Thursday, 29 January 2015

A crisis of conscience in Campaigning

Sorry about the gap between my last cycling blog post and this one. Its because this has been a hard one to write.

I joined Cambridge Cycling Campaign last year in time for their AGM specifically so I could vote in favour of them taking up their own 'Space for Cycling' as a policy document, as something to measure the quality of new cycling schemes against. Its a good idea, its a decent set of standards, and it would look most peculiar for CCC folk to come up with this and then not adopt it as a standard. This mattered.

There are some excellent folk in the Campaign - I admire the energy and creativity of many of the committee and I acknowledge there are many other members who are really passionate about cycling. There's an online 'behind the scenes' discussion board (via. Cyclescape) that you get access to as a member, where ideas can be bounced around and any member can contribute. Naturally there are locked discussions therein where I presume confidential material that should only be available to the committe will be discussed, and said confidentiality seems excellently maintained. I wouldn't infer anything from said activity, other than the fact that it doesn't look like the staffers bickering normally dominates the space, unlike many other online fora I've seen. All of this is good and proper and entirely above board, and I wholeheartedly approve. I'd like to see a rather broader set of members contribute but, heck, thats just how things are.

So I joined and got in on some of the discussions there back before Christmas.

I like the holiday period as a time of reflection and thought, and it gave me a chance to ponder on how I'd been thinking and talking about the campaign last year, and how I was interacting with it at the end of the year.

And I don't know that I can continue being involved in that way. I've been having a bit of a crisis of conscience over this.

If you've read this far you'll be wondering why - and its simple enough. This. Right here.  A guy who was banned from standing for a political party over events described in the above link is on the committee and was voterd back on to the committee at the AGM - and discussing matters of campaigning within the organisation means doing so with him.

So do I go back to contributing as I was? I dunno. Personally I don't agree with the Campaigns decision to choose this guy for its committee, the election process involves a few words from each prospective member, no discussion of other issues, and a vote. It sounds democratic, and it is if the democracy is nothing more than a show of ballot papers - there simply isn't time for anything else at the meeting, and I find it a bit icky that someone rejected by the Liberal Democrats seemingly rebounded into the Cycling Campaign committee. Even though he was the only person who wanted the turgid role of going to council meetings and filtering through the unending crap that comes alongside that, I'm uncomfortable with involving myself in such discussions with him. And it rather feels like I'm the only person still saying that there's a problem here, so do I need to shut up and say nothing, and contribute as part of the campaign in what looks like (due to city deal money and some promising proposals on the drawing board) it could be one of the most exciting times for cycling in Cambridge? Well, that ain't sounding like how I'd normally compromise any of my other key ethical stances.

I find it problematic that more folk in the campaign aren't speaking out about this.

I've got to surrender a pretty core ethical stance to participate as I've been doing, and work alongside someone I'm just not willing to speak to, working next to someone who I don't believe I should be working with, and that ain't coming easily to me.


Friday, 5 December 2014

Extraordinary tweets from Cambridesire Police

I wonder whether how Cambridge Police have been tweeting is in any way related to my suggestion that we should report more incidents to them?

It isn't unusual for cyclists in the UK to complain that the Police don't seem to take complaints from them seriously - its something repeated so often as to become almost a cliche. Its not surprising really - its an over-stretched service, a thin blue line, apparently. And I wouldn't go out of the way to give them a hard time for it, I know that they can't do everything.  I do question their priorities though.

But a fairly mundane comment on twitter has escalated into a quite extraordinary response from them.

To recap, as part of a discussion I pointed out incidents like this - and note, two PC's  (or a PC and a PCSO? It was a long time ago) came to my house to see this video, and told me that they didn't think it was dangerous so said they'd do nothing:

And their response?

Here. Have a look. And at this one too

So to recap, I've used examples some of which our police service have refused to do anything about where motorists have passed closely in a way in which most cyclists would view as probably aggressively, and in response I'm being told its too late (despite trying to report such incidents at the time) and that I need to back off.

I'm not the only cyclists tweeting at our police force telling them the view from our saddles makes it look like they're getting things wrong. The annoying thing is, none of the cyclists talking to Cambridgeshire Constabulary are looking for any trouble - they're looking to get reports of dangerous driving taken seriously. Or taken at all, for that matter. And the response? Denial. Flat denial that there is a problem.

There are some good folk at Cambridgeshire Constabulary but looking through their twitter feed they're getting very 'us' and 'them'. I wonder whether they're interested in having any kind of constructive relationship with cyclists - it doesn't look like it to me.

I'm left wondering only one thing - how far are they willing to go to not police motorists endangering cyclists?

Please, if folk from Cambridgeshire Police are reading this, try to take a step back and ask what relationship you want with cyclists in the county. Do you want us to report incidents of dangerous driving? Mobile phone use at the wheel? Aggressive driving? Yes or no? We're in the ideal place to see these things - and I'd argue that we'll all be better off if cyclists DO choose to make more such reports, and you'll have a far better picture of which sections of road are most hazardous for vulnerable road users so you can target your resources more effectively to keep everyone safe, to really reduce the rate of injuries on our roads. Thats certainly what I want - why isn't it what you want? 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Zero Tolerance Spot for January, Coming to Your Town?

I want to lay down a challenge.

Talk to the other cyclists in your town, find a place you all agree is dreadful because of how motorists behave there. Is it a junction where 'they' always jump red lights? A place 'they' always pull out of without giving way? A pinch point where 'they' always drive straight at you? Take your pick, but do please choose one.

You've got a month to put the word out that this location is your target. This is where you're going to make a change. I want you, and all of the other cyclists there, to report every rule infraction you see, by every motorist, to the police. I want you to get incident numbers for all of them. Heck, if you can strap a camera to your helmet or your bike and record the problems you have there so much the better!

Lets make a difference in the New Year. Lets stop allowing the Police and Local Authorities to fob us off, one at a time, incident by incident. Lets make it absolutely clear - enough is enough, its time for us, the Cycle Lobby, to start getting shirty about how they've been treating us.

Cambridge Cyclists - Magdalene Street, the 'narrows' where bus and taxi drivers do not give way to oncoming cyclists, driving straight at you with the expectation we'll somehow disappear. Every event, every time 'they' endanger us, we'll report it. All through January. And in February? Pick somewhere else.

Are you all up for it? Can I get a 'HELL yes'?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Why would you stop if you hit a 'normal' pot hole?

I keep coming back to this point. Maybe the news reports aren't explaining it well enough. Maybe I'm just missing something, but I don't understand.

He said: “As I turned into Trumpington Road I felt something but it felt no worse than some of the potholes which are around.
“I stopped immediately and got out of the car to understand what had occurred and my car had gone over the cyclist.”

So this guy hit a cyclist and killed him, a cyclist who had come off his bike somehow and was in the road. The driver was on the phone. But despite mistaking a cyclist (who he hadn't seen) for a pot hole, he wasn't careless.

Sorry, I don't get it. I don't understand how killing someone who has fallen off their bike because you go round a corner and don't see someone lying in he road so you can't stop in time to save a life, can be viewed under law as not careless. I don't get it.

And I don't want to lose sufficient empathy with fellow human beings such that I ever do understand how drivers get away with this.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Dear John Lewis (Again)...

Dear John Lewis,

Since then we've upgraded or replaced a whole range of things, and because of that incident very few were purchased from you.

More recently I needed to replace my old Kenwood Chef, so I asked in your Cambridge store how big the packaging was for the model I wanted. I was delighted to hear that it would fit in my bike trailer so I paid for the item and came back with my trailer that Saturday.

I was mortified to discover, after battling busy city centre traffic and queuing for a space in the underground bike park (there aren't any special spots for cargo bikes or trailers - note that, as ever, there were spaces free in the car park - when will you be having words with your landlords to get more bike spaces?) that the size of the box was almost twice what your 'partner' had said.

Yes, after throwing a bit of a paddy on social media you agreed to taxi it round to me, which I thought was the least you could do after all that fuss. And yes, you've credited me with £40 - which wasn't he point, but that'll be going to the Red Cross so thanks.

I just wonder why you seem to hold cyclists in such contempt? You need to have accurate measurements for your products when packaged so if we're making special trips we'll be able to take our stuff home. You need to clearly offer the same service to get packages to cargo bikes or trailers that you offer to motorists.

The reason most of us cycle is because we want an easy life - its an efficient, fast, simple way of travelling and transporting goods. So, quite seriously, if you want us to cycle to you to spend money, stop making it so bloody difficult. 

Do us all a favour will you? Can you try engaging positively with cyclists in Cambridge to get this kind of thing right? Can you provide some places to lock up cargo bikes or trailers so we can get bigger products home? 

Its not asking much for you to treat the half of Cambridge's population who cycle as customers you DO want, as opposed to plebs you want to keep away. Come on guys, you're not market stall traders, you're the big JL. Get this stuff right.

Wouldn't it be nice if cyclists, like me, were singing your praises rather than picking such obvious fault?



Improvements in Kings Hedges and Arbury - Part 3

A keen reader may recall that I recently discussed plans to improve cycling in the North of Cambridge. This is my third and I hope final contribution on the subject - feel free to tear me down now, but read part 1 and part 2 first.

Essentially, there is plenty of space along much of the Northern length of Arbury Road for good quality segregated cycling provision - and we should ask for that from the School heading Northwards. But further South we've a problem with old, established hedgerows that unlike many of the blandscaped tree planting that blights many of our city streets actually supports a wide range of plant and animal species, as well as shielding homes from the relentless noise of the traffic. 

The route I outlined in part 2, which bypasses the hedge thats the biggest problem and which makes uses of quiet, excellent space to cycle on can be shown thus:

In case you're concerned about whether there's space to construct this route, take a walk with me from Nicholson Way, looking back to Arbury Road, up towards Ashvale:

And at the other end, here's how much space there is to give us a good route to and from the School from the end of Ashvale:

Taming the Abury Road/Mere Way junction is a good idea, but I entirely reject the notion that budget for active transport ought to be spent on this unless we also get some good infrastructure for cycling and walking. I accept that alongside some of the older hedgerows on Arbury Road, hedges that clearly pre-date the building of the estate, that might not be easy - but here we've got a very clear example of low-hanging fruit, and massive space to install high class cycling provision at low cost in effectively unoccupied space. Its a no brainer - replace the mini-roundabout with a raised junction and give us a good cycle route too.

Further details from part 2 (joining up to the shared use facility and, ideally, doing something with the dogs dinner of a junction joining on with Kings Hedges Road) are simple enough.

I also reject the notion that simple maintenance work (resurfacing the paths around the Rec ground) should be funded this way - by all means, give us new surfaces on the paths, but lets not wrap that up with a small amount of widening and insult us by calling it an investment. Its not, its subverting developer funds for maintenance, call it what it is.

Lastly, there is massive scope for further improvement for cycling in this part of the city - if I may, would any of the folk from the County care to come for a ride with me (and perhaps someone else from Cambridge Cycling Campaign) and have a look see?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Cambridge Police making things needlessly hard - part 2

You'll recall I tried to report something I thought dodgy to the Police. 

After sending a complaint to the Commissioners office, and to the complaints department, I got a response from a Chief Inspector. And it was pathetic, imho - I don't think its appropriate for me to post the text here, but you'll get an idea about it from my response (below)...

Dear xxxxxxx,

I'm not clear why you think this isn't sufficient evidence to be worth having words with the gentleman. The perspective from which the image is taken is right in front of the driving position - while it is possible that it could be another person leaning right in front of the driver, it isn't likely - and I should think you'd also be wanting a word with the driver for allowing that to happen. And while, yes, it is possible that the picture was taken with a camera and later transferred to another device to then put up online, surely thats something you'd also be wanting to talk to the driver about? If you saw a driver using a camera while at the wheel of the car, you'd certainly be having a word.

Bluntly, there is no combination of factors leading to this photograph being taken from the driving position of a car that does not give you good cause for talking to the driver - and it seems impossible to argue that talking to the driver is disproportionate.

It is also not hard to track down who sent this - the link (which I provided) to the tweet takes you to his twitter feed, from which you can see he's got a link to his facebook address therein. Looking at the contents thereof it won't be hard to find his email contact, name and, from that, location. I'm a little disappointed that you think thats too much work - its almost none. Indeed, have you not considered simply emailing him to ask? I'm not for a moment suggesting you should be storming round with flashing blue lights, but there is clearly something wrong going on here, and if you ignore such a blatantly wrong thing it'll keep happening - don't you want to stop this before an accident occurs as a result of this behaviour?

I must also say that it really does need to be simpler to make online contact with the police. If you've got a twitter presence, and I send information such as this to you via. twitter, why can't you deal with it simply and effectively without having to make a call, make another call because I've been cut off, send an email, send another email, and chase it via. the another call because the email address may not be checked for days?  This isn't just a simple training issue, its a problem with Cambridgeshire Constabulary being incommunicative - from my end it looks like you're doing everything you possibly can to avoid even taking the report, even to the extent of coming up with implausible excuses for the picture perhaps being taken by someone else and not checking the link I sent which will, very quickly, find you the contact information you need.

Is Cambridgeshire Constabulary a police force of the 20th or 21st century?


(my name)

12 days on I got another reply. You'll have an idea what that said from my response below...

Dear xx,

Thanks for your response and for looking in to this.

I'm a little baffled that you've brought up your role in looking at road traffic incidents where life changing injuries occur in response to being asked to look into this. On the face of things this looks illegal. We see regular 'crackdowns' on road infractions which are not immediately causing such injuries, and I've yet to hear a police officer in the media complain that their time would be better spent dealing with other things. 

I understand that such a thing won't be an immediate top priority, but would you rather that this kind of thing isn't reported at all? Surely if mobile phone use (or fiddling with a camera or, at best, letting someone else lean over you to take a picture while you're driving!) is a serious enough offence for the police to occasionally target, you must also want people to report such things?

The response first via. twitter, then via. phoning 101, then from the Inspector and now from you seems grudging, to say the least! I'd rather hope that our police force would be all in favour of this - can you please explain to me where I've got that wrong? Bluntly, Police response to this appears evasive, slow, and grudging. 



Okay, I get it, limited Police time and resources and all that. But you can't tell me that you can have a crackdown on cyclists having lights while simultaneously ignoring things like this - thats not proportionate policing. You also can't be telling me that you'll only look at something if you're badgered in to it. What kind of policing is that?

Bottom line? This isn't going to get Cambridgeshire Constabulary good publicity like a 'crackdown' on mobile phone use does, so I don't think they're interested. If they were interested I'd have been able to report this with one tweet or, at most, one call. 

Nonsensical policing from a force that, demonstrably, are failing cyclists. Sorry, but there it is - the Police have made this needlessly difficult from the outset. Can it really be that they're making it so hard to report something to reduce the incidence of reports?