Walthamstow Assembly Hall

A Day Out in Town

Last Monday three members of the Portsmouth Cycle Forum took a trip to the big city to attend the National Cycle Planning awards. This was the inaugural year of the awards and we were shortlisted in the category of ‘Best Strategy’ for A City to Share. As the only voluntary organisation to be short-listed in any category we were delighted just to be invited and it was a real step-up in the reach and impact of our campaign to get a better deal for Portsmouth’s Cyclists.

We didn’t win the award, that honour went to Southwark, but our document was praised as the only one to feature inclusivity as a core theme. It’s worth reflecting that Manchester and Birmingham, two entrants for best strategy that didn’t make the shortlist, were both recently in receipt of £22 million grants from the Department for Transport’s Cycle City Ambition scheme. We’ve surely proven that our plans are as good, if not better, than those so perhaps now Portsmouth should qualify for DfT funding?

The awards ceremony itself was a great opportunity to network and we were able to build on existing contacts and make new ones. With keynotes from Philip Darnton (former head of cycling England), Andrew Gilligan (London’s Cycling Commissioner), Robert Goodwill MP (Minister for Transport) and Simon Smits (the Dutch Ambassador) it was a high profile event. It was fascinating to talk to the team from the University of Sheffield, who won the category for ‘Most Cycle Friendly Employer’. They have implemented some amazing schemes to get people cycling to work in the hilly north and have now reduced the mode-share of people driving to work to only one in five.

Protesters at Waltham Forest
Protesters at Waltham Forest

The day began with the launch of the mini-holland in Waltham Forest, which was disrupted by a small number of very noisy protesters. There were banners proclaiming ‘iron curtain’ and ‘prisoner in my own home’. All this despite the road closure being about 50 metres long with a short diversion around back streets. The only traffic that needs to be there is local, for residents, but before the changes it was a convenient route avoiding busy roads and lights for non-local traffic. We say well done to Waltham Forest council and the local councillors getting the flak for something that in a year or two every local shopping area will be demanding locally. An interesting note is that one of the strongest objectors before the scheme has now applied to open a pavement cafe! It’ll be interesting to see how the scheme beds in.

We can be very proud of the strategy we’ve developed and I’m looking forward to working with the Flick Drummond, the MP for Portsmouth South, in engaging with the minister to secure funding to make it happen. We’ve shown that our plan is every bit as good as those that have attracted substantial funds so there is every reason to be optimistic. I hope Portsmouth City Council will be committed to working with us in putting together an ambitious, forward thinking bid.

Finally, we’d like to express our gratitude to Cycle-Works Ltd and the Community Cycle Centre, who between them paid for us to attend the awards ceremony. Cycle-Works funded the three delegate places (not an insignificant cost!) and the Community Cycle Centre paid for our travel costs. Cycle-Works is a Portsmouth based manufacturer, reseller and installer of all types of cycle parking racks and stands. Cycle-Works was the first specialist cycle parking company in the UK and had been operating since 1996.

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