Firstly I need to get the official business out of the way. I can confirm that we’ve voted in the committee as follows:
Chair: Robyn Jankel
Secretary: Juliet Phillipps
Treasurer: James Eusden
Ordinary members: Andy Shrimpton, Gavin Welch, Lizzy Morris
So that’s the boring bit done!
I want to say a huge thank you to all of our committee members, but especially those who are stepping down this year. Nathan Horner, John Skelton, and Kate Ravilious have all been fantastic members and instrumental in getting us to where we are today. But in particular I do want to say that Kate has been utterly invaluable to the campaign and truly, I don’t look forward to tackling this year without her. She is going on to bigger and better things but she has truly been the backbone of the committee and we are all going to miss her tremendously. Whilst I’m at it, I’d like to extend our thanks to the members of the campaign who are not on the committee but have contributed an awful lot. They include Pam, who produces our newsletter which I think is excellent; Dorinda, who does a fabulous job with our social media; Tim, who works tirelessly on consultations; Jamie, who scoured the Outer Ring Road documents; Rob, who has spoken at multiple council meetings; all of our ward reps, marshalls and ride supporters, stallholders, and everyone who has read our newsletter, responded to feedback, written to their councillors, and otherwise participated in the gruntwork which keeps this campaign going.
We are a voluntary and completely independent organisation which seeks to make cycling in York safe, convenient, and accessible to absolutely everyone. York Cycle Campaign has been around for quite some time but fell fairly dormant a few years back, and in 2017 we resurrected it into the organisation you see before you. We started with literally no members and despite dipping during the pandemic, we’ve risen again to our highest number and now have 252 members. We think this is a fantastic achievement although I know that Andy in particular reckons that we can get into the thousands, so if you’ve got cycling friends and family, please urge them to sign up. It’s just £5 per year, and every voice makes a difference. The more members we have, the stronger we are. It means we can really push to be the voice of cycling in York, and as such we especially want to represent as diverse a group as possible, because we know that different people meet different barriers when it comes to cycling.
Speaking of barriers, we have been on a mission to remove these – the physical ones at least – #removethebarriers – as one of our ongoing campaigns. We are also continuing to push for access to the city centre, and maintain that a direct, marked, segregated route for cyclists straight through the centre will not only increase cycling numbers in York, but will bring greater custom to city centre shops, and allow access for people who struggle to walk but are able to cycle. We have been liaising with York Disability Rights Forum and we are supporting them in their fight for Blue Badge Access.
We have created a Rate Our Routes survey which gives our members the opportunity to mark on a map which routes they consider good or bad. We’ve had hundreds of responses and it’s still open so we encourage you to get involved if you haven’t already. We’re hoping that this map will be instrumental in the LCWIP – or Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan – on which the City of York Council have recently started work, and for which we have attended the initial meeting. We’ll be involved with this going forward, and represented by Tony May of the Civic Trust as a stakeholder. We’ve continued our relationship with the Civic Trust Transport Action Group, and have attended meetings with Active Travel England – more on them later, of course!
There are a lot of major issues ongoing in York right now, to which we have contributed as much as possible. These include the Acomb Road cycle scheme, Taddy Road upgrade, the stopping up of Leeman Road due to the expansion of the National Railway Museum, the new design for Piccadilly, York’s bridges, and the Outer Ring Road dualling. Our contributions usually take the form of feedback to consultations, sometimes with representations at council meetings, and occasionally with in-person protests when we feel that our voices really need to be heard. On that note, we’re protesting tomorrow at 5pm outside the council offices along with Extinction Rebellion, calling for improved active travel routes and infrastructure around the city, in advance of tomorrow evening’s executive meeting which is going to vote on whether or not to implement the active travel projects. So do come along if you can! And it’s important to note that we don’t just complain, but instead we offer alternatives and suggestions. And in the case of Piccadilly, along with the Civic Trust we’ve actually hired an external consultant to review both the designs from the council and ourselves, and we’ll shortly be sharing her findings with the council and our members.
We’ve held socials, meetings, rides and protests. Of particular note was our Kidical Mass ride in September, which attracted over 100 riders – a fantastic achievement for a city of this size and to the best of our knowledge, one of the larger rides in the country. Several of our members took part in Minster to Munster, a cycle ride to our twinned city in Germany. At our follow up meeting we shared information and knowledge on how Munster has placed cycling at the forefront of its development, and we hope that the council were as inspired as we were.
We’ve provided feedback on too many schemes and consultations to list here but we are desperately in need of someone to help with this. It’s a huge part of what we do as the campaign but if we had one or two people dedicated to sorting through the council’s applications and organising feedback, it would make a tremendous difference to the campaign. If you think that this is something you could do, please get in touch with us. It’s our bread and butter, but to mix metaphors, it also means that we’re constantly firefighting and have less time to focus on expanding the campaign and our ambitious plans for ourselves and for York.
On that note, we have been working on something very exciting and indeed ambitious: a lovely glossy booklet entitled 42 Ways to Transform York. I don’t want to give away too much but we’ve been beavering away ever so hard and we’re really proud of what we’ve created. We believe that it will provide a vision for York which people will be hard-pressed to argue with, and we can’t wait to launch it early next year.
This will be in time for the elections in May, for which we are gearing up, and we’re looking forward to hearing what the various parties have to say about their commitment to cycling and active travel within York. We haven’t forgotten the council’s pledge to make York city centre free of non-essential car journeys by 2023, or the city itself carbon-neutral by 2030, and we hope that all of the parties realise that promoting and enabling safe and accessible cycling is an absolutely essential element to reaching these goals. Transport remains a vast contributor to pollution and carbon in York, and we need a council which is brave, enthusiastic, dedicated, and open-minded in order to cut these down. We are willing and indeed incredibly keen to work alongside anyone who wants to achieve these goals, and even as volunteers, we are putting in huge amounts of work into finding practical solutions and resourceful alternatives to the reality in which we currently live.
Because the reality is pretty grim. Through a freedom of information request, we learnt that since 2014, cycling in York has dropped significantly, by 34 %. Meanwhile, the national average has actually increased. This is appalling. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the council should be desperately ashamed. We have money. We have been given it by the government to spend on active travel, and it is being frittered away or sitting, untouched, in the bank. What the council appears to lack is the will, and the determination, to make significant changes. We cannot continue to have piecemeal changes across the city. We need a big vision. Last year at our AGM we had the deputy mayor of Ghent telling us about their ambitious but hugely successful project in a city very similar to ours. This year we’ve welcomed Active Travel England to York and they have been met by data which show that we are not the active travel city which certain people would like to claim that we are. Oh, we have the potential – and we have a population which is willing and indeed incredibly keen to move around by cycle – but we do not have the routes. And the routes that we do have are unsafe, broken, truncated, poorly maintained, and don’t go where people wish to travel.
But there is hope. With the development of a new Local Transport Plan on the horizon – albeit a horizon which is being pushed ever further into the distance – the LCWIP underway, with Active Travel England on our doorstep, and our own 42 Ways to Transport York as a guiding light, we hope that cycling in York will be given the precedence that it deserves. We are a small city, and we are one of many, but this planet is under threat, and everything we do makes a difference. We believe that cycling is the future, presumably that’s why you’re here too, and that’s why – even when it’s exhausting, relentless, boring, and thankless – we continue to do what we do. Thank you for supporting us, and we hope that next year we can stand here and say that York, once again, is truly a cycling city.