Cyclists Conference

Despite the rain and the trains I battled my way to Manchester on Guy Fawkes weekend for the most recent national cycling campaigning conference, hosted by the Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign and Cycling Project for the North West.

Image as described adjacent
One of AVD’s pedicabs on display in Manchester Town Hall

With a strange irony, the old Atomic Energy Authority has metamorphosed into a consultancy business. It has now won a Government contract to beef up the profile of the National Cycling Strategy and its accompanying National Cycle Forum. Marcus Jones from AEA Technology discussed this two-year project and how it relates to the Strategy.

The main target of the campaign is the infrastructure providers, rather than the general public. The aim is to persuade these people, local authorities, health authorities, developers, and so on, that doing more for cycling is in their interest, and that they should do it well (as there are lots of useless schemes out there). A first fruit of the project is the NCS website at http://www.nationalcyclingstrategy.org.uk, and a news group. There will be a series of regional seminars starting soon. The organisation plans an ‘image bank’ – resources for people like us to help cycling promotion.

The fuel crisis was a hot topic at the Conference and I’ve written a separate article about that. More prosaically, we were told that the Government had backed away from its promise to consult on traffic law penalties so some lobbying is needed. We will be writing a letter. Talking of penalties, you will remember that fixed penalties were brought in for some cycling offences in the summer. So far 600 tickets have been issued nationally: Suffolk tops the guilty league!

Cambridge did rather well in previous National Cycling Awards. This year it was Nottingham’s turn, they took two first prizes. One was for their Hospital’s green transport initiatives and the other for Nottingham Pedal’s cycle guide. The Devon Bike Bus and CTC Cymru had honourable mentions.

However, the engineering award was not made this year, pending further consideration of the nominated schemes. One of these was presented at some length in the afternoon. It has some relevance to us, as it was a method of taming and negotiating a very large roundabout. It had some similarities with Chesterton Road (see Newsletter 30), and it also, perhaps, offers some lessons for Mitcham’s Corner.

Another subject dear to our hearts was looked at in a national context. Road narrowings and pinch points are causing cyclists across the country immense problems. We are already working on this issue locally, as are other groups. Some interaction on the subject is likely.

The trials and tribulations of converting railway lines to cycle tracks was another afternoon topic. A very impressive route has been established in eastern Manchester as part of Sustrans’ trans-Pennine route, but south of the City, campaigners are struggling against Sainsbury’s insatiable appetite for supermarkets.

Bob Dixon from the Altrincham based company AVD (http://www.a-v-d.com) brought a beautiful yellow pedicab for us to look at. He explained how 95% of his company’s human-powered taxis are exported. We know from experience in Cambridge that local authorities are extremely hostile to the introduction of pedicabs – Stratford upon Avon balked at the idea as well. Only in Soho are they operating effectively in Britain. Contrast this with Bob’s experience in Italy, where the mayor of Turin flew some cabs and people to Turin and welcomed them onto the streets as ideal for local transport and job creation. What a reflection on this country!

David Earl