I met with my ward councillors this afternoon after emailing them about supporting space4cycling.
One of them is currently the councillor lead on Health and Wellbeing for the council, and next year will be the mayor, so has quite an opportunity to promote and encourage cycling both to the public and within the LA.
They had an idea which was whether it would be possible or feasible to organise rides in a similar fashion to the Sunderland rides. The intention being to promote cycling in the LA area, as an overriding concern is the levels of obesity and inactivity especially amongst children. I've heard worse ideas from councillors.
Certainly there are several cyclable routes staying more or less within the borough boundaries which are safe. If I'd offered to lead/organise I think they;d have bitten my hand off. Sadly I struggle to find real time for that sort of thing due to personal circs (pity cos I enjoy that stuff).
The only real stereotype I had chucked at me during the meeting was the cyclists on pavements, as one cllr had a recent tale of a young mother suffering a broken leg. While that's regrettable, it was pointed out in strong terms that vast majority of people on bikes are responsible and considerate, and that drivers present a far greater danger even on the pavement. I highlighted the recent local case where an OAP driver hit a pedestrian and didn't realise until the police tracked her down.
A discussion about safety and enabling cycling as opposed to expanding roads to cope with congestion followed. Enabling more cycling, and even reducing car use by 5% would have a massive positive impact on congestion, and this was agreed.
We moved onto routes, and I pointed out that there is a lot of navigable safe routes within South Tyneside, but that a lot of it is "invisible", unsigned, and often has a detail like a missing dropped kerb, or a barrier, All of which hinders cycling.
I suggested the idea of a tube style map of strategic routes, and this was thought to be an excellent idea (yes I stole the Newcycling SCR idea), although I added the stations like used on the Edinburgh Innertube.
I also suggested signed leisure routes as self guided circular rides, and also to specific destinations, linked to the above map. Again well received.
The idea of a "quick wins" suggestion list to tackle the small stuff that can make a big difference was also suggested and agreed with. the concept being similar to this from Camden Cyclists
I was promised that my suggestions would be put to the officers, and that they would keep in touch and relay back progress. I did offer to act as an "expert" and that I would be happy to work with them on trying to improve the lot of cyclists in the area.
Here's hoping. It all sounded very positive and they were very definitely on board.
We got though quite a bit in a short space of time.