From Little Acorns……Or £80.56.

Old Dutch on the train. Next to the automated toilet. Not exactly the Orient Express but...

And so it came to pass that on the 29th January 2011, at Look Mum No Hands on Old Street, London EC1, a new campaign movement was started. A small area of the cafe had been set aside as I anticipated about 20, which would be exceptional for any cycle campaign. However, this is not just any old cycle campaign and double that figure turned up cramming round tables with only the barest hint of lycra and I have to doff my hat to those that stood for an incredibly long time. Reports are are already appearing from the delightful Bristol Traffic team and Goodbye Jacques (thanks both for attending). Some key points are as follows;

  • The Mission Statement and Manifesto are going to be merged into a formal document for download. This obviously has to happen ahead of the launch but with the enthusiasm, ideas and talent I was met with yesterday, I don’t anticipate any problems.
  • The launch date has been set for Friday, 1st April 2011. Venue to be confirmed.
  • Cycling Embassy of Great Britain is going to be a not for profit company. I offered to set up the account and was startled when a saucer was instantly passed around the group and £80.56 was raised. I shall be meeting with my Bank Manager next Saturday morning to formally set up the account with my own contribution (and of course, any further donations would be gratefully received).
The Company Accounts - January 2011
  • With every new company comes a new structure. Roles are going to be defined for two Directors, Secretary and Treasurer. I shall be Chief Executive Director and Overlord. Alright, I made that last bit up. However, a sub-committee has been set up to look into governance. Findings shall be reported back to the Forum so everyone will have a chance to comment and nominate board members.
  • It has been requested that the website expand with a collaborative wiki so instead of going over topics again and again, people may be referred to the relevant wiki page (where the relevant information and references may be found on Dutch infrastructure or accident statistics for example). It shall also facilitate open document editing by Ambassadors.
  • A list will be entered into the minutes of charities, companies and organisations that we shall be hoping to work in partnership with.
  • The minutes, complete with actions and apologies shall be published during the week (I apologise for the tardiness but I have to make sense of hours of audio recordings and notes so please bear with me).

It would be fair to say that I was quite overwhelmed by the level of support I received yesterday – in particular Sally Hinchcliffe for basically becoming Co-Chair of the meeting, David Callaghan who supports the aims of the Embassy to the point that he flew in from meetings in the USA via our meeting in London before heading home to Bristol, Karl McCraken who had travelled down from Newcastle armed with two dozen bagels he had prepared for everyone, Danny from Cyclists in the City, I am not a Cyclist, Fatbob (Geoff) and of course Mark Ames from ibikelondon who, with Joe Dunckley from At War With The Motorist led our first ‘Infrastructure Safari’, seeking out the good, the bad and the ugly of London cycle facilities.

Mark Ames holding court. Lovely speaking voice.

It’s also wonderful to hear that the first Wheelers Brunch in Manchester went very well. I look forward to hearing more as the week progresses but for now I’m going to conclude that I had a wonderfully exhausting day meeting lots of like minded people as well as representatives from established groups such as Cambridge Cycling Campaign and John Mallows from CycleNation to ensure we’re not treading on old toes. I have a lot of high hopes now for the Embassy and with the incredible groundswell of support garnered so far, we are going to succeed.

My New Mug. For coffee, Muscadet or Carlsberg Special Brew depending on the mood and budget.

And, no, I have no idea whether Freewheeler was there but I hope he or she is with us in spirit and Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest is right; we do want what the Dutch have got 🙂

Thank you all.


31 thoughts on “From Little Acorns……Or £80.56.”

  1. All I did was turn up – if anyone deserves thanks, it’s you!

    I have been sufficiently inspired by yesterday’s meeting to set up my own blog – little more than a title at present – to which I will add a report, and, of course, further musings. Once I’ve learnt how to use wordpress.

    On the train on my way home, I got into a conversation with the guard, who had admired my bicycle. He asked me if I had been cycling around London. When I replied that I had, he smiled and told me – in the nicest possible way – that I must be a bit of a nutter.

    I think that’s it in a nutshell.


    1. Mark

      Glad you made it. Funnily enough I got caught up with a load of Brighton & Hove Albion fans on the train back to Worthing and it was quite surreal the way they were admiring the Old Dutch, asking questions about it and wondering why no-one in Britain makes bikes ‘like granddad rode’.

      Good luck on the blogging. It’s almost as cathartic as riding a bike.


  2. Thank you for organising it! I’m glad I made up my mind to get on the 0916 train to London at about 0830. 🙂

    I ran into a friend at the supermarket today who was very supportive of the idea of the Embassy as I explained it. He fell off his bike a few months back after being cut up by a van, and this seemed to kill off his desire to ride, which was sad after he’d only recently rescued his bike from the bindweed it had become entangled in.

      1. I’m really glad to hear it went so well. A PayPal account would be a good idea. I’m strapped for cash at the moment but would be happy to eBay some spare bike bits to make a contribution.

        The Wheelers’ brunch went well, we had 17 people, including a representative from the Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign, all of whom were either interested in, or already knew about the CEoGB.

        May I also suggest that we standardise a hashtag for the embassy (such as something short like #CEoGB or #CEGB).

  3. Great write up of the events so far.
    I expect you had more than 400 cyclists with you ‘in spirit’ on the day – if the Embassy proceeds as we’re all hoping then this number will easily turn into thousands.
    I know the UK really needs this and I think the timing is perfect; so many people have been encouraged back to cycling – for health, financial and lifestyle reasons and with the marketing of active travel – yet so many of these people have been scared off the roads, sometimes with scars to prove they tried.

    It’s a midweek day, but a Manchester/Sheffield meeting could be held at teatime after this conference:
    Urban Cycling Beyond London Conference, Sheffield, 30th March 2011

    My first donation is ready too – hope to see you in the wiki….

    1. Thanks Jonathan for the heads up on the Conference! I have made a note of it. I would be happy to attend a Manchester/Sheffield meeting.

  4. I really wanted to come down to LMNH but I’m a family guy and well you know how that goes… You will get a lot of support for what you have started and I am looking forward to seeing the writups of the meeting. The UK cycling scene REALLY needs a shake-up. The aspect of calling for child safety seems a good way forward to me. While this govt is in power I fear that it’s going to be a tough challenge tho.

  5. I wish the Embassy all the best. Great idea. Happy to donate when facility available. Don’t be shy about highlighting this. You will need funds and i’m sure you will get a fair bit financial support. As well as donations maybe look at having a direct debit facility as well. A few quid a month, every month from loads of people might be more useful than a flurry of one off donations at the beginning which then tail off.

    Also, I was at the inaugural Wheelers Brunch in Manchester and can report it went very well.

    Cheers for now

  6. A big thank you to you Jim.
    Although I did get a stern look from my wife when I got back home I think it was totally worth the silent days that followed 🙂 With so many great people on board our potential is unlimited.

  7. Jim,

    I came away feeling that at last we’ve got a cycling movement we can believe in – not just us but the non-cycling bike riders too! Thanks for pulling us all together!


  8. Well done Jim – I’ve been thinking about Saturday’s events all weekend and getting all excited about future plans. You made the whole tone of the meeting just right; respectful but ready to move ahead and embrace change and I think you’ve started something really big. We’re all behind you of course; well done for coming out from behind the internet and turning this into something real.

    I’ve written up Saturday over on my blog here;
    …and very smart you look too!

    Chapeau to all for getting involved. Onwards and upwards!

  9. I couldn’t be there, although I would have liked to have been, looks like it was a really successful meeting. Lets hope this is the start of something big!

  10. This morning I’ve just read that Chicago is planning on rolling out 100 miles of segregated cycle lanes … I’ve no idea if its starting point is zero miles or not but it makes a lot more sense in terms of getting people cycling than sticking pictures of bikes on the road and claiming that ‘signed for cyclists’ is anyway meaningful.
    I couldn’t get there on Saturday but really feel that this approach rather than the “get everyone tough enough so they can handle a central London beasting” is the one that could actually get people cycling. The only reason I hear that people don’t want to cycle is that they don’t feel safe doing so and the only consistent reason for that fear is the necessity of being in the mix with big, fast and dangerous traffic.

    1. Absolutely. Mass motoring didn’t happen because drivers were told to HTFU and get used to dirt tracks and inconvenient routes, any more than mass cycling is going to happen on Aldwych or Parliament Square.

      The way to sell it to existing cyclists, who may or may not be more sceptical with regards to segregation, is with convenience – ie much much more contraflow cycling, exemptions from turning restrictions, traffic light bypasses, and lots and lots of cycle parking. (All those things exist already in places, but only on the “tinkering around the edge” level)

  11. Well done Jim. Fantastic effort 😀

    p.s. I’m told the BBC Breakfast had a spot about helmet camera cyclists this morning with some frightening videos. Would’ve been a great oppurtunity to point out that if this is how grown men are treated when trying to get to work then how can you expect a child to use the same roads to get to school.

  12. ‘According to fellow blogger Mark Ames who attended the meeting, he told the assembled audience that “..existing cycle campaigns are diabolical at communicating with the general public. ‘

    Intentionally or not, as a CTC, Sustrans and cycle club memebr, I’m starting to feel excluded from this initiative. I hope that it will not prove divisive. I’d be happy to see ‘Dutch style infrastructure’ but until that happy day arrives, also want to get people cycling on the infrastructure we currently have. I’ve been visiting London, and cycling there, for the past ten years or so, and the increase in cycle numbers has made a huge difference there. The Boris Bikes have helped make cycling an ‘ordinary activity’ rather than an extreme sport. Have you made contact with the established cyclign groups such as CTC, Sustrans etc?

    1. I was at the meeting and can assure you that it wasn’t intended to be divisive and anti- anything and that people from existing local cycling campaigns were there and seemed pretty supportive of what was being discussed. I hope you give us the benefit of the doubht and don’t dismiss the whole enterprise just because of one quote taken out of context, which didn’t really represent the tone of the meeting at all – many of us are new to this campaigning thing, and not used to measuring our words – clearly we have to work on the diplomacy part…

      I think the existing cycling campaigns, locally and nationally, have done lots of amazing work keeping cycling (and cyclists) alive, but despite pockets of success in places like central London, what hasn’t happened is the kind of growth in cycling that the Netherlands have seen since the 70s. Clearly the ‘happy day’ when Dutch-style infrastructure arrives isn’t going to happen unless we actually ask for it, and I personally have seen little sign of the CTC and even Sustrans moving towards that end. If we can all join forces and call with one voice for the sort of cycle paths that make a real difference, then that would be absolutely great. But as long as the national campaigns are not calling for proper dedicated infrastructure for cyclists then we’ve really no option but to do it ourselves.

      1. “Clearly the ‘happy day’ when Dutch-style infrastructure arrives isn’t going to happen unless we actually ask for it, and I personally have seen little sign of the CTC and even Sustrans moving towards that end.”

        Exactly – this is it in a nutshell. As far as I am concerned, the CTC appear implicitly hostile towards the Dutch approach to cycling. Anyone who genuinely wants to see “Dutch style infrastructure” isn’t going to get it from the CTC. So where do people like us go?

        There is nothing in this initiative that necessarily excludes CTC members. If the CTC want to exclude themselves from these kinds of initiatives, that’s another thing, and up to them.

  13. Bravo! I was only there for the first agenda item, but I feel I definitely attended the right meeting. So many wasted opportunities in the past to create dutch roads in London. Is there still money in the kitty for the super highways or is that too far gone too :-/

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