Winning political support for Space for Cycling in Harrow

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LCC trustee and Harrow Cyclist Tony Levene explains how even a simple photoshoot can help win polticians over to LCC's Space for Cycling Campaign. Going for a ride is just the icing on the cake.

Four miles, seven miles, eleven miles? How long should Harrow Cyclist's Space for Cycling ride for councillors and wannabe councillors be? 

The idea was to show  the good (not much) the bad (lots) and the downright ugly (even more than lots) of the borough's cycling facilities. We could have displayed 30 miles worth without too much map reading.

But the length did not actually matter in the end. Space for Cycling is all about getting the message across to politicians, the public and the media that local politicians must make it safer to cycle - and Harrow is not a leader in people getting on their bikes.

We realised that the first fifteen – very static - minutes at our Civic Centre were all that really counted.  We invited as many councillors as we could contact. We also invited our two local MPs and our London assembly member. 

You can never tell how things will work out on the day, so we were delighted that one MP (Gareth Thomas), our assembly member (Navin Shah) and six councillors did come - perhaps because we told them we had arranged for the two local newspapers to send photographers and reporters!

We had two riders in fancy dress, one on a vintage bike, plus a huge Space for Cycling banner. And we had a police escort – one  sergeant and two community policemen from Harrow's road safety section, thanks to the council's cycling officer. It all made for good  pictures.

I did a speech outlining why Space for Cycling is so important, and not just for cyclists. The assembly member put some pro-cycling comments on the record in his address, later published in one of the newspapers.

Only two councillors actually came on the ride – and one dropped out after a few hundred yards.  We did not expect much else – councillors are now very busy with leafleting and canvassing, especially on a Saturday morning, and most don't cycle anyway.

But it did not matter. We had a great politician turnout. We had our photos. We had our press coverage.

It all goes to show that you don't have to get on a bike to get the Space for Cycling message across.