An apology

We would like to apologise for an indiscretion on our public messaging platform ‘groupsio’ on 14 August. The use of a particular phrase was highly regrettable, and we owe an apology to everyone who has been affected by it.

The text in question was edited as soon as the issue came to light to avoid further embarrassment for us. The commentary would have been made in the heat of the moment, and sometimes we say things without due care and which we go on to have misgivings about. This is one of those occasions, and we are very sorry for the distress this has caused.

On another occasion, the contents of an email was shared via the messaging service. This was not appropriate given the open and public nature of the platform. For this, we extend our apologies to Cllr. Manuel Abellan.

Shortly after discovering the error of our ways, the group messaging service was switched from public to private whilst we ensured that all the messages posted on the platform did not contain any other inappropriate content.

In our defence, and this is not an excuse for our error of judgement, the context was such that the conversation was intended for the 14 people who had applied to join the messaging group since its commencement in late May. Nevertheless, the decision had been taken to keep the group open and viewable to all in order to enable a level transparency. Clearly, though, this openness should have been even more of a reason for us to be careful in regard to the content posted.

Whilst researching the degree to which our messaging service has been evaluated, we have been surprised by many of the comments posted on the pages of certain local Facebook groups page in regard to the council’s delivery of the Streetspace proposals. Many of these comments contain an extraordinary level of personal animosity that, arguably, goes far beyond our indiscretion. Some of the comments have been made directly against our elected representatives, and others appear to have been made by our elected representatives. Social media does tend to bring out the best and the worst in people.

We have, though, learnt our lesson, and have been rightly chastised for the mistakes we have made. We would like to reassure everyone that we will endeavour to be more careful in the future.

We would also like to take this opportunity to provide some additional information about Get Sutton Cycling, as it is clear from some of the remarks directed at us that many commentators are unaware of who we are, what we do, and the context of, and background to, our campaigning.

Get Sutton Cycling

Get Sutton Cycling represents the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) within our borough. We are one of around 30 such groups across London. Our primary focus in recent years has been on improving infrastructure in Sutton, with the ambition to take forward, and build on, the 2014 Space for Cycling campaign (see our post about this here, and the LCC article here). In 2016, we promoted Sign for Cycling. Two years later, following the 2018 My Liveable London campaign, 55% of elected leaders across London agreed to submit a high-quality Liveable Neighbourhoods bid. Our borough submitted a high-quality Liveable Neighbourhoods bid last year (focused on Sutton town centre) and, if the bid is successful (the announcement has been delayed by the Covod-19 crisis) this could see an additional investment in our borough of around £6m. Covid-19 has changed everything very rapidly. Currently there is Streetspace for London and the government’s walking and cycling plan for England. Later this year, and into 2021, we will be promoting Climate Safe Streets.

We may be small in number, but we are big on ambition.

Essentially, though, our hope is simply that, in time and with the right conditions in place, many more people (wherever they live in the borough), will see cycling, and active travel in general, as a stress-free transport option, and an alternative to the car, for many of their short journeys. Low traffic neighbourhoods are a step towards this, and that is why the current proposals to trial traffic filters have our full support.

The About page on our website has more background on Get Sutton Cycling. The group has adopted the LCC’s model Constitution, and this is available on our website here. If you wish to make a formal complaint against us, there is a link to the LCC complaints procedure here.

Get Sutton Cycling campaigns, and seeks to influence. The group is not affiliated to any political party. We engage with all elected representatives, and with many council officers. If someone other than Cllr. Abellan was heading up the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee at this time we would be talking to that individual.

Get Sutton Cycling has been working for change rather than for keeping the status-quo. We have endeavoured to keep informed, and to be aware, of current and emerging policy – just like the councillors, MPs and government ministers. Over two-hundred blog posts have been published on our website during the last six years, with articles written by a number of contributors. There have been reports on numerous consultation responses, cycle tours,  and cycle forum meetings, reflecting our regular engagement, as an established stakeholders group, with council officers and councillors. 

Many documents that we produce have been archived on our publications page (including our response to the borough’s Draft Cycling Strategy ‘Time to make the case and rice to the challenges‘ (pdf) in September 2015. We endeavour to publish quarterly newsletters too.

Ever since the outset of the Covid-19 crisis in March this year, and the subsequent unveiling of the Mayor’s bold new Streetspace plan to overhaul London’s streets in May, along with the government’s announcement of the £2 billion package to create new era for cycling and walking the same month, we have been particularly busy.

Towards the end of April we reached out to our members, supporters and the wider community by asking for suggestions of locations where pavements could be widened to and emergency cycle lanes introduced in support of social distancing. This was facilitated through the creation of a Streets for Social Distancing Map, which later on was incorporated into Widen My Path (an online tool in which anyone can add to, or up-vote existing, suggestions). To help prioritise this work, we launched a petition in mid-May which called on the Council to make safe space to socially distance on Sutton streets. We kept tabs on the Council’s timeline for implementation from late May up until early July and the publication of Safer, Active, Greener Streets

Clearly, we are delighted that Sutton’s proposals have been approved and are to receive funding (subject to completion and delivery). So, once the locations for the experimental, trial, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods were made known, the decision was taken to deliver leaflets to the communities which we believe are set to benefit from the trial. We knew there would be concern, and that people would have questions, when presented with a notification of a scheme described as a local “road closure”. Indeed, from what we are seeing on social media, some people have interpreted these schemes as adverse changes to the local road network. We would argue that they are, in fact, the opposite. We also understand that many people are concerned about the lack of consultation prior to the introduction for the proposals in some of the areas concerned. That is why, our leaflets, which have been designed by us and paid for by us (both printing and any delivery costs), have been produced to endeavour to explain why we think the proposals are a good thing in the longer term, and to provide additional context. Clearly, we would like to see extra support for them.  

It is important to note that the schemes in question are experimental and can and will be removed if they do not achieve their objectives. The council is actively encouraging feedback on the issues concerned. We would like to thank many of the councillors in the wards concerned for their steadfastness. Our particular thanks to Cllr. Abellan for his determination in seeing these ideas through to the trial stage.

Essentially, this is all about a common concern for the future. At this moment in time there is a pandemic. All that every council authority across London is wanting to do is trial a few traffic filters to give people a chance to see the difference. We understand why people have concerns, and we understand that, by introducing trial traffic filters, some short local journeys will be not as short as they currently are. In that regard, people are being asked to take a bit of a hit. We would suggest, however, that we all need to step back a bit, and think of the bigger picture. Otherwise, what is the plan for coping with the effects of doing nothing, keeping the status-quo, and hoping that somehow the traffic will just keep on flowing in the years ahead?

We hope that this overview of our work over the years has demonstrated that the last few weeks of the groupsio messaging group’s existence has been a very small part of what we do.

Charles Martin | Marcus Howarth | 28 August 2020

Posted in Comment
9 comments on “An apology
  1. Jo says:

    By blocking Browning Avenue you are causing huge concern and worry among the local residents. Those of us with no choice but to drive are being pushed into one of the busiest roads in SW London. Whilst walkers and cyclists have 2 very close by options (Pigs Alley and the Hamptons). This isn’t helping your cause at all. I think cycle paths are great but you will have 3 in a small area whilst we get stuck on our 1 congested road. I walk frequently and find the area one of the best in London already.

    This isn’t getting rid of cars just causing stress and anxiety.

    I feel really sorry for those living on central road as they will have even worse fumes and many people walk along there too.

  2. Stephan Torcy says:

    To be honest, I’d prefer an apology about the devastation that 14 cyclists are helping to bring to the area. Calling concerned residents ‘plebs’ I can forgive. The damage you are causing I cannot.

    What gives you 14 people that are nothing like elected the right to help decide these changes? I appreciate most of the blame goes to the council but you deserve a good share of the hatred and I hope you understand just how despised you are round here right now? The anger local residents are feeling is massive. I’m a cyclist and a driver and you do not represent me in any way whatsoever.

    Guessing you’ll probably moderate any comments on here as you know how wrong you are and wish to sweep any bad feeling under the rug.

  3. Lorraine Jenkins says:

    How this closure can sound logic to anyone is beyond me.
    Central road is an absolute nightmare at the best of times and needs an extra lane if anything to sort it out but no some bright spark thought lets close all the access roads to Central Road from Browning Avenue and nake ALL the traffic come out from one road!!!!
    Seriously then only one i can think of (well that is clean to publish) is Stupid!!!
    How the hell has anyone allowed this to go ahead. You have no idea the upset this is causing i use this road to get my daughter to school and then back to get my son to primary school and you are adding at the best i can guess 45 minutes ontonmy journey.
    What the hell are you people on??????

  4. Chris Casselden says:

    This reads more of an apology to yourself for allowing these comments to be read by the wider community. Restricting the readership implies that this sort of derogatory language will continue unabated, albeit only within your select circle.
    You have already done your cause incalculable damage and by now cloaking it in secrecy will do even more.
    When you seek to be non-transparent and undemocratic, and refuse to engage in opposing dialogue the anger against you rises to a fever pitch. You have almost reached point where your grand scheme is beyond redemption and your group will be forever tainted as blinkered, small minded and incapable of rational thought. Certainly not suited as a pressure group.
    My advice to you, not that I expect you to even consider it, is to talk to the people who are raising objections to your plans and explain to them the advantages it will bring to all and put their minds to rest. If necessary, consider opposing views and alter your strategy accordingly.
    All we want to do is talk to you, but you persist in hiding behind Cllr Abellan and his coterie of equally narrow-minded and undemocratic politicians, trying to force unpopular changes on us under the guise of CV19. Advising Councillors and their little elves to ignore dissenters and only concentrate on those supporting you will not resolve the problems you face which grow daily.
    Continuing on your present course will result in a huge backlash against cyclists and possibly civil unrest.
    You have been warned.

  5. Chris Casselden says:

    My previous comment appears to have been blocked!!!
    This is an apology for be found out, not for making the scurrilous statements in the first place. It does not apologise for calling concerned citizens ‘plebs’. It does not apologise for referring to dissenting correspondence as ‘hate mail’ and it does not apologise for encouraging elected officials and their elves to engage in gerrymandering. If you genuinely wish to apologise then stand up to your errors and call them out for what they are. Be conciliatory and then enquire how you can make amends.
    All you’re doing now is to close your communications, become shrouded in secrecy, be non-transparent and raise even more fears.
    I would give you some advice, although I doubt you will heed it.
    We, who are opposed to your schemes, have very real concerns which you may not have considered. Your best course of action is to talk to us, find out what our concerns are and either put them to rest or modify your plans to take them into account. To continue of your present path is inviting a serious backlash and possible civil action.
    You have been warned.

  6. Lucy Jones says:

    The 14 people in your group clearly do not live in Worcester park or know much about the traffic issues the area has suffered for 30 years. We have many disabled residents, as well as trades people who use tools and require vehicles to make a living. You may apologise but the points made by your group to ‘use covid’ are downright disgusting. If you knew the area at all you would know there is 2 excellent cycle and walking routes that already by pass the rat runs.. no need to close roads and cause more mayhem

  7. Ada says:

    Personally I believe as a cycling interest group, the onus is not on you to water down your proposals in the face of opposition, you are living your stated aim: to get Sutton Cycling! As a resident of WP, I have no ill feelings towards you.

    The burden of compromise falls on those elected, as they are there to represent us all and to provide cohesion to our local communities.

    I have to admit, the proposals will cause inconvenience for me as a motorist but how do you square the circle of reducing traffic around WP? The low traffic neighbourhood program at least has the data to make it a credible experiment to trial.

  8. Derek Taylor says:

    How many members are in your little group, 10? 20? how to you dare speak for the 200k residents of the borough. The apology is not accepted. Marcus needs to stand down from his role and if you had any backbone or care for the people of the borough you would sack him immediately.

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