Packed room in Richmond Building

Open Meeting Report

It was standing room only for latecomers to the Portsmouth Cycle Forum open meeting on Thursday 12th November. To cope with the demand we’d already upgraded from our regular meeting place to a 70-seat lecture theatre in the University and even this was barely enough as 80 people packed the room. Eager guests had come to hear Dr Rachel Aldred speak about her studies into cyclists’ Near Misses and our own Eric de Greef to talk about making the school-run bike-friendly.

Rachel Aldred briefs on the Near Miss project
Rachel Aldred briefs on the Near Miss project

Historically police and local authorities have used data on deaths and serious injuries to inform them about improving safety and reducing danger on our roads. Dr Aldred’s work highlights the importance of near misses and close shaves in influencing perception of danger by surveying cyclists of all abilities making all kinds of journey. Survey respondents complete a diary for one day and detail every time they come close to different levels of risk and danger. Over 1500 diarists detailed nearly 4000 incidents in 2014.

Official statistics show there is a very low chance of even minor injury to regular cyclists – once every 20 years; but analysis of cycling diaries showed an average of one ‘very scary’ incident every week, and the feeling of being abused or harassed a couple of times a month, with lesser near misses likely to happen on a daily basis.

Dr Aldred has a small team and a huge quantity of data from the 2015 survey which was completed last month. She is collaborating with police and local authorities to use this data to influence both the design of infrastructure and the education of road users. Find out more about the Near Miss Project here.

Eric de Greef talks about the school run
Eric de Greef talks about the school run

Eric de Greef had the task of following Rachel Aldred and delivered an excellent talk about the work Cycle Forum volunteers have been doing to get more children cycling to school. They have been working with schools and council officers to understand the barriers to cycling, so that ways can be developed to make the school run more bike friendly. This is no easy task but it is an essential one – getting kids on bikes builds activity into their day and gives them independence. This will help foster a healthier, more confident generation.

Other items included and appeal for a bit more diversity on the committee – at the moment we are very white and predominantly male. We’d love more women to get involved in our committee and people from different ethnic backgrounds. If you’re interested please get in touch.

We are very proud of our open meetings and put a lot of effort into creating a friendly forum where there can be a grown-up debate about transport issues without petty party politics, name calling or intimidation. We hope you enjoy them – if you do and you haven’t yet joined the cycle forum, please consider doing that. It only costs £10 and we depend on subscriptions to survive – click here to make it happen.

Thanks to everyone who came and helped make this meeting such a success.