Monday 2 July 2012

Motor Group Sob Stories

A fuel cut for the suburbanites of the South and Centre of England. That's what the tax duty reprieve is. Something for the Daily Mail readers who drive into the cities, get stuck in traffic jams and whine about it. Something for the Daily Mail to campaign for, and for the politicians who read it and care about its voters to listen to.

That shows a limitation of the Times campaign: it hasn't got near the fuckwits who read the DM and write comment rants that invariably use one of the following words or phrases: numpty, simples, AND THATS A FACT, RIGHT NOW, "57% run red lights", "law-breakers", "lycra-louts",  "read the highway code" and anti-cycle rants "I got knocked down by one and nearly died". Until those dimwits can see any value in cycling, there's a vast group of people out there that are not only danger on the roads, they have political influence which, as seen last week, can do nothing for making cities livable.

There's also the RAC foundation, which seems to vie with the Institute of Advanced Motoring for being the motoring equivalent of the Taxpayer's alliance: an organisation that has influence even though they talk bollocks. They are good at their propaganda though.

They are great at wheeling out sob story characters whenever fuel duty rises, congestion charges, workplace levies or anything else that may interfere with the right to drive into a city and park where you want.

The nurse who works shifts -implicitly female. Needs a car as public transport can't be used, parking levies and fuel costs are her problems on low wages. Ticks the sympathy "nurse"; can use shifts to justify the drive.

Not: the consultant. Paid lots, expects free parking in the hospital even though the nurses and assistants are expected to pay.

Completely ignored: the fact that the nurse doesn't get paid much, if she's under 25 her housing benefits will get removed, and the NHS cuts are making her life worse along with all the patients.

The family who has to choose between filling the car and feeding the kids. Implicitly: running an old car like a 1995 Mondeo estate into the ground, can't afford something small and frugal. They "need to drive to work" - work whose distance from the house is never actually covered but the implicit message is the sole job they found is tens of miles away.

Not: the family who has discovered that their BMW M3 urban SUV is now so expensive to run that they have actually looked at selling it and getting something more fuel efficient.

Ignored: that impoverished family will also be fucked over by massively rising house fuel bills, and whenever they do use public transport, its costs will be going up above the RPI, let alone up above wages which, for everyone who isn't a banker, have effectively been stagnant for the last decade. Also ignored: why do they need to drive to work? Decades of under-investment in public transport, the destruction of the railway system and the failure of cities to offer safe cycling infrastructure.

The Elderly disabled driver. Needs a car, is dependent on it for hospital visits. Ticks the sympathy card, their disablement is a justification for having to drive.

Ignored: those disabled people who can't drive for their condition and whose public transport option is getting more expensive and less reliable. Or those people whose Asthma is made worse by the pollution, ended up in a wheelchair from a driving-related crash.

Ignored: whether it is safe for elderly disabled people to be driving -and given that at some point within a few years they will have to stop driving, why our cities are designed so that they have no other transport options. The buses are gone, the suburbs don't have corner shops as everyone now drives to the hypermarket with the free parking -all the while whining about fuel costs.

These are the sob stories, again and again.

Yet who really benefits from fuel cuts? People who drive big-engined cars long distances.


  • corporate employees cruising along the motorways on their work phones. 
  • North Fringe employees who commute in from Chepstow and Swindon, and the rural sprawl of S Gloucs. 
  • The affluent middle classes in their urban SUVs on the school run
  • Companies who depends on national distribution centres: the supermarkets that fuck the farmers over and ship local food to places like avonmouth and back again -the same wanker supermarket companies whose HGV drivers think it is acceptable to park their trucks wherever they fucking want whether its a bike lane or not. Which, to be fair, is because they have no fucking choice. Tesco's delivery schedule doesn't give a fuck about bus lane hours, zebra crossings or safe parking. All it knows is what supermarkets need milk, the distance between them, and how much money is saved having an HGV deliver it round the city.
  • People who live in the suburbs, drive into the cities and sit in traffic jams texting complaints about bicycles to twitter and facebook.
  • Taxi drivers who leave their engine running while waiting at stations because they want to save money on starter motors and then whine about how much diesel costs them. 

These win from the fuel duty cuts, because the more fuel you use, the more this actually matters.

The poor? The underpaid? The elderly? The NHS staff? They're fucked by everything else this government is doing, yet the AA  and RAC foundation pretend not to notice that, while the Daily Mail actually praises all of Cameron's actions on that front -no sob stories there.

The cycling campaigners need their own sob stories:

  • The Nurse who can't cycle to work as outside rush hours the bus lane, the only lane that offered a hint of safety, is a parking lane for commuters.
  • The Family who can't take their kids to school by bike as the suburban SUV families on their school runs make it too dangerous.
  • The person without a driver's license who can't cycle across the city to get their exercise on the way to the hospital, as you need to "keep your wits about you" to cycle in traffic -and there's fuck all bike parking in the hospital anyway.

These stories need to be found locally, for local papers as well as national ones. They need to look "normal" in the photos, not hi-viz wierdos that the DM readers can't relate to. No helmets, except maybe on kids (to avoid the vitriol that would come from the DM readers who "care" about kids except when they cut them up on the school run).

For example, for the family example, you'd want them saying "we'd love to use the ring road path, but a child couldn't cross the M32 on-ramp alive.", filmed in front of the crossing.  Puts a need of all cyclists on the path into a perspective where the bike-haters can't be so dismissive.

For the nurse, someone whose is moving from Frenchay to Southmead as part of the big merger, but isn't confident that she can cycle along the A38.

The person without a driving license -same story. Far enough away from some shops or the hospital that they really do need transport, no public transport (i.e. : anywhere in S Gloucs), and no option to cycle as where they are paths they dump you at every junction to sprint over.

Fight the motoring propaganda groups with sob stories that show they not only don't represent society, they don't care about the people who really suffer in today's cities.

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