Friday 18 December 2015

Milton Road - The Battlefield

Milton Road is one of the major routes in or out of Cambridge and its dreadful for cycling. There's sporadic provision for riding on this road - in places there's a joke of a shared use facility, in others we're in the bus lane, and we're expected to swap back and forwards from being assertive cyclists to modified pedestrians multiple times, endangering us and angering motorists. And if we get it wrong because it isn't even labelled where the cycle route ends the Police stake it out to nab us. Indeed having motorists punish us for riding here is so common we refer to this treatment as the Milton Road Effect - defined as bad cycle facilities contributing towards aggressive treatment as motorists try to bully us out of the way.

So Milton Road is a major thoroughfare for cars and a massively important route for cycling or, at least, it should be. There really aren't good alternative routes (although just wait until we're told to take absurd detours via the Eponymous Trail - it'll happen) so its important to sort this out as part of the City Deal - government cash set aside to for infrastructural investment to facilitate the continued growth of the Cambridge phenomenon. We can expect a fight - while the economic, health and environmental benefits of facilitating cycling are well established (really, if you don't already know about this holler in the comments below and I'm sure links will be forthcoming) there's always resentment when egotistical motons are asked to cede more than four square inches of tarmac to us smug gits who are only doing it to make them look bad (we're not, by the way - however much they try to project this).

Take for example Councillor Hickfords comments regarding cyclists in Cambridge - he wants to charge us for riding here because we use up road space (and note how grudgingly he refers to it as 'street space' in this clip, not wanting to cede even a syntactical inch to anyone who isn't in a car). Its all about cars, you see, and how long it takes cars to get where they're going. Its not about average journey times for people, or reducing the environmental or economic impact of travel or even increasing capacity of the road for journeys - its about cars. And cyclists don't count for him because we're not cars. So if cars should have to pay we should because its just not fair, and where's my bobo Nanny!

What can I say other than bloody typical Tory wank - like all Tories he knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. How predictably disappointing that yet another Tory councillor failed us - at least this one isn't claiming to be championing cycling on the council while knifing us in the back like Councillor Curtis did. Seriously, he's saying its a good idea to tackle congestion by charging the cleanest, greenest, most compact form of transport - he knows its crap and he's being a coward by setting it out as someone elses position to deflect the personal mockery he richly deserves and to try to restrict what cyclists might ultimately get. Shameful, nonsensical, idiotic, manipulative, evil. Fucking Tories.

But there's more. Here's a consultant telling us we should be delighted with cycle lanes that are narrower than he is, using the example of two cyclists in a pencil thin cycle lane on an absolutely quiet road in Oxford. Well, yes, a 1m cycle lane is fine when there's no bloody cars encroaching on the space - in fact if there's no other traffic, ever, we don't need a cycle lane - and yes, we did all notice you cherry picked precisely such an image. It isn't fine when there's heavy, dangerous traffic turning across us - 1m wide lanes are below any accepted standards for cycle provision. You know it, we know it. Stop with this.

And apparently narrowing the road makes it safer for everyone too because they all have to go more slowly - only when its good, right thinking petrol heads and not dirty hipp... err, cyclists its narrowed for though. So narrowing roads with parking good, narrowing roads by simultaneously making them more appealing for cycling (1m cycle lanes don't do that - again, if you doubt this yell out and I'll get references for you) is bad? You're playing us for fools - you're not a consultant, you're a stitch up merchant presumably hired to muddy the waters sufficiently to prevent any real progress for sustainable travel. Shame on you and shame on whoever wasted public money on you.

The problems we're going to face with Milton Road are many and varied. There's a big battle to come regarding the mostly weedy, unhealthy and naff trees that speckle the route for a start (seriously, rip them all out and plant a better selection of urban trees, there's huge scope for improvement), but we're also still fighting crude ignorance and prejudice against cyclists. These are people who resent being told to stop eating pies if they don't want to be so fat, who shuffle along slowly in traffic in metal cages because they willfully misinterpret this metallic imprisonment as freedom. Idiots who'd render their cats down for a litre of diesel rather than walk five minutes to the shop to get a Mars Bar, and who resent the oxygen we breathe as they'd rather burn it in their infernal combustion engines. They hate us because we are not them, and they only understand economic development as framed by a tax disc and windscreen wipers. Actual spending, earnings, and transport and health cost savings are lost on them.

We spend more than they do. Sorry, but its true - we're better customers and better employees. That makes us better citizens than you. We're fitter, healthier, more active, cleaner, greener, quieter and more efficient users of road space - there is every reason to invest in sufficiently good cycle facilities to increase participation in cycling whereas merely fannying about with the road for motorists cannot increase capacity - we're not going to get multiple lanes for motorists there and, besides, travel times will remain the same for driving because the same bottlenecks will remain (unless we're going to start knocking down houses - and we're not).

I urge Cambridge councillors involved in the City Deal to immediately dismiss these charlatans, and to distance themselves from the vicious claptrap coming from Councillor Hickford - so we can have a real discussion on the costs and benefits of different approaches to road use. Level the playing field by getting rid of this nonsense - or are you just to afraid of the moton lobby to do so?