This article was published in 2009, in Newsletter 83.
In February we held one of our occasional strategy days, to review where the Campaign is and where it is going. The day was about how we operate and should operate as a group, not about specific issues like a cycleway here or a junction improvement there.
Unlike previous smaller occasions, the day attracted almost 40 people. We were surprised and very pleased that so many people were prepared to devote a big chunk of their Saturday to this, so thank you to everyone who came. Thank you also to Hugh Hunt who arranged an excellent location for us, with a couple of break-out rooms so we could run sessions in parallel after a combined ‘brain-storming’ session. And to Sally and Shirley for organisation and cake!
I have to say, we got off to a somewhat shaky start. Just as Simon was about to show his film Cambridge: Cycling in the City, Martin upset the entire audio visual system by pressing what looked like the light switch! So our apologies to those attending for the delay. Those of you who weren’t there can still see this excellent introduction at www.camcycle.org.uk/campaigning/film/
As email recipients (which is most of our members) will know, we collected a list of topics beforehand and based on what came up during the brainstorming session narrowed this down to a smaller number on the day. These fell roughly into two strands: the introspective topic of how the Campaign presents itself and the more outward-looking one of how cyclists interact with others, reaching out to others in our community.
Should we change our name? It’s a question that’s come up at nearly every such meeting and has prevented us making progress on some fronts. We’ve been reluctant to print lots of materials, for example, if they were likely to be made redundant. Briefly:
- Cambridge doesn’t necessarily reflect our somewhat wider coverage, but is simple.
- Cycling is OK, except there has been a view that we should perhaps encompass walking too (which was not widely shared at the meeting) and
- Campaign is the most controversial as there are some people for whom ‘campaigning’ is anathema and off-putting. On the other hand, it is what we do! It also indicates we are not just a cycling club. But is a ‘campaign’ some open-ended thing or an on-going organisation like ours? Opinion was pretty evenly divided on a change of name. What do you think?
We talked about communication. We’ve always used technology heavily. But after early adoption are we now rather behind the game here? In the days of blogs and instant communication, is a bi-monthly newsletter still the best way of communicating, even if delivered electronically to many of you (and importantly to many movers-and-shakers too)? How would you feel, for example, if we sent mini-newsletters more often by email, say once or twice a week? Keeping the website up to date is also hampered by not having switched to technology, now easily available, that would allow non-specialists to do much of the editing. The need for a membership leaflet has declined with so many people joining online, but the lack of a replacement is a problem. As a result we’re now working on a briefer postcard format. Can we be more succinct in communicating ideas: perhaps with single issue, very short briefing papers?
Regarding outreach, our initial reaction was to divide the world into groups: motorists, the police, local authorities, children and so on. Different issues came up with different groups we interact with (both on the road and as an organisation). The police and young people were two particular areas of focus: the police because of some recent perceptions of bias against cyclists; young people because of their importance in keeping the cycling culture going in the future and because of our lack of attention to them in the past.
In the end though, the conversation came round to what unites people rather than divides them. The ’20’s Plenty’ campaign featured in previous newsletters garners considerable support across diverse groups. As widespread traffic speed reduction brings great benefits for cyclists and cycling, there was a strong feeling that we should pursue this, with perhaps less emphasis on Cambridge Cycling Campaign as the focus, but instead through a broad coalition of interested groups like our own and residents associations, etc.
Obviously, we’re not going to be able to take on everything that was discussed and suggested during the day (not least because some of it was contradictory, sometimes rather heatedly!). But we’ve started working on some of the practical points already and hope to take more forward in the future.