Behind the scenes of the Campaign

One of most effective ways you can help is by writing letters.
Writing a letter

We thought it might be interesting to give members some insight into how Cambridge Cycling Campaign operates on a day-to-day basis.

Who does what?

The Campaign is run by a Committee of eleven volunteers and a Secretary, who all help with campaigning activities (as do many other members).

  • the Co-ordinator ensures that everything is dealt with, and pushes the general strategic direction of the Campaign;
  • the Liaison Officer represents the Campaign with other organisations and contacts;
  • our Membership Secretary is responsible for membership administration;
  • the Newsletter editor co-ordinates the team of people who edit and assemble the newsletter;
  • the Treasurer runs the books, and produces budgets. The Campaign’s yearly turnover is around £7 000, but our main resource requirement is time!
  • our Stall Officer runs the stall on Saturdays and co-ordinates volunteers for this;
  • the Press Officer identifies and co-ordinates opportunities to represent the Campaign in the media. We are contacted about once or twice each month for interviews of various kinds or by media personnel requesting quotes;
  • there are five Officers Without Portfolio who are also invaluable to the general Campaigning work being done;
  • the Secretary is a really important person who serves the Committee, deals with enquiries of various sorts, and takes minutes for various meetings. This is currently a vacant post, but we really do need to fill it; without a Secretary we have less time for letter writing and other campaigning. Generous expenses are paid for use of your own computer etc., so please do contact us if you could help.

The Committee cycle

Some important regular events govern the timescale for lobbying and campaigning work. As well as responses to consultations which we receive, these events are:

  • The Cambridge Environment & Transport Area Joint Committee, where detailed decisions are taken by Councillors based on reports from the employed Officers. Much work goes into preparing material to send to Councillors as the agenda is published; despite tight timescales, we stick to a consensus-based letter writing approach described below.
  • The Cycling Liaison Group brings together council employees and interest groups to consider cycling-related matters and schemes arising. This very helpful group started up again last year, after a ‘fallow’ period.
  • The planning sub-committee meetings where City Councillors decide upon development schemes.
  • A variety of meetings at which the Campaign is represented. These include the Cycle Friendly Employers scheme and Travel for Work, Think Cycling, cycle theft reduction, specific consultation meetings such as for the Local Transport Plan, meetings with Officers on consultations and also on ideas we have initiated.
  • Monthly Open meetings and bi-monthly Committee meetings. Increasingly we are trying to arrange speakers to reinvigorate the monthly meetings.

How does your Committee function?

Your Committee is an active bunch. In the last four years over 9 000 e-mail messages have been exchanged between its members

Your Committee is an active bunch. In the last four years over 9 000 e-mail messages have been exchanged between its members, that’s 300-400 per month, mostly about letters sent on behalf of the Campaign.

We try to reach a consensus on letters we write. This is one reason why there are so many messages. It can be a time consuming process, but we are happy that letters sent do not just reflect a single person’s viewpoint.

We have a Committee Meeting every other month. These are useful for round-table discussions on things which are harder or time-consuming to deal with via e-mail, as well as for consolidating and updating lists of campaigning and administrative items to deal with.

Although there are always many Council scheme consultations to consider, we always try to initiate ideas rather than being simply reactive. Examples of this include the Chisholm Trail (our idea for a major north-south cycle route joining Addenbrooke’s to the Science Park) and making Trinity Street two-way for cyclists. Work is also being invested in writing position papers so that we don’t have to continually restate our case.

At times all this can be hard work, but it’s also fun – we wouldn’t be so enthusiastic if it weren’t!

Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator of Cambridge Cycling Campaign.
Co-ordinator

Presenting a public face

Lots of us represent the Campaign at a variety of meetings. These include the Cycle Friendly Employers scheme and Travel for Work, cycle theft reduction, specific consultation meetings such as for the Local Transport Plan recently, meetings with Officers on consultations and ideas we have initiated, and so on.

Our Saturday Stall in front of the Guildhall is a really important way of meeting the public and potential new members, as well as showing that we exist.

A variety of events go on throughout the year, for example leisurely rides. Every year, we are also involved in the organisation of events for National Bike Week, in conjunction with the local councils whose involvement is particularly welcome.

The website is another public face of the Campaign, as is the Newsletter, which is distributed to a variety of public locations such as the libraries, and to our own members and decision-makers.

The Newsletter

The Newsletter is a key campaigning tool. It keeps members up-to-date in what we are doing and informs councillors, council officers and other decision-makers.

We try to offer general articles on cycling as well as information on specific places and proposals. We particularly welcome ideas from members – so if there is a topic you are especially concerned about, do let us know and work with us to write something for the Newsletter.

Because there’s a substantial team of people involved, including a printer, we have to work to a pretty strict timetable over two month cycles.

Website

The Campaign’s website (www.camcycle.org.uk) currently has around 1800 pages of information. It is constantly growing and there are around 1000 page views a day, roughly corresponding to an estimated 25000 visitors per year.

Several facilities have been and are being developed to help our campaigning work. For example, there is a facility we call ‘threads‘ which means that as well as seeing the articles of a particular newsletter grouped together, you can also see articles on the same topic from different newsletters grouped together.

We are about to add an online joining form. We hope to be able to offer credit and debit card on-line membership and renewal, though it is hard for an organisation our size to do this economically.

We are also about to put our campaigning letters to Councillors and Officers publicly available online. We hope this will make our activities more transparent. It will also enable us to deliver material more easily.

The website also attracts a large number of general searches for information about cycling in Cambridge and in general. We try to provide resources to help: for example, people always ask us about the annual London to Cambridge bike ride, even though we don’t organise this.

We’d like to add other resources. For example: a cycle maintenance gateway, things about foreign language schools and students and their cycling abilities, cycle parking information, cycling techniques, bikes and public transport etc.

Become our Secretary! – we could really do with a hand on administrative items

Public enquiries to the Campaign

We get lots of enquiries about all manner of cycling and Cambridge related topics. Many are by e-mail, some by phone or post and some on the stall. Sadly we can’t respond individually to common ones such as ‘I’m doing a project about cycling. Please send me all the information you have.’

What can you do to help?

Just by being one of our over 700 members you are already contributing. But here are some suggestions for getting more involved:

  • One of most effective ways you can help is writing letters as an individual to Councillors and Council Officers on matters arising which concern you, and need not take long. Please copy letters to us.
  • Provide feedback on what we are doing. Councillors are particularly invited to let us know what we could do better and how we could be more effective. We are (still) working on a questionnaire which we hope you will fill in when we send it to you. As well as helping us to set priorities we hope it will help us to alert you when something is happening near to you.
  • Help produce the newsletter – writing articles, taking photos, stuffing envelopes, delivering, website conversion, etc.
  • Write resources for the website, some suggestions for which are listed above.
  • Draft letters to the Council or the press on topics which the Committee can then send as a response on behalf of Campaign.
  • Become our Secretary! – we could really do with a hand on administrative items and can pay generous expenses.
  • Stand for the Committee at the AGM later in the year: fresh ideas and help are always welcome.
  • Come along to monthly meetings with your ideas and views!
  • Help organise Bike Week or get involved in one of our subgroups.
  • Join the rota of Stall volunteers.

Even just coming to an event or joining a leisurely ride is a good way to become involved and have fun!

Martin Lucas-Smith