CA-WN 15 February meeting report

CA-WN 15 February meeting report

We were delighted to welcome as our guest this month Alison Holland, founder and director of Brightwayz, a social enterprise dedicated to active travel1. Brightwayz is based in the other half of Northamptonshire, where the team runs lots of practical projects to promote and support active travel; they also provide active travel products and information across the UK. Alison’s slides are available to download2. This meeting was also recorded and can be watched on the CA-WN YouTube channel3.

Present: Alan Mawer, Dave Anderson, David Garlick, Ella Sage, Harry Mellor, Jane Wood, Martin Coombs,  Mick Lorkins, Peter Matten, Orianne Neyroud, Rupert Frost, Rupert Knowles, Sam Beesley, Tim Allen.

Apologies: Briony Askew, Clare Slater, Maria Lee


Brightwayz is a non-profit social enterprise, which runs on similar lines to a CIC (Community Interest Company), but was founded in 2003 before CICs were invented. The company recently received Excellent STARS accreditation for its travel plan from Modeshift, a national sustainable travel organisation. They are also on NatWest’s list of the UK’s top 100 Social Enterprises4.

Brightwayz exists to promote safe sustainable everyday active travel for all. They are not about holidays but active travel for everyone wherever they want to go - inclusivity is important. The organisation started out as BrightKidz with a walking bus to the local school, and developed into offering support and products to enable more parents to set up walking buses, then into active travel more generally. They now run a range of active travel projects in North Northamptonshire, and support councils, schools, business and voluntary organisations across the UK to deliver active travel with advice and information as well as products such as hi-viz waistcoats and reflective armbands.

What’s the issue with transport?
It’s the largest and fastest growing source of carbon emissions in the UK. It’s also something everybody can do something about – everyone has to travel whatever their ability or age, so everyone can make choices about how they travel. Although people are set in their ways and will not all be willing to change.

Brightwayz works with people of all ages but particularly with young people, as well as with other social enterprises, the council, and schools, to deliver active travel programmes. Local projects include:
·       Working with schools to develop green travel plans, which is what earned the STARS accreditation.
·       Community Cycle Hub in Kettering. They have free use of fairly derelict old side rooms at the Royal Hotel in Kettering every last Saturday of the month. They provide free cycle parking and maps, plus engagement campaigns about active travel. It’s a friendly place for people who like cycling, scooting, wheeling to ask questions or talk to others.
·       Community Cycle Club is for people who need to cycle with someone else to feel confident on the roads and help them know where to ride. On the last Sunday of every month, open to all ages (children need to be with an adult). They go to a different place every month, e.g. Wicksteed Park.
·       Working with Kettering General Hospital to develop a travel plan and install cycle racks. They also hold regular ‘fix your bike’ events there, funded by Cycling UK.
·       Helping council with designing safer active travel routes.
·       Bikelife – supporting people with gaining confidence to cycle. Participants are either given a cycle if they need one, or help to make sure their own bike is roadworthy. At the end of the course they receive a voucher towards bike kit or to keep a refurbished bike. Similar scheme in West Northants based at Delapre Abbey – Space 2 Talk5
·       ‘Get Down to Town’ - all sorts of active travel-related activities and events in Kettering town centre. Funded by North Northants Council. Kettering is the first town in the UK to receive ModeShift Accreditation for the whole area.  It’s about promoting existing activities as well as running their own eg a Ghanaian women’s walking group. As part of the project they ran a ‘scooter disco’ for children and parents to borrow a scooter and whiz round to music. Very popular with children.
·       Get Down to Town also includes Cycle lingo, which combines cycle training and providing a bike with English language lessons. The initial cohort is Ukrainians who need a means of transport. Some have learned to cycle from scratch and have all received bikes giving them freedom to get around. 

Other issues with transport
It’s not just emissions. Other problems caused by motor vehicles include:
·       Road casualties (1575 in total in Northants in 2022). Fewer car journeys = fewer casualties.
·       Air pollution causes serious ill health – not just in cities. The British Heart Foundation predicts 1,700 deaths in the county in the next decade due to air pollution.
·       Traffic congestion costs the economy £6.9bn a year e.g. in delays for businesses

Who does it affect?
·       Families - time spent driving children. Vicious circle of driving kids because the roads are too dangerous to walk/cycle.
·       Businesses - people who regularly cycle have on average 27% lower absenteeism rates. Space taken up by car parking is expensive. Next plc in Leicester started a car share scheme with staff incentives and managed to claw back a large area of car park which is now used for something else.
·       Traders – there’s a fear that people won’t spend money if they can’t drive into town. In fact people spend more if they walk or cycle as they spend longer in town and are more likely to go to local independent stores rather than just drive to a supermarket.
·       Older people without access to a car suffer from isolation and difficulty accessing health and other services, especially where public transport is inadequate. Many older people are very happy to drive everywhere but that independence can be suddenly taken away by poor health.
·       Young adults are affected by the costs of car ownership, and are often missed out of the thinking on transport. Teens to age 25 may not be able to afford a car or driving lessons. If they can it uses up all their income to cover insurance and running costs. E scooters have been great for young people to get to work and education quickly and cheaply.
·       Children need to be considered as individuals as well as part of families. If they learn to walk from place to place confidently and cycle safely, it gives them independence and releases parents from ‘taxi duties’. 

Changing mindsets
·       Behaviour change is difficult to achieve – everyone thinks other people should do something  differently but don’t do it themselves. We all need to take individual responsibility. Cyclists are stereotypically thought of as fit white men speeding along in special gear. That isn’t what a cyclist is – AH prefers to say ‘people who cycle’ or ‘people who are cycling’ as everyone travels differently at different times – cyclists drive and walk too.
·       Congestion – there’s a view that you need to build more roads for all the traffic. Braess’s Paradox6 is that more roads simply lead to more congestion, as more vehicles are drawn to the new roads. If you build for cars, you’ll get cars, if you build for active travel, you’ll get pedestrians, bikes, scooters etc.
·       It’s not a case of saying ‘no more cars’, but sometimes a bike is better. Achieving a significant difference doesn’t need everyone to change. The impact of just 20% of people cycling or walking regularly would be phenomenal.

What can we do about it?
·       Travel plans provide a structure to take effective action
·       Modeshift STARS award system provides an excellent framework
·       In North Northants all schools are targeted to have a travel plan by 2033
·       Businesses need to have travel plans for planning purposes but they are also useful for achieving net zero and health and wellbeing targets.
·       A travel plan has been done for Kettering town centre.
·       E scooters reduce car journeys – 1.5m trips since the scheme was introduced, 30% of those replace a car journey. 

Case Study - Grange Primary school
This school has done loads to promote active travel and won several awards. It’s important to be specific about what behaviour is changing and keep track of the numbers. A key one is ‘how do you usually get to school?’ 

Case Study - Rushden Lakes
Rushden Lakes is owned by Crown Estates, who are big on sustainability. Brightwayz have been contracted to work on their travel plan and reduce the number of car journeys to the site.
A key group to target is the staff as they go there every day.
There are also initiatives for visitors and customers particularly if they live locally, including cycle workshops.

Case Study – North Northants Council
Brightwayz has been supporting NNC with LCWIPs (local cycling and walking infrastructure plans) for Kettering and Corby.
These are a really important tool for councils to access government funding for new cycle routes. Current government position is less favourable towards cyclists than under previous PMs. However LCWIPs are 10 year plans so need to keep them going.
In West Northants Daventry, Brackley and Towcester LCWIPs are currently in consultation7.
Make sure you give your support to LCWIPs as an interested party by sharing your local knowledge of what needs doing. Understand all the potential benefits e.g. access to employment.

·       What could be replicated in West Northants? Take a look at the Brightwayz local projects page and Facebook1 to find out more about what they have done. They are happy to share ideas.
·       It’s important to partner with others and be part of the local community.

Northampton has a wide variety of cycle groups which, as far as I am aware, don't seem to talk to each other. Do the groups in the North work together?

Perhaps not as much as they could - Kettering Cycle Club helps out a lot, for example members act as ride leaders for Brightwayz. Would be nice to connect better.

How did you build the relationship with the council?
It all happened in lockdown! AH had known a few people on the old County Council, they were supportive but never had any money. In lockdown AH was on furlough and connected with a group called Northants Streets For All.
She then talked to councillors, including Jason Smithers, current NNC leader and at that time transport portfolio holder. They liked the ideas she was offering and had some funding without resources to deliver very much, so engaged Brightwayz to deliver some projects. Doing that successfully won the group credibility. They are now seen as a critical friend.

How many people work at Brightwayz?
The core team are 6 – 3 directors, 2 project staff and 1 marketing person. The organisation provides work for many more people such as mechanics and a Ukrainian translator.

I attended the Northampton LCWIP session 1 yesterday. Did the LCWIPs you were involved in address the state of current infrastructure?
LCWIPs did recognise issues with current infrastructure but haven’t addressed it on the ground yet due to lack of funding. Engineers go and survey what is already there and look at, for example, what the barriers are to active travel.
To find out more about the status of LCWIPs in the West, Neil Holland, Walking and Cycling Officer, is a good contact.

Point raised at the LCWIP workshop yesterday was an audit of current facilities. There is a tendency to spend money on shiny new things not fixing what’s already there.
A good LCWIP should have some quick wins, which could be fixes to current infrastructure or something relatively inexpensive such as new signs and maps.

My problems when cycling are: potholes, with potential damage to me or my bike; cars getting too close; cars parked in the cycle lanes; and the high chance of having your bike stolen when it's chained up.  Do you liaise with the police and council about these problems?
The Police should be part of the LCWIP development. They may be able to offer things like bike marking, which is a very partial solution but can help with recovering bikes stolen just for a ride home and then abandoned. Facilities such as secure cycle parking are important.
It might also be advisable to have a cheaper bike for quick trips to the shops and keep the expensive one for long rides. It is statistically less likely that bikes with back racks get stolen – perhaps they are less cool?
It would be good to see the police clamping down more on bike theft as often there are regular prolific bike thieves.

Sustrans are working with WNC in a similar way to how Brightwayz are with NNC
Good to know - AH knows Sustrans well. They sometimes collaborate and sometimes are competitors!

Other business:

Recent events:
-          Tree harvesting at Martin More Wood8. ML has been in touch with WNC about other woods where a similar event could be held later this year, and with the Forestry Commission, hoping to encourage them to hold their own events.
-          HM and JW attended a Show The Love event in Towcester organised by the WI and signed up a number of new subscribers to the CA-WN Exchange.
-          JW also represented CA-WN at Seedy Saturday.

-          South Court Environmental are holding events the next couple of weekends to plant trees, including some collected from the tree harvesting9.
-          Hackleton environmental group meeting March 5th.
-          East Hunsbury Green Event on 1st June
-          We plan another social event probably at the Museum again. Provisional date is 20th April but need to confirm with the Museum.
-          The Northampton Clean Air group and 1000 Voices10 campaign are planning another demonstration outside the Guildhall

We are keen to get out and talk to local groups with the same objectives as CA-WN – let us know if you would like us to come to you! Also, although most of the outreach work tends to be done by JW and HM, they would welcome anyone else wanting to get involved.

Planning ahead for better weather we are looking for somewhere to go for a field trip – enjoyable but where we can also learn something. We have some ideas but more would be welcome. DG suggested an evening tour at Frosts of Watford.

We intend to do a thorough review of the draft WNC Local Plan when it comes out later this month.

RK went to the workshop held recently to help develop the WNC Tree Strategy. This is being led by a consultant, Russell Horsey. It was interesting how the different council departments see trees in different ways – Highways see them as a potential hazard, others as an engineering problem, there is also biodiversity, shade/ cooling and positive effects on air pollution. We will ask Russell to come to a future meeting as guest speaker.
It is positive that the council’s new Tree Officers will be looking across all departments whereas currently this all sits within Planning.

Date of Next Meeting
Thursday 21 March 7:45pm. Guest speaker Councillor Jonathan Harris.


1 Brightwayz

2 Meeting presentation

3 CA-WN YouTube

4 NatWest SE100 2023

5 Space2Talk

6 Braess’s Paradox

7 LCWIPs in West Northants.
Current consultations 

8 Tree harvesting

9 South Court Environmental

10 1000 Voices