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Greening the city

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 22 July, 2016 - 00:36

One of the nicest things about cycling along the Embankment (apart from the new cycling infrastructure, of course) is… the greenery.

This is particularly obvious as you approach the Houses of Parliament from the north. As the bend of the river unwinds, the Palace of Westminster gradually reveals itself through a lovely forest of trees as you near Parliament Square. And you really notice the trees as this happens.

I have to say I wasn’t too aware of this on the few occasions I dared to cycle here before this cycling infrastructure had been built. Frankly, I was probably too busy worrying about drivers, and working out where the next potential hazard was going to come from, to properly engage with the scenery. Now, every time I cycle along here, I can relax and fully appreciate the difference these trees make to the urban environment. They are a softening, calming and sheltering presence that add greatly to the beauty of the city.

The Embankment is, unfortunately, something of a rarity for London though. Far too many roads and streets are not this well-endowed with trees, or indeed have no street trees at all. Blackfriars Road is also lovely to cycle on, thanks to a similar combination of cycling infrastructure and greenery.

But you don’t have to look very far in London to find streets and roads that are barren.

No trees on Victoria Street

Nor here, amongst the remains of Superhighway 7

They’re usually barren for a reason – most of the street width is being used to accommodate the flow of motor traffic. Trees literally don’t fit, not without some repurposing of street space.

But even roads and streets that have recently been rebuilt are devoid of trees.

No trees on the new Regent Street layout (and still a massive one-way road with no cycling infrastructure)

The new layout at Aldgate only seems to have managed to include a couple of trees

This is even true for roads that now have cycling infrastructure. For instance, it looks like a big opportunity has been missed to plant trees as part of the rebuild of Farringdon Street.

Much nicer, but couldn’t we have had some trees here too?

By contrast, it strikes me that trees are an integral part of new street layouts and roads in Dutch cities like Utrecht. They are planned for, and it just happens.

Tne new road layout on Vredenburg has come with new trees.

… As has the cycling infrastructure on St Jacobstraat

Indeed, reviewing my photographs of Utrecht, I’m struck by how universally green the city is. All of my photos have trees in them, without me even noticing at the time.

The city centre is full of trees.
New developments have trees in them.

New street arrangements carefully retain existing trees, and make a feature of them.

Older cycle paths are, of course, accompanied by street trees – you can usually date them by the age of the trees. A few decades old, in the examples below.

And, naturally, cycle paths in the countryside around Utrecht are framed with trees.

There’s a practical, pragmatic reason for much of this effort – trees help to shelter people walking and cycling from the elements, be it wind, or rain, or sun. A dense line of trees really does make a difference if you are battling a crosswind, and it can stop you getting sunburnt, as well as keeping the worst of the rain off you.

But within urban areas this greenery is vitally important for aesthetic reasons, to soften the urban environment, and to make it calmer, more pleasant and attractive. I’m wondering why opportunities to include them in new road layouts in London – and perhaps elsewhere – are still being missed. Is it cost? Is it an unwillingness to allocate street space away from motor traffic, for these purposes? Or is factoring in greenery something that simply doesn’t appear at the design stage?

We seem keen enough on greenery that we’re apparently willing to spend £180m putting trees on a bridge in the middle of the river – so why are we failing to incorporate greenery into new roads and street designs whenever the opportunity presents itself, as well failing to add it to existing roads and streets?


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Fiets4daagse - a Drents phenomena

A View from the Cycle Path - 20 July, 2016 - 17:54
Fietsvierdaagse start. Peter's bike and mine amongst thousands of others (mostly behind the people on the right ;-) A four day organised bicycle ride, the Fietsvierdaagse, is organised in Drenthe every year. It's a social event, not a race and around 15000 people take part each year. A variety of different length routes are available every day, varying from 25 km for the RollOn Route (aimed atDavid Hembrowhttps://plus.google.com/114578085331408050106noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2016/07/fiets4daagse-drents-phenomena.html
Categories: Views

Copenhagen Rolls out the Harbour Circle

Copenhagenize - 20 July, 2016 - 12:59
By Mark Werner / Copenhagenize Design Company
Copenhagen takes no time to rest when it comes to the bicycle, just months after officially kicking off Havneringen, the Harbour Circle project, the route is now complete upon the opening of Inderhavnesbroen, Copenhagen’s newest pedestrian and bicycle bridge. The Harbour Circle only further showcases the city’s commitment to innovative bicycle infrastructure investments. In fall of 2016 the Circle will officially open, a 13 km recreational cycling and pedestrian path lining Copenhagen’s scenic blue harbour and the natural greenery of the city's south side. In recent years Copenhagen has taken strides to connect the city by bridging points along the harbour. The Harbour Circle will serve as a channel for both tourists and locals alike to easily access some of the city’s most notable sites. Stop for ice cream along Nyhavn, swim and relax at Islands Brygge, or stroll through the lush greenery at Amager Fælled. The point of this path is to highlight and connect the many great things around Copenhagen, as it runs through 12 distinct areas of the city. Displaying the clear water of Europe’s cleanest harbour, and granting new access to both historic sites and new architectural gems.


Olafur Eliasson's Circle Bridge is a small, critical connection that helps makes the City's harbour accessible
Adopted by the city budget in 2014, the Harbour Circle project officially kicked off just months ago, in May 2016, complete with a bicycle parade, concerts, food, and kayaking in the harbour. Set for completion in late 2016, the Harbour Circle is part of a much larger goal to link the city with all parts of the harbour, independent from the car. Multiple bridges have been built in this recent effort, beginning in 2006 with Bryggebroen, the first new connection between the district of Amager and Copenhagen in centuries. Prior, only two bridges existed connecting the highly populated Christianshavn, and further to Amager. While some of the new bridges are to be funded by the municipality, Danish foundations are footing the bill for others. Newly created bridges are strictly for pedestrians and cyclists, in an effort to discourage the car and further improve the walkability and bikeability of the city.
The Harbour Circle leads through a diverse range of landscapes.


Funding for this 13 million kr. project comes from both the Copenhagen Municipality and the National Bicycle Group. The Harbour Circle project includes three main components, the most significant is to build infrastructure such as bike paths and a temporary bridge. Further funding is set to place signs throughout the route providing information about each site and to guide people on their journey. Lastly, efforts are made to establish partnerships to market the route to locals and tourists. The Harbour Circle project is another endeavor to create a vibrant, life-sized city that will attract people into the city, adding to the diversity and liveliness of the downtown. The creation of the Harbour Circle will tie the city closer and allow everyone access to many of the destinations Copenhagen has to offer, yet another effort to assure its claim to fame of Copenhagen as a bicycle destination.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
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Bicycles for refugees

BicycleDutch - 18 July, 2016 - 23:01
Loud cheers and applause could be heard near the ʼs-Hertogenbosch cathedral last Saturday, every time someone arrived pushing a second bicycle. Clearly, that second bicycle was going to be donated … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Copenhagenize Design Company on Display

Copenhagenize - 13 July, 2016 - 15:37
Photo: Clotilde Imbert

By Clotilde Imbert & James Thoem / Copenhagenize Design Company


This summer, Copenhagenize Design Co. is featured in three exhibitions dealing with bicycles, cycling, and urban transformations. Spend a day in Budapest (Hungary), Ghent (Belgium), and/or Paris (France) taking in some urban culture at an inspiring exhibition. What’s great to see is two of the venues hosting the exhibitions are in fact applied arts and design museums, only further showcasing the fact that the bicycle is back in the life of people through the angle of a daily object.
Here at Copenhagenize we always say that no textbook, no analytical software, no traffic model, can rival the value of just getting out there and observing the city and contemplating the role of bicycles in everyday transportation.  We consider city streets to be the very best laboratory for urban innovation. Nevertheless, it's fantastic to see museums and galleries seizing the topic and showcasing it in a new environment.

Bikeology Cycling Exhibition, Museum of Applied Arts. Budapest, Hungary.
Photo: Mohai Balázs
Curated by Kultur Gorilla, Bikeology is an exhibition exploring contemporary design innovations in the field of cycling. It offers a positive vision of the future and explores the mobility paradigm shift on going. The exhibition illustrates the role and importance of design in urban cycling through a triple section of the individual, the local communities, and the global challenges. 
The exhibition features one of our favourite early experiments, the Copenhagenize Love Handle.
Developed in 2010, the Copenhagenize Love Handle was prototyped in the urban theatre that is Copenhagen, Denmark. The aim of this product is simple, provide people travelling by bike the added comfort of having something to lean against while waiting at red light. It may not seem like much, but this added handle makes waiting at a red light just a little more comfortable, indirectly discouraging impatient cyclists from skipping through a red line. See it in action here.
Back in 2010, designing urban furniture for bicycle riders –beyond the simple bicycle rack- was a new phenomenon. Few cities had ever considered supporting bicycle riders in any infrastructural capacity beyond cycle tracks. To create a successful new product, a design approach is the key. Observe bicycle user behaviour and design appropriately.
Six years on we are proud to see our Love Handle in a museum, but most of all to spot more and more products for cyclists implemented in the streets.
Bike To The Future, Design Museum Ghent. Ghent, Belgium
Photo: Clotilde Imbert
The Design museum of Ghent, one of the most bicycle-friendly city in Belgium, is hosting Bike to the Future, an exhibition on bicycles and world-wild initiatives to promote cycling. We love the name, it almost sounds as if it could be a Copenhagenize conference!
This major exhibition in Belgium is playful and interactive. Race bikes, cargo-bikes, folding bikes, wooden bikes, all sorts of recent bicycles or prototypes are featured. After a visit, folks will probably feel like going to a bike shop to purchase their own steed. Well, mostly men and sporty cyclists could get this feeling, since an important part of the exhibition focuses on technical and technological innovations on bicycles, rather than on the simplicity of this old but timeless means of transportation, designed for men and women.
Videos, photographs, and numerous fact sheets allow the audience to get to know many initiatives related to cycling in town: from world-wild phenomena like Critical Mass (or Critical Miss?) and Cycle Hack, to the latest technologies allowing cyclists to find their, and to new items of bicycle urbanism from micro-design to macro-design.
Within this wide range the information, people can find an important number of trends launched first in Copenhagen : Copenhagenize, Cycle Chic (and Belgium Cycle Chic), The Slow Bicycle Movement, and CyclingWithout Age.

Mutations Urbaines: la ville est à nous!, Cité des sciences & de l’industrie. Paris, France
 Photo: Darjelling
Cities must adapt themselves to countless dynamic factors from demographic increase, to new technologies, and climate change. Urban Planners often deal with these issues from behind their desks, while local inhabitants live them each and every day. As the city changes, so too do the behaviours and attitudes of everyday citizens, however small or large.
The curator of the exhibition has decided to highlight four cities that can inspire others to adapt their urban environment to the new reality: Copenhagen, Detroit, Songdo and Medellin are all an international leaders in a specific field.
A film screening showcases Copenhagen as a model of green city, which has prioritized pedestrians and cyclists over cars. Using Copenhagenize's photomontagesof streets in 1973 and 2014, they explain that removing cars to make space for active mode of transportations like walking and cycling is achievable.  

What’s more, further attention is turned to a now global movement that started in Copenhagen, Cycling Without Age. Started by our friend Ole Kassow, Cycling Without Age facilitates rickshaw rides for elderly living in nursing homes, reconnecting otherwise a relatively immobile group with their changing city. Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Main cycle route updated

BicycleDutch - 11 July, 2016 - 23:01
“Utrecht is a city in transition” said the jury of the Cycling City election last May. It was one of the reasons why the city did not become Cycling City … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

“Travel Fast or Smart? A Manifesto for an Intelligent Transport Policy” by David Metz

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 11 July, 2016 - 12:24

Unlike previous books reviewed on www.rdrf.org.uk , this is by someone who has come from within the transport establishment – currently a Professor of Transport Studies, David Metz was formerly Chief Scientist at the Department for Transport. As such you don’t find the intrinsically anti-establishment views of Christian Wolmar  (in an earlier book in the London Publishing Partnership series) , still less the radical critique of mainstream transport thinking made by John Whitelegg .

For example, in discussing “peak car” – and also peak air travel – his approach is based on analysing trends: forecasting what could happen based on where we have been. A more radical approach would start out by asking what we want in the future rather than trying to extrapolate from the past.

But perhaps that is what makes this book valuable. Time and again, Metz shows how, as he puts it: “Conventional transport economics has reached a dead end”. He demonstrates that substantial spend on transport projects should not be increased and that “modelling and forecasting need to be rethought to include both changes in land use and the changes in behaviour that are taking place as we have transitioned from the twentieth century to the twenty first”. If someone with a non-radical approach is arguing that the status quo is a “mess” which has come about “because policy has focused on big construction projects and time saving, instead of the part that people and places play in economic development”, then perhaps we have  another powerful argument against that status quo.

But how much will another, albeit well-reasoned, argument that we “cannot build our way out of congestion”, actually help? My view is that there are deep seated ideological and psychological forces at work which need to be addressed. Reason alone may win an argument, but have relatively little effect on what happens in the real world.

However, this book is packed full of sensible points made against the dominant official transport orthodoxy, and is as such required reading for students of transport policy.


Categories: Views

A traffic light design which enables safe turns across traffic for everyone

A View from the Cycle Path - 11 July, 2016 - 00:11
Poor cycling infrastructure designs struggle when it comes to allowing cyclists to make turns across traffic (a left turn in continental Europe / USA) in a manner which is both convenient and safe. In some cases, designers simply don't really try and this results in such abominations as centre cycle lanes leading into advanced stop lines (bike boxes) on the ground. There are also examples of David Hembrowhttps://plus.google.com/114578085331408050106noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2016/07/a-traffic-light-design-which-enables.html
Categories: Views

Bus stop bypasses – there is no alternative

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 8 July, 2016 - 12:13

It seems that Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust are still pushing their extraordinary petition to block safe cycling infrastructure design on Westminster Bridge, apparently on ‘safety grounds’.

Concern is obviously fine, but the problem here is that GSTT are arguing against bus stop bypasses – even going so far as to threaten legal action – while conspicuously failing to suggest any reasonable alternative design to the one being proposed by Transport for London. And there’s a very good reason for this.

There isn’t any reasonable alternative.

If you don’t build bus stop bypasses – putting the bus stop on an island, with cycling routed between that island and the footway – you are left with two options.

The first is what I would call ‘business as usual’; mixing people cycling with buses and heavy traffic on the road.

Cycling on the road, at the location where cycling infrastructure is proposed on Westminster Bridge

This is far from acceptable even for existing users, let alone for the non-cycling demographic that we should be building cycling infrastructure for – children, the elderly, and so on, the kind of people you rarely see cycling in London, because the road conditions, and because of the lack of cycling infrastructure like that being proposed by Transport for London on Westminster Bridge. The people who want to cycle, but can’t, because of conditions like those shown in the photograph above, and who do when infrastructure is provided.

@LambethLabour @ThurlowLabour @SadiqKhan great that our kids can now travel by bike away from traffic in n. Lambeth pic.twitter.com/kejugLJfNT

— Lambeth Cyclists (@LambethCyclists) July 1, 2016

Just for clarity, three people have been killed or seriously injured cycling on this eastern section of the bridge since 2006, including a woman in her fifties, who was killed in January 2006.

The other alternative, if we don’t build bus stop bypasses, is simply mixing cycling with walking on the footway. As it happens, this is currently the existing situation on the footway outside Guy’s and St Thomas’.

A hire bike user, cycling entirely legally on the footway outside Guy’s and St Thomas’

I don’t think this is acceptable at all; it’s not acceptable for people with visual impairment, or indeed for anyone walking or cycling along here. It’s not good enough. People walking and cycling should be separated from each other, on the grounds of both safety and convenience.

And that’s it. Those are the only two alternatives, if you refuse to build bus stop bypasses. You either expose people cycling to unacceptable levels of danger on the carriageway (while simultaneously limiting cycling as a transport option to the existing narrow demographic willing to cycle in hostile conditions), or you mix them with pedestrians on the footway. There is no magic solution that is waiting to be discovered.

This is why Guy’s and St Thomas’ posturing on this issue is deeply silly. There is no alternative. So instead of trying to block bus stop bypasses altogether, they need to work constructively with Transport for London on ensuring that the design of the bypasses is as safe for all potential users as is possible.

Please do also read Joe Dunkley’s piece on this issue, and sign the petition


Categories: Views

Copenhagen's Inderhavnsbro - Inner Harbour Bridge

Copenhagenize - 8 July, 2016 - 11:26


By Mark Werner / Copenhagenize Design Company

Copenhagen’s Inderhavnsbroen (Inner Harbor Bridge) has been a seemingly never ending story of mishaps and constant delays. This bridge has endured problems ranging from incorrect designs to contractor bankruptcies, all of which have led to pushbacks of the process day-by-day, month-by-month. From an effort by the city to connect all parts of the harbor for tourists and allowing eager citizens to shave minutes off their commutes, has led to a massive headache and a chorus of groans and eye-rolls by citizens and traveler alike. Locally known as the “kissing bridge” through these constant delays it has subsequently earned its name as the “missing bridge”.

Inderhavnsbroen is an entirely new design for a bridge or, in other words, overcomplicated beyond belief. It was intended to be a radical distinguished design unique to Copenhagen, beyond the average drawbridges that have worked for more than a thousand years across water everywhere.


Inderhavnsbroen consists of two moving platforms that meet in the center, and like a puzzle piece metal points one side of the bridge slides and locks into the other side. These two platforms slide outward into the immobile segments of the bridge, leaving a gap in the center letting boats through. It's a bit too much like Magpie Architecture to us.

Inderhavnsbroen is part of Copenhagen’s much larger plan, known as the Harbor Circle project, to ease commuting and increase connectivity of many notable points around the harbor for visitors and locals.

This bridge would link the highly visited Nyhavn, and the business heavy area of Kongens Nytorv, to the highly populated Christianshavn onto the island Amager. With roughly 3-7,000 cyclists expected daily, significant congestion would be relieved from the closest and traffic-heavy Knippelsbro (bridge) with over 40,000 cyclists a day.


Construction for Inderhavnsbroen began in 2011 and was set for completion in early 2013...not the case, as it stands incomplete today and no formal opening in sight. It has become one of Copenhagen’s most notable points, but for all the wrong reasons.

[1] The sequence of problems began as early as 2012 when two of the main support beams arrived 60cm too tall! This was due to poor drawings in the plan. It’s bad enough for engineers to make a mistake of a few millimeters, not 60 cm! An extra 4 months were added to the project as time was taken to pat down the beams until they were at the appropriate height.

[2] Problems continue into May of 2013, when the two steel moving platforms arrive from a Spanish company show serious flaws. Despite these defects, contractual agreements require the project to continue, still using the same 250-ton beams.

[3] By April of that year the tragedies continue when cracks are found on the surface and need to be reinforced.

[4] As the summer continues weaknesses are found in the infrastructure and parts of the concrete bow down underneath the bridge; time is taken to apply necessary reinforcements. By August Pihl and Søn, the main contractors of the project declare their bankruptcy and all work stops on the bridge for 9 months, until the city of Copenhagen takes over the project. This is the point where it begins to sound like a cruel joke, Pihl and Søn is an international contracting group in business for over 100 years, and it is during this already endless project that they go out of business.

[5] By December a storm hits Copenhagen, and due to improper storage a machine room below the bridge floods and two motors become damaged beyond repair. All the while, as delays are added the costs only rise on this project.

[6] As spring begins in 2014 fears grow that even more reinforcements are needed! Many tests are done, and it turns out the be a false alarm, however, the delays still pile up. Work continues, and a new polish contracting group takes over the project. No drastic delays occur on the bridge until August of 2015

[7], when one of the draw-wire systems that pulls the movable platform back has snapped...delays carry on. The most recent problem encountered was discovered in November of 2015

[8], when one boogie-system, the set of wheels that roll the moving platforms back and forth, was discovered to be too weak. A whole new system needed to be designed, created, and installed, which was finished in April 2016. A whole set of new problems however is exacerbated by the initial plans

[9], in May of 2016 it was discovered that the change of warm air combined with the still-cold harbor water was causing the bridge to bend and skew. The fact that the bridge may squirm was taken into the design, however, not when the temperature change is so drastic between warm air to cold water... which is strange because that is basically every spring in Copenhagen for countless millenia.



All these delays have come at a huge cost, which sets in place the next set of problems, who is going to pay? It’s now highly debated between Copenhagen and Pihl and Søn contractors, as the bridge was supposed to cost 200 million kr. but after constant delays and mishaps has now risen to 300 million kr., and the cost of Copenhagen’s share has already tripled.

With all that said, the light at the tunnel has been reached. The bridge finally opened to the public on 07 July 2016 and the official opening is scheduled for 19 August 2016.

The new boogie system has been installed and the final tests and fine tuning of the bridge are done.

Many say that Inderhavnsbroen was hit by Murphy’s Law, where anything that could go wrong has. This whole process just goes to show that sometimes you need to stick with what you know works, like the two bridges that have been in place for nearly 100 years across the harbor already. Or just ask the thousands of daily commuters in Copenhagen that longed for the day the bridge would open.

Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

A nice walk

Vole O'Speed - 5 July, 2016 - 02:19
I went for a nice walk in Central London on Saturday. It was great to be in the sunshine and showers, slowly ambling past the architectural treasures and follies in the historic heart of our democracy at Westminster. The experience was rendered infinitely more pleasurable by the fact that the authorities had, for some reason, decided to ban all traffic in those streets for the day – even (shock, horror) bikes. So the air was clean and there was no threat of getting run over, even walking in the middle of the street.

It wasn't as quiet as you might have expected, however, as 30,000 other people had decided to do the same thing. And some of these people had trumpets and other noise-making gadgets (and I realised for the first time exactly why it was that, historically, the trumpet was always the primary instrument of the army).

This was clearly a family day out for many, and the huge crowd was good-natured and boisterous. Many of these walkers had created very clever posters lampooning the politicians who led the campaign for the UK to leave the EU. I think my favourite was the one paraded by some children referencing the Scooby Doo cartoons. With Gove, Johnson and Farage dressed as fake spooks, it stated You won't get away with it, we are the meddling kids.











Some of my acquaintances, even left-wing people, actually disapproved of this march. They called it 'anti-democratic'. 'We've had the referendum, we didn't like the result, but that's it, we've got to live with it, that's democracy' went the argument.

I beg to differ. I think we have a duty to continue to campaign, if we really believe that Brexit is so wrong, in particular to defend some people who may be rendered vulnerable by the result of the referendum. Majority votes have the potential to damage the weak if the question asked is a bad one. That's why generally why we don't use referendums, we use representative democracy through Parliament. Additionally we have a high duty to European peace and solidarity, if we truly believe that that is what the EU is ultimately about. If we believe the 52% got it badly wrong, it's our duty to go on saying so.

The constitutional position is fairly simple. The referendum was only advisory, and Members of Parliament, have, as I stated in my letter to my MP, the duty to take not just the referendum result, but all the circumstances, and all their best judgement about what is best for the nation, into consideration in coming to their decision as to whether to allow the UK to secede from the EU. It's totally legitimate for the Remain supporters to go on lobbying parliament to try to convince them that we should not leave the EU, for many and various reasons, after the vote has been counted, and even after we start to leave, if we do, to continue to lobby to reverse the process. This isn't anti-democratic. it's fully a correct part of the democratic process. If an MP was on the losing side of a vote in the House of Commons on a subject that he or she cared passionately about, no-one would be surprised if he or she continued to try to persuade fellow members of their point of view on the subject and to agitate for a further vote. Many important reforms have historically come about in this way: the principle was lost first time round but succeeded in the end. No-one would argue this is an undemocratic process in a legislature – why so if amongst members of the public after a referendum? I would expect the supporters of any cause who believed in it strongly, even the Leave camp, if events were going against them, to do the same. Ultimately, of course, the objective is not to make Parliament take an unpopular decision. It is for the populace to realise that they got it wrong first time round. Public sentiment and politicians' minds need to be turned at the same time.

But in the shorter term, before most people realise that Brexit is wrong, there's another relevant argument: 48% simply isn't a mandate for the scale of destructive change that will be brought about. As many have pointed out, it is normal in not only developed political systems, but in voluntary organisations, for change to the constitutional status quo to require a supermajority of 60%, or two-thirds, or majorities simultaneously in two levels of government (for example in all devolved authorities as well las the central one). Such a stipulation wasn't put in place in this referendum, though it was in the first Scottish and Welsh devolution referendums. Instead all we have is the discretion of MPs to call upon.

I'm not over-optimistic about the effect that a march of 30,000 people will have. The Stop the War protests were bigger, and they didn't stop the war. But protest is an essential element in the combination of levers the ongoing Remain campaign will need to use turn this around. There is an important difference with the Stop the War movement. The war was inherently self-limiting, as the people will not stand for an indefinite foreign military involvement. Marching may not stop a war, but may bias the politicians to pull out more quickly. Separation from the EU just goes on once triggered, and the period for campaigning about it is indefinite. The arguments by the Remain side will become ever more convincing with time as the problems with separation ravel up in ever-more tangled knots, growing more intractable as they are further examined. We are seeing this currently as the Conservative party debates who will be the next Prime Minister.

Now the EU emigrants in the UK and UK emigrants in other countries have become the political pawns in the Conservative leadership contest. 'Give everyone working here the right to remain' some say. 'No, we need to use them them as a bargaining chip against the other states where are own expats are' say others. So the lives of both their expatriates and ours are tossed about by these politicians in their own game.

The truth is it isn't possible for the UK government to give a guarantee about the EU nationals here because they can't be confident of getting a reciprocal deal from the EU. The truth is that the EU will not want to offer such a deal quickly, if at all, because the UK has to be seen to be punished for separating. The further truth is that some states in the EU probably would not be that averse to no deal being achieved, ever, and mass repatriations resulting, because in due course the expanding economies of the East European states might well need more of their workers back, and the Spanish and Provençale authorities may be quite happy to get rid of the burden of a large number of elderly British from their healthcare systems. Recall that every member state will have a veto on the final deal reached. The worst deal for Britain is the one that will take it. The UK is the biggest exporter of people in the EU: we have most to loose from negotiations on 'right to remain'.


It's not clear to me that the Bexit campaigners thought any of this through in advance. There is one huge, critical question that none of our pro-Leave politicians are asking, as French commentator P Y Gerbeaux (spelling?) commented right at the end of Radio 4's Westminster Hour this week (after recounting how many EU immigrants in the UK are now feeling scared and alienated): What hasppens if, down the road of the Article 50 process, all the UK negociators can get out of Brussels is a deal that is terrible for the UK? What happens if what the UK is offered is trading terms less favourable than those offered to Turkey, plus an insistence on full freedom of movement, plus fees? The UK then has only two rational course available: leave with no agreement, in which case we might get our 4.9 million mostly elderly nationals back pretty quickly, which will do wonders of our health and social care bills, or stay in the EU on current terms (if the other states unanimously still want us, which seems doubtful).
The likely real results of negotiations are seen in the actua example of Switzerland, which did have a binding referendum on limiting immigration, which the Swiss government has not been able to implement because it conflicts with trade agreements with the EU. The Swiss example shows how a favourable al la carte European relationship won't be possible. We'll either end up in a very subservient relationship, as Switzerland is now finding itself in, or with no more relationship with the EU than, say, Russia.
The fundamental problem with the concept of Brexit, is, and always has been, that it doesn't mean any one clear thing. That was the main difficulty with asking the populace to vote on it. The referendum asked a bad question. The EU is a continually evolving entity, shaped by it's member states and their government's policies. What Brexit means this year is different from what it might mean in the future. But there are several things we can say it definitely does mean. It means our government does not send any Commissioners to Brussels. It means our people do not elect members of the European Parliament. It means our ministers are not part of the EU Council of Ministers. It means our representatives are cut out of the decision-making of Europe. On the other hand, Brexit does not definitely mean control over our borders, and it does not mean definitely no contributions to the budgets of European institutions. Far from meaning 'taking back control', in most likely scenarios, Brexit amounts to a desperate loss of control.
How did this state of misunderstanding arise? It seems to go back to a kind of post-Imperial British feeling of entitlement and inflated self-importance. We're still a nuclear power after all. We may have the second most impressive lot of aircraft carriers in the world by 2023 and we're still at the top table of the UN in the Security Council. There's been this feeling all along that Europe needs us more than we need them; an arrogant conceit that we, the anglo-saxons, are still going to show those failing Eurocrats exactly how it all should be done.
So on Saturday protestors filled the pavements, carriageways and cycle tracks of London, clambering over the brand new granite kerbs of Cycle Superhighway 2 in Parliament Square to push for a different, more realistic course than the one the 52% chose. I will leave the EU debate and go back to discussing cycle infrastructure in my next post. Some divisions are bad, but kerbs are OK.
Categories: Views

SUPPORTING SAFE DRIVING INTO OLD AGE: A dreadful report

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 4 July, 2016 - 23:13

For anybody who needs convincing that the official “road safety” establishment is part of the problem of danger on the roads, look no further than SUPPORTING SAFE DRIVING INTO OLD AGE: A National Older Driver Strategy  . Allegedly addressing the problems of older drivers, this report – as so much of official “road safety” does routinely – accommodates them to the detriment of their actual or potential victims.

More older drivers?

A key assumption of “A  National Older Driver Strategy” (I’ll call it NODS) is that there will be far more elderly drivers. While there may indeed be an increase, or even an increase with a sensible transport policy, the kind of numbers discussed are essentially a version of “predict and provide”. Rather than see the current transport mix as problematic, and attempting to change it towards the more sustainable modes, NODS embraces a non-sustainable future where motorisation rules.

According to former transport Minister Lord Whitty (Chairman of the authors, the Road Safety Foundation) “Being able to drive is a key part of maintaining independence, looking after oneself and the personal well-being that keeps older people healthy and fulfilled.  Giving up driving can trigger decline, reliance on others and expensive public services.”  So never mind walking or cycling, it’s driving that keeps you healthy!

There is a brief mention that older people should have access to alternatives. NODS doesn’t consider that many older people may, unlike the authors of the report, actually prefer to live in a less car-dominated society.  But the assumption is that the alternatives would only be taxis. There is one brief reference to public transport (presumably one of those “expensive public services”), and none at all to cycling.

 

What’s the problem?

There is a reference to walking – but as a problem:

It would be easy to solve the “older driver problem” by keeping older people off the road and making it far more difficult for them to renew or obtain a licence. However that could not be justified by the limited risk they pose to themselves and others as drivers, and the significant risk they would then run as pedestrians…”

Quite apart from the mealy-mouthed avoidance of tackling dangerous behaviour, here we see a staple of “road safety” ideology. Simply walking about is seen as problematic because of the vulnerability to danger from the motorised. In the ideal world of NODS (and the “road safety” establishment) the aim is to get people coddled into crashworthy cars, and endanger those still left outside them, rather than reduce danger at source and support the healthy and environmentally benign modes. The problem is what happens to you, rather than addressing your responsibility for others’ safety.

 

The danger of older drivers

This – what happens to older drivers rather than the threat they pose to others – is the phenomenon lying behind this report. Obviously older drivers are frailer and more likely to suffer when crashes occur. But for us the issue is what kind of threat they pose to others. NODS is keen to suggest that there is no special reason to single out older drivers, but looking at the research they quote (p.23) we see that over-70s do 9% of car miles and are involved in 7% (a similar proportion) of pedestrian deaths. Also: “As you get older you are more likely to be at fault after middle age”.

Obviously there are greater dangers from the under-25s, and the older age group should not be singled out as the problem. But that means that the problems of danger from elderly drivers should be addressed as well as other problems, not minimised. There is recognition that there can indeed be greater problems for other road users, with the CEO of the insurance company funding NODS saying: “…it is right to show a greater interest in preventing accidents among the over 75s. This does more than merely protect their safety: it also helps vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists of all ages whom we fear, based on our own claims data, are more likely to be seriously injured by an older driver(my emphasis).

In addition (under “Is action needed?”), we learn that: “Older drivers have reduced ability to judge and adapt to speed, and to read complex driving situations.  Vision, reaction times and skills in executing manoeuvres decline with age”. Also: “As the population ages and the number of people with cognitive impairment increases (the Alzheimer’s Society estimates that more than 850,000 people have dementia diagnoses), the risk to drivers, passengers and other road users is increasing.”

 

Action?

From the above, the Road Danger Reduction movement would argue that there needs to be a realisation that danger from older drivers needs to be tackled, alongside danger from other age groups. But what do we get from NODS? Apart from ignoring the sustainable/healthy transport agenda, we have no real attempt to address the issue.

The one measure we have in place is the laughable self-declaration of fitness drivers make at age 70. This is, of course, hopeless: NODS notes that “Self-declaration of medical conditions has been shown clearly in one study not to be reliable…”. But their answer is to – raise this age to 75! Apart from that, we have the suggestion that older drivers should have taken an eyesight test, and the usual “road safety” demands for more crashworthy vehicles and road environments where signage and junctions are easier to negotiate for people who are less capable of doing so. Other than that we have “driver appraisal” schemes to encourage older drivers to drive properly –voluntarily, of course – more research, and a Minister for older drivers.

 

Conclusion

I – and by the way, I am 64 – haven’t mentioned the usual solutions that are proposed. Partly this is because even a compulsory re-take of the driving test could just be another pseudo-control of road danger, with drivers behaving properly for 20 minutes before going back to their bad driving.

But in a sense that’s not the point. The point is that the agencies of the “road safety” establishment  simply don’t genuinely see danger from motorised road users as a problem in the first place. And that’s why, whether the drivers are young or old, what we get are polite suggestions to drive better, combined with a commitment towards more motorisation. Until we replace “road safety” with road danger reduction – reducing danger at source – that’s what we will continue to get.

 

 


Categories: Views

Bicycle parking at Zaltbommel station

BicycleDutch - 4 July, 2016 - 23:01
The train and the bicycle are a powerful combination in the Netherlands. This mode-combination was never really promoted; the Dutch found this out for themselves. They realised in great numbers … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

A tour, two tenth anniversaries, and a very sad computerized SMIDSY

A View from the Cycle Path - 2 July, 2016 - 12:15
Ten years ago today, my friend Terry and myself started our ride from John o'Groats to Land's End in the UK. While we rode, I sent one photo per day to the 12 year old daughter Eliza from my phone (using MMS - remember that ?) and she wrote up the ride as we were on the road. When I got home, Eliza said she'd like to do the same thing and to be honest the thought of that actually horrified me. AsDavid Hembrowhttps://plus.google.com/114578085331408050106noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2016/07/a-tour-two-tenth-anniversaries-and-very.html
Categories: Views

Tell TfL: reject GST NHS Trust’s bad ideas for Westminster Bridge

At War With The Motorist - 30 June, 2016 - 08:00

I started an only slightly facetious petition: Build safe bus stop bypasses on Westminster Bridge. Please do sign it and share it.

Facetious because it’s a tit-for-tat response to Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust’s* petition against bus stop bypasses on Westminster Bridge. I felt just slightly bad resorting to such childishness in a week when more than ever I felt the need for the world to sit down and resolve its differences through mature dialogue, compromise and understanding rather than mobs lashing out for all-or-nothing outcomes.

But only slightly facetious, because Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust set the terms for this game, shunning attempts at engagement and instead spreading misinformation to frighten people into opposing a scheme with little understanding of the proposal. If that’s how we’re playing this, bring it on.

What TfL have proposed

TfL want to continue their long-overdue modernisation of London’s roads, and next on their list is Westminster Bridge. Following established international best practice, the modernisation will provide clear space for cycling that is separate and protected from the carriageway and footway, making cycling a safe and attractive option while removing conflicts with motor traffic and pedestrians. Obviously these will also be separated from bus stops, with so-called “bus stop bypasses”:

Readers in London will be familiar with these tried-and-tested designs from the Cycle Superhighways. Readers in a number of European countries will be so familiar with them that they’ll wonder how they could possibly provoke a second thought, let alone how something that’s such an established part of the street furniture could lead to tit-for-tat petitions and blog posts.

What Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust propose

But in Britain we really are that far behind, and therefore bus stop bypasses are still alien enough to some people that Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust have been able to spread fear and misinformation about them — enough to gather 972 signatures for their petition, which calls on TfL to “consider the alternatives”.

GST don’t elaborate on the what the alternative is, and have declined to answer questions or engage on the subject, but we know what the alternative to separating modes is — it’s mixing them. GST have, at least, clarified that they are not opposed to cycle tracks, only to the bus stop bypasses. So the only possible conclusion is that rather than bypassing the bus stops on clear separate space, cyclists mix with bus passengers in the bus stops.

Obviously that’s an insane idea, and it’s difficult to find examples of such a thing being built. But this is Britain, home of the insanely badly designed cycle facility, so it’s difficult — but far from impossible. Here’s a bus stop on Royal College Street without a bypass**:

(via CEoGB)

Guess how well that works?

This is on a relatively quiet street, with just one relatively lightly used bus route and a trickle of pedestrians and cyclists. On busy Westminster Bridge this would be carnage, and it’s utterly irresponsible of GST NHS Trust to advocate for such dangerous designs.

A serious point

Shared bus stop/cycle tracks are undeniably the logical conclusion of GST NHS Trust’s stated positions, but I’m not seriously suggesting that’s what they’re campaigning for. It’s clear they have no idea what they’re campaigning for, and not much better idea what they’re campaigning against. They are the latest in a line of organisations to make knee-jerk reactions to unfamiliar ideas — and threaten those ideas by spreading fear and misinformation about them.

So the serious point is that we need to actively stand up to the bikelash if we are to ensure that Go Dutch, Space For Cycling, and the progress that we have seen these past two years do not lose momentum.

We must engage with such organisations, when they are willing to engage, understand and address their fears when there are genuine fears, and keep plugging away at spreading understanding of best practice.

And we must laugh when such organisations become laughable, and mercilessly mock the likes of “Stop CS11” from the moment they lose all credibility.

And we must keep reminding TfL that we’re here — that the 10,000 who turned up in the rain to ask them to Go Dutch have not gone away. Which is why you should sign the stupid facetious petition.

* and for once on this occasion I’ll celebrate the NHS Trusts’ refusal to waste money on brand consultants who would advise them to name themselves something that means something and appeals to the public — say, “hospitals” — and instead always insist on being referred to as cold, faceless, bureaucratic, and eminently petition-against-able “NHS Trusts”.

** though for bonus weirdness, look carefully at the far left and you can see it does have a bus stop bypass — but for cars on a service road!


Categories: Views

Letter to my MP Barry Gardiner on the EU and Parliament

Vole O'Speed - 29 June, 2016 - 17:07
To Barry Gardiner MP, Member of Parliament for Brent North

Dear Barry,

Allow me to congratulate you on your appointment as Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary.

What I am writing to you about however is not primarily this, but the EU referendum result and the role of Parliament. It is not disconnected, however, to your portfolio, as you well know that the role of the EU in trying to reach global agreement on limiting emissions and climate change has been critical, and this role threatens being diluted by the prospect of UK disengagement from the EU.

Fundamentally, my points are these:
  • The referendum result was marginal: too marginal to be a mandate for such far-reaching change that will affect generations to come. We know that young people voted primarily to ‘remain’, and they will have to cope with the long-term consequences of a British exit from the EU. The marginal result needs to be taken with consideration that the very young, but of age, i.e. 16 and 17 year olds, were not allowed to vote, and that long-term EU foreign nationals resident in the UK, working and paying taxes here, were not allowed to vote on this measure, hugely important to their futures. This obviously includes a huge number of residents of Brent North.
  • Your constituents, and Londoners more widely, voted by a large majority to ‘remain’.
  • The ‘remain’ vote has already led to economic and financial instability, and more importantly, fear in many communities you represent, with an upsurge in racial harassment and racially-motivated crime across the country
  • The main planks of the 'Leave’ campaign were based on misleading information and false promises, already widely discredited and acknowledged as false by the leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign, such as the promise that the UK could control migration from within the EU while retaining some kind of access to the Single Market, and the promise to send an extra £350 million on the Health Service
  • We know that many ‘Leave’ voters now regret their vote in the light of coming to understand the above
  • The referendum, in the light of the above, cannot be considered a reliable indication of the will of the British people, and its result is manifestly not in their long-term interest
  • The jobs of many of your constituents, particularly those working in the City and financial sector, are threatened by the prospect of the UK leaving the EU, and by the uncertainty that the referendum result has generated
  • The referendum was only advisory, and Parliament is not bound by the result. Parliament is sovereign and Members of Parliament must use their own best judgement to decide whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU – this is their duty
  • The present situation, with the leaders of the 'Leave’ campaign stating that they will negotiate a deal with the EU before formally beginning the Article 50 secession process laid down by the Treaty of Lisbon, and the leaders and officials of the EU stating clearly and unanimously that this is not possible, and that the UK must invoke Article 50 before negotiations commence, is a recipe for ongoing paralysis, vacuum of leadership, and economic and social instability
  • In any case, the type of deal that the leaders of the ‘Leave' campaign state is their goal is not possible, as all the leaders of the EU have said that there can be no access to the Single Market without full Free Movement of people – so, again, we face paralysis leading to long-term economic and social damage to the country
  • Parliament has it within its powers to solve this dreadful situation in the only way possible: by refusing to agree to the invoking of Article 50 and refusing to agree to the UK leaving the EU.
Therefore, I am calling on you to say that you will vote in any vote in Parliament to oppose any steps that may be taken to facilitate the UK leaving the European Union, and that you will work to persuade your colleagues to do the same.

Thank you very much.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr David Arditti

Edgware,
Middlesex
Categories: Views

Ride from Market to Market (5)

BicycleDutch - 27 June, 2016 - 23:01
For my fifth and last ride in the series “from Market to Market” I cycled to the Markt of Waalwijk. The starting point was again the Markt of ʼs-Hertogenbosch. This … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Going bi-directional

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 23 June, 2016 - 17:09

The best of the new cycling infrastructure in London is almost entirely composed of bi-directional cycleways, placed on one side of the road. This includes pretty much the entirety of CS3 and CS6 – the former running from Parliament Square to Tower Hill, the latter from Elephant and Castle to just north of Ludgate Circus.

Bi-directional cycleways are often not the best design solution, but the decision to go with bi-directional cycleways is not an accident. Undoubtedly people at Transport for London have thought long and hard about the best way to implement cycling infrastructure given current UK constraints, and have plumped for two-way as the most sensible approach.

To be clear, bi-directional cycleways do have serious downsides – they can lead to more conflict at side roads as cycles will be coming from unexpected directions, and pedestrians in particular may find them harder to deal with. Head-on collisions with other people cycling are also more likely. On ‘conventional’ streets – one lane of motor traffic in each direction – uni-directional cycleways are clearly preferable, all other things being equal.

However, bi-directional cycleways do also have advantages, and one in particular that has probably swayed the decision-makers in London. It’s touched upon in this excellent summary of the advantages and disadvantages of bi-directional and uni-directional approaches by Paul James

Depending on the roadway in question you could have less junctions to deal with, if you have many turnings on one side of the road, running a bi-directional cycleway on the opposite side so as to save on conflicts might be a good idea.

This is clearly the reasoning behind putting a bi-directional cycleway on the ‘river’ side of the Embankment. There are no junctions to deal with, cycling in either direction, so even though people are cycling on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, heading east, that’s a lot safer (and also more convenient) than having to deal with all the side roads that do exist on the non-river side of the road.

Cycling on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, heading east. But no side roads to deal with, so safer, and more convenient.

But this isn’t the only type of conflict-avoidance that explains why bi-directional cycleways have been chosen in London. Bi-directional cycleways also reduce conflicts at junctions that have to be signalised, by ‘bundling up’ all the cycle flows on one side of the road. This is actually very important, thanks to the limitations of current UK rules, and it’s the subject of this post.

In all the countries in mainland Europe (and also in Canada and the United States) it is an accepted principle that motor traffic turning right (the equivalent of our left) with a green signal should yield to pedestrians (and people cycling) progressing ahead, also with a green signal. Here’s a typical example in Paris; the driver is turning off the main road, with a green signal, but pedestrians also have a green signal to cross at the same time. The driver should yield (and is).

Two ‘conflicting’ greens, circled

This approach actually makes junctions very straightforward, and efficient. A complete cycle of the traffic lights at a conventional crossroads requires only two stages to handle all the movements of people walking, cycling and driving. In the first, walking, cycling and driving all proceed north-south (with all ‘turning’ movements yielding to ‘straight on’ movements), and in the second, the same, but in the east-west direction.

Motor vehicles, red arrows; cycling, blue; pedestrians, green

Compare that with a typical UK junction, which will have three stages (if it takes account of pedestrians at all) and ignores cycling altogether, lumping it in with motor traffic. First, motor traffic (with cycling included in it) going north-south; then, motor traffic heading east-west; then pedestrians finally get a go on the third stage, with all other movements held.

Motor vehicles in red; pedestrians in green

This arrangement obviously doesn’t allow any turning conflicts (apart, of course, from motor vehicles crossing each other’s paths) – pedestrians don’t get to cross the road until all motor traffic is stopped, with an additional third stage. (This is, effectively, a ‘simultaneous green’ for pedestrians, although we are rarely generous to give pedestrians enough signal time to cross the junction on the diagonal).

And this gives us a clue to the problem when it comes to adding in cycling, when these kinds of turning conflicts aren’t allowed. You either have to add in stages where motor traffic is prevented from turning, or you have to stop pedestrians from crossing the road while cyclists are moving. Both of these approaches would add in a large amount of signal time, and would make for inefficient junctions.

One possible answer is including cycling in the ‘simultaneous green’ stage, but with sensible design – cycles moving from all arms of the junction at the same time as pedestrians have their green, and pedestrians crossing cycleways on zebra crossings. For whatever reason (from what I hear, DfT resistance) this kind of junction is still not appearing in the UK, forcing highway engineers to improvise within the constraints of the current rules. As Transport for London have done.

If we are trying to build uni-directional cycleways, those UK rules effectively mean we either have to ban turns for motor traffic, or we have to employ very large junctions indeed, to handle signalising different movements. Take the Cambridge Heath junction on Superhighway 2, which has to use three queuing lanes for motor traffic in each direction. One for the left turns (which have to be held while cyclists and motor traffic progress ahead), one for straight ahead, and one for right turns (which have to be separate from straight ahead movements, otherwise the junction will clog up).

That’s an awful lot of space when you add in the cycling infrastructure – space not many junctions in urban areas will have.

In an ideal world – and with sensible priority rules – these junctions could just be shrunk down to two queuing lanes in each direction. A left turning lane combined with a straight ahead lane, and a right turn lane. All these lanes would run at the same time as cycle traffic progressing ahead (as well as pedestrians), with the left turners yielding.

Unsurprisingly this is – of course – how the Dutch arrange this kind of junction.

A typical Dutch junction with separated cycling infrastructure (flipped for clarity). Motor traffic from this arm will have a green in all directions at the same time as cycling running in parallel.

This is much more compact than the kind of ‘Cambridge Heath’-style junction that we are forced to employ in Britain.

But, given that we unfortunately can’t do this, and that we rarely have the kind of space available that there is on Superhighway 2, bi-directional cycleways are the most obvious answer. As I hinted at in the introduction, this is why they’ve been used by Transport for London – they’re not stupid!

Let’s take one of the junctions on the North-South superhighway, at Ludgate Circus. Space here is much more limited than on CS2 – we can’t add in multiple turning lanes – so that means, given the constraints of UK rules, a bi-directional cycleway is the most sensible option.

‘Ahead’ movements running in parallel with ‘ahead’ movements for cycling. (Arranged with North at the top).

Only two queuing lanes for motor traffic are required, in each direction, making this arrangement much more compact. It helps, of course, that a bi-directional cycleway is more space-efficient than two uni-directional ones, but the main win here is the fact that all the potential conflicts are ‘bundled’ on one side of the road. That means motor traffic flowing south doesn’t have turning conflicts on the inside.

Clearly, as I’ve outlined early on in this post, bi-directional cycleways will, more often than not, be less desirable than uni-directional ones, in urban areas. But they are currently – thanks to UK rules – probably the best way of building inclusive cycling infrastructure when space is genuinely limited, as they are the simplest way of side-stepping around British priority rules. (An additional benefit is that they will typically only involve converting, at most, a single lane of motor traffic, which helps when it comes to persuading reluctant local authorities worried about retaining capacity for drivers.)

Perhaps the way forward is to continue building bi-directional cycleways, but keeping in mind the possibility of adapting bi-directional designs into uni-directional ones, if and when UK rules become more flexible, or if and when ‘simultaneous green’ arrangements start to appear.


Categories: Views

The Brexiters' dream is a post-Imperal delusion

Vole O'Speed - 21 June, 2016 - 21:35
As we draw to the end of this very unpleasant referendum campaign, it is worth, I think, recalling why we are where we are. It essentially goes back (as do so many things in modern Britain) to Mrs Thatcher. It was her volte-face on Europe that split the Conservative Party, the split that ultimately led this referendum to be called. After being strongly pro-European in the early part of her premiership, continuing the tradition of pervious Conservative leaders (including Edward Heath, who took the UK into the EEC, as it then was), including signing the Single European Act (the Luxembourg Treaty) in 1986, which gave the first real powers to the European parliament, she did a 180 degree turn on the subject for reasons best known to herself. Half the Conservative Party follwed her, and half continued allegiance to the older conservative pro-Europe line. The next leader, John Major, was bedevilled with this problem, and could not solve it, though he got the Maastricht Treaty, which created the modern EU, through. David Cameron's solution to this same, ongoing problem of the bitterly-divided Tory party was to call this referendum. The nation overall did not want it: it is important for our European friends to understand this.

The European Union was actually proposed by a British Conservative Prime minister in the first place: Winston Churchill. But it was always unclear whether he saw Britain as part of that future entity or not. Probably, he did not: he shared the romantic Victorian-Edwardian attachment to the dream of some future theoretical and impractical 're-union of the English-spaking peoples' (presumably including the USA, Canada, Australia and so on) that would then separate us from Europe. A similar transatlantic-gazing viewpoint is it the root of the views of many of the current Leavers: that we can somehow go on to exploit our cultural and economic attachments with those anglophone parts of the world more thoroughly if only we can leave the EU behind. Unfortunately, in the real world, as opposed to that of Rudyard Kipling's and Arthur Conan Doyle's fiction, we can't.

There are of course some on the radical left of UK political campaigning for 'Leave'. Some of these are people for I have great respect. Baroness Jones (Jenny Jones, former Green London Assembly Member) is one of these. I attended her leaving party at City Hall before the May election to congratulate her ( and her colleague Darren Johnson) on all they had done for cycling in their time at City Hall. Nevertheless, I'd like to take her to task on her pro-Brexit position (which is at odds with the majority opinion in her party). This essentially amounts to: 'THe EU is broken and undemocratic. There's no chance we can fix it, so we should leave'.

I find this a very strange position for anyone of an internationalist disposition to take. So if the EU is 'broken', we leave, and what? We leave 300 million people in a 'broken' institution, and we give up any influence in trying to improve it or reform it? That can't be right. I can only imagine the rationale is that she (and others like her) hope that the EU will simply fall apart in reaction to Brexit. I have to say I find this a deeply improbable proposition. The UK leaving the EU will not have that much effect on the citizens of the rest of the Union, or on their politicians. The EU will be able to adapt and continue. The supposed fragility of the EU and its institutions has been consistently overplayed by our media. We've heard nothing about the Euro (ever) except 'It's on the brink of collapse'. Except that it hasn't collapsed. It's had a rocky time, but basically, this project, to place under a monetry union the economically diverse and divergent nations from Portugal to Austria and Finland to Crete , this incredibly improbable and ambitious project, has succeeded. It's not going back.

Similarly, if the UK leaves, there's going to be no shortage of new nations wanting to accede to the EU, and there's going to be no domino effect of old members wanting to leave. The EU is going to continue, grow, and strengthen as an entity, without us. We'll have to negotiate a new deal with the EU over trade and labour movement, and it's going to have to have many of the characteristics of the deal we have now. If we cease to pay into the European budget we're going to lose all influence over how the rules are set up, but we're basically going to have to continue to abide by those rules to trade. There's not going to be the free lunch the Brexiters want. We're going to have to accept freedom of movement if we want to be within the trading block on anything like reasonably advantageous terms. Or, maybe we'll be offered a deal whereby we pay to be out of the agreement on freedom of movement but within the trading area. In either case, we're not going to get what the Brexiters claim we might get. The EU has to defend itself, ultimately, in response to  defection. It obviously can't offer an ex-member state a deal so advantageous that it might tempt others to secede. There has to be a punishment for leaving the club. That punishment will surely be felt in the purse of ever UK citizen in a Brexit world.

An anonymous cartoon gleaned off Twitter which crudely but effectively summarises the problem with the Brexit position
The world of science and the world of the arts both thrive on international co-operation, and their representative organisations are uniformly sending out the message that Brexit would be a scientific and cultural disaster: see for example the press release from the Royal Astronomical Society, or this piece by, extraordinarily, Jenny Jones's ex-GLA Green colleague, Darren Johnson and champion of cycling in Outer London (with whom I got drunk in a south London pub not long ago), now turned music journalist. The response of the Brexiters, that the EU is 'not a magic money tree' really doesn't cut it. It completely misunderstands what the experts in these fields are saying, what they know. As the RAS puts it:
Participation in trans-national programmes... has more impact than those carried out by single countries, even if they are funded at the same level. The coordination of projects across the European continent prevents duplication of effort, and allows scientists to more effectively share resources.Much the same goes for the arts, for which freedom of movement is hugely important. And anyway, the Brexiters aren't saying the money we would save from EU membership would be spent on science and the arts. They seem to have committed that money to building more hospitals. Or something. But we won't have the money for hospitals if our science base, on which our high-tech industries depend, collapses.

In fact the Leavers have no coherent economic plan, and little understanding of why the EU is there in the form that it is in the first place. It was a response to a Europe almost destroyed by a century of war between major powers (if you date that century back to the Franco Prussian War of the 1870). The EU has made the Europe that generated those wars an unimaginably remote history to all who are young today.

The 'democracy' arguments trotted out by the Bexit side make no sense. None of them seem to have noticed that the UK is still dominated by a monarchy and a hereditary aristocracy and that two-thirds of our law-making parliament is unelected. The European Parliament, elected by proportional representation, is the most democratic layer of government England (outside London, which has the GLA) has got. The Council of Ministers consists of people appointed by the Westminster government and its equivalents in the other member states. There is a huge range of public bodies in the UK that wield great influence over citizens' lives that are far less democratic. I don't hear the Brexiters in general talking about removing the undemocratic influence of mediaeval bodies within the UK like the Corporation of London, the Royal Parks Agency or the Verderers of the New Forest.

Of course the EU is deeply imperfect in its democratic structures. But it is misrepresented as some sort of monster developing it ins own way beyond the control of the citizens of its constituent states. Most of the nonsense claims of the Brexit side in this respect are simply knocked out by the observation that our government and parliament have had a veto over every significant change in the powers and operation of the EU over its history since we joined. We have agreed to it all: our Prime Ministers, cabinets and parliaments from Heath to Cameron have agreed to it all. We could have stopped anything we didn't want, and in fact we did stop lots of things. Other provisions, like the Shengen agreement on open borders, and monetary union, we opted-out of, for better or worse. The veto we had over treaty changes, plus the influence that being one of the biggest economies and biggest contributors made us, ensured that the UK influence in the development of the EU was always huge. We created the EU, with others. For us to leave it now would be like a person abandoning a house they had built, and into which they had sunk all our resources, with no realistic prospect of finding another remotely as comfortable or accommodating.

The EU is not a superstate, and is not heading to be one. There's a simple economic reason it can't be one. It's central administration takes only about 0.5% of the member nations' GDP. Its bureaucracy is on the scale of that of an English county council. I've seen it. I've been to Brussels to talk to the Transport Committee Chair of the European Parliament about cycling (who was then an English MEP). Such a small organisation with that level of funding can never take control of Europe in the manner of the Federal Government of the United States. It would take a massive change of policy on behalf of all the governments of the member states, acting unanimously, to start heading it in that direction. That ain't going to happen. And as for Ever closer union, that famous phrase, what doea it mean? I think it is correctly interpreted not as a vision of a superstate; I think it means rather an ever-closer spiritual and cultural union, an evolution towards a state of cooperation between the European peoples that makes conflict between them ever less conceivable. I believe this is what the founding fathers of the EU meant by that phrase. Then again, perhaps it doesn't mean anything at all.

I could go on and on on this subject, but I had better not. I haven't mentioned environmental legislation, worker's rights, so many other aspects of the story of why the EU is a worthwhile institution that has done the its peoples good. And I haven't touched on the how a UK vote to leave the EU will almost certainly herald the break up of the UK, through triggering another Scottish independence referendum, as Scotland will certainly vote to remain. Even more serious are the likely consequence for Northern Ireland and peace in the Island of Ireland, where the existing post Good Friday Agreement consensus, of devolved provincial government within a UK that is united with the Republic within the EU, will be broken. And, in case you are one of those worried by immigration (I'm not, like most people in London and other big cities who are used to everyone being immigrants from somewhere) I haven't touched on the fact also, that with less co-operation from EU member states and France in particular, we'll probably get more illegal immigration and asylum claims to deal with.
YouGov's map of voting intentions by local authority. Scotland will vote 'remain' and the UK cannot survive Brexit.For cycling, the usual topic of this blog, the freedom of movement we have enjoyed since EU accession I am convinced has contributed to the cultural and information-exchange process that has allowed us to reach the point of importing some of the best pro-cycling policies Europe has produced into at least some British cities. For example, if we hant't had freedom of movement, would the Hembrows have settled down in Assen and provided us with the information and cross-cultural Dutch translation that we needed for the Go Dutch campaign in London? Such questions are unanswerable, and I need to get this blogpost out in time to make, I hope, one or two undecided voters to think in some new ways.

England was deeply part of cultural Europe until the reign of Henry VIII, the break with Rome, and the destruction of most English art by his henchman Thomas Cromwell. Our focus was more on remote territories for the next four centuries, but our attention was forced back to Europe by the wars of the twentieth century and the loss of our empire. The accession to the EEC was an important, defining event for those of my generation, too young to vote in the 1977 referendum called by Harold Wilson (whose Labour cabinet was divided over Europe), but brought up, post-decimalisation and post-metrication to think, at least to some extent, of ourselves as European citizens, with our maroon European passports. I am a product of the wider Europe, coming from a family on my father's side of wandering, Sephardic Jews, traders between the Christian and Moslem worlds, who had come from Spain at the time of the Inquisition, and spread across Europe, North Africa and the Near East, to Morocco, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, France, arriving in my great grandfather's time in England in 1898; while on my mother's side I am a descendent of  mid-european Catholics, inhabitants of a mountainous and fiercely independent region, the South Tyrol, fought over by Papal, Napoleonic, Hapsburg, and Italian armies for centuries, and still not really, comfortably settled into one of the states of modern Europe (though now forming a largely German-speaking Italian province with a high degree of autonomy from Rome).

I am one of those people whom Boris Johnson claims don't exit: who feel an 'underlying loyalty to the idea of Europe', that is, feels 'European'. I think there are a lot more of us. I think there may be enough of us to swing this divisive and dividing referendum against the old England post-Imperial delusionists on Thursday. We will see.
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Traffic lights in ’s-Hertogenbosch; an interview

BicycleDutch - 20 June, 2016 - 23:01
“We want people to believe our traffic signals are really helping them. Nobody likes to wait unnecessarily long at a red light. Signals are an aid and they should only … Continue reading →
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