London Cycling Awards 2013

The London Cycling Awards are an initiative of the London Cycling Campaign. Traditionally part of LCC’s annual general meeting, providing a chance for hardworking volunteer activists to celebrate their and others’ achievements as well as engage in critical cycling advocacy work, the awards this year will be spun out into a glitzy standalone event dominated by celebrities, corporate sponsors and public figures. Ordinary LCC members, save for a lucky few chosen by ballot, will be excluded from the ceremony held at the West End church of St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Needless to say this has not gone down well with many LCC members, and formal protests have been made by individual members and borough cycling groups to chief executive Ashok Sinha, whose proposals were approved by the trustees who manage LCC’s charitable activities.

Sinha has used personal email correspondence with various individuals to accuse opponents of the changes of falsely claiming that corporate interests lie behind them. In these retaliatory strikes against the LCC grassroots Sinha implies that naysayers are ungrateful when it comes to the work the LCC executive does in supporting borough cycling groups. To me personally Sinha has denied that celebrity has anything to do with changes to the London Cycling Awards, whilst at the same time to others he exploits the appeal of rubbing shoulders with celebrities.

Public voting for the 2013 London Cycling Awards is now open. For reasons explained below I cannot bring myself to include here a link to the voting page. I shall be boycotting the exercise, and urge others to do likewise.

Andrew Gilligan is among the nominees for “Best Cycling Champion”, yet the Mayor of London’s cycling czar has been in post for less than three months. Other shortlisted nominees for this award are Tour de France and Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins, who lives in the far north of England, and Jenni Gwiazdowski, director of the London Bike Kitchen. I wish Gilligan well. Maybe in a year or more, when he has achieved something, Gilligan will be eligible for a London Cycling Award.

There are no supporting statements accompanying the nominations, which puts the only London-based shortlisted nominee for “Best Cycling Champion” who is not a public figure, but who has actually done something tangible for cycling in London, at a competitive disadvantage.

This was the basis of a substantive objection to the nomination procedures made by LCC members in Camden and Brent. Three of the five awards open for public voting focus on commercial cycling products. There is no space for ordinary LCC members and others to vote for borough-based cycling initiatives and those responsible for carrying them through.

Several of the awards sponsors are among the nominees, presenting a clear conflict of interest. This is unethical, and risks bringing LCC and its sponsors into disrepute. We have had arguments at borough level about local bike shops using our online forums to offer financial inducements to LCC members who leave positive reviews on social media websites. Nominating LCC sponsors for London-wide awards takes this to a new level.

As far as I know the shortlisting procedure for the 2013 London Cycling Awards has not been fully explained to members. All we do know is that around 2,500 nominations were submitted in total, and in the public voting section these have been whittled down to three nominees in each of the five categories.

The discussion currently underway in the main online policy forum for LCC members is solidly critical of the new-look awards. There has so far been but one statement in favour, in which the contributor, in an ends-justify-whatever-means approach, endorses LCC’s exploitation of celebrity culture and its inclusion of commercial sponsors among the awards nominees.