Why cyclists should hope not cope

Hope NOT Cope by Mark Ames of IBIKELONDON

Last night I had the pleasure of hearing from Mark Ames of I Bike London fame at one of the Street Talks.

His message was simple: Cyclists should no longer just cope, they should hope. It reflects a changing attitude amongst cycle campaigners in the past 12 months.

The revolution in cycle campaigning

The stereotypical cycle campaigner is a white bearded male, with a well used bike and a propensity to get in to in depth discussions about issues such as compulsory helmet use and segregated cycle lanes.

No wonder they’ve been long shunned by traditional media.

However, I believe we are now entering a new wave of cycle campaigning. The focus is shifting from campaigning about cycling, to campaigning about the sort of cities and towns we want to live in

Therefore, discussions about compulsory helmet use and segregated lanes are out. They are replaced by calls for more liveable cities.

This is crucially important as it involves a wider group of people.

More people can get behind the idea of our children been able to walk to school, and the idea that we should be able to open our window and not been greeted by the loud noises of cars and lorries speeding past.

After all: Who doesn’t want to live in green, pleasant surroundings?

Joining our causes together

Like it or not, cyclists are still a minority group. Even though attitudes are slowly changing, the general view remains that if you ride a bike, the rest of society sees you as a little bit weird.

Being a minority, makes it difficult for cyclists to influence opinions in Government.

However, under a much wider banner of liveable cities, you join together different campaign messages. From pedestrian campaigners, to social equality groups to Saga. This gives a greater credibility and creates a force to be reckoned with.

What the future holds

The future should mean a shift away from messages such as “You are more likely to die in a car, than on a bike” and a move towards more effective campaign methods such as those seen recently.

Campaigns such as the Love London, Go Dutch have been a huge success. All five mayoral candidates signed up to the pledges of the campaign to a degree. This was backed by huge organised protest rides.

It is very encouraging to see the London Cycling Campaign listen to its members and change its direction, becoming more relevant to the cyclists of today.

The future will also be driven by the growth in social media. That means you and me, and anyone else who shares ideas through blog posts, tweets and Facebook. These ideas are now spreading at a rate never seen before.

As history has shown, it takes a long time for opinions to change. Think for example how much opinions have changed about gay rights in the past few decades. The Dutch have already won their liveable cities, and with time we will win ours.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.


9 Responses to Why cyclists should hope not cope

  1. Jason 07/11/2012 at 12:03 pm #

    I’ve been thinking along these lines for a little while. While you can talk till you’re blue in the face about the benefits of cycling etc etc blah blah blah no one will take any notice until you let them see what our cities could be like if we put pedestrians and cyclists ahead of the car.

    We take it for granted that clogged up, noisy, dangerous and polluted streets are the norm and don’t question how things could be better…yet whenever a formerly busy road/district is pedestrianised (after massive opposition from car drivers) you immediately see the benefit – people want to go there and shops and local businesses prosper.

    And lets be honest, the main reason out of town shopping centres have become so popular the last 20 years or so is because cars are banned from going anywhere near the shops and people that use them…its just a shame you need a car to get there…

    And of course, the vast majority of private car drivers in central london are not from london – yet if you propose a busy london style main road outside their house in their country town you can sure as hell bet they wont want it…but it’s ok for londoners (most of whom don’t own a car) to suffer in their eyes

  2. Alec Leggat 07/11/2012 at 12:56 pm #

    I’ve also been thinking about the connections between cycling and the city we want to live in. Looking at the twitterers I follow, they are either about cycling or local food production and distribution. Both seem to me to be about the kind of environment we want to live in. Both bring great pleasure, have health benefits and are more about community than driving to work and the supermarket. I can see how single issue campaigns can grab the public’s attention and achieve specific change but we should be advocating for changes that allow us to live the kind of life we want to live and that is in harmony with our environment/living space.

  3. idavid 07/11/2012 at 6:39 pm #

    Agree with Mark, most cycle campaigning sounds shrill and tribal thus falls on deaf ears. Time to think Beyond the Bike. Next year we’re planning some Open Streets multi mode events modelled on New York’s Summer Streets that don’t care if you ride a bike, run, walk or scoot – they just put people before traffic. Have a look here http://openstreets.org.uk

  4. Skippy 08/11/2012 at 7:57 am #

    First thing i find on the Internet this morning , is news of Brad Wiggins being ” hospitalized ” by a driver that is unable to leave a petrol station safely ! That on the 1st August , less than 100 days ago , he was shouted down for a less than enthusiastic response to ” ROAD SAFETY Issues ” will show that life can be unfair at times .

    Wishing Brad a Speedy Recovery , i also stated a few of my views in a comment elsewhere :

    Fate is a great leveler ! No matter who you are on a bike , you are in danger of being treated as ” roadkill ” ! Daily , cyclists run the risk of those strapped in their ” mobile box ( Coffin )” busy with less than 100% concentration on the task , overlooking/ignoring , their responsibility to Vulnerable Road Users . SMIDSY is not an acceptable excuse for leaving any VRU , on the side of the road , in pain and here suffering exposure !

    Here in the Zillertal i have been calling on the ” Tourism People ” to use “Ads ” with high profile Athletes depicted riding bikes to remind people THE CYCLISTS are entitled to 1 1/2M clearance , and signalling passing is regulation ! Who can see through the truck or bus that a cyclist is about to fill their windscreen ? Benny Raich , a keen cyclist , World Cup Skier , is the ” FACE ” of the major Austrian Insurance Co. , UNIQA ! Cyclists hit by motorists must cost more than the Ads ?

    IF you have a near miss , do as i do , follow the driver to the next place you are able to speak to them , CALL their employer , so many vehicles advertise their business . Time and date and rego , necessary for the Cops , who whilst unable to prosecute , will make friendly ” phonecalls ” asking their version . Would you want the cops asking why they have a complaint about YOUR Driving ?
    Swift recovery Brad , sorry you have to suffer Pain to get your 1st August message understood ! ”

    Not everyone will chance their luck with motorists , but at 67yo & 6ft+ , wearing a helmet , with blood on my shins , not every motorist will feel sure they have no responsibility for their thoughtless behaviour ?

    Those of you involved/interested in Road Cycle Racing could help move things along by visiting ” Change.org Petition to WADA :


  5. rlin446 08/11/2012 at 9:33 am #

    I commute from Finchley to Watford, so North London surburbia where often I see only 3 cyclists on my jounrey and an abundance of cars. These cars are in a real hurry, late to work I expect, and I have several near misses daily. For example this morning, I had taken a good position in a centre of a busy road to avoid being overtaken on the right only to be overtaken on the left by a van man, eating his sandwich in the car. When I gave him a look, as I passed him moments later, I was confronted with a waggling fist, which I recipricated as I rode off through the traffic. There were several other close passes as well. This is despite wearing and having front and rear lights on.

    Yesterday I was left hooked by another car as I was going past them scraping my front wheel and body. luckily I was going slowly but the driver did not indicate and I did not come off my bike, so just carried on. Pedestrians watched and carried on.

  6. Rob 08/11/2012 at 12:53 pm #

    I think it is hugely important that the various cycling groups join together and develop a single agenda. At the moment it’s all very fragmented – for instance some want off road provision, some want on road – and if the cycling lobbies cannot make up their minds then the government has the perfect excuse not to listen.

    I think the idea of liveable cities is a great way of tacking the problems us cyclists face. For instance, something I would love to see is a London version of ‘Paris Respire’. A number of key roads along the Seine are closed to traffic on Sundays/Bank Holidays between 9 and 5pm, but are still open to cyclists, walkers, skateboards, etc. All the local councils do is put a big barrier across the road with a “no entry for cars” sign on it.

    As a start, I propose closing the Embankment from Big Ben to Tower Hill, and it could easily be expanded to Covent Garden, Soho, the city….

    I know the Skyride is similar but it is marketed as a one off cycling event and so that is how it is held in peoples minds. No need for marshalling, corporate sponsorship, big brass bands or free hi-viz jackets. Just put some barriers up across the road and let people have fun. Once that becomes the norm it will be much easier to change things for better.

    • idavid 08/11/2012 at 1:21 pm #

      Rob, that’s exactly what Open Streets is planning http://openstreets.org.uk

      • Rob 08/11/2012 at 8:27 pm #

        idavid – you’re right, but Open Streets is still an event of sorts. The proposals are based around 3 summer Saturday mornings and although I could be wrong it does come across a bit Skyride-esque.

        I do really like the Open Streets idea, but sometimes I think local authorities sign these kinds of ideas off as a way of ticking the “supporting cycling” box without having to make any real commitment to the cause. A great example is Boris’ olympic cycling legacy: a two day event involving a family fun ride and a sportive. Good fun perhaps, but it’s going to take a lot of them to change peoples perceptions of cycling.

        • idavid 09/11/2012 at 7:01 pm #

          @Rob – perish the thought that Open Streets resembles Skyride! Across the world the best mixed mode open streets don’t need barriers, celebrities, marshals or screaming branding. They are much more spontaneous and per head cost less than 10% of pure cycling events.

          But I agree it’s permanent change that we’re all workjing for. That said, every little helps.

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