Bicycle Association president pays tribute to Times campaign at AGM

Jonathon Harker
Bicycle Association president pays tribute to Times campaign at AGM

'Despite the demise of Cycling England, the groundswell of interest in cycling is continuing to grow'

This week saw the Bicycle Association of Great Britain meet for its annual general meeting. Normally held in Coventry, this year's AGM was held at the Houses of Parliament.

Opened by Cambridge MP and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group Julian Huppert MP, the meeting saw presentations from Sustrans on the recently held Big Pedal, as well as from Kevin Mayne, development director at the European Cyclists' Federation.

More regular meetings held to solely discuss technical issues and relevant new legislation were also mooted at the meeting.

Mark Bickerton's first year in the role of Bicycle Association president has coincided with a busy year for cycling, something he reflected on in his speech: "In this, my first year as President, there have been several important and encouraging initiatives to promote cycling, as part of our everyday lives, including the high-profile campaign by 'The Times’ newspaper – of which more in a moment.

"But the Bicycle Association itself initiated, last autumn, a very exciting project, called ‘The Summer of Cycling’, and it is this which has led directly to our meeting here today."

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The AGM shared recent import statistics. Bickerton said: "Imports were a bit lower in 2011 than 2010, which was refelected in residual inventory at the distributors and retailers, but averaged out over the two years at approx 3.7m units and £312m."

[In comparison, in 2011 there were 1.94m new cars sold in the UK, a drop of 25 percent from 2003 when 2.58 million cars were sold].

Bickerton's speech in full:

It is a great privilege to hold our AGM in such an august location – the heart of Government – and for that I would like to thank Julian Huppert and Ian Austin, the co-chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group. 

The Bicycle Association has for many years supported the work of the APPCG, and contributes to the cost of the group’s activities, along with the national cycling groups, like Sustrans and the CTC.

In this, my first year as President, there have been several important and encouraging initiatives to promote cycling, as part of our everyday lives, including the high-profile campaign by the ‘Times’ newspaper – of which more in a moment.

But the Bicycle Association itself initiated, last autumn, a very exciting and innovative project, called ‘The Summer of Cycling’, and it is this which has led directly to our meeting here today.

As you will know only too well, the world of cycling is full of highly “individual” people and organisations – all passionate, all committed to what they do, but not always very good at working together.  Our idea, at the BA, was to try to persuade everyone – and I do mean everyone – who cycles and has an interest in cycling, to collaborate together in 2012, even if for one year only.  After all if we couldn’t do it in the “Olympic Year”, when would we?

So we came up with the idea of a “Summer of Cycling”, in which all companies, organisations, groups, charities – and individuals – engaged in encouraging cycling and got together to get more people on their bikes this year.  We approached the All Party Group and asked them, as a truly cross-party organisation with no “special interests” or commercial angle, to become the patrons of the idea, to which they quickly and generously agreed.

The launch of the ‘Summer of Cycling’ was held on March 15th here in the House of Commons, and over 120 people representing over 35 different organisations as well as the media including the Times and Sky attended.

Unfortunately this date was very near to that of the Taipei Show, which meant that a number of BA members were unable to attend (including me) – and that’s why the All Party Group were kind enough to have us here today for our AGM, as a recognition (and, if you will ‘consolation prize’) for the BA’s work in organising this first-ever initiative across the whole spectrum of cycling to create a truly united effort to get thousands more people to take up cycling in this very special year.

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The BA has been active in many aspects of cycling over the past 12 months, as well as creating the Summer of Cycling.

Through Bike Hub, we supported the “Big Pedal”, a project run for us by Sustrans to get a thousand schools to pedal a million miles – Vincent Goodwin is here from Sustrans to tell us more in a moment.

Once again we are also supporting national Bike Week in June, and through our Bike Hub contribution, we were able to persuade Government to contribute £70,000 to its running cost this year.  Without industry commitment, this would definitely not have happened.

The BA is represented on a number of national groups, engaged with many aspects of the promotion of cycling.  With the Minister of Transport, the BA is engaged in the Cycling Stakeholder Forum, and the Cycle Rail Working Group, which targets the opportunities for encouraging cycling to stations, and the “end to end” journey.

Through the Technical Advisory Group, we are actively engaged in consultations on new regulations for electrically assisted pedal cycles, and Government plans to simplify and clarify a range of regulations around cycle safety – lighting, brakes and bells among them.

Much of this goes on ‘behind the scenes’, and is perhaps of limited concern to most of our members who have quite enough to do focussing on the immediate needs of their businesses. The AGM gives us a chance to step back a little, and appreciate the work which the BA does on behalf of the longer-term interests of the industry and the future of cycling. It would be nice to have the resource not only to do this ‘background work’ but also to spend more on publicising it.  We appreciate the support that Jonathan Harker and Carlton Reid at Bike Biz give us in this respect.  Through them, and through our meetings we do try to ensure that members get at least the headlines of the essential work which the Association is doing.  (And, on a personal note, I have to say that even if we did produce more “communications”, I do wonder how many people would really read them?).

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Let us come back to today, and our Parliamentary venue.

I would like to say something about the recent and renewed interest among MP’s in the future of cycling, and specifically the campaign launched by The Times “Cities Fit for Cycling”, and its latest developments.

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Cycling was very privileged to have had a very interesting, successful and well attended debate in the Westminster Hall about Cycling, which was sponsored by Julian Huppert and ably supported by his co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, Ian Austin.

There were 35 Conservatives, 29 Labour and 13 Liberal Democrats who sat in an unusually cross-party seating arrangement.
A point of interest was that I was told the attendance in the main chamber of the commons was not many more than a dozen at the same time.
Some of those who attended included:
Norman Baker,     Lib Dem    Transport Minister for Cycling
Mike Penning,         Con,          Minister for Road Safety
Maria Eagle,         Lab,         Shadow Transport Minister
Jim Fitzpatrick,     Lab,         Shadow Transport Minister
Ben Bradshaw,     Lab,         Patron of APPCG
Sir George Young,     Con        Leader of the House

It might be interesting to reflect briefly on some points in the Times Manifesto that lead to the debate:

Times Manifesto:

1.   Lorries entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, alarms, and mirrors

2.   The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified and redesigned

3.   A national audit to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured.

4.   Two per cent of the Highways Agency budget should be earmarked for next generation cycle routes, providing £100 million a year.

5.   The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.

6.   20 mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas.

7.   Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycleways and cycling super-highways.

8.   Every city, even those without an elected mayor, should appoint a cycling commissioner.

Importantly, the campaign has brought a significant and welcome national focus onto cycling and cycling safely. The Bicycle Association has not specifically pledged its support for these key points, but I am sure I am not alone amongst the membership in personally supporting the campaign.

Statistics
 
As everyone in the BA knows, statistics are always a focus of interest within the BA. The only reliable information we have is from imports, and even that has been subject to some uncertainty as to its total credibility.

However from the figures we do receive, imports were a bit lower in 2011 than 2010, which was refelected in residual inventory at the distributors and retailers, but averaged out over the two years at approx 3.7m units and £312m

Lets hope that with all that is happening 2012 is an even bigger year for bike sales……

Bike Hub

BikeHub is the joint initiative of the Bicycle Association and the Association of Cycle Traders via the Bike Hub Levy. Bike Hub generates funds from the cycle trade and industry to support the future of cycling in the UK.

It has been running since 2003, it is voluntary. About £400,000 is raised each year with contributions supporting cycling participation projects across the UK.

It is Chaired brilliantly by our Executive Director and Past President - Phillip Darnton. We have continued to help fund a number of very important causes, including Bike-it, Bike-ability, the BikeHub App, National Bike Week, Cycling Scotland, Darlovelo, Age Well on Wheels, The Big Pedal and Get Cycling.

I would like to specifically thank all the contributors for their continued support to Bike Hub, and re-iterate that the levy’s funds can be directly linked to the much larger funds from Govt that has been applied to Cycling over the last 5 years.

This was previously through Cycling England before it was abolished, and more recently through the continuation of Bikeability from the DFT and the many other schemes supported through the Sustainable Transport Fund.  

I should be clear here in mentioning Norman Baker the Minister for Transport responsible for Cycling as he is a trusty advocate and supporter of Cycling in the very heart of Government.


Secretariat, Technical and support staff at the BA

I would like to pay tribute to the very hard work put in by the Secretariat and Technical Advisory Group of the BA. Pat continues to provide the smooth running of the Association, and particularly ensures that Phillip Darnton is efficiently and effectivley supported in all his activities.

Alan Cater and the Technical Advisory Group continue to be a keystone for the Bicycle Assoc. They look after members interests on all things technical and we all benefit from whole lifetimes of experience dealing with all the “boring” stuff that many of us find difficult to get to grips with.

I should also mention Mel Payne who continues as Company Secretary to be the guardian of the BA’s finances for which we are all very appreciative.

Excecutive Director:

I can’t believe that it is already a year since Phillip Darnton agreed to become the BA’s Executive Director. In that time he has been working feverishly and has been using his tact, wit and guile to foster the best interests of the Association and Cycle usage with particlular affect in, Westminster and much further afield. He is even representing us at Velo-City in Vancouver in June.

I have noted that his role at the BA is by no means his only one, but wherever he appears he is most reliably Cycling’s strongest advocate.

The fact that he lives round the corner from here, I am sure helps him.

So in a minute I will hand over to Phillip, who can speak much more informedly and eloquently than me on many of the subjects I have mentioned, and will tell you more about The Summer of Cycling.

Conclusion

I would also like to say that in this Olympic year, cycle usage is continuing to benefit from all the great work over the last five years or so that has gone into making cycling more reachable by more people.

It seems that even despite the demise of Cycling England, the groundswell of interest in cycling is continuing to grow and that in large part is due to some key people whose contributions have been so pivotal.

They include Vincent Goodwin from Sustrans, who are responsible for delivering so much for cycling and our other two speakers - the afore-mentioned Phillip Darnton and Kevin Mayne, both of whom have changed their jobs recently, whilst not missing a step representing the best interests for cycling.

The BA plays its part and tries to actively represent members interest as best we can wherever we can.

Thank you

Tags: Cycling England , phillip darnton , bicycle association , mark bickerton , imports , statistics , ba agm

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