National cycle campaigners’ conference

Held in London in October, this was probably the largest UK gathering of cycle campaigners in living memory.

Keynote speaker Glenda Jackson (who chairs the National Cycling Forum) gave a very impressive overview of national policy. I definitely had the impression that she genuinely understood the issues. From the audience, the sense was that we’ve won the policy debate nationally. But the problem is getting some of the policies implemented at a local level.

Ms Jackson went on to present the awards to the three winners of the first National Cycling Awards. It was suggested that these should be named Glendas in her honour!

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John Edwards from Cambridgeshire County Council, and Alan Sidell from Cambridge City Council, collecting the ‘Glenda’ award for the Cambridge South East Cycle Route – Best Route. The judges said it won because it’s a continuous route, rather than a few scattered features and facilities.

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Most Effective Complementary Activity: David Earl collected the ‘Glenda’ on behalf of all the partners involved in Cambridge’s Cycle Friendly Employers Scheme. These are Addenbrooke’s NHS Trust, Cambridge and Huntingdon Health Authority, Cambridge City Council, Cambridge Cycling Campaign, Cambridgeshire County Council and the University of Cambridge. Congratulations, too, to David Meiklejohn on his recent appointment as this scheme’s Co-ordinator.

One eagle-eyed campaign member spotted that the National Cycling Awards were listed on BBC1 CEEFAX’s local news! Except they called it the ‘Cambridge Friendly Employers’ Scheme.

Because of the sheer size of this gathering, there wasn’t quite the usual opportunity to meet fellow campaigners, and hear about the previous six months. However, I did attend some very interesting presentations. In the most thought-provoking one, Carol Freeman, of Sustrans, led a session entitled ‘More Bums on Saddles’ on how to increase cycling levels. It largely consisted of details about the National Cycle Network, but she did pose a very interesting question:

Which of these three is the most important to encourage more people to cycle:

  • Provision (building more routes)
  • Promotion (publicising cycling)
  • Policy (at a national level)

The audience was roughly equally divided in their opinion. However, Carol Freeman’s assertion was that they were all equally important, and if any single one were missing, we could not reach the targets.

This made me wonder about just how much promotion of cycling goes on in Cambridgeshire and whether more could be done. I am aware of the following:

  • Safer Routes to Schools (promoting cycling and walking)
  • Cycle Friendly Employers’ scheme
  • TravelWise

Amongst the many things we do, our Saturday stall has been our main method of promoting cycling. The cycle map we are working on, in conjunction with Adhoc and the County Council, will also prove to be a good promotion tool. After all, new cyclists need to decide where to cycle.

Through the Travel for Work initiative, we hope to begin work soon on an Adult Cycle Training scheme along the lines of the one in York.

And nationally, the magazine On Your Bike continues to promote cycling as a means of transport and fun. I’ve mused about the idea of distributing this informative, realistic and positive publication somehow in bulk locally, to offer help and encouragement to people who might be thinking about starting cycling. If you want to see your own copy, you should be able to find it in Halfords. I understand that a deal may recently have been struck with W H Smith too.

Steve Sillery, of Bidwells, also recently told us he believed promotion of cycling was probably the single most important thing we could work on.

We welcome suggestions. How can we best promote cycling? What do you think is most likely to encourage more people to cycle instead of driving?

Clare Macrae