The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain (click to visit their website) has been going for a little while now, so here at citycycling we thought it was time we caught up to find out more, so we bungeed some Ferrero Rocher to the pannier rack and caught up with Sally Hinchcliffe to find out just what the organisation is all about.
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.so why an embassy, and why precisely now?
It was really a tongue in cheek reference to the Danish (and now Dutch) cycling embassies, but we do feel we've got an ambassadorial role in the UK. Mainly we're trying to represent to the government and authorities what really good cycling facilities look like in a way that they'll understand, but we're also trying to speak up not just for 'cyclists' but all those people who would cycle if they felt they could.
As for why now, I think the internet's got a lot to answer for. There's a growing understanding in this country that more cycling is the answer to a lot of intractable problems - obesity, congestion, pollution - but there seemed to be very little idea of how to bring that about beyond yet more training, posters and one off events like the Sky rides. Lots of money was being spent to very little effect. Meanwhile the answer was staring us in the face, just across the North Sea, as outlined in great detail on blogs, but not really 'out there' in the wider world. In the end Jim Davis realised nobody else was going to do anything about it, so he suggested started the Embassy and so many people seized on it I don't think he could back out.
.but is it not just throwing 'yet another' cycling organisation into the mix? are they mutually exclusive?
Trust us, we wouldn't have formed the Embassy if we didn't think it was necessary. There are lots of local groups out there who are calling for similar things (most recently the LCC with it's 'Go Dutch' campaign) but not at a national level. We didn't see anyone who was campaigning for cycling conditions that would allow 'eight to eighty' cycling not just along a nice green way on a Sunday afternoon but down to the shops or to school or to work everyday and everywhere. The national groups have all converged around support for the 'Hierarchy of provision' which, the more we looked at it, the more flawed it appeared. They're still citing out-of-date research on the safety of cycling tracks, ignoring the growing mass of evidence for the safety and effectiveness of what the Dutch are doing. We felt there needed to be a voice correcting those misconceptions and asking loudly and clearly for the single thing most people say would get them cycling more often, which is a comprehensive network of decent safe infrastructure.