What a difference a mayor makes!

Leicester cycling campaigners, courtesy of David Weight
It’s so great to be involved with a good, confident campaign group, says Leicester campaigner Elizabeth Barner.

One week ago, the Leicester Cycling Campaign Group heard about a petition against a proposed cycle lane in Leicester. They decided to call a demonstration in support of the lane, and in support of a more rational use of space in our city – for people, not for cars. They wanted to physically show the support there is, and the number of people willing to come out in the cold to say, "Yes, we will benefit from change." Campaigning can feel so bleak when it’s all about "No". 

We are lucky in Leicester that we voted in a mayor who is willing to make bold decisions to improve the city for the future, like public squares instead of car parks and cycle lanes instead of parking lanes. As a campaign group, we work as hard as we can to influence those decisions and to get the best designs we can. 


It’s scary being interviewed, and it feels like a big responsibility to speak on behalf of a group. We wanted to explore how do we make space for more people without traffic grinding to a halt during the transition?"
Elizabeth Barner
Cycling Development Officer, Leicester

On Monday 10 November, the day started with BBC Radio Leicester (2.08) and TV coverage exploring the issues. Having a member of the campaign group workiing to secure media coverage meant we gained access to the media, and media preparation allowed campaigners to put their point across, and be ready for what the opposition might say. Such preparation, however, did not account for the opposition pointing out CTC’s view that cycling is statistically an incredibly safe form of transport.  

The petition has been turned into the opportunity to have a city-wide discussion about how its citizens want the streets to be, now and in the future. The Leicester Mercury, TV and radio have fostered that conversation with balanced clips from people across the city. I’m pleased at how thoughtful individuals were, and that the local media gave them room for a full thought, not a two-second blast. The morning’s main interview was 10 minutes – when last did cycling get ten full minutes at a local level?

We often use information from CTC to add weight to our local observations about what people need and want in order to cycle more. Right now, instead of arguing the detail, we feel our role is to bring out support for the overall concept, and maybe for putting up with a month or two of disruption in order to have a better city. 

There is construction all over the city centre at the moment. I think most of it will make life better for all of us. As cyclists, we aren’t very much affected – my commute time hasn’t changed – but we are sympathetic to everyone wanting to get to work and home in reasonable time. We are trying to remind them that it’s worth holding out for better. And better for all – what 14-year-old can make the choice to drive into the city centre?  Cycle lanes are necessary for everyone to have access to transport, to move away from the position that only those with cars are welcome.