Collaborate or die

Angry cycling blogger Crapwalthamforest is unimpressed with the London Cycling Campaign

“The LCC is a collaborationist organisation, not a radical campaigning group prepared to challenge the status quo. It colludes with the transport status quo and urges cyclists to adjust to it…”

I realise that the post from which I quote is now several months old, but similar criticisms have been made by others, and they are worth addressing. Crapwalthamforest’s blog post has only just come to my attention, following his recent linking to my discussion of the late Catriona Patel and other cycling fatalities in London.

LCC is indeed a collaborationist organisation, but any corporate entity that aims to represent cyclists in London must work with the political establishment, and in pursuing a collaborationist strategy can achieve a considerable amount. That said, LCC is also an independent campaigning body, and from what I can see it balances reasonably well these often competing interests. Collaboration in this case is expedient, and doesn’t preclude other organisations and individual cyclists – card-carrying members of LCC included – from pursuing a more radical approach.

Returning to the question of London’s shiny new Cycle Superhighways, I again quote LCC policy on independent campaigning while at the same time accepting the Mayor’s shilling…

“LCC has never associated led rides with endorsing the safety of a route. LCC’s Board has made it clear that delivering services of any kind to TfL will not prevent LCC speaking out. However, we will not use the actual led rides as a public campaigning tool. We have been contracted to provide professionally run led rides and we have said to TfL that we will be providing rigorous safety advice to riders and a full evaluation to TfL following the rides.”

LCC speaks out often on the failings of London’s executive and civil service, and in doing so puts at risk its chances of winning further contracts with the city for the provision of services such as cyclist training and ride leading. To see what I mean, look at any issue of the LCC magazine London Cyclist, or coverage of campaigns in the local press.

There are legitimate criticisms to be made of LCC, and its use of management-speak and textbook corporate PR is one of them. But Crapwalthamforest’s blanket condemnation of the organisation displays a lack of political nous, and, in contrasting London with geographically compact towns and cities in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, a failure to comprehend comparative urban geography and transport economics.