Tuesday 16 February 2016

The Aged Nimby. Enemy of all that is good.

The whole City Deal thing in Cambridge has really brought to the forefront the key battleground between reasonable, sensible people who simply want to get where they're going with the minumum of hassle and one of the most dangerous, angry and unstable demographic in this city or any other - retired old farts.

The argument goes something like this.

Normal Person: I'd like to get where I'm going without spending twenty hours per week commuting. To achieve that I'd like there to be a route that isn't totally congested with cars burning fuel just to sit still - that means we need to re-evaluate how we use some of our road space. Oh, I'd like my children to be able to breathe without the air being made toxic by all those cars too.

Nimby: But I'm not going to lose my parking space and some of us NEED our cars to get where we're going.

Normal Person: Your parking space thats outside the front of the driveway on your house thats worth, what, a million and a half quid? The one in addition to the two parking spaces on your own property? And from which even if you want to drive somewhere you can't because the road is full?

Nimby: But that would mean cutting down the TREES and turning this all over to buses and cyclists and not old, world hating FARTS like us!

Normal Person: Yeah, but we can select better trees to create better public spaces - besides, no one can do anything fun in those spaces now because they're entirely dominated by cars, meaning no one can cycle, the bus takes just as long, how is your way going to solve anything!

Nimby: RIGHT THATS IT. I'm writing to my councillor, repeatedly, and petitioning, and making sure that everything is run by and for old bastards like me.

Don't take my word for it. Have a look at these people here. Do you need to even read the article to know that they tell you they want to make the road safer and better for bus users and cyclists but basically oppose every measure that might achieve that? That they'll probably chain themselves to their parking spaces rather than see anything done to make the road safer for thousands of people who use it?

The problem here really is very simple - in Cambridge, as elsewhere, there's a resident population of people in and around the city who are basically doing okay. They're usually old, have huge wealth in their homes. and they resent anything that might change, well, anything. They 'care' that everyone who's younger than them is basically fucked over by their generation and priced out of the cities, out of home ownership, and into long, soul destroying commutes, but they care more about keeping things as they are. And they seem to have endless time to dominate council committee meetings, to reinforce the stale prejudices of blue rinsed nimbys on councils. They'll get indignant that dull, stunted, boring trees might be cut down to make way for a way more creative and suitable plating scheme which would also make the roads safer and cleaner for everyone involved. So there will always be an idiot councillor willing to make dick-ish comments to play to them in the audience.  

But the key point, the unspoken take home message from everything they bring to local politics is that the Nimbys offer no solutions to any problems that we have. All they bring is an aversion to change, any change, even one that won't make their lives measurably different in any way. That a change benefits someone else is enough for the Nimby to oppose it.

You see the thousands of poeple queuing on routes like Milton Road, Histon Road and Arbury Road up and down the country? The ones who drove to get a bus or then to cycle, and who spend an hour, two hours a day to commute to their 40 hour per week jobs and the same time home again? The one's who, because the older generation climbed the property ladder and used Nimby planning rules to pull that ladder up after them don't have the time or energy to even be aware of whats happening in transport planing? They're the ones the doddery old curtain twitchers are fucking over with their lame opposition to transport improvements. It isn't just the cyclists who they only have platitudes for, its everyone who isn't them. Its you. Its me.

I put it to you, dear reader, that we need to impress upon our politicians, local and national, that the old farts will die eventually - stop running our entire country for them before that happens, or we'll have no truck with you after. You want us to trust you? Then listen to those who represent the future. 


  1. Some interesting points but don't forget that some 'old farts' also use bikes and are City Councillors too.
    As a City Councillor I am also on the City Deal Assembly. The Labour Group there are all cyclists and we are as keen as you to ensure we can move around the City as easily as possible.
    In regard to Milton Road, which has the potential to set the standard for the City, following a meeting with the Cambridge Cycling Campaign I think you will find that our views are almost identical.

    1. 2.5m+ continuous cycle lanes along the length of Milton Road with new tree planting scheme to replace the dull, unremarkable one we have with truly world class tree lined boulevard incorporating tall broad leaved pollution tolerant trees, new wildlife friendly green spaces? If you want that our views are close. If you don't, we aren't :)

      It's not just Milton Road - the Arbury Road scheme offering improvements only on the least terrifying half are a nonsense. Opponents of the Histon Road scheme who would support parking space retention over safety for cyclists and pedestrians... List goes on and on.

      Lastly, there's an enormous issue with engagement here. I didn't pull the example of 40 hour week and 1-2 hour commute out of thin air, that's many of my colleagues. The people who need this are spending 60 hours working and commutingnevery week - they don't even know about these consultations (other than me telling them). They haven't the time or resources of the Nimbys. Folk like me who would engage more are put off by the same old gits turning up to everything to have the same mpans and rantsmover and over again - bluntly, those under the age of 60 feel drowned out. Do a straw poll at the next North Area Committee, see what demographic you're getting.

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  2. I have long thought that our system of local government essentially supports all of this.

    Councillors are elected by residents of their area -- not people who work there or who need to travel through there. I spend the majority of my waking life in Cambridge but I don't get to contribute to the process of electing its representatives because I live elsewhere (on the end of 40 minute commute).

    Good counsellors support all their constituents however they vote, but all will at least one eye on the views of their supporters so that they get re-elected next time. Arguably this is exactly the role they are supposed to discharge. So obviously the views of residents are going to contribute significantly to any discussion. IMO that's why, for example, car parking on a road is more important than the ability to use it to get from A to B (especially using anything other than a car).