Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cyclists–the group you can berate between meals without ruining your appetite.

Many people think of Cambridge as a cycle-friendly place, well I can tell you know it doesn’t always feel that way. I have now cycled through the “improved” Hills Road junction a few times and also driven through it, although not as many times. My impressions were of being abandoned in a big car space.  Indeed if you look at the OSM Cycle map you can see that cycle routes avoid the junction with Lensfield Road  and there are long cuts (Coronation Street or Glisson Road).  Depending upon where you are going you end up negotiating uncontrolled junctions or more crossings. Also, despite the fact I have lived in the area for nearly 30 years the routes just do not spring to mind – they don’t present themselves as the most logical of routings.

What does stick in the craw is that the improvements were part-funded in the name of cycle safety. So the meagre, piecemeal cycle infrastructure budget was raided to pay for what is really the replacement of a tired motor junction. Oh yes we did get that “wonder of wonders”  an advance traffic signal for cyclists. Although they haven’t got lights at cyclist-eye level so I almost missed it and it is only a few seconds.

But that is old news really, I just wanted to check that it wasn’t just the shock of the new that had put me off the junction.  There are loads of places where there are random poles along a cycle path, random shared-use paths that appear to have little logic being them.  They stop and start and switch sides so much I reckon they are designed to increase the conflict, real or imagined, with pedestrians. (Whereas the real danger to pedestrians are motor vehicles.)

The strange thing is that, even the Daily Mail, is reporting the news that Bicycle sales overtake Cars for the first time ever in Europe. Apparently in 2012 in the UK there were more than 3,000,000 bicycles sold compared with just over 2,000,000 cars. The researchers attribute it to the recession although little evidence is presented, remember correlation is not prove of causation! Obesity has risen in Europe over the same time – maybe that is the problem…

Now Psychologists (and I am not one) talk about Ingroups and Outgroups and in my mind there is no doubt that motorists are suffering from Outgroup derogation. For some reason cyclists must be perceived as a threat. What is more striking is that if you ever follow the comments on a Cambridge News story about cycling then you can almost guarantee that it will generate loads and loads of comments. Like this one Police targeting ‘dangerous and anti-social’ cycling in Cambridge today.

You only need to read a few of the anti-cyclist comments to realise that many of those commenting do not appear to be very intelligent or given to rational argument. Also given the Daily Mail article on the sales of bicycle versus bikes and the  data about how many households use bicycles to realise that those people making averse comments about cyclists are probably a rather sad minority. Who when not sitting in their cars/vans fuming (at the cyclists, pedestrians, roadworks, lorries, buses, bus lanes, taxi drivers) are probably leading a sad and lonely life. Who end up sitting eating their microwavable food in  their bedrooms pecking away at their computer keyboards adding more and more comments. Safe in the knowledge that they probably won’t be considered as racist of sexist.

The trouble is this sort of antagonistic behaviour seems to come from the very top – just watch Question Time in Parliament or see how many politicians seem to spend more time sniping at the opposition than communicating what and why there are proposing a particular course of action. There seems to be too much focus on the headlines not on the substance.

It would also seem that the press will exacerbate that behaviour, after all a provocative headline will generate lots of eyeballs, so important for the Internet-age. So we have one such headline in the Cambridge News – “Police targeting ‘dangerous and anti-social cycling’ in Cambridge today”.  Personally I don’t have a problem with the approach the Police are taking for cyclists without lights – LIT – Lights instead of Tickets. It is a bit of a win-win, it even helps our local bike shops. The problem I do have is as to whether it is either dangerous or anti-social?  It might be, but there is no discussion to support that – so it does tend to stir up the trolls and feed the Outgroup Derogation.

Driving a motor vehicle creates noise and air pollution – that’s antisocial, and air pollution is harmful to health – that’s dangerous and/or anti social.

It is perfectly reasonable that the Police are there to uphold the law, however the Cottenham Cyclist has has looked at some data in Oxford that suggests that cyclists without lights are not putting themselves in harm’s way. So given the budget pressure on Policing is this the right way to spend the limited Police resources. Or is is a cheap (PSCOs are doing the work) way to rack up some numbers for our PCC to justify all the good work!

Interestingly the word “danger” does crop up in the Cambridge News’ headlines a few times – “Hundreds of ‘danger drivers’ snared in Cambridgeshire police traps” and “Police to crack down on ‘dangerous’ parking outside Cambridge schools”.   Although the Cambridge News distance themselves by using quote marks around the terms.

So to help calm us all down, some pictures  - no cyclists without lights or jumping red lights. No cars no buses – just bridleways and countryside. No provocative headlines – except for the Dung heap.

Low Fen Drove Way – Apples

Hundred Acre Road – A Dung heap – human?

Lodes Way – Burwell Fen Bund – it seems to be working

I bumped into MikeC whilst cycling through Burwell – he mentioned a Sun Dog. Which was still around as I headed towards Swaffham Prior.

Sun Dog – Between Burwell and Swaffham Prior

And here it is a bit closer.

Sun Dog – Between Burwell and Swaffham Prior

There were some cars and lorries about – that road between Burwell and Swaffham Prior does get very busy.

No comments:

Post a Comment