Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Not-Cross-City cycle route. That isn't.

So we're about to get a cross city cycle route, according to the newspaper headline. Only, we're not. At all. Even a bit. 

Seriously, its hard to express just how misleading this headline is. The 'project' isn't one. Its a disparate set of semi-improvements to some bits of road, but not sufficient to make anyones journey sufficiently better to encourage them to cycle. This is fluff, and labeling it as a cross city route goes beyond careless and is in truth outright deception.

Take the Arbury Road scheme. Its crap. There is a plan to ignore a very quiet immediately adjacent road right next to it, on which an Arbury Road cycle route could be constructed very cheaply, and instead quite possibly tear out one of the few remaining old hedges of Kings Hedges (which unlike specimen trees is a rich habitat for diverse wildlife) to give us cycle route on about half of the length of the road - so if you want to ride a bike safely from Orchard Park to the Beehive Centre (a major shopping and employment location) you're fucked. This links up to quiet back streets (read: going miles out of your way - so you either won't go that way or won't cycle) that MIGHT take you somewhere near the city centre, but its absolutely useless if you're heading towards the improved Chisolm Trail (itself a distraction). This is evidence that cycling gets little more than lip service - the County want pretty pictures of nice cycle routes to show the press that they give a damn but they're not in the slightest bit interested in making journeys sufficiently safe or pleasant enough to encourage more people on to bikes. Want to do this more cheaply and more effectively? Use the Nicholson Way option and extend the cycle route down the whole length of Arbury Road - someones right to park a car on the road doesn't trump my right to ride safely, and if you think it does you're the antithesis of everything that is good about humanity. Dear County Council - give us a cycle route down the whole length of Arbury Road or you're just playing games, there is no value to doing this badly.

The whole 'scheme' is a bunch of piece meal 'improvements' that aren't enough to get anyone on to bikes, cynically and disgracefully re-packaged as if they're a coherent whole. 

Got a little bit of sick coming up into the back of my throat even trying to think down tot the level of the County Council here. 

I call upon Camcycle to call this what it is - a farce designed to distract us while City Deal and County money is squandered on crap we don't want. 

Monday, 19 December 2016

Cambridge is run by, and for, motorists.

So we're not likely to get road closures to fix the streets of Cambridge by channeling traffic in other directions. A proven method of reducing conflict at junctions and thus shortening the average journey time of everyone in a car is rejected because motorists don't like it.

Its like I've died and gone to stupid land. Birmingham or somewhere. This meant to be a city full of some of the smartest people in the world but for some reason when it comes to transport we're the biggest idiots you can imagine. Everyone here agrees that congestion is a nightmare - that you can't get from one end of the city to the other in a reasonable time because of traffic congestion. 

Everyone agrees that cycling is part of the solution, not part of the problem, and that more people walking or cycling would be a great way to make things better for them to drive to where they want to go themselves - and thus will only endorse measures that will inconvenience motorists sufficiently that they themselves wouldn't be put off motoring - they support 20mph zones in principle but will whine like a 30 year old PC fan if its enforced on them. They'll whinge on with whatever contrived counter-arguments they can against anything that'd stop THEM driving, while vocally supporting anything that wouldn't but, inexplicably, they think might put other people off.

There is no joined up thinking. Lets not enforce 20mph limits or, indeed, anything much on the roads. Whats that, cyclists are on the pavements? Why aren't they on the roads where we don't enforce anything? Send the cops to get them, thats tackling the problem at its source, isn't it?

While Policing, the City Deal, indeed the whole structure of how we make decisions is done by in a faux-populist approach by geriatrics with axes to grind pestering the hardest we're basically doomed to failure here. Be under no illusions, Cambridge is a polluted, congested, car-sick hell hole run by, and for, car dependent codgers.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Chris Grayling Doors a Cyclist

Yes, its a legal requirement to look before opening a car door if you're a passenger, if you door someone you've broken the law. Its primarily the drivers responsibility but I believe a passenger can be held responsible too - either way, its not, legally, ok to endanger a cyclist passing the car you're in. You don't even have to hit them for it to be illegal - you simply must not endanger them.

No, its not illegal to filter on the inside. Its not necessarily a good idea and one can make an argument that a situational choice to do so is wrong - but its not illegal. You are required to look out for cyclists doing so regardless of whether you approve of it. You don't like cyclists on the inside? Fine, I don't care, but be aware that the Highway Code makes it clear that you have to look out for them.

No, one can not rationally say 'you were going too fast' and 'I didn't see you'. Those are not compatible statements. One could say 'I didn't see you' alongside 'How fast were you going?' But that ain't what he's done.

Its not ok for a Transport Secretary to say things like this while he's also acting in a way that could kill cyclists. I'm left wondering how he doesn't see this as simple exemplification that segregated infrastructure saves cyclists lives, and saves others from so many negative interractions therewith. Do you want an easy life without this kind of thing? Then for Pete's sake man, invest in bike infrastructure.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Milton Road Plans - How Should we Respond?

It seems that councillors and residents associations have come out in favour of a pretty groovy plan for cycling on Milton Road. 

Now we're a way off from this happening yet, its got to go to the local authority and, this being Cambridge. months of ridiculously intense, nit-picky scrutiny. And it'll start with local bloggers taking on the role left vacant as our regional press becomes ever less adept at this. Say what you like about Richard, Puffles the Dragon Fairy and even me, but without the likes of those guys its hard to see how we'd hold any local government to account in the UK these days.

Now, as I say, its a fairly groovy plan, but the devil may be in the detail. Will we really do away with bus lanes along most of the road, in favour of a cycle lanes with priority over side roads segregated from the main road by trees? What kind of trees, are they going to try to keep some of the more miserable specimens and just shoehorn us in? And will it really be continuous, is Cambridge actually ready for a true Dutch style roundabout on a major road in to the City?

There's a long way to go, but provisionally I think we've got to be supportive - and I think we need to take criticism from other lobby groups (the bus lobby in particular) on the chin, before hitting back just as hard. I don't recally bus and car lobbyists wringing their hands and saying 'but what about the cyclists?' all these years. Its an adversarial system where we all demand what we want and there's no reason why we should play nicer than other groups.

So for what its worth, I'm with Camcycle on this. For the moment. There will be calls to cut back on provision for riding and indeed on tree planting in favour of bus lanes. And its now our job to rebut those calls. 

One last thing - my three local city councillors in Kings Hedges (Smart, Gawthrope and Price) abstained on this vote. Whats the matter, gents, can't be seen to be supporting cycling? Well if you won't vote for me, I'll not be voting for you. Shame on you all. Our county councillor. Fiona Onasanya, voted for this. Thanks Fiona, thats brilliant. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Shameful Headline from the Telegraph

What an awful rag that paper has become.

Apparently, according to the headline:
Cycling with headphones kills mother as coroner says she caused her own death
So apparently a woman was riding a bike with headphones and, unequivocally, the coroner says that killed her. Thats what the headline says, so thats what happened right? Lets read on...

The mother-of-one, who is thought to have been listening to music on her iPhone, probably panicked trying to avoid a collision, Hull Coroners' Court heard.
The hairdresser was "riding purposefully" before she wobbled at the nearside of the lorry and fell fracturing her skull and spinal cord. She fell on the verge and died instantly without hitting the lorry. 
Ms Norton, who was not wearing a helmet at the time, seemed unaware of the HGV, the inquest heard.

Oh, so she might have been listening to music. She's thought to have been listening to music. And she was near-side of a lorry and fell off? So she's allegedly unaware of the lorry and just randomly fell off and thats not related to the lorry, she wobbled and fell off because she was listening to music? Why would she do that? She was riding along and only fell off when the big lorry came alongside, and thats just a coincidence because she was unaware of the lorry?

But it gets worse.

Ms Norton’s 18 speed Carrera racing cycle was found in its lowest gear with the chain still in place. Her iPhone and headphones were picked up at the scene.
Coroner for East Riding of Yorkshire Paul Marks ruled that listening to music could have contributed to Ms Norton’s misjudgement.
Professor Marks said: "I accept this was an entirely avoidable incident and the cause of the events that lead op to the accident rest entirely with the cyclist.
He concluded: "I cannot determine if she was on her iPhone listening with earphone at the time, but if she had been, it could have caused a distraction and could have contributed to the cause of the accident."

So we've no evidence she was listening to music other than she had an iPhone with ear plugs. We don't know she was wearing it. It appears we have no independent witnesses who can tell us what happened. And the coroner says that maybe its all her fault, but presents no evidence that this was the case? And, best of all, rather than doing the slightest due diligence on the report the Telegraph chose to go a step further from saying that headphones might have contributed to the accident and in their headline claim that the coroner pins blame firmly on the cyclist wearing headphones over this? 

There's a sucker born every minute, they say. But what kind of sucker would you have to be to buy this crap? 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Copy of email to Cambridge police

UPDATE: Via a circuitous route local police are taking this seriously - local political blogger/independent journalist Richard Taylor tweeted this on to several councillors, who contacted local police who as a result got right back to me with the information that they're looking to prosecute. Good news - but deary me, why ought this be so complicated?

Just spent a frustrating little while talking to our local police force on the phone. First officer I spoke to was just colossally unhelpful, and wouldn't give me an email address to send video evidence to. She felt it was appropriate to bring some kind of text link to that to the station and hand it over while being interviewed - and that might not be for days. When I said that this is silly and could I speak to her superior officer she hung up. I was livid.

Phone back, got email address but no clear indication they'd definitely even look at an email.

I hate 'but its the year (x)!' type outrage - but come on Cambridgeshire Constabulary, sort this out. This isn't ok.

Anyway, here's the text of the email I've sent.

Video evidence for incident 95 (reported today). Incident was at about 6:15 PM yesterday.

I would like you to find someone to look at this ASAP please - I'm sure you'll agree that someone oughtn't be driving like that. I'd be happy to come in to the station to make a statement about this, but I'm concerned that you'll not start investigating this incident until then (and the earliest time you had for an appointment for that was Saturday evening).

It does concern me that this guy will be driving around until at least then without you having initiated any kind of discussion with him, and I would have thought that on the evidence of the video footage alone you've got more than enough to go and have a word with him to initiate your investigation. And I feel fairly sure that even if the first step is that this guy knows you're looking in to his driving he'll be taking some more care - prompt action could (and looking at the video I think you'll agree very likely will) prevent someone getting hurt.

Would you be able to give me some feedback on how you'd like to handle this today please?

Lastly, you've really got to update your system for handling reports of crime. You've got a single not-necessarily monitored email address for receiving crime reports and many of your staff aren't even aware of if, believing its rational to require that members of the public attend the station and presumably write down weblinks? You know full well that isn't ok.


Colin Davidson.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Normal, Everyday Cycling - Roundup.

I'm looking back at posts about riding my bike from last week, where I was making an effort to document every ride in a way I'd never normally consider, and I'm mostly struck by how little cycling really defines my time.

Yeah, I get around that way, so I've got to remember bike lights and a lock and do need to think about waterproofs at this time of year, but I'm not waiting for the bike to warm up in the morning, I'm not choosing travel times and where to shop based on how heinous the traffic will be, and I'm certainly not spending so long sitting angry in traffic that it has any negative impact on my mood. My means of getting around costs me next to nothing and it takes less time than any other available options. Yeah, its healthy and green so in some ways more 'virtuous' than driving, but I'm riding a bike about because its the most practical, time and space efficient way of getting from A to B, allowing me to split journeys more productively and get to where I want most effectively. My riding isn't about other people driving - its a rational choice for me. 

Could it be better still? Well, yes, many of the routes I'm using lack good cycle facilities and its fairly obvious that the presence of such would help out where traffic is heavy and drivers angry. But even as things are I'm left with three thoughts about cycling every day from this. 

Firstly, my bike riding defines me less, in any practical respect, than the people driving are defined by their transport choice. My method is cheaper, easier, faster, and puts way less strain on any aspect of my life than theirs. Calling them 'motorists' and me 'just a person getting about' makes more sense than the normal view of 'cyclists' as strange outsiders while drivers are 'normal'. Whats 'normal' about choosing one of the least convenient and practical forms of transport for most journeys?

Secondly, it takes actually sitting down and thinking about the massive convenience of being able to lock up and shop, look, wander about wherever I want to bring home the benefits of a cycling lifestyle - or, rather, a non-motorised transport dependent lifestyle. I couldn't stop off at a shop on the way home if I was on the bus and I'd struggle to do that by car in most cities. I couldn't combine a car journey with a ride around a few likely green spaces looking for wild mushrooms on a car, so if I'd been driving a car about all these years my knowledge of what grows where and how I can use it wouldn't be what it is now. Riding a bike frees time, yes, but it also allows us, physically, to see more of whats in our neighbourhoods and be more involved in our communities. Cycling facilitates personal growth within our environments by reducing the physical and conceptual distance between us and what is around us. I know what trees grow on all of my regular routes because I've time to see them, and when they're shedding useful or tasty fruit I can stop and pick it.  I know when to pop in to the local farm shop because he'll have discounted game. I know when to pop in to the assorted local ethnic food shops to talk to the most enthusiastic staff there who'll want to share passion for their own cuisines and encourage me to try something new. Bluntly, cycling rocks.

Lastly, its amazing just how chilled out most cycling is. Yeah, you'll get the occasional nutjob on the road. But for the most part its relaxed, easy and simple. Yet every working day last week I passed the same folk sitting in the same cars in the same traffic jams, usually with the same stressed and unhappy looks on their faces. I'm forced to ask - why is it I'm the odd one for cycling?

Sorry for getting evangelical. But biking around really does make life better in all sorts of ways that most people never even think about. I wonder, when trying to get more people out on bikes because the net impact of that is better for everyone else, is the fact that our lives can just be better a more effective way of selling cycling?