Ambassador you're spoiling us…
As recently reported on road.cc, a new organisation, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, has been created to push for a number of aims, including getting segregated bike paths. Here Carlton Reid argues that it risks splitting cycling.
I applaud the idealism and the gumption and the energy of those who want the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain to work.
But when many of the aims of the nascent organisation are already embraced by other, long-established organisations I fail to see how creating yet another cycling body is going to influence anything. Cycling has enough organisations as it is.
In fact, from a national and local Government perspective, the existing breadth of bodies is head-scratchingly bizarre.
Creating a new one helps cycling not one iota. Duplication is folly. The only different policy of the Embassy is 'segregation first', the rest are espoused by existing bodies. If members of the Embassy believe that such a policy could take years and years of hard campaigning and would, in fact, have to be part of a whole raft of pro-cycling measures, their position really isn't that different to existing organisations.
Years and years of hard campaigning takes time, effort and money. The organisation will need a full-time secretariat, and this isn't cheap. Paying for a website and filling it with the guidance documents that are easily found elsewhere online will have little or no impact.
Getting this organisation off the ground will be a time suck for a few committed individuals. 45 people may have turned up for the first meeting but the real work of any such org is always done by 2-3 people. I can see schisms-to-be in the manifesto. It will all end in tears.
I am basing this on my intimate knowledge of similar start-ups and my research into cycling organisations down the ages. When cycling is united (or at least as united as it can be) results are easier to achieve. The millions of pounds given to Sustrans and the millions of pounds given to other cycling projects after the creation of the (long since shelved) National Cycling Strategy came about because cycling groups suppressed their differences and the Government could have relative assurance that cycling wasn't riven with splits. The steering group for the strategy - and later Cycling England - was made up of chiefs from all the major bike orgs.
Government likes 'one voice', not many. Creating a new group, in reality very very similar to existing bodies (apart from the 'segregation first' bit), will damage cycling. Read your cycling history.
The "old" campaign groups have not failed. They have been around a long long time and will be around long after the Embassy has split into schisms and been torn apart when those doing all the work realise the membership, in fact, wants lots of different things but isn't willing to either pay for it or do the legwork.
However, if the Embassy found a sugar daddy willing to spend, say, £100,000 to kick start a secretariat - and the Embassy could generate a great deal of money every year - maybe it could last a few years. No org in cycling will be that sugar daddy. The grants that are available won't go to a body that has aims so similar to existing bodies.
I'm sorry to be so frank here, sorry to pop bubbles, but the future for cycling in this country is too important to be risked by bodies that seem so fluffy and benign but which can do an awful lot of unseen damage. We need to stand together, work together, stick with the organisations that have clout, resources, manpower and history on their side. Lobby locally for segregation, by all means, but don't create a new organisation, and especially don't create a new organisation that criticises the "old" organisations of being somehow lacking in the idealism department.
Channel your energy into helping the existing organisations. United we stand, divided we fall.
Carlton Reid has been a bike journalist for 25 years. He's the executive editor of BikeBiz.com and editor of bike trade levy fund website BikeHub.co.uk. Further opinions about the foundation of the CEoGB can be found on Quickrelease.tv