CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

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Bicycler
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CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby Bicycler » 30 May 2014, 12:30pm

Firstly a disclaimer. I can't get my head round the terminology of formal, informal and affiliate member groups, district associations and sections. I am referring to local groups which organise rides and carry 'CTC' in their title (formal groups?). I should also state that I currently only occasionally ride with a group, not a CTC one, and my experience of CTC groups date from a couple of years ago when living in another part of the country.

I didn't want to go off topic in the thread about establishing standards of ride leadership: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=85345 but reading that thread reminded me of the time I spent trying to find out what to expect from joining a local group a few years ago. My question is might it be a good idea to also set standards in what a new member might expect from joining a local group?

I found it a frustrating experience. Some groups provided a lot of information online, but others gave very little. Attitudes varied wildly from strict "no member left behind" to strict "members must be able to maintain a speed of xx mph". Some required you to bring a spare inner tube, others a full blown tool kit and to be capable of fixing pretty much anything. Whilst I was able to meet such requirements, it does strike me that too many requirements might be a barrier to even an enthusiastic beginner. IME you learn by doing, with the help of others who are more knowledgeable. When a person I cycled to work with asked me about local groups I could not recommend the local ctc section because she could not do 50-60 odd miles. She could certainly do 20-30 or so and was not unfit but not used to distance riding. In other words as good as a non cycling enthusiast is ever likely to be and yet the bar was still too high.

I initially looked out CTC groups in part because of the CTC's established neutral position on helmets. I ruled out instantly (non-ctc) groups which would not let me ride without as is my personal choice. Unfortunately the CTC's national policy does not trickle down to local level. Two groups strongly recommended helmets and hi-vis on their websites. A third didn't but I had no less than 4 different people (including the leader) feel the need to point out the error of my ways on a ride. Is it too much to ask that local groups adopt the strictly neutral position of the national organisation? Or does the national organisation have no control?

I'm not angry, this is intended to be constructive. I think that it can only be a benefit for newcomers to have a clear idea of what to expect across the country and for the groups to be as inclusive as possible
Last edited by Bicycler on 21 Jun 2014, 12:44am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby Vorpal » 30 May 2014, 1:46pm

When I was looking for a cycling club some years ago, I ended up joining a local multi-affiliated club. At the time, CTC was publishing their rides on an email list, and they tended to be rather longer than I wanted to do.

The multi-affiliated clubs in the area, however offered family-friendly rides, or split their club runs into short and long distance.

When I did join the CTC a few years later, it was for campaigning rather than social rides.

Frankly, I thought, that the CTC had missed a trick. They are doing more slow and easy rides in the area, now, but still don't sell themselves very well, or make the information as readily available as it should be.
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Si
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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby Si » 30 May 2014, 2:36pm

It's a bit swings and roundabouts. All of the local groups are run my volunteers and haven't ,over the last decade or so*, received that much support from National Office. This being the case it's littler wonder that they are more concerned with doing things their own way where they can. However, if running a group under the banner of the CTC then they should follow CTC policy as they are representatives of the CTC.

I've never had any experience with people preaching about helmets (either for or agin) with my local group, and by-and-large the rides are properly described on the website beforehand so newcomers know what to expect. Indeed, any new comer is encouraged to get in touch with the Membership Sec. before the ride so that they can make sure it is the right ride for them, and the Mem. Sec. will try to let the Ride Leader know that they are coming so that he/she can give a welcome chat at the start.
There again, I've heard contra things about another localish group....indeed, one of the country's most successful and dynamic community/social cycling groups got started due to the feeling of unhelpfulness that some people received when trying to go with this Section. At the end of the day, I'm guessing that those who go the extra mile to welcome and be nice to newcomers are the ones who will flourish and the insular ones will just peter out (as a number have done recently).


*thankfully things are improving now...not as fast as some want, and others will object to N.O. "interfering" but you are never going to please everyone

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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby Bicycler » 30 May 2014, 3:07pm

That's interesting Si. As I was writing it did occur to me that a degree of freedom in how local groups operated might be intentional. I guess I wanted to know the extent to which NO did have control over local groups' policy.

Re: Helmet advocacy. Well if you look at the linked thread discussing ride leading a few people shared their section's ride rules. Of the three, your group was the one which did not explicitly recommend both helmets and hi-vis. I'm not claiming that my experience on that ride was necessarily representative and maybe the advice would not have been given had I not been the newcomer. Nevertheless, in the case of one individual it was more than passing advice and I did feel like I was having to fight my corner on the subject. Every social group will have the argumentative individual I guess. At least there I could point to the CTC's position, which I couldn't in the groups where helmets were explicitly recommended in their own rules. When the CTC recognises the threat to everyday cycling from overestimating dangers and mandating helmets, having your local representatives doing exactly that is counter productive.

I agree with Vorpal that some local CTC groups have missed a trick as regards encouraging new riders. There seem to be new cyclist groups popping up all over the place and yet many CTC groups don't make an effort to reach out. I reckon the National Cycling Charity should be doing more to encourage its local groups to be more inclusive

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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby mjr » 10 Jul 2014, 9:26am

Wow, where to begin with this? As far as I can tell, CTC national has little control over its core local groups (hint: I don't understand the correct jargon either ;-) ) and even less over affiliated groups. Ultimately, if divisive national policies (h*lm*ts) were imposed then core local group members could overthrow national (it's a democracy, after all), walk away, switch to affiliated groups and/or affiliate elsewhere.

The affiliated groups scheme looks like a problem to me in two ways: firstly, they can present themselves as CTC-ish but have things like h*lm*t and get-yourself-home rules which makes them more attractive to a certain type of rider (stereotypical sportive trainees) but confuses people about what CTC is; secondly, when new groups spring up because the core local groups aren't doing what people want, those new groups often affiliate to CTC to get the insurance and so on, so CTC nationally gets more money and actually benefits financially from a core local group being a bit rubbish, doesn't it?

Right, on to what I feel are the key questions: what should local rides do to be more inclusive?

Is it enough to advertise accurately the sorts of rides that happen already (and what to expect and what's expected from riders), or is there some sort of "magic mix" of ride types which would be best?

How/where should newcomer-welcoming rides sell themselves?
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby Vorpal » 10 Jul 2014, 10:12am

mjr wrote:How/where should newcomer-welcoming rides sell themselves?

Having worked to organise some beginner rides, I'd say there are several different approaches that can work.

A ride that is listed/advertised as 'Family friendly / beginner rides' tell people that pace and length will be suitable for families with children, and therfore feasible for pretty much any rider. However, not everyone likes children, or wants to ride with a group that may have to stop frequently for children's needs.

Daytime, weekday 'health rides' at distances of a few miles may attract pensioners and other who are available during daytime hours, but need (or have been advised to get) a bit of exercise.

Ride classifications, such as 'easy'. 'medium', 'challenging' can be a bit difficult for new/returnign cyclists to understand, unless they also state ' always at the pace of the slowest' or some equivalent so that someone who has no idea how fast they can ride, won't feel put off.

Inclusive or all-ability rides may be targeted at those who require mobility aids, or are getting into using bikes as mobility aids, but can also attract new and beginning cyclists on the basis that they may be easier than other sorts of rides.

Where? It depends... GP surgeries, health clubs, outdoor centres, country parks with off-road cycling facilities, cycle-friendly cafes located near good cycling routes, local councils. The internet is good place to put something, but it has to be logical. A returning cyclists who wants to find people to ride with may stick something into Google like 'bike rides chelmsford'. And that should, IMO, be enough.
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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby mjr » 29 Aug 2014, 12:36pm

I've tried to act on as many of the tips above as possible when updating http://www.klwnbug.co.uk/about/ but would welcome further suggestions and pointing out anything that I've overlooked/lost/missed/screwed up.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby Si » 29 Aug 2014, 1:57pm

mjr wrote:I've tried to act on as many of the tips above as possible when updating http://www.klwnbug.co.uk/about/ but would welcome further suggestions and pointing out anything that I've overlooked/lost/missed/screwed up.


Very nice, friendly and inviting site.

The things that jump out at me are:
- letting people know what standard of riding is required. For instance, I often take people out on the road who'd never dare venture out on it alone but in the group they are OK...but they need some reassurance that they can manage it before hand. So...don't worry if you've never ridden on the road before, as long as you can control your bike properly, and so on and so forth.
- are children welcome - any age restrictions, etc?
- collecting riders info at the start for insurance/emergency purposes (e.g. have you got their med details and ICE in case they do themselves a nasty) and for publicity in the future.
- if you are after normal people on bikes rather than cyclists then maybe call it "Promoting Cycling" rather than "Cycle Campaigning" :wink:

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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby mjr » 29 Aug 2014, 2:59pm

Si wrote:- collecting riders info at the start for insurance/emergency purposes (e.g. have you got their med details and ICE in case they do themselves a nasty) and for publicity in the future.
- if you are after normal people on bikes rather than cyclists then maybe call it "Promoting Cycling" rather than "Cycle Campaigning" :wink:

Thanks Si, and I give credit to my predecessors and collaborators for making the group generally friendly over the years. I've tried to incorporate the first two points as far as I understand them, but I'd like to feed back on these two:

- collecting rider details is up to the guides on each ride (and I suspect what they do may depend on whether they were trained by CTC or BC or someone else and whether they aim to comply with current insurance conditions) and I'm inclined to leave it off an introduction page, lest we overload new riders;

- I've reworded the start of the page slightly but I've chickened out of changing the "Cycle Campaigning" section because I suspect some of the volunteers want to reclaim both "campaigning" and "cyclist" (I'll check soon). I think some are still unhappy that CTC no longer has an official expansion. Some members of other local groups suggest that they should just ride and not get involved with such things (for example, http://www.norfolkctc.org.uk has no campaigning page), but CTC and our Cyclenation nationally both still refer to "campaigning" and so on. Is there evidence that the C words scare newcomers away?
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby Si » 29 Aug 2014, 4:14pm

Is there evidence that the C words scare newcomers away?


Afraid I'm only talking from personal experience. I have a number of my newcomers campaigning without realising it! Depends, on who you are aiming at I guess.

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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby mjr » 29 Aug 2014, 4:35pm

Si wrote:Afraid I'm only talking from personal experience. I have a number of my newcomers campaigning without realising it! Depends, on who you are aiming at I guess.

Would you elaborate, please? I didn't find anything about campaigning at https://storywoodcycling.wordpress.com/
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby Si » 29 Aug 2014, 5:05pm

Rather than suggesting that people are 'campaigning' which can sometimes be understood to have political overtones (or even associated with loonie lefties, militants, tree huggers, etc etc in extreme cases), I've just pointed out to people specific instances where cycling is suffering and suggested that they could make their views known if they wrote an email to so and so relating all the good that cycling could do if it only had a little bit of help. Dress it up as 'promotion' which is often seen as a positive rather than 'campaigning' which is sometimes seen as reactionary, and indeed, too much hard work, and it can be a bit more appealing to those who think of themselves as people who ride bikes rather than 'proper cyclists'.

As we do not want to be seen as a political movement ('cos that can give us all sorts of gyp elsewhere - e.g. our ties with the local council), we prefer to be a promotional movement. We can still do all the campaigning stuff - just don't necessarily advertise it as 'campaigning' in certain quarters.

As far as StoryWood is concerned - that group has only just started and so is limited in what it does. It's aim is to get non-cyclists cycling in the local community. We want a very softly-softly approach as our community is not where you'd choose to put a bike project if you wanted an easy life - thus we do not want to scare off potential clients/participants by making it look like we are going to get any of them involved in anything overly political.

Having said that, I'm afraid I did manage to have a bit of a disagreement with the undersec for transport when he came to visit us.....I know that I shouldn't have but he did come out with the line "any cycle path is a good cycle path". :twisted:

But hey, that's just us...you might find that your target includes a number of died in the wool cyclists who are looking for a cause to rally around, in which case "Campaigning" might be apt.

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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby mjr » 29 Aug 2014, 6:08pm

Thanks for the explanation. I think we're not after "died in the wool" cyclists specifically because they don't need much encouragement to come have a go and/or they may prefer other groups to easy-riding, but I wonder if our area's relatively high cycling proportion (20% IIRC - it's no Cambridge but pretty high for such a rural area) and unusual local political history (a large number worked for the Crown one way or another, who didn't try to influence their workers politics, unlike most landowners) and that we're not council-linked means we can get away with mentioning such things.

Even so, I'll add some gentle reminder that you don't have to campaign (or ride in groups, for that matter) if you don't want to, once I find time and a good wording.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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Re: CTC Member Groups and new members/beginner cyclists

Postby Vorpal » 29 Aug 2014, 10:03pm

I think it looks inviting to new cyclists, but I agree with Si about the campaigning.

I think I would just move the bit about campaigning down to the section on campaigning, and add a note that members are not expected to campaign, but that new volunteers are always welcome, and/or that even something simple such as writing a letter to a councillor to promote cycling may be helpful.
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