You're invited! The launch of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain

Just a few short months ago, cycling campaigners from across the UK met for the first time around the tables of Look Mum No Hands cafe.  Brought together by a shared belief that it was time for a new national cycling campaign to come on the scene and to ask - once and for all - for cycling to be treated here in the UK in the same way as it is in the Netherlands and Denmark.  A new campaign driven by the ethos of "I want what they're having" when looking to our neighbours across the North Sea, and not afraid to ask for high quality separated cycling infrastructure to get us all cycling again on those terrifying urban highways which blight so many of our towns and cities.

The months have passed since that initial meeting, and members of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain have been diligently working away in the background.  A website has been set up, with a forum, news, a copy of the Local Transport Plan for nearly every local authority in the country, and a vast wealth of freely accessible bicycle infrastructure design manuals, plans and guidelines.  Members have given speeches, written articles for magazines and taken part in the Annual Parliamentary Bike Ride.

But now it's time for the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain to go official.  That's right, dear readers, we're ready to step out in to the limelight, and you're all invited to our official launch!

This Saturday, September 3rd, join us for a photo call and opening speeches on the south side of Lambeth Bridge where we'll outline our policies, say a few words and get a snap for posterity in front of the Houses of Parliament.  Then it's across the bridge on what we've dubbed "London's worst cycle lane" to Victoria Park Gardens where we'll be having a family-friendly picnic and you'll have the chance to meet Cycling Embassy members from across the country.  There's a sight seeing bike ride being led by yours truly in the afternoon, and of course Sunday is the Mayor of London's Sky Ride; the perfect chance for you and your family to see the best of our capital on streets closed to traffic.

So what are you waiting for?  Join us in London for the perfect family-friendly cycling weekend from 11.30AM this Saturday on the south side of Lambeth Bridge.  All the details you need to know are over on the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain website, and I look forward to seeing some of you there!

Saturday 3rd September

Gather at the south side of Lambeth Bridge at 11.30AM for press call.

(Smart ‘everyday’ wear and best smiles please; you might end up in the paper!) All types of bike and riders (including children) welcome.Do bring: cameras, video recorders, waterproof coats, picnic food and drink to share, comfortable shoes, shiny bikes and your best smile.

12 midday; press call / photo opportunity
Photos with the Houses of Parliament in the background. Speech by Jim Davis, Chair and founder of Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. CEoGB declared officially ‘open for business’.

12.20 Depart for Victoria Tower Gardens for (short) cross-river bike ride on “London’s worst bike lane” across Lambeth Bridge (approx. 500 mtrs) Ride will be marshalled by CEoGB board.

12.50 onwards; celebratory picnic in Victoria Tower Gardens.

Please bring picnic food and drink to share with your new found cycling friends to celebrate the launch of the Cycling Embassy. Family-friendly and child-safe enclosed park space. Sunglasses, picnic blankets and friendly smiles the order of the day. Please note; no glass, alcohol, banners or placards permitted in the park.

Saturday afternoon; informal, optional Royal Parks infrastructure safari taking in the pelicans of St James Park, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park Corner, the Serpentine, Albert Memorial, Royal Albert Hall and back.

Don’t bring: glass, alcohol or your favourite Lance Armstrong outfit.
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Headley_grange said...

All the accidents I've ever had have been on cycle lanes. It's a short step from segregated lanes to banning cycles from the road. I don't want to be stuck behind a family of 16 for two miles while they poodle along at 2 mph, blocking the whole path.

ibikelondon said...

Hello @Headley_Grange thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree much of the "cycle lanes" we have here in the UK are dangerous tokenistic crap. Indeed, that's why the CEoGB launch will take place by Lambeth Bridge, one of the worst of the lot is there.

But that's not what we're asking for. What we are asking (and if you don't ask, you don't get) is for proper wide, smooth and continuous bicycle tracks. The sort of thing on which there is enough room for families on bikes and for someone like yourself to go a bit faster as well.

If you'd actually rather that there weren't families and young people on bikes at all, well then that's your particularly selfish bent to pursue.

In the meantime, why not take a look around the CEoGB website, especially their excellent FAQ which might help to allay some of your fears;

Why shouldn't we push for the sort of infrastructure which has been proven time and again to bring about mass cycling?

Headley_grange said...

Thanks for a nice reply to a churlish comment. I think the overall aim is good, but I do have fears about the potential risk that once cycle lanes are in place then cyclists will be forced to use them and prohibited from using roads which have them. I appreciate that this isn't one of the aims of the Embassy. I've all but stopped using cycle paths in my town because the traffic, diesel spills and potholes are are a much safer (and quicker) option.

Good luck with the Embassy

Schack said...

Growing up in Copenhagen, I've been used to segregated cycle lanes all my life - and yes, sometimes you do get stuck behind a family of four, teenagers riding side by side, a cargo bike, or slow moving elderly - but isn't it just fantastic that they can all be on the road as well? Isn't the great thing about cycling that it is a thing that we can all do? There is no distinction, no favorites.

One of the next steps of the copenhagen politicians is incorporating a "fast track", so you won't have to get stuck behind slower moving traffic.

One step at a time - right now any progress in the London cycle "experince" will be brilliant.

Psst, if your bike is correct equipped, just use your lovely little bell, and I'm sure mommy or daddy will make sure to get Kid 1, 2, 3,.... and 14 into the side of the lane, so the nice lycra-man from behind can pass.

Headley_grange said...

Schack - I don't usually wear Lycra, but I appreciate your comments. I'll have a look on the web at the Copenhagen stuff - thanks.

I've learned to be circumspect with the bell (yes, I have one) because it usually results in being sworn at by pedestrians. I pinged three lads who were walking on a cycle path last month and they just turned round and stood abreast, blocking the path. Like I said above, the roads are much safer round here (and much more fun) and I'll stay on them as much as I can.

christhebull said...

@Headley_grange @Mark

I sometimes get stuck behind pedestrians on crowded pavements when there might be a road with free flowing traffic next to me. Does this mean pavements are a bad idea? No, it simply means the pavement is not wide enough for the pedestrian flows and/or there are too many obstructions on it - in which case the pavement should be widened or if that is not possible or still inadequate, part time pedestrianisation could be used.

Incidentally, Britain does not have any laws against "jay walking" and yet pedestrians use pavements and pedestrian crossings anyway unless it is more convenient not to, so while I can understand this fear about being "banished from the roads", I don't see it happening (at least while drivers get away with parking on pavements) any more than a campaign for better fibre-optic broadband leading to dial-up being banned. Because at the moment most places have the cycling equivalent of a slow and unreliable dial-up connection, with low quality broadband in some major cities and maybe even some 8Mb in Cambridge, along with a handful of places with no coverage at all like Barnet. Whereas the Netherlands is to cycling what South Korea is to broadband internet.

Returning to cycling, I find that the "cycle paths" where I get stuck behind other users are - guess what - shared use pavements where I have to ring my bell and squeeze past dog walkers to pass. Proper cycle tracks are built like scaled down roads - which means they have separate pavements in towns and cities, as well as ample room for overtaking - the best cycle paths I have ridden on are like scaled down versions of Purley Way - a 2 lane road wide enough to overtake with oncoming traffic. So, because they are the cycling equivalent of a road designed to make it easy to get past tractors, high quality cycle paths will make it easy to get past slower cyclists with trailers, and will certainly be better than getting stuck on Regent Street trying to filter past buses.

Headley_grange said...

Chris - I agree in principle, but let's imagine that a segregated cycle path were put in Regent street. It couldn't be wide enough for fast overtaking. Having lost a third of the road space, one could imagine buses and taxis successfully lobbying for mandatory use for cyclists - i.e. banned from the road, and the safer path would tempt more tourists onto the Boris bikes (which is what we want). Net result would be a a walking-pace cycle path with tourists stopped outside Hamleys and Carnaby street taking pictures and cycle couriers hitting them with broken cranks in a vain attempt to get past.

As for the cycle rickshaws.....

ibikelondon said...

@Headley_Grange There's no reason why any traffic should be going down Regent Street as it's such an important pedestrian area. If I had my way I'd pedestrianise the entire street, with considerate cycling allowed. It's worth remembering that speeding on a bike in a busy "people area" is as anti-social as going fast on a car.

A better example would be the Stratford High Street - imagine if they put in a proper path there giving families direct access to the Olympic Park, instead of having to navigate a 6 lane gyratory as they currently are expected to do:

I suspect that we are never going to see eye to eye as to whether proper cycling facilities are a good thing or not, but rest assured that the Cycling Embassy would resist any hint of a ban as the next man. Like I said, do check out the FAQ on the CEoGB website, it might help to assuage some of your fears.

All the best!

Headley_grange said...

I think we agree more than disagree. Better facilities for cyclists is a good idea. I support your position on the Stratford. As long my favourite aspects of cycling, freedom and movement, aren't threatened then I'm all in favour.

Nice blog and nice comments. I've added you to my reader, so keep them coming.

Be safe.


ibikelondon said...

Thanks HG, we always welcome good discourse - you're very welcome here!

Anonymous said...

I support the need for European standard cycle infrastructure and was delighted when the idea of the CEoGB was set up. I even went to the initial meeting.

However, I am concerned that I may be 'unwelcome' at the official launch. I understand the desire to 'normalise' cycling but as I will be cycling a round trip of 24 miles, plus all of the cycling inbetween, I will find clothing with lycra a distinct advantage.

While I don't believe a helmet will provide me with much benefit if hit by a motor vehicle, it will provide me with some protection should I end up in court faced with a lawyer arguing contributory negligence. I'll be happy to dump said helmet when we have the infrastructure we desire - until then it seems sensible to me to protect myself.

Will I be unwelcome at the launch event in my shorts, cycling top and helmet?

ibikelondon said...

Hello Anonymous!

Thanks for stopping by, and yes of course you are welcome in whatever you chose to wear (or not!)

Of course you should wear what you feel are the right clothes for a 24 mile round trip, and you should wear what you feel most comfortable in. The guidelines in the post above are merely to give you a sense of what the event will be like (a bit like asking Labour supporters to wear red to their conference), and the "market" we are aiming for (namely "everybody else".) But as Gary Fisher once said, anyone on a bike is a friend of mine, and you are of course most welcome however you are attired!

Come over and say hello tomorrow, it would be great to chat.

All the best,


Anonymous said...

Thanks Mark

I am reassured. There is too much tribalism in the cycling community and I had hoped that CEoGB would be a broad church. As I say, I'd happily dump the helmet and hi-viz but not while I'm expected to mix it with motorists. I shall wear something non-garish!

I look forward to seeing you at the event. Apologies for the 'Anon' name but I have so many passwords to remember I couldn't face opening another account :)

ibikelondon said...

You're more than welcome! The CEoGB will indeed be a broad church, and recognises that there are all sorts of cyclists out there - sporty or not, long distance or short. What we're really keen on is opening up that group and growing it massively which inevitably will involve reaching out to all those who don't currently ride a bike for whatever that reason might be. Hopefully those of who are there tomorrow for the press call and launch will reflect that mix; just bring your winning smile!

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