Wednesday 9 April 2014

20mph zone already failing in Cambridge

Well we've got it now, at least in North Cambridge, and its crap.

Its crap because our police force have no intention of enforcing it. They never did really, so councillors who believe in the 20mph limit and some residents go together to set this as a police priority in Cambridge North Area, at one of the regular committee meetings where such things are set - and subsequently the Police have said they'll only enforce 20mph limits in exceptonal circumstances (or 'never' if they're honest).

So we've got a 20mph limit coming in across Cambridge. This is absurdly popular, despite the 20mph limitation of not being imposed on some of the more hazardous roads. The only stalling point appears to be our police force; even Graham Bright, our Police Commisioner who is a notorious anti-cycling, pro-motor lobby apologist for bad road policing is in favour of policing this.

So democratically elected councillors call for it. Our MP is in favour of the 20mph limits. Our 'democratically elected' (fogey with a blue rosette chosen by fenland villages, to be exact) police commissioner wants it enforced and the people of Cambridge when polled are overwhelmingly supportive of it. Yet the Police don't particularly like it so they're not enforcing it. So when I ride my bike home through 20mph roads at approaching that speed later, I'll be forced against the kerb by angry motorists who still think doing 35mph is okay.

This isn't right. This is not right, at all.

Now what do you call it when the Police force pick and choose which laws to enforce and who to enforce them on? When the very clear demand exists to enforce a law but the Police refuse to do so because they don't want to? Not wishing to sound hyperbolic, but it ain't a democracy.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Air pollution incident - where do I collect my cheque?

We're in the middle of a severe air pollution incident in England. Actually I'm slightly put out because it hasn't rained here and whenever there's one of these foreign dust falling from the sky incidents I seem to miss it, and apparently the cause is that we're being deluged with dust from Africa and pollution 'from the continent'.

There was a lady on tellybox this morning standing by a main road in Birmingham, with thundering articulated lorries belching oily black death, cars spluttering out plumes of cancerous toxins and buses coughing up an early, soot clogged demise. I didn't see any cyclists during the news article - I assume the BBC had them all shot to avoid ruining the delicious irony of the piece. The reporter was talking about how the air is bad because of the weather and because of the Sahara. Presumably she and her camera team then each got into their cars and added no further air quality problems because we can, apparently, blame them on the Sahara. And perhaps the French. Almost certainly the French.

Its hard not to be struck by the apparent hypocrisy of this - if you're part of the problem, which is that you're one of the millions of people sitting in their pollution machines complaining that there are too many people in pollution machines clogging the roads in front of you, you probably oughtn't be complaining about air quality quite so much. But for this to be genuine hypocrisy there has to be, at some level, some understanding that you're the cause - and here the much over-used 'cognitive dissonance' factor comes in to play. Its the same one as 'its too dangerous for my kids to walk to school because of the cars, so I'm driving them'. Once again, somehow the obvious culprit, our dependence on motorised transport to fulfil our daily needs, can't possibly be to blame. The disconnect between our actions and their consequences is staggering.

News and, oddly, weather reports back this up. Its not about cars, its about strange weather not blowing the pollution away. Its not about carbon particles in the air, its about the Sahara. Its not NOx gases created in the near unimaginable heat and pressure of the internal combustion engine (or 'portable death fire' as it could correctly be termed) reacting in sunlight to form brown nasty shit that makes the horizon look like a chocolaty mess, its about foreign air slowly drifting over East Anglia.

We have VED and fuel duty for a reason, but they're not working. Our air is too dirty to allow us to safely breathe, a problem we've been ignoring for so long that our whole country is being taken to court over it. Actually if only we had been just ignoring it - we've been caught out allegedly trying to cook the books over it - our politicians don't seem to understand that 'not getting caught' isn't the same as 'not having a problem'.

So I wonder, is it time to take VED a step further? Ought fuel duty be used for what its meant to be for? Perhaps we should consider, if these are indeed meant to be to ameliorate environmental harm, should we perhaps make the polluter pay those who aren't polluting? 

I cycle to work. Where do I collect my cheque?

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Hills/Huntingdon Road, Cambridge Cycling Campaign response.

Not as bad as I'd feared...

I mean, at least there's a requirement from the Campaign that the County must make a clear statement that there is an intent to improve other junctions on these roads, and a statement that both sides of Huntingdon Road should be done (although no request that the County states that is someting they aspire or plan to do - why not?). 

And, frustratingly, the Campaigns support for this scheme is not dependent on getting the lanes wider than the 2.1/2.7m specified nor on getting said comment from the County that this is a first step rather than job-done.

Better comments from the Campaign than I'd have expected following Martins portrayal of my criticism as coming across as a rant - but I'm afraid not really asking enough of the County Council for my tastes. I think Cambridge Cycling Campaign need to hold a more credible threat of not supporting a scheme like this if (a) its not explicitly stated that this would, when funding is there, lead to more of the same and (2) without some stated minimum standards being clearly laid out in conditions for support (for example width).

I still don't think that agreeing with the plans rather than asking for more from them is a good bargaining position (as I've explained) - many more consultation responses will be telling the County to water this down, without a pull in the other direction it seems not impossible that, as ever, we'll be stuck with a bad compromise that the Campaigns opening strongly supportive comments will be taken as supportive of. 

But its going the right way. Just need to be a bit more so.

Like I've always said, there are some good folk at the Campaign. I wonder if anyone may be holding them back from really letting loose with what they think?