Tuesday 1 January 2013

2013 -the war on the bicycles begins in cambridge

2012: Pedal on parliament, the CEoGB, TfL's new routes, the growth of 20 mph zones. All of these bring hope to the future.

But: 122 deaths, the failure of places like S Gloucs to adopt Dutch-style designs, BBC documentaries and the general hate of cyclists by the Daily Mail fuckwits tempers that hope.

A lot of cycling campaigners hope that 2013 will be a good year for cycling. Hopefully it will.

But improvements in our cities will have to be fought for. Street by fucking Stree -making it safer to cycle. House by house: getting them to take their bikes out the garage and use them. Taking down one fuckwit with power and influence at a time -by converting them or destroying them.

This is -to be over dramatic- our Stalingrad.

The opening battle appears to be Cambridge.The new police commissioner -with no real mandate, and no majority in Cambridge itself has now declared war on cycling. Oh, he wraps it up in the "dangerous cycling" phrase, but he also uses the phrase "poor old motorist", which is as much a code word to the ABD lobby as "indigenous people" is to the BNP. He's saying "Cycle Haters -I'm on your side".

Which shows a problem with Cambridge, the showcase city of cycling. As Hembrow has observed: it's not a culture, it's because students can't bring cars. You have a split, then, of the students on their cyclists, and the town itself: the car drivers, the van owners, the people who commute in from out of the city. They don't cycle: they hate the cyclists because they are students, and because they are there. "Dangerous" cycling may be denounced, but using roads that are almost but not quite shared paths isn't dangerous -not for the cyclists. People do it because they feel safer.

Cycling without lights -possibly dangerous -but only in a town with cars. You don't need lights in car free areas.

Similarly: one way streets. The showcase cycling city, Portsmouth has made most of it's one way roads cycle-contraflow; Bristol is going that way. It's not dangerous -except that some drivers don't think bicycles should be there. That's education, not enforcement of one-way rules.

Polite letters and comments on new proposals "could to better" aren't going to fix things. The cambridge cyclists are going to have to be so fucking ruthless that the commissioner, the councillor and that sub-daily-mail paper the cambridge-fucking-news shuts the fuck up.

  • Shit cycle facilities have to be aggressively and publicly rejected. if they don't tangibly increase cycling safety, they won't attract new cyclists, or discourage pavement cycling. That means they are fucking useless and a waste of money,. 
  • Councillors need to be reached out, sat down with private conversations, and destroyed with the harsh truth: it's not the bicycles that kill people. All of their anecdotes " a cyclist killed a pedestrian in cambridge" needs to be shown to be false with that data -and they need to acknowledge that fact. If they say that to the cycling campaigners, and repeat that falsehood, they need to be publicly held to account.
  • Start attending any neighbourhood council or police meetings. Complain about speed, car parking, dangerous school dropoffs (a good one this -who can defend it?), and drivers texting. Why texting? Again -hard to defend. 
  • That wanker commissioner: he's tricky. No obvious tactic here, as he can claim a broader mandate.
  • Someone needs to deal with the paper. Again -tricky. Going via the local advertisers may work.
A key change has to come from the cycle campaigners. They need to be more visible, more ruthless. And somehow, somehow, get the everyday cyclists on their side. 

One suggestion there: leafletting passing cyclists on milton road, "the police want you to die on milton road". 

Not so clear: how to get the students active. They can be -look at the university fee demonstrations- the campaigners just need to (somehow) get them visibly out on the streets. 

Imagine a go-slow on milton road on a weekday rush hour? Imagine cyclists getting videos and handing out leaflets to drivers, Son of the Wind style. Then start showing the paper, the police commissioner this and say "what are you doing here".

If not, the war on cyclists will only get worse.

(update: corrected the no. of deaths. Whatever the number, it is too much -yet the press and the politicians go on about bicycles on the pavement)


  1. I can understand your frustration but you need to think about what will have most influence with elected councillors.

    Do you think they stand for election so that they can have irate single-issue campaigners abuse and harangue them? Of course they don't. Local authorities internally are very sociable, respectful and polite organisations - just because there's a bit of cut and thrust in party politics it doesn't mean that's an effective approach for members of the public (it isn't).

    You'll do better approaching councillors in a calm, factual and friendly way – they are more likely to help someone who is reasonable.

    Similarly, local papers often employ young reporters who are likely to sympathetic to issues like equalities, the case for cycling reducing pollution and the obesity epidemic. Get to know them and help them find different angles on their stories.

  2. "Cycling without lights -possibly dangerous -but only in a town with cars. You don't need lights in car free areas."

    I disagree. As a cyclist, I've had a couple of near misses caused by bike ninjas coming from the side at night.

  3. Good stuff - we need to get away from the anecdotal stuff and go with the facts - with clear messages.

    Those streets are getting meaner

    Pedestrians and cyclists killed or seriously injured
    2010: 8,376
    2011: 9,099
    Increase 8.6%

    Gov stats: Reported Road Casualties in GB