Wednesday 28 May 2014

Question for any councillor blocking cycle infrastructure as "cyclists break the law"

The recent Cambridge blocking  as cyclists break the law" shows the attitude of councillors to urban change. Yes, they pretend it is a postponement, but they are presumably planning to delay it until the grant expires and then go "a pity. We didn't actually block it though"

For anyone whose councillors ask this -or any press covering such an event- here are the questions we recommend asking
  1. Which transport modalities does this "no new infrastructure without breaking any laws" policy apply? 
  2. Which specific laws are covered by it?
  3. What percentage of a transport user group have to be breaking these law before the policy comes into effect? Equally importantly, if the percentage of a transport user group can be shown to fall below this threshold, will your policy be revoked automatically?
  4. What is the sampling method used to determine the percentages of non-compliant users. Is it a full census of all transport users, a survey of a valid subset of users selected at random across the region, at specific times and days -repeatedly?
  5. If there are transport modes that are not covered by the policy -why not?
  6. If we can provide evidence that a tangible percentage of the users of other transport modes break the same or related traffic laws -will you consider expanding your "no infrastructure without compliance" policy to those transport modes?
  7. What if we can provide evidence that the existing users of that transport mode are -within your region- killing and seriously injuring themselves and more vulnerable other users of the regions's infrastructure -such as pedestrians?"
  8. If it is clear that you are favouring some transport modes with preferential treatment -providing the majority of cash for new infrastructure, allocating most of the finite road-pavement capacity in the region, why is this the case? Why have you chosen to explicitly focus on one subgroup of transport modes -the one shown to endanger others the least?
  9. If you are merely "delaying" a decision, is the plan to delay it past the deadline for a grant and then pretend that this was unintentional, bemoaning the fact it happened.
  10. If the central government funding falls through due to your delaying actions -will you be happy to present this fact to your electorate as and defend this outcome? 
  11. Assuming the existence of this policy becomes a topic for national coverage as well as regional, are you prepared to publish all the data and reasoning behind its adoption -and defend it?
Finally, and this is a followup:

Why are you such a fuckwit that you hate bicycles, assume that all cyclists are criminals -and that are not your actual voters? Do you really think it is wise to step on the toes of a group of road users who are fucking used to being treated like shit, yet still fucking hate it when some wanker politician comes out, paints them all as a group of lawbreakers, then refuses to make any attempt to actually make it safer for the cyclists to get round the city -and so perhaps even expand the number of users

Why are you such a fucking hypocrite given that most pedestrians and cyclists are killed not by their own actions, but by those of drivers? On roads where laws on urban and rural speeding are broken so regularly that vehicles who drive in compliance with the limits are usually resented by the queue of cars behind them? Why do you not block all funding of any improvements to aid driving -even if it is just a "traffic flow improvement" at a junction, while national lobby groups actually advocate breaking laws -speed limits in particular. 

Did you really fucking think that your statements weren't going to be on youtube within an hour, that you were going to come over as the kind of swivel-eye that lurks in the bottom of local press articles or in the team writing the bit of the UKIP election manifesto that even Farage is now disowning as being bonkers? 

Do you think your "delay, not deny" strategy until the grants or financial year runs out is not going to be noticed. Are you hoping to kill the project and then pretend to be sad about the outcome "this was done before our concerns were fully addressed", trying to point the finger at central government instead of you petty and hypocritical actions?

What are you going to do when local campaigners actually put their names in the hat for election in your ward, highlighting your fucking hatred of anyone who rides a bike, using a party name that explicitly calls you out for endangering cyclists by blocking infrastructure improvements funded by central government? Are you ready to have to stand up at every husting and defend your policy -again and again, as people from the audience put their hands up and ask questions that embarrass you to the extent that you start regretting ever having uttered those fateful words?

Saturday 24 May 2014

Subcritical Mass

In Maidstone a developer is proposing that the traffic congestion side effects of a proposed development by narrowing a pavement and taking away a shared use bike path, "take away the pedestrian cycle paths across the northern gyratory bridge to create an extra lane for traffic"

This shows the sheer cynicism of property developers, who really don't gieve a fuck about the health of the livability of the towns they want to "develop" -be it the health of the high street or the health of pedestrians.

All they want is fat lazy people to drive to the supermarkets, stock up on whatever crap they want to eat, drive home and then watch TV until the next time to stock up. If its one of the people they want to sell a flat to they probably care that the customer doesn't die of CHD before the mortgage is paid off -though as that's really a matter for the concern of the mortgage lender, they probably don't give a fuck about that either.

Bridges are the choke points of cities. If there's a river, you either go over it or under it -or you don't cycle to your destination. They are even worse than dual carriageways, where there's often a wait-for-ten-minutes-pig-pen crossing. Bridges are all or nothing.

In London, the bridges are key places where cyclists are threatened -think Blackfriar's Bridge. Similarly in Bristol the BRT2 proposal wants  to take away one of the safer River Avon crossings for bendy-buses. It's precisely because those bridges are so valuable for all forms of transport that people working on car traffic flows, or bus rapid transport fanatics in city planner offices (yes, West of England Partnership -that does mean you) look at the current bridges and say "we can increase the capacity of this bridge by taking away the walking and cycling options"

In London, there were enough cyclists across the city that even when a fraction turned up, it was enough for high visibility mass protests. In Bristol, plans by the WoEP BRT-lovers got the protests out on the Bristol-Bath route, but for BRT2 things have been more subdued. The smaller routes have less mass use -but its those routes that join up the city and create the integrated routes you need for a cycle infrastructure.

Lose the bridges and you lose the integrated routes forever. Lose the integrated routes and your city will never be safe to cycle.

If London cyclists need to keep coming out to remind TfL of their responsibilities, if even Bristol has its work cut out -imagine what it is like in towns with less cyclists. There simply won't be enough people to oppose the plans, and the plans will go through. What protesters do come out will appear to be a few oddballs who don't deserve any space on roads they don't pay for.

S gloucs is generally a lost cause -if it has strengths it is

  1. There's cycling support from Bristol, both commuters into the city, and to the North Fringe.
  2. The main cycle route -the railway path- is joined up to Bristol and Bath, so can't be taken away on its own. All SGloucs can do is paint random give way signs, put up the odd chicane (and remove them, except at the school crossing), and do nothing in terms of street lighting or signing access to the path from the roads nearby.
  3. the cycle path by the ringroad (the unlit one, with the dodgy crossings and leaves on it) is raised enough away from the road that it isn't easily converted into another lane of the A4174. If that wasn't the case -it'd probably be gone by now, converted into a pretend sustainable lane with a 2+ sign that cyclists could also use -along with HGVs.
Bath? The A4 London Road shows the council's view: an ASL is all the cyclists need, and residents parking matters more than off street cycling. It took protests for the council to even think of cyclists, and even there you get half-hearted proposals from road planners that resent being told what they should be doing.

Smaller towns get it even worse. Maidstone shows what could happen -to see it in action today look at somewhere like Southampton, where their council's street 'visions' never show a bicycle, or Weston super mare, where they take pride in their mediocrity, adding bike paths on new roads purely to say the works address "all transport needs", when in fact the cycle route is so short and shit nobody would touch it

And here lies problem. Cycling numbers are falling outside London, Bristol and a few other densely populated cities -and even there the takeup is patchy.  This has got the smaller towns into a vicious circle
  1. the number of people driving creates pressure for action on reducing congestion
  2. the sole solution to congestion that anyone can conceive is more traffic lanes
  3. the sole space for these lanes in places where there is no room to expand is the side of the roads -the footpaths and what mediocre shared use paths there are
  4. as these were already shit paths and not part of an integrated route, they weren't used enough to make cycling a normal activity
  5. the aren't enough people to stand up for the paths, so they get taken away
  6. more people end up driving
Is there hope? Maybe in the medium-size cities, maybe with local regions within the smaller towns.  WSM is a lost cause for now. Bath could be improved -it is a town with many students, it's not great to cycle round, but it's not so awful you fear for your life everywhere. It's connected up with bristol via the RP, it's got the Twin Tunnels. What it lacks is a good option by the A4/London Road that doesn't involve crawling along the overcrowded towpaths -not a commute option, especially in winter- or burning thighs on the hill climbs above the A4. Then there's the gyratories by the train station, and that mess in the centre. 

Cyclists of Bath: follow Bristol and London -as if you can't, places like Southampton and Maidstone are fucked!