My friend and fellow cycle campaigner Claire Prospert won the prestigious SMK Transport Campaigner award 2010 for founding the Newcastle Cycling Campaign. Now another cycling advocate's achievements have also been recognised: Sally Hinchcliffe from Dumfries was handed the SMK accolade this month, September 2013 (she was runner-up the previous year), as we reported here.
'Why is campaigning important?', you may ask. Well, two things spring to mind. Cycling is a fringe activity. And by definition it feel quite lonesome sometimes. Forming a campaign group can address this by providing peer support. Sanity. Grounding. A campaign group can also help put the necessary pressure on the powers that be. You are actively doing something and you are asking for change, and by doing so you become part of societal and political change yourself. A movement.
Campaigning for cycling, you just know you have a good cause. Yet the resistance by the authorities can be strong. Not because they don't understand the benefits, it's because they actually don't believe the benefits of cycling will materialise, as they cannot imagine how cycling for everyone could be achieved. So campaigning inevitably sometimes feels like treading water, or a flat tyre, or maybe like forever cycling in circles in UK's madness maze of bonkers bike infrastructure.
So what do campaigners do? What did Sally do? And Claire? They keep their vision firmly fixed on the horizon. They, like many others with them, had already Gone Dutch quite a while back.
Which gets me onto what to campaign for. Sally, as well Claire, have been very clear from the outset what they want. They ask that an environment be created in which an eight year old can cycle. In safety. And for that to become reality, we have to physically change our roads. Hard measures. Pushing the kerb line into the highway. And so it's a fight for protected space to be set aside, and spatial fairness. They aren't afraid to enter into that arena of political activism and engineering.
The findings of the Get Britain Cycling report justifies their direction and steadfastness. The SMK award holds them up as exemplar campaigners to all of us. We can listen and learn. But most of all we can join their vision, and start dreaming, imagining and discussing, in detail, what these town and cities will look like and what step-by-step changes are required along the rocky way to a Great Cycling Britain.