2014 AGM with Roger Geffen

I can’t remember an AGM of any kind in any organisation that rattled along quite as briskly and purposefully as this year’s BCyC AGM at Roll For The Soul. Well done Committee!

Before the main event we had 2 minute reports in PechaKucha style wherein Bristol’s 20mph roll-out, Our Road Justice Campaign, Cycling Infrastructure, Planning Consultations, South Gloucestershire, Rides, Communications, Membership and The Cycling Manifesto (Freedom To Ride) were flashed before our eyes and ears. The Treasurer, with probity in mind, was more detailed and the election of Committee members was a little less furious, but we finished all that essential business with plenty of patience left to hear what Roger Geffen, Campaigns and Policy Director for the CTC, had to say in the headline slot. Eric Booth’s final words on our Cycling Manifesto had suggested that the Bristol Freedom To Ride campaign was about to become the national Space For Cycling Campaign. The same message, but bigger. The challenge was there for Roger Geffen to take.

He started by recalling that only five years ago the outlook for putting cycling on the national agenda had been looking pretty gloomy. Things are very different now. Since Kaya Burgess’s Cities Fit for Cycling campaign everything has changed. That campaign, particularly because it had been launched in the Times, made an immediate impact in Parliament. It was the catalyst for the formation of an All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group which initiated a remarkable debate in Westminster Hall where 73 MPs were listening avidly, as well as speaking, in a serious discussion of cycling. The transport minister Justine Greening was sympathetic and gave responsibility for following the initiative up to Norman Baker. Baker, said Geffen, despite his relatively weak position as a Liberal Democrat in a less powerful Department, fought hard to get some money to get cycling established as a part of national political scene.

The Cycling City Ambition Fund was the immediate consequence and eight cities, Bristol included, got money to spend and there was an increase in the activity of local campaign groups as a result. This marked a significant change in the zeitgeist. A Parliamentary Enquiry was set up and the Government took it seriously (in part because the Times was supporting it) and a summary report was published in April 2013, outlining 18 recommendations: Get Britain Cycling.

Against this background Roger gave us an overview of the CTC’s Space For Cycling (http://www.ctc.org.uk). It is, he said, a concerted effort to get political support at local and national levels for focussed spending on the transport infrastructure to bring about that big increase in cycling that will bring benefits to all. The principal themes are: Funding, Cycle Proofing (a term that covers all aspects of design and integration with planning and maintenance work on all transport infrastructure), Safety and Leadership.

The key message that the CTC want to get out to Councillors and MPs in the first phase is that cycling is for anybody, anywhere, for all kinds of journey, and that increased levels of cycling will bring benefits across the board.

The campaign brings a set of practical solutions that politicians and the general public can relate to three objectives:

– Protected space for cyclists on busy roads
– Reduced motor traffic volume and speeds
– Cycle routes free of motor traffic

With the general shape and rationale set out the meeting was opened up to thorny questions and spirited discussion. It was clear that Bristol Cycling Campaign has already anticipated and moved on a lot of the themes in the CTC’s agenda. We might also note that many on Bristol City Council, as well as Mayor Ferguson are more or less ready to sign up for the whole package as soon as the funding is made available.

May 17th has been designated as a day for nationwide rides in support of Space For Cycling and hopes were raised that Bristol would be making a big contribution to the event. Confidence and political courage would be needed.

Are we ready?

Sam Saunders