Monday 13 May 2013

Pinch Point - by Bradley Stearn

A short documentary about cycling in Cambridge and the conflict between cyclists and motorists. Take a look...

Not bad, eh? Decent point, well made. I especially like the bits about how and why cyclists might break the rules.

I don't want to use this video to launch a discussion on the merits of the vehicularist versus infrastructuralist phoney war. But this thought provoking little film does rather demand that we consider it a moment.

One of the things (pointed out in the video) that makes cycling popular in Cambridge is the network of routes into the city centre across Jesus Green, Midsummer Common, Coe Fen, etc. A lot of the tedious ring-road jostling that typifies commuting cycling in much of the UK isn't quite so bad here - even if you're coming from routes that aren't bypassing the edge-of-city rush there are some half decent cycle lanes to be used. As a result, and due to the fact that Cambridge is flat, dry, and as a city culturally dominated by the University and companies attracted to the University hub, Cycling is a big deal here.

But we're hated as much, probably more (due to our numbers) than on most places. I've been yelled at elsewhere, only ever spat at or assaulted here. Giving cyclists a warning nudge at a junction is just a thing her. Make no mistake - our road system is run for motorists, by motorists, and on the actual roads we're fair game. 

We aren't going to get any further in Cambridge or anywhere else by telling cyclists they have to be bold. Sorry folks, we've been doing that across the UK for generations now and we're at historic low levels of cycling (the recent seemingly stellar increase in cycling is from such a low base - a massive precentage rise from feck all is still next to feck all). I ride in primary cycling position whenever appropriate, but I don't expect the retired old lady down on the allotments to do so  (she recently bought a POLITE vest because, purely for kicks, motons will even bully an old age pensioner). It is futile to suggest that this is the answer. A minority of folk like me will do it, but I'm a bolshy, stocky, Northern bloke who only a complete nutter or serious hard case would start a fight with - are we really saying to children who want to ride their bikes that they should go and play in the traffic? Would you be telling your Gran to mount a Pashley and assert her presence of the road among bin lorries, cement mixers and Beamers who'll scare the crap out of her to relieve the monotony of their worthless existences?

Assertive cycling is a survival tool we need because our road planners, despite making encouraging noises of late, still want us to eat shit at junctions. But don't lets pretend its the answer. The answer is that we spice safe cycling into the very DNA of our city; every key route, every hazardous junction. Anything else is just stamp collecting.

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