For those not familiar with the story, I give the background. The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain was founded by Jim Davis, now the chairman, early last year. Its early members were mostly cycling bloggers who had often used their blogs to criticise the standard of cycling provision in the UK and the lack of safety for cyclists on the roads. Some were, or had been, active in existing cycling campaign organisations, some not. Apart from being highly critical of government policy towards cycling, they were all rather dissatisfied with how existing cycling organisations had treated the "infrastructure issue". All had noted the increasing information and evidence available on how high cycling levels have been achieved in many European towns and cities through deployment of cycle infrastructure that has no real parallel in the UK, and all were dissatisfied with the response of the existing UK cyclists' organisations, which tended to either to ignore or downplay the role of quality cycle infrastructure in creating these cycling cultures, preferring to concentrate campaigning around issues of cycle promotion, cycle training, law-enforcement and road user behaviour.
|Ride round Manchester at the second Embassy meeting|
So a group of bloggers acquired a collective website, a constitution, a mission statement, a committee, and a bank account, and started meeting both virtually and physically to make plans. They were then no longer a group of bloggers, but a real campaign. There is still no membership fee to join the Embassy, though donations are requested. "Members", or "Ambassadors", are those who have registered an interest on the website, and there are no tangible benefits of joining, in terms of insurance or any of the other usual inducements. The Embassy is thus not in direct competition with other cycling membership organisations; rather, it seeks to augment their efforts.
After the formal launch of the Embassy, with participation from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (a real embassy!), the next major event was the study tour to Assen and Groningen in the Netherlands, in company of David Hembrow, for members to get vital direct experience of how the Dutch engineering solutions actually work. This experience was documented in many photos, videos and write-ups.
|The Embassy launch, September 2011|
Forward to this week, and the Cycling Embassy has had its Policy Bash. The policies can still be commented-on and influenced by any member – see the Embassy's Forums. Some of the many topics covered were cycle helmets, shared space versus separation by mode, one-way streets, pedestrianisation, permeability, roundabout and junction design, purpose of roads and streets, and character of networks. Also under discussion was strategy of the organisation: how to build alliance, and with whom, how to leverage funding for cycling infrastructure, how to create a resource of design expertise, how to best influence politicians and civil servants, and so on.
|Bashing out policy at Kensington Town Hall|
There are clearly roads that are not suitable for cycling on, where parallel provision must be made, and others where parallel provision is not necessary, but other changes are. A clear consensus crystallised that the primary considerations must be the desired functions of different roads and streets, to be established first, before decisions can be taken on how cycling should be accommodated on, or adjacent to, those roads and streets, and, also, where the cycling through-route network is supposed to be, and how those streets relate to this – are they part of it, or are they not, but giving perhaps access to homes, shops or workplaces. Answers on priorities, and sharing versus segregation, must be related to these questions.
|Bashing Milngavie roundabout into a more Dutch shape|
It is clear that the work of the Embassy has only just begun. But a solid start has been made, and, just as importantly, other organisations are taking notice, and some are following a similar path. These the Embassy is very keen to work with. Cycle campaigning in the UK has now got serious.