A mere German person, simply used to cycling as a means of getting-out-and-about and to good cycling provision, I was in severe shock when I first saw Newcastle’s crazy cycle network. If it was a spider’s web, it would not hold together. But didn’t somebody say riding a bicycle is easy?
[img_assist|nid=2179|title=Typical bicycle in Germany. Old. Functional.|desc=|link=url|url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/katsdekker/6126325677/in/photostream/|align=center|width=500|height=375]
Communicating with the council chief executive and others (council leader and the MEP, the councillors’ cycling champion,) resulted in nothing better than “we are stuck with what we’ve got” or… [silence]. Sorry, folks I thought but that isn’t good enough for a council that openly proclaims in its plans and policies it wants people to cycle, wants to be a vibrant and inclusive place.
I invited myself along to the so-called council cycle forum. Boy, they kept its existence well hidden. And, boy, boy, what a state it was in. I asked Hand on heart, what is it that holds up cycle provision in Newcastle? and said to the chair later on if you want an outcry, you can have one – and set up the “Safe Cycling in Newcastle” petition which attracted a great deal of interest: over 800 signatures and media mentions. This Safe Cycling Petition 2010 was handed over to Full Council, accepted by the senior councillor responsible for transport, and then…
During the petition I was lucky enough that my quick-thinking connected friend Cath introduced me to Claire, a bike user group coordinatress and ‘into everyday cycling’. We all met at Newcastle’s lovely Café de Vie and chatted, and chatted. And chatted. Girls, you know. About cycling. About the injustice of it all. Why the authorities don’t do anything, this eerie silence, black holes and the stonewalls.
It took Claire a few months to convince me that a campaign (what is a campaign?) was needed to make Newcastle cycle-friendly.
[img_assist|nid=2180|title=Newcastle Cycling Campaign at Green Festival 2011|desc=|link=url|url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/katsdekker/5799415792/|align=right|width=185|height=240]Once it filtered through my trusting and innocent mind that a simple petition with 800 signatories will NOT do the trick alone, we set about bringing to life the – what should we call it? – Newcastle Cycling Campaign. Like Frankenstein mums, we worked on the creation of Claire’s brainchild, gave it a constitution, a website, setting up a bank account (with the Co-operative), type of membership, organising an AGM, Annual Report 2010/11 duly including financial statement, liaising with media, always on the look-out, finding like-minded groups and people, setting our long-term aims and agreeing priorities for the next 12 months, and putting up a vision.
And have never looked back. Here we are, a year later, a year wiser.
With some success to show for it:
I, for myself, now know what a campaign is, thanks to Claire.
And I now understand Claire’s urgency to form a campaign.
[img_assist|nid=2182|title=Newcastle Cycling Campaign|desc=|link=url|url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/katsdekker/6034595131/|align=right|width=240|height=179]* It’s the combining and coordinating effect of a campaign that galvanises individuals into action, provides clarity and a platform for solidarity.
No single person could have achieved this by individual action.
And the crystallising message is clear: we want space for cycling, safe cycleways, good quality cycle infrastructure, a cycle network. We are a Cycleway Movement campaign.
[img_assist|nid=2183|title=Standard Cycleway design in Germany|desc=|link=url|url=INSERT http://www.flickr.com/photos/katsdekker/6106137445/|align=center|width=500|height=375]
That’s why we’ve formed the Newcastle Cycling Campaign.
Because concerted effort speaks louder.