London’s cycle campaigners get a lot of the credit for the bike boom in London (although some claim the boom is illusory) and there’s no denying there’s been some sterling work done to create more customers for you, but there are hard-working campaigners in other towns and cities, too. I’d like to focus on a group that’s working in my neck of the woods: Newcycling in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Using on-the-ground cajoling and effective social-media work Newcycling has had great success with the CTC’s Space for Cycling campaign. 67 percent of local councillors have been persuaded to sign-up to “Space for Cycling”, far ahead of other cities.
On a recent Space for Cycling ride Newcycling persuaded the leaders of Newcastle and Gateshead councils to join in. Space for Cycling started as a London Cycling Campaign initiative before being taken nationwide by the CTC, with sponsorship from the Bicycle Association’s Bike Hub levy fund. Newcycling’s enthusiastic promotion of the campaign is just part of what they’ve done in the region in the past couple of years. At a “Go Dutch” conference held in Newcastle’s Civic Centre earlier this year, and co-organised by Newcycling, Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle City Council, made a speech that was very positive on cycling and I repeat much of it below. If just a fraction of his positivity comes true Newcycling will have done the residents of Newcastle (and the bike shops in town) an awful lot of good.
“I think cycling is on the cusp of a revolution … We’ve seen an increase in the number of people cycling in Newcastle over the last three years by some 30 percent. And I think that reflects a new approach to the way people want to travel to and from work and how they would spend their leisure time.
“Many areas in Newcastle were built around the time of the industrial revolution and the massive economic expansion of the city in the Victorian period. They were built when the factory or the shipyard, or the place of work, was literally at the end of somebody’s street. So what we have are a lot of our residential areas haven't changed drastically in the last 150 years.
"The industrial revolution left a very deep footprint on our city. And in the post war period much more infrastructure and virtually all of the investment that happened since the second world war was to design around the use of cars. Cars in the 1950s and 60s were seen as the future.
“Cycling challenges around those old orthodoxies, it challenges our assumptions about how we should be organising our cities and how we should go about our business. And this is absolutely the right time to be radical, absolutely the right time to challenge those orthodoxies, because what we have seen over the last five years or so, really is a crumbling of the old orthodoxy around the economy.
“We are seeking to transform our city. And cycling can be an absolute integral to our vision of that.
“I think cycling also transforms the city in a social realm as well. We know full well of the health benefits of people cycling on a more regular basis. We as a local authority now have direct responsibility as Directors of Public Health, services and resources, in the city. And if we are going to encourage more people to cycle that we all have positive benefits for people’s health and well-being.”
Amen to all that! Of course, any broken promises will be leapt upon by Newcycling’s tenacious (volunteer) officials.