Thursday 9 May 2013

Bells for the bicycles of westminster

Westminster's pro-car policies poison the heart of London; the heart of political Britain.

By encouraging residents to own cars and drive, they increase congestion in and around the borough. By seemingly actively trying to suppress cycling, they again have knock-on effects in the adjacent boroughs and across the river.

Their cycling policy has now, apparently, been updated to support the TfL plans. All that seems to have happened there is some praise for it in the introduction and explanations in the body of the report explaining why segregation is impossible in Westminster. Perhaps the document was nearly finished when the TfL plans came out -the council knew they had to acknowledge it, and did so in a way that completely dismissed the vision.

Indeed, some of the statements "no need for 20mph zones S the average speed is below that" seems classic old-school TfL, something cut and paste from a Blackfriars bridge report. That 20 mph limit shows the core issue with the Westminster plan: they don't actually want to do anything. It's not that they want to encourage cycling but can't think how -the usual- it is like they see cyclists coming into their borough and want them to stop it. Keeping the speed limits at 30 are the symbol here: a council unable to accept that there is a place for cycling in the city.

The other example is the "free bells for cyclists" idea. This is a worse piece of bollocks than even the hi viz that S Gloucs council likes to give out: hi viz may make you visible to the HGV driver, and, provided they don't mistake you for some street furniture they can drive over, may keep you out of the KSI statistics. A bell? That may help you avoid hitting a tourist that steps out without looking, but it doesn't protect you from anything that endangers you.

If there is one key conclusion from the tone of the report, independent of the sheer awful ideas, it is that it shows that Westminster council view cycling as "for others". There's no attempt to identify with the cyclists, just portray them as a group that fails to show respect for motorists. If anyone who cycled had written the report they'd know that taxis and buses usually show resentment to anyone on a bicycle in the shared lanes. They'd know that regardless of average speeds, if ever an empty stretch opens up in one of the one-way rat-runs someone will be sprinting down at 40 mph -and when you are cycling on the "quiet routes" the risk of someone cutting in from a side street at speed is always there. Then they'd get into the topic of bike parking, the inadequate supply of Boris bikes at Paddington station, and the way every square has been turned into a gyratory system which needs aggressive cycling through to get round every corner safely.

There's none of that. Instead you get a planned cycling percentage below other parts of the same city -on a deadline so far away that they can always say "we are on track", because it will take 15 years to show they weren't. 

If the London cycle campaigners get a chance to meet with the councillors -ask them if they cycle round Westminster. When they confess to not doing so, put them on the spot and ask why not?

Asking the question will probably show their Eric Pickles "rubber trouser" prejudice, which is something that needs to be drawn out. But it may force them to admit that they don't cycle in the borough because it is a shit place to ride a bike. Which would lead to the next question: are any of these proposals going to do anything at all to change that? Because they aren't, the council clearly hates people who cycle, and they need to come out as cycle-haters rather than pretending they are really trying to help cycling in Westminster by giving out free bells. 

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