All of London wins at the new London Cycling Awards

Tour de France commentator and cycling author Ned Boulting will tonight preside over a new-look London Cycling Awards at a glittering ceremony in the West End, where an eager cycling commentariat will find out who London's best bicycle champions and most popular brands are.

You'd be easily forgiven if you hadn't heard of the London Cycling Awards before.  They've been away for two years, and were previously a bit of an after-thought tacked on to the London Cycling Campaign AGM, usually after the vegan buffet was served and just before the very seriously boisterous business of setting policy began.  Of course many previous recipients were worthy winners rightly awarded, but the whole exercise felt less like a celebration and more of a slightly amateurish second thought.  Certainly not an event worthy of London's most exciting and progressive growing form of transport and fun.

No riding on the red carpet, please

If you want to make a splash when it comes to the media, you've got to think big, and the new model that London Cycling Campaign are pursuing is the right one.  Such a splash will only help to increase the brand exposure for the LCC, promote discourse on cycling in the public sphere, and give a pat on the back to the campaigners, schemes, brands and indeed even the celebrities who are helping to propel cycling forwards. (Bradley Wiggins effect, anyone?)  What's not to like, you might think?

Well, some LCC members are not happy with this new-look awards, fearing an uneasy relationship between "their" campaign and corporate interests.  Long term activist and ride-leading-wonder Francis Sedgemore is especially narked, writing "the awards this year will be spun out into a glitzy standalone event dominated by celebrities, corporate sponsors and public figures. Ordinary LCC members, save for a lucky few chosen by ballot, will be excluded from the ceremony held at the West End church of St Martin-in-the-Fields."  Francis also raises concerns with the voting and selection procedure which I hope LCC HQ will address as the event finds its feet in the future, but to me much of the mutterings here and over on the LCC's activist email list smack of a strange anti-corporate bias.

Expensive garment and gadget manufacturers may not to be everyone's tastes - especially those at the fringes of the radical spectrum - but everyone deserves their place at the table.  I may not be able to afford their rather dapper threads, but with their led rides programme, support of pro-racing, publishing arm and central London cafe and cycling hub, in my eyes the contribution that Rapha (nominated for best brand) make to the cycling scene in London is equally as valid as that made by local campaigners on the ground in the boroughs.  The fact that one manages to make money whilst making a positive contribution to our city's cycling scene should not be seen as a negative.   

Francis and other long-term LCC supporters would do well to remember that this year's awards are sponsored and will be covered by the London Evening Standard and others.  As well as providing lots of copy-ready cannon fodder, adopting a glitzy awards ceremony is much more likely to gain media interest than a hastily thrown-together event held in the back room of a public hall of some University campus.  People want great photographs, some recognisable faces and a bit of glitz and drama in their news.  If having Bradley Wiggins in the line up for an award helps to in turn bring light to the worthwhile recipients of other awards, then I'm all for it.  Outside of cycling circles nobody cares about a successful workplace's ride to work scheme, or an especially effective bit of filtered permeability planning, but if the people who help to bring that about can be recognised and rewarded for their efforts in an awards ceremony that really grabs attention, then in my eyes that can only be a good thing.  Who, after all, remembers the awards bestowed on Waltham Forest Bike Recycling Scheme (2003) or the bike parking at Surbiton train station? (Best cycling facility in London 2004

A number of the Awards have been nominated and voted for by members of the public (not just LCC members) and over two thousand people have cast their ballots.  People often use their cycling kit as much as a well designed piece of cycling infrastructure, and in my mind the people who bring us both deserve to succeed.  LCC chief executive Ashok Sinha said, "The thousands of nominations show just how much excitement surrounds cycling in the capital", and I'm inclined to agree.

I'm looking forward to the new look London Cycling Awards (go team Vulpine, go London Bike Kitchen, go Road.CC, we're rooting for you!) and welcome the new style of the event.  Well-meaning but overly-concerned campaigners should loosen their grip on their perception of what they feel cycling ought to be, and join the celebrations.  At the end of the day, in a city where riders are still mown down with alarming regularity, and where it is still an uphill battle to make local boroughs pay any attention at all, worrying that the new London Cycling Awards represents a "drift towards white collar cycling" should be the least of our concerns.  The profile of cycling becoming more mainstream is, in my eyes, a welcome development which only adds impetus to the need to worry and campaign about the really important things like making our roads safer, rather than worrying about the format of an awards ceremony.  Ultimately, with their increased profile the new-look awards will help to bring cycling in the wider public eye, and in turn help to shine a brighter light on those who are doing valuable work to improve London's cycling experience, meaning we are all winners in the end. 

The nominations for the 2013 London Cycling Awards chosen by the public are:

Best Brand
  • Vulpine
  • Specialized 
  • Rapha
Best Cycling Champion
  • Sir Bradley Wiggins (Tour de France winner and Olympic Gold medallist)
  • Andrew Gilligan (The Mayor's new Cycling Commissioner)
  • Jenni Gwiazdowski (Co-ordinator of London Bike Kitchen, empowering people to fix their kit)
Best Cycling Communication
  • Cycling Weekly
  • The Guardian Bike Blog
Best Product
  • Brompton
  • Knog Blinger lights
  • Scwalbe London series tyres

Best Retailer
  • Brixton Cycles worker's co-operative
  • Velorution
  • Cycle Surgery
The nominations for London Cycling Awards 2013 chosen by the LCC judging panel are:

Best Borough Cycling Project

  • Two-way cycling on one-way streets in Camden and the City of London: A programme of returning one-way streets to two-way, allowing cycling in both directions again. 
  • Ealing Broadway Cycle Hub: Secure cycle parking and cycle hire facility.
  • NHS Greenwich Bike Loan Scheme: Free cycle loan and training to improve health of local residents.
Best Community Project

  • London Bike Kitchen: DIY bike workshop offering loan of tools and hands on advice.
  • Poplar HARCA Re(sidents) Cycling Project Cycle Fun: Free loan bikes to local residents.
  • Tottenham Hotspur Foundation Cycle FUN:  work with physically inactive residents, alcohol recovery organisations and mental health and disability groups to improve social interaction, build confidence and health through cycling.
Best London Cycling Initiative

  • Stagecoach on-bike cyclist-awareness training for bus drivers: Training existing and new drivers to enable bus drivers to empathise with people on bicycles and understand how to minimise the risk while sharing the road
  • Sustrans Connect 2, London Schemes: Infrastructure initiatives that overcome barriers to cycling and walking including new bridges (South Bermondsey, Mile End Park and Hornchurch), improved crossings, paths and on road routes.
  • TfL Procurement Policy for Safer Lorries: Requirement for all subcontractors to comply to an HGV cyclist’s safety code including driver training, and sensors and/or cameras.
Best Schools Cycling Project

  • Hackney Bike around the Borough: ride involving over 300 children from 17 schools who come together for a 10-mile route around Hackney
  • 'Try Cycling Project', Tyssen School, Hackney:
  • 'Whole School Cycling', Virginia Primary School, Tower Hamlets: cycle training,  bike loan, rides, maintenance and cycling for parents. 
Best Workplace Initiative 

  • Heathrow Cycle Hub: catering for airport staff and businesses on the airport boundary offering cycle purchase scheme, free cycle maintenance, maintenance training and emergency call-outs for mechanical problems. 
  • UR on ur Bike, University of Roehampton: Cycle hire scheme, cycle promotion and led rides for staff and students.
  • Cycle Parking Facility, Guardian Media Group: over 200 secure cycle parking spaces, with showers, tools and clothing lockers. 
Good luck to everyone involved!

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Anonymous said...

Well done LCC on raising the profile of the London Cycling Awards and generating public interest in the winners and nominees, and well done iBike for recognising the effort. But let’s not dismiss the ‘old look’ awards as simply ‘worthy’ and acknowledge them as a valuable precursor of the new awards, just as Henri Desgrange’s chaotic early Tours preceded Sir Wiggo’s triumph.

The volunteers who worked on the old awards deserve a big vote of thanks and the winners will be remembered, perhaps not for their brief moment on the stage, but for the real world outcomes of their work.

It’s perhaps little known that the old look awards were almost entirely a volunteer effort who’s purpose was to recognise and encourage good practice. A volunteer organised the awards programme each year pretty much as a solo effort with a zero budget. Despite this, the awards grew from a dozen nominations a decade ago to more than 50 in their last years (a figure some national awards programmes would envy). Each of those nominations was a detailed submission with testimonials, photos and drawings that helped LCC members promote similar work elsewhere. Like the organiser, the judges were volunteers contributing their own time and effort. The presenters, ranging from John Snow (ITN) to Jenny Jones (London Assembly) to Philip Darnton (Cycling England) to Caroline Pidgeon (London Assembly) also donated their time.

iBike singles out Waltham Forest’s Bike Recycling Project as un-memorable but the beneficiaries of all the bike recycling projects in London might wish to thank Waltham Forest for being the pioneer. And Surbiton Station, another un-memorable, may not be as trendy as Shoreditch but it has a better and more secure cycle parking shed that anywhere in central London - rail operators pleas note. Hackney’s bike access (filtered permeability) programme (award in 2007) didn’t even make the un-memorable list but most of us are probably beneficiaries of the many replica cut-throughs and traffic-free links that have been installed across London thanks to the publicity given to the Hackney scheme. Without Lambeth’s lorry driver training programme (winner 2009) we might not have the new TfL lorry operator contracts (winner 2013).

And let’s not forget that the many winners of the old look awards used them to good effect – demonstrating to their fund givers or political masters that their work received recognition and deserved repetition. You’ll still find fading Awards certificates on some school and council walls.

So long live the new look awards but let’s give credit to the winners and volunteer organisers of the old ones

ibikelondon said...

@Anonymous Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to add such a considered comment, debate is always welcome here. I think, in fact, that we broadly agree more than we disagree. I think that the likes of the Waltham Forest recycling scheme are invaluable and should indeed be rewarded. (This year's best schools initiative, for example, was a real highlight of the Awards) My point is that concern about the new look awards is misplaced as it misses the point that if no one knows you've given someone an award, then you might as well not have bothered. I think that if a shiny and glitzy award ceremony (with Wiggo et al) can help to shine a light on to the excellent work done by local campaigners, then this can only be a good thing.

I look forward to seeing how the awards develop in future years.