Crowdfunding better cycling in Yorkshire

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Crowdfunding better cycling in Yorkshire

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Cast your mind back to autumn of last year, and there were substantial protests in the small English village of Balcombe.  The issue being fought over was the plans of the energy company Quadrilla for fracking operations in the area.  Environmental protestors took to the streets and the fields to obstruct operations.

At the time, I debated with one of the protestors that the crowd could play a much more productive role in proceedings, such as crowdfunding the purchase of the land so it could be protected.  A nice example of what could be achieved comes from Holland, where 1700 Dutch households raised a record €1.3 million in just 13 hours to pull together and get themselves a wind turbine.  For the next 12 years, these households will get their energy nice and sustainably from their co-operative wind turbine.

The project was facilitated by WindCentrale, who sold shares in the turbine for €200 each.  This share equates to around 500kWh of energy each year, which is around 15% of the Dutch average.

Harm Reitsma, founder of Windcentrale, said ‘We expected things would move fast, but nobody anticipated the run on the wind-shares that happened yesterday evening. An increasing number of people want to generate their own electricity. Solar panels aren’t always an option and so wind-shares in a remote wind turbine gives everyone the chance to take matters into their own hands and generate their own clean electricity. As a result, interest in our wind-shares has been huge, and continues to rise. A good example of Power To The People!

A good test of whether this sort of crowd based activism may work in Britain is currently underway in Harrogate.  Local news reported that the town council voted against commissioning a study from cycling charity Sustrans that would have looked at how the town could be made better for cycling.  This despite the town hosting the finish of this years 1st stage of the Tour de France on the 5th July.

Helen Flynn, a local Liberal Democrat councillor, has suggested crowdfunding could be the answer, and has urged people to chip in and club together the £15,000 it is believed would be required to finance the feasibility study by Sustrans.

“What is exciting about this project is that it is the first time that a project of this type has been crowd sourced and it is particularly exciting as the Tour de France is upon us,” she said.

“There really never has been a better time to launch this kind of initiative, and it promises to eventually give us a strong legacy of utility cycling from the Tour having visited us.”

The effort has already raised £4,000 of the required amount, and Ms Flynn is urging other people and organizations in the area to play their part in lowering congestion and making the area safer for cyclists.

Of course, this is far from the only example of civic crowdfunding, with this particular niche being one of the fastest growing parts of the crowdfunding world.  Alas, it seems that this particular venture isn’t taking advantage of the many civic crowdfunding platforms available and is doing it all in a rather adhoc way.  Of the many projects listed in the Harrogate area, none reference this particular one.  If you’d like to get involved however, you can do so via the Cycling Harrogate website.

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