The Cycling & Society symposium last summer in Newcastle, remember it? The powerpoint presentations have started to be uploaded. Have a look here (and contact me if something were a bit missing or wayward). Helping to organise the event last year, I learnt a few things about cycling academics: they are diverse, they distinctly divide into sociology (why and how) and engineering (how and what), and they are dedicated and level people. If you were in attendance, you may even spot yourself in one of the infra safari photos here. Above all, I felt warmly welcome. So I can hardly wait to officially become part of that constructive crowd, interact and get inspired by its buzziness and energetic exchanges.
Pondering the general pedal constituents… its lobbying and campaigning (advocacy and activism) effort, and in particular campaigning ideologies, techniques, theories and methods… just like academics, the cycling community (people who cycle) is diverse and is dedicated to what they would call ‘their’ cycling cause. But that alone doesn’t make us campaigners, and so, not surprisingly, many aren’t. Oftentimes, their cycling cause is closer to home than the call for mass-cycling conditions and cycling infrastructure as the means to make that happen. Their cause is cycling for fitness, or leisure, or getting psyched up by cycling in the mad British traffic. Their activity and type of cycling makes and shapes them on a very personal level.
I believe that we do need ever more campaigners and spokes-personnel, if only to reach a breaking point where it becomes totally acceptable to say “Cycling? Under current conditions I am scared (for my children) and I want functional cycling infrastructure”.
But I am not sure we can quite so easily source the campaigners from the current cycling community without training, education and awareness about campaigning. In the meantime, I hope that the knowledge community does their bit commenting on better cities and fairer societies by freely offering their findings, conclusions and theses to the media and wider public for debate.
In the end, it perhaps is about harnessing and coralling cycling’s diversity. And maybe there are quite a few overlaps that are left to be explored. In a way you have to keep your eyes on the horizon, to see the sunrise.