The Saddleman's Review of the Year - a New Year Message from our Chairman, Phil Snaith

A Year of “cycle campaigning” in Carmarthenshire...........!!!!

JANUARY 2014

Met fellow Sustrans ranger and CTC Right to Ride guy Geoff Rone of Burry Port and realized we had a shared anger/passion/drive (unfortunate word...!) to get more people on bicycles going to wherever they want to go to do stuff as well as increasing numbers of those on Strava trips wearing heart monitors. Geoff’s vision is to see Carmarthenshire go Dutch. Whilst I agree, I can’t see that many JCB’s flattening our County and I do think off road cycle paths have their place (probably because as ex County Council “cycling officer” we spent millions on them!). Fine sentiments and aims by both of us but really all it took was someone named Bradley to look awkward on a bike (yes he does....) and about a million golfers have thrown their carbon clubs in the loft and bought a carbon bike instead. Anyway, Geoff and I thought it was time that Carmarthenshire’s cyclists had a voice and we should set up a campaign group.

FEBRUARY

The initial meeting of a dozen or so people agreed a mission statement and on the 10th of February we were born. Press releases had us growing to 25 members in a matter of a few weeks and Carmarthenshire Cycle forum was up and “spinning”. With a call for members to offer themselves up as secretary etc we had zilch response and Geoff and I  are the Committee! I should have guessed – cyclists are notoriously individual and private beings but then they have aberrations and ride in pelotons of several dozen. Always thought most cyclists were mildly eccentric but now there are millions of us so are we now more normal???

MARCH/APRIL

Anyway, on behalf of all normal cyclists we started work as a Forum. The County Council invited us to a meeting to discuss their draft Walking and Cycling strategy. Offered much advice and still waiting for the final draft.....but we did seem to be given some “gravitas”!!

MAY

Invited   to join a Condor owners ride from Nantgaredig to Llyn Brianne . Lovely day and good group of mixed ability riders. Mentioned our Forum and amongst the coffee and cake the message seemed to get lost. Oh dear, should we worry we haven’t broken the 30 membership level yet?

JUNE/JULY

What a wonderful summer for cycling. Probably passed you on the way around a few roads and trails. Did the Dylan Thomas centenary ride from Laugharne to Swansea and wished I had some leaflets for our Forum. Anyway, probably would have got lost between the burgers and beer at the Railway inn, Dunvant which is where about 50+ riders decided  the  ride had ended!! Not sure that pushing the health argument for cycling really works since pubs and cafes are always involved....

AUGUST

Started a campaign for more funding for cycling schemes on Carmarthenshire’s Trunk Roads. After a Freedom of information Request found that we have had about £60k in the last 8 years whilst Pembrokeshire have had about £1.8 MILLION.... Wrote directly to Minister Edwina Hart and we are still in correspondence. A meeting with her highest official has been offered in early 2015 and a couple of our schemes have mysteriously begun to appear in their programme. Reached 30 members and probably punching “above our weight” but who cares!

SEPTEMBER

Invited by Regional Transport body to comment on their 5 year transport plan. Also invited by Welsh Government  to comment on their Active Travel Bill guidance. On both we submitted comments and in the latter affected change whereby communities in Carmarthenshire will be included for consideration whereas in the first draft they were excluded.  Another result! As part of a national campaign entitled “Space for Cycling” I intended to spend a Saturday at Swansea University on a campaign training course. It was cancelled through lack of interest. The whole of South Wales could only offer up 5 people interested in training. A common theme going on here? Yes, we cyclists love to cycle socially and do the odd shopping trip or work journey  by bike but if we are squeezed between traffic or can’t find a cycle rack then hey, it’s the UK so best not shout about it!! At least the apathy was not just a Carmarthenshire thing !!

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER

Got £1,500 from an Environmental body to set up a website and get promotional material. T shirts and a few cycle tops have been delivered and leaflets will be with us early in the New Year. Hopefully this will increase membership and we can build on a busy and interesting first year. Fourth letter from Edwina Hart but no kisses at the end, as yet....

DECEMBER

Met Geoff for the forum Xmas party. One pint in the Cornish Arms in Burry port. As we sat there Nia Griffith MP walked in and was awarded the first Cycle Forum T shirt. Thinking, should I keep one back for Mr Farage come May the 8th.......on second thoughts he will probably license or ban cycling! On that thought may I wish you a happy, prosperous and safe cycling 2015. New members welcome via www.carmarthenshirecylceforum.org.uk

All the best,

Phil Snaith, Chairman.