Street Talks; What next for the Times' #cyclesafe campaign?

Something astonishing happened in February of this year; The Times newspaper launched a dedicated campaign with regards to cyclist's safety. "Save our cyclists!" the newspaper thundered, "Create cities fit for cycling!"

Suddenly, cycling seemed like a very mainstream political issue indeed. Politicians, celebrities, and campaigning organisations flocked to sign up (including me). An all-party debate at Westminster was preceded by a cold, wet and windy February flashride with 2,000 cyclists in attendance. This has been followed up by policy groups and party political meetings dedicated to cycling safety, not to mention a Commons Committee enquiry into cycle safety and a London Mayoral hustings dedicated to the issue. Namely, the big wheels of Westminster have slowly, agonisingly slowly, begun to turn.

Only just the beginning... The end of the #cyclesafe flashride to Parliament in February 2012 (picture by Ben Broomfield Photography)

The Times has done a great job of keeping abreast of all of the cycling campaigning news that they have helped to create - from covering the flashride to sending their Editor to address Parliament in person, from crowd-sourcing a "danger map" to sharing why their readers love their bicycles.

In short, in just 4 short months The Times has helped to build up an incredible head of steam, bringing much needed mainstream attention to an otherwise previously marginal issue. As I wrote after the first Parliamentary debate "The Times campaign has pulled cycle campaigning by the scruff of it's neck from the long grass firmly in to the mainstream" Cities Fit For Cycling has been an inordinately good thing for cycling in the UK.

However, no man is an island and one newspaper can't be expected to lead the way alone on an issue forever. Some might fear that the paper's commitment to the cause will wain as time passes, or that other issues might take precedent. Others, believing the 8 point manifesto The Times has dedicated itself to be unrealistic might be expecting the campaign to be quietly dropped and forgotten.

So the next Street Talks from those wonderful people at the Movement for Liveable London will be of interest to anyone who wants to know how the Cities Fit For Cycling campaign proceeds, and what will happen next.

Not something you see everyday... Times journalist Mary Bowers (pictured), who remains in a coma following her collision involving an HGV last November whilst riding to work in Wapping, was the catalyst for the campaign started by her closest colleagues which lead to this astonishing front page splash.

Ben Whitelaw from The Times campaign will be speaking on where we are to date, and then there will be a workshop-format debate. As the Movement for Liveable London website explains; "The Times want to hear your thoughts on what they should do next, tapping into the passion, knowledge and aspiration that helps make discussions at Street Talks so lively. What are the priority issues to be addressed and opportunities to be seized? Should national, London wide and borough policy be rewritten, and if so how? Boris Johnson has pledged his support for the campaign, as England’s most powerful local politician how should he be held to account and his track record assessed?"

So, if you want to have your hand firmly on the rudder of the future direction of national cycle campaigning - and have a beer and meet with some bright like minds in the process - come to the next Street Talks, on Monday 11th of June at Look Mum No Hands at 7PM. As ever food and boozy goodness is available beforehand and after the talk. (Street Talks will revert to Tuesday evenings at the Yorkshire Gray from next month) 

I'm looking forward to seeing some of you there next Monday, but in the meantime how do you think The Times should grow with their Cities Fit For Cycling campaign?

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Ben Brown said...

The one issue I would like to see pushed hardest would be much harsher sentencing for motorists who kill cyclists, some examples need to be made. Or at the least some actual prison time needs to be handed out. Drivers are seemingly getting away with complete negligence and walking free. Cycle awareness needs to be more a part of the driving test and rule ignoring cyclists need to be tackled but really the judicial attitude needs to change as the highest priority.

angus h said...

@ Ben - would love to see this too, although politically it's difficult, because of conventional car-culture wisdom that "accidents happen", "the driver has suffered enough", mixed with a healthy dose of victim-blaming ("what, he/she went out on the road without a 1-ton suit of motorised armour?").

None of these are true, of course, but a car-dependent culture requires that people be able to step behind the wheel without thinking too hard about the responsibility they're taking on. If people believed a moment's carelessness could lead to five years behind bars, they might demand proper investment in alternatives to the car.. now that wouldn't do at all, would it?

Diane Lopez said...

So sweet to see all of the bikers! The have them in a single purpose. :)
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Will B said...

@ Angus H -

so true. I really believe that the majority, if not most, automobile drivers have completely forgotten (if they ever knew) about the potential destruction they can easily cause when they get behind the wheel.

Dave H said...

The sooner the car is treated like a gun - a device which has the ability to kill, maim, and cause massive damage when wrongly used, the better.

Both cars and guns require a registration, for the item and a licence for the person(s) who use them. The BIG difference is that when a gun is the initiator of an incident the registered keeper of the gun immediately carries a presumed liability for the destruction caused - even if they were not the user at the time, and the user equally carries a presumed liability for failing to use the gun in the correct manner.

Transferring these basic tenets to an incident where a car is used should be a simple and logical construct. So why does the UK fail to fall in line with most of the rest of Europe in this respect?