You have a new voice for Chit Chat this year – I took over the Secretary’s role from Richard Morris at the AGM in November and recently found that this column comes with the job. My appreciation for Richard’s work in the role continues to grow!
First of all we are looking for a ‘Registration Officer’ – a volunteer to help look after our membership list and to send out emails informing people of rides in their area. The task isn’t huge – probably under an hour a month after the initial set up, but would be very helpful for us. It requires some spreadsheet or database skills, and general affinity with computers. If you want to find out more, contact me at the email address below.
My second topic is another area of cycling that I have recently become involved in – campaigning to get more people cycling and better facilities. James Dawton introduced me to this locally through his role as our ‘Right to Ride’ Rep and his work with Cyclox. Graham Smith, one of the CTC Councillors for the South East, amplified the point with a stirring speech to the CTC Wantage AGM. The final straw was looking at the plans for a revised roundabout at the A34 Milton interchange that improves things for motorists but makes the cycling diversion longer and slower.
Looking in to it further, it becomes clear that road planning in Oxfordshire considers the needs of motor vehicles, but treats cyclists as an afterthought. (The same is true for horse riders and to some extent pedestrians, but cycling is the topic here.) That’s one of the reasons that cycling in the UK lags behind other countries.
It struck me that real progress will only be made if the road planners, the County Council and the Highways Agency (much less so the City and District Councils), start considering cycling as a significant mode of transport to be provisioned for from the design stage. Fitting it in later leads to cyclepaths with lampposts in and narrow on-road lanes that really aren’t fit for purpose.
So what can we cyclists do? Well, if you think from the Council’s point of view, there are a lot of cycling groups in Oxfordshire, doing all kinds of cycling and it is very difficult to know who to talk to, let alone get a consistent point of view when you do. So I started with the idea of gathering interested people from a range of organisations and forming the Oxfordshire Cycling Network.
We held our first meeting in February in Oxford, in the middle of the floods. The fact that 12 of us attended from all over the county is testament to support for the idea and what a resilient mode of transport cycling is. We had people from groups covering A to Z: A40 Cyclists, BikeSafe (Eynesham), CTC Oxon, CTC Wantage, Cyclox, HarBUG, Sustrans, Witney BUG and Zappi’s.
We agreed that it was valuable to work together and our initial aims should be to offer a single point-of-contact to the Council, and to co-ordinate efforts and knowledge to respond to relevant consultations. In the longer term we aspire to develop a ‘cycling strategy for Oxfordshire’ – either with the Council, or independently.
Only time will tell how successful we are, and probably the journey will be never ending. We already know that we cover different types of cycling, and have some different views about the best form of facilities. But we do share a vision of cycling facilities and opportunities that everyone would feel happy using.
As a start, we have set up a Google group and loaded up information and our thoughts on the five consultations that are currently open. We have jointly discovered that the County Council is developing a Cycling Strategy for Science Vale and a Cycling Vision for Oxford. We think it is also considering one for the County. We hope to find out more about these at our second meeting in April, where a representative from the Council who is working on the strategy has agreed to attend.
CTC nationally have also offered their help. They are aiming to help the ‘Space for Cycling’ campaign that has been successful in London to other parts of the country. Mark Slater, Volunteer Support Coordinator, has offered advice and the option to become a CTC campaigning group if we wish to.
How can you help? I’m glad you asked. If you prefer an independent approach, check out the list of consultations on the County Council website https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/public-site/consultation and your City or District Council website and look for the ones that are related to cycling. That’s anything to do with roads, bridleways or ‘rights-of-way’ in general. If you respond with your own views as a cyclist, you are already helping us all. I encourage you also to urge the Council to consider cycling at the earliest stages of a project to get the best impact for the least money.
If you would like to exchange views and help the Oxfordshire Cycling Network, write an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will link you in with the group.
Programme for 2014
We are part way through planning a great programme of rides and other events for 2014. One thing that makes it harder than last year is the growing number of CTC groups and rides in the county. We are aiming for events that will appeal to cyclists in all parts of Oxfordshire and complement these. Others may emerge, but plans include:
- A series of Explorer rides starting on 27th April, on Saturdays or Sundays, usually 30-40 miles in locations covering all corners of the county. These will give you a great opportunity to spin your wheels somewhere new.
- A series of off-road rides on Saturday mornings, about 20 miles each. These will give you a chance to get you knobbly tyres dirty. First one 12th April.
- The return of the Blowingstone 100km Audax on 18th May.
- A Century (100 mile) ride in June.
- A Pot Luck Supper in July.
Keep an eye on the website: cyclingukoxfordshire.org for more details as they emerge, or contact me.