Friday, 27 March 2015

Cyclist Hater Type VII: Concillor

I thought I was done with my series of cyclist haters years ago with The Codger, but ever more sub-species of cyclist hater slither from the primordial slime of our culture to gripe at us. And this one, the Concillor, is both one of the best camouflaged and one of the most damaging.

If you've ever involved yourself with local politics, even by turning up to local council meetings to hear cycling discussed, you'll have met these haters. They get elected to be local councillors, largely not on the agenda they put forward or even that of their party, but on the unpopularity of the other main parties at national level. To a great extent, being voted in as a councillor is almost independent of what they actually do when they're in - but that doesn't stop them from believing that they've got a real mandate for whatever hair-brained nonsense is on their mind.

They pose as normal, reasonable people. And for the most part they get away with it - they manage to sound 'reasonable' most of the time. But don't be fooled - the concillor is a dangerous beast. A wolf in sheeps clothing.

They want us to think that they're fair and considered and open to learning from the experience of others but, at heart, they're really just looking for affirmation of their own prejudices. Here's a typical Concillor kind of comment - if you hear any of these you're talking to one of them
No, I'm not anti-cyclist, I care about all of the people in the ward, and my concern is for pedestrians and motorists too, especially children. Won't someone think of the children? We have to be even handed in how we police and use space, so we're going to target anti-social cyclists because some of you cyclists are so ignorant, cyclists ride on the pavements and put everyone else at risks, and yes, I do know its the car drivers who cause most injury but I'm constantly being told by people in the ward that its cyclists causing the harm. Whats that, give you segregated cycle routes that aren't mixed with pedestrians? Well too many cyclists don't use the routes we've given them already... What you do you mean they're not good enough, we've got to think about everyone you know, not just bloody cyclists. We'll give you facilities good enough to use when you bloody well use them. Why aren't you paying ****ing road tax and wearing a helmet...
The basic problem is that its very easy to say to a cyclist you're pro-cyclist, but all too often politicians at all levels will fail to back this up with any kind of actual support - in fact they'll say they support cyclists and then knife us in the backs. They'll interchangeably pretend to back us while using gross stereotypes of cyclists as a whole to denigrate us.

The problem with their approach, that we should at every time consider every user of space in every location, is that they enforce the same strict hierarchy (motorists, then bus users, then pedestrians and then maybe cyclists, if we're considered at all) in every place. They consider this fair but in reality it means cyclists lose out in every location - and this plays well to the old fogeys who dominate local politics in the UK. Remember, many of them would render down their own great-grandchildren for a litre of old fashioned four star (in my day we had proper leaded petrol, you know, now these do gooders have ruined it...).

Make no mistake - these people are the enemies of everything that we need to make cycling a success story in the UK, and they are all around us, even getting to call themselves by grand titles such as 'cycling champion' among councillors while entirely failing to champion cycling in any meaningful way. By attempting to placate cyclists with crumbs from the table they'll strip away cycling funds and waste them on hostile infrastructure that is purely for motorists, hiding behind the fact that they've 'consulted', meaning they've ignored all input from individual cyclists or groups they've formed. Every time the government gives cycling money to concillors, it ends up being wasted for motorists.

How we should deal with them is a difficult question - when you encounter them they'll normally have arranged things so they're not easy to question (or, if they are, they'll listen and spout whatever prejudiced nonsense is on their mind anyway) - the kind of local council committee that exists such that you can ask a question with a short time limit and they can grandstand to the assembled codgers, the retired folk who've time to badger them to get things done to their satisfaction at the expense of everyone else.

I wonder whether we simply need to forget any pretence that most of them are in any way sympathetic, and while working with the very small number who are we should just be more open and honest that we know what the concillors are doing. Either way, appeasing them by not getting up in their faces about their hostility hasn't worked for the last, oh, generation or two, so its time to be more up front about it.

Monday, 9 March 2015

The problem is cyclists not respecting others?

With City Deal money and other cash to be dished out on cycling projects in Cambridge, where do I begin catching up with this news?

I think I might begin by looking at the flagship cycle route of Cambridgeshire, the Guided Bus route. You see, this fast, direct route built to cycle on (when its not flooded which, quite unacceptably it was designed to do)  is just far too convenient to cycle on and we can't have that. So we're about to spend £4k or so on signs like this. 
The issue is that some cyclists apparently don't respect others, so we're going to put some signs up and it'll stop people getting hurt when the cyclists who don't show respect will have to do so because there are signs. Well that'll work then.

There are some junctions on the Guided Bus route that don't make sense - specific places where pedestrians might step out on to it and neither be visible to cyclists nor be able to see bikes coming. The solution to that is, of course, to fix the design of those junctions - and until that can be achieved put specific signs in place warning people what the specific risks are. But the above sign? What does it even mean? Respect? I know we're meant to respect each other and look out for each other, why would that sign affect me? And if I didn't respect others on that route why would that sign make the slightest difference? Green and white image with green text? What the heck does that mean?

Paint, whether on the road, on the cycle path or on a sign is always easier than fixing deficiencies in infrastructure, but that doesn't make it a sensible expenditure. Signs don't make people respect each other - they reinforce the false (frankly prejudiced) perception that cyclists not respecting others is a major problem in our transport system without in any way dealing with a minority in any mode of transport who don't respect others.

But thats okay, we're going to have piles of cash to spend on cycling. On things like this... Oh, actually that was an epic bank raid on cycling money to renovate a roundabout for cars. No, I meant things like this. Oh crap.

The problem with getting enthusiastic about 'improvements' for cycling is that they so very rarely are. Roll on Huntingdon and Hills Road improvements, but please let them be up to scratch - it would be a genuine first for Cambridge.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Girls and Boys of Cyclist Hate

Its interesting when a video like this one emerge. What does it tell us?

So, in a nutshell, a lady is walking her bike along and a stranger, a sneering man who hates cyclists, starts joking about cyclist deaths and for no reason gives the woman a hard time. He's a classic cyclist hater, probably a type 2.  He is unremarkable - on his way to do a job he thinks important but which almost certainly isn't, and willing to give the vast experience he's had thinking about cycling (about 5 minutes) to a total stranger. No doubt he has considered his hateful rants at greater length than he has the veracity of any claims he may make therein. He thinks he is funny - he isn't. Well, not funny ha-ha, but perhaps funny peculiar.

You get these sometimes as a cyclist - they'll wind their windows down and yell at you. They'll step off the pavement and walk straight in to you as you wait at a red light, then rant that you hit them when you weren't even moving. They'll corner you in a pub because you've got a bike hat with you and yell at you. They're normally men, they're usually not young chaps, and they're almost invariably got a self important air about them despite the fact that all they've ever done is sell crap to idiots or shuffle papers around that make everyone elses life harder - they matter more than you do, or so they believe, despite never having contributed a single original thought to the world. 

But online the picture is remarkably different - we do see these type 2's (and type 3's who are also normally men). But by far the most common online hater is the type 1 - the Brat. And more often than not this hater is a woman. 

Now I've talked about various types of cyclist hater before, and I don't especially want to go over this again. But I wonder whether I've been missing something pretty fundamental - why is it that the 'real life' haters who are, mostly, the guy above (whether he's yelling from the cab of a scaffolding lorry or from the faux superiority of a man educated beyond his intellect due to social class and privilege - its the same species) whereas the online haters are, to a great extent, younger women? Are we seeing the same hate phenomenon merely playing itself out differently, or are we addressing two very different phenomena?

Simply put, the question is are the older blokes hating cyclists for the same reason the younger lasses are? And are they merely expressing this differently? Or is the fairly well characterised 'othering' phenomenon I believe to be at play among the younger women not the same as the superiority complex men 'of a certain age' tend to display?

I dunno. I merely post this tea-break philosophy as food for thought. What do you think?

UPDATE: Is this the chap?
UPDATE 2: He denies it being him (see comments section in that blog). He's still a pretty standard cyclist hater though - basically a type 2 with unrealisable aspiration to be a type 5.
UPDATE 3: He's deleted his denial that he's the guy in the video. And the question. And a whole lot more comments too. I have no idea whether its him or not - the comments he's made are very like those in the video, and I am in no position to question his denial - for the moment this merely stands as another example of off-the-shelf cyclist hate.
UPDATE 4: He's deleted the post, and as far as I can tell other posts relating to cyclists.
UPDATE 5: After seemingly admitting it with some kind of strange justification thus he's now deleted all the contents of that blog. We've got another video showing what happened to provoke his response - nothing. Nothing at all. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Daily Bread, Cambridge. Even 'ethical' shops don't get it.

I'm a regular at Daily Bread. They used to be quite big on the 'Christian' element of their ethics, which never really floated my boat, but they're not really emphasising that now and who wouldn't want to shop somewhere that offers value and gives a big chunk of their profits to causes like this?

I cycle there. Because this is Cambridge and that's how we travel here. And this is where Daily Bread falls down. Actually its more of a plummet than a fall. Here's the bike locking for what is effectively a giant warehouse full of wholefoods, conveniently located for cycling to from nearly anywhere in Cambridge.

Yep. Amazing, eh? Try to contain your excitement. Tesco do better than that. Budgens do better. Frankly, pretty nearly everywhere in Cambridge does better than that.

This morning, as ever, the exit from the shared use route from Kings Hedges rec ground was blocked by a Chelsea Tractor driven to and I suspect illegally parked in front of Daily Bread - getting out from there with a bike trailer was a fuss. You'll notice that there's nowhere in what laughably passes as a bike locking area to put a trailer, so I had to lock up on a low railing, in the long grass. For once, at least, I didn't step in any of the cat muck there.

When I got out of the shop I found I couldn't get the bike back out the way I came in, there were cars blocking me in there.

I raised this with the staff as I've done before- I've been putting this as a concern in their suggestion book for about a decade and it hasn't worked. At all. Even a bit. I've been asking politely in the shop for nearly as long, and after years of this today I found the staff there getting really rather defensive about it - its like they'd rather I just didn't ask any more. They've blamed lack of communication with their landlord, they've said the landlord said no, they've said its too expensive (so I dropped off paperwork for a free scheme they could have used), they've incredulously expressed that its impossible for people like -me- to cycle there because if you're buying as much as I am I must need a car (!), they've claimed that it isn't up to them to deal with the ethics of how people shop (a peculiar thing for an 'ethical' shop to say - if that's the case you'd sell the same crap as Tesco or Poundland)... In fact over the years, and years I've been asking for better bike locking they've shifted their reasoning time and time again. Enough. Enough. Just... Enough.

Sorry, Daily Bread, its time to call bull on this. You've done nothing to improve bike access because its not important enough for you to have dealt with it - its that simple. Helping to reduce the carbon footprint of visits to your shop isn't a key ethic for you so you've not done it. You've had long enough such that no excuse is reasonable. For pities sake, Daily Bread, there are branches of Waitrose who'll loan out bike trailers, and they're the most useless pile of environmentally damaging scum-buckets you'll ever encounter. You can't, on a decades notice, even give us a good place to lock up? This is nonsense. 

I want to be your customer way more than I am, but we restrict our shopping with you because its so bloody difficult to lock our bikes up there. You're losing trade, and you can't claim to be ethical until you support those who choose to reduce their carbon footprint as part of their daily lifestyle - to only favour motorists over everyone else appears to be a cynical facade of ethics, which I know isn't wnat you want. Please, please, please, sort it out!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Does the GMB union hate cyclists?

Its hard to think why any trade union would or even could be innately anti-cyclist. After all, its hard to think of anything much more egalitarian than cycling - anyone can buy a bike, can go and ride it, it's cheap so its not something that is in any way exclusive, it's efficient, it's economical. Cycling has so many advantages, and they are not limited just to those who are fit and active (the reality is very different to that), it isn't restricted to by class or gender - its a wonderful example of something that brings us all to the same level. Very few of the mechanical or price factors involved in cycling make a great deal of difference in practical cycling, it is in every meaningful sense an  advantageous thing.

So you can quite imagine the surprise many expressed when they tweeted this alongside the claim that cyclists are killing tens of pedestrians on the streets of London, every year. This was, apparently, what cycling organisations do not want you to know.

Yes, that's right, your eyes do not deceive you - the blue text at the top of the PDF file there does denote a hyper-link to another document, and the data in the sheet gives us total pedestrian casualties, not those caused by cyclists. Even having been corrected thus whoever was manning the twitter feed for GMB professional drivers continued to defend this claim.

I and many others have covered cyclist on pedestrian fatalities before - and while any injury or fatality of any sort is unacceptable, you're around two orders of magnitude more likely to end up hospitalised in a tragic trouser donning accident than you are to be put in hospital by a cyclist crashing into you while you walk around. Lets get real here - you are 120 times more likely to be killed, on the pavement, by a motorist than by a cyclist. To assert otherwise isn't merely to misread data, it is to entirely ignore all other sources such that an assumed narrative where cyclists are the bad guys is backed up by, frankly, unbelievable nonsense that is out by many orders of magnitude.

But whoever was manning that twitter feed didn't stop there - having been shown to be wrong, the assault on common sense and decency continued first with a mindless defence of erroneous data...

...followed by lashing out and insisting that cyclists are dangerous and passively aggressively suggesting that those who pointed out the error are apologists for cyclists doing harm...
So we've got bland stereotpying of cyclists on top of rather stupid defense of data thats demonstrably wrong?

It gets better!

Arrogance? Bigotry? Christ on a bike, whats wrong with you? You were criticised for being factually incorrect - and now you've accused cyclists en masse of  all sorts of perceived social crimes just for correcting you?

Sorry guys, I don't know who was manning this twitter feed for you, but you need to do some things to correct this. Firstly, you need to take this person through your disciplinary procedures for publicly insulting people via. one of your feeds. Secondly, you need to get in touch with -all- of the people insulted or blocked over this and apologise to them, each one of them. Thirdly, you need to make a public statement regarding your full views on cyclist and pedestrian safety - and this needs to be completely devoid of all false and baseless accusations. 

And, lastly, you need to make sure you think before you open your gobs in future. In a nutshell, your august union has been brought in to significant disrepute - do you believe your members are better served by an idiotic attempt to declare war on cyclists by a rogue tweeter?

Thursday, 29 January 2015

A crisis of conscience in Campaigning

Sorry about the gap between my last cycling blog post and this one. Its because this has been a hard one to write.

I joined Cambridge Cycling Campaign last year in time for their AGM specifically so I could vote in favour of them taking up their own 'Space for Cycling' as a policy document, as something to measure the quality of new cycling schemes against. Its a good idea, its a decent set of standards, and it would look most peculiar for CCC folk to come up with this and then not adopt it as a standard. This mattered.

There are some excellent folk in the Campaign - I admire the energy and creativity of many of the committee and I acknowledge there are many other members who are really passionate about cycling. There's an online 'behind the scenes' discussion board (via. Cyclescape) that you get access to as a member, where ideas can be bounced around and any member can contribute. Naturally there are locked discussions therein where I presume confidential material that should only be available to the committe will be discussed, and said confidentiality seems excellently maintained. I wouldn't infer anything from said activity, other than the fact that it doesn't look like the staffers bickering normally dominates the space, unlike many other online fora I've seen. All of this is good and proper and entirely above board, and I wholeheartedly approve. I'd like to see a rather broader set of members contribute but, heck, thats just how things are.

So I joined and got in on some of the discussions there back before Christmas.

I like the holiday period as a time of reflection and thought, and it gave me a chance to ponder on how I'd been thinking and talking about the campaign last year, and how I was interacting with it at the end of the year.

And I don't know that I can continue being involved in that way. I've been having a bit of a crisis of conscience over this.

If you've read this far you'll be wondering why - and its simple enough. This. Right here.  A guy who was banned from standing for a political party over events described in the above link is on the committee and was voterd back on to the committee at the AGM - and discussing matters of campaigning within the organisation means doing so with him.

So do I go back to contributing as I was? I dunno. Personally I don't agree with the Campaigns decision to choose this guy for its committee, the election process involves a few words from each prospective member, no discussion of other issues, and a vote. It sounds democratic, and it is if the democracy is nothing more than a show of ballot papers - there simply isn't time for anything else at the meeting, and I find it a bit icky that someone rejected by the Liberal Democrats seemingly rebounded into the Cycling Campaign committee. Even though he was the only person who wanted the turgid role of going to council meetings and filtering through the unending crap that comes alongside that, I'm uncomfortable with involving myself in such discussions with him. And it rather feels like I'm the only person still saying that there's a problem here, so do I need to shut up and say nothing, and contribute as part of the campaign in what looks like (due to city deal money and some promising proposals on the drawing board) it could be one of the most exciting times for cycling in Cambridge? Well, that ain't sounding like how I'd normally compromise any of my other key ethical stances.

I find it problematic that more folk in the campaign aren't speaking out about this.

I've got to surrender a pretty core ethical stance to participate as I've been doing, and work alongside someone I'm just not willing to speak to, working next to someone who I don't believe I should be working with, and that ain't coming easily to me.


Friday, 5 December 2014

Extraordinary tweets from Cambridesire Police

I wonder whether how Cambridge Police have been tweeting is in any way related to my suggestion that we should report more incidents to them?

It isn't unusual for cyclists in the UK to complain that the Police don't seem to take complaints from them seriously - its something repeated so often as to become almost a cliche. Its not surprising really - its an over-stretched service, a thin blue line, apparently. And I wouldn't go out of the way to give them a hard time for it, I know that they can't do everything.  I do question their priorities though.

But a fairly mundane comment on twitter has escalated into a quite extraordinary response from them.

To recap, as part of a discussion I pointed out incidents like this - and note, two PC's  (or a PC and a PCSO? It was a long time ago) came to my house to see this video, and told me that they didn't think it was dangerous so said they'd do nothing:

And their response?

Here. Have a look. And at this one too

So to recap, I've used examples some of which our police service have refused to do anything about where motorists have passed closely in a way in which most cyclists would view as probably aggressively, and in response I'm being told its too late (despite trying to report such incidents at the time) and that I need to back off.

I'm not the only cyclists tweeting at our police force telling them the view from our saddles makes it look like they're getting things wrong. The annoying thing is, none of the cyclists talking to Cambridgeshire Constabulary are looking for any trouble - they're looking to get reports of dangerous driving taken seriously. Or taken at all, for that matter. And the response? Denial. Flat denial that there is a problem.

There are some good folk at Cambridgeshire Constabulary but looking through their twitter feed they're getting very 'us' and 'them'. I wonder whether they're interested in having any kind of constructive relationship with cyclists - it doesn't look like it to me.

I'm left wondering only one thing - how far are they willing to go to not police motorists endangering cyclists?

Please, if folk from Cambridgeshire Police are reading this, try to take a step back and ask what relationship you want with cyclists in the county. Do you want us to report incidents of dangerous driving? Mobile phone use at the wheel? Aggressive driving? Yes or no? We're in the ideal place to see these things - and I'd argue that we'll all be better off if cyclists DO choose to make more such reports, and you'll have a far better picture of which sections of road are most hazardous for vulnerable road users so you can target your resources more effectively to keep everyone safe, to really reduce the rate of injuries on our roads. Thats certainly what I want - why isn't it what you want?