Thank you to our incredible Right to Ride Representatives

Cycling UK’s RtR Representatives have worked tirelessly across the UK for years to improve conditions for cycling and get more people on bikes. Head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore reveals Cycling UK’s plans to build on that work, widen the volunteer campaign network, and create a new and more diverse Cycling Advocacy Network.

I’ve written before about the history of the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) as a campaigning organisation, from the formation of the Bicycle Touring Club in 1878, onwards and latterly as Cycling UK.

But when you’re picking out the highlights, it’s easy to overlook the years of hard work and dedication by unsung volunteers, particularly the stalwart local campaigners known for many years as our Right to Ride Representatives (RtR).

Right to Ride network

Much has changed in the world of cycling since the clocks ticked over to mark the beginning of a new century nearly 21 years ago. Back then, nobody was talking about e-bikes, and I don’t remember the words ‘active travel’ ever being used, but Cycling UK’s longest serving member of staff Cherry Allan was already in post, flying the flag for cycle campaigning.

Cherry recalls; 'In around 1998, I went to a cycle campaigning event for the first time ever. I can only describe it as a blast of energy, local expertise and commitment that I’ve never forgotten, and never will. Our network of campaigners was extraordinary then, is extraordinary now and can only get better. I’m sure of that.'

Our network of campaigners was extraordinary then, is extraordinary now and can only get better. I’m sure of that.

Cycling UK's campaigns information officer, Cherry Allan

In the early noughties, Cherry’s job included supporting the RtR network. A couple of days ago, I sent her a copy of the list of current RtR’s and she was stunned, recognising about two thirds of the names on the list from her time as the RtR co-ordinator.

People like Roy Spilsbury, who spent two decades as a local representative successfully campaigning for cyclists to be able to use the promenade at Llandudno, and Matt Hodges, who, back in 2003, managed to stave off an application for a bottle bank that would have led to an influx of lorries along the winding and picturesque lanes around Bleasdale - the victory is celebrated in one of our 140 routes.

Like many others on the list, Matt and Roy are still active as RtR reps, emailing me, and others in the campaigns team about ongoing issues, and putting in the time to write letters, respond to consultations, and to make a difference where they live, enabling more people to cycle.

But as times change, it’s crucial that we review how we work, how we support volunteers and campaigners, and how we grow and diversify the wider network of people who share our vision to get more people cycling.

It’s fantastic that Cherry recognised so many names on the RtR list, but on the flip side of that coin are the people we haven't yet managed to encourage to join - which is why we’ve been reviewing the RtR network for some time.

A wider and more diverse network

The secret when making organisational change, is to make sure you don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. So we’re determined to keep everything that’s great about the existing network, including our incredible RtR’s, but we want others to join them on that ride.

We also want to create a wider and much larger network, where the work is shared and more people can identify a role for themselves as volunteers within it.

Despite my huge admiration for the work of RtR reps, I’ve often thought that it seemed like quite a demanding and time-consuming role for many, wondering perhaps how someone with less time to give could contribute.

Micro-volunteering isn’t really something that was integrated into the design of the current RtR network, but welcoming a more diverse group of people into a broad tent and wider campaigning network is an option we need to provide, and what's expected of us.

Together we CAN

So, that’s why we’ve been reviewing the RtR network, to create more opportunities for people to campaign locally, and to better support those who want to do so.

With huge thanks to everyone who's given their time to be part of the network over the years , we’re transitioning that network to something new, the Cycle Advocacy Network or 'CAN'.

I won't go into detail here about how that network is going to look or operate, because my colleague Stephen Dominy, who will be supporting CAN, has written a separate article, discussing the exciting new opportunities this will bring.

I wanted to write this piece however, to extend a huge thank you to every RtR rep past and present for their sterling work.

We don’t want to lose anyone, and existing RtR reps can of course automatically carry on as Cycling UK local representatives within CAN, or indeed consider whether they’re interested in any of the new roles.

So, whilst this is the end of RtR as a brand, it isn’t goodbye to its biggest asset - the volunteers within it - rather, it’s a 'hello' to what will hopefully be a broader, larger and better supported network, retaining the best of what we had, but also improving upon it.

We’ll be outlining the opportunities within the new CAN network in the coming weeks, but if you have any questions or want to become involved, please contact us.