Cycling Embassy of Great Britain held its inaugural meeting on Saturday 29 January at the Old Street café, Look Mum No Hands. WF Cyclists Shamus Kenny and Mat Schmidt attended.
The CEGB is a grass-roots organisation which aims to address the pent-up demand for safe cycling in Britain by working towards dedicated cycling infrastructure, and by concentrating on the majority who do not cycle. The Embassy intends to work with other organisations, charities, private companies as well as local authorities and the Government.
CEGB has been borne out of online discussions between cycling bloggers and their readers, and was brought to life formally by the efforts of Jim Davis, a former CTC campaigner and the author of the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club blog. Much of the online ferment which brought the Embassy about can be traced back to the blog of Holland-based David Hembrow.
It was David who first publicised the notion of subjective safety: objectively cycling is already safer than many other activities we would never consider dangerous, including walking. But statistics can’t change how people feel. And when the roads are perceived to be full of fast, unpredictable, roaring missiles, the decision is obvious and the reasons for low cycling in Britain become apparent.
About 40 people attended from across the country. That is a very good turnout for a cycling meeting, particularly as it was only promoted through internet blogs. Attendees included seasoned campaigners, representatives from Cycle Nation and Cambridge Cycling Campaign, engineers, planners and a number of prominent bloggers.
What were the main themes and issues raised?
The discussions were framed around the drafts of the mission statement and manifesto.
1. Everyone should be able to cycle ‘without fear or harassment’ but ‘Britain’s planning and transport policies’ mean cycling is currently for ‘the quick, the brave and the stubborn’.
2. 30-40% trips made by bike is possible with ‘decent safe bicycle infrastructure, in line with the best practice around the world.’ A mantra often repeated was ‘Build it and they will come’.
3. 30-40% trips made by bike is possible if the association is broken between cycling and lycra, helmets, and hi-viz, as well as ‘cyclists’ as a defined sub-group of society.
4. CEGB will speak to the 98% Britons who don’t cycle, with their concerns about transport as the starting point.
5. CEGB will work to redefine sustainable transport as walking and cycling; road safety as reducing danger posed by motor traffic, design standards as such as have proven to work elsewhere in the world.
6. The CEGB website will be an information resource for campaigners with facts, stats and a catalogue of best practice across the world. A Wiki site will be used to enable people to share and update information and then take it away in as campaign tools.
During the meeting it was decided that CEGB would become a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee. The official launch will be held on 1 April 2011. As a national body, it will hold meetings around the country.