Monday, March 17, 2014

The Press–I despair! Plus a ride to Oily Hall Farm and Wicken Fen

Sunday, 9th March 2014: (UPDATED) It is not often that I get too worked up about the way the Media operate. At the end of the day they are businesses, no more, no less. They might like to think of themselves as being the Fourth Estate, but what they are really after is a good story that gets people buying newspapers of watching their channel.

I think that the TV channels are really more about entertainment. Even the programs targeted at science seem to have been “dumbed-down”. Often with the same snazzy graphics being repeatedly shown throughout the program.  I reckon it is to keep the costs down.

So I tend to take what I read and watch with a pinch of salt and enjoy it for what it is.  I laughed at the Top Gear program spoof cycle safety film. Yes it is childish, it is not educational, it is entertainment.  Might if make cycling that bit more unpleasant on the roads because it encourages puerile motoring behaviour – well perhaps. But in the general scheme of things it light entertainment – some like it, some don’t, so what.

Now the newspapers tend to more overtly cater to their markets. We have Tabloid journalism – which implies sensationalist stories, we have the The Torygraph, The Grauniad and The Thunderer all with a more highbrow aspect and carving a niche in the market. We also have the Daily Mail somewhere in the middle perhaps? Now just to get one thing straight I am not a fan of the DM politics, but would be the first to admit that they publish some interesting pictures and don’t hide behind a paywall. Which means I can link to their stories when something catches my eye.

Oops I forgot to mention local newspapers, which are probably having the hardest time adjusting to the changes in their markets. We have a few local papers that I sometimes refer to in my posts. Here is an example – “Boy racers doing danger ‘doughnuts’. pushy drivers, tailgaters and lane-hoggers fined in Cambridgeshire crackdown”, from the Cambridge News.  They seem to like a headline, but tend to publish the facts without taking a position. For instance they could have reported the same story with “War on motorists continues with crackdown on minor offences” for instance.

Personally I like to read some analysis of a story and to understand both sides of a discussion rather than a one-side partisan attack. So with that in mind I come back to the need to take some articles with a pinch of salt. Well I read this story yesterday in the Mail – “Taken for a ride: How our freewheeling, freeloading MPs claim 20p a mile on expenses… for riding their BIKES”.  It so annoyed me that even no I would suggest you don’t follow the link. It was just a partisan attack as far as I can see. The position seemed to be one of people who cycle should shut up and subsidise their own cycling.

Let’s be clear bicycles cost money to maintain. Bicycles depreciate in value, tyres puncture, wheel rims wear out, things break. Cyclists generally need higher quality clothing, not necessarily cycling-specific, but certainly of reasonable quality. I reckon on using a pair of waterproof gloves per year and a pair of very warm winter gloves every few years for instance.

This link compares various costs of transport for a 5,000 annual commute, petrol car = £3,445.50, Commuter bicycle = £459.65. Cheaper yes – but free – not at all.  They scorn one MP for claiming for a longer trip. Well I have once cycled 60miles to a meeting, I caught the train home and cycled another few miles form the station.

Then what about considering the cost to the taxpayer? If those same MPs had used cars they could have claimed 45p per mile. So is the suggestion that we want our MPs to stop cycling and drive, so costing us the tax payer over double the cost for cycling.

No mention of the problems caused by cars – as the Daily Mail reports – “Air pollution in Paris gets so bad car driving is BANNED on alternate days”. Which is an affliction we also see in London – “London Air Pollution At Highest Level”.

So I decided that I would stop reading the DM website and linking to their stories – when today in The Times I read the same uncritical story “MPs claim mileage for riding their bikes”. Unfortunately this is behind a paywall so you will only get the first couple of paragraphs. Come on now – I expect more than that from the Times. What is worseis The Times quotes the story in the Mail which quotes FairFuelUK, where is the analysis the balance.

we ought to be praising those MPs for cycling in the course of their work, for thinking about the pollution, for reducing their cost to the taxpayer, not denigrating them. I would certainly have expected more from the Times – Cities fit for cycling.

Here is a better perspective on the issue of MPs claiming for expenses on  The claims in2012/13 for own car use by the MPs and their staff – over £880,000.  That Mr Daily Mail is where you should perhaps focus your attention.

At least I have for the Fens to cycle around – the air is clear, although the Fen blows can be a nuisance, but don’t happen that often.

I pooped up to Oily Hall Farm – turn right when Lug Fen Droveway comes to an end (Mill Drove).  Shown here on an old 25K OS map.  It was a clear day, with blue skies, the Wicken Windmill was turning (in the distance).

Commissioners’ Drain – Oily Hall Farm

A couple of walking crossing Commissioners’ Drain

The view from that bridge in the last picture – Commissioners’ Drain

The view from the last bridge looking down to the White Fen turn along Lodes Way.  The hill in the background is the hill behind Swaffham Bulbeck with more distant pylons.

Lodes Way sign posts

I carried on through to Upware. I could have sworn there weren’t any daffodils there yesterday.

Daffodils in a field in Upware

They look bright and cheery though.

Daffodils in a field in Upware

On my way back from Wicken Fen I took the obligatory cyclists on Lodes Way shots. There is a semi-ha-ha with barbed wire fence in the trench on each side of the shared-use path. Which makes it look as if they are cycling through a field – they aren’t really.

Cyclists on Lodes Way

Burwell Fen

Reed Reflections (and turned upside down!)

No expenses were claimed in cycling and writing of this Post! The flipping electricity cables do work their way into most pictures – perhaps I ought to seek sponsorship from an Electricity Company.


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