Should we just get behind the Times campaign?

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peoplesfrontofr...
Should we just get behind the Times campaign?

A straw man, to be honest: I was enjoying a local cycle path a few nights ago, and it occurred to me that there seems to be a lot of moaning from parts of the cycling community about elements of the Times 'Cyclesafe' campaign. 

And it occurred to me that it doesn't seem very helpful to start off by picking holes in it: it's a national campaign that has already had an impact cycle campaigners would struggle to hope for from their own campaigns. I'm firmly of the opinion that, even if we (for example) think that the manifesto should call for more to be spent than the Times is asking, that completely isn't the issue: it's much easier to provide a united front for such a campaign and then ask in more detail when the principles it espouses have been accepted, or have widespread enough support that the Government really sits up to listen.

Umm. So yes, just a 'let's do our best with what mostly seems like a pretty good campaign' ... 

Fatbob
Fatbob's picture

I agree.  I sometimes think that some cyclists actually like being part of a downtrodden minority. They have a kind of martyr complex that means that no matter how bruised and battered they get, they can always take the moral high ground. As soon as the opportunity to present a united front comes along the in-fighting begins and as a lobby we've lost the big fight again because we're too knackered from fighting amongst ourselves. Essentially this is what happened in the mid 90's when CTC and Sustrans couldn't get their collective acts together over the National Cycle Network.

Cycle campaigning should be easy, the arguments for better facilities / infrastructure are at the no-brainer level - health, economy and environment all benefit. If a major natioinal newspaper is giving us a free ride to then say "no thanks, I wouldn't wipe my botty with a Murdoch rag" is both short sighted and petty.

Geoff

The best bike is a used bike!

Fatbob
Fatbob's picture

I agree.  I sometimes think that some cyclists actually like being part of a downtrodden minority. They have a kind of martyr complex that means that no matter how bruised and battered they get, they can always take the moral high ground. As soon as the opportunity to present a united front comes along the in-fighting begins and as a lobby we've lost the big fight again because we're too knackered from fighting amongst ourselves. Essentially this is what happened in the mid 90's when CTC and Sustrans couldn't get their collective acts together over the National Cycle Network.

Cycle campaigning should be easy, the arguments for better facilities / infrastructure are at the no-brainer level - health, economy and environment all benefit. If a major natioinal newspaper is giving us a free ride to then say "no thanks, I wouldn't wipe my botty with a Murdoch rag" is both short sighted and petty.

Geoff

The best bike is a used bike!

InvisibleVisibleMan

I think the campaign's content actually matters. It's naive to say, "Ooh, The Times who once published Matthew Parris's campaign for our decapitation is now now on our side". It matters what they're actually campaigning for.  Segregated cycle facilities are, firstly, never going to happen in the UK on the scale of the Netherlands because the price of changing the infrastructure would be so high. Secondly, anyone who's used many segregated urban cycle lanes will know that they merely move the accidents to the side street intersections (try negotiating a busy side street crossing on a segregated cycle lane if you don't believe me).

There's a real risk that this campaign degenerates into a campaign for better segregation, that that never happens and that the whole thing peters out. If, however, one campaigned for proper enforcement of the law about driving without due care and attention/careless driving/reckless driving/death by dangerous driving, that could be done immediately. It might also lead to a genuine reduction in road deaths and a consequent improvement in cylist confidence.

I expand on many of these issues in my blog about cyling philosophy: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/

Invisible

sallyhinch

campaigning for better segregation - where necessary - on the scale and quality of the Netherlands, is exactly what the Embassy is all about - my disappointment with the Times campaign is that it's not amibitious enough, not that it's too ambitious. 

Unfortunately, if we argue for a compromise, what we'll get is a compromise of a compromise. Campaign for Dutch style facilities and we might get German ones. Campaign for German ones, and we end up with bike lanes that go into the sides of bus shelters...

discuss

AKA TownMouse

Fatbob
Fatbob's picture

Hi Sally,

I don't see backing the campaign as a compromise, the national paradigm shift has to start somewhere and frankly a national newspaper campaign is as good a place as any. OK, Dutch style infrastructure isn't at the top of the list but a call for better infrastructure is in there.  I see our place as facilitating a proper debate once the politicians and press start to take cycling seriously - and it just might now be happening. Sadly, if we aren't on the boat when it sets sail we can't influence where it ends up.

Geoff

The best bike is a used bike!

markbikeslondon

I agree with Geoff here.  I don't see a compromise in arguing for all the things that The Times has suggested.  I want all these things AND high quality cycling infrastructure, they're not exclusive.  And, the Times seems to be much more switched on to the need for good quality stuff than some of our existing cycle campaigns to be honest(!)

Here's my most recent thoughts on it:

http://ibikelondon.blogspot.com/2012/02/parliamentary-cycle-safe-debate-...

What I'm glad about is that the campaign is leading to national debate at a Palimentary level; we can get in there and influence those debates towards our desired outcomes, but there's no way the debates would have happened without the Times campaign.  Use the Times to make the stage, and then damn well get on it! :)

sallyhinch

Sorry, I obviously wasn't clear - I was responding to this in particular

There's a real risk that this campaign degenerates into a campaign for better segregation, that that never happens and that the whole thing peters out. 

and that we shouldn't compromise on our campaign for exactly that. I'm all for the Times campaign, though obviously I recognise it for the broad tent it is.

AKA TownMouse

InvisibleVisibleMan

I recognise my attitude to segregation and infrastructure probably isn't in line with that of most people posting on here. But a couple of days ago I put up a new post on my blog looking at people's attitude to handing over space on roads and in parks and so on to bikes and why it creates so much bad feeling. It's here.

Invisible.

sallyhinch

 -  it sounds like a nasty encounter, one I suspect most of us will be familiar with.

The problem is (and it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg) that we won't get mass cycling without segregation and infrastructure. Asking for anything less won't do more than inch cycling levels up a few percent here or there. As you say in your own post, social attitudes can change, radically, in less than a generation. So we we have to assume that we can bring about the changes we need, even if it looks as if it's politically impossible right at the moment.

AKA TownMouse

InvisibleVisibleMan

I've put up a blogpost about my views on infrastructure (which I imagine few on here will share) in my latest blogpost here. I argue, essentially, that in the vehicular cycling/ segregated paths argument we risk talking too much about bicycles and not enough about the real villains of the piece - cars. I suggest the main priority should be tackling car misbehaviour.

I welcome comments - it would be nice to have a thorough debate about some of these questions.

All the best,

Invisible Visible Man.

Joe

I think we've already had a pretty thorough debate, and gone over all of these arguments repeatedly over the past couple of years, on blogs, forums, and the like. So much so that we have an extensive wiki section full of stock answers to the misconceptions that keep coming back:

http://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/wiki/common-claims-and-canards

It's not quite complete. If there's a point that you think isn't answered adequately there, let us know

Joe Dunckley

peoplesfrontofr...

As those who've met me know, I'm no engineer or transport expert. 

The way I look at it is like this:

- I want mass cycling in Britain
- The only economically developed nations that have mass cycling have built decent infrastructure to support it
- Therefore we need to build decent infrastructure if we want mass cycling

You can rephrase it any one of a hundred ways - and I'm now off to Joe's link to see a few of those - but that's pretty much the sum of it: people don't get on their bikes in rich nations without infrastructure on which they feel safe. 

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