Posts Tagged ‘CTC’

Crowdfunding is great for new ideas – maybe it could work for old ideals as well

November 6, 2015

brixton cycles shopfront

How much is a principle worth? Last week it was £40,000; this week, it’s gone up to £80,000 – and I’m not going to argue with either of those valuations. It is immensely cheering to see Brixton Cycles reach its original crowdfunding goal in less than seven days, and I wouldn’t bet against them hitting their new target. That quasi-mythical entity called “the market” may have decided that an already-gentrified area of south London should have even more luxury flats, but the real market – us lot, the people who spend thousands of pounds on our hobby over a lifetime – place more value on relocating a long-established cycling business before the diggers loom over their present home.

None of this altruism should be surprising. Despite all the internal divisions and snobbery, cyclists are inclined to look out for each other – rarely I have punctured and not had at least one passing rider ask if I needed help. What is notable in Brixton Cycles’ case, though, is the rate at which donors have rushed to their aid: to put it into some kind of context, the infamous Kimmage Defence Fund, (which, although ultimately mismanaged, nevertheless involved some far more well-known names on both sides of the mooted libel case it was set up to fight) took less than 40 per cent of the repair shop’s seven-day total over the same period.

Perhaps that reflects how much more popular crowdfunding has become since fans tried to come to Paul Kimmage’s aid three years ago. These days, though, cycling-related crowdfunded campaigns usually involve backing an idea that will be turned into physical goods, so in that sense Brixton Cycles is swimming against the tide. They are asking you to pay for an ideal, not a product.

Somewhat tangentially, I thought about the role of crowdfunding shortly after I stumbled across Martin Porter’s observations on private prosecutions which were part of his contribution to the Commons Transport Select Committee on Road Traffic Law Enforcement. Essentially, he sets out how difficult it is for cyclists to bring private prosecutions in relation to an incident on the road, and Martin believes a change in the law is required to bring down the barriers currently in place.

You can read Martin’s evidence and decide for yourself. What struck me about it, though, is that crowdfunding could be an effective way to mount a campaign for an issue such as this. Too often, it seems that cycling advocacy groups aim for broad targets that the majority of us would want – better infrastructure, fewer motor vehicles on the road, stiffer sentences for poor driving – rather than focussing on specifics or what may be achievable. Another issue, for me, is that many club cyclists and serious recreational riders aren’t members of the CTC, LCC or similar groups. Maybe the way forward would be to pick just one goal, set out a strategy, and ask all of us for money to fund the campaign.

But that’s a thought for the future. In the meantime, you can contribute to Brixton Cycles’ campaign here.

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A happy scene you seldom see

November 23, 2011

“Hello there! Would you mind awfully just winding down your window for a moment?”
“Certainly! What seems to be the problem?”
“Well, you drove just a teeny-tiny bit to close to me there.”
“Ah. Yes. Now you mention it, I think I probably did.”
“And as we’re now both waiting here at the traffic lights, I thought I’d mention it while I had the opportunity.”
“Yes. Good idea.”
“Just to avoid it happening again. Because it’s quite scary when a ton of metal looks like it’s going to knock you down.”
“I can totally see your point, sir. My apologies. I’ll try to be more considerate next time.”
“Thanks.”
“But I must say, this situation is most unusual.”
“Really? In what way?”
“Well, it’s just so… civil. Cyclists tend to get very angry about getting cut up.”
“Ah, yes. Well, you see, I was going to lose my temper. But then I read something about moments like this. Apparently I’m supposed to show love. ‘Smile in the face of thoughtlessness,’ it said. ‘Explain the terror of being cut up. Tell them you are scared.’ I had my doubts, I must admit, but it seems to have worked on this occasion.”
“Hmmm. Yes…”
“Oh dear. Was that a little patronising?”
“Oh no no no. Not at all. Well, maybe a little. But that’s not what perturbs me. It’s this conversation. It should be angry, fractious, unreasonable, neither of us giving any quarter. It’s not real enough. In fact, I would go as far to say that it’s not even happening.”
“No! I will not have it, sir – I simply will not have it! Look, if what you’re saying is true, then this entire situation has been fabricated. But look at that red light! Any minute now it will turn green, and that will prove we’re actually here.”

(They look. They wait for a considerable time. The traffic lights remain red.)

“Oh well. Looks like you were right.”
“Sorry, old boy. If it’s any consolation, it seems that both of us are merely providing a cipher for the author’s thought process.”
“It would seem so, yes. I am not the autonomous being that I thought I was. I may as well just give up now. Which is a shame, because I had so much I wanted to say.”
“Well, why not say it? You’ve got nothing to lose.”
“You say that, but that’s not quite true. Because I met the guy who wrote that blog post…
You met him?”
“Yes, I met him. Because we’ve already established I’m the author, not a creation in a fictive contrivance.”
“Ah yes. I see what you mean.”
“So I don’t want to cause offence. He had a nice little dog and he seemed like a nice chap.”
“But you disagree fundamentally with his reasoning on this occasion.”
“Yes! Completely!”
“Because he characterises the relationship between drivers and cyclists as essentially confrontational, whereas you believe it isn’t.”
“Exactly. I mean, it can be confrontational, but only on the relatively few occasions when things go wrong. But the vast majority of drivers let us get on with it. They like us – or they tolerate us – but they don’t hate us, and I generally don’t hate them. It’s a false opposition. And isn’t the tone of his reasoning is a bit vain? Look at me! I’m mastering my anger – and you should too! We can have a better society, but only if you’re all a little like me!”
“So what’s the solution? More angriness?”
“No. Not more anger, or showing more love. Just more, I don’t know, practicality. Boring things, like joining the CTC or the London Cycling Campaign, writing to your local council asking them to improve conditions for cyclists, maybe telling your MP you want to see stiffer sentencing for bad drivers. Stuff like that.”
“I think you’ve made your point quite eloquently.”
“Thank you.”
“But the bad news is that in doing so, we have now served our purpose.”
“Oh.”
“So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we expired right this very second.”
“I think you may be right.”

(Predictably, they vanish.)