CAMPAIGN

Get active: be a Veloteer
A new scheme in Islington is getting more local people involved in cycling issues. Stephen Taylor explains the idea behind 'Veloteers'...

P

otholes, cycle stands, road closures — sometimes cycle campaigning is about the very local. And with the recent council elections focusing attention, the Islington Cyclists Action Group (ICAG) decided it was the perfect time to launch its ‘Veloteers’ scheme. The idea behind the scheme is to mobilise the LCC membership in Islington who might not currently be very active. They might not have the time to attend monthly meetings or pore over plans for new traffic

management proposals across the borough, however, many of them still want to do something to improve cycling in their neighbourhood. The plan is to have at least one Veloteer in each ward across the borough. In that way we hope they will be able to directly influence local councillors. While Islington Council in general has a good track record in supporting cycling, some individual councillors are less than enthusiastic, especially when it comes to local cycle schemes which might have an impact on car parking. Councillors

sometimes need to be reminded that some of their own electorate are in favour of the cycle schemes. Where it began We started planning the Veloteers scheme in 2009, planning to launch sometime before the council elections in May 2010. The first stage of the process was to build interest in the scheme so we began to include items in our newsletter, on our website and via our email group alerting people. This was followed by a mail-out to the LCC membership in Islington

June-July 2010 June-July 2010 London Cyclist 2525

Photos: Tom Bogdanowicz

CAMPAIGN
LOCAL HEROES: new Veloteers and existing activists discuss what can be done in their area

inviting them to the launch event on 13 March. LCC was able to provide names and addresses for this purpose. We also followed up with more emails and online articles. The second part of the process was to plan the launch event. At the heart of the event was a bike ride around parts of the borough. The purpose of the ride was to show some of the good features in Islington such as 20mph zones and specific schemes which have benefited cyclists, like the award-winning scheme on Penton Rise. We also used the ride to highlight schemes which are of less benefit such as the cycle lanes within the 'dooring zone' on Barnsbury Road. Hopefully we got the Veloteers thinking about what could and couldn’t work in their neighbourhood. Afterwards the rest of the event, including refreshments, took place at Olden Gardens, a hidden gem in the shadow of the Emirates Stadium. Learning the ropes We had identified that our Veloteers would need to know who’s who in the council with regard to cycling matters and the most effective way to influence councillors. And we were lucky to secure both a senior council officer, who could tell us who to contact in the council, and the lead councillor for the environment to give us the inside line on how to approach

councillors to the best effect. The Veloteers also learned about the campaigns of ICAG and the LCC, especially the LCC manifesto for the local council elections. There was plenty of input from the Veloteers as well. We asked them about the issues that concerned them in their areas, posting them on a board. These included a lack of cycle parking, poor road surfaces, cycle accessibility on one-way streets and road closures, and dangerous and inconsiderate driving. The Veloteers were sent away with two actions each. First, to ask the candidates in the local elections to pledge to take action on the specific concerns raised. Secondly, to adopt one of the many potholes around the borough so that we can monitor how quickly they get filled in. At the end of the afternoon everyone seemed to leave enthused. Natalie, one of the attendees, commented: “It was great to learn about the developments that have already happened, and to get an understanding of what future lobbying could achieve, and how we could continue to get involved.” Maintaining momentum The launch event was just the start though. We also planned how to keep the momentum going, including setting up email and Facebook groups

FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE: of cycling measures at Goswell Road

for the Veloteers to share their successes. Before the event we had considered a few future events, but really wanted the ideas for the next steps to come from the Veloteers themselves. They didn't disappoint: suggestions included 'speed networking' with the new councillors, meetings in their own neighbourhoods and a big event for Bike Week. Quite often people feel they cannot achieve anything — they feel isolated and that nothing improves. We hope that the Veloteers will be able to share their experiences with each other about how they are making a difference, making changes. ■ If you're interested in local campaigning, contact gerhard@lcc. org.uk for info about your local group. And why not ask about LCC's next campaigning workshop in June?

26 London Cyclist June-July 2010

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