Monday 31 December 2012

War on Cyclists, Cambridge Style

There is no other way to describe it.

The total number of fatalities I can find reference to, in Cambridge, caused by cyclists, in the last year is zero. I could be wrong of course - although I could be out by ten orders of magnitude and it would still be zero. 

Cyclists are not mowing people down in vast numbers here. Or anywhere. We're not blocking the pavements by parking there. We're not making city streets no-go areas by speeding, nor polluting, nor making a vast amount of noise. 

But we're the priority of our new Police Commissioner, according to this article here.
In an interview with the News, he said one of the first tasks he carried out as Cambridgeshire’s new Police and Crime Commis¬sioner was to ask the force to tackle "dangerous cyclists".
Oh, deep joy, you're thinking. But still, maybe he's got a point - maybe he's picking out 'dangerous cyclists' who by some miracle haven't been wounding people by the thousand in the way ordinary, well behaved motorists who speed, park on the pavement and drive in an every day way are managing to do.  Lets look more deeply at what he's said. 
"I think we’ve got to a stage in Cambridge where people have forgotten that cyclists aren’t supposed to cycle on pavements, through red lights and the wrong way up a one-way street which are terribly dangerous – not as dangerous as a car – but if a cyclist hits a child or an elderly person it can be fatal.
"And cyclists also take their own lives in their hands when they cycle without lights. You just have to look at the number of bikes that haven’t got lights in Cambridge and it’s the poor old motorist that gets the blame if they hit one of them.
Oh, dear. So if we hit a pedestrian, its our fault. If we're hit by a car, its our fault. In fact everything bad that happens is our fault - and despite the fact that the crimes Sir Graham refers to are not even responsible for the vast majority of injuries to cyclists Cambridge its all our own fault. Analysis of the recorded causes of injury on our roads be damned, its all the fault of cyclists no matter WHAT the data says (and wherever in the world its been studied, motorists are found to be killing in vast numbers - not cyclists).

So in summary, we've got a guy who won the commissioner post for the county (despite losing in Cambridge), who when he comes here does so by car, basing his policy on complete ignorance of accident and injury stats. Yet another anti-cyclist fool who only recognises most of the County from behind his windscreen. A guy who could be helicoptered to the top of a mountain and lament the view is diminished by a lack of windscreen wipers and a tax disc. The Tories knew full well they could put up a monkey with a blue rosette and win this post - I leave my readers to decide whether in fact that is what they did. Although I think its fair to point out that he appeared in the original episode of Brass Eye's 'Cake', but was for some reason cut from reruns and the DVD version.

He'll fit in well alongside the guys running our county council. And of course our city councilors whose response to largely cosmetic improvements in cycle provision is to collude with the police to prioritise 'antisocial' cyclists who merely don't know where a cycle lane ends because that end is entirely unlabelled. Make no mistake - policing trivial causes of cyclist injury to the exclusion of all else, arresting cyclists who are on pavements because the cycle lane has ended with no label, and failing to do anything positive to reduce the impact of dangerous and antisocial motoring, these policies must inevitably reflect the true intentions of our County and City councillors - they will not rest until every last cyclist other than confident, fast, pushy adults has given up entirely. These are not policing priorities FOR cyclists. This is a war on cycling. It is a war on cyclists. They're fighting it, even if we're not.


  1. A Happy New Year, Gnomeicide.

    If, as you suggest, it is a war, their side seems to have a distinct advantage, in the sense that they have a very clear idea of what they want, and how to get it ...

    The LCC, for example, have set the Mayor three 'tests', none of which are actually joined up. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of their FAQs is as follows:

    Q: Will disconnected cycle lanes provide proper route choices?

    Gulp. Will disconnected cycle lanes do what? Will they provide proper "route choices", did they say? Oh, for fucking hell's sake ...

    A: Part of a network is definitely better than nothing ...

    Aaaaah! I think I might actually be going insane! They're going to take me away, hee, hee.

    Meanwhile, one of the comments on the Cambridge News page was from someone calling himself lawrence18uk. He hoped that this initiative would lead on to "the adoption of left turns on red as a matter of course, all one-way streets to be two-way for bikes unless specifically inappropriate, and improved signage on all the pavements where one is allowed to cycle legally." He continues: "These are fairly cheap things - after that we can start to improve the many parts of the cycleway network ..."

    This guy is clearly an idiot, and can safely be ignored.

    1. I don't oppose doing the little things to help us. Its just thats all we're seeing, its all we've ever really seen. To the point where we have to stop accepting these little tweaks to our road system - it is self evident that this approach has failed us.

      And you're right - a connected approach is absolutely needed.

    2. Q: Will disconnected cycle lanes provide proper route choices?

      A: Part of a network is definitely better than nothing, but cycling facilities must always be seen as a step towards creating a high-quality network. However, what’s most important is to encourage more journeys by bike, and to make these safer by tackling major barriers to cycling, which invariably are junctions.

      Why is it most important to encourage more journeys by bike? We hear it all the time. When the idea of SiN had some force, encouraging more people to cycle would at least have been expedient, I suppose, but since this idea has now been largely discredited, I simply do not understand why many cycle advocates are so insistent that getting more people to cycle is the most important thing.

      We know that if there was a continuous network of consistent quality, the public would use it. So rather than preoccupy ourselves with the idea of getting more people to cycle, why don't we strive to ensure the development of such a network?

      CTC are similarly confused about this. According to their Hierarchy of Provision, reducing the volume of motor traffic is the priority. However, as David Arditti explains, "this is simply the wrong way to address the problem", not least because it gets "the necessary causalities inverted". If the alternatives to the car were better than the car, the volume of traffic would be reduced; so why not concentrate upon making alternatives to the car more appealing?

      The respective priorities of these two organisations probably betray their real motives. CTC are fundamentally a vehicular cycling organisation, regarding the whole road network as the cycle network, whereas LCC want more people to cycle because they want more members. The idea with these flagship projects is that they can say, "Look! We did that! Come and join us, and we'll have more influence and therefore more capacity to deliver similar projects." However, if my proposal was to be adopted, as they have told me, there would be nothing left for them to campaign for.

      This brings us on to your point, which is pretty much the same as the Cycling Embassy position: Little things is all we're seeing, its all we've ever really seen. To the point where we have to stop accepting these little tweaks to our road system - it is self evident that this approach has failed us.

      I am not going to disagree with you about this, but I hope you're not implying that "little things" is all I am proposing.

      David Arditti has argued, "The first step, the primary thing to call for, is [...] separation of bikes from motor vehicles." Why? I know it works - I don't need to be convinced about that - but why is it the first step? What! Do you expect me to accept this way of thinking without proof?

      If you can spare the time, please read the second half of this blog.

  2. It would seem that evidence-based policing isn't our PCC's thing -well on the evidence so far!

    1. On evidence to date, reality isn't his thing either.

  3. I seem to recall commenting on your blog, in relation to Cambridge Police's actions against pavement cycling, that perhaps an appeal to the new PCC was in order. Being a former MP I figured he minght be a little more rational than a former councillor or whatever - he wodl after all be a professional.

    OK, I admit it, I got that one wrong. I should have remembered that he was an MP of the same party which produced Sir Gerald Nabarro, Tufton Beamish, Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (whose only intervention in Parliament apparently was to ask if soneone could open a window).

    I suppose the other route is Police-Community Liaison meetings? Do you have those? After all, the plod is supposed to respond to priorities set by their "customers. The customers who attend such meetings have a tendency to be obsessed by stuff like anti-social behaviour, pavement cycling and extended licensing hours, but they are generally small in mumber, so attending meetings to state alternative views might move the debate on? We did that in the City of London's liaison meetings, and it did mitigate the cyclist-RLJ campaigns to some extent, though not entirely.

    1. Looking in to which meetings to go to. There are police/community meetings, but getting enough turn-out of cyclists to them to outnumber the blue-rinses may be hard.

    2. I'll give you that - but if City experience is anything to go by, the opposition isn't really that hard to outnumber.

      The problem I guess is inertia. These meetings are crashingly boring and the temptation to stay in and watch Emmerdale instead is quite powerful.

      That's it! Try and get the meeting moved to a time which clashes with Emmerdale, and the usual crowd of blue-rinses will stay at home!

  4. According to Cycling: the way ahead, the greatest danger to cyclists comes not from motor vehicles, but from longheld prejudices. What motorists particularly seem to hate is people getting to the junction before they do. I have seen them, in a long line of queueing traffic, pull out to block the path of a motorcyclist, who would otherwise have sailed by.

    In the built-up area, people on two wheels are obviously able to get around much more easily than those on four wheels, and any advantage conferred on one group but not on another is always going to be a source of ill-will. Given that cyclists are basically 'self-righteous eco-twats', the type of people who travel with a smile on their face, and it is easy to see why the flames of resentment burn so fiercely.

    To the raging men and women stuck inside their machines, red light jumping by cyclists is the final straw. Not only do these 'louts' get to the junction first, they behave like 'pedestrians on wheels' when they get there. And yet, as with most prejudices, the evidence is mostly to the contrary. During a two-hour period, researchers from Auto Express observed less then six per cent of cyclists flouting this particular law.

    For people to get their knickers in a twist about cyclists riding the wrong way up a one-way street, however, is absolutely outrageous. Cambridge is supposed to be the cycling capital of the UK, for heaven's sake! The bicycle is commonly regarded as the greatest invention of all time! Sort it out!

    Pavement cycling often takes place on one-way streets, but mostly it is a response by the cyclist to what he or she regards as dangerous conditions on the road. Dave Horton addressed this subject in a very well-received article, here:

    "Even though pavement cycling demonstrates a huge repressed demand for cycling, it is seen as a problem rather than a potential.

    "We badly need to invert the standard moral tale here. According to that tale, people who ride on pavements are committing a crime.

    "No, no, no. These people are heroes. Any crime is in endorsing cycling but then providing nowhere for people to ride. Any crime is showing how magnificent is cycling, inspiring people to give it a go, but then dashing their opportunities to do so under half-way decent conditions – conditions which the ‘average person’ regards as acceptably safe, comfortable and enjoyable."

    I am not suggesting that these things can be sorted out with a click of the fingers, but I do believe that deciding to sort it out is the hard part: the rest is just pure work.

    1. All eminently sensible - but of course we're moving ever further away from joined up government with independently elected PCC's whose only job seems to be to get elected and do whatever populist crap they need to such that they can stay in power. There isn't any incentive there for linking enforcement to cyclist provision - except of course to give us bad infrastructure and punish us for not using it (e.g. Gilbert Road).

    2. All eminently sensible - but of course we're moving ever further away from joined up government with independently elected PCC's whose only job seems to be to get elected and do whatever populist crap they need to such that they can stay in power. There isn't any incentive there for linking enforcement to cyclist provision - except of course to give us bad infrastructure and punish us for not using it (e.g. Gilbert Road).