Loughborough & District
Cycle Users' Campaign

Pedal Power

Issue 37 March 2002





Most of you will be familiar with the annual (and rather misleadingly named!) 'Picnic in the Park'. It serves as a showcase for Loughborough's environmental and community organisations whilst providing a fun family day out. The Campaign has held a stall for the last few years. We put some eye-catchingly unusual cycles on display and disseminate information about ourselves and our cause.

This year the 'Picnic' has moved from its usual mid-May date to the Saturday of the Golden Jubilee weekend, and organisers Charnwood Arts are aiming to make it 'bigger and more exciting than ever before'. It will be themed 'time', in particular the last 50 years and the next 50 years.

The Committee are keen to hear from members with older cycles or futuristic cycles who would be willing to lend these for display on the day. Please get in touch. We are also keen to hear from members who could volunteer a little time on the stall. This would involve handing out leaflets, chatting to interested members of the public and generally providing a presence. Don't worry, you won't be left by yourself if you are new to such things or just nervous! It would also be very nice to see some of our 'sleeping members'. Just stop by for a chat. Your views and experiences are very valuable to those of us who are more active on the campaigning side.


If you were there at the time you will remember; if you were not you may know it; but the Campaign is ten years old this year.

It's good that we have managed to hang together and keep our focus for that length of time.

It's not so good that we are still necessary; that &quo5;the changes necessary to enable cycling to fulfil its true potential within Loughborough and the surrounding area", in the words of our Constitution, still need to be "secured".

But such an anniversary, no matter what the circumstances, still seems to need to be marked, and so we will be holding a Champagne Reception on Monday 8th April 7:30pm at John Storer House. (This is the normal time date and place of our monthly meeting.) A collection of the Great and the Good have been invited; we hope a few will attend. It is also important to have a good showing of members. For you, of course, it is a chance to bend the ears of said Great and Good when they are in mellow mood! See you there!

A CHANCE TO SIT DOWN - Ariadne Tampion

In the wake of my re-election as Chair, it occured to me that maybe I should have been writing some of those pompous 'From the Chair' pieces. Indeed, with my younger daughter poised to start Playgroup just as soon as we can persuade her to give up the nappies, I very much hope the second year of my term will be at least a little more pro-active than the first! I would like to thank everybody who attended a meeting (or several) over the last year, helped out with or joined in a National Bike Week event, joined a friend or even just paid their subs - the numbers game is important, not least for its effect on the morale of the Committee!

I would also like to express my delight at the election of my elder daughter Sophie as Children's Officer. Sophie is a real stalwart of the Campaign, having attended her first meeting at the age of not quite four weeks, and having been a regular over the more than eight years since. Her transport politics have progressed from "We've got to stop the cars because they dead all the animals" at about age three to a recent outburst of outrage at the way increased rainfall due to climate change due to car use makes cyclists wetter than people travelling in cars.

It is a truism that children are our future. The children of today increasingly know no transport other than the family car. Even amongst my generation, the thirty-somethings, lack of experience and imagination is a serious obstacle to change. (The people for whom love of their cars is the prime force are, I believe, the generation before me for whom cars were genuine status symbols, and that generation is steadily dropping out of driving for age-related health reasons.) And how children love to be active! They run and jump and climb just for the sheer joy of it. What powerful social forces must be at work to send such an increasing number of them spiralling towards obesity and Type 2 diabetes! With Sophie out there spreading awareness amongst the youngest members of our community we have a chance to start turning things around.

Bike Week in Loughborough

Sun 23rd June - Cyclists Special and Pedalling Picnic

Put our bikes on the 11.30am steam train to Rothley. Then an easy paced ride to the Charnwood Forest for a picnic lunch. Back to Loughborough on Sustrans National Cycle Route 6 via Stonehurst Farm, Mountsorrel for an afternoon tea stop.

Meet: Great Central Railway Station, Great Central Road, Loughborough at 11am

Distance: 15miles

Duration 5 hours

Leader: Ray Clay (CTC - Cyclists' Touring Club or Cafe to Cafe)

Tickets: £4 (a specially reduced rate)

includes train ride and entrance to museum, and loco shed

Bookings for train from Ray Clay tel 01509 261068 E Mail rayjohn@clayr.freeserve.co.uk


Sat 15th June Market stall.

Tues 18th June CTC Loughborough Section Ride to Swithland.

Wed 19th June Cyclists' Breakfast & Bike Post Coding.

Further details will be published nearer the time of the event. If you would like further details please contact John Catt or Ray Clay (details above).

Bike Week 15-23 June 2002 Bike Week 15-23 June 2002

I had been hoping that the results of my informal cycle commuter count, reported to you a few months ago, were misleading. You may recall that I found that numbers cycling in/out of Loughborough 0750-0850 one day in June 2001 had dropped by about a third since June 2000. For various reasons I felt the figures might be unreliable, so was reluctant to infer a general - or even local - decline from such limited data. I was therefore depressed to see in the opening para of QUO VADIS? official confirmation that cycle use is not only failing to increase, but isn't even standing still. It's actually moving downwards! There is the disturbing possibility of a "spectacular failure" to meet the intended target of quadrupling cycle use by 2010. So, unfortunately, perhaps my count did reflect both a local and a national trend.

My depression deepened when I heard on the radio yesterday that the number of new cars bought in the UK in 2001 was the highest since 1989 and was in fact a record for a calendar year. This morning it is reported that car sales last year were 11% up on the previous year - ironically spanning the period of maximum publicity for the NCN.

QUO VADIS? asks "where have we gone wrong?", and the ensuing paras attempt to answer this. There are references to expensive but unsuitable or even downright dangerous provision for cyclists; to publicity which is well-meant but puts a misconceived emphasis on the supposed dangers of cycling; to the need for publicity which creates a 'positive' image of cycling as "a normal part of a healthy lifestyle."

I'm not sure that any of this is the real explanation for the failure of cycling to take off. Of course, better facilities (etc.) would make SOME difference to numbers, but not enough to stimulate the kind of boost which is wanted. The mistake seems to me to be the assumption of the deeply committed cyclist that out there hundreds of thousands of would-be cyclists are sitting in their cars, frustrated. They would simply love to leave their cars at home and get out on bikes, we are told, but are put off by poor or dangerous facilities, negative perceptions of danger, and so on.

I don't believe this is the case at all. I only wish it were. I only wish that the provision of better cycleways and a positive campaign about the numerous benefits of cycling would bring them flooding in. But I believe we would get only a trickle.

The real problem, expressed in current idiom, is that cycling is just not sexy. But driving is.

There's no point in lecturing most people earnestly on the environment, finite resources, health, etc., even though we are right about all this. The truth is immaterial - and to many either boring or not what they want to hear. A very small number are influenced, but the behaviour of the majority is controlled by subtle pressures of which they are completely unaware. The kind of image-building which goes on is subliminal, and therefore all the more effective - and dangerous.

In so many popular TV programmes & films, the car plays a glamorous part - whether in dramatic chases or as a tangible badge of the hero/heroine's status; but it's also nowadays shown as the ubiquitous mode of travel at all social levels, down to the junior trainee hairdresser arriving for work in "The Bill". How often does ANYONE get on a bike in popular TV series ? The glamour is even more overt in the direct car commercials - and I have noticed recently that in two different ads they are getting subtly at kids by encouraging a kind of snobbery over the school run: the vehicle you arrive in becoming a fashion/status symbol.

There's another ad which depicts a couple of lads playing on a home-made trolley, in which the simple components of their outfit and cleverly translated piece by piece into the sophisticated equivalents on a young man's first car (sun roof, power steering, etc.) The message is clear: motoring is what you aspire to as you mature. 40 years ago a kid would get his first bike as a reward for passing the 11+, or as a consolation for not passing it - and to this day the bike is kids' stuff. It's what you get at the age of 10 or 12, until you're old enough for the 'real' thing. I've mentioned in the past the survey which revealed that most 18-year-olds would rather give up their right to vote than their right to drive. So much for centuries of political struggle!

If David & Victoria Beckham were well-known to be enthusiastic about cycling, and to be seen doing it - not as a gimmick, but naturally and regularly as something they really enjoyed - it would have far more impact than anything we, or the CTC, or Sustrans, or Transport 2000 can do. And if their equivalents in other areas of sport and entertainment also did it, cycling would experience the kind of popularity which we can only dream of at the moment. As it is, kids will know that Becks has a BMW, a Porsche AND a Jaguar (or whatever).

I can't think of an easy solution, but that is the problem I think we face. If we are to get cycling going in a really big way, glamorising it is much more important than cycleways or worrying about the few who think it might be dangerous.

Peter Hopkins

Response to Peter Hopkins from Ariadne Tampion

Peter makes some valid and important points about the need to glamourise cycling and make it 'sexy' if it is to catch on in the big way that is necessary.

But I feel that he unfairly dismisses the arguments put in 'Quo Vadis?' (Pedal Power No. 36) regarding public perceptions of the dangers of cycling and the poor quality of facilities.

When I first started going out on Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC) clubruns in the early 1980's the response of non-cyclists was usually "Isn't that terribly hard?". By the early 1990's, just before my club days gave way to family riding, the response was almost universally "Isn't that terribly dangerous?"

I would like to suggest a collection of events in the late 1980's which together were crucial in generating this sea change of opinion. First, of course, was Paul Channon's 'biggest road building programme since the Romans' which severed many long-established routes and made others foul with heavy traffic. Then there was the Nigel Lawson property boom fuelled by the imminent withdrawal of double mortgage tax relief for non-married joint house owners. Vast numbers of sprawly housing estates sprang up to meet the exceptional demand for residential property so generated. Residents of the new estates typically found themselves living a greater distance from facilities and employment then before and adopted car dependency as part of their new lifestyle.

Then we had Esther Ranzen and the helmet hysteria whipped up by her infamous 'That's Life' programme. A population with less real-world experience of cycling is more vulnerable to infection by media myths about its safety or danger.

Cycling organisations are blamed for some of the problem. But we must not be too hard on ourselves and remember that prior to the landmark statement by then Transport Secretary Robert Key at the Nottingham Velo City Conference in 1993 it had not been official policy to encourage cycling. Activists arguing for funding for facilities vere obliged to accentuate the dangers for those people who had no choice but to cycle. The engineering philosophies and principles dating from that era have remained stubbornly on file, as we know to our cost.

Cycle facilities on and around the public highway have almost universally tended to reinforce public perceptions of cyclists as second class citizens or irresponsible youths. Think of the cycle path between Loughborough and Quorn. The bumpy surface, the vegetation encroachment, the thorn hedge, the difficult junctions. Then compare it with the spanking smooth surface of the adjacent carriageway. Then think of the new Derwent Main paths and their ridiculous green barriers. Not too bad on three wheels, difficult on a Brompton, well-nigh impossible on a bike with normal sized wheels. If safety were the real driving force they would become standard on motorway junctions too.

Then there is Sustrans and the National Cycle Network. Sustrans has long had a reputation for providing the slowest, least weather-robust and most inaccessible so-called cycle facilities. And whilst they are undoubtedly now listening and learning, they simply do not have the funds to retrofit up-to-date engineering features on their many miles of existing paths. And then there are the NCN leaflets and brochures. They remind one so much of Centre Parcs advertising. Another option for an idyllic family holiday is not the same as a modal shift in everyday transport.

So what is my solution? Paul Goodman, critic of modern childhood, used to say in his talks with young people that one good way to work for a truly different and better world was to act in your daily lives, as far as you could, as if that world already existed. (Quoted in John Holt 'Escape from Childhood' Chapter 28.) And I truly believe that this is the most important thing we can do. Active sincerity informs and inspires. And the more people we inform and inspire, the more likely it is that some of them will have real power. Just think back to the speed of work on town centre pedestrianisation in 1995 and reflect on the fact that it was the new Leader of Council's pet project.

Children in the Cycle Campaign

My name is Sophie Catt and I am 8 years old. I was elected Children's Officer at the A.G.M. My sister Isobel who is 2 years old also comes to the meetings regularly.

Children of all ages may join us. Please come if you are interested. I am going to try and make children understand the importance of cycling. I will also give childrens' views on cycling to the campaign.

National Cycling Strategy Board named (extract from CCN News)*.

The new National Cycling Strategy Board met for the first time in mid January, and a Department of Transport, Local Government & Regions (DTLR) press release after the meeting revealed the identity of the Board members for the first time.

Of the nine members of the Board, only the name of Sustrans' John Grimshaw will be familiar to most cyclists. Those more closely involved with cycling and transport issues may also know Olly Hatch, C-PAG consultant and VeloCity organiser, and Lynn Sloman, formerly of Transport 2000. But few people will have heard of the remaining six members.

According to the DTLR press release, Philip Darnton has been Managing Director of Raliegh UK for the past two years, but spent most of his previous career with Unilever. Professor Sîan Griffiths is Senior Fellow in Public Health at Oxford University. Alan Jones is Chief Executive of Test Valley Borough Council and has written Green Transport Plans. Roger Horton is an elected member of Sandwell Council. William Rickett is the DTLR's Director General of Transport Strategy, Roads, Local and Maritime. Christian Wolmar is a writer and broadcaster specialising in transport.

Only Alan Jones and Christian Wolmar are credited as being people who cycle.

Significantly, the CTC has been denied a place on the Board to represent cyclists, and no members of the Board have regular contact with cyclists through fora such as the CCN/CTC Cycle Planning Conferences.

The NCS Board remit covers England only and it was established to help ensure the implementation of the National Cycling Strategy's (NCS) outputs, aims and objectives. The DTLR says that the Board will focus on key tasks identified annually by the National Cycling Forum (NCF). This will involve co-ordinating and integrating contributions to the NCS from all relevant sectors, and monitoring progress on NCS outputs and targets.

The Board has overall responsibility for the recommendation of day-to-day policy, advice and guidance to local authorities and Government Departments, and will also be responsible for proposing revision to the NCS as necessary in the light of wider developments.

CCN has enquired whether minutes will be available of NCS Board meetings, but has been told that the Board will not be publishing these. Instead, the intention is to post bulletins of actions agreed or completed onto the NCS website from time to time, as well as publishing leaflets on particular issues.

The annual Cycling Forum – to be held this year in early June – will be the opportunity for wider input. The Board will report on actions taken and present a plan for the year ahead. If by then the information is not flowing effectively to those who require it, then this may need to be an issue for debate.

The NCS Board Chairman is Steven Norris, who will be giving the keynote address at the Spring CCN/CTC Cycle Planning Conference.

National Cycling Strategy website: http://www.nationalcyclingstrategy.org.uk/

*Available from the CCN Website -http://www.cyclenetwork.org.uk

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