Wednesday 5 November 2014

Thoughts from a new member of Cambridge Cycling Campaign

Joined @Camcycle yesterday specifically to support their resolution to adopt their own Space for Cycling as something to measure proposals for cycle provision against. And it was passed, despite society grandee Jim Chisolm (in my view wrongly and triumphantly) implying that the specific wording of the proposal watered this down. If Jim is proved right and this is not implemented as a tool to measure all such developments against, I think the Campaign will be a laughing stock.

A few reflections on the AGM (my first Cambridge Cycling Campaign meeting in donkeys years) from a new member...

(1) The attendees are, for the most, chaps. Older (40+ if I'm being generous), middle or upper class (posh, as you'd call them in my home town), educated, and everyone was (I think) white. The kind of people who look like they read the Daily Mail so they have a good reason to be offended. People who know what hummus is. There's a really big problem with the campaign group claiming to represent cyclists in Cambridge, who are nothing like so homogeneous. There are a few younger folk and a few ladies - but its not a good mix by any means. Cycling to work today I saw hundreds of other cyclists - white, black, Chinese, South Asian,young, old, women, men... you know, the kind of mix of people you see every day in one of our most cosmopolitan cities. I've always been concerned that the Campaign is assumed by so many to speak for 'cyclists', and I'm more bothered by that now than I ever was. 

(2) Voting. Well, I get that having a system that allows you to 'reopen nominations' if no one standing for a post is approved, or why you'd need a system for ridding yourself of bad committe members, but the idea that you can vote for or against a candidate? That ain't the way. Sorry guys, but I suggest instead that you need a system whereby you allow the committee to suspend membership thereof with, say, a 2/3 majority committee vote, of any committee member who has brought the organisation into disrepute, which I suspect is what you wanted to achieve. Please, ask the members if they'll grant you that. 

(3) Ambition - its good to see that there are plans to go bigger with a new employee for the campaign. Its good to see that the changes to membership fees were implemented to allow that to happen. I'm not entirely convinced that the job, as briefly described, is as yet fully thought out, but I wouldn't expect that it must be yet. Good idea.

(4) Martins summary of whats happened in the past year. Far too diplomatic. The Catholic Church and Perne Road represent stealing cycling funds and spending them on cars - just come out and say it straight. The County have some decent(ish) ideas but please call bullshit when you see bullshit. You've done some good stuff - but I'm left wondering what you gain from not being far more forthright in criticism of utter crap. The response the Campaign issued to the Catholic Church junction was good - time perhaps to write a very scathing post-mortem thereof?

All in all, if Space for Cycling becomes a yardstick against which roads and cycling provision are measured, this marks a coming of age for the Campaign, as it moves on from lilly livered, bland acceptance of sheer rubbish foisted on us in the past out of fear of rocking the boat and losing even the value-less facilities we have. This is where the Campaign becomes what cyclists need, where it might really start representing the broad mix of cyclists here, and where it may even see a broader demographic join up. Or, its where it fails to do so - and we look on jealously while London starts to build the infrastructures that have been eloquently described by Cambridge Cycling Campaign folk in Space for Cycling. 

It'll be interesting to see.


  1. Should be : People who know what is hummus.

  2. 2) The point was to empower members to have a say in who was on the committee, rather than have people complain after the fact that it's not what they wanted.
    I specifically disagree with your proposal. I believe the committee can already do what you say, but I think that is more open to group-think and excluding individuals than something open to all members to express an opinion on.

    In any case, the voting proposals were open to all existing committee members to comment on, but somehow this didn't get brought up until the meeting, which just wastes everyone's time.

    In the end, however, I do think we got a clear mandate for everyone who is on the new committee.

    1. I don't believe that this can or should stop people complaining after the fact - its a minority of members who turn up, discussion re. each committee member at the meetings is somewhat limited, and questioning thereof before the vote virtually non-existent. It'll remain valid for people inside or outside organisation to criticise someone elected even with a big majority when only a small minority cast a vote. You wouldn't hold back from mocking Graham Bright for his mistakes just because he won the PCC election...

      That the committee members quite vocally and passionately disagreed on this across the room, leading to a somewhat muddled and hurried vote on how to hold the elections was, I think, unfortunate. Smacked somewhat of there being a grudge or unsettled business.

      Clear mandate or not, I'm not sure it was helpful.

      I'm more concerned that those who turn up are so poorly representative of the broad spectrum of cyclists we have in the city. People who have three kinds of wine vinegar and balsamic in their cupboards but no malt vinegar. Well intentioned, good people who are collectively unrepresentative. Having a committee member tasked with school liaison is a smart move in this regard, and I hope Space for Cycling might help with that too.

      And hummus makes you fart. Fact.

  3. And hummus is ace, obviously.