CTC's Roger dedicates MBE to volunteers and campaigners

Roger Geffen is striving to make MBE stand for 'more bikes everywhere'

CTC's Roger dedicates MBE to volunteers and campaigners

CTC’s Roger Geffen says he wants his MBE, which he collects at Buckingham Palace today (Friday 18 December), to be shared with all cycling volunteers and campaigners in the UK.

Geffen, CTC’s Campaigns and Policy Director, has been honoured for his services to cycling but believes the accolade should not be his alone. Volunteers have provided a staggering total of 1.5million hours’ work this year to support the groups, campaigns and projects run by CTC, the national cycling charity, where he has worked since 2002.

Geffen, who swapped a career in classical music production for a life in cycle campaigning, said: “From my time as a volunteer cycle campaigner, I’m still hugely conscious of the crucial role they play. Without our volunteers CTC wouldn’t exist in the form it does today.

“I genuinely regard this as an award for the fantastic collective efforts made by everyone involved in cycle campaigning, both in CTC and our partner organisations. I pay particular tribute to the many local volunteers involved in campaigning at the local level. They are absolute heroes and I want to dedicate this honour to their efforts too.

“I’m humbled to be appointed an MBE but I still wish the government would find some serious funding for cycling, far more than me having three letters after my name!

“Cycling is far better value for money than other forms of transport and produces proven benefits to health, environment and quality of life, as well as to local economies. The MBE is an honour, but the battle for funding continues.”

Geffen, who turns 50 in January, was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, on the eve of Bike Week 2015.

I'm humbled to be appointed an MBE but I still wish the government would find some serious funding for cycling, far more than me having three letters after my name!"

Roger Geffen MBE

His award has been hailed by senior figures in the cycling world – among them Chris Boardman, who himself earned an MBE following his 1992 Olympic gold medal win,  and is now British Cycling Policy Advisor.

Boardman said: “Roger is one of those people who MBEs were really made for – individuals who devote their lives to making the world a better place for the rest of us without any thought of recompense or recognition for themselves.

“He is a deeply committed individual who I have enormous respect for and in every dealing I have had with him, I’ve never been less than mesmerised by his encyclopaedia-like memory of cycling facts. He is a true hero and now, thankfully, not of the unsung variety.”

Geffen still loves his classical music, is a season ticket holder at Fulham FC and enjoys hill walking holidays. And then there’s cycling. His earliest memories involve riding a tricycle around the cul-de-sac of ten houses where he lived in East Sheen, near Richmond Park. He has vagues memories of a grumpy old neighbour taking the bell off his trike, although he can’t remember making that much noise.

He cycled daily as a boarder at Bryanston School in Dorset, but his “rite of passage” on two wheels came at the age of 16 when he cycled to the Albert Hall for a Prom concert rather than take the bus – which involved negotiating the chaos of Hammersmith Broadway before it had traffic lights.

His first experience of cycle touring was a four-day trip on rickety old bikes to the Forest of Dean with two mates from school, which came to an abrupt end when the teenage adventurers managed to lose each other in Chepstow.

Roger, with 7p in his pocket plus the outer sheet and poles of the communal tent attached to his bike, spent three hours waiting by the Severn Bridge, assuming his pals would have to come past eventually. They did, in a fashion – on a train travelling way beneath Geffen’s feet through the Severn Tunnel, having given up on finding their friend in the pre-mobile phone era. 

He said: “The trip might have ended in confusion but it taught me how much freedom cycling gives you and how far you can travel even on our cheap school-boy bikes travelling at quite gentle speeds.”

After reading music at Oxford University, Roger moved back to his parents’ home and decided to cycle to his first job in London rather than use public transport.

“I took up cycle commuting partly to save money but also because in those days it was definitely an eccentric option, which appealed to me. However I soon realised that, far from being crazy, I was overtaking these absurdly long queues of polluting metal boxes every morning, while the bike was a far quicker and more sensible way of getting from A to B.”

The next step was inevitable and soon Geffen was combining his job in classical music production with work as a volunteer with the London Cycling Campaign in the late 1980s. The M3 extension at Twyford Down near Winchester saw him get involved in his first major road protest in 1992. The impact of that campaign shocked the Conservative government into dropping a new road scheme through Oxleas Wood, near to where Roger was then living in South East London.

Roger is one of those people who MBEs were really made for – individuals who devote their lives to making the world a better place for the rest of us without any thought of recompense or recognition for themselves."

Chris Boardman MBE

He said: “There were a few defeats, but the road protest movement created conditions where the threat of public action could force a government retreat. It saw government road building slashed from £24billion to £1.5billion, which proves how effective public campaigning can be.”

In 1996 a National Cycling Strategy was drawn up with grand targets, but no money. The arrival of Tony Blair’s new Labour government the following year in 1997 heralded the possibility of a Road Traffic Reduction Bill.

With fine words in the air about sustainable transport in the future, Geffen took a Masters Degree in Transport at London University. He worked for Oxfordshire County Council on walking and cycling policy then in consultancy, giving him a good grounding of work in both the public and private sectors.

By then, however, the fine words had become little more than hot air. It was time to get active again and Geffen spotted the perfect a campaigning role at CTC in 2002. The rest, as they say, is history.

Paul Tuohy, CTC Chief Executive, said: “When I joined CTC in 2014 it was reassuring for me to know that we have one of the finest minds in the cycling world as a key member of our team. Roger’s knowledge and passion make him a formidable advocate for cycling and cyclists. He is respected by decision-makers at national and local level and has helped influence policy that has benefitted cyclists across the country – and there is still much more to come.” 

Former CTC Chief Executive Kevin Mayne, now Development Director for the European Cyclists' Federation,said: “Two things sum up Roger’s contribution to cycling. The first is his ferocious intellect, he really has an incredible capacity for analysis and argument which has been invaluable when dealing with some of the toughest challenges we face, especially complex government processes.

“Secondly his commitment to cycling. He has a broad interest in transport policy which is clear from his previous experience and personal interest in topics like climate change, but his willingness to take on huge amounts of work isn’t just an inability to say no, it is a deeply felt commitment.”

Dr Ashok Sinha, London Cycling Campaign Chief Executive, said: “Roger began his cycling activism at the LCC and although he has long since established a national reputation for his work at CTC, many at LCC still fondly recall his tenacity and absolute commitment to the cause.

“Never one to tolerate injustice, Roger has brought forensic policy analysis and a depth of learning to cycling campaigning that is unmatched, and despite all the challenges a smile is never far from his face. If the climate for cycling has improved in the UK – which it indisputably has – then Roger can take a lot of credit for making this happen. He richly deserves his MBE.”

Geffen has invited three people to his investiture at Buckingham Palace – his mother Judy, brother Nigel and Chris Peck, who was his right-hand man in policy and campaigning at CTC for eight years. Peck now works for working for UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body for sports cycling), while studying part-time for a Masters degree in Transport and City Planning at University College London.

Geffen said: “If forced to pick out just one person who deserves this honour far more than I do, it would have to be Chris. I personally, and CTC organisationally, have benefitted enormously from his phenomenal knowledge and intellect, his infallibly sound judgement and his total commitment to the cause of cycling.

“But there are so many people I want to share this honour with too – including my current CTC colleagues enjoying their Christmas lunch today (which I’m missing!)  One of the great joys of cycle campaigning though is the fantastic people you get to work with.  It’s what keeps me going as we strive to make ‘MBE’ stand for ‘more bikes everywhere’.”

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Well done, Roger. You're doing a great job campaigning at national level. Don't retire! Best wishes.

Congratulations Roger.
Perhaps you should change Right To Ride Campaigners to More Bikes Everywhere Campaigners.