Wednesday, March 6, 2013

CN Boycott

It is surprising how fast the months whizz by – it is already March and so endeth the Cottenham Cyclist’s Calls to Boycott the Cambridge News during the month February. Read the first link to get more background– but for me it was a way of starting a conversation about the way in which Cyclists are portrayed in the the media and in a small way to register my displeasure with what I think reflects lack of balance and depth in the Cambridge News with regard to cyclists.

I felt that too often the stories tended place emphasis on an eye-catching headline and not on enough detail to give a balanced view. You only had to read the comments on some of the cycling-related stories to see how polarised the views could get.To be fair I think the many Newspapers tend to focus on eye-catching headlines rather than detailed stories. I feel the CN is not so much anti-bike but more for an eye-catching headline.

One area that the CN does see a stoking up of discussion is in the Comments sections – they seem to polarise opinion and in my view bring out the worst in people. Well the NY Times reported on a study published by the journal of Computer-Mediated Communication  in which the authors reported:

Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.

Strangely enough I did miss the news input from the Cambridge News. The Cottenham Cyclist did a sterling job of using his Twitter feed to highlight other sources of news. Other sources included the BBC website. For example there have been discussions about building bus-only tunnels under Cambridge – which were reported by the Beeb.

Other sources included Blogs. I for one follow “Travelling the Cambridgeshire guided busway” which mentioned the Solar lighting work on the Guided Busway, the flooding on the CGB and a letter in the Huntingdon and St Ives News and Crier pointing out the folly (my words) of the CGB cycleway being “designed to flood”.

However I have to admit, that I have missed the CN and its headlines along with stories such as:

Hatred of cyclists should be treated as a crime, says Cambridge campaign group”. This story arose out of the Cambridge Cycling Campaigns recent submission at the recent Parliamentary Cycling Inquiry. as you might imagine their submission was somewhat more detailed and the CN did cover some of those points. The irony is that perhaps the CN needs to consider its role in how such matters are debated on its comments sections?

There was also “Police hunt for driver who did this to Cambridge cyclist” which shoved a bloodied cyclist allegedly shoved off his bike into a green electricity box. The cyclist required 13 stitches.  Whatever the issues the fact that something like that can happen on a Cambridge street is hardly an encouraging message to people to switch from driving to cycling. Whilst there are many that moan about cyclists on the streets of Cambridge – the congestion would be much worse if they switched to cars or even buses.

As a slight aside it was reported that “UK ‘fares badly in European health league table’”. Essentially the life expectancy in the UK isn’t as good as comparable countries. The item seems to lay the blame at the door of the NHS, yet the Health risk factors are – Tobacco smoke, High blood pressure. Obesity, Too little exercise, Alcohol use and Poor diet. 

That strike me as trying to pass the buck for a situation that should command attention in all walks of Government (and life). Points 2, 3 and 4 reflect on the sedentary lifestyles we lead.  Yet there is only a sporadic support of cycling as a means of transport and sporadic help for getting kids to cycle to school.  There are initiatives, such as this reported by the Cambridgeshire County Council – Cycling award for Coton Primary School.

Unfortunately we also hear cases like this where a school is cutting the number of cycling spaces to allow more cars to be parked (St John's School – Epping). Or this Primary School – North Downs, which will make its Betchworth and Leigh bases “driving only” from September.  How appalling.

In my round up of CN headlines this one amused me – “Police saddened after hundreds of drivers in Cambridgeshire snared in phone crackdown.  This seems designed to avoid motorists painting the Police as the bad-guy, although there is still the use of “crackdown” in the article. However the language for dealing with drink-drivers is more robust. Which probably reflects public opinion being more against drink-driving. “Traffic police on ‘march’ to snare Spring drink-drivers”.

The Hills Road junction alongside the Catholic Church is due to be re-vamped. (Another term for spending lots of money – with an uncertain outcome?). The CN reports “Cyclists’ concern over £900k revamp of Cambridge's Hills Road junction”. CCyC reports its views directly as “Catholic Church junction do not go nearly far enough” Check out the link at the bottom of the CCyC page – there is a report on the collisions that have happened at the junction. In a lot of them cyclists and pedestrians are the casualties.

And finally the thing that annoys me at the moment is cars parked on pavements and illegally. (Not always the same thing because of our unclear laws relating to motor vehicles and pavements.) Another source of “news” is/are the Police Tweets like this one with an illegally and nabbed parked car from CambsCops.

Pavements are for cars and vans

Actually I have added another item to the things that annoy me – the unwillingness of the Police or rather more the agreement of ACPO not to enforce 20MPH limits. This is frankly appalling, since ACPO is not actually a public body and yet making fundamental decisions. It has been covered by a few bloggers – here are two I liked – As Easy As Riding A Bike – “Institutional motorism” and the People’s Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire – “We have Seen the Man and He Drives”. Perhaps that is why we now also have PCCs – to provide a political counter-balance to the Police Chiefs.

I believe ours does want 20mph limits enforced and he also reckons Bike Theft in Cambridge is out of control. If you are listening Mr or should that be Sir PCC I personally want to have safer roads for going about my legal cycling please. Safety from the bl**dy great high speed lumps of metal that also use those roads.

Faster than a speeding van

So Cambridge News stories will once again feature on my pages – unlike the Cambridge Cyclists – Cambridge News Still Hate cyclists I think that they don’t so much hate cyclists as NEED stories with headlines that get eyeballs.

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