Wednesday 29 January 2014

What are @ASA_UK going to do now?

Most adjudications by the ASA trickle out to little or no notice; relevant only to the complainant, the advertiser and their competitors.

The "cyclist riding 50cm away from kerb" judgement is a different story.

The ASA have taken it upon themselves to override a (regional) government safety organisation and define for themselves what constitutes safe cycling.

This is not some "postage fees on free offer not disclosed" judgement: it has placed the ASA directly into the argument about whether and how people should cycle round a city -and so, into the argument about what our cities should look like.

Will it be a Dutch/Danish city, where children can cycle to school safely, where congestion is low, pollution reduced, and deaths by car reduced?

Or will it be the worst parts of -say- London, amplified: speeding cars sounding their horn at cyclists "in the way", police pulling over cyclists for not having helmets or hi-viz -and all the while, pedestrian deaths from RTCs increasing, ignored by society.

The ASA must be discovering what they've done today.

Emails will be spinning round, saying "what to do?"

Which is a good question. What can they do?

  1. Immediate U-turn. Fixes the problem, but looks embarrassing.
  2. Stand by the decision. Either they believe it, or they don't want to lose face.
  3. Review the decision. Quietens down the argument. They then have two options in future: reverse it or repeat it. Either way, maybe they will hope the anger will have died down.
  4. Await an appeal -possibly with some discreet hints they'd be welcome. The appeal would have to come from Cycling Scotland itself.
If they don't announce action #1 today, what can the cycling campaigners do?

Provoke the ASA into reversing their decision or repeating it -with every repetition having them dig deeper and deeper into the hole they have already started to dig.

And how to do this? 

By complaining ourselves about road safety campaigns by TfL, DfT that show anyone on a bicycle more than 50 cm away from the kerb. 

Ignore helmets, ignore hi-viz: complaining there may just make things worse. But positioning on the road -something with Highway Code guidelines? That is something to highlight and repeat, so every time they repeat their bollocks, they get more bad press.

Then see what they do

ASA: Britain's newest and most inept road safety organisation

The much derided niceway code turns out to have had one  good outcome: It has put the ASA's opinions clearly on the table -and the opinion is "bicycles are not for Britain's roads"

This is the organisation that regularly dismisses all road tax complaints with a stock "not our fucking problem" reply:
Thank you for your recent complaint about a press ad by Toyota (GB) Plc for the Lexus CT.  I understand you object to the use of the term “Road Tax”.

We have assessed the ad and your complaint but consider that there are insufficient grounds for ASA intervention on this occasion.  Whilst we acknowledge that the correct term is indeed “Vehicle Excise Duty”, more commonly used phrases such as “Road Tax” are often used by advertisers to convey a message in a way that will be understood by the widest audience.  The requirements of the CAP Code are such that the ASA draws a distinction between technical inaccuracies and claims which are likely to mislead consumers to their detriment.  In this case we consider it unlikely that the use of a common term for this type of tax will mislead consumers to their detriment by influencing their transactional decisions in relation to the advertiser’s products and we will therefore not be taking further action on this occasion.  Please note that the ASA does not pass the details of complaints to advertisers if we consider that no action is required.  You would need to contact them directly with your concerns.

Yet the moment someone shows a picture of a woman cycling happily on a road, a car safely overtaking, then

This is the one they objected to? (img lifted from As Easy As Riding A Bike)

The one showing car drivers how to overtake a cyclist safely? The one whose whole point was to repeat the bit of the highway code showing how to pass safely?

The cyclist placement issue shows that ASA simply don't understand bicycles,  and resent the very idea of being held up by one for a miniscule moment of time. That's what their complaint is really about: the car being held up. The "they had to overtake" story is some kind of post-rationalisation -the cyclist is endangering others by the very act of being on the road.

The ASA is now defining road safety policy instead of the DfT. Badly

But look what the little bunnies have gone an done in the process: they have opened up the gate to complaints about any car advert:
we concluded the ad was socially irresponsible and likely to condone or encourage behaviour prejudicial to health and safety
Think about that. Think about the fact that the majority of deaths in city streets were caused by cars and lorries. Think about the fact that driving is considered directly bad to the health of the driver -due to their failure to exercise. Think about the fact that the pollution caused by the cars causes the  indirect death of many.

By adding social responsibility and health and safety to their policy with regard to vehicle-related adverts, the ASA have just opened the gate to a complaint about any advert that shows a car being driven in an urban environment.

The F-type Jaguar advert linked off As Easy as Riding a Bike's post on the topic, Is an example. There is a car being driven at speed along the Cannes seafront, while people look alongside. This shows dangerous driving near pedestrians.

  1. The ASA can't argue that it was safe as the road was closed -because the niceway code was filmed on a closed road too (clearly)
  2. There are pedestrians nearby -so condoning or encouraging behaviour prejudicial to health and safety.
It is now time for every cyclist -or anyone else- pissed off with the ASA ruling to pick a car advert and complain about it, using the very wording of the judgement against the ASA

Thursday 23 January 2014

29 points - free to endanger everyone in Aberystwyth

the BBC is showing a dark subtitled police drama set in an obscure land right now: Hinterland.

The land is deepest mid-wales, centred on Aberystwyth -but with lots of time spent in the hills inland.  Mountain bikers should be watching it for the scenery, as should anyone who feels like exploring it on the Tregaron Mountain Road.

Like all rural detective stories, there is the challenge of dealing with one murder a week -a rate that puts it ahead of the CUBA conurbation -its utterly implausible.

That is, until you hear about a takeaway driver in the town allowed to drive after clocking up 29  points.

  1. He already had 11 points in his license -i.e. one point from a ban.
  2. Despite knowing any driving crime would remove his license, he was caught speeding.
  3. Despite driving full time in a mountainous region, he wasn't even keeping his vehicle in good condition, and had a defective tyre. On mountain roads that actually matters all year round.
  4. He was caught driving without insurance twice. Not once: twice, as though he didn't get insured after the first one.
The excuse was the usual: no car no job. Then added another: makes his family homeless.


Dodging the first ban could have been a sign of leniency by the magistrates, but what it has clearly done is got him complacent and made him think he can keep speeding. No doubt his insurance premiums went through the roof, so all he did was stop insuring his car. But even after being caught once for being uninsured, he kept on driving. Does anyone seriously think he will get insured now? That he won't speed now?

Even the piston-head forums think he's taking the piss here. If it was just speeding you reach for the Keith Peat tinfoil hat and say "any speed is safe", but he was up for an unsafe vehicle and being uninsured. 


The magistrates were actually prepared to let this potential killer free. Which shows how the points system with its "exception hardship" plea is broken.


But it is more than that.


If every driver going above 12 points lost their license, then every driver in the country, now matter how much they could spend on a legal team, would know that getting to 9 points meant "time to stop speeding", and getting to 11 means "I had better not break any road laws for the next three years".


New Zealand has a special workaround for the "I need it for my job/family" excuse, a Limited License.

From the document: 

The District Court can grant a Limited Licence if it is satisfied that:
  • the applicant is eligible to apply for a licence, and
  • the applicant will suffer “extreme hardship”, or someone else will suffer “undue hardship”,
  • as a result of the disqualification, and
  • public safety will not be put at risk by the granting of a licence.
Your disqualification is meant to be a penalty or a punishment, so the court won’t mind if you are merely inconvenienced. For example, if public transport is available to get you to work, the court may require that you take public transport for the period of your disqualification, even if it grants you a Limited Licence to keep on working.
When the court makes the order for the Limited Licence, it will specify:
  • why the licence has been granted, the circumstances in which the driver is permitted to
  • drive, and any conditions attached to the grant of the Limited Licence
  • the details of the vehicle the driver is allowed to drive
  • the days and times of the week the driver is allowed to drive
  • the areas in which the driver is allowed to drive.
The purpose of the Limited Licence is to lessen the hardship of not having a licence. It is not a substitute licence allowing the disqualified person to drive whenever and wherever they want.
Before applying for a Limited Licence, you need to think about:
  • which car you need to drive
  • what times and days you need to drive
  • where you need to drive (the areas, suburbs and streets) – creating a map to attach to your
  • application is a great idea
One of most common conditions for Limited Licences is that the driver must carry a notebook (called a “logbook”), which they fill in every time they drive the car. The logbook should record the time and the odometer reading (kilometres driven), and the start and finish times of all car trips. It should also state where they left from and where they went, and why each trip was made.

It gets better. The application must include affadavits by the employer, and if the police object it's that much harder to get through -meaning they get a say in the matter, rather than just a magistrate with undue leniency towards "it could happen to anyone" tickets.
You can’t apply for a Limited Licence if you:
  • have been disqualified from driving for an indefinite period (under section 65 of the Land Transport Act), or are currently disqualified because you were convicted of driving while disqualified, or of driving outside of the terms of Limited Licence, or
  • have committed a serious driving offence (which has a minimum sentence of six months
  • disqualification), within five years
  • are disqualified from driving a passenger transport vehicle (for example, a taxi or bus) and
  • you want a Limited Licence in order to drive that vehicle.
There's also an automatic 28 day "no driving" period if the total ban would be over six months, so you get to experience 4 weeks getting used to not driving. This makes it clear to the driver that they are being punished -and what their life would be like if they don't behave.
If you were disqualified for an offence with a mandatory sentence of six months suspension from driving, there is a 28-day “stand down” period between when you were disqualified from driving, and when the court will hear your application for a Limited Licence.
It may seem bizarre to have a get-out clause on a ban, but we already have one -exceptional hardship.
And once you have got that plea accepted, you can carry on before -no punishment at all.

A limited license restricts what you can drive: example, you could drive an employer's vehicle for delivering takeaways, but not your own car to and from the takeaway. It restricts where you can drive, so if you can show the delivery zone, then the court would say 'here is the area in which you can drive". And if caught driving outside the zone: bye bye license, no excuses.

If you pull of the "need to care for a relative" story, then the judges could say "your house, their house, hospitals, valid routes and some shops on the way". No other destinations. 

And the larger the journey area you want to cover -the harder the judge will look at the application, and the more likely it will to be refused.

You can still hire those fancy lawyers, but now their job becomes to argue about the size of the limited area, not why the driver should be completely unpunished.

This is a far better solution to the exception-hardship-carry-on excuse. It allows people who can show they will lose their job to keep their job, without giving them freedom to drive as they like. It's still flawed -it lets some dangerous drivers keep driving- but we are clearly doing that today, without any ability to restrict their driving habits if the hardship plea gets excepted. 

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Full/partial banning cyclists: talking points

For anyone advocating a ban on cycling, here are the questions you have to answer (based on ban type) before your proposal can be taken as anything other than a piece of ill informed bollocks from a fuckwit who doesn't know what they are talking about but merely has a set of irrational prejudices and projected resentment on an outgroup from spending too much time in a traffic jam in their car


  1. Peak hour cycling traffic is primarily utilitarian: school runs, commuting
  2. out of hour traffic can include utility activities such as shopping, trips to doctors, social calls.
  3. Cyclists on utility journeys will not "vanish" just because of the ban -they will merely switch transport options.

Full cyclist ban

  1. Will this be on road, or include shared use, dedicated cycle lanes and off-road paths?
  2. Will it include private roads and private spaces?
    Yes: you can't cycle in your own garden
    No: what about: universities, hospitals, MoD land, public parks, royal parks, 
  3. How are the cyclists expected to do school runs, get to work?
    Public transport: how do you address the issue London Underground is already at peak capacity,  while other cities lack functional public transport systems?
    car: won't this make congestion and parking worse?. 
  4. How will this be enforced? Mass confiscation of all the unregistered bicycles in the country? Or simply fining/arrest of anyone cycling on a public road? And potentially anyone cycling on a shared pavement, dedicated cycle path, or private property? 
  5. Will cycling be a fixed penalty offence, or a crime? What should the penalty be? 
  6. How will mass protest be addressed?
  7. If someone who cycles does not own a car, or live in an area with public transport, how will they get around?
  8. Given that there are tangible health benefits from cycling, how will you address the issue that the health of the UK population will actually get worse?
Cyclist ban at "peak hours"

  1. How will peak hours be defined? 
  2. will this include bus lanes during their hours of operation?
  3. will it include off-road paths, private roads, public parks, etc?
  4. In London there's no rush hour per se, just continually busy? Will there be a 100% ban in London? If so where does the border begin? North Circular? Inside M25?
  5. In other cities the peak hours vary by region -will we have regional peak hours, or a blanket 08:00 to 09:00 and 16:30-18:00 ban?
  6. What about areas that don't have peak hours -like country roads? What about country roads near cities?
  7. What if someone is still not yet at their destination when peak hours begin?
  8. If cyclists are unregistered,  how can you enforce it if the cyclist doesn't stop?
  9. How are the cyclists expected to do school runs, get to work? Drive?
  10. If someone who cycles does not own a car, or live in an area with public transport, how will they get around?
  11. Given that there are tangible health benefits from cycling, how will you address the issue that the health of the UK population will actually get worse?
Ban "leisure cycling"
The challenge here is distinguishing "leisure cycling" from "utility cycling?"

  1. Will saying "I'm on my way to the shops" suffice?
  2. Will it be based on clothing?
  3. Will it be based on type of bicycle?
  4. Will it based on attributes of the bicycle, such as a basket or a rack?
Make "holding up cars" illegal

  1. How do you define "holding up a car" if there is congestion further up ahead?
  2. Is there likely to be a time threshold above which a bicycle is deemed to be holding up traffic? If so: who measures and enforces it? How can it be shown that the car was "held up" by the bicycle merely because they failed to overtake
  3. Would the ban be on the number of motor vehicles being held up by the bicycle? 
  4. Would it be legal if someone on a bicycle was cycling at the speed limit.
  5. Would it be legal if someone on a bicycle is cycling at the speed of a vehicle in front.
  6. Will it be an offence irrespective of the goal of the vehicle driving behind? Example: cyclist is going to work, driver is simply driving "for the fun of it"?

The trouble with this approach is that in a congested city it becomes impossible to point to any bicycle and say "they held me up", even if they are the vehicle directly in front of you -especially if they have a camera and can point to congestion ahead of them. Enforcement would be very hard. In particular, in a 20 mph zone, it is likely that a fit cyclist will be cycling at the speed limit -even if there is no congestion ahead of them.

Make cycling two abreast illegal.

  1. How will one cyclist pass another? (The HGV passing problem)
  2. What if it is a parent and child and the parent is positioned on the outside to make cycling to school safer?
  3. As it is already illegal to pass someone on a bicycle too close, on a road that is too narrow to pass one cyclist , what difference will it make?
Some people think this already illegal. It isn't. 

Make cycling in large groups illegal.

  1. How do you distinguish a number of individuals cycling on a route from an organised group of people cycling? (The Surrey Sportive problem)
  2. What would be threshold?
  3. Would it be legal for in individual on a bicycle to cycle past a group of cyclists one bicycle below the threshold?
Make cycling in cycle lanes by the side of the road compulsory.

  1. What do they do when the lane is blocked by roadworks?
  2. What do they do when the lane is blocked by an illegally parked vehicle?
  3. What do they do when the lane is blocked by a legally parked vehicle?
  4. What do they do when the lane is unsafe due to the quality of the road surface, state (water, snow), closeness to parked cars?

The problem here is that as well as being regularly blocked, it is near impossible to define when a cycle lane is safe. When Oregon introduced a mandatory cycle lane law, they required the lanes to be assessed as "safe", which is near-impossible to do.

make cycling on shared pavements alongside roads compulsory

  1. what do they do when the shared use path is full of random street furniture, 
  2. what if it is blocked by road works.
  3. what if there is a vehicle illegally blocking the path?
  4. what if there is a vehicle legally blocking the path?
  5. what if it is in a condition that it is -in the belief of the cyclist- unsafe?
The problem here is a large proportion of shared use paths are shit.

Ban bicycles from certain roads.

  1. which roads would bicycles be banned from?
  2. if country roads: why? 
  3. If urban roads: why?
  4. If roads with a speed limit above 20 mph, will 20 mph zones be exempt:
  5. if dual carriageways, will functional (safe, direct) alternatives be provided?

There is a legal ban on motorways, and roads such as the A1(M). There is a near de-facto ban on dual carriageways, though a recurrent problem is the lack of a safe alternative. Oftentimes it is safer to get onto the road of a dual carriageway to negotiate a roundabout than a multi-traffic island crossing where the cyclist has no right of way.

Make Cyclists Dismount signs mandatory
(UKIP transport policy, 2010 election)

  1. Why? Is there a rational reason for this? 
  2. Can a cyclist, when dismounting, stop in the road and hold up traffic? If so, is there a time limit?
  3. Once dismounted, what is someone on a bicycle expected to do?
  4. Will it be legal to walk across the road outside of a pedestrian crossing? 
  5. If not -will pedestrian crossings be provided at every cyclists-dismount sign?
  6. Can a cyclist, when remounting, stop in the road and hold up traffic? If so, is there a time limit?
This may seem a simple idea, but it assumes the cyclists will be docile and somehow jump onto the pavement and walk across. It does not address the situation where someone on a bicycle stops their bicycle in the middle of the lane, slowly dismounts, walks their bicycle over and then slowly remounts. This would actually impose more delays on the vehicles behind -unless you place restrictions on the dismount/remount process and require the dismounted cyclist to use a pedestrian crossing (which must therefore be provided).

Economic cost? 

  1. Before this bill became law, cities would experience the most dramatic peak hour protests ever seen. What would the economic costs of mass cycling protests at rush hours be?
  2. If the number of people driving increases, so will congestion and pollution. How will the economic cost of this be measured?
  3. Given the health of the nation decreases from a reduction/elimination of cycling, what will be the impact both on productivity and NHS costs
  4. If no economic benefit can be shown, and the pre and post legislation cost models show that were will be economic cost -is the cost threshold at which point the legislation will be cancelled?
Political cost

  1. Even a partial ban during peak hours would directly impact everyone who cycles to work. There's a lot of professionals in that category, who can be very effective when it comes to political campaigns. Is it politically wise to take them on?
  2. A full ban would impact everyone who cycles for leisure. As cycling is one of the main forms of activity in the country, is it politically wise to take them on?
  3. Will MPs who vote for a full or partial ban likely to see more or less votes in the next election?
  4. Will a party that pushes through legislation on a full or partial ban likely to see more or less votes in the next election?
  5. Given there will be widespread opposition, the opposition parties will immediately seize on repealing the law as a manifesto item. How long is a full or partial ban on cycling likely to last?

Questions for anyone proposing cyclist registration

Again, we have someone mandating compulsory cyclist registration, though this time it isn't someone dialling in to a daytime local radio channel, or adding comments in the bottom of some local daily-mail substitute paper in a classic newspaper columnist unpunctuated sentence that even Joyce would avoid:  "all cyclists should be licensed and have an MOT and have third party insurance and mandatory helmets and hi viz and use cycle paths and keep out of the way of cars" in those

This time, it is an EU MEP, Nikki Sinclaire MEP.

Apparently the cycle lobby has been insulting and using "silly" examples like wheelchairs and scooters.

Here then: no insults, no silly examples. Merely simple questions about execution.


  1. A law is being written that will require all UK residents who wish to cycle to be registered, with their registration number on hi-viz. These questions below look beyond the headline to "implementation details"
  2. Bicycle registration, "MOTs", and tax disks are ignored.
  3. Britain is still part of the EU
  4. A independent Scotland may exist; if so it is part of the EU
  5. At the time this legislation is proposed, a national ID card does not exist.

Section 1: Nationality

Will visitors from other EU countries be allowed to cycle in the UK without being registered?


  1. how will this be legal within the framework of a EU legal system which already recognises EU drivers licenses and vehicles within the UK? 
  2. Will it become illegal to cycle across the border for Ireland to NI without paperwork, or perhaps soon, over the Tweed from Scotland to Berwick-upon-tweed?

YES: how will you distinguish EU visitors from UK residents? Passports?

Passport-based exemptionIf you use passports to recognise who is allowed to cycle without registration -how will you handle UK residents with other EU passports -in particular the millions with/eligible for Irish passports (nearly everyone in Northern Ireland?)
No checks:
How do you stop any UK citizen who qualifies for an Irish or (soon) scottish passport can get one and so cycle without hi viz?
UK Citizens must be registered, even if dual national. How do you prevent someone rejecting their UK citizenship and yet remaining resident due to their Irish/Scottish residency rights?
Check against list of UK residents:  Require all Irish/Scottish citizens living in the UK to register for one. This implies the roll-out of a national ID card to track all UK residents, otherwise it would probably be illegal.

The implication here is that significant controls will be needed on EU nationals being resident in the UK, with an ID card and tracking for all UK residents needed to distinguish visitors from residents. 

Section 2: Age

Will children be required to be registered?

YES: age limited.
This implies at a specific child's birthday they will be required to register and start wearing hi-viz. How will this be enforced? Will police be required to stop children who look "too old" and ask them for ID? If so: requires national ID card. 

YES: "kid's bikes are exempt"
Implies a rigorous definition of "Kid's bike"

  • Small wheeled bikes only: adults folding bikes will be exempt, kids bikes with 26" wheels will require registration -and police to be able to recognise wheel sizes.
  • Frame size: at what point will frame size transition from "small adult" to "large child" take place? 
  • Child's bikes marked at point of sale: fails to address existing fleet of bicycles
The implication here is that there is too much ambiguity unless it is 100% mandatory for all children to be registered

Section 3: Access restrictions

Where must cyclists be registered before they can cycle?

Public Roads: Unless private roads are included OR clearly marked, how will you will differentiate public roads from private roads. 

Private Roads: How to distinguish "private road" from "driveway" or "garden path"? Implies registration is required to cycle on any private property. IF not, issue of distinguishing from public & private road arises.

Public shared use pavements: Again,  how to distinguish this from private shared-use pavements

Public parks: if not, again, requires distinguishing from private grounds to which public access is granted.

Royal parks: see above.

Bridleways across private land?  if yes, implies mandatory registration/hi-viz across private land. If not, implies private land to be clearly distinguished from public land, even in wilderness areas. 

BOATs and RUPPs: Yes: unless Bridleways also require mandatory registration, will need some way to distinguish these from Bridleways. No: need a way to distinguish BOATs from public roads.

Schools and hospitals. These are state owned properties with access restrictions. Would they be private land or public land? 

MoD land: example -much of Salisbury plain? 

Canals: property of British Waterways.

Council paths on council land: if mandatory, will need to include council parks

The implication here is that there is too much ambiguity unless it is 100% mandatory for anyone to cycle -anywhere, even on private land and their own driveway- without registration and hi-viz.  

Section 4: Roll out

How would this be rolled out? 

Personal application without ID. There would be no way to prevent fraud and someone applying for more than one, hence being able to ignore penalties

Personal application for registration with ID: implies all UK residents who wish to cycle must have some form of photo ID. Drivers licenses would not cover any children, nor any adults without them. Passports are not ubiquitous. The only 100% available document would be a birth certificate -however northern ireland and scottish certificates are managed independently from English & Welsh, so validating these is hard and expensive.

This also requires proof of residence to stop someone registering with a false address -and so being unreachable for any enforcement

By post without ID: Acquiring multiple registrations in false/stolen names just got simpler

By Post with ID: Add cost and logistics of securely managing ID postal.

The implication here is that a national ID would be the only effective way to manage to roll out.

How would a lost registration hi-viz top be dealt with?  User receives new top with new number. Old one "invalidated". Police now required to stop cyclists to verify that they are not cycling with a stolen hi-viz top. 

Section 4: Cost of execution

How would this be funded? 

  1. General Tax: is there anything better that could be done with the money
  2. One-off registration fee:  How much would it have to be to not only cover one-off costs of registration, but all ongoing costs of enforcement? 
  3. Annual registration fee: If someone says "they no longer cycle" how will this be verified? Will the police be required to stop cyclists with hi-viz to verify they are current with their registration?

What will the costs of verifying cyclist registration be? 
This includes:

  • stop and checks that a teenager cycling without hi-viz is above the mandatory registration threshold.
  • stop and check that someone cycling with a hi-viz top is using their own top and not one that is stolen, found or fraudulently acquired. Again, implies national ID card of some form
  • costs of stopping adults who are cycling without hi viz and confirming that they are EU nationals who have the right to do so
  • costs of stopping and verifying that anyone cycling is not a cyclist who has their registration revoked 

Although it would seem simple "stop anyone without the hi-viz top", the need to identify revoked and fraudulent registration would imply a regular stopping of anyone cycling. Unless EU nationals -including visitors -were somehow mandated to also carry a top, it would become impossible to distinguish EU national from single-nationality UK citizen. In inner cities -especially London- there would be too many EU nationals to stop

Will costs include enforcement costs of inevitable protests and civil disobedience?

The police operational of mildly controversial issues such as badger culling turned out to massively increase the costs of the operation -the same for protested road building exercises.

A national roll-out of a cycle registration is likely to be the most controversial event in modern cycling history (possibly ever) and the opposition to it will be national. Unless these costs are correctly predicted and included in the cost models, they will be underestimated and come out of general police funding.

Will costs include impact of mass cycling protest in city centres at rush hours? 

Cycling protests will be guaranteed to be held at the most dramatic times of day, which implies nationwide protests in city centres designed to bring the cities to a halt at peak hours. How will the indirect cost of such protests be measured and included in any cost/benefit analyses?

Will mass gatherings by cyclists be made illegal?

Blatant acts of junction blocking would be accompanied by legal protests such as mass groups cycling at 5 miles an hour down key roads in the cities, including dual carriageways and roundabouts -the latter where the same group can cycle round repeatedly.

Mass gatherings of cyclists is currently legal.

Such protests would only be preventable by introducing laws restricting the number of cyclists that may gather in groups, how many times they can cycle round a roundabout or which roads they can cycle on. Even then, how would you distinguish a group of cyclists merely commuting on the same roads from a mass protest?

Section 4: Political Cost of execution

Do politicians want to deal with the backlash?

While the proposal may garner support from local radio phone-ins, during the period in which the legislation is being passed some of the largest ever mass protests by cyclists ever.

This would also bring them out to form some of the most co-ordinated political campaigns to convince politicians not to vote for the legislation.

It is also likely to encourage active campaigns against the re-election of any politician who voted for the legislation -irrespective of whether or not the vote was passed. Parties supporting such a vote via any form of whip would find all MPs experiencing the same backlash.

The closest equivalent is potentially the Countryside Alliance campaign, except they were not represented in the high-population constituencies around the country. Any cycling campaign would focus on the cities, and, in EU elections, actively campaign against MEPs who supported the plans.

Will revocation of the legislation be a manifesto item in future elections?

Given the inevitable backlash, it is likely that revocation of the legislation would be a manifesto item for the parties in opposition at the time the legislation was passed.

As such, the lifespan of the law is likely to be 5-10 years. Given the cost of rollout, it is hard to justify.


  1. A national ID card may be requiredd. Indeed, the cyclist registration may become that national ID card
  2. Unless the UK withdraws from the EU it is likely to be impossible to prevent EU nationals from cycling without registration. Even if it does, Irish and Scottish citizens cycling in Britain will be exempt unless there is a strict policy that requires a "guest registration" for all visitors, 
  3. The ambiguities about age ranges for children imply the cutoff date would probably be about 8-10, but even then enforcement would be impossible unless children were required to carry an ID card. Mandating registration across all age rages would be simpler
  4. The ambiguities about public vs private land would only be resolved by mandating that one cannot cycle without registration and hi-viz even on private land. That would likely to include one's own driveway. 
  5. The costs of execution -including enforcement and handling protest would not be covered by a one-off fee -yet per-year fees hard and expensive to implement.
  6. The indirect costs of mass protest on peak hours would not be reclaimable and potentially very damaging to the UK economy.
  7. Legislation may be needed to prevent mass gatherings of cyclists at peak hours
  8. The political costs of supporting the legislation would be high -and the law likely to be rescinded at the next election.

Friday 17 January 2014

Rapid Transit vs Cycling

Some people may -naievly- assume that major public transport projects will be good for cycling


BRT planners view cycle routes as places they can take from cyclists "for the greater good", and so introduce BRT services -without incurring the controversy which comes from taking away road space from cars.

Magnatom has just discovered this, with a shared bike/bus route being turned into a bus only route.

Bus and bike don't coexist well even on shared bus lanes -there's a bus driver on a schedule trying to get to the next stop, a cyclist worrying about the bus up their arse, and, if the bus gets past, a bus blocking their progress at the next stop. Everyone slows each other down. And then there's the taxis, and in Bristol, the minicabs, who often treat cyclists worse than bus drivers .

One fix here, the CEoGB solution: segregate the cycle route.

The bus route planners solution: segregate the bus route by banning cyclists.

And where do you build a segregated bus route? You can't easily do it on rush-hour only bus lanes, where keeping cars out of them is a constant battle -its the perennial bus route vs parking conflict.

The other road option: dual carriageways and motorways. Urban motorways could be a suitable location: M8, M77. M32, M4 into London, and the like. Except try building there and the planners go headlong into battles with the press over "bus bring driving chaos" stories.

It is politically much more expedient to look at the cycle routes -the routes that have grown into the "unused spaces" in the city, ones that the planners can look at and say "that'll do"

And the cycling traffic? They get ignored and discounted in spreadsheets that look at the catchment area of the BRT stops, make an assumption that some vast percentage will switch to the BRT -and use that as the foundation for their equations. Nobody ever does that for cycle routes, because they discount the idea that more than a small niche set of users would use them.

And even then, when the spreadsheet says "this is not a good option", they pick it because of its lower political cost, and because of the momentum that a multi-million pound project can get: central government funding, the route designers will have nice offices in the council buildings, briefing sessions, backing from the bus companies. In their own way, they are their own version of the Road Lobby: the bus lobby.

The WoEP  are the threat here in CUBA, "Counties that Used to Be Avon". The "West of England Partnership" are team based in Bristol Council's road planning offices, trying to bring Bus Rapid Transit to the city by destroying the long distance cycle routes as well as any greenery in the more deprived parts of the inner city.

There was  plan in the early 1990s for a tram service to run from Bristol to Bath. If it had been built, it would have been popular, and could maybe even have extended round the ring road to the North Fringe. It wasn't, and instead over 20 years it became the most widely used cycle route in Britain. It is a mixed use route -which does create conflict, but that feature was a benefit in 2006? when the WoEP wankers came up with their BRT plan: BRT1, BRT2, BRT3.

The BRT proposals were for a set of BRT routes, linking the town and the city, and circling the inner city by way of the inner-circuit road, inner Bristol's Leeds-era ugliness.

One of them -BRT3?- was to be along the M32, which would be downgraded to a trunk route, and a new bus lane added -presumably in the centre. Even there though, it would run "along a stretch of the river frome" -which glosses over the fact that this stretch of the frome has a name, Riverside Park.

BRT4: Malago greenway. "greenway" in the title is the flag there -it was the parkland and path that runs along the Malago stream to Bedminster. This is now part of the Hengrove cycle way, though streetview shows that the bike route meanders through suburban chav-land where pavements are for parking your clapped out cars that you "can't do withoout", and no doubt forcing you to plead exceptional hardship when your speeding tickets catch up with you.

Another -BRT1 turned out to be planned to go through the Railway Path. That was the one that was sprung on the city with the plans nearly complete.

The economics spreadsheets slowed that the M32 based BRT route was the one that would be the most popular and have the best Return On Investment.

Why then did the bus planners pick on the railway path -why pick on the cyclists?

Technical: there was a straight line there with underpasses and things -all they had to do was throw off the cyclists, block pedestrian access and they've got a bus route. It was the easiest route to build.

Political: it was felt it would generate less opposition from the people in the city.

They targeted the bike route because they felt that the cyclists would be an easier target -willing to acquiesce to some shit proposal that would give them a narrow concrete route by a bus lane, less entry and exit points, and no pleasant greenery.

What saved the path? Why is it still a showcase? Because the cyclists across the city did come out -all over the wards, they got in touch with their councillors to complain. Equally importantly, the residents of the inner city came out too to defend their park -and their walking route to school, to the city, to the shops in Fishponds. Mass protest saved that route, and the only reason that worked was the volume of cycle traffic (broad support across the city), and a key feature of inner east bristol (political activists, many motivated locals)

The campaigners one: for  now. But no doubt someone has their designs in some road-planner CAD tool, which will on a sharepoint server there barring some disk corruption or  file format unreadability.

What has proceeded instead is BRT2, which

  • Cuts over Prince St Bridge, quiet bridge crossing
  • Cuts over the "old" railway bridge by Cumberland Basin.
 The Cumberland Flyover is one of those "do not cycle unless you are an aggressive lycra-roadie" -not a utility route. Streetview shows a cyclist in each direction, but if you look at them, you can feel the fear coming off them, brave cyclists in a street system that is not designed for them.

In comparison, the railway bridge is empty -making it the one most people use; the nice one. BRT route runs along the harbour, which is part of the Cycle City route, the festival way.

Why did the BRT team choose this route? Technical and Political expediency. Bridges they could use, no real opposition. And this time: no so much. The selling point of the BRT2 route is that it will be way for residents of North Somerset to park and ride in, after they drive in from their mock-rural dream, the one where Elfan App Rees snickers when asked if he'd cycle a bike path he'd just defended as "cyclists should be grateful". You can't sell the notion of cycle commuting eight miles to a council where they expect a shit slowing route 15 metres long, 100cm wide and on the squashable side of a crash barrier. Whereas BRT? Its got money, ambition and it doesn't take away road space.

That's why the cyclists get stuffed by public transport projects: the bike routes are juicy targets and we cyclists generally lack the political clout to defend it.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Britain's suburbs: cul de sacs of the mind

In Bristol, the proposal to convert Crews Hole from a rat run to a one way street and segregated bike path just got killed. By the local residents- the people who, in theory, would benefit the most. With the backing of the local cyclist hating paper, a paper willing to print letters from readers complaining that they saw seven cyclists on the road.

Over in wales, anti bike path campaigners are claiming that a bike path that goes behind the graveyard is "disgusting and disrespectful". Surely it is co-opting the already dead as a way to make their opposition of a bike path that is disgusting and disrespectful? But no, they try and blame the cyclists of their prejudices, but it shows on one quote "Is bad enough having a bike path behind your house, but ..."?

And the local paper lapped it up without calling the arse end out, to ask "why is it so bad to have a bike path behind your house?" A that would ensure that they could cycle into town safely 

These people live in the suburbs -and want to stay in their cul de sac lifestyle. They don't want to pedal anywhere. They want to drive to the shops. They don't want to cycle with their kids to school -they want to drive there. If they have unrealised transport aspirations -it is for a newer car, no doubt an urban SUV to impress the neighbours. If there is something they like complaining about when not whining about cyclists is will be parking: how the yellow lines on the main road stop them nipping out to the shops round the corner, how they don't go into "the city" no more, because there is no free parking -something they will blame on an anti-car council, and of course, the cyclists.

It is these fuckwits that show the flaw in the "build it and they will come story". They moved to the suburbs because they wanted a motorised lifestyle: a quiet road with no through traffic or parking problems, the expectation that they can drive everywhere -that it is their right. Anything that impedes on this right is a sign of the war on the motorist. They have to blame the inner city congestion problems on anti car councils because the alternative is to admit their own dream is flawed. They put down their bicycles when they grew up, and don't want to get back on. Adults who do cycle are foreign, ever metaphorically, or literally: European -and you can guess what they think of Europe. They only way they can imagine adults using a bicycle is as a hobby -hence the references to Wiggins in their vitriolic letters to the local papers; hence the sneering at MAMILs.

Their lifestyle is fucked. The growth of the suburbs is what creates the traffic jams: in Bristol that is on the M32 and the A4174, but it is also in all the suburban rat runs for the school run, the decaying high street killed by the suburban shoppers preferring the superstores. Their little cul de sacs have their own parking problems, with each resident building up the idea that the stretch of road in front of their semi detached house is "theirs", and not the neighbours or their friends. The two car household is universal -and now the three car household is upon them, as the children need them too, once they're old enough. To fit that many, the front garden walls go, is greenery turned into a wasteland tarmac, and a once pleasant row of gardened houses turned into a drab grey line of driveways with ageing cars. And now, whenever anyone leaves the cul de sac, they pay £1.30+ a litre, whining as they do.

These people may seem a relic of the past -and they are, they are the baby-boomers with their post war dream of a cul de sac they could call their own. But they have power.

They have the power to fight change in their suburbs -to resist the imposition of cycling on them. Which is how they view it. Not an opportunity, but a threat: propose to build it and they will come out fighting.

They are also a key voter group. There's a fuck of a lot of them -and they turn out to vote., When they aren't writing letters to their piss-poor local papers -papers that knows these are the only people who actually buy their papers- they are deciding who to vote for. Which comes down to two parties: the UKIP and the conservative.

You may look at the UKIP cycling manifesto and laugh at their checklist of the newspaper commentators: cycle registration, MoTs, licenses, insurance, enforcement of "cyclists dismount" signs, an end to council profiteering from issuing parking tickets, an end to the war on motorists. Oh, and mandatory helmets and hi-viz. But don't laugh that much. Because these are things the suburban voters want, and if the UKIP have it on their manifesto then the conservatives are looking at it too -too keep those voters themselves.

In the US it is some of the local politicians coming out against cyclists. Here it is Pickles,  buttocks of the Conservative party, who isn't ever going to cycle because he doesn't want to wear rubber trousers. Who complains that Cambridge has gone too far in supporting cycling. Who thinks that it is everyone's right to block a bike lane or a bus lane to buy a packet of fags from the corner shops. A man who speaks "common sense" in a northern accent to the masses who live in their cul de sacs and call Mr Owen two doors down as odd as sometimes he gets on a bicycle.

The fact that they are a key voter group -a group drifting towards the UKIP  is shaping all government policy: the referendum on EU membership, immigration restrictions,  tax policy such as income tax, marital tax allowances, and of course fuel tax. These are the people referred to as the "hard working families", and it's why the government is happy to stuff the poor -they aren't the target market. It's also why Pckles is happy to stuff cyclists.

Fucking over local councils is a fantastic policy for the Tory party
  1. It appeals to the suburban drivers
  2. It appeals to rural drivers who hate being held up on "their" roads from city folk
  3. It makes for great "end the war on motorist" stories I'm the daily mail.
  4. It doesn't cost central government anything at all.
The last point is key: Pickles doesn't need to go to Osborne and ask for cash. All he needs to do is get legislation out to stop the councils doing things. And if they claim their budgets suffer -that just reinforces the war on motorist story that the councils just do it for the cash.

For Pickles and the conservative party, encouraging parking at the expense of cyclists is a low cost way to appeal to their votes

What can we do do overcome these suburban policies and voters?

We could just wait for the ageing voters to die. The problem here is that they will be getting out and voting for at least another decade, and they are going to get even more reactionary. If UKIP gets stronger it's going to drive the Conservative party manifestos. This is going to push cycling even more into the background of the country's transport policy.

We could hope -or even work-to get the Tory party out of power. That runs two risks. It could split the cycling activists, who will have to choose between cycling policies they agree with or other national policies. It could also politicise cycling, pushing the conservatives from a neglect of cycling to active opposition. 

Convert the polticians case by case, councillor by councillor, MP-by-MP. That needs people in the suburbs to push for "a better transport policy". Not cars vs bikes, but just emphasise how much their current policy has failed. fuel prices aren't coming down, congestion still bad, public transport worse.  Though the Crew's Hole debacle shows this is going to be hard -and Boris the Blamer shows that the delivery doesn't match the promises.

Step 1 will have to be the local elections. Step 2? The next general election won't be until 2015, but we don't just want every party saying "we like bicycles" -we want the individual MPs to come out and do it.

Win the PCC election and set the agenda. If they continue to exist, we have to take them out of the control of the suburban voters with their narrow minds, and own them by the inner city voters. Which, given the turnout, is potentially easier to achieve than gaining influence in council elections. Right now only the daily mail reading elderly came out to vote -which is why there's a wanker in Cambridgeshire who views fighting rogue cyclists as his key achievement, while not recognising that the death of a 16 year old cyclist could be considered important.

Whatever happens though, it is going to emphasise the growing divergence between the city and the suburbs. Which is going to remain a barrier to cycling infrastructure in those suburbs, as well as a driver for government policy and funding. Somehow we need to win over thos suburbs

Any other ideas?