Tuesday 8 July 2014

A council cycling budget without supervision means our peanuts are being stolen

Cycling funding is peanuts off the table -we know that. Highway's Agency: less than £20M. London -promises of funding, but little to show. Scotland: a pittance, even after campaigning.

Yet even that money, the peanuts to keep the complainers quiet, is being stolen from us. Its being stolen by

  • Road designers who can't imagine cycling, treat us like shit and expect us to be grateful for bollocks infrastructure
  • Councils who can divert the money to car and bus projects
  • Councils who can divert the money to vanity projects.

    Crap Road Designers

    If you want to see an example of road designers, look at the new Highways Agency "look at what we are doing for you video". They do acknowledge that dual carriageways are effectively M-ways and you can't cycle on them, and they are proud to show a path alongside -though they gloss over the maintenance budget or the lack of lighting. But the path suddenly ends at a staircase. Instead of saying "this is a barrier to all but fit people on light bikes with no luggage", they stick a rail on and say "look! we've added a rail". So now the stairs are a barrier to all but fit people on slightly heavier bikes with little luggage. You can't push a laden bike up a 35+ degree slope, even with a rail. You can't get a tagalong up there. you can't get a cargo bike. you can't get a trailer. And attempting to get kids on their own bikes up will be an epic of about 10 minutes. 

    Other examples? Look around you. Cycling paint under parked cars (glasgow), off road routes that abandon you when they get bored (everywhere). The whole Olympic "cycling legacy". Wastes of fucking money.

    So its a failure, isn't it? And yet they are proud of this.  Our peanuts being frittered away, junction by junction, by designers missing the fucking point.

    But that pales into insignificance compared to councils taking the money for other things

    Car and Bus projects:

    Anything that improves traffic flow for cars. The Bedford Turbogate Roundabout is a case in point. That Southampton crossing, a recent junction in Cambridge other examples. They are either "improvements" crippled by their inability to impact traffic flow -or worse, actually designed to improve traffic flow. By saying its for "cycling safety", they can take that cash and use it for things they were planning to do anyway.

    Similarly, anything that improves bus lanes can be called cycling money. Its an under-reported fact that bristol did this for the cycling city. The portion of the £22M that Bristol was meant to stump up? They claimed all the showcase bus route work benefited cycling, so got to double count it as public transport funding and cycling improvements. They also directly funded work on Prince Street Bridge in the claim of support cycling, but with a secret plan for bus rapid transit. 

    That's the bridge that appears on Page 8 of the new cycling strategy. -they made one lane walking/cycling only, and the motor traffic one lane, but they clearly did it with plans to remove the pavement on the open-to-motor lane so that they can get Bus Rapid Transit through, something noted by Chris Hutt in 2009 and confirmed in the council planning application.

    Vanity Projects

    This is where the TfL £6M for the TdF fits in. They wanted the money to host the TdF, there were bicycles in there so Boris said "lets use that money". Leon Daniels doesn't give a fuck about cyclists, so he wasn't going to push back. He's not even saying no to that other vanity project, the garden bridge. The only person who may have objected would have been Andrew Gilligan, but he's a mate of Boris and is left being an apologist.

    Even TfL must have realised that this was going to be controversial though -notice how there are no press releases proclaiming how they are funding the TdF for £6 Million, no quotes from anyone about how wonderful this is. No, they knew it would get dissent -but did it anyway.

    Putting it all together

    It's clear from the last few weeks alone that mayors will take the cash for vanity projects if they can, or divert it to projects that benefit car and bus traffic rather than cyclists. And even when it does actually get as far as the cycling team, their incompetence means that it is generally wasted anyway.

    Who objects? Not fucking Sustrans, that's for sure. Not even CTC, in the case of the DfT bridge rail. It has to be us: the citizens, in numbers.

    The fact that sustrans produce such shite design guidelines even excuses those incompetent fuckwits of road designers, lets them produce barely usable mediocracy and then feel smug about it. 

    A better way

    What can be done?

    We need to recognise that the majority of councils are going to waste the money, either on car/bus work or in incompetent engineering. Vanity projects seem centred around Boris, which means all money in London has to be viewed as suspect. And with an anti-cycling management in TfL, its not going to get better.

    Which leaves: focus on one city with an intermittent track record of producing good stuff, give them the funding to produce a joined-up infrastructure, and their staff the training to do it.


    Not S Gloucs, they fit in with the patronising councillors who drive 4x4s and road engineers who produce shit cycle routes as an afterthought. 

    Bristol because with the railway path they have one urban cycle way that works, along with some patchy ones elsewhere. What they haven't done is any serious change to the city centre -and thats where the BRT plans and their centre rework put the cyclists in conflict with the placefakers. The BRT planners also did that shit design on the South Bristol Ring Road, a narrow shared use path. We need to not only get the cycling planners trained, we need the entire road design team to be trained and to care -and that includes the BRT group. 

    We also need that modelling of cycle traffic. Without that you can't say "this increases cycling by X%, so reduces car journeys at peak hours by Y%". If you do look at traffic flow -they invariably refer to those peak hours, so anything done for commuting and school run cycling will translate into a reduce peak flow -eliminate the need for stacking at junctions and the theft of pavements, cycle routes and crossings. 

    And we need to keep an eye on the council, because the council is all to prone to taking away cycle facilities bit by bit.  Every junction doesn't just need to be fought for, it needs to be guarded to keep cycling friendly.

    But in Bristol it may be possible. The cyclists there are more than just students, there's enough of them to have tangible impact on commuter load -provided the inner city can have its cycling routes fixed. That's where the Cycle City fell down. They did new routes to the fringes of the core: festival way to the harbour, concorde way to St werburghs, frome way to easton, Hengrove way to Bedminstrer -but they all steered clear of the centre. For fucks sake, they haven't even joined up the railway path to Templemeads properly. 

    It'll take work, it'll take constant supervision and monitoring, but at least the will is there. Which it isn't in the rest of the country -including S Gloucs. 

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