Just a quick note to say I'm pondering a Bestiary of Cyclists within this blog. Rather like my types of cyclist hater - the aim is to send ourselves up. Sometimes I think we take the whole schebang too seriously. So any suggestions for categories would be welcome.
Secondly, looking for a minor celebrity raining hate down on cyclists for the Cyclist Haters articles. Any good recent examples please?
Monday, 20 May 2013
I mean it.
Three cycling stories in Cambridge News in a row, none of them dripping with the usual derision or troll-bait we've come to expect of that paper.
Ride to raise awareness of safety of cyclists on the A10. Fairly and reasonably covered.
Cycling parade at Strawberry Fair covered without any attempt to bait people into calling cyclists dirty hippies.
And as I've already blogged, we've had a small victory, which CN has reported fairly and decently.
It may be that the CN has turned a corner and really wants to engage constructively with cyclists to get news out there. I hope so. Or it could be that Raymond Brown is oh holiday? Either way, I'd like to urge the other journalists at the CN to keep up the good work.
The fact is no one wants blindly positive reporting. No one wants a newspaper to just keep waving the flag on behalf of cyclists. We want fair journalism that isn't just trolling for cycling hate. Where cyclists are targeted by the police for whatever it is next, can we have some fair analysis of the risks cyclists may be avoiding, and of the impact whichever assumed danger is being policed actually has? Can the level of decency and intelligent journalism on display here extended such that it is the norm for cycling stories?
Come on guys. You can do it. You can abandon the trollbait. Question now is, will you?
Sunday, 19 May 2013
Its a rarity for Cambridge News to publish a cycling story that doesn't suck. Its rarer still when that story reflects on a victory for cyclists over the generally anti-cyclist organisations that run Cambridge and Cambridgeshire. And I genuinely can't remember the last time such a story was fair, well written and not dripping with anti-cyclist sentiment. Never thought I'd say it; well done Cambridge News!
As you can see, the article tells us that in Cambridge North Area we've got the local police priority of dealing with anti-social cycling dropped. In part I think thats because Police here are concerned that the previous priority was increasingly getting them seen as anti-cyclist. I could well believe that they're embarrassed about the lunatic anti-cyclist ravings of the commissioner. I'd given up on reporting even the most serious incidents of being threatened with violence by motorists to the police here, but recently they've been reaching out to try to fix things. I feel that I must once again point out that when I've not been cycling all of the dealings I've had with Cambridgeshire Constabulary have been pretty good - the local police constables and sergeant are good chaps. But until recently I can recount no example of the police giving a damn even when being brought video evidence of insanely dangerous driving. I think that maybe, at last, they're wanting to correct that. I'm hopeful. We'll see.
I think we're getting through to them (the work of Cottenham Cyclist has been invaluable here). The acknowledgement from our local police officers that a cyclist using the pavement to avoid a terrifying road junction designed in such a way that we're likely to die if we obey the rules perhaps oughtn't be targeted is a small victory. It means that fixed penalty notices for cyclists will instead be used as intended when they were introduced. They weren't created to punish cyclists for trying to stay alive, they were created to deal with cyclists who pose a danger to others.
Its a damning indictment of Cambridge and the institutionally anti-cyclist attitudes taken by City and County Councils and usually the Police force that we have to campaign for the law to be used as intended and not in a way that is hostile to cyclists to the point where we've had the choice of risking our lives or being punished. But that small battle has, for the moment, been won. Now I wouldn't go so far as to say we're on a roll, because putting this in context its clear that what we HAVE won is merely that a specific law enforcement is no longer misapplied. But its also clear that now we've got a shoe in the door - its time to intensify efforts to change things for the better.
The approach needed here is simple enough - not prosecuting cyclists for going on the pavement to avoid a possibly lethal junction is a damn good start, but this is Cambridge - why are there any junctions where confident adults (let alone children or pensioners) fear to ride according to the law? Why is it ever seen as better to ride 'antisocially' than, well, 'socially'?
Its time to stop accepting bad design and half measures. Its time for us to demand what we deserve - we're supposedly the top cycling city in the UK. When will we get facilities to match? We've got allies on the County Council now, and in principle even the head of the Tory group ought to be pro-cyclist - Councillor Curtis was (still is?) cycling 'champion' at the County Council (although his bland support for the Catholic Church junction re-design tells us winning him over will still be a fight).
Bottom line? Its easy for out Councillors and Police to magnanimously stop using the law in a way in which it ought never have been used. Are they going to go further and start making our roads more cyclist-friendly, or is this just hot air?
Monday, 13 May 2013
A short documentary about cycling in Cambridge and the conflict between cyclists and motorists. Take a look...
Not bad, eh? Decent point, well made. I especially like the bits about how and why cyclists might break the rules.
Not bad, eh? Decent point, well made. I especially like the bits about how and why cyclists might break the rules.
I don't want to use this video to launch a discussion on the merits of the vehicularist versus infrastructuralist phoney war. But this thought provoking little film does rather demand that we consider it a moment.
One of the things (pointed out in the video) that makes cycling popular in Cambridge is the network of routes into the city centre across Jesus Green, Midsummer Common, Coe Fen, etc. A lot of the tedious ring-road jostling that typifies commuting cycling in much of the UK isn't quite so bad here - even if you're coming from routes that aren't bypassing the edge-of-city rush there are some half decent cycle lanes to be used. As a result, and due to the fact that Cambridge is flat, dry, and as a city culturally dominated by the University and companies attracted to the University hub, Cycling is a big deal here.
But we're hated as much, probably more (due to our numbers) than on most places. I've been yelled at elsewhere, only ever spat at or assaulted here. Giving cyclists a warning nudge at a junction is just a thing her. Make no mistake - our road system is run for motorists, by motorists, and on the actual roads we're fair game.
We aren't going to get any further in Cambridge or anywhere else by telling cyclists they have to be bold. Sorry folks, we've been doing that across the UK for generations now and we're at historic low levels of cycling (the recent seemingly stellar increase in cycling is from such a low base - a massive precentage rise from feck all is still next to feck all). I ride in primary cycling position whenever appropriate, but I don't expect the retired old lady down on the allotments to do so (she recently bought a POLITE vest because, purely for kicks, motons will even bully an old age pensioner). It is futile to suggest that this is the answer. A minority of folk like me will do it, but I'm a bolshy, stocky, Northern bloke who only a complete nutter or serious hard case would start a fight with - are we really saying to children who want to ride their bikes that they should go and play in the traffic? Would you be telling your Gran to mount a Pashley and assert her presence of the road among bin lorries, cement mixers and Beamers who'll scare the crap out of her to relieve the monotony of their worthless existences?
Assertive cycling is a survival tool we need because our road planners, despite making encouraging noises of late, still want us to eat shit at junctions. But don't lets pretend its the answer. The answer is that we spice safe cycling into the very DNA of our city; every key route, every hazardous junction. Anything else is just stamp collecting.
I think I should clarify something in this blog, something that may not be apparent from either the tone or content of what I've been writing - mostly I don't care if people obey the rules of the road.
I mean, I DO care if folk endanger others - or themselves, for that matter. And I care very much when people are quite obviously lying about what is or is not safe. And I do care if people are breaking the rules in a way in which they increase the risk of causing harm.
But if you're on a motorway, at night, alone, with good visibility, and you want to speed, I really don't care. Thats your business and, frankly, whether you get home at 60mph or 80mph, just don't ask me to have any opinion on the finer details of what you're doing. I haven't got one. Likewise, if you want to ride your bike downhill with your hands off the bars, fiddling with your earbuds, its not my business. If you have an accident doing either of these things, thats your own problem. I'd rather you didn't, but hey, its up to you. Your choice.
I guess what I'm saying is that I don't get why folk get angry about some breaches of the rules but not others - I have never heard anyone who drives making sweeping generalisations about other motorists always speeding, always parking on the pavements, etc. even though the overwhelming evidence is that such crimes are so common places as to be ubiquitous. Yet I frequently (every day, in fact) encounter such generalisations regarding cyclists. About us going through red lights or going on the pavement or whatever else we all do all the time (apparently).
I could spend yet more time 'putting things in perspective' by reciting yet more data showing that the proportion of cyclists who break the law isn't that great, and certainly isn't as great as the proportion of motorists who speed, drive on the mobile phone, etc. But that isn't the point.
I could bleat on yet again about how this portrayal of cyclists as law breakers demonstrates that motorists are for the most part delusional in their prejudice against us. But thats also not the point.
My question here is a simpler one; does it matter if we break the rules of the road? It doesn't matter, to me, when done in a responsible context. But thats my subjective judgement call; it actually will matter to other people that someone is doing 90mph on the motorway at night. And, to many, doing 40mph past a school is considered okay, while others would happily shoot you through both lungs with their rifles of parental rage. Before impaling you on their nimby bayonets.
Lets take this to the extreme. You see a child molester crossing the road. You know they're a child molester, they've escaped from jail having been convicted for it, you know them personally, they're right there. No one could argue that this person is of any value or worth; they're a bad person who deserves to be punished. Now it would be absurd to suggest that you can validly drive your car over this person, because murdering people is wrong. The rules of the road do not suddenly get suspended because someone deserves, from your perspective to get run over. Or, in other words, the law is not subjective - we've got a set of rules that matter because if we all obey them we'll get along just fine.
I'm not going to argue that all law-breaking is the same - thats clearly stupid. But thinking this through, I can't make a case that we should further the cause of endemic lawbreaking by furthering the attitude that its okay so long as we're not doing much harm. Surely as mature adults we must accpt that with our right to criticise those who break the law because, in their subjective judgement its okay, we must just accept the same criticism when we've done similar? We can fairly suggest that the level of critisim, the severity of the action, may not be the same, but we have to accept that the concept of said criticism is fair.
Which brings us back to the criticisms regularly levelled at cyclists. We all jump red lights, we all go on the pavement, we all ride around at night without lights on... Even were these assertions true (and of course they're not) there is an inherent hypocrisy at play here. But its an hypocrisy so common as to be entirely un-noticed; its such a commonly shared anti-cyclist stance as to be one that most are blind to.
Does it therefore matter if people break the rules of the road? Of course it does. Does it matter which rules they break? Clearly. Does it matter what vehicles they're using at the time? Well the bigger and faster the vehicle, the more it matters (or so it seems to me). No other way of prioritising road user infringements makes a great deal of sense; base it on harm caused, or you're pissing in the wind.
Make no mistake - you don't care either. You don't believe everyone should slavishly follow the letter of every law. You don't want that any more than I do. But I hope you DO care about the potential each of us has to cause harm - so why do we blandly stand by when those with least capacity to harm others are the ones so regularly demonised for breaking rules that carry the lowest risk to others?
Tuesday, 30 April 2013
It would be fair to say that I've only scratched the surface - I've picked out two candidates from each party to base my analysis on. If you're interested, here they are again:
I'll go and look at a few of the minority party candidates and independents next, but for the moment, there it is.
I'm surprised to be relating that the Greens are comically inept in this area. It really pains me to say that.
The Tories and Labour are about as bad as each other - the former having the odd good candidate but reverting to type with others, and the latter being full of platitudes but no substance or shape to their policies regarding cycling - they want to be seen as pro-cycling without throwing us the slightest scrap of actual policy.
UKIP. Oh, UKIP. How you've made me laugh. At you. Not with you.
And the Liberal Democrats? Well in Cambridge they're about to get crucified. Maybe thats why they're finally getting their policy right on cycling. I can only hope that they carry some of this through to how they do things at the City level, although I won't hold my breath. Best of a bad lot, truth be told.
The bottom line? Politicians, even at councilor level, are very good at saying a surprising amount, without a great deal of substance.
You might assume that Greens and cycling go together like organic tofu and tie died pashminas. And I suspect even before looking at Cambridge Cycling Campaigns survey that they'll be making positive sounds about cycling, but will they have good, solid, realistic polices for us?
Here I should also declare an interest - I voted Green in the last general election. Environmentally, I'm a green. I like many, but not all, of their policies.
Locally the Greens have had a torrid time of late - they've lost City council seats through bad election results and a shameful election time defection to Labour (and that councilor has stood down now - sorry Adam, good riddance, I hope that the shame of what you did keeps you out of politics forever).
We haven't got a candidate here in Kings Hedges, so I've got to go over to Arbury before I find my closest Green - one Stephen Roger Lawrence.
As we can see, he's off from the gun claiming cycling credentials:
Cyclist since 1981 - commuted for some years - use a bike daily, and commute out to Hauxton once a week. I have two bikes.Great start. And does he want cycle facilities to new developments so folk can get in to Cambridge:
In short, yes
Simple and to the point, although some thoughts on how you'd do it would be good.
But unfortunately then he's gone a bit weird. The first banana skin question, re. evidence based policing. Does he support it?
"Evidence-based" is the word. Also "based on levels of danger". However, people have their own priorities. Blitzes are popular, and do also work (viz success with bike lights). So we should say "the evidence suggests this" and "but peoples' preferences are this" so "as a compomise we'll do this". Ie as educative as possible, without IMO being judgemental. We do have to police our community together, after all.
Dude. What are you smoking? The question wasn't that complicated - should policing be evidence based and should it be based on where the real dangers are, should it be about how people are actually getting hurt? Or is the populist approach going for blitzes on this and that the right way? If there are compromise positions between evidence based and prejudice based policing can you give us examples of how to reach them? Sorry, I've read your answer five times now, and I still don't know what you're saying.
He's then said what we'd expect him to say regarding cycle routes (he likes them). So thats all good then. But I'm afraid he's off with the fairies again in a minute. Fairly simple question from Camcycle:
Do you support major development of the A14? What do you consider the effects on Cambridge would be if or when this were done? What measures would you support to ameliorate negative effects on cyclists of any traffic increases in Cambridge that this might cause (estimates have been made of a 30% increase)?
Or, in other words, many folk want the A14 to become ever more a motorway in all but name, bringing even more cars at peak times, so how would you make it okay to ride here under those circumstances. His response:
My response to the A14 is that it is primarily a problem with freight. Therefore the solution involves moving "swap-body" traffic on to the rails, using a proprietary system such as Modalohr or CargoBeamer, with terminals located near Harwich (I think this is where most swap-bodies come from - Felixstowe is for containers) and the Midlands, to name the first two.
Felixtowe? Felixtowe? What the hell is the relevance of that to whether or not pumping ever more cars into Cambridge makes the roads here un-rideable? You've completely not got the point of the question, and it isn't clear that you understand the problem. He then goes on to support 20mph (although oddly prefers 25pmph), but really he's a bit limp if I'm honest.
Honestly Greens? Is that the best you can do? I mean, where's the plan? Whats the overall shape of cycling policy? What I want out of a Green party is to look for a shape to your policy; where would cycling in Cambridge be 5 years from now if you won? 10 years? Where are you going with this? Do you even have a clue what you want to achieve?
Okay. So far, so limp. Lets wander down to another ward and see if the others are the same; a chap called Shaun Peter Esgate is standing there. Another long time cyclist, but for some reason he finds the question of whether cycle facilities for new developments are a good thing rather complicated. Goodness knows why. And on evidence based policing?
Increased traffic policing of dangerous road users in the city could be effective if enough resources could be diverted for finely targeted actions. The dangerous incidents which have been highlighted in the press over recent months are usually over in seconds and unless they result in injury need to be witnessed by police officers for any action to follow.
...well, your guess is as good as mine. I have no idea what he wants, he's answered some other question entirely.
And if you think thats bad take a look at what he things about Bozzas plan in London and whether we should go for it here:
I can't say that I know enough to comment.And on cycling and public health?
This question is a bit broad but Green Party policies address these issues and consider them to be primary concerns.
So why the hell are you standing for election then if you've got neither knowledge nor your own opinions? In short, what are you for Mr. Esgate? The rest of his comments are blandly supportive of cycling without ever giving us an idea what the Greens want to do.
To be brutally honest, these responses disappoint but don't surprise me. Nationally the Green party have become a dynamic and exciting political force, putting forward creative and sensible policies on councils where they've either become the main opposition or part of the ruling block. Caroline Lucas has been a stalwart in parliament, and if there is any justice they'll go from strength to strength under their inspiring new leader. It should however be noted that none of those people or places have any link to Cambridgeshire, where I'm afraid the local Green party have more or less fallen to pieces and stopped being anything like a coherent political unit.
Is cycling an issue for you? Indeed, are there any issues you care about? Sorry, but the Green party here in Cambs is not for you. You wouldn't have thought it possible they could be so limp and uninspiring.