I'm not really a 'joiner'. I'm like a strip of hairy sellotape, I'd like to join things, I want to join things, I feel like I should but when it comes down to it I just can't. Especially when it comes to cycling. I never returned to the Deeside Divas (well, not yet anyway). I went to one CTC meet, and I've yet to return a book I've taken from the library. So, not a joiner*.
This attitude of mine is particularly prevalent when it comes to campaigning in cycling. I know the importance of cycling. First and foremost the impact it's had on my health and thusly my life is far from immeasurable. Due to the exercise as a result of my cycling, sleeping well, eating better, writing, the ability to meet friends and being able to enjoy their company are all achievable. I don't internalise things as much, I have more patience with others, my repetitive thought syndrome is more controllable and I'm able to articulate more of what I want to say. The ability to get out on a more cycle friendly safer road is very important to me. And yet I've been reluctant to stick my oar in, to put my shoulder to the metal, on any sort of campaign.
Why is this? Well, as I've already said, try as I might I'm not a natural partaker in things. But there's also a polemic in a lot of cycling campaigning which sounds like complaining for the sake of complaining. For example, several months ago there was a cycling advert which likened cyclists to horses, not in that we eat hay but that when cars are over taking we need a wide berth (which was the actual 'joke' in the Ad).
This ad was eventually banned, and then after a kick up, un-banned but not seen since for a bunch of completely different reasons other than the moaning I found online but to be fair, we all know about how brave folk get hiding behind a computer screen (I for one feel very bolshy).
None the less ,it's this kind of attitude which has put me off, as it is the awful shouty ones screeching about how whatever is done (whether it's a 'concession' or not) is not right because it's not what they said, that get the most notice, and I've never met a cyclist who constantly ran red lights who didn't complain that we're not like Copenhagen (I've yet to meet one who's actually been). It's like the taxi driver who accuses me of being that same red light running cyclist, but then gets all affronted when I tell him does that mean he's the Blue van man who called me a 'Stupid Bitch Cunt' whilst riding on the wrong side of the road because he didn't have enough space to over take me? I digress.
The point is, to me, cycle campaigning had always seemed to come through the medium of a sort of lycra clad UKIP. And whilst this has been going on, the 'MAN' (aka. the Government and thus councils) is making a lot of noise about Sustainable transport, leaving the car at home, introducing more cycle lanes, government sponsored ride-a-longs and all sorts of stuff. Don't get me wrong, I have a healthy mistrust of the government and councils alike. I was brought up during the Thatcher era and have seen her gone from something that's put on top of a bonfire, to being described as 'Great' (I always want to add '...but terrible, like Voldemort'). Indeed, the lack of satire in Scottish politics is not due to the inability of comedians to find Scottish politics funny, it's that the politicians are laughable and such stereotypes themselves there's very little else to be said.
But I care about cycling, having cycled more on than off these past 20 years , it is getting better. I want it to get even better. I want to know the government and councils are doing what they say they are, as well as being in a position to be aware of real life changes to roads and neighbourhoods that affect me and others like me. How does someone like me, who's neither a saddle wanking militant hater nor a government sycophant, find their place in cyclings' civic duties?
A quick search on the Google for Cycling Aberdeen resulted in the Aberdeen Cycle Forum, a volunteer group 'seeking to encourage and develop cycling within Aberdeen'. It meets monthly in the Town Hall - the section opened by The Queen none the less - and it was an eye opener. The first meeting of the year concerned an introduction by Nestrans Development Officer (or Rep) Catherine Mackay, and then a run down of the various road works involving either improving or creating new cycle paths. It's this last bit which really surprised me. Aberdeen City Council and various other surrounding councils have, like councils all across the country, been making loud noises with regards to making cycling an everyday travel-useful pursuit. Several areas were under discussion including to my surprise Riverside Drive and Ellon Road. Both roads I use regularly (though to be fair I use the pavement of Ellon Road regularly, you'd have to be off your nut to use the road). I had no idea that the council had undertaken the improvement of the cycleable aspect of these roads. Not only was what they were doing under discussion but also if they'd started it (Riverside Drive they had), how much had been completed and if there were any issues (for example a cumbersome sign going through the Riverside developments telling 'Cyclists Dismount' on a cycle path). There was also discussion on what of the Cycle friendly budget was being used, how it was being used, and where else it was being allocated to (there are a lot of 'No Waiting' and 'No Parking' signs going up).
|This Way Only|
What was interesting was that all of the participants were volunteers (with the exception of Ms Catherine, the Nestrans
rep development officer). The conference room itself was provided by the city council, and there were several other cycling clubs and organisation in a sort of unofficial representation. There was the impression on the whole that not everything would be listened to, but, that day-to-day change could measured by those that used the roads. Indeed, remember this guy:
He was there and reported that since his fall(s) the cycle path has since been gritted!
I'm glad I went. It was interesting, because Councils and Governments are known for promising so many things to a point it's very difficult to know if they've delivered what they're supposed to unless it's a particular promise that directly affects you. Even at that, there's such a malaise that any sort of contention that your average member of the public may have is expected to be ignored.
So if you're interested in what's going on in your area do a quick online search. See what comes up and go for a nosey. Best thing that could happen is you might find a bunch of reasonable niceys trying to make the roads a little safer, getting the council and government to keep their word, and if the worst thing happens and they turn out to be lycra clad mentals, well, you never have to see any of them ever again.
What puts you off getting involved in civil and government issues? What involvement do you have and why do you take part?
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*I can put up some lovely shelving though,