Local cycle campaigning is growing together for change

Danny Partridge and an informal gathering of potential cycle campaigners in Caerphilly
Danny Partridge (in the green jacket) with other Caerphilly Cycle Campaign members
It’s tempting to measure success in local cycle campaigners in terms of metres of cycle path, whereas in reality it’s in the development of local relationships and the growth of community networks. Danny Partridge is a local representative in Cycling UK’s Cycle Advocacy Network (CAN) – Campaigns officer Stephen Dominy introduces his story

Danny Partridge joined Cycling UK’s Cycle Advocacy Network (CAN) as a local representative in October 2020 to make a difference in his home town of Caerphilly. When he joined us he did not know of any other cycle campaigners in the area.

Undeterred, he set up Caerphilly Cycle Campaign in his spare time – but with his full-time work as a podiatrist in the NHS and his family commitments progress was slow going. Danny felt isolated and things were becoming frustrating.

Danny says: “In the initial covid-19 lockdown, I ditched the car and started commuting to work by bike using off-road routes. I was struck by just how stress reducing these routes are. Commuting by car often has you focused on the traffic in front of you, but cycling takes you through fields, beautiful back lanes and old railway lines.

“It really helped me to see more of the area I live in. It was the change from the usual rat race that I needed, and I wished that everybody could see that.

“My father had taken up cycling again after many years. He was keen to get back into it, especially as I was now regularly turning up at his house on my bike. He started to feel the benefits that comes with exercising when in older age. He was getting more mobile, and pains and fatigue were reducing the more he cycled.”

But then tragedy struck. Danny’s father Michael was killed in a road traffic accident. He was riding his bicycle along a residential street when he was hit by a drunk driver.

The death of his father reignited Danny’s passion for the campaign, and his wife and two children joined in. They formed a road safety campaign alongside their work in promoting the wider cycling agenda.

Danny chatted with Gwenda Owen, Cycling UK’s engagement officer for Wales and a regional coordinator in CAN, and together they organised a public meeting – outdoors, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. They promoted the gathering on Facebook and Twitter, and a whole bunch of interested people turned up on a winter’s Saturday to find out more.

A number of them have stuck with Danny, and momentum is starting to build. They’ve set up a WhatsApp group to help the conversation develop.

Danny says: “We have also collaborated our efforts with other local campaigners, such as a climate change action group and a bluebell protection group. This has given us a louder voice in the locality and helped share information to push each other’s agendas.”

However, the campaign group is not only about bringing cycling issues to the people in authority, it’s also about education and fun.

“When I first set up the Facebook and Twitter pages during the pandemic, it was about showcasing what cycling can do to help social distancing and demonstrating the many benefits of cycling. They were created with the aim of improving mental health, safe family rides and seeing idyllic scenery on your own front doorstep.

“In the near future our Caerphilly Cycling Campaign page will be posting recommended cycling routes for novices and families, videos of fun rides, and promoting events and news from the cycling world.

The cycling group is still small, but has some keen individuals that really help keep the campaign alive

Danny Partridge,  CAN representative

“The cycling group is still small, but has some keen individuals that really help keep the campaign alive. Our next step is to seek opinion from the public about what issues are important to them. The planning of the meeting is proving to be the biggest challenge yet.

“I have found the whole process of setting up a campaign a huge but worthwhile learning experience. I have learned how to work with councillors, council officers and Welsh government ministers to start to make things happen.

“The Cycle Advocacy Network has really helped me gain insight into what and how obstacles can be dealt with. Gwenda has also been invaluable in teaching me how to approach campaigning and how to take issues forward.”

Danny’s experiences demonstrate that you can significantly increase the likelihood of succeeding in your campaigning efforts by reaching out to your community. Indeed, one crucial measure of success in local campaigning is that you continue to develop local links, and telling stories of how cycling has the potential to enrich the quality of life for so many people.

Campaigning on your own can be disheartening. “No man is a island, entire of itself,” wrote John Donne as he extolled the virtues of connecting with each other and seeing ourselves as part of a greater whole.

More than anything, campaigning with others brings the potential for fun and camaraderie, which can be hugely significant factors in reaching your campaigning objectives. What’s your story? Share it with others, learn about theirs, and then speak up and tell them together.

Find out more about our Cycle Advocacy Network.