The extent of any such problem is, of course, defined by what said body does. And increasingly I'm finding myself at odds with the CCC. Its not so much what they do, its what they don't do that bothers me. They don't campaign on my interests, yet their existence makes getting anywhere on my own basically impossible. On a number of occasions I've raised cycling safety issues with the County Council, and their bland response is simply to point out that they talk to CCC, so they listen to 'cyclists'. And this is a very effective tool for council officers to fob off an individual; complain about it and they can validly say that they've had representation from cyclists and they don't share my concerns. All that means is that while I may have a very clear and valid point, because CCC haven't campaigned on it (or they have and they have accepted a bad compromise), I'll be forever fobbed off.
Lets look at who the CCC are and what they campaign for. They've got upwards of a thousand members, which isn't bad at all. And I think that many of the people campaigning for them are good people. But as a body it represents a tiny fraction of the total number of cyclists in this city; they don't, therefore, have a mandate to speak for cyclists here. They represent their own interests, their own goals, and they don't speak for me. The County Council manage to get away with treating both the CCC and individualse as complete shmucks by playing one off against the other; and for as long as the CCC remain committed to close cooperation with the County Council, nothing is going to change. They campaign quite hard on so many things, yet they're so often forced into accepting pretty bad compromises. And as an individual, I have to say I find that they've been an hindrance to me.
I can extend the same logic to the Cycle Touring Club (CTC). They campaign for cyclist safety, but the means by which they do so has never really impressed me. They don't speak for me; I've been a member in the past, but not any more. I'll not be another member adding my weight to a campainging body that doesn't campaign for what I want.
So what are the options... Well, I guess that most people into cycle-politics in the UK will now be aware of the split between those who favour working within the system of such pre-existing organisations to change what they campaign on, and on the other side those who are splintering off to form their own (Cycling Embassy being the best example). I can respect both positions, but I do wonder whether both miss what to me seems a very fundamental problem; the bare minimum we require to improve standards is greater than the maximum there is on offer. When the least we want is more than the most they'll give, why are any of these campaigning groups actually for? Why would we seek to replace one body (or group of bodies) with another that would have exactly the same problems? Do we not just split the cycling movement (if that even makes sense as a concept) to replace one ineffective body with another that cannot hope to achieve more?
I propose that we should at least explore a third option, and I'll expand on this in future posts. What happens if we choose NOT to cooperate? What happens when we choose not to join competing organisations? What happens if we resolutely refuse to get in to bed with transport planners? What happens when we, as cyclists, decide that we've had it with the lot of them, and we're going to throw our toys out of the pram? Is it the case that it is the cycling movement itself, and the organisation thereof, that is holding us back?