Venue: Pub on the Park, London E8

Present:
Tim Evans, Brenda Puech, Katie Hanson, Ben Webster, Paul Standeven, Patrick Field, Jamie Carswell.

Apologies for absence
Oliver Schick

Topics discussed:
1. Miscellany
2. Discussion with Jamie Carswell, Chair of Hackney Council’s environment committee
3. Workshop
4. Green Party
5. Shoreditch / Pitfield Street
6. Bike Week
7. Car Free Day 2002 (AKA In Town Without My Car)
8. Any other business

1. Miscellany

Various announcements:

  • The Hackney group of the LCC now has 615 members, up from 512 at this time last year. Pretty pleased about that. Thanks everyone for keeping your membership up and a pat on our collective back for successful recruitment efforts. It shows the value of doing stalls at public events, as well as working effectively as a campaigning organisation.
  • We now have confirmation that there will be no Church Street festival as part of the Stoke Newington Festival this year. The Festival lacks a director, and also found that the street festival was growing bigger and more expensive than it could manage as a small community group. They want to return with it next year, in the hope that it will have ‘cooled off’ a bit, à la Glastonbury Festival. The Festival people also gave us a somewhat sceptical verdict on our idea of possibly choosing part of Church Street for Car-Free Day this year. One suspects that this may be because they are imagining a similar event to the street festival, when our proposal would be quite a different occasion, more built around the existing activity in the street rather than superimposing a festival, and without the intention of attracting large numbers of people from outside the area.
  • Mardi Gras, the Gay Pride festival, will be held this year on Hackney Marshes, and it might be worth suggesting a temporary bikepark.
  • The Borough Group Training Day is on Saturday 27 April. Two people from each local LCC group get the opportunity to turn themselves into indispensible campaigning assets by improving their skills in lobbying, running events, getting media profile, etc. If you think you might like to go along, please express your interest to our co-ordinator Tim.

Back to the top

2. Discussion with Jamie Carswell

Jamie Carswell has been a Labour councillor for three years, and resident and active in Hackney longer. He is now chair of Hackney Council’s environment committee. He had accepted our invitation to come and have a discussion about the promotion and support of cycling within the borough. Jamie first give his perspective on where things are transport-wise in Hackney.

He thinks that the council’s written policy platform on transport seems good, with the famous Hackney Agenda 21 transport hierarchy having been adopted by the authority for some years now. The implementation gap was, however, obvious. On the positive side there was the rollout of controlled parking zones (CPZs), which LCC supports, and mentioned the need for a softly softly consensual approach to get them accepted by residents. There was also much improved motor vehicle parking enforcement – people were now getting ticketed at 11 o’clock at night! On the negative side, perhaps the worst point had been reached around two years ago when government money for London Cycle Network development was returned by the borough because it did not have the officer capacity to see it spent properly. The collapse of municipal infrastructure had stifled lots of good work, for instance the plan to get rid of the Stoke Newington one-way system. That was something that needed to be revisited.

Fortunately, the council was now in the process of rebuilding its planning and transport sections. Looking to the future, Jamie acknowledged the need to see cycling in a wider context than simply highways, for instance making sure that housing policy and administration also helped to support cycling as a mode of transport.

The meeting then brought up a number of areas which could benefit from attention.

Liaison

Communication between this group and the local authority has not had a formal conduit since the cessation of Cycle Liason Meetings two or three years ago. We have of course still kept up contact on an ad hoc basis, particularly with members of the under-staffed traffic and transportation section. Jamie said that he would like to see structured contact resume again, and would commit himself to working to see that happen if at all possible. There was some discussion of the desirability or otherwise of contact being primarily with a ‘cycling officer’, as this tended to focus liaison narrowly around the implementation of the London Cycle Network, which is only a small part of the story.

CPZs – pavement parking

LCC opposes footway parking, whether legitimised or not, and we were concerned that some CPZs were including footway parking as part of the solution. Jamie agreed that it was undesirable, and that it was a bad idea to let this go in when a CPZ was first being implemented, as it would be hard to take out – motor-owning residents would see this as a betrayal, even though in fact there is no requirement for the council to maintain the original number of motor parking spaces. (There was some discussion about the proportion of households which are now car-owning in the borough – JC said that the presumption was that the level was now much higher than show in the figures from the 1991 census. But motor-owning households are still probably not significantly more than 50 per cent, and of course the proportion of individuals having first use of a car is still a minority, if a vociferous one). Brenda suggested that the council should have some courage and come out against footway parking absolutely, and set targets for the removal of existing footway parking.

Motor parking enforcement

Katie noted that this was still pretty poor in general. She had had no luck getting enforcement on particular repeat offenders. Jamie said that the new enforcement contractor (in place for a year now) had started badly but was getting markedly better. The number of tickets issued had doubled in the last 12 months or so. A lot of improvement could be expected from the new approach of having teams working on neighbourhood patches with responsibility to sort of a number of issues, including parking enforcement, noise nuisance and abandoned vehicles.

Cycle parking – new developments / retrofitting / council garages

Jamie was very surprised to hear that there are rules preventing the hiring of council-owned garages by people who want to store non-motorised vehicles. [We know this is a problem because of the experience of David Moreno and Lorna Thunder of the Regent Estate – see Cycling in Hackney News August/September 2000, page 1]. He said he saw no reason why this should be the case and would commit himself there and then to putting this right. Trevor said that naturally we wouldn’t want to see people using garages for storing junk or similarly non-core uses, so perhaps the rules should just state that the garages have to be for the storage of wheeled vehicles and leave it at that.

On the wider issue of making it as convenient as possible to own and store a cycle as a resident, Jamie said that cycle parking should continue to be required in new residential developments, and that we should look at ways of ‘retrofitting’ good cycle storage into existing housing. We agreed to look into the feasibility of converting the old pram sheds on many of the old estates into secure cycle storage. We should research current best practice in retrofitting cycle storage, then look for a likely estate first where there was an identifiable demand, get the tenants and residents association up to speed with the idea, and do a pilot there.

Car Free Day / ITWMC

With the current government restrictions on what Hackney can spend money on (ie no spending that isn’t a statutory duty), Jamie regretted it would be impossible for the council to spend any money on a Car-Free Day event. This would unfortunately include waiving fees such as licences. He did, however, say he would look into assigning some officer time towards if if that was necessary.

We thanked Jamie for coming along, and agreed to keep in touch on the issues discussed and to see this as the start of a continuing dialogue.

Back to the top

3. Workshop

Paul said he’d dropped into the meeting to let us know about difficulties with our self-help maintenance workshop. Ross is very very busy, and so is Paul, so it’s even proving tricky sticking to the new fortnightly routine (second and fourth Thursday of the month). It was necessary to set up a system for getting cover for when Paul can’t make it along. (If you’re a competent home mechanic and would like to help out with our workshop, please contact our co-ordinator Tim, who has also put himself forward to cover for the occasional workshop.

Back to the top

4. Green Party spokesperson

The meeting agreed to Brenda’s request to allow a Green party spokesperson come along to next month’s meeting to discuss their policies. (Anyone would think there was an election coming up).

Back to the top

5. Shoreditch / Pitfield Street

Trevor gave the latest view on the Shoreditch Triangle situation. Contractors are now going on site, and it looks as if Transport for London (TfL) will not budge on Pitfield Street for the moment. Ben said that he reckoned the next window for getting this seen to would be after the next mayoral elections, May 2004. Trevor also said he would find out whether TfL was proposing any ‘before-and-after’ cycle counts, and suggest that they do some if they haven’t already planned it.

Back to the top

6. Bike Week

On the question of breakfasts, we confirmed that we’ll do two this year:

  • Clissold Park, Tuesday 18 June.
  • Broadway Market, Wednesday 19 June (change of date from original proposal)

Apparently Heroes of Nature isn’t doing too well financially, so we agreed to offer to cover their costs – balanced we hope by a small grant from ???? – if they would once again provide the venue, facilities and catering. Ben will report back about that. Tim will find out whether Marian is still into running the Clissold Park breakfast.

The other great news is that we have booked the Round Chapel for Saturday 22 June for an evening dance, to complement our celebrated Burns Night winter celebration. Christine Kings has agreed to organise the event, with a lot of input from Sally Haywill. To cut down volunteer effort required, the idea would be to get caterers in to do hot food at around £3 per head, and to concentrate on getting the band and dancing started nice and early in the evening. Chucking out time at the Round Chapel is 11.30pm. We thought about some names for the event, and ‘Summer Spin’ was one of the better ones. It was suggested to make the event nominally a Car Free Day fundraiser, as that was likely where the funds would be going anyway! Patrick suggested that the relatively early finish time would allow some pleasant rides after the event, and it is also very well timed after Barry Mason’s wonderful solstice-oriented Midsummer Madness ride the night before (see Greenwich cyclists’ diary.

Back to the top

7. Car Free Day 2002 (AKA In Town Without My Car

Trevor reported that he has put out the feelers to Transport for London about Curtain Road and other possible venues.

Back to the top

8. Any other business

Trevor had been floating the idea of promoting a ‘Pitstop Project’ some time during the summer or autumn, at a busy node for cycling, where people could get free air, lubrication, and tweaks, Doctor Bike-style. The idea would be for this to be funded, though, with workers supplied by local bike shops and paid for by one or other cycling-promoting funder. The aim would be to help sustain, equip and educate the less committed cyclists, to improve their experience and therefore increase the likelihood that they continue to cycle. Trevor said he would talk to Anthony Brown of Groundwork Hackney about this idea. [Turns out AB is no longer with Groundwork. Will try Greg McNeill. TP]

Ben noted that the cycle parking provision at Liverpool Street Station was hopeless. Is it in the borough? Even if not, it’s used by many Hackney people, and the absence of decent cycle parking is a barrier to bikerail journeys. Tim suggested talking to Alastair Hanton, who heads LCC’s railways working group, and also referring to the TfL ‘declaration of intermodality’.

Back to the top

Next Meeting: Wednesday, 1 May 2002, Pub on the Park, London Fields, 8:00 pm (social get together from 7:00 pm)