Friday 5 October 2012

Councils don't give a fuck about cyclists -how to make them?

This week we have Southwark Council closing one of the main cycle routes in their area for a year, the city of London, proposing to divert cyclists out of their area, and Twickenham converting a bus lane to another roadway. -adding an advisory bike lane that even they state in their press release will be of no fucking use at peak hours -that is, school run and commuting times.

What to these things have in common?
  1. Local councils that don't give a fuck about bicycles. 
  2. Last minute discovery of plans about to happen.
  3. Last minute objections by cyclists
  4. Councils unwilling to accept they've fucked up or make any changes.
This happens again and again. Only one thing appears to stop it: large scale protests which generate negative press reports about the council and trigger the electorate contacting all their councillors.

This works because councillors need to realise that cycling facilities are not just for "a few cyclists", but are for their electorate, the businesses of the region -and for them themselves. If we get viewed as strange lycra-and-hi-viz troublemakers, we won't get anything.

This is not so much a safety-in-numbers story, as a strength-in-numbers.

The councils need to know the cyclists matter. TfL and Boris may have got this message, even if they aren't willing to do much about it. Addison Lee's management have the message, even if their drivers have different views.

Regional and Borough councils seem to have different views. The worst is Westminster, which resents the very presence of anyone on a bicycle in their area. The City seems, well, to have twentieth-century street models. They may say the road designs are "medieval", but that's no reason to put in 1995 road narrowing/pavement widening.

How to put in extra pressure on them:
  • Public protest. Southwark and Twickenham could be targets here, with different reactions. Twickenham: some kind of mass protest outside the council house might be noticed.
  • Southwark could be a site for some other experiment -what about an organised "bicycle bus" over the diversion at set times of the morning? If you don't feel safe going over the diversion on your own, wait until the  half hour and set off en-masse with everyone else who is doing it. A kind of critical mass for commuting. It might annoy some people trying to drive through, but as nobody is going to go out their way to cycle over Blackfriar's Bridge in the rush hour, it would actually reduce cycling traffic between the "bike buses". 
What about here in S. Gloucs? It has the Waltham Forest problem: so few cyclists that they really can afford not to give a fuck. Which is why they
The Bristol Cyclists, they have their own issues (BRT2 anyone?), and need to focus their efforts there. Few of them would willingly come out to S Gloucs unless they were heading as fast as they could to nicer areas (over to Wales, the Cotswolds). Which means the council can get away with cycling facilities that at best suppress cycling, at worst make it more dangerous.

Fighting the battle here is -almost- a losing battle. Almost, because even if the residents are a bunch of fat-arsed car potatoes who would rather raise a petition to stop the one bike friendly thing the borough has done -a bus and bike only route- than use a bus or bicycle themselves.

If change is going to come from Bristol, it would have to come from the employers of the big North Fringe businesses. 

Returning to London, then, a nicer note to finish on: Londenneur's proposal for a cycling city plan. The vision the councils and TfL lack.

No comments:

Post a Comment