Discuss the future of UK cycle action

Are you in any way involved in the transport & cycling debate? Are you an advocate for better fairer places putting people at their heart? Are you an academic researching urban structure or sustainable transport? Great! Come to Newcastle on 14 November for this friendly and refreshing debating event – part of the ESRC festival. It’s free. Registration is now open, click here.

The lineup of speakers is stunning. Check out the event page and agenda!

I realised my head. My head was clearly doing its own run-away business again. It had started to give this some more thought already. It made me scribble down messages on little pieces of paper, made me note “twitter debates” running in circles on a trodden path, et ad infinitum at that, and like a ritual.

Yes. We have to move the debate on. With a set of such excellent contributors and plenty of time for exchange, we will do just that.

My motivation, as co-organiser of the event, is that we can stop perpetually running in these furrowed circles, and seriously start getting some organised agreement process going. I am inspired by what the US advocacy does. It gets on with it (see Bike League for example here) – searching out data and turning it into narratives, and finding partners and finding uncompromised ways of working together. I try to compare this to the UK and I cannot yet see the coherence or clarity that our US cousins so confidently and proudly exude. We should seek to enlighten our debate – shining lights upwards, sideways and outwards.

Another motivation, always, is to mutually support and enthuse each other. It can be frustrating, as an academic, to observe big (societal, political) ills but little moving, shifting or action. Therefore, seeing the advocate’s, the campaigner’s, view can be helpful here for ground-truthing and testing your theoretical constructs, solutions and conclusions against the cold-light-of-day reality and practical application. Moving theory into practice, making power differentials visible and others aware should be easier and more achievable by sharing and collaborating. Let’s get this process moving.

I am thinking, as you do

Naturally, we should not hold back to start the debate in the run-up to the day. Get thinking. Get posting (comment below or use twitter etc) and tell us about your experience, your gripe, or a hang-up. Your sticking point, the sticky problem, the crossroads and deadends you have witnessed. What is the (research) question that you always wanted to ask?

Personally, I often feel that our debate gets lost by talking cross-purposes: essentially we are talking about the same thing, but looking at it from different angles or dimensions. When you would now put me on the spot, and press me for examples I would list these, in no particular:

  • the context or the question is not (adequately) set
  • the importance of timescales is often forgotten in the discussion – some things now and others later, some things may take longer but are equally important, which leads to the next point:
  • priorities, some things are more important than others (soft versus hard measures, to what degree we should accept incremental changes) – just because something is hard to do, if it is needed, it still means it is worth fighting for – it may even be the most important aspect of your campaign: provision of a long-term vision, a new future
  • the language we use to describe our wishes and demands, results and conclusions, can be unclear

I hope to see you in Newcastle in November – and that we, together, move on the debate.

For the tweeters, here duly is the event’s hashtag #esrcaad

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