Thursday 27 February 2014

Turbogate: root causes

The Turbogate debacle rolls on

The fact that Sustrans and cyclenation approved this shows how their seal of approval is something that MUST be withheld when things this mediocre come out. Sustrans in particular is building up a reputation for "approving" junk like the London quietways.

As for cyclenation, those cycle groups affiliated with it need to ask hard questions, a key one being "why is John Franklin on the infrastructure group, given he doesn't believe in infrastructure as a solution?"

But other than that, we need to look at root causes of the mediocrity

1. Political expediences

The plans rejected crossing bike priority due to the need to add mandatory raised crossings for cycle rights of way -and the council unwilling to to add them for "political reasons".

The fact that something is going to be rejected for political reasons does not mean an unsafe alternative should be accepted. Instead the cycle groups should say "council failing to provide safe crossings" and make it clear there is a political cost to not adding good cycling facilities.

2. The UK cycling infrastructure guidelines are shit

This is broadly known, except by Franklin. We need to get rid of the "two types of route" story, we need to have hard minimums on path widths, bike lanes -which should be deprecated in favour of cycle paths -should also have a hard minimum below which we say "these are worse than useless as it encourages cars to go closer". And anything that says "advisory bike lane" should be rejected without even measuring the width. WTF is "an advisory bike lane?". As cars can go in it whenever they want without any legal redress it doesn't guarantee anything at all. They only go in when a council doesn't want to do anything for cycling, yet still pretend they care.

3. Timelines to spend money prevent good infrastructure from being built.

One of the arguments from the CTC for approving turbogate was "the time was running out".

This is why intermittent scraps thrown off the DfT table are something to reject. Good infrastructure takes time -its why the last year of the Bristol Cycle City project resulted in the best infrastructure -concorde way. The cycle team had to get approval from other parts of the council to use its own land by the railway, design a good path, plan a bridge over a stream, build the path, add lights, connect it with the reworked muller-to-St Werburghs path. You can't do this if a government says "here's 20 million, go build some cycling stuff by the end of the year", any more than you could go to the HS2 team and say "go build half a mile of the route while we talk about the rest".

A long-term funding plan is needed.

The DfT knows this for roads, for HS2. Fuck, they even know it for electric cars where they talk about long-term infrastructure investment, and all they are talking about there is charge points.

But what does cycling get: fuck all, promised repeatedly in press statements, with time limits to spend it.

And as a result: sign-off on shit designs, "respect" cycling campaigns, and no ability to plan for a coherent set of routes that are off-road, safe and joined up.

Money spent on shit cycling infrastructure is money wasted. Money spent on driving infrastructure from the cycling budget is doubly wasted.

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