Cambridge Cycling City brand

Image as described adjacent

The suggestion of changing the Campaign’s name to Cambridge Cycling City that I introduced in Newsletter 98 generated much more feedback than usual. Almost all of the dozen responses were resolutely against the idea. That didn’t particularly surprise me, but it was nice to hear from two ex-committtee members who had long moved away from the city to tell me just what a really bad idea they thought it was. I presented my side of the arguments at the October monthly meeting and this is what I said.

Complain, arrogant, militant

Bicycles are common themes in photos of Cambridge, appearing in calendars, paintings and brochures, so why should we be afraid of calling ourselves ‘Cambridge Cycling City’?

The Campaign was born out of the extended cycling ban in parts of the city centre. I associate the word campaign with the reaction to that ban. But at stall events most people I talk to expect Cambridge to be a good place for cycling and don’t know that cycling has ever been banned.

Whenever I’ve given an interview on the radio I’ve felt that after I’ve been introduced as representing ‘The Campaign’ the presenter expects me to start whingeing.

The main problem is that ‘campaign’ sounds and feels too much like ‘complain’. That’s great if you recognise the problems, but if you’re basically happy with your cycling then why should you join? When there was a ban on cycling in the city centre it was clear that there was something to fight for – but with developments such as the new cycleway alongside the Busway and improved cycle lanes in Gilbert Road it is perhaps not quite so clear why anyone should need to join a campaign.

Campaign also comes across as rather arrogant. It presumes the problems with cycling are widely recognised and suggests that we have all the answers. It sounds militant – one council officer said ‘It makes you sound more reactionary than you are’. It suggests ‘struggle’, ‘fight’ and ‘hard work’. These may be the genuine feelings of the volunteer members who’ve done the hard work to evict eleven parked cars on Gilbert Road after a decade of campaigning or the long hours of meetings and dedicated research over many years trying to find a way out of the city centre cycling ban. But the question is whether those sorts of words appeal to a wide range of city cyclists.

Riverside after recent improvements.
Image as described adjacent

Pedals, dynamo, action

CycleNation is a national umbrella organisation for cycling campaigns and about half of the groups affiliated to it use the template ‘place name Cycling Campaign’. Pedals and Spokes are common parts of the names of others, and there’s for example Lancaster Dynamo, Leeds Cycling Action Group and Wheel-Rights Swansea.

Under-represented

When it comes to how well cycling organisations represent their constituencies (see the table), Cambridge Cycling Campaign comes out top – at least according to one way of estimating this statistic.

Taking into account how much cycling is going on, I estimate that 1 in 25 cyclists in Cambridge is a Campaign member, and that nationally about 1% of cyclists are associated with cycling organisations.

For comparison, the AA claims 15 million members, and the RAC 7 million, and although breakdown cover and other services are strong reasons why people might join them, those numbers are striking. Cycling organisations represent at best only a few per cent of cyclists, whereas a significant fraction of drivers belong to motoring organisations.

How does it make us feel to think that in Cambridge there are tens of thousands of members of motoring organisations?

The question we need to ask ourselves then is: how can we get ten times as many members?

Organisation

Members

Population

Representation

Cambridge Cycling Campaign

1,000

100,000

1%

London Cycling Campaign

11,000

8 million

0.15%

LCC in Hackney

1,000

200,000

0.5%

CTC – the UK’s national cycling organisation

70,000

62 millon

0.11%

Fietsersbond Netherlands

32,000

16 million

0.2%

New name, new outlook

‘Cambridge Cycling City’ seems to me to be the vision that ‘Cambridge Cycling Campaign’ is on a mission to build. So wouldn’t the vision, rather than the mission, make a better name?

The name ‘Cambridge Cycling City’ is self-affirming. Just saying it does some of the work for us and creates an image in the mind’s eye of what I think we want to achieve. It sells itself and has a more positive, inclusive feel.

At the CB1 development near the station the cycle parking has been compromised while we’ve had the name ‘Campaign’. Has that word has been self-defeating, instinctively priming developers to resist rather than embrace our arguments? If instead, ‘Cambridge Cycling City’ was part of the mindset, might they have found themselves contributing towards that vision?

Concluding remarks

I never expected that suggesting a name change would go down well, but I started thinking about it in response to what I’d heard over the years from people saying they were reluctant to join ‘a campaign’. In the monthly meeting I didn’t receive much support, but also I did not feel that the idea was to be completely rejected, and that we could start to use the name Cambridge Cycling City as a brand within the Campaign.

Having gone through this process I realise how much bigger we need to grow and that we need to get better at expressing why Britain’s biggest cycling city needs such strong cycle advocacy.

Simon Nuttall