Policy Bash Weekend

This weekend a dedicated group of Ambassadors gathered in London for our 'policy bash' to work on refining our policies and setting out our strategies for the next year. It was an intensive two days with lots of debate, scribbling on flip charts and (of course) cake generously provided by Sam Smith. We'll be updating the website with the results over the next few days, so that those members who couldn't get to the bash will have a chance to have their say on the forums and through the wiki, but meanwhile, here's a brief overview of what we covered and decided and what happens next. 

NB - all of these are still in draft form and are open to any member to comment on and discuss; nothing has been set in stone yet.

Overall priorities

We started by setting out our overall priorities both for the weekend and as an organisation. The Cycling Embassy is, primarily, all about the infrastructure and our main role is really in providing information to encourage and enable the UK to build the sort of cycling facilities that are taken for granted in places like the Netherlands and Denmark but which are as rare as unicorns in the UK. The policy bash worked along two work streams(with people swapping between the two from time to time), strategy and infrastructure. On the strategy side, we decided to concentrate on creating a plan for the year ahead and beyond, setting out our policies in concrete form and spreading the word beyond the narrow world of cycle campaigning of what we're about. On the infrastructure workstream, we concentrated on principles of separation, building a network, and then how to go about putting Dutch principles into practice in UK situations. Each one of these will be written up in more detail, but here's a brief overview:

Long term strategy & spreading the word

The plan is to write a book which sets out the sort of things we'd like to see implemented in the UK in a way that makes them easy to understand for the non-specialist. It will be full of photographs and illustrations clarifying what is possible with a bit of political will and hopefully answering the questions of those who fear that cycle infrastructure must inevitably be of poor quality or even downright dangerous. We'll be crowdsourcing this - both for ideas, illustration and examples and ultimately for funding too - so it's a way that everyone can get involved in shaping the future of the Embassy 

Policy points

There's a lot of nitty gritty decisions that have to be made on where we stand on a range of issues from helemt laws to bikes on trains. Many of them are pretty clear, but just have to be stated; others require more debate. We made a start, but a lot of these points will be for debate on the forum and can then be finalised at our AGM in May. There's a lot to sum up, but one overarching principle stood out over the two days: we want to see cycling facilities that ALL cyclists can use and will be happy to use, from a child on their first Christmas bike out with Granny to Mark Cavendish on his carbon road bike.

Principles of Separation and sustainable safety versus the Hierarchy of Provision

For a long time, UK cycle policy has been organised around the 'Hierarchy of provision' for cycling and walking which has not resulted in the construction of a road environment that's inviting for cycling, or even for walking in many cases. We've turned that on its head and looked at how the Dutch approach road design with sustainable safety and when it's okay to mix traffic or when cars and lorries should be segregated away from people on foot and on bikes. Although the UK roads are a much more heterogenous mix than Dutch ones, there's a lot we can still apply. Starting by asking what any given stretch of road is for, and where it sits in the network (both for bikes and other kinds of traffic), it makes decisions about prioritising and reallocating space much easier.

Thinking 'network'

It's very easy to get hung up on the details of individual junctions and roads but cyclists don't generally head out to cycle around Bow Roundabout, they are cycling to work, to school, or to the shops. Cycling facilities have to be put in where they're most important, based on the 'desire lines' for people on bikes. The key to making cycling not just safer but less scary (i.e. subjectively safe) is in the junctions - although the links are important too.

Designing a roundabout

We had to get the coloured pens out eventually! Taking a nasty roundabout in Glasgow as an example we had a look at how to re-model it along the lines recommended in the Dutch CROW manual. Along the way we applied some of the principles we'd already considered - thinking network and considering the roles of the roads in question. The result was illuminating - about how much there is to take into account but also about how in the end the Dutch designs do answer a lot of our fears as cyclists, even in the UK. We came up with a staged approach to improving cycling infrastructure and a process which should be applicable to creating a 'toolkit' for other junction types

Naturally we also drank a lot of tea and coffee, celebrated the Embassy's first birthday, swapped cycling war stories in the pub afterwards and spent rather too long geeking out over each other's Bromptons. We enjoyed all your tweets and blog posts coming in from the outside - they did help inform the debate.  


Thanks to everyone who helped with the organisation, particularly Sam Smith for helping sort out the venue, baking astounding amounts of food AND taking notes during the summary sessions and to Kathryn at Bike Minded Kensington for subsidising the cost of the venue on the Saturday.