Saturday, 5 October 2013

Vote of no-confidence

This tweet reminded me about something.

Why attend?

The annual CTC / Cyclenation conference takes place this weekend. My memory was re-activated... I attended the 2010 conference in Edinburgh. Newcycling had just been formed a couple of months before, and we were let into Cyclenation without a fee as our membership was still low. (For the record: I don't think there should be a membership fee at all, funding for this sort of collaboration should be obtained from other sources.) I also think Cyclenation had identified the Norf as a blackspot for cycle campaigns and they were chuffed it got moving (again). All good.

And so in the coming months I helped Cyclenation pull together some letter-writing action on Stricter Liability; and Newcycling carried out a survey of local cycle campaigns. When cracks started to appear as I also continued to pose 'challenging' questions on the Cyclenation email group about their organisation, their vision, focus and their view on infrastructure as well as interaction with local campaign groups. I talked about the necessity of gaining campaigning confidence, visibility, openness and honesty. A lot. So much so that someone blew his patience, and one fine day in August 2011 expelled Newcycling from Cyclenation with the silly excuse that we had never joined.
"Your opportunities to influence our policies would be greater if your group affiliated with Cyclenation and behaved in a properly constituted and democratic manner - your group is not a member of cyclenation [sic.], had I been aware of that I would not have suggested that you apply for a seat on the Board this year.  At present the only affiliated group in your area is Newcastle BUG. We would like to see a properly constituted campaign group operating in Newcastle, and indeed every town in the UK with more than 50,000 (& those with less than that number if we can find people to run them)."
Simon Geller, 2 August 2011

Newcycling? Constituted? Tick. Democratic? Tick. Hm, also important: open and honest campaigning? Tick. Well, the palpitating heartbeat of the story is this: Cyclenation's online joining department were so disorganised at the time that Newcycling despite the automated confirmation email we received from Cyclenation, they'd nonetheless failed to register us. (Same goes for my workplace BUG.) And that was that. So in other words Cyclenation expelled us because of their own disorganisation and arrogance. Point in proof. Snap. Circular reference snapping off their own tail. There is every possibility that they are still chasing it now.

If you need to see email proof of the above statements, get in touch. And please yourself by calling me a splitter if you will. As far as I am concerned, there never was unity, clarity or collaboration. We are still busy talking to ourselves, wrestling our own demons. The masses still don't care. And it is that, that cycling has to break out and into mainstream, that's important. So, I agree with Shaun - there is no difference to made there.

So what do I want? I want effective coordination of national and local cycle campaigning. And I'll go out on a limb... we need a new body for that.

And I wonder whether Kaya Burgess has heard of Cyclenation?


  1. Well Katja, if it was the case that we expelled you by "own disorganisation and arrogance" I am very sorry about that. From our records I can see that TyneBikes stopped paying their subs in 2007. We became concerned about that and I organised a meeting with members of the group to try to get to the bottom of the problem. We were extremely pleased to see NewCycling arise from the ashes of Tyne Bikes and looked forward to working with you. However, Newcastle CC were never expelled from Cyclenation - I'm not aware that you ever joined under that name, if you had I would expect to see an entry on our database, bearing in mind that groups enter their own information at We do manage to keep the records for our other 58 paying groups & 43 BUGs in order, and if we messed up in your case I can only apologise. If you can show me evidence of how that happened I will certainly take it up with our membership secretary, at the very least to make sure it doesn't happen again.

    I did write the quote you have put up above, of course, and I think it took place in the context of a discussion that was quite heated, so if I could go back I might well have written it differently. The intention was to get you to join, not to expel you and I continue to believe that the best way to bring about change in an organisation is from within. The way Cyclenation is constituted means that we do have to raise an affiliation fee - you will have seen from the accounts that our turnover is hardly enormous, about £5,000 a year, but it does enable us to pay travelling expenses, maintain a web presence and so forth. From the group's POV being a member gives you an opportunity to influence our activities and policies by attending our meetings, voting at AGM's etc.

    We would love to obtain funding from elsewhere, and have tried hard to find some, but without success so far. We are now offering one year's free membership to new groups and you would qualify for that. Cyclenation has it's strengths and weaknesses - one of the strengths has to be the 20,000 members of the groups that we can bring to bear on a campaign.

    Whether or not NewCycling decides to join, we are committed to supporting the #space4cycling campaign and we are looking forward to working with everyone who's willing on that.

    1. On 13 August 2010 13:10, Simon Geller

      Date: Fri, 13 Aug 2010 12:41:09 +0100

      Subject: Confirmation of cyclenation membership application


      cyclenation New Membership Application from the cyclenation website


      Group name: Newcastle Cycling Campaign

      Type: BUG

      Town: Newcastle upon Tyne

      Local authorities: Newcastle City Council (there might be scope to extend to Gateshead Council)

      Group e-mail:

      Group website:

      E-mail for Newsletter:

      No of members: 29

      Affiliation fee: £ 10.00

      Group newsletter:

      Main contact name: Katja Leyendecker

      Position: Chair (nominated)

      Address: HIDDEN

      Tel: HIDDEN; Work: ; Mobile:



      Finance/Renewal contact: Claire Prospert

      Position: Secretary (nominated)

      Address: HIDDEN

      Tel: ; Work: ; Mobile:


      Newsletters to:




      Remarks: Simon Geller suggested signing up early! So here we go: the campaign is in its start-up phase. Website live (albeit under construction). Chair and Secretary nominated but not officially appointed. Members will be invited to sign up in October 2010.

      From: Simon Geller

      Date: Fri, 13 Aug 2010 12:17:24 +0100

      Subject: Re: Newcastle Cycling Campaign

      To: Newcastle Cycling Campaign

      Cc: Andre Curtis ,

      Hi Katja,

      If you have no members, no fee is payable, so get signed up! Once you do have some members a fee will be payable. you can calculate the fee for agiven number of members on the form on our website,

      Info about the conference in Edinburgh will be posted on our website as it comes up, and on Spokes site If you're coming, could be a good time to meet up and have a chat?

      From your signature I'd say you're doing all the right things already!


  2. Katja, I'm mortified. Clearly you did attempt to join and I was aware of that in August 2010, so I should never have suggested in 2011 that you weren't a member. I also have a copy of the email I sent to our membership sec of the time asking him to put you on as a BUG, which he confirmed at the time, and I've checked the database for BUGs and you're still not there. That person quit as membership secretary around that time and I can only presume that the application fell between the two secretaries and never got processed. My only defence for failing to remember your email correspondence is that I deal with 30-40 emails a day and clearly that one slipped my mind, which I don't think is good enough because I should have checked.