If your first thought was that the title of this article is far too sentimental for the purposes of the transport section then do not worry, I should probably agree with you. However, it does help to emphasize the point I would like to make which is related to recent events.
The first one you may have heard of, particularly if you are resident in Northampton. One afternoon Dr Declan Ryan, an academic at the University of Northampton, was surprised to find that a fence now blocked a cycle route he uses regularly.
He took the picture above and posted it online to raise the alarm. Very quickly it went viral. Voices from all parts of the community contributed their dismay at the fact a very popular and well used cycling and walking route had been blocked. People offered information and thoughts as to what had happened and how it might be fixed. As it turns out, the path runs across a plot of land that had been sold off for potential development (although as of yet, no developments have been approved). Contributors speculated as to whether the path could still be considered a public right of way under the Highways Act, unfortunately this does not appear to be the case. Local Councillors from across the political spectrum got involved. WNC Councillor Julie Davenport set up a petition which I encourage you to sign:
Even the MP for Northampton South, Andrew Lewer, turned up to the site to express his intention of finding a solution to the blocked footpath.
At this point you may be thinking that my title is mistaken, as perhaps what it should read is 'The Power of the Collective'. This is a fair point but what I would like to say is that this collective is created by the courage of several individuals willing to highlight a problem or to express support for solutions. You as an individual have the power to contribute toward change even with seemingly small actions, actions such as writing to a local MP or Councillor or attending an event to express your view. It takes courage to make your voice heard but it is of huge value.
As another example, I attended a CA-WN meeting back in July (to my shame, I do not attend as many of these as I should!). Councillor Jonathan Harris mentioned the Health and Well-Being Board and that an item was coming up on its agenda relating to a Health and Well-Being Strategy for West Northants. I gave the strategy a read through and was surprised to see there wasn't much mention at all of how Active Travel might play its part in local Health and Well-being.
I contacted the Board to ask if I could speak and the Chair, Councillor Matthew Golby, was willing to allow me some time. Everyone on the board was very receptive and listened to what I had to say. This was even followed up by an online meeting with the Director of Public Health in the weeks following. When I arrived at the Forum in Towcester there were some comments made that they don't receive many requests to speak from the public. I wonder whether sometimes this is because we, as members of the public, worry that the points we want to make are of little value or are mistaken in some way. This couldn't be further from the truth.
So take a picture of that footpath overgrown with vegetation, report the pot-holed cycle lane, communicate your displeasure at the cut bus service and, above all, if you think you've got a solution to a problem, find a forum and tell people about it. Even if it is something you don't feel you can take forward yourself, you never know whom you might inspire. This is the power of the lone voice.
What can CA-WN readers do? Signing the petition above would help demonstrate that residents of West Northamptonshire care about their local cycle paths and want them protected.
And something simple for October: attend a CA-WN meeting, Climate Café or other local event and see how you can contribute. This is my own personal milestone for the month too!
As always, feel free to get in contact email@example.com