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Yesterday we published a guest blog by Carlton Reid on why he thinks the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain is a cycling orgnisation too far. Today Jim Davis one of the founding members of the Cycling Embassy responds…

I was a little surprised when Carlton Reid decided to attack the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain yesterday (and on Valentines Day too). He spoke with a World-weary cynicism of someone who knew all about the history of cycle campaigning in this country. Which is exactly why I want to try something new.

He states that the only Embassy policy that is different to other long-established organizations is ‘segregation first’ but I think this is a large fundamental distinction, if completely oversimplified.

The internet is a wonderful thing. It has allowed people to share cycling and also campaigning experiences. Through such sites as Warrington Cycle Campaign’s ‘Facility of the Month’ examples of dreadful, dangerous cycle infrastructure soon became infamous throughout the campaigning world (it’s certainly a highlight of my month). The internet also allowed people to see what was being accomplished in other countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark. With envious eyes, one could see relaxed, cheerful people in normal clothes on cycle streets and dedicated infrastructure. And then wonder why on Earth this isn’t being done over here, let alone being campaigned for.

The way I see it, cycle campaigners were saying ‘no’ to segregated infrastructure because they didn’t want to see any more appalling examples of what a Highways Department can do on crystal meth. Whilst they had a point (despite cycle organisations helping set the guidelines), I don’t believe that just saying ‘no’ and then pointing the public toward cycle training and the works of John Franklin is enough. This rubbish continues to be built, whether CTC or Cycle Nation or all the local campaign groups that it represents like it or not.

There is a bit of a contradiction in Carlton's argument for us. On the one hand he seems to be saying 'Don’t campaign for segregated infrastructure. It will never succeed. The CTC & Cycle Nation are pragmatists, and they’re steering well clear of it.' and on the other, 'Don’t campaign on the same the things as the CTC & Cycle Nation! You risk division!'. Whilst they make their minds up as to what exactly they represent, we'll try our own way thanks. A way that the public can get behind.

When the Local Transport White Paper was published, it basically threw all cycle funding out to the provinces where local campaign groups would not only have to scrap for scraps, but also fight the creative interpretations that a Council can place on what constitutes ‘Sustainable Transport’. In essence, widening a road can be ‘Sustainable transport’ as it can be seen to improve traffic flow, which in turn reduces emissions. More crucially, I regard this as a massive smoke screen. It allows the Government to say ‘Look over there!’ and while everyone focuses on cycling issues at a local level, they can widen the M25 to the tune of billions along with more motorway extensions and bypasses utterly hostile to anything without an engine.

I would like to see the Embassy focus at national level, to make sure that best practice is adopted as a standard as opposed to just guidelines that are too open to misinterpretation. I would like to see the basis formed from best practice around the World, particularly the Netherlands and Denmark, which currently manages a modal share that we can only dream of over here. I basically want to give local campaign groups a nice meaty stick to wield for a change.

Improving the way in which bicycle users are consulted could be improved dramatically too (for a laugh, try asking your council for a Safety Audit on a piece of cycle infrastructure local to you that you find dangerous). Above all, I want to see cycling placed firmly back on the transport agenda getting a deserving share of the transport spend. I simply don’t see current cycle organisations pushing in the same direction we are, and certainly not looking across the North Sea for inspiration where the benefits go way beyond riding a bike in comfort and safety. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Carlton pointed out that we couldn’t find a cycling ‘Sugar Daddy’ for funding. Quite frankly, the cycling world is the last place I would look to attract funding. We have ideas on where to go and there have been plenty of offers of donations once we get our governance established so the future is very exciting indeed. We are appealing to those that want to cycle as opposed to those that do.

The start up meeting held on the 29th January was very well attended with people coming down to London from such places as Dumfries, Newcastle, Bristol and a handsome chap from Worthing. A saucer was passed around and £80.56 raised to start up a not-for profit company. We came away focused and united and willing to try something new, with slightly lighter pockets.

The Embassy has attracted a lot of support from people that have become angry and disillusioned with current campaigns. We aren't novices at this. I think that the main problem is that Cycling Organisations are fantastic at communicating to the already converted but spectacularly awful at projecting themselves to a general public that couldn’t give a hoot. It’s nice for people like Carlton to attend self congratulatory campaign conferences and trade shows, because it’s easier to ignore the fact that approximately 97% of the population isn’t listening but might like to. CTC were given a large sum of money a while ago to promote cycling through a cinema advert. The ‘Cyclehero’ campaign to me demonstrates how current organisations fail to grasp the public perception of cycling with the ‘Hero’ as a woman looking like a Marvel comic extra. People just want to get to the shops or the library – they don’t care that cycling saves the environment or improves the nations health or can make you look like Catwoman. They would want a transport mode that is easy and direct without the need for safety equipment.

In conclusion, I certainly don’t want to see the Cycling Embassy being in conflict but rather enhancing older more established cycling organizations as we look at the situation with fresh eyes and specific aims. If we’re wrong, then fine. We shall scuttle back to our campaign groups and blogs from whence we came. But if we’re right, and I know we are, the implications for society as well as the older cycling organizations are as numerous as they are fantastic. I believe you have to kick start a cycling culture by representing the 97% that want to cycle as opposed to the 3% that already do.

Jim Davis is founder of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain as well as Worthing Revolutions Cycle Campaign Group and the Worthing Cycle Forum. He was Information Officer at CTC over 2002-2003 and still reminisces about his Raleigh Grifter.

66 comments

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Paul M [359 posts] 5 years ago
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Carlton - who said anyone was disparaging the members? I am one(for the mag and the insurance)so I woulddn't be disparaging myself.

But your "hazard a guess", apart from reading like the Sun accusing those who oppose our Afghan adventure of "insulting our brave boys" rather than the cowardly pols who put them there, begs the question: if that is the case, why does CTC represent them so woefully?

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 5 years ago
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cat1commuter wrote:

I, for one, would welcome a campaigning organisation which is a little less beardy, sandaly and fluorescent, and a bit more ambitious.

Carlton Reid wrote:

You're confusing the professional CTC bods seen at conferences with the rank and file membership.

Ordinary members of the CTC are, well, ordinary.

...

Disparaging an organisation with 60,000 members will get you where exactly?

My post was not a reply to your previous post Carlton. I was not talking about CTC members (I'm one myself). I was talking exactly about the campaigners I have met.

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Carlton Reid [128 posts] 5 years ago
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I have stated in many, many places that segregated infrastructure done well is a good thing.

My beef with CE of GB is the language used in the foundation documents, calling CTC "old" and "failed" and having "run its course."

If these terms of abuse are removed from the finalised manifesto, that would be well worth my time and effort.

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Carlton Reid [128 posts] 5 years ago
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I would also like to see CE of GB's policy on mandatory use of cycle paths.

CE of GB supporter Dave42w has said on his blog: "If we have a Dutch quality and style of infrastructure it does not bother me at all if it is a legal requirement to use a cycle facility."

http://42bikes.warnock.me.uk/2011/02/12/how-to-not-attract-people-to-cyc...

This scares the hell out of me and has always been one of my fears about this debate.

Who decides whether a segregated bike route is genuinely of Dutch quality and therefore will agree with a local council that ALL CYCLISTS should be banned from adjacent roads?

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin

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simonmb [353 posts] 5 years ago
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Who are Carlton Reid and Jim Davis? I mean, I know who they are, but I wonder just who they think they are? Both appear ill-attuned to large portions of the cycling fraternity, and both appear unable to accept that there is more than one way to look at things. Cyclists are a diverse bunch of people - why shouldn't there be a diverse bunch of organisations?  7

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mr_colostomy [29 posts] 5 years ago
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@Carlton

It is worth remembering that whilst I for example support the CEoGB, what is written on my personal blog are not necessarily the views of the CEoGB. For example, in one of my posts I state that Clement Attlee is one of my favourite politicians, but at present I do not believe that the CEoGB has an *official* "favourite politician." It is remarkably underhanded to take the opinion of someone who happens to be a CEoGB supporter and falsely present it as the CEoGB line.

It makes you come across as desperate, which I would like to add, is not the *official* CEoGB line as far as I know.

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Carlton Reid [128 posts] 5 years ago
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Totally agree with you.

As a diverse bunch of people - but with bikes in common - I'd expect us to be tolerant of our differences and not use disparaging terms in foundation documents.

There's a very healthy and diverse number of organisations. In public, they don't call each other names or disparage the work or the history of the others.

In private it's different but that's for another posting.

If CE of GB was founded for the express purpose of lobbying for segregated routes, fine. I might even agree with them. It's the abuse of CTC and LCC that's uncalled for.

"We believe that existing cycling campaigns, with their emphasis on training, exhortation, minimal infrastructure and bike share schemes, have largely run their course."

The CE of GB state they want to reach out to, among others, BikeBiz, Road.cc, Mumsnet and the Association of Chief Police Officers.

But not LCC or CTC.

And not local campaign groups because that would be "treading on toes".

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Carlton Reid [128 posts] 5 years ago
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I didn't say it was CE of GB policy. I asked what the official policy might be given one of the members is willing to cede the right for cyclists to ride on roads should a high quality bike path be provided.

Desperate? You bet I'm desperate. Motorists want us off "their" roads and now here's somebody involved with a nascent organisation who would be happy to sign away cyclists' rights.

Of course, that person doesn't have the authority to do any such thing but I would sure like to have it in writing that dave42's opinions will remain just that.

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ely_peddler [5 posts] 5 years ago
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Carlton, given your stated issue with 'disparaging comments' I found it interesting that you tweeted a link to this article as follows:

@carltonreid: This scares me: segregated route put in, cyclists banned from roads http://bit.ly/ezZo55

Good luck to the CEoGB I hope they manage to get something done.

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mr_colostomy [29 posts] 5 years ago
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@Carlton

Personally, (personally) given the choice between having the De jure right to ride on a 50 mph dual carriageway or being required to use a segregated facility alongside it built to at least a decent minimum standard, I would choose the latter. The reason for this is because I would never, ever ride along that road as it is at present, even though my right to do so is enshrined in law, I am already De facto banned anyway, with no alternative provided for me. As re-assuring as it is to know that I can ride on the carriageway, I still wouldn't actually do so.

Realistically, based on the precedents set in UK law by the construction of segregated pedestrian facilities etc, the construction of such a route would not result in a ban on cycling on the accompanying carriageway, because it would be unnecessary as everyone would simply use the segregated route which was built to at least meet the aforementioned minimum standard.

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mr_colostomy [29 posts] 5 years ago
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@Carlton

"Treading on toes," I believe was taken from a comment I made a while back, except presented in its original context it was actually discussing how we could work with local campaigns.

Interesting.

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slow-cyclo [72 posts] 5 years ago
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simonmb wrote:

Who are Carlton Reid and Jim Davis? I mean, I know who they are, but I wonder just who they think they are? Both appear ill-attuned to large portions of the cycling fraternity, and both appear unable to accept that there is more than one way to look at things. Cyclists are a diverse bunch of people - why shouldn't there be a diverse bunch of organisations?  7

So true, this just sounds like handbags at 20 paces over who is the "right" type of cyclist -

Popular Front of Judea springs to mind

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Londonneur [6 posts] 5 years ago
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I have been riding constantly in London since 1981. Before that I was riding in New York City going back to the mid 70's (think "Taxi Driver" on a bike). In short, I am an urban utility cyclist - to the core.

A few things to say on all this:

- The CTC do some good work but they have never represented me or my aspirations as a cyclist as I have no interest in touring or time trialing. I became a member recently for the insurance alone.

- The LCC have never been attractive to me as I find them too soft. In my view they provide a stakeholder consultation box ticking service to local govt. in return for getting to be the stakeholder. They do not control their local groups enough. Some of them do not do any agitation at all. They often "sign off" on facilities that don't pass muster... in my view.

- The CEoGB, I think, is trying to reach out to people who are not attracted to the existing cycling groups. People like me perhaps. That may be a good thing.

- I had no idea that I was a "Vehicular Cyclist" untill I did the training to become a Cycling Instructor, three years ago. I very much dislike the way VC is described as a "cult" and "rabid" or such like. I have always used the road because there was never any choise. Now I help others to do the same. It is a precious gift that is for me to give to another. Don't dis me!

- The existing bodies have not "failed". They are powerless. We have been failed by successive corrupt government in the sway of powerfull lobbies. It is true that the CEoGB has only aspirations at the moment but that is not a problem... or is it? The segragation vs. intergartion "debate" is utter BS. It's not either/or. Don't dis each other!

- Jim has stuck his head above the parrapet(?) and in true british style has come under attack. The test of the worth of the CEoGB will be its membership numbers... It is true to say that they nay appeal to folk who are not catered for at the mo. We will have to wait and see. For my own part, I think we need someone calling for some of that Dutch stuff over here.

- I suspect it will suffer the fate of all UK cycling institutions. That is to be at the whim of succesive uninterested governments. The fall and rise of cycling will be down to larger socio-econimic factors that no org can effect. In the Netherlands they make decisions based on long term stewardship of their nation. We have never done that here.

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Katsdekker [12 posts] 5 years ago
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How will we get from here to there: http://www.flickr.com/photos/katsdekker/5437787595/.

A ten-fold increase in cycling's modal share in ten years, eh, nine years.

How. That's all I want to know.

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Chrisc [147 posts] 5 years ago
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Not only are cyclists a diverse bunch, like me many are different cyclists at different times. Some days I'm a lycra nappy wearing roadie, mostly happily mixing with the traffic and others I'm in 'civvies' on a Dutch bike pootling to the shops or cruising around sedately wishing I had Dutch style cycling facilities. Having ridden extensively in the Netherlands I know what I'm missing. Would be great to see a little of it implemented here.

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Chrisc [147 posts] 5 years ago
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Katsdekker wrote:

How will we get from here to there: http://www.flickr.com/photos/katsdekker/5437787595/.

A ten-fold increase in cycling's modal share in ten years, eh, nine years.

How. That's all I want to know.

If opec really can't pump any more oil £10 a litre for unleaded by 2015 ought to swing it...

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Londonneur [6 posts] 5 years ago
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Chrisc wrote:

If opec really can't pump any more oil £10 a litre for unleaded by 2015 ought to swing it...

+1

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tko [5 posts] 5 years ago
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They didn't happen to also project how the budget would be divided in 2020 between different modes? Would probably be amusing to follow how closely the budget would follow projected path.

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Joe Dunckley [9 posts] 5 years ago
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Carlton, please, you're getting ahead of yourself and are, I fear, at risk of making a fool of yourself. I would love to have a friendly and productive argument about these things, but that is currently impossible. I know others who have considered jumping in here too, but have decided against it for the same reason: productive debate is currently impossible here.

1. Calm down, slow down, and go back and read the chain of comments to remind yourself what was said by whom and where, and what exactly they meant. You've been emmersed in this argument for several days (and in campaigning for decades). Everybody else has been dipping in only when the time allows. So the things that you're seeing in these discussions are not the same things that everyone else is seeing. Your comments are jumping all over the place. Each time somebody responds to one of your claims the topic suddenly changes to some other irrelevant claim -- I'm sure that's not deliberate, just a result of this argument being distributed across several posts and mediums, but it makes it rather difficult to follow your reasoning. (And I fear you are losing track yourself as demonstrated with the misinterpretation of Mikael's "vroom vroom" comment.)

2. Slow down: the CEGB hasn't even launched yet. It was only even proposed a few weeks ago. The CEGB happens to be engaging in a fantastic exercise in 21st century transparency: it's composing a manifesto collaboratively in full view of anybody who wants to watch. I don't think any conscious decision was made to do something so radical: it just seems natural in the internet age. But I guess more should have been done to make it clear what was happening: you're looking at the drafts and discussions of an organisation that is still in the planning stage. Come back and criticise the manifesto when it has actually been agreed. At the moment you're criticising phrases and sentiment that individuals within the group proposed be in the manifesto but which they have already decided should not be (and have already removed from the latest revision on the website), often for the same reasons you criticise them. Every organisation has meetings where half-thought through ideas are kicked around -- you can't damn them for the ideas that they then reject.

3. Calm down: please re-read everything you have said about Freewheeler's comments and attitude, and your attempts to smear CEGB with them. I can assure you that it is not CEGB that comes across as shrill, unhelpful, and uncooperative each time you raise it.

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Carlton Reid [128 posts] 5 years ago
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Fool. Smear. Shrill. Unhelpful. Irrelevant. Uncooperative.

I'll get my coat.

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stabiliser [7 posts] 5 years ago
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Come on, Carlton. That's a bit pathetic. (Perhaps you can add that word to your growing collection of all the bad words that people might have once used about you).

You don't seem to be alive to the double standards here.

You're quite happy to call us "segregationists", but you simultaneously consider the use of the word "vehicularist" to be an epithet.

You don't like people being disparaged, but you're quite happy to trot out Dave Warnock's comment, quote it out of context, and tweet about it being "scary."

And so on.

This is a debate. It doesn't seem like you've been in one before, judging by how sensitive you seem to be.

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bikecellar [268 posts] 5 years ago
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Many years ago I worked at and commuted by cycle to a factory in the Teams area of Gateshead on the way home/to work I would call into the publishing office of a magazine called Bicycle Times to get my copy hot off the press, it was the mid 80s mtbs were new fangled I had just bought one (a cheapie)to commute with along a Sustrans route Carlton Reid had a pink Dave Yates very upmarket he worked for the magazine. He knows what he is talking about listen to him.

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 5 years ago
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Yes, I have a lot of respect for Carlton Reid. But on this issue I don't get what he is so agitated about.

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t1mmyb [87 posts] 5 years ago
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This is the (public) peer review process in action! If, as a result of Carlton's concerns, the CEoGB's manifesto is a better document, then that's great.

Which makes me think Carlton's actually in favour, and wrote his piece to knowingly invoke the Streisand Effect  1http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect

How many people now know about the CEoGB, that otherwise wouldn't have, because of his article?

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RhodeLong [2 posts] 5 years ago
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Come on Carlton - give the CEoGB folks a chance. You have said it yourself that proper segregated infrastructure can be really good. This is the whole point in campaigning for this, to avoid the excuses for cycling provision we get given in this country. There is a third way apart from integrated on one side or pathetically semi-segregated-cheap-soft measure-council excuses for cycling farcilities on the other.

You are a cyclist, I am a cyclist. We both can make our presence felt and integrate on normal roads. My young daughter is not a cyclist but I want to have no second thoughts about her jumping on her bike and going to school. The majority of the public that make short, single occupancy vehicle journeys are not cyclists either. People need to think it is easy and safe and proper infrastructure is the only way to appeal to the masses.

Build it and they will come. I see no other organisation that is really focussed on trying to achieve this other than the CEoGB and it is not a competition as they have stated that they want to work in partnership with other organisations.

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tomb353 [1 post] 5 years ago
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would tend to agree that CTC and others are not lobbying hard enough for infrasructure that is good enough to get families to their schools and shops by bike. Full marks to those involved in the CEGB for trying to change this. Another year or two on these roads will be enough to kill any enjoyment of cycling in my kids. The way to change this is at a local level but we need a voice nationally arguing for change. The policy doc posted above by cycle nation is so inadequate that it is in itself good enough argument for bringing something like CEGB into being, just send me the membership form.

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misslindsayj [1 post] 5 years ago
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I'm an LCC member and not involved in CEoGB at all but I've been watching its development. CEoGB seems to be reflecting everything I think about cycling in the UK and I wish them every success. I'll be joining as a member as soon as I'm able to.

I've lost count of the number of friends and relatives who express an interest in cycling, immediately followed by "but of course I'd be too scared I'd get killed". I don't blame them. I'm pretty scared myself sometimes. I genuinely can't see how my mother, my girlfriends, and my young cousins will ever even consider starting to cycle without proper segregated routes to places they want to go.

The argument that has been going on here seems pretty lame to an outsider. It seems to be all about one person's perception of being personally insulted, and people on both sides have been needlessly provocative and hysterical. Can we just give it a rest now and let CEoGB get started without hostile tweeting sessions every half an hour? Because everyone has a valuable part to play here, but all of this is making everyone look like a bunch of navel-gazing knobs (forgive the mixed anatomical similies).

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Londonneur [6 posts] 5 years ago
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On reflection, it seems to me that the CTC/LCC and others are primarily concerned with promoting and protecting cycling and that is ALL. That is to say without any political element. An organisation like the CEGB on the other hand is concerned with wider change and sees massed cycling as a means to an end. Is that fair?

If so, then it may be that there is just a fundamental difference that can not be addressed. They are just going for different things at different scales.

I believe that in the case of the CTC, there has been a desire to be explicitly non-political to distance themselves from the association between cycling and socialism that dates from about 50 years ago.

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wildnorthlands [32 posts] 5 years ago
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The view from Cyclenation, the federation of cycle campaign groups:- (we don't have a space between Cycle & Nation, we don't recognise the difference.)

We sent a board member to the inaugural meeting of the CEoGB and he reported back to our meeting on the 5th Feb. Broadly speaking, we welcome a new voice for cycling, especially if it can reach out to new audiences that traditional cycling organisations have failed to reach. We do however deplore the disparaging remarks that have been made about people who have worked hard for cycling in the UK for a number of years and have actually chalked up some notable successes. We intend to keep an eye on developments.

Simon, Secretary, Cyclenation.

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PJ McNally [591 posts] 5 years ago
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Wow, popular article.

I love the CTC. And John Franklin, and my lovely yellow jacket.

But I also agree with Hembrow - cycling remains a minority activity everywhere, except those places with good infrastructure. That's been the pattern seen over and over.

Cycling is wonderful, and resilient, but it's also fairly delicate - it needs support if it's to flourish.

We need some of that good stuff over here. I'll keep cycling in my yellow coat, but there's no way maybe 90% of the population will join me, unless we make it the most attractive option.

And my yellow coat is sadly not that attractive.

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