Street Talks with the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain; tomorrow

It's that time of the month again! Campaigners, planners, designers, liveable city aficionados et al will once again gather within the cosy confines of the upstairs bar at The Yorkshire Grey in Farringdon for the latest Street Talk, hosted by the Movement for Liveable London.

Tomorrow night from 7PM (bar opens at 6PM for food, arrive early to bag a seat), we'll be hearing for the second time from Chair of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, Jim Davis.  Two years after his first appearance at Street Talks, Jim will be reflecting on why he wanted to set up a new cycling campaign in the first place, the highs and lows of the Cycling Embassy, and what the future has in store.

IMG_9846 - Copy
Jim Davis, Chair of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain

They say a week is a long time in politics, so two years is an eternity in bicycle campaigning.  I well remember how the establishment of the Cycling Embassy was greeted by some cycle campaigners; members were called 'splitters', were accused of being the architects of the supposed downfall of the CTC, and even being in the employ of the motoring lobby.  All because people dared to suggest that perhaps we could learn more than a little from countries that have achieved mass cycling rates...
And the comments. Oh, the comments!
"It will all end in tears... the future for cycling in this country is too important to be risked by bodies... ..which can do an awful lot of unseen damage" opined bike journo Carlton Reid, on Road.CC.  'Careful what you wish for, keep out and push off' seemed to be the general message that welcomed the creation of this bold new group (also described as "just a bunch of bloggers".)

And yet the Cycling Embassy meetings I've attended have been marked by the attendance of people who I would not describe as the usual cycle campaigning faces, and that's what has made it so interesting; at the launch there were families of cargo bikes packed with kids, at a meeting in Manchester I met a Mum who cycled everywhere with her young daughter perched on the handlebars.  It was via the Cycling Embassy that I first met an inspirational Brompton rider who just happened to have only one leg.  Clearly there is something different about the Embassy's message that we should learn from nations that have been able to create conditions which are inviting of cycling for all.

IMG_9833
IMG_9873
Images from the launch of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain in 2011

Since those faltering first steps and the launch of the Embassy, we've witnessed mass protests on Blackfriars Bridge, huge bike rides around Parliament in London and Edinburgh, The Times' pro-segregation Cities Fit For Cycling campaign, the LCC's Love London Go Dutch campaign, a whole series of conferences across the UK where Dutch experts teach English cycling advocates how it is done, behind-bus-stop bike tracks installed in Southampton, not to mention the soon to be published report following the national parliamentary Get Britain Cycling inquiry.  Two years ago the UK cycling establishment was fretting over the loss of Cycling England and doing its best to present a united front on the segregation issue by agreeing never to mention it at all...  As I said before, two years is eternity in bicycle advocacy.

The Cycling Embassy have hosted AGMs and meetings in central London, Newcastle, Bristol, Brighton, Cambridge, Bath, Kensington and Chelsea, Manchester and elsewhere, have toured the Netherlands with David Hembrow and contributed to a number of key transport policy consultations.  They've grown in size, matured their position, and continued to help guide the debate as to how we should bring about mass cycling in the UK - not to mention had us enthralled every Sunday evening with their weekly round-up of cycling news from all four corners of the globe.  Not bad for a volunteer-run organisation on a shoe-string budget.  Indeed, not bad for "just a bunch of bike bloggers" at all, and it would seem that none of this has brought about the downfall of other established cycling campaigns or resulted in bicycles being banned from the roads.  Who could possibly have predicted that?!

So what lies ahead for this bold new group, and how has it helped to change the debate?  Is cycle campaigning on a new path in the UK?  Is the internet a bold new tool, or a source of dilution?  Do together we stand or united we fall?

Jim will discuss all this, and more, in his own irreverent and tongue-in-cheek style at tomorrow night's Street Talk, reflecting on two years of the Cycling Embassy.  See some of you there!

The Movement for Liveable London holds monthly 'Street Talks' to stimulate debate about the place of people in cities; you can review the archive of previous talks and follow live talks as they happen via Twitter.  The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain is run by volunteers and relies on donation by kind-hearted folk like you.

Share |

2 comments:

departmentfortransport said...

"It will all end in tears... the future for cycling in this country is too important to be risked by bodies... ..which can do an awful lot of unseen damage" said Carlton Reid

I wasn't around for all that, what an absolutely ridiculous and fatuous over-reaction!

ibikelondon said...

Oh they were fun and colourful times indeed!