Cambridge Conference

On 10 May, Cambridge hosted around 120 cyclists and supporters of cycling from all over the UK, for the Spring 2008 CTC and CCN (Cycle Campaign Network) conference.

The conference title was “Creating a Cycling Culture – How do we respond to the challenges of the future?”

The Centre for Mathematical Studies proved to be an ideal venue for the event.

Sheffield’s entry in our poster competition
Image as described adjacent

The presentations

David Howarth MP welcomed delegates to Cambridge, a perfect place for a conference about cycling, as it is a city where cycling is an important, central and legitimate form of transport, for people from all walks of life. He said that ‘public authorities should do what they can to avoid creating conflict between the environmentally friendly modes of transport. For example, dual-use cycle lanes must be a last resort. … County Councils and Transport Authorities shouldn’t take a line of least resistance of saying that they will force pedestrians and cyclists into conflict as a way of avoiding taking a hard decision about what to do about road space.’

Matt Seaton – the Guardian’s former cycling correspondent – described how cycling has changed in London since the introduction of the Congestion Charge. Cycling levels have increased to the extent that there is now a definable cycling rush-hour there. He said that cycle campaign groups have tended to perceive themselves, and campaign as, a down-trodden and oppressed minority, needing to jump up and down and shout to get things done. There is a time and a place for that, but it only gets you so far. There’s a need to re-think that approach and move beyond cycling-only approaches, getting others involved to win public consent and public support.

Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator of the Campaign, launched Cycling 2020 (see later in this Newsletter) and discussed the applicability of many of the issues in it to other areas of the UK.

Tom Bogdanowicz – from London Cycling Campaign – talked about how far London had exceeded its targets for cycling growth in recent years. London has achieved 83% growth in cycling levels between 2004 and 2007: the target was 80% growth by 2010. The target has now been revised, to aim for 400% growth by 2025. This is equivalent to 5% modal share, or 1.7 million daily cycle trips in the capital, and 1 in 10 Londoners cycling regularly. During his electoral campaign, the new mayor, Boris Johnson, said that he would exceed those targets.

Simon Geller – from Sheffield Cycle Campaign – gave a talk entitled ‘Running a Successful Cycle Campaign Group’. Interestingly, they run as two partner organisations: ‘Pedal Pushers’ is the social arm, and there is a separate campaigning group. One member put a lot of effort into their website – www.pedalpushers.org.uk/ – getting it to display cycling-related news from around the world, and using ‘Wiki’ technology, i.e. allowing many (known) people to edit and add information to the website. They also run a cycle training co-operative called PedalReady (http://axelrod.plus.com/ppmw/index.php/Training) which has about 30 approved trainers.

Philip Darnton, chairman of Cycling England, giving his presentation.
Image as described adjacent

Philip Darnton – chairman of Cycling England – reviewed the history and work of this organisation, established by the Department for Transport in 2005 to replace the National Cycling Strategy Board. Its remit covers all of England except London. The initial budget was £5 million per year. After a series of increases, by January this year, the budget had risen to £140 million over 3 years. In that time they have worked with partner organisations to set up Bikeability (www.bikeability.org.uk/), the replacement for the old Cycling Proficiency Test. They have been building up the scheme nationally, and have awarded 40,000 Bikeability badges. Next year, 2009, will be ‘the year of Bikeability’, with major publicity pushes. Cycling England has also researched the economic benefits of cycling, finding that investment in cycling pays back between 3 and 4.5 times the original investment. The website – www.cyclingengland.co.uk/ – has many interesting reports. He went on to describe in the achievements of the original six Cycling Demonstration Towns. The announcement of the next set of towns (Cambridge has applied) will be made on 16 June.

Will Bramhill’s workshop session on working with the media was very informative. An experienced cycling campaigner, Will has been a local journalist for decades, and he had many useful suggestions to help organisations provide information in forms most useful to local news organisations.

James Hogben of Limelight Sports ran a workshop on publicity. Limelight Sports is working with Forster, the new PR consultants for National Bike Week. James described the steps involved in developing a successful communications strategy, using Bike Week as a case study. This year Bike Week will be sponsored by Nokia, and will run from 14 to 22 June. The focus is very much on hitting mainstream media, reaching a wide audience.

David Howarth MP, right, receives his copy of Cycling 2020 from the Campaign’s Co-ordinator.
Image as described adjacent

Martin Lucas-Smith and Simon Nuttall demonstrated Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s online photomap and cycle journey-planning systems, and David Earl ran a membership clinic.

Finally, Chris Peck from the CTC gave a brief overview of the national picture of cycling policy. There are some major documents coming soon: a new Transport White Paper in the winter of 2008, a new Road Safety Strategy in the summer of 2009, and a new Cycling Infrastructure Design Guide also due this year.

Most of the presentations will be available on the Cambridge Cycling Campaign website by the time this Newsletter is published.

Looking back

Over the years I have attended many of the Spring and Autumn cycling conferences, and I don’t think I am being too locally biased in saying that I feel this was definitely one of the best. The quality and variety of the talks and workshop sessions were all consistently high, and informative.

It’s always a pleasure to see the reactions of cyclists from elsewhere in the UK when they see the levels of cycling in Cambridge – and the fact that cycling is a normal, every-day activity here, not requiring specialist clothing.

Huge thanks to all who made the conference happen – to the volunteers who helped on the day, or put conference guests up over night – to the CTC and CCN for help with planning the conference – the CTC for help with conference costs – and most of all to Jim Chisholm and Simon Nuttall, for having the vision to believe that we should host the conference – and for doing most of the work at this end. Very well done indeed.

Clare Macrae