Well, its all over the news here in Cambridge.
Protestors angry that people will not be able to drive wherever the hell they like stop the traffic and everyone still gets where they want to go.
Seriously, by reducing the normal rush hour traffic from stop-start acceleration averaging at walking speed to a smoother pace of motorists who've got out of their cars and walked, they've proved beyond any rational doubt that except perhaps for the disabled private cars have no sensible place in the commuter mix in Cambridge.
I faced a longer delay on my bicycle due to a film crew on Kings Parade (more of that god-awful Grantchester thing I should think, where for some reason every journey in Cambridge involves a rugged vicar riding past Kings on a sweet old bike with the saddle annoyingly far too low) than anyone who rode past this paradoxical event has reported.
So, whats it all about? Well, its all about Braess paradox. Old hat, really, look it up on Wikipedia if you've never heard of it. Closing some roads means some people choose to travel via, a different mode or route, so those who still drive might face a longer journey but a shorter journey time, thus actually burning less fuel, wasting less time, and polluting less. You move from the individual competetive choice of route that creates a god awful mess of junctions to a collaborative, more efficient routing. It isn't controversial to anyone who's ever looked at the impact of road closures on traffic modelling.
The truth is I don't know whether the specific closures suggested are the right ones - and neither do the protestors, because (correct me if I'm wrong) the modelling hasn't been shared yet (if, indeed, it has been done). I support the proven principle behind such closures but I question whether these are the right ones - and I'd like to see the supporting evidence for the specific measures suggested before supporting or opposing. You know, give me the evidence to decide. Why the fuck is that controversial? Unfortunately this makes my approach radically different to these protestors, who are just another subdivision of the NIMBY movement against change in Cambridge.
Truth be told the protestors have no alternative suggestions and don't have evidence against the current plans. There's talk of setting up a traders lobby group against them (but not, apparently, FOR anything else), and councillors are saying 'we're listening'. So the NIMBYs win this round.
What does this protest mean for the wider city deal and for activism in Cambridge in general though?
Firstly it means getting off your arse and protesting works. Unfortunately its always easy to get people to protest against something, its very hard to get people marching FOR something else. Fear is a better motivator for protest than anything else. So we're going to continue to see protests against, well, more or less any kind of change that the City Deal wants to look at, and that sort of de-values rational, evidence based criticism as it is drowned out in the noise.
Secondly it means that where activists are neither united nor vocal, it'll remain easy for City Deal and for Councillors to ignore them. I'm looking at you, @camcycle. You saw that actually quite trivial critical mass campaign this morning? That wasn't us. That was motorists gaining a victory over a process actually set up to benefit them - holding an on-foot peak commuting time critical mass. You want to be listened to like they are? Then we have to act like they do, we have to mobilise - but for as long as you're the ones at the top table for discussions on behalf of cyclists who for the most part are not your members but who the City Deal and the County allow you to speak on behalf of such activism can achieve nothing because they'll do what the County has always done - point at you as representative and maintain anyone else is fringe. We're past reasoned discussion - what do you say, Critical Mass, Milton Road?
Cycling oils the wheels of Cambridge transport. Without us, if so many didn't ride, the city would grind to a halt, and yet we're taken for granted because we don't stand up for ourselves. Enough. City Deal stands at the brink of failure because short-sighted NIMBYS oppose every version of positive change. Come on guys, who's up for it?