The 2006 AGM

The eleventh annual general meeting of Cambridge Cycling Campaign took place on Tuesday 7 November 2006. We had a record turnout of 63 members, plus a few who left after the talk – thanks to all who attended.

Invited speaker: John Franklin, author of Cyclecraft, expert witness and cycle auditor

65 people attended this year’s AGM, more than any previous year.
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We were delighted to welcome John Franklin as our speaker this year. John wears several cycling-related hats.

John began doing work as an expert witness in 1988 after a cyclist was killed in Milton Keynes. John knew the path where the incident happened, and his statement proved helpful in getting compensation. The solicitor involved with the original case asked for his assistance in another case and encouraged him to become an expert witness, and since 1992 he has been undertaking such work.

John explained how an expert witness is someone with knowledge and experience beyond that of a layman who is prepared to offer it to the courts. The task is to take the facts and give an opinion based on those and one’s duty is to the court rather than to the client. Indeed, John noted that his reports do not always favour the cyclist! Civil cases have made up the majority of John’s work, most of them involving cycle facilities of some kind. Others involve helmets. No court yet has been convinced that using either would have made a difference in the cases brought.

John’s work has also included writing of reports for various organisations. Locally, he recently wrote a report for Girton Parish Council on Girton Corner, where a cyclist has killed recently (see the article earlier in this newsletter for more on this issue).

John also spoke about the proposed changes to the Highway Code, in which cyclists may be told to use cycle facilities where they exist, however inadequate. The possible outcome of such a rule would be illustrated by the recent case of Daniel Cadden, who was prosecuted for ‘inconsiderate cycling’, having held up four cars on a road, on the grounds that he should have used a cycle path on the opposite side of the road.

During the period for questions, John was asked his views on cycle helmets. Some 12 or so years ago he was involved with his first case involving a helmet and had assumed they were a good thing and had benefits. However, on considering the evidence, his preconceptions changed. What is most important is that people look at the evidence and judge on that basis, rather than on any propaganda (for or against!). The new edition of his book Cyclecraft (out next year) will have an updated section on helmets.

A question was also asked about the relative merits of off-road and on-road cycle paths. John felt that, whatever the potential merits of a proposed off-road path (for instance a shared-use pavement), the effect on cyclists on the road simply must not be ignored, and indeed the right to cycle on the road safely must be defended.

Minutes of the meeting, including notes from the talk, are available from the Campaign via our usual contact details, thanks to Beverly, our minute-taker (who has steadfastly and accurately taken our minutes for the last three years).

Many thanks to John for his time preparing and giving his talk

Review of the year

Co-ordinator, Martin Lucas-Smith, presented a review of the year. Copies of his notes are available on request, and have been circulated to the members’ e-mail list for those who are on it (all members are welcome to join it and should let us know if they wish to be added).

Being swamped by new developments: 2006 was the year when huge development proposals, mainly for housing, emerged left right and centre, seemingly out of nowhere. Cambridgeshire Horizons, the quango acting for the councils in helping deal with development related issues, are in the process of producing a Design Guide, covering the design of public streets and highways which planning applications will be judged against. This will be a key document for us to influence.

Cycling 2020: The writer of this key document, which will be used for campaigning on a whole range of issues and to engage with developers, councillors, council officials, the public, the media and national bodies, has been appointed, and we expect to publish around March or April 2007.

On our Netherlands trip we found that dedicated space was made for three clear groups of road users – motorists, walkers, and cyclists.
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Netherlands: Our trip to the Netherlands earlier in the year was a real eye-opener. Literally everywhere we went, cyclists were thought about and catered for, and that is no exaggeration. We found that dedicated space was made for three clear groups of road users – motorists, walkers, and cyclists, and that designing for cyclists was based on the three principles of convenience, directness and speed – cyclists are basically treated as vehicles. Safety follows almost automatically as a result.

Gonville Place: The changes to the crossing have been universally derided by cyclists and walkers using the crossing, to the extent that in under a week, we were able to organise, collect and present a petition with well over 500 signatures, with relatively little work. (See article elsewhere in this newsletter.)

Cycle parking: Cycle parking has also remained another highly frustrating issue. A key factor has to be that there is simply not enough bike parking around. The Campaign has put in a bid to produce a cycle parking guide, an 8-page document that succinctly and effectively covers: (i) why it’s good to provide cycle parking, (ii) how much it costs to do so, and (iii) how to do it properly.

Enforcement: We are pushing for Mandatory Cycle Lanes to be enforceable through the Local Authority Parking Enforcement system, the Council’s new system which has proved effective against yellow line transgressions. (See article in this newsletter.)

City Centre Cycling ban: The city centre was long a source of complaint against cyclists breaking the rules. But last August, the County Council decided, to our surprise, that the cycling ban should be experimentally suspended. However, a public outcry has failed to materialise. There has barely been a single letter in the Cambridge Evening News in the last year about the change, suggesting that the experimental suspension is more or less working. This bodes well for making it permanent. We will be lobbying hard to ensure that it is made so, early in 2007 when this comes up for review.

The high turnout this year was an indication of the development which has taken place within the Campaign this year. However, there is always much more to be done.

Organisational: The Campaign has seen real development this year. Our new e-mail list system was implemented, and so we now have been able to create new subgroup e-mail lists to increase member involvement. Membership has started to rise sharply, now that people can join directly via our website. Our new online mapping system was also launched, covering both a photomap system for campaigning purposes, and a useful journey planner. We also held a Strategy Day, and a lot of really excellent ideas came out of that.

Membership rates and finances

Membership has now increased to over 800, chiefly as a result of people being able to join online, and as a result of our Gonville Place petition.

Following a unanimous vote at the AGM, membership rates will stay the same for another year.

Finances remain in a healthy state, and the accounts, which have now been restructured, were accepted unanimously.

New committee

Thanks were given to David Hembrow and Richard Taylor, who are moving away from Cambridge and so did not seek re-election.

The new Committee, as elected at the AGM, is shown elsewhere in this newsletter.

Thanks were also given to all who have helped in any way over the course of the year.

Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator