A FAIR DEAL FOR THE MOTORIST
Blocking the road to buses, cars, fire engines, ambulances, etc?
MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS?
A personal view by Brian
I’ll start by declaring an interest. I once was a keen cyclist, willingly doing a 30 mile round trip for my job in Bucks - before my bike was vandalised. But I also see cycling used as a Trojan Horse for anti-driver policies.
Of late, my part of London has seen a rash of ‘Boris Bike’ stands spring up. Many have resulted in a loss of vital car parking space, despite my council’s stated plans to provide more - 70 new bays could deprive us of maybe 200-300 parking spaces, as those in the road seem to lose maybe 5-6 parking spaces in areas with limited parking. This is not universally popular (see comments).
Our transport supremo says it is
not costing our residents a penny, but the cost, £2m, paid by developers’ for
community improvements, could have been better used.
[Right way, wrong way – Manbre Rd, W6 and Crabtree Lane, SW6]
[NB photos taken before the start of local Boris Bike hire]
6.8 million people cycle once a month, a rise of 1 million in four years, according to British Cycling. It’s certainly trendy enough for the PM and London Mayor’s photo-ops, and when I happened to be in Derbyshire just after the new Transport Secretary was appointed, his local paper pictured him cycling.
4 out of 5 cyclists allegedly also drive, so the anti-car
tendency probably is a small but very vocal minority. Green Party rep and
former London Deputy Mayor Jenny Jones demanded £300m be spent on cycling.
Mayor Boris Johnson’s cycling fund
is now at £913 million. The latest addition being electric
bikes costing £700 apiece for those who don’t need the ‘health benefits’.
This when untreated potholes affect wider road users...
In September 2013, the Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan was quoted “...we have to get people used to the idea of taking space away from cars and giving it to bicycles... It's a big change and you can't just throw it in overnight. The danger is that if you do that there's a backlash and you end up having to take it out again."
Yes - under a Conservative Mayor, elected after declaring he was against Red Ken’s hierarchy that put drivers last, but who refused to put treating road users equally in his Transport Strategy and making it binding on boroughs. The Mayor’s Roads Task Force, which included the London Director of cycling campaign Sustrans, has proposed a dangerous direction in social engineering – cycling growth targets.
Boris’s transport commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy, had to declare interests regarded as influencing his actions. Interesting that he saw fit to suspend his membership of a rail group while working on Crossrail, but not his otherwise relevant Sustrans membership!
Cycling is being justified on grounds of space efficiency, with claims – after a count in Central London – that for a unit of road space taken up by a bus passenger, cycles take 3.7 and cars 14. That comparison may true in a limited sense (e.g. static) but becomes much less valid when you consider the bigger picture. (Source: Mayor’s Roads Task Force & TFL response set of documents).
Besides, if road space and throughput are so important, why have the authorities taken away road space and slowed traffic so much? Why are they keen on fostering overdevelopment and a population explosion that adds to the pressure on space?
Promoting cycling has become an obsession for some. Some Cambridge campaigners are calling for a prominent display of cycle-themed public artworks on all key routes into Cambridge. These would “go beyond the stereotype of the male cyclist” and reflect “psychological and cultural barriers to cycling” and “conflicts on the roads”. The art would also be “designed to reduce car traffic speeds”. (The RAC Foundation actually made approving noises).
The London Mayor’s office was flooded with complaints after this year’s gratuitous road closures for RideLondon, a jolly which impacted residents, businesses and holidaymakers, and resulted in some Surrey farmers being kettled in inside their homes from 5am to 7pm. (Transport for London denied receiving any complaints!).
At least DfT rejected
the Get Britain Cycling report produced by some MPs earlier this year, which
sought to social-engineer the proportion of national journeys made by bike
from 2% to 10% and then 25%.
As cycling numbers increase, so unfortunately do casualties, producing a demand for roads to be reengineered and large vehicles either banned or fitted with extra equipment. ‘Us and them’ activists use cycling to demand anti-car measures like 20mph limits that won’t really apply to them.
A recent protest lead to about 1,000 cyclists blocking a busy street outside the TFL HQ in Southwark, and calling for another £600m to be spent on cycling, and a segregated cycle network over six foot wide.
The protest came after a police operation, Operation Safeway, cracked down on lawless cyclists, although it seemed to concentrate more on drivers, judging by the offence count.
The organiser was one Donnachadh
McCarthy, a ballet dancer turned eco-fanatic,
and was even seen as too way out
for the LibDems! He is also one of the
of ‘OccupyLondon’, who are rather fond of blocking
thoroughfares, and run such delights
as ‘Meditation flashmob to end ecocide’.
He has said that to match Holland we need to spend £1.5 billion annually on cycling (NB the ‘cost benefit’ link given doesn’t work).
After this showpiece, Boris is minded to spend ‘a billion’.
LOWERING THE STANDARD – ENCOURAGING ‘US AND THEM’?
The freesheet Evening Standard has regular dramatic headlines on casualties and articles with titles that don’t help to break down barriers between road users.
Kara Dolman: Why are drivers so impatient to kill cyclists? 25 June 2013
Rosamund Urwin: 11 July 2013
Filthy reign of King Car is killing us all
MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS?
Although there are also regular complaints about cyclist behaviour, enforcement attitudes vary. Some weirdos stage a regular Naked Ride (not even wearing a helmet!) - clearly illegal, but the Met Police turn a blind eye. Nor was action taken against a cyclist for riding on the hard shoulder of the M1 in Herts.
Some simply feel above the law. Telegraph writer Tom Chivers called for there to be no action against cycling with headphones on as it would “stop people from cycling”.
Bournemouth offenders are just given words of advice and a leaflet on cycling too fast.
Cambs Police Commissioner Sir Graham Bright has cracked down on anti-social cycling (with the creditable support of the local Cycling Campaign), However 1,000 cyclists riding without lights were able to cancel their £30 fixed penalty notice by fitting lights.
The Government might usefully consider policy going beyond the Highway Code. Child pedestrians must be taught the Green Cross Code before going out unsupervised, and new motorcyclists need Compulsory Basic Training by law, but cyclists have only been covered by a recommendation.
I personally find Ken Livingstone’s idea of licensing and number plates a bit OTT when there are opportunities to use common sense and develop good attitudes. Above all we need a bit of mutual respect.