Saturday, 6 November 2010

The road to cycling hell is paved with strategy meetings

On Freewheeler's blog, he mentions that there is a cycle conference going on in Edinburgh this weekend.

It would appear that with cycling, one can never have too many strategy meetings.

Later on in the blog one learns that Edinburgh city has signed up to the charter of Brussels which commits to 15% cycle modal share in the city by 2020. Which is ambitious considering the modal share is less than 5% at the moment. I do wonder what may happen if they don't meet this target by 2020. Will transport officials lose their jobs? The city be fined? Or, more likely, will they decide to hold another strategy meeting to arrive at some further targets a suitably long way in the future?

There seems to be no limit to the number of organisations, the number of committees, the volume of strategy documents or marketing initiatives that can be formulated around cycling. 

But increasing cycling modal share has been done before - we aren't in uncharted territory here. These committees could look to what Holland did in the 1970's, or Copenhagen in the 1980's or what is happening in some cities right now, to gain a good understanding of what is required to significantly change cycling modal share. And all these examples point to provision of decent cycle infrastructure, coupled with shifting road priority from cars to cycling.

But this solution involves spending money, and making difficult decisions. So UK cyclists are left with reams of documents with good intentions and crap infrastructure designed only to look like cyclist provision is being put in place, but without actually inconveniencing the motorist. 

Instead we are told to believe that vehicular cycling is the way to go. That mixing it with cars, vans, and HGVs on roads that have little or no consideration for the cyclist's needs is going to somehow get anyone but the most hardy on a bike. Even the most basic shifts in emphasis in law to help protect vulnerable road users - such as presumed liability - is not considered in the UK, even though it is standard in many European countries. In fact we have the opposite happening where judges are reducing sentences given out for motorists convicted of dangerous driving where a cyclist was killed (Jorgensen v. Moore), because the victim wasn't wearing a helmet. This was without the judge hearing any evidence about whether a helmet would have even reduced the injuries, and certainly had no bearing on the actual offence of dangerous driving itself. It defies belief.

I find myself on this blog being cynical and sarcastic. But then I consider the ecofluff rhetoric bandied about by local authorities and contrast it with the useless, dangerous crap  that actually gets implemented. I look at the videos and experiences posted on the web where cyclists are put in danger by negligent and aggressive motorists . I read about the fact that what a victim of dangerous driving is wearing at the time can mitigate the punishment, so killing a cyclist by dangerous driving can result in a suspended sentence and just a 2 year driving ban. Finally, I look at organisations like TfL that will spend money making funky cycling videos, but when required to make more difficult choices revert to the status-quo whilst spouting platitudes. The fact that the Tfl operated cycle lights in Hoe Street are switched off indefinitely because of a "clash" with the motorist phase tells us all we need to know about the true priority cycling has in organisations such as these. When I consider all of this I realise we shouldn't be cynical.

We should be very angry.

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