Much has changed over the last 12 months since the last annual general meeting of the Bicycle Association. Last year the focus was on the successes of the Cycling Towns and Cities programme, and the positives created by the industry Bike Hub levy, this year talk inevitably covered the effect of the end of Cycling England, which officially closed its doors in March this year.
The end of the quango and its pot of money dedicated for cycling presents the industry with new challenges, in the words of outgoing Bicycle Association president Philip Taylor: “Due to the draconian cutbacks of the present UK administration, a new challenge stands before the industry and that is how to foster an exchange of ideas and interests, between the Government and the bicycle industry, which has to a large degree now been attenuated.”
The retiring president also posed the question: “How and who can now offer advice to the towns and cities – particularly to the benefit of cycling – regarding access to the £560 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund.”
In short, how will the industry fill the gap left by two wheel advocacy success story Cycling England?
BIG SOCIETY CHOOSES BIKES
The AGM heard the good news that the lessons learnt from Cycling England’s Cycling Demonstration Towns and Cities project – which found that investment in cycling has a benefit to cost ratio of three-to-one – are being adopted locally. The vast majority of bids for the Local Sustainable Transport Fund have a cycling element to them, with some directly implementing similar schemes.
“People have learnt from Cycling England,” said new executive director Phillip Darnton. “Bids have been based on things that have been proven by Cycling England through the Demonstration programme.”
But even if lessons have been learnt locally, there are bigger tests ahead. Taylor used his last speech as BA president to discuss the challenge of a growing population and the pressure the shift to living in urban areas has put on the roads and transport infrastructure.
“According to the World Bank, 3.3 billion people now live in cities worldwide. By 2030, 60 per cent of the world’s population will inhabit cities. Every day almost 180,000 people take up residence in cities. In the developing world 60 million people move into cities each year and, unless there is a dramatic and unforeseen population crash, this rate will continue for at least the next 30 years.
“The result is that city populations are growing faster than infrastructure can adapt and not only does this cause health risks and social problems, but also environmental concerns. Air quality worsens with the result that worldwide one million people die each year as a result of urban air pollution. Traffic increases, leading to more congestion and more road crashes. According to the World Health Organisation, a staggering 1.2 million people die, and as many as 50 million are injured, in urban traffic crashes in developing countries each year.”
“And this statistic is unlikely to change as a result of us all driving electric cars - however heavily subsidised.
“80 per cent of the total UK populace – that’s over 50 million – is classified as urban dwelling and urbanisation here is forecast to grow at 0.7 per cent – 350,000 people – per annum to 2015.
“Integrating urban and suburban public and personal transport has never been such an important, global topic.”
The challenge is to ensure that cycling is part of the solution.
Taylor concluded his tenure on a positive note, stating that: “Although cycling in the UK may still not be what is was in the early 20th Century in either an industrial sense, or in ownership and usage terms, it is, I am convinced, on an unstoppable upward trend that can only be positive for all involved in the bicycle business.”
Philip Taylor retired from his position of BA president at the AGM. He said: “I am pleased to be able to hand over my post to Mark Bickerton following on from a period that has seen sustained industry growth, increased levels of cycling in sport, leisure and commuting, as well as political recognition of cycling’s benefits upon health, transport and the environment.
“I am therefore in no doubt that he will be able to guide a still strong Association, safe in the knowledge that cycling will continue to have increasingly greater prospects in future.”
The AGM also saw the announcement that ex-Cycling England chair Phillip Darnton would be taking on a new role at the BA as executive director. In the new position Darnton will promote cycling and also Bike Hub, the cycle industry’s levy fund.
The new president said of Darnton’s appointment: “I am sure the appointment of Phillip is going to be a fantastic strengthening of the Bicycle Association, and will give him a continued platform from which he can work his magic for benefit of the UK bicycle industry, trade and the continued promotion of cycling.
“His tireless work over the last few years have benefited everyone who has had anything to do with bicycles in the UK, or is ever likely to have anything to do with bicycles. Knowing that we have his skills and personality at the centre of the Bicycle Association going forward is something that I am absolutely thrilled about.”
Bickerton also paid tribute to the outgoing president: “I would like to thank Philip Taylor again for all his very hard work as President over the last four years. He has put an enormous amount of effort into ensuring that the BA has continued to be an organisation that the membership can be proud of and benefit from all its activities."