Friday 24 May 2013

Cllr Stewart Dobson, Marlborough "drivers need parking near the shops as they are unfit; cyclists can walk"

Marlborough, over in Wiltshire, is on the easternmost fringe of the S Gloucs commute ring; people do drive all the way from there to the offices on the A4174. They are the ones who have to get to work by 8am, who stay until after 7, who whine about congestion on the M4 near bath.

They are also, perhaps, the people too unfit to walk a short distance to the shops.

This has to be the conclusion to an ill-fated proposal to add bike racks outside some shops in Marlborough -at the expense of a parking space.

The plan was voted down, due to the fact it would take away two free parking spots.

The most ridiculous rationalisation for this has to come from Cllr Stuart Dobson, Marlborough East.
"It is so important, especially in these present financial times, that we do all we can for residents,"
subtext: nobody who voted for me rides a bicycle. People who do cycle are non residents -yet bring no revenue to the shops.
"There are an awful lot of people who are not disabled enough to qualify for a parking badge and therefore a disabled space, but nevertheless they are not terrible mobile.

subtext: we need to feel sorry for the people -the residents- who have to park right in front of the shops, because it is for their health. Even if they don't have disabled badges, they can't walk.
"Cyclists by and large are very active people," he added.  "So I can’t see a problem with them walking from one end of the High Street to the other whereas we would be penalising people who are far from active."
subtext: it is acceptable to penalise those people who cycle. They are not residents/voters after all.

This is possibly the most retrograde piece of thinking there is. Unless he has been misquoted, think about what it means

  1. We should reward the people who drive into the town by providing parking directly outside their destination.
  2. We should penalise those people who cycle in to town by making them park elsewhere and then walk to their destination -so increasing their journey time and inconvenience.
Yes, it is couched in terms of "my residents aren't healthy enough to walk far" and "those cyclists, they are all fit and healthy and can walk a few minutes to get to the shops", but that makes clear the fundamental problem that the NHS has to tackle

By encouraging people to drive everywhere, we have created a nation of obese, unfit and unhealthy people.

Rather than care about the health of his residents, Cllr Dobson is implying that health problems are not lifestyle-related, that they are some random acts of chance. Those people who drive, they only do so because they are unfit. If they were fit and healthy, they'd be cycling instead. Except of course in this time of austerity we need to provide the parking spaces because those fit and healthy people don't bring any money into the city.

This is completely missing the point about Britain's growing obesity crisis: it is driven by a lifestyle that involves no physical activity at all.

Rather than reward these people by providing a parking space directly outside the chemist, they should be ever so subtly trying to get them to do a hint of activity, even it if it is walking five to ten metres from the car to the chemists. That's all. There's lots of car parking nearby -it's only cycle parking that is absent.

According to the government, 61% of adults are obese, 30% of children. This is why the government wants to encourage everyone "to eat and drink more healthily" and "be more active". The policy in Marlborough is going completely against the NHS recommendations, where even adults aged 65+ are encouraged to take part in moderate physical activity for at least two hours a week.

The other thing worth picking apart is the entire economic argument. Two parking bays, 30 minutes free parking. If every visitor used their full 30 minutes, you'd only have 16 visitors per bay in an 8 hour working day. Let's be generous and assume that there's a minimum dwell of ten minutes, but after the ten minutes the visitor can leave at any time in the remaining twenty minutes -with a uniform distribution. That would give an average parking time of 20 minutes. You could say then that there'd be a whole 24 visitors/bay/day, but that assumes that there is no period when the bays are ever empty, which is unrealistic. let's assume 0-10 minutes with again, a uniform arrival time, leaving another average of 5 minutes (a poission distribution of random events would be more appropriate, but it's not that different). The outcome is ~19 visitors/bay/day, or ~40 a day. You could argue about the numbers, but the big one: how long people stay, could be optimistic -as we are assuming that nobody stays above 30 minutes, the nominal legal limit. If someone with a disabled badge were to park there -as they can- they could say for two hours, cutting the daily capacity of that by down by about four vehicles -four customers for the high street.

Now imagine each bay has four sheffield stands. A parking capacity of eight. Being pessimistic and assuming a continuous occupancy of only 50%, you would still get 4x the customers per bay from parked bicycles than you would from parked cars. Even if each cyclist bought half as much as someone driving in -a completely spurious figure- the shops revenue from converting a car bay to a cycle parking bay could double.

the whole economic argument is bogus.

There we have it then. Someone who says "in these present financial times" we should actually reduce the potential customer parking capacity of the high street, and that we should penalise those people who have adopted a lifestyle that make them healthier than those who haven't.

This is worse than being stuck in the 1970s. It is coming up with the most irrational form of thinking you can -which essentially comes down to "we don't want people on bicycles shopping in our town".


  1. Priceless.

    However, you do neglect to mention Councillor Margaret Rose who spotted the real peril of the proposed cycle parking: "the danger to motorists from cyclists backing out of cycle hoops at the side of the road."

    Countless cars and lives have been lost through cyclists backing out of hoops.

  2. What's more disturbing is that the town council was not elected. Fewer candidates stood than there were posts at the local elections in May so there was no vote.

    And one of the councillors who opposed the cycle racks runs the local mini cab firm.

    So follow the money as they say...

  3. People who cycle more spend less on fuel and so have more disposable income.

  4. Please sign the petition and make Cllr Dobson eat his words!

  5. Ok the following views are a pure and personal thoughts of my own and in no way reflect the view of Marlborough Town Council(MTC).

    Hi everyone this is Justin Cook responding to your invite to air my view on the cycle racks in Marlborough.

    The first any of the new council members heard about the proposed cycle racks were in the first full town council meeting of the new sitting. In this presentation made my Transition Marlborough(TM)it was asked if we could vote through the cycle racks installation in that very same meeting.

    It was also agreed by all parties that the particular style of cycle rack could be installed either before or after the re-surfacing work had been carried out on Marlborough High St. This is an important point as there would be no harm in any way to the item if I as a new councillor took some additional time to carry out more research on the item and indeed ask the other parish members in the community their views on the demand for the cycle racks.

    I also personally asked my FB site for their views as local Marlborough people in helping me come to an informed and correct decision.

    It is also worth noting that Marlborough already has two set's of cycle racks at either end of the High St. I have been keenly checking these racks three times a day (my office is in High St) and have found there to be very little use if any made of them. This in itself does not sway me as i think if we had some well placed cycle racks people would use them and indeed you only have to see the volume of cyclist's we have coming through the High St at weekends to see how this would be used.

    The next important point is the location of said cycle racks.
    The initial feeling from TM was that outside the Polly Tea Rooms would be a good idea but there was also advice given from some full time cyclists that having the cycle racks in a high footfall area increased the risks of theft and vandalism.

    There was also the suggestion from WCC that we give up two free parking bays on the the sides of the High St. This i am afraid does not work for the majority as the side bays are the only free parking people have to pop into post office, pick up cleaning etc etc. This is vital for ongoing economic ease of business in the town and will be protected by me personally in any role that works. I felt strongly that WCC should give up two paid parking spaces in the middle for the racks to make it fair for everyone. It is worth noting that a particular councillor from MTC is indeed engaging with WCC to this end on behalf of TM and the cyclists.

    My personal experience with business and money is that good research and preperation is key to making good ongoing business decisions that make sense over the long term. What makes my blood boil is quick emotional decision making not based on good research and decision making. Then the inevitable happen's and we need to re visit the item and spend more money upgrading or moving such item. This is a big waste of everyone's money and a waste of time.

    So again i am not against the cycle racks but wanted more time to think it through and come to a good decision for all.

    I just want to make sure that the cycle racks go in the best possible place for cyclist's and car users equally as it's not just the cyclist's that have a say in this.

    Also i must say that the emotional rhetoric that has been thrown round this is really blurring the lines of good debate and i for one will NOT be rushed into any money expenditure decision by anyone period. I have no problem spending budgets set out for the town but will not be rushed into making decisions based on a emotional volume.


    Justin Cook

  6. Below is the official MTC press release on the matter.....

    Cycle Racks

    At the Full Council Meeting of 20th May, Town Councillors discussed a proposal to install cycle racks along the side of the High Street. Though this issue is really a matter for Highways, Wiltshire Council quite rightly consulted with the Town Council before taking it forward. Unfortunately, the proposal was not brought to the attention of the Council until late on and Councillors did not have an opportunity to properly give their early input as would normally be the case.

    For the sake of clarification, the Town Council would like to make clear that it fully supports the idea of facilities for cyclists in the High Street but feels that it is first worth looking at some alternatives to the original proposal. Councillors discussed how improvements could be made to the inadequate and old racks already in place, whether racks might be installed in paid parking spaces in the central area rather than in the limited free parking slots at the side and possible changes to signage to help direct cyclists. Also, the possibility of undertaking consultation and surveys to evidence the use of existing racks to help make sure any new ones are installed in the right place. An outcome of a broader, more thorough approach might, in fact, mean more or better facilities for cyclists and everyone else who uses our High Street.

    The record of the meeting can be found at