Off to Work
I walked into Bristol city centre this morning feeling very cheerful. A couple of drizzly days had cleared and scatters of sunshine were sparkling off any puddle that remained. Among the work-bound there were lots of cyclists on al kinds of bike in every kind of clothing. Young and old, male and female, black and white.
Bicycle Rider’s Luncheon
From a shop window display a vintage cycling kit caught my eye. Sandwich box first, then the cycle pump. And then the ambitious globe for world navigation purposes. “An auspicious omen”, I thought.
I suppose that my destination (a press launch of the Bristol Cycling Manifesto) made me more attentive to such things than I usually am but the positive atmosphere felt real. It wouldn’t take much to get this city to a point where none of what I was noticing was remarkable. Even on the steep hill of Park Street, on sections of road that make no concessions (and offer several barriers) to cycling ,a lot ordinary folk were making their way to work on bicycles and a shop had chosen to use retro cycling as a fashion item to attract attention and promote sales. Cultural shifts were visible. I marched on in fine spirits.
At Cascade Steps, whence The Hispaniola set its fictional sails for Treasure Island, a large group of people with bicycles were gathering, with even larger numbers cycling across the shared space towards whatever their days had to offer. All ages, all types. I grabbed a couple of flyers from Eric Booth (the principal organiser of the event) and dodged about taking pictures and giving curious observers a flyer or two.
Media events have a strange place in our public life. Ministers put on safety gear and pose, chin jutting into the future, alongside men (always men) with hard hats. Expensive cameras are stroked while advisers tut and fret and someone scribbles shorthand and a recorder provides the backup. Later the stilted results appear in The Metro or Points West and those who are attentive note that “there’s something on The News about that” (whatever it is). Local press adopt the format, and so it goes.
Spokesman And Press Photographer
The thing is, the Bristol Cycling Campaign people are so friendly and so practical that there was no sense of pretence at all. No moaning about the problems and no false sense of importance. There was just a confidence that the message was honest and inclusive. In demanding the Freedom To Ride, the campaign is asking that everyone who would like to cycle as part of their everyday life should be able to do so. The stalwarts are already making the best of it but we all know lots of people who would love to cycle …if only …
Posing for the Press
As we gathered to help put that message into the local press, printing presses were groaning somewhere and copies of the full Manifesto documents (ambitious, realistic and detailed documents) will soom be distributed. A petition had already been put on line, outlining the basics. Bristol people are being asked to log in at http://www.bristolcyclingmanifesto.org.uk/ and put their names to the following proposals:
“Thousands already cycle but our Council needs to provide a comprehensive cycling network, enabling thousands more with the freedom to ride.
Sign this petition to demand that the council does these 5 steps
- Quadruple the amount of cycling in Bristol by 2025
- Lay down plans to deliver a comprehensive cycling network by 2025
- Invest Money to deliver the plan (£16 per person each year minimum)
- Employ a multi-skilled team to manage joined-up action across all areas
- Appoint an inspirational Cycling Commissioner to lead from the front”
The morning’s work done, we wandered down to the coffee stand by the Burke Statue at the other end of the fountains and had a good old chat. Service and coffee were excellent. We were a lot of people and they did us proud. As I sat in the sunshine I pondered the advice from the Bicycle Rider’s Luncheon Box I had seen earlier: “Fortitude, Endurance and Invigoration” it suggested. Plenty of all those will be needed in the months ahead but the Freedom to Ride will be worth it. Treasure Island Ahoy!