Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Has the War on Cycling begun in Cambridgeshire?

Monday, 10th December 2012: Here we are only to days into the new Year and I am already cracking up, in my haste to complete last year’s set of posts I missed this one out. Mind you it was only two pictures and once again it was a sneaky ride out Lodes Way way.

I don’t know why, but the comments made recently in the Cambridge news regarding the Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner’s (PCC) call for a crackdown on “danger” cyclists really got up my nose – big-time.

I think there are two reasons – the first is that the whole business of foisting PCCs on us in the name of local democracy seemed beset with problems of half-heartedness. There wasn’t much information in advance of the voting, Here in Cambridge it seems that our “choice” for PCC was rather evasive in the run up to the election when a local activist Richard Taylor tried to understand what his polices were going to be. (Note I use activist in a positive sense here – just to avoid any doubt. Whilst I might not agree with all Richard says, you  have to admire him for what he does and the time, effort and approach he uses.)

Richard also has a piece on the election of PCC Sir Graham Bright and how only 2.48% of Cambridge's Electorate made him their first choice.  He has also an interesting item analysing the PCC’s website pre-election.

The second reason is that I feel that the comments in the Cambridge news signal a step backward in terms of making Cambridge and its surroundings a better place to live and work and play. We have budget issues,health  issues (obesity, noise and air pollution) ,fuel and energy will only get more expensive – almost literally burning money and climate issues.

So what happens next is we seem to get an old-school conservative seemingly ignoring the evidence and switching to sound bite politics. A person who is not happy cycling in traffic.

I thought this comment was on one of RT’s posts suggesting that the PCC lives in a village, but my memory was wrong. It was a comment on which referred to  the Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s survey prior to the PPC elections. (Thanks to “two wheels good; four wheels bad” for highlighting this.)

Sir Graham Bright’s response to the question (2):

What experience do you have of cycling in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area?

“The only cycling I do in Cambridgeshire is in my village to go to the local shop. I used to be a keen cyclist but am not happy in traffic.”

Well there might be many reasons why the PCC is no longer happy in traffic, but surely the bottom line is that if we want more people cycling then he has a major role and responsibility for improving the safety for all road users on the roads – especially for the vulnerable – old, young and cyclists.

After all he does indicate that more cyclists is a good thing in his answer to Question 8.

Please comment upon how you see cycling contributing to safe and efficient transport

“Cycling is a healthy pastime. It is very environmentally friendly and if the use of cycles reduces the amount of motor vehicle use on our roads, it effectively brings about a safer environment.”

So all in all it feels as if I, as a taxpayer, am being made to pay for a lack-lustre attempt at local democracy that is setting the clock back in terms of the value of cycling in society (transport, health, happiness…). 

All this in a climate where there is an increase in the number of cyclists are being killed on the roads. (122 a five year high)

According to the Gov Stats for 2005 – 2011.

      Number killed or Seriously injured
                              2010            2011             increase
Pedestrians            5,605           5,907              5.4%
Cyclists                   2,771           3,192             15.2%

Those streets are getting meaner – for the vulnerable. Now the spin on the Cambridge City Cycling crackdown is that it will make the place safer for pedestrians – my answer follow the bloody evidence. To make the streets safer you have to go after what really makes the streets dangerous.

So the question is how militant should we get, I’ve generally believed that militancy doesn’t work. It is better to work from the inside. Or to put it more pithily it is better to be on the inside of the tent pissing out than on the outside pissing in.

A stance taken by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign (imho) and one that seemed to be bearing fruit within the local political system – read the article for calls for less bickering.

However I did feel the militancy stirring when I read this Post from the Cycling Front: 2013 – the war on bicycles begins in Cambridge.  There is some good food for thought there. However rather than cyclists vs motorists we need to rally our allies – the pedestrians and the old (particularly the tory blue-rinse brigade). Their streets are getting more dangerous.

An interesting piece from the Cambridge Cycling campaign likens cars’ effect to use of drugs – I see it in my own family. My wife now pretty much drives because the roads feel dangerous to cycle on, even for the half mile to work, a school which seems to attract more loose driver behaviour than normal.

Sorry – I needed to get that off my chest. It is one of the reasons I cycle in the Fens – you don’t get the hassle you get in cities. The motor traffic tends to be courteous although you do see yummy-mummies in their 4x4s holding their phones to their ears.

Lodes Way between Lode and White Fen

have I said it before – the light at this time of year is generally promising – except when it is just grey. I have yet to see a fire rainbow though.

Lodes Way a rainbow strikes ground beyond Burwell

And finally – I used to love playing with Lego as a kid – to the point where I did think about being an Architect – except I was crap at Art. I stopped playing with Lego until I had kids, then stopped when they grew up. Fun it is but an obsession – no?

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