Thursday, 16 July 2015

Cambridge Cyclist to Traffic Droid. Come in, Traffic Droid

What's up, dude?

Seriously, you've gone and twitter-blocked how many other helmet camera cyclists? Why? 

I have no beef with you. I don't immediately recall us having a serious crossed-word. Most of the other folk I'm seeing mentioning this have no argument with you. Some don't agree with some of what you say, most don't particularly mention you.

Whatever it is, let us know, 'cos most are baffled.

Guys, someone tweet this into his TL so we can find out what is happening?

Monday, 13 July 2015

Response from Devon and Cornwall Police...

So according to the police force in the South West, obeying the law on the road is a matter of conscience, not something for them to involve themselves in.

Yes, really. Look at their response:

Thankyou for your email.
We would not be able to take any further action if this is regarding the driver taking a photo whilst driving - it is down to the driver to be responsible whilst in their vehicle and ensure they are driving safetly. If a driver is witnessed doing this by an officer at the time then they will be stopped and potentially fined.
Many Thanks

So there you have it. Motons - is there no copper there present? Go for it, its down to you to be responsible and the Police couldn't give a wet slap.

Devon and Cornwall police, you're a disgrace to your uniforms.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Report to Devon and Cornwall Police...

Yes, I know, its pretty random, but it was cup-of-tea time and the dodgy tweet was just staring at me.

Text of email sent to Devon and Cornwall police below:

Dear Sir/Madame,

I was given this email address via. your twitter feed, for reporting a crime.

I'd like to draw your attention to this:

Someone has copied it as a screen capture and re-posted it in case the original tweet is deleted:

Its fairly clear that the image is taken from the perspective of the drivers seat - either by the driver or someone leaning in to the space normally thus occupied. Either would seem hazardous, and with the content of the tweet it comes across as a little sinister. Could you log this and investigate please?


CAB Davidson.

Comments now require an ID

You can thank Anonymous for this. The ever present anonymous sniper who posts snide or rude comments - you're simply not welcome.

So anon. comments disabled for this blog now. I suspect its one cringing yellow chicken who's been leaving the insulting yellow comments, but it isn't worth my time dealing with such an idiot post by post.

You know who you are. Grow some and post as an adult now. Or live a long life alone with your cowardice. 

Monday, 6 July 2015

Why aren't I plagued by cyclists?

I ride my bike to get to places. Thats what a bike is for, its to get me close enough to a place such that the rest of the journey is better done on foot. A bicycle isn't a political tool, and if you think it is I cordially invite you to read a decking fictionary. Its a vehicle, it shortens time spent travelling to a destination such that we then don't have to spend as long walking - and its a more economical and healthy choice than driving or getting the bus. That's all it really is - it isn't a device that I define myself by. Its a machine, not a social commentary.

So that means I'm also a pedestrian. I don't tend to ride my bike to a town and then ride around in it - its a hassle unlocking and locking it up again, so I tend to lock it up and walk around. In truth I'm as much a pedestrian as I am a cyclist. All of us are.

As a pedestrian I'm forced to ask what the hell is going on with all the people who complain about all the cyclists. I've been a pedestrian pretty much since I learned to walk, and in that whole time I don't recall being hit by a cyclist, nor have I been threatened by a cyclist. I've had a cyclist swear at me once, ever - on a big, fast, wide, shared use facility where I'll confess I was distracted and not looking where I was going. I've had a cyclist fall off on the  pavement near me once - he was drunk out of his face, riding slowly behind me and fell off. I called him an idiot as his drunk friends (who were in agreement with this point) picked him off the ground and I kept walking 

Why is it I see so many comments about cyclists being a problem on the pavement? Is it that in Britains cycling capital I'm leading a strangely charmed life, and that I'm really odd in never having been 'mown down' or 'nearly killed' by a cyclist while walking around? 

I don't like treating anecdotes as evidence, its lazy and unhelpful, but the real data (which shows cyclists are killing around 100 times fewer people on pavements than motorists are) bares so little resemblance to the perception of Boudicca like spiked wheels scything through the ankles of modern Britons as to be hilariously irrelevant. The idea that cyclists are causing this mayhem is so widespread that we see nonsensical articles that crudely divide distance travelled by injury rate (thus ignoring the dualled A roads and M roads which make up the majority of that figure for motorists, one's that that cyclists can't practically or legally ride) claiming that cyclists are as dangerous as cars. The idea that cyclists are destroying lives is so prevalent that trollumnist hate-pieces are blandly put out by newspapers, reaping the a hate-fear harvest on a scale they're scared even to try to drum up over immigration. We're so hated that we're seeing concerted attempts to booby trap roads and cycling routes, a trend which left un-checked will lead to fatalities.

The numbers don't add up - there are of course stupid and antisocial people on bikes but they're in a vanishingly small minority. You simply can't correlate next to no deaths and serious injuries with endless anecdotal near misses, such a concept would be a statistical brain fart, its not real. Its not credible - to believe that cyclists are 'nearly killing' many thousands while actually killing one every three years takes that special kind of ignorance I like to call 'prejudice'.

But take a step back - we don't talk about cycling safety in simple 'this is how many people are killed' terms. We also talk about subjective safety - where even though its statistically 'not that bad' we don't use some routes because they feel dangerous.

I put it to you that cyclists 'feel dangerous' in the same way that turbans on the buses were a problem. Cyclists are dangerous like immigrants used to be - i.e. they're pretty much not, but the perception of us as outsiders, and the constant reinforcement of negative stereotypes as acceptable in the media does make people worry when they see us. The answer isn't that cyclists must behave better - the evidence is that we're not breaking the rules sufficiently often or severely to justify the hate we see. The answer? Reject their prejudice.

Want to start a conversation with a stranger? Well you can't say 'bloody cyclists!' any more. Want to tell a joke? Well while people are assaulting cyclists just for riding you can't tell that joke about us. It's time we made cycling hate speech as unacceptable as any other hate speech. 

Cycling needs some social-justice style rage. Are you with me?

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Cambridge - The Reality Bubble, Cycling and Campaigning

Cambridge is a bustling little city. Many weekends in summer there's some kind of event on, sometimes there are several - and this was the case a couple of weeks back when we had both the Town and Country festival and Arbury Carnival.

I was surprised not to see folk from Cambridge Cycling Campaign with a stall at either - there were many other local groups at both events and they're such regulars at these things that its always odd not to see them. I'll confess I was also a little relieved the Campaign weren't there - I always used to be nervous I'd run in to (then) Councillor Rosenstiel at the Liberal Democrat stall, but I think he kept his head down in this part of the city after putting his foot in it once too often - and I worry rather that the disgraced ex-councillor will turn up at a Cambridge Cycling Campaign stall and I'll end up being one of those too disgusted to stop and talk. As it was, I ended up having a lively discussion with the LibDems at the Carnival, when they made the quite unlikely choice to defend Rosenstiel after I expressed relief he wasn't there. I remain contemptuous of anyone not willing to distance themselves from him.

But this got me thinking about the Cambridge Reality Bubble. Jokingly its referred to as a student thing, but Cambridge is a strange city in many other ways too. I wonder, is a bland acceptance of people acting in ways that would get them ostracised in other cities also part of the same phenomenon, allowing us to have a broad based cycling culture? Is Cambridge Britain's only cycling city not just because of the influence of the University, but in part because this city is, by UK standards, barking mad? Do people cycle here because they're not negatively judged, because you can identify as a 'person who cycles' without that being a negative? 

I've touched upon Cambridge Eccentrics before. Several times, in fact. Its not a city where there are a few eccentrics to be aware of, its a town where you just don't bat an eye if a chap walks past dressed as Russian doll, where performance art meets parody on the streets of the city and no one really cares. A town where if you cycle throuh with a giant dragonfly scultpure on your back the only comment will be 'Quick, somebody call an entomologist!' So is Cambridge unique as a cycling city in Britain because fewer people feel the need to 'perform' socially? Is Cambridge a cycling city because its somehow less prone to people worrying about people judging them on appearaces (whether they drive, WHAT they drive, how they dress etc.) than other cities? Free of the social imperative to be judge on what they drive, do Cambridge residents more often than not freely choose to cycle because its a more practical option? And as such, is the problem we face in getting the rest of the UK to cycle not one of identity rather than infrastructure?

The Cambridge 'reality bubble' certainly goes way beyond Reality Checkpoint  these days - both spatially (encompassing the wider city and surrounding hi-tech industrial sites) and conceptually (its not just the University now - if it ever was). Do we simply have to accept that this city will remain an outlier both for cycling uptake, and for accepting a range of behaviours that just wouldn't be condoned elsewhere? I don't like either possible answer to that.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Sickening Road Rage Incident

Well, if you keep up with cycling news in the UK you can't fail to have heard about this incident. If by some miracle you haven't come across this, here's what everyone seems to be talking about - its not pretty, and it sure as hell is NOT SAFE FOR WORK. 

There is little I can add to this story that has not been extensively said elsewhere.

But lets step back and ask whats really happening - passing a cyclist that closely is an aggressive act - if you nearly kill someone with a car you need to expect them to be pretty full up with adrenaline. So, yeah, the cyclist responded with some profanity - not unreasonable considering he was under attack - the driver saw the cyclist and knowingly passed very close, pulling in ever further in response to the cyclists angry, terrified shouting before getting out of the car to remove any uncertainty we may have as to his intentions - he says himself that he'd break the cyclists neck if there weren't witnesses.

But look at the guys face as he gets out and approaches the cyclist - to my eye this isn't just fight or flight response, and his initial insistence that the cyclist should be in the cycle lane isn't just aggressive, its dismissive. He's not taking the risks to himself in this situation seriously - he's disgusted by the cyclist who has, from the outset, been the victim of his wrath.

We need to look further than this guys anger, we need to get past this simple act of aggression and view this as what it really is - status and entitlement. He's better than the cyclist just because. His seriously threatening behaviour is justifiable because its a cyclist. In his mind we can act that way to cyclists because they're cyclists - you can do that to cyclists who are not breaking any rules or giving you the slightest problem, cyclists are already in the wrong. Look, he's not alone. 

Bluntly there are two things we need to see to stop this happening. Firstly, if there are cycle facilities (and there really should be) they have to be good enough to use - even lethally bad cycle facilities get us bullied for not using them (in Cambridge we call this the Milton Road Effect). But its not jut about cycle facilities, its about hate.

This guy was aggressive to the other guy because he was on the road, on a bike. Bluntly, the cyclist had done nothing wrong, the aggressor initiated this with his ridiculously dangerous overtake and compounded it with truly threatening driving and a brutal tirade of threatening abuse - all because the other guy was a cyclist. We must put pressure on our MP's and the Police and CPS to treat these as what they are - hate crimes. These incidents must be prosecuted in the same way we'd prosecute crimes based on ethnicity or sexuality hate - they come from the same pit of human psychology, and until we treat them as such we'll see no reduction in their frequency.

£90 fine, apparently. Not enough. Not nearly enough. 

EDIT: Had to change the source for the video, the original had gone. Huff Post still have it, so I've swapped to that one.