The Kingston Cycling Campaign is the local branch of the London Cycling Campaign. The group promote cycling and campaign for cycling provisions in Kingston Borough. Their history is an interesting and inspiring one. A group of ordinary residents banded together to try to improve the situation for cyclists in their area. Some of their achievements are remarkable, although members are sometimes frustrated by resistance and the slow pace of change.
In conversation with Jon Fray and John Legate
We got the thoughts of the two long standing Kingston Cycling Campaign members.
How did you get in to Cycle Campaigning?
Jon Fray: I was cycling to work one day in terrible traffic congestion - and thought "Someone has to do something about this". I first joined Friends of the Earth and then found the London Cycling Campaign at a summer fair.
John Legate: When I moved to the area in April 1991, I got involved with a community group that promoted the building of a cycle/pedestrian bridge over the Thames near Sunbury. I was the odd one out as a non-cyclist so I pondered trying to learn to cycle. I found out that Kingston was running cycle training classes for adults. I was 56, but I thought - no excuses - so I joined up! So at that ripe old age, I learnt to cycle and within two years I was a member of KCC and have been ever since.
Jon Fray (left) and John Legate (right)
What have been your proudest achievements?
1. Getting a contra-flow cycle lane on the bridge over the railway at King Charles Road, Surbiton. Cycle routes with "Cyclists Dismount" sections are a disappointment. First the Council did a trial and when that proved successful a permanent lane was put in.
2. Having the cycle lane under the railway line on the Richmond Road by Kingston station put on the side of the road nearest the station. We met with a Council officer who intended to put a cycle track on the opposite side of the road which would have been much less useful. We said it should be out on the same side as the existing cycle track that's further north - it would make getting to the town centre so much easier.
3. Compiling a guide called "Get Cycling" aimed at people who are new to cycling or haven't ridden a bike in a long time and want to find interesting places to go. KCC members identified some routes; we obtained a grant from the council and engaged a designer to produce it for us.
What have been the biggest frustrations?
Jon Fray: The biggest frustrations are with new developments that don't include good facilities for cycling. For example, the Sainsbury's development on the old gas works site built a new road but no cycle track or crossing across Richmond Road. Sainsbury's built their huge store there with very poor cycle parking which we campaigned to have improved.
John Legate: The time it takes to get change.
KCC petition to Kingston Council, 1993
Public Bike Pump, Wood Street
How do those in power react to cycling campaigners?
Jon Fray: In the 80's and 90's I think people in power thought of people who cycled as being a small minority of Luddites that probably weren't worth listening to. Cycle campaigners were identified as being "anti-car" and "anti-progress" rather than pro-health and in favour of pleasant neighbourhoods. That seems to be changing as there is a larger constituency who ride bikes but aren't campaigners. I think in Kingston the KCC has been effective because we are not especially confrontational. We've been established a long time now, we do our research, we understand how things get done and I think we are respected by those in power for that.
John Legate: It varies a lot of course from one extreme to the other. At one early RBK meeting I attended of the "transport committee" the then chairman in his frustration at the lobbying from the floor let slip his real views: "cyclists just get in your way". Even his party colleagues were stunned by his statement. Entrenched views still exist, but thankfully less so.
What are the biggest issues facing cyclists?
Jon Fray: Road danger is the biggest issue because the fear of it stops people from cycling. Being shaken up by a near-miss or actually being injured reinforces the idea that cycling is inherently hazardous - but it really isn't!
John Legate: Having places to park bikes securely is a big issue. Many homes don't have any outdoor place where it is easy to park a bike, workplaces don't have places where bikes can be left all day safely and bikes parked in the street can be vulnerable to theft.
Are attitudes to cyclists changing?
Jon Fray: It does seem that attitudes are changing. More people are cycling; probably not for environmental reasons but more because cycling improves their health and they enjoy it. More people are cycling more often, and then another time when they are driving or walking they are more aware and considerate towards people who are cycling.
John Legate: I think it's a complex answer. There is undoubtedly a lot of aggression towards cyclists but the increased numbers particularly in central London are making cycling more main stream & the benefits of cycling are generally understood and accepted
Do you feel KCC makes a difference?
Jon Fray: Yes! We get things done - for example we lobbied to get a good cycle track on the Portsmouth Road when the original design was very uninspiring. We have a calendar of bike rides that allow people to ride with friends and inspire people to get out on their bikes and we report maintenance issues such as pot holes, worn road markings to help make cycling more comfortable and safer.
John Legate: Definitely, I have noticed attitudes have changed in the 15/16 years I have been involved with KCC. We were a group whose views were hardly listened to, now our views are sought by councillors and officers. Change/improvement tends to be slow, so to some extent is not noticed. Now our frustrations are centred around trying to get the GO Cycle initiatives being built to as high a standard as possible. 15years ago, any cycle lane would have been perceived as successful and Boris bikes would have been considered Utopia.