Coordinator's Annual Report 2012
As presented at Southwark Cyclists' Annual Meeting 10 October:
First of all, welcome to the new faces here tonight.
To say we’ve had a busy year, would be a huge understatement.
After what seems like a long time in the shadows and being somewhat dismissively referred to as an up-and-coming area, Southwark, our beloved but much maligned borough, finally seems to be receiving the attention we all know it deserves.
With districts including Peckham, Nunhead, Elephant & Caste, Borough and Camberwell being extensively redeveloped, Southwark Cyclists have sought to ensure cycling provisions are carefully considered, indeed prioritised, in every one. Of course, that’s not to mention all the smaller, more localised schemes we have been consulting on up and down our diverse borough.
All this has involved (and continues to) dozens if not hundreds of consultation meetings, on-site audits, reading, picking apart and responding to numerous planning applications, draft consultations, traffic orders and design manuals. Then there’s all our publicity and press work.
Our involvement hasn’t always happened in the right order, particularly when it comes to cycle routes during construction works - Tooley Street for one, Upper Ground at present - resulting in some not ideal last-minute solutions. However, this is happening less and less.
I often talk about collaboration, my desire for the convergence of ideas, energy, expertise, resources and experience between organizations, individuals and within our own group. When I took on the role 14 months ago in unhappy circumstances, it was very clear that it shouldn’t or couldn’t be a one person or even ten person show. At the time, not many of our 800 members were involved in the foot work, coming to meetings, helping out behind the scenes or following through on their ideas. This has changed a lot, though obviously it must not stop there.
After all, exciting but often daunting efforts to reduce collisions, respond to planning consultations and lengthy plans, highlight dangerous roads, improve all aspects of road safety including the justice system and rights of crash victims, devise safe routes, educate cyclists, drivers, politicians, the police, TfL (lobbying them too), get more people of every background, age, social status etc. on a bike, and everything else between, are far too important for one or a few individuals to manage alone.
Aside from the need to capitalise on the great wealth of experience out there, including LCC’s, I’ve been particularly eager for us to take advantage of the fantastic public and (at times) political energy that is so abundant at present and use it to benefit our borough.
That leads me neatly on to perhaps our most significant achievement this year, the formation of the Joint Cycling Steering Group with Southwark Council, which commenced its meetings on 1 March thanks in no small part to Councillor Barrie Hargrove, one of the growing number of senior Council figures who have really given us ‘air time’, listened to us, grasped the potential for cycling and the need for decisive action to prevent any more needless deaths on our roads, and who are prepared to be increasingly bold with their commitments.
Meeting once a month, with even more frequent sub-group meetings in between, we have already covered a lot of ground, quite literally too, discussing (though by no means exhausting) a broad range of issues - traffic speeds, cycle lanes, road safety and HGVs, policing, workplace cycling provision, TfL roads, individual queries from members of Southwark Cyclists and any limitations or obstacles getting in the way of all of these. The fact that we are even having these meetings is a massive step forward. Most recently, the group has set out its targets for the next few weeks, months and years, giving us some clear immediate goals as well as a longer term vision. Of course, all of this is work in progress, subject to changes and the group welcomes ideas, suggestions, constructive criticism - it’s not just my group or the Council’s, it’s all of yours too.
In parallel with the Steering Group, the Joint Working Group has devotedly and diligently identified more than 20 green links, alternative quiet routes around the borough which we hope will be used by experienced and novice cyclists alike plus children, young people and all those who don’t yet cycle. A thousand thanks to Alastair, Jeremy and the officers for all their hard work with this.
All the above is not even half of what Southwark Cyclists has done this year. Here’s a brief reminder of what else we’ve done:
Alice Beneyto took on the newsletters both the physical and now the electronic ones too - I’m sure you’ll agree these really are wonderful, a magnificent way of documenting our activities and crucial for sharing what we do far beyond the borough boundaries. Thank you so much Alice.
We took part in important protest rides, supported LCC’s Love London Go Dutch campaign, with Bruce Lynn leading, we are reviewing dangerous junctions with TfL/LCC, we coordinated and marshaled rides for the London Festival of Architecture in June.
Bruce’s Healthy Rides have gone from strength to strength. At the start of the summer, he successfully applied for several thousand pounds worth of funding so that throughout the summer Dr Bikes and cycle instructors could be provided at the start of each ride. Tremendous effort. Let’s see how far we can take these next year.
After more than 12 long years of negotiations, consultations, and getting cross with cross rail, the Rotherhithe Connect 2 development has finally begun. Alastair Hanton has been involved from the start and Bruce Lynn has also be a stalwart, participating in some challenging meetings of late.
I’ve felt honored to work with the creative team to design a portrait bench of Barry Mason, who championed the whole project, and who would have been thrilled see the progress now made.
We’ve upped our social media output and continued to update the new site.
Colin led a Considerate Cycling campaign on the Surrey Canal - well received by pedestrians, less so by cyclists. Now we are scoping out signage, and assessing what else needs to be done to slow down the cyclists using this route - as well as improve the alternative route along Sumner Street.
Cycle parking - in the last 12 months to we helped instal 73 stands and a further 56 are ordered.
London Bridge development - Bill Owen, Alastair and others have devoted a great deal of time consulting and some times challenging the planners here.
Dunwich Dynamo or ddxx - brought forward to avoid an Olympics clash - We found a good new Chamber''s Wharf drop-off site and achieved record coach ticket sales despite an increase in their cost. Southwark Cyclists brought back 873 riders in 17 coaches and 4 bike lorries. Amazing. Massive thanks to Bill, Colin, Patrick and the rest of the DD crew.
We co-wrote the Council’s 200 Club Employer Guide at the start, and were present at their sustainable transport event as well as many other cycling, road safety and political events throughout the year.
We voted for the Mayor of London, didn’t stand for sloppy journalism, made new friends at our Jubilee street parties, got animated about the Games Lanes, then hooked in by the Games themselves (especially the cycling) and asked for the lanes to please stay!
Where else were we?
- Burgess Park open day
- Bermondsey Street Festival
- Mayoral Hustings
- The Big Ride
- At the top of primrose hill for Midsummer Madness
- Exchanging Places
- Exploring Hackney with Cllr Hargrove and team
- CycleSafe Ride to Parliament
- Marshaling the Tweed Run
- Rehearsing for the Olympic Opening Ceremony
- Behind the scenes fixing website issues
- And dozens of fascinating, beautifully planned rides courtesy of Francis Sedgemore and Bill Owen.
I’m sure there’s more but you get the gist.
In summary, this has been a busy, challenging, fruitful year, for Southwark Cyclists.
I have often found myself asking what Barry Mason would say or do and I still feel like I am winging it or filling in time before a ‘real coordinator’ comes along, that I never do, think, plan, research or read enough. I some times find the angry or frustrated voices within our group a challenge but that's not to say they are not welcome and of value. I certainly don’t have time to ride my bike enough, and oh what a steep learning curve it’s been but I’m getting better at delegating, asking for help, trusting my instincts and that if people weren’t happy with me they would let it be known.
I’ll end by saying a profound thanks to all of you who have supported the group and me personally this year. Especially Colin, who really has gone well above and beyond his duties as Secretary, assisting with or leading so many of our campaigns, functions and rides, attending meetings, not to mention keeping wonderfully accurate minutes. It was no surprise to learn that in recognition of his tremendous dedication to volunteering and contribution to communities in Southwark in recent years, he was honoured with a Southwark Stars Award in June.
Here’s to an even more active year ahead and one in which we increasingly see the results of our efforts.
If you aren’t already involved with the best local cycling group in London, do have a think about it - you don’t even have to live in the borough. We need all the help we can get with ride planning, consultations, planning applications, website content, grant applications and so much more. Just drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Coordinator, Southwark Cyclists