Friday, 10 December 2010

Phoenix?

During these freezing cold winter days, a breath of fresh air has started to blow. A breath of fresh air that holds the potential of bringing something remarkable to the UK.

We have suffered for so long at the hands of the government, the DfT, and even organisations who are supposed to be on our side, like the CTC & Sustrans!

Speaking of CTC, I'm not a member and I have in all honesty never seen much of a reason to join them. You may disagree, of course, but I'm entitled to my opinion. Aside from the insurance, and the legal aid, and the LEJOG maps they don't exactly offer me much.

CTC is supposed to do campaigning. Unfortunately they seem to be led by I'm-such-a brilliant-cyclist-I-happily-cycle-in-any-traffic macho types and seem to represent serious roadies, instead of everyday cyclists like me. Yes, there are many members that are everyday cyclists, but as an organisation I feel the CTC lacks the spine to fight for, and the understanding of what is needed to truly advance cycling in the UK.

Sustrans I have much regard for, while at the same time having a major problem with. I use NCN 27 - in the shape of the Plym Valley trail - very often, almost daily. In fact, part of NCN passes less than half a mile from my front door, so to me it's very convenient, and remains my favourite local leisure route. Whenever I have the chance I cycle out to Yelverton and back, and sometimes to Tavistock and back.
Now while I love the routes they've worked hard to get put in place, the organisation itself is a law onto itself and there is simply no way whatsoever of any cyclists holding them to account in any way.

Clearly that is NOT the kind of organisation we need to advance cycling in the UK!

Some time ago Cycling England got killed off by the New! Improved! government, and everybody everywhere was saying how terrible that was, and practically made out that it was end of cycling. I wrote a post then that pointed out that the death of Cycling England may just be a good thing (at best) and at worst wasn't actually a terrible thing. 
Aside from Bikeability and Cycling Cities, what did they actually achieve? Yes, yes, they operated on a shoe-string budget and all that, but the point I'm making isn't about how "big" they were, nor how dedicated they were. The point I'm making is that overall perhaps they achieved very little, despite their best efforts.

The trouble was (and still is) that there doesn't seem to be one organisation campaigning for everyday cyclists.

Just to clarify, everyday cyclists can mean many things: from somebody cycling in lycra with clipless pedals to somebody on a town cruiser in work clothes, and everything in between. The emphasis is not on the bike, or the gear, but on the person.

And then, almost out of the blue, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain springs into life! It was started by a very clever blogger, Jim, on his rather excellent blog, The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club. Please do yourself a favour and visit Jim's blog - you won't regret it!

The Cycling Embassy offers hope, as well as the chance of all of us ending up with an organisation that actually is prepared to fight our corner.
Just remember, if you want it to work, then you should join it, and help as much as you can.

I'm feeling optimistic!