Friday 15 November 2013

Boris the Blamer: the elephant in the room

This is probably the worst week in Britain's cycling history -to the extent that that the fact that someone else was crushed to death in London today: this time a pedestrian, was barely a surprise to cycling and road safety campaigners.

But to the families: the police turning up to advise that a loved one was dead will be a shock that will last for the rest of their lives.

The sheer awfulness of this week is brought out by the fact that the Bow Roundabout protest mid-week was protesting the death of four cyclists in eight days.

What would Boris Do? He's blaming the cyclists.

Why would he do this? The obvious answer: he's a selfish wanker who despite the claims that "dutch-style" cycling matters, doesn't mean it. He still thinks that cyclists can survive "if they keep their wits about them", and if not then it's their own fault, "they ran a red light" -which is of course the TfL world view.

TfL have that opinion because they are stuck in two worlds: mass transport -tubes and buses- and the car. Either way it's the big infrastructure projects their civil engineers love: overpasses, tube stations, grand things to be proud of -no shitty little bike lanes for ungrateful cyclists who are always complaining about your work.

With their direct control limited to the main roads, they end up being forced to build death-ways on them, because their overreaching objective "traffic flow" prevents them from building safe routes

To get more cars over per cycle, widen the road at each junction to let two cars through at once, then shrink it down at the far end. Gets cars over, but removes space for  a bike lane at the approach -and at the end you are left fighting for space with whoever is racing to the pinch point.

To get more cars over a junction, there's no time for all way pedestrian lights, meaning walking across more than one road means two waiting periods, then two sprints: slower to cross than a car. For cycling, it means that there is no time in the Bow St junction to have a dedicated cycling session. So the lights give you a couple of seconds head start, not the time you need to actually get over.

Finally there is parking. That's more of a side-road issue, which means the councils -but the TfL seem unwilling or unable to change the focus of the councils -Westminster and K&C councils in particular- to focus on cash through parking. Yet TfL have so much power if they really wanted it: the power to change the lights so that nobody could ever leave K&C, to cross over to westminster.  Those same main roads that break up cycling are a weapon TfL could use to get their way with councils -if they really wanted to. But they don't as they have  shared agenda. The councillors want their free parking spaces, the councils the paid parking, and TfL are happy to smooth the flow to those parking spaces.

That's TfL: stuck in time and collaborating with the councils to do nothing to make cycling safe. They could be changed, but that doesn't just take the time that Andrew Gilligan claims is needed: it takes motivation. It takes someone telling TfL "It's OK to slow down traffic if it encourages a shift to cycling". To instruct TfL to say to Westminster council "we're going to close Westminster Bridge to cars every Sunday -deal with it".

Who is the someone. The person who could is clearly; Boris the Cyclist Killer.

Except Boris the Blamer is again saying "no knee jerk reactions", "get all the facts" and reminding cyclists not to the break the law: with the obvious implicit message: the cyclists broke the rules and died for it"

And yes, he does it because he's a wanker who probably believes it.

However, he has a problem: he's an ambitious wanker.

Ambition one: get re-elected mayor
Ambition two: become leader of the conservative party, and then prime minister.

This week threatens this. Nationally.

Before the spring's elections Boris came round to supporting a "dutch style cycling revolution"

But where is it, apart from a half mile strip to CS2 -which you only get to from the city if you survive Bow Street.

That new segregated stretch is notable as the first TfL segregated superhighway route -but given it was opened the during the "massacre of the cyclists", the launch isn't going be a high point of Boris's second mayoral stint, it's going to be seen as a sign of him being out of touch with the real issues -and not just in London, this is making international news, as well as papers across Britain.

This threatens him because even if he thinks the cyclists are dying for their own failures, he's now exposed to his own failings:

If Boris can't build a bike path, how can he run a country?

It is that which may be the key to getting TfL to change their ways -but he needs to be reminded of this, every single day.

1 comment:

  1. "If Boris can't build a bike path, how can he run a country?" Great election campaign slogan for nonconservative parties.

    Also you've nailed transport engineers perfectly. I know because I used to be one with that mindset and designed and built roads and streets for private motorised automobiles. NB public transport engineers are mostly the same with their blinkered ignorance of how to create safe, pleasant walking environments. I know that from my experience of witnessing what they've done despite being informed by yours truly.

    Only one Council where I live is hooked on car park revenue but unfortunately it's the one in the city CBD. Nearly all our ignorant suburban Councils just give on-street and off-road parking away for free.

    Not your worry though, this city is in Australia.