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John Holland: An Obituary

With immense regret and sorrow we have to report the untimely death of John Holland. John was diagnosed with leukemia late last summer and appeared to be responding well to his treatment. Unfortunately secondary cancers were identified early in the new year and John moved to the Rowan’s Hospice, where he passed away on Thursday the 24th January.

John was one of the founders of Portsmouth Cycle Forum, which was established as an independent campaigning voice by four committed individuals: John, Mike Dobson, Paul Iggulden and Paul Dawson. A prototype cycle forum had originally been started by the city council, but when it became clear that cyclists were demanding more than bland reassurances the council decided to cut the funding and close it down. However, John, Mike, Paul and Paul had other ideas. Recognising cyclists needed a strong voice to hold the local authority to account the four took responsibility to establish Portsmouth Cycle Forum as a citizen-led campaign.

John chairs the CTC / Cyclenation 'Future Cycling Cities' conference, hosted in Portsmouth in 2010.
John chairs the CTC / Cyclenation ‘Future Cycling Cities’ conference, hosted in Portsmouth in 2010.

As the cycle forum grew John took on the role of chair, which he carried out in his characteristic warm, open and consensual style. Nobody felt they were being dictated to but we all wanted to help. John did politics but only with a big ‘P’ – always focussed on helping the city’s decision makers make the best choices, but never on the petty politics of personal advancement. John was there for the causes he cared about and never out for himself.

When I joined the cycle forum committee around 2008 the committee had grown into a fairly large and vibrant group. John welcomed me into that group and made me feel a part of things from the very first meeting. John gently tutored me in the art of campaigning and lobbying a local authority in the months that followed. John had a wonderful way of guiding people without them even noticing. Never feeling I was being mentored, and certainly never feeling I was being taught to suck eggs, John empowered me and so many others to engage effectively with politicians. It’s only on reflection that I realise how much I learned from John.

I eventually took over as chair of the forum from John, a daunting task but John could not have made it easier for me. He was happy to act in the role of vice chair and continued to provide sage advice, gentle guidance and a huge amount of support.

As time went on and the cycle forum committee was strengthened by some new faces John was able to focus more on some other community causes, like the Community Cycle Centre and the No. 6 Cinema. John was instrumental in turning both of those from ideas to reality, and both have made hundreds and hundreds of people happy.

John understood that the small stuff really matters. That a Community Cycle Centre, giving people access to bikes, one-by-one, really does make a difference. Over the years it’s added up to a huge amount and a great amount of that success is John’s. Person-by-person, bike-by-bike, a massive difference has been made.

John as 'Dr Bike' - fixing bikes and changing lives with the Community Cycle Centre.
John as ‘Dr Bike’ – fixing bikes and changing lives with the Community Cycle Centre.

John’s gentle, caring, determined approach won him the admiration of those who worked with him and respect too from people who opposed his arguments. John was never aggressive but neither could he easily be silenced. With calmness, patience and determination he made sure he got his message across. John was a calm, reasoned voice in a world of empty hyperbole. And he made that count.

It was a delight to learn, a few days ago, about John’s Civic Pride award from Portsmouth City Council. John has given so much to so many and his giving has been truly selfless. He deserves that award and, as just one of the organisations that has benefited so much from his help, we thank him for his dedication to doing the right thing.

John was a wonderful colleague, comrade and friend. Aside from all the causes and campaigning there was time for bike rides and for beer in the King Street Tavern and the Brewhouse, where we set the world to rights on Thursday nights after our open meetings. We’ll all miss those nights and our mate John.

Here’s to you John.

Cycle tube map

2019-01-15 11_38_02-PCF Tube Map March 2018 - Google Drawings

We’ve worked with our members, and Cycling UK, to put together a Cycling Tube Map.

The idea of this map is not for directions – it’s to highlight the quality of cycling links around our city so we can prioritise our campaigning and support members responding to planning applications.
The big idea is to turn the map blue (for Pompey of course). Routes marked blue are comfortable, and feel safe to our members. Yellow, orange, red and black show decreasing cycling quality – these are the areas we want to tackle.

Check it out on its new campaign page. We’ll keep it up to date as infrastructure changes, so let us know if you’ve spotted something that improves, or worsens an existing route.

PCF Awarded ‘Outstanding Campaigning Group’

We are really delighted to announce that Portsmouth Cycle Forum’s hard work has been recognised with an award from the national cycling charity Cycling UK. We have been awarded the title of ‘Outstanding Campaigning Group’ in the charity’s 2018 Volunteer of the Year Awards.

The award particularly recognises the exceptional effort that we put in to respond to the tragic death of Tim Atkins on the Eastern Road cycle path last year. This has seen the council make some substantial commitments to improve the city’s paths and streets for cyclists. We are looking forward to working with councillors and officers to support them in seeing these commitments through to real changes.

The past year also finally saw the City Council formally adopt a cycling strategy based on the ‘A City to Share’ document that was launched in 2014. This strategy development was entirely developed by community volunteers, led by Portsmouth Cycle Forum and supported by Portsmouth Friends of the Earth. Its recognition at full council this year comes after four years of hard work by the committee and other volunteers. It is the only community-developed cycle strategy we are aware of to have been formally adopted by a local authority.

This year has also seen members of the committee giving up time to engage with the city and developers on numerous issues. These include the ongoing battle to provide space for cyclists whilst the Tipner sea defences are replaced; supporting PCC in the launch of their pilot Near Miss reporting tool; engaging with the planning team at PCC to get cycling properly included in the plans for the city centre roads and commenting on numerous planning applications and traffic regulation orders.

Ian Saunders, our Chair, has led a real team effort to deliver on all this and deserves special thanks – supporting and organising numerous meetings and acting as the focal point of our work. Many thanks to Ian and to all of the committee and volunteers. There is a great deal of work still to be done and we hope this award will act as a catalyst for further change.

If you’d like to read what Cycling UK and Portsmouth News had to say, here are the links: