handful of innovative Victorian women ‘made their bodies fit cycling’. They worked around the social and sartorial constraints of the times to create practical and yet respectable items of cycle wear.

At the end of the talk, re-creations of some of the items of clothing were tried on, with one pair of bloomers being fitted to Catherine Thompson, head mechanic at Outspoken Cycles. She had previously given us a highly entertaining and informative guide to puncture repair (she has a great tip for getting tyres back on without using tyre levers). The talk was accompanied by plentiful tea and cake supplied by members of the Cambridge Ladybirds WI. There was an opportunity to burn off the flapjacks, chocolate and pecan brownies and lemon cake later, as Camcycle led a short ride around town ending outside the Senate House. This was exactly where protestors had burnt an effigy of a woman on a bicycle in 1897. Over 100 years later the mood had changed – this time it was just pure celebration!

Anna Williams

A few highlights from the 2018 Cambridge Festival of Cycling.
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