Thursday 18 July 2013

Reflections on Holborn

In my spare time, I participate in the Finance & Administration Committee of the London Cycling Campaign, alongside the finance staff and the Treasurer and an independent chairman.  (My attendance record might be better, but I do read the agenda papers every time and feed back comments where I am unable to attend in person).  In relation to the upcoming meeting of the FAC, reading the membership and new subscriptions analysis prompted me to ask, apologising in case it seemed ghoulish, whether it was possible to gauge the impact of events such as Monday’s tragedy on recruitment.

It seems that it is.  Without going into specifics, the flashrides at Aldgate and Russell Square do appear to coincide, at the very least, with a marked up-tick in the daily rate of new signings.

Now, nobody, least of all the LCC, wants to acquire new members through such avoidable tragedies.  However, the response to these events demonstrates that LCC has risen to the challenge to provide opinion leadership and advocacy on behalf of all London’s cyclists, organising the events and liaising with the police to make for maximum impact with minimum excuse for motorists to bellyache about the delays and congestion caused, or for any other opinionated old fart to mutter about “bloody cyclists”. 
As I am a member of and volunteer for the organisation, I suppose you might well comment, to borrow Mandy Rice-Davies’ immortal line “well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?” but it is true.  If you cycle in London and haven’t yet joined LCC, do it now, and here's how.  You get a magazine, third party insurance cover and other benefits, plus you enhance the financial strength and influence of London’s principal cycling advocacy group.  Of course, cyclist opinion varies widely and not all of LCC’s positions will appeal to you – they might be too “Dutch” for some, and not Dutch enough for others – but I have no doubt that organised protest and pressure is essential if we are to see anything change.  That’s what it took in the Netherlands, four decades ago, and look where it got them!

And by the way, don't forget, if you are an income taxpayer, complete the gift aid declaration here.  At no cost to you, LCC can collect from HM Revenue & Customs the equivalent of a further 25% on the subscription you have paid.

Dressing up

Making my way to Russell Square on Tuesday evening, I happened upon LCC Chief exec Ashok Sinha, making his own way there.  He was dressed in a sober suit, white shirt and tie, riding in an upright position on a classic roadster with a basket on the front.  The only clue he wasn’t a lawyer heading back to chambers at Lincoln’s Inn was the “Space for Cycling” flyer attached with cable ties to the front of his basket.  (Actually, there is no reason why a brief from one of the Inns should not have been on his way to the flashride, as I see quite a few of them moving around the courts system on their Pashleys.)

Generally though, I can’t help feeling a little disappointed about the dress standards of most who came along to the flashride.  It is not a criticism of them – for one thing, the weather was not exactly comfortable for wearing a lounge suit (certainly I wasn’t wearing one) , and for another, most London cyclists are commuters and their focus is on a fast and comfortable journey followed by a shower and change.  However, I wonder if the event would have more impact, on onlookers and on a TV audience or newspaper readership, if there were more office clothes, and fewer  helmets, in evidence.

I suppose I should be grateful for small mercies, that the mode du jour is more tee shirts and cargo pants than skin-tight red-and-white lycra, but it would be nice if we all looked a bit more “normal”.

Road manners

Another thing which struck me about the flashride was just how well mannered it seemed overall.  Vehicles held to a standstill on Southampton Row and Theobalds Rd seemed unusually patient, presumably knowing that no way were they going anywhere until this was over so no point fretting about it.  Pedestrians crossing the road seemed tolerant of the dense, but very slow-moving peleton crossing their paths.

In fact, the only conflict I saw was when one of the flashriders, arriving ahead of the start of the procession, took it upon himself to block the passage of a bus on the south side of Russell Square.  Several of us called to him to stop being an arse – if there is a “war” between cyclists and motorists, then bus passengers are certainly not our “enemy”.