Tuesday 30 April 2013

County Elections - Who to vote for 5: Greens

You might assume that Greens and cycling go together like organic tofu and tie died pashminas. And I suspect even before looking at Cambridge Cycling Campaigns survey that they'll be making positive sounds about cycling, but will they have good, solid, realistic polices for us? 

Here I should also declare an interest - I voted Green in the last general election. Environmentally, I'm a green. I like many, but not all, of their policies.

Locally the Greens have had a torrid time of late - they've lost City council seats through bad election results and a shameful election time defection to Labour (and that councilor has stood down now - sorry Adam, good riddance, I hope that the shame of what you did keeps you out of politics forever). 

We haven't got a candidate here in Kings Hedges, so I've got to go over to Arbury before I find my closest Green - one Stephen Roger Lawrence.

As we can see, he's off from the gun claiming cycling credentials:
Cyclist since 1981 - commuted for some years - use a bike daily, and commute out to Hauxton once a week. I have two bikes.
 Great start. And does he want cycle facilities to new developments so folk can get in to Cambridge:
In short, yes
Simple and to the point, although some thoughts on how you'd do it would be good.

But unfortunately then he's gone a bit weird. The first banana skin question, re. evidence based policing. Does he support it?
 "Evidence-based" is the word. Also "based on levels of danger". However, people have their own priorities. Blitzes are popular, and do also work (viz success with bike lights). So we should say "the evidence suggests this" and "but peoples' preferences are this" so "as a compomise we'll do this". Ie as educative as possible, without IMO being judgemental. We do have to police our community together, after all.
Dude. What are you smoking? The question wasn't that complicated - should policing be evidence based and should it be based on where the real dangers are, should it be about how people are actually getting hurt? Or is the populist approach going for blitzes on this and that the right way? If there are compromise positions between evidence based and prejudice based policing can you give us examples of how to reach them? Sorry, I've read your answer five times now, and I still don't know what you're saying.

He's then said what we'd expect him to say regarding cycle routes (he likes them). So thats all good then. But I'm afraid he's off with the fairies again in a minute. Fairly simple question from Camcycle:

Do you support major development of the A14? What do you consider the effects on Cambridge would be if or when this were done? What measures would you support to ameliorate negative effects on cyclists of any traffic increases in Cambridge that this might cause (estimates have been made of a 30% increase)?
Or, in other words, many folk want the A14 to become ever more a motorway in all but name, bringing even  more cars at peak times, so how would you make it okay to ride here under those circumstances. His response:
 My response to the A14 is that it is primarily a problem with freight. Therefore the solution involves moving "swap-body" traffic on to the rails, using a proprietary system such as Modalohr or CargoBeamer, with terminals located near Harwich (I think this is where most swap-bodies come from - Felixstowe is for containers) and the Midlands, to name the first two.
 Felixtowe? Felixtowe? What the hell is the relevance of that to whether or not pumping ever more cars into Cambridge makes the roads here un-rideable? You've completely not got the point of the question, and it isn't clear that you understand the problem. He then goes on to support 20mph (although oddly prefers 25pmph), but really he's a bit limp if I'm honest.

Honestly Greens? Is that the best you can do? I mean, where's the plan? Whats the overall shape of cycling policy? What I want out of a Green party is to look for a shape to your policy; where would cycling in Cambridge be 5 years from now if you won? 10 years? Where are you going with this? Do you even have a clue what you want to achieve?

Okay. So far, so limp. Lets wander down to another ward and see if the others are the same; a chap called Shaun Peter Esgate is standing there. Another long time cyclist, but for some reason he finds the question of whether cycle facilities for new developments are a good thing rather complicated. Goodness knows why. And on evidence based policing? 
Increased traffic policing of dangerous road users in the city could be effective if enough resources could be diverted for finely targeted actions. The dangerous incidents which have been highlighted in the press over recent months are usually over in seconds and unless they result in injury need to be witnessed by police officers for any action to follow.

...well, your guess is as good as mine. I have no idea what he wants, he's answered some other question entirely.

And if you think thats bad take a look at what he things about Bozzas plan in London and whether we should go for it here:
 I can't say that I know enough to comment.
And on cycling and public health?
This question is a bit broad but Green Party policies address these issues and consider them to be primary concerns.

So why the hell are you standing for election then if you've got neither knowledge nor your own opinions? In short, what are you for Mr. Esgate? The rest of his comments are blandly supportive of cycling without ever giving us an idea what the Greens want to do.

To be brutally honest, these responses disappoint but don't surprise me. Nationally the Green party have become a dynamic and exciting political force, putting forward creative and sensible policies on councils where they've either become the main opposition or part of the ruling block. Caroline Lucas has been a stalwart in parliament, and if there is any justice they'll go from strength to strength under their inspiring new leader. It should however be noted that none of those people or places have any link to Cambridgeshire, where I'm afraid the local Green party have more or less fallen to pieces and stopped being anything like a coherent political unit. 

Is cycling an issue for you? Indeed, are there any issues you care about? Sorry, but the Green party here in Cambs is not for you. You wouldn't have thought it possible they could be so limp and uninspiring.


  1. I was about to say the East Chesterton candidate didn't even respond, but I went to take a look and he has now. Not sure when it went up, but Labour's response was late and I did see that, so must be last couple of days.

    Too late really. Not sure how many people are going to bother to check back after looking once, and the candidates were given the date by which they should respond.

    Anyway, his responses were minimal, with a bizarre little aside about lights in the last answer:

    "The best way to support cycling is to do it; carefully. The issue of cyclists without lights is frightening and High Tech Cambridge should sponsor a competition to design lights that are built-in to the frame, indestructable and always-on whilst riding."

    Frightening, really? That's what he focuses on in his summing up? I'm not frightened by cyclists without lights. I'm frightened by drivers who can't see cyclists on well-lit urban streets. I'm frightened by drivers who can't see me in broad daylight in primary position. Cyclists without lights I just tut at when I see them. Which I do.

  2. As a slight side, since Stephen Lawrence mentioned it, I suspect the success of the Lit scheme has something to do with the fact that it is attempting to fix a one-off problem.

    By which I mean I don't expect many cyclists deliberately cycle without lights if they have access to them. I would guess they 1) Haven't got any yet (new cyclists) 2) Had them but were nicked 3) Have them but forgot to carry them 4) Have them but batteries are dead / lights broke.

    So in the case of 1, 2 and 4, getting new lights under the LIT scheme really does solve the problem.

    This is not the case with policing, say, speeding. Someone who has been ticketed once for speeding has only the fear of another ticket to stop them doing it again: the situation is in no-way fixed. And since these blitzes are, by the nature, occasional, there's no reason to think that they do affect ongoing behaviour.

    My point is, even we accept that the LIT scheme is a success, I don't think it's evidence that policing in crackdowns is effective generally.

  3. Whilst it isn't, as you say, quite relevant to the question in hand, the A14 does of course exist because of Felixstowe. What the candidate has done here is confuse the question asked with "how would you reduce traffic on the A14 to avoid any "need" to add extra lanes?"

    Interestingly, the rail capacity upgrades (which includes the Ely bypass) are being sold to the county as removing lorries from the A14. THis won't happen. THe additional trains routed via Ely will be existing freight services that currently go via the busy North London Line. They want to route these trains via Ely for several reasons- shorter route, more passenger services on the Overground and the big new "Thames Gateway" container port will have trains via the NLL. But the county are adamant the rail upgrade is about reducing traffic on the A14. Whilst also saying the A14 needs more capacity. This though is more about misinformed and/or duplicitous Tories.