Posts Tagged ‘Leicester’

Building Cycling Cultures, Leicester

June 16, 2011

Here’s Andy Salkeld, Leicester’s fantastic man of cycling, urging us all on in the business of building cycling cultures, at The Phoenix in Leicester. Although it was a team effort, and many other people on the ground in Leicester helped pull the whole thing together so successfully (especially Janet Hudson of British Cycling, and John Coster of Citizens’ Eye), Andy must take much of the credit.

There were around 120 adults and 30 young people crowded into The Phoenix on Sunday, for a hectic and inspiring afternoon of talks, discussions and workshops.

After a great buffet lunch (I hope others feel the event, at £10 including food and drinks, was as much of a bargain as I do), formal business began with a series of presentations. Andy kicked things off, and was followed by Leicester City Council’s Deputy Mayor Rory Palmer, myself, Rachel Aldred of the University of East London, Roger Geffen of CTC, and Jon Orcutt of New York City Department of Transportation. Here are Jon, Rachel and I, waiting our turns to speak.

Jon talked about recent changes to cycling in New York; as Policy Director he has been centrally involved. It was a really great presentation, with Jon’s hard-earned wisdom and insightful details accompanied by splendid photos. I was particularly taken with this slide, introducing a typology that could have come straight out of our own Understanding Walking and Cycling research.

Jon explained how the recent boost in New York’s cycling levels has been achieved through increasing dedicated and segregated space for cycling along some big and busy roads; again, an intervention our research concludes is needed in the UK if we’re to move beyond the ‘strong and fearless’ and even the ‘enthused and confident’, and start tapping into the ‘interested but concerned’.

Workshop sessions followed these presentations. There were also great stalls to check out, and far too many inspiring people to try to find time to talk to. And the afternoon closed with us all getting back together to knock around ideas on how to keep building cycling cultures, and make cycling bigger.

Thanks to Griet Scheldeman for the photos, and to all who came, in whatever capacity, and contributed to such a rich and rewarding event. I’m already looking forward to seeing some familiar faces as well as some new ones back at The Phoenix next year (because mad fools that we are, we’re planning to do it all again, but hopefully even bigger and better next time!).

Building Cycling Culture/s – programme

April 15, 2011

How big can cycling get, and how do we get there? How might the size of cycling affect what cycling looks like?

As we work to make cycling bigger and better than it currently is, Building Cycling Culture/s aims to

  • celebrate cycling
  • explain and explore findings from two big recent research projects into cycling
  • invite reflection and discussion about how big cycling in Britain can get, what that cycling might look like, and how we can best get from here to there

On Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th June, Building Cycling Culture/s takes over Leicester’s Phoenix Square Media Centre for talk, debate, film, artwork, bike rides, children’s activities, networking and ideas for change.  The venue has all facilities including café, bar, and loads of meeting space

Whether you come for the day or choose to make a weekend of it, please join the urgent business of building cycling culture/s …

Pre-conference events

Saturday 4th June, 5pm ‘til late: Launch Event and Party

Join us for an evening of events, including relaxed discussion regarding progress towards building cycling culture/s on both sides of the Atlantic

  • In conversation – with special guests Jon Orcutt (New York Department of Transportation) and Karen Overton (Recycle-a-bicycle, New York)
  • Along with bike films, live music, bike photography exhibition & community media hub

Sunday 5th June, 9am to 12noon: Breakfast & Bike Rides

Including – Bike Recycling Projects Tour, Cycle-friendly Pedestrian Zone, Western Park MTB Trails & Connect2 Watermead Park Project

Conference schedule

Sunday 5th June

12noon to 12.30pm: Registration & buffet lunch

12.30pm to 1.30pm: Welcome & keynote speeches

  • Andy Salkeld (Leicester City Council)
  • Kevin Mayne (Chief Executive, CTC)
  • Dr Rachel Aldred (UniversityofEast London): Key findings from the Cycling Cultures project
  • Dr Dave Horton (Lancaster University): Key findings from the Understanding Walking & Cycling project
  • Jon Orcutt (New York Department of Transportation): Building Cycling Culture/s – Tales from New York

1.30pm to 2:15pm: Break for browsing and talking

  • A chance to look around stalls including: Bicycology, Bike It, Cyclemagic, Bikes 4 All, Future Cycles, Leicester Cycle Challenge, Bike Film Festival, and others to be confirmed (among them Bikeability, Cycle-Derby’s Scootability Project, Leicester Critical Mass, Beech Holme Tandem Club (Hull), Cambridge Cycling Campaign (Cambridge), and Bristol Bike Project)
  • A chance to participate in events taking place in and around the Phoenix: bike try-outs and much more …

2.15pm to 3.15pm: Workshops round 1

3.30pm to 4.30pm: Workshop round 2

Choose 2 from the following workshops:

A – ‘Recycling Communities’

Karen Overton (Recycle-a-bicycle – Bikes, Art & Social Enterprise): From bike recycling to bike art, sustainable environmental education, training and jobs

B – ‘Inclusive Cycling’

Elizabeth Barner (CTC Cycling Champions Project) & STA Bikes Hackney (tbc): How cycling cultures might address issues of inequality and exclusion

C – ‘Re-cycling Peak Car Cities’

Iain Jaques (Photofinale & Leicester Architecture Festival ): Re-imaging cities and neighbourhoods for walking, cycling and sustainable transport

D – ‘Cycling Networks & New Media’

Ian Nutt and Rob Martin (Leicester Forest Cycling Club & Critical Mass) & Cambridge Cycling Campaign (tbc): Using social media to build social cycling networks

E – ‘Building Cycling Culture/s – where do we put the car?’

Bicycology: Exploring the difficulties of tackling car culture head on

F – ‘Cycling Cultures’

Dr Rachel Aldred and Dr Kat Jungnickel (University of East London): Discussing and debating the project’s key findings

G – ‘Understanding Cycling’

Dr Dave Horton and Dr Griet Scheldeman (Lancaster University): What needs to change to get Britain on its bike? Discussing and debating the project’s key findings

H – ‘Bike Hire Schemes’

Jon Orcutt (New York Department of Transport): The future for ‘bike sharing as public transport’ in New York and elsewhere

4.30pm to 5:30pm: Question Time

5:30: Conference close


Phoenix Square is fully accessible for all abilities, see

Children welcome; a crèche is available

The cost is £10, including food. Prior registration is essential. To do so, please visit:

This event is being generously supported by CTC, Leicester City Council, Citizens’ Eye, the University of East London and Lancaster University

Building cycling culture/s – registration now open

March 2, 2011

Progress continues towards what I hope will be one of this year’s most exciting events for those of us concerned with making cycling an ordinary means of moving around, Building Cycling Culture/s. I’ve blogged about the event already; here I want to mention a couple of developments, and point anyone interested in registering for the event in the right direction – here.

There are many diverse energies contributing to the event, and I hope that will be one of its strengths. I assume like Rachel from the Cycling Cultures project, I want to talk about my current research, and particularly to discuss its main findings, and what those findings tell us about the task of building a broad and inclusive British cycling culture. But I also want the event to be a coming together of the many different constituencies with an interest in building such a cycling culture, and a joyous celebration of our shared love for cycling. I’d love for activists, academics, campaigners, students, policy-makers, local authority practitioners, cycling enthusiasts and anyone else to feel that there’s something for them, and to add their energies, convictions, insights and voices to the mix.

As locals to Leicester, Andy and John are especially committed to making the event appeal to individuals and groups from across the city. We hope that by holding it on a weekend, and putting on a range of activities, we’ll make it accessible to anyone who’d like to come along. I guess we’re all, albeit in slightly different ways, committed to Building Cycling Culture/s embodying our visions of the cycling culture/s we’re trying to build – in my case that’s big and broad, welcoming and inclusive, vibrant and tolerant, and loads of fun.

The event’s going to have much more than local appeal – Andy has managed to get two brilliant speakers from across the Atlantic. Jon Orcutt is the Director of Policy for New York City Department of Transportation, and so at the centre of exciting recent transport developments in the city. Karen Overton is the Director of Recycle-a-Bicycle, New York’s bike re-cycling project. Both will I’m sure have interesting and inspiring takes on the task of building cycling culture/s on both sides of the Atlantic.

There’ll be workshops, stalls, activities, rides – lots of stuff, something for everyone. And the venue is just great. Phoenix Square is big and bright, new and classy, and in the city’s centre. There are large spaces for the main talks, and lots of smaller spaces for workshops. There’s a cafe and bar – the food I’ve had there is delicious. I’m back there on Monday, for lunch and our next planning meeting. With just three months to go to the event itself, it’s probably about time we finalised the programme. Look out for details soon.

And if you’re thinking of coming, don’t forget to register. Although we’re aiming big, there’s a limit on numbers, and it’s only a tenner, food included.

Building Cycling Culture/s

January 14, 2011

As a sociologist, I’m aware that all of us, all of the time, are involved (indeed, inevitably and unavoidably implicated) in the production of culture – whether we’re watching live football or The X Factor on TV, buying a newspaper or reading one on-line, riding or refusing to ride a bike, we’re all the time contributing to cultural shifts in one direction or another; we’re all agents of change, if also simultaneously structured by wider forces which make us likely to act in some ways more than others. It’s at this most fundamental level – sociology’s simple but profound recognition that we’re all social actors being shaped by but also helping shape our world – that I love my discipline.

But sometimes we more actively commit to the production of culture, and that’s the case for me with an event I’m helping organise – Building Cycling Culture/s. I’m not entirely clear how the event was born. I’m involved in one project exploring cycling in England and Rachel Aldred, another of the event’s organisers, is involved in another. Between these two projects, over the last couple of  years intensive, unprecedented research into the current state of cycling has been taking place across eight English cities – the Understanding Walking and Cycling project on which I work has concentrated on Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester and Worcester; whilst Rachel’s Cycling Cultures work is focusing on Bristol, Cambridge, Hull and London (Hackney).

Given the convergences in subject matter, it makes sense to build conversations between the projects, and as they move into their final stages, to start thinking about what they’ve found and the implications of those findings. We sense that between them the projects have some useful things to say about how in England we could build a broad, inclusive cycling culture.

I tend to talk about ‘a cycling culture’, in the singular. But on the graphic below you’ll see we refer to ‘cycling cultures‘, and in the title of this post I’ve hedged my bets by introducing a slash, giving the option of both at the same time – ‘cycling culture/s’. Although it might look like it, this is not mere post-modern intellectual tom-foolery; it points to a tension in the debates behind the event, and which will hopefully be provoked by it. On the one hand we want to explore how in the UK we build a cycling culture in which everyone feels welcome, so that cycling becomes mainstream; wherever they live, whatever their journey, and whatever time of day, week, month or year, people of any age, class, gender, ethnicity and physical ability will find it perfectly acceptable, and feel able, to hop on a bike. But on the other hand, we recognise that within any culture there lies a plurality of (sub)cultures, and that people will ride bikes in different ways and for different reasons, and that’s something to welcome, indeed celebrate.

In other words, I think we want to find a route for English cycling promotion which aspires to the ‘mass cycling cultures’ found in places such as the Netherlands and Denmark, but without denying the vitality given to cycling by people embracing it in distinctive ways which make sense to them. This is perhaps having your cake and eating it too! Many people working for cycling in the Netherlands and Denmark seem so concerned to elevate cycling as ordinary and unthought that they deny it might have heightened meaning for particular groups of people. In societies such as the US and UK, meanwhile, the existence of distinctive cycling (sub)cultures seems sometimes to be regarded as a barrier by those who want to promote cycling as ordinary.

Most of all we want to promote debate and inspiration, in the belief both are necessary to the production of a healthy future for cycling. And we want the event to embody its main message, and the reason we do what we do; namely, that cycling is a wonderful practice, and its obvious potential to become both mainstream and inclusive is one which we work towards differently, but together.

We’re not designing it as a standard academic event, then, although we hope it will appeal to the many academics out there with interests in mobility, sustainable transport and cycling. We’re planning it to include campaigners, practitioners and cycling enthusiasts as well as academics (and we recognise that in cycling worlds such categories are anyway frequently blurred). And we’re planning for it not only to debate and collaboratively explore the prospects for building cycling culture/s, but also to recognise and celebrate those that already exist.

The event’s two other main organisers are crucial to how it’s taking shape – as genuinely inclusive, locally-relevant, highly vibrant. Andy Salkeld is Leicester City Council‘s Cycling Officer; the most imaginative, energised, enthusiastic, intelligent and ambitious local authority cycling officer I know, he’s worked for cycling in many ways for many years. Although he might not thank me for it, I’d call him a ‘cycling entrepreneur’. He’s been massively helpful in facilitating our recent research in Leicester (where we’ve worked across the city, but most intensively with south Asian communities in and around Belgrave), and is an important voice on the Understanding Walking and Cycling project’s Advisory Board.

John Coster is another hugely energetic Leicester-based cultural entrepreneur. He’s fiercely proud of the city, a  highly respected journalist, and Editor of Citizens’ Eye. John’s involvement will ensure real community engagement in the event, both locally, and also – via the use of digital technologies – further afield.

With the recent high-profile launch of the ‘Boris bikes’ scheme, and in the long run up to the 2012 London Olympics, the time is right to bring fresh ideas and energies to the cycling promotion table. In England, and the UK more generally, progress towards developing a cycling culture remains painfully slow. My hope is that in the current climate, a well orchestrated and inspiring event exploring the state of and prospects for cycling will develop insights into what needs to be done, and generate fresh energies to do it. Together, we can build cycling culture/s!

The event is taking place on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th June 2011, at Phoenix Square, Leicester’s Film and Digital Arts Centre. Whether you live locally or far away, whether you’re simply curious, an academic, activist, practitioner, policy-maker or some combination of those, there will be something for you. Our intention is that, whoever you are, you’ll certainly feel welcome. Obviously we’re still in the process of planning the event, but to register your interest and receive further announcements, please go here.