Wednesday, 27 November 2013

How do we get people out of cars and onto bikes?, asks Mary Creagh

This was the question posed by the Parliamentary all party cycling group on Twitter attributed to Mary Creagh, the shadow transport Minister
Well Mary, cycling needs to be seen as safe and attractive before people will give up their cars. Above all it needs to be seen as a viable transport choice, and all too often currently it is not even on the radar.

Even though the Labour party is not in power nationally, there is lots that can be done by local authorities and Labour do control a lot of them. The Govt seem to be pushing responsibility to LAs saying it's a local issue, so Labour could make some real headway quickly.

here are some suggestions

  • On roads with a speed limit above 20 mph, which should be all residential areas, start building cycling paths which are physically separated from motor vehicles.
  • Where possible, residential roads should be closed to prevent though traffic. This will prevent "rat running" and ensure that only traffic that needs to be there is there. Ensure closures have permeability for pedestrians and cycles.
  • Shops, leisure facilities  and workplaces need to provide much more bicycle parking than they currently do, and parking needs to be visible, covered and secure.
  • Provide cycle training at all primary and secondary schools & offer widespread subsided cycle training etc to encourage everyone to cycle, especially as exercise based health strategies for prevention & treatment of diseases such as T2 diabetes & obesity.
  • Some schools insist on "contracts" like this one (googled). This NEEDS to be turned upon it's head and all schools should only allow pupils to be driven to school by special permission and permit. Cycling and walking must be made the default. Enforce no permit/no parking zones at school times.
  • Cycling must be promoted as a safe everyday transport choice. "Safety" schemes which advise helmet/hi-viz use must be ended. There is little if any evidence that it makes cycling safer. All it does is blame victims and spreads the belief that cycling is a dangerous fringe activity only to be practiced by the fit and brave.
  • Local authorities to deliver cycle-friendly improvements across their existing networks, including small improvements, segregated routes, and road reallocation. All LAs to adopt a "suggestion box" scheme for local cycling improvements & investigate & act appropriately. 
  • LAs need to conduct a cycle network audit, then develop and publish 5 year plans to build a comprehensive safe high quality cycle network across all of their authority, with strategic and feeder routes.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Troll politics?

Cycling has seen a terrible few days in London with 5 deaths of people riding bicycles in London.

We should not forget that there have been more across the country, and pedestrians as well.

There has been plenty of gnashing of teeth and hand wringing in the media, and especially social media like Twitter along with plenty of speculation and suggestions of what TfL and Boris Johnson should do.

Remarkably, Boris Johnson has come out and and said on LBC
"There's no question of blame or finger-pointing.
"That doesn't work in these circumstances," he added.
"But unless people obey the laws of the road and people actively take account of the signals that we put in, there's no amount of traffic engineering that we invest in that is going to save people's lives."
Cue lots of shouts about victim blaming, and Boris being a bumbling buffoon.

I buy none of this and I, possibly very cynically, suspect that Boris is playing a grim game here.

Boris knows full well that the only way to provide safe space to people riding bikes in London, and to pedestrians also is to control, tame, and to take space away from motor vehicles.

Boris also knows that taking space like that will not be a vote winner amongst the people who do drive.

By shifting the blame onto the bicycle riders and suggesting that them not  obeying the law, plays into the hands of the large numbers of people who do actually believe that cycling and cyclists are dangerous and a menace. Just listen to interviews with some of the London bus drivers here, or (god forbid) read the comments on the Daily Mail, or the Telegraph.

Media like the BBC assist in this victim blaming as intevitably virtually all debates end up being about cyclists not paying tax, running red lights, not wearing hi-viz or helmets.

Boris being the remarkably astute polititian he is (he is no buffoon or fool) knows that by playing that card all the ignorant cyclist haters will not turn against him. Also by promising improvements to the cycling infrastructure, which seem to take forever, then he hopes that the bicycling public will also buy his spiel.

But Boris knows that creating safe space for bikes costs more than money, it will cost him votes and "love" from the driving public, many more than he thinks he'll get from the cycling public, and his ambition prevents him from making that bargain.

Cyclists and pedestrians need to put aside their minor petty differences, and start squaring up as a united front against the vehicle lobby and the polititians who prioritise vehicles over people.