And so it came to pass that on the 29th January 2011, at Look Mum No Hands on Old Street, London EC1, a new campaign movement was started. A small area of the cafe had been set aside as I anticipated about 20, which would be exceptional for any cycle campaign. However, this is not just any old cycle campaign and double that figure turned up cramming round tables with only the barest hint of lycra and I have to doff my hat to those that stood for an incredibly long time. Reports are are already appearing from the delightful Bristol Traffic team and Goodbye Jacques (thanks both for attending). Some key points are as follows;
The Mission Statement and Manifesto are going to be merged into a formal document for download. This obviously has to happen ahead of the launch but with the enthusiasm, ideas and talent I was met with yesterday, I don’t anticipate any problems.
The launch date has been set for Friday, 1st April 2011. Venue to be confirmed.
Cycling Embassy of Great Britain is going to be a not for profit company. I offered to set up the account and was startled when a saucer was instantly passed around the group and £80.56 was raised. I shall be meeting with my Bank Manager next Saturday morning to formally set up the account with my own contribution (and of course, any further donations would be gratefully received).
With every new company comes a new structure. Roles are going to be defined for two Directors, Secretary and Treasurer. I shall be Chief Executive Director and Overlord. Alright, I made that last bit up. However, a sub-committee has been set up to look into governance. Findings shall be reported back to the Forum so everyone will have a chance to comment and nominate board members.
It has been requested that the website expand with a collaborative wiki so instead of going over topics again and again, people may be referred to the relevant wiki page (where the relevant information and references may be found on Dutch infrastructure or accident statistics for example). It shall also facilitate open document editing by Ambassadors.
A list will be entered into the minutes of charities, companies and organisations that we shall be hoping to work in partnership with.
The minutes, complete with actions and apologies shall be published during the week (I apologise for the tardiness but I have to make sense of hours of audio recordings and notes so please bear with me).
It would be fair to say that I was quite overwhelmed by the level of support I received yesterday – in particular Sally Hinchcliffe for basically becoming Co-Chair of the meeting, David Callaghan who supports the aims of the Embassy to the point that he flew in from meetings in the USA via our meeting in London before heading home to Bristol, Karl McCraken who had travelled down from Newcastle armed with two dozen bagels he had prepared for everyone, Danny from Cyclists in the City, I am not a Cyclist, Fatbob (Geoff) and of course Mark Ames from ibikelondon who, with Joe Dunckley from At War With The Motorist led our first ‘Infrastructure Safari’, seeking out the good, the bad and the ugly of London cycle facilities.
It’s also wonderful to hear that the first Wheelers Brunch in Manchester went very well. I look forward to hearing more as the week progresses but for now I’m going to conclude that I had a wonderfully exhausting day meeting lots of like minded people as well as representatives from established groups such as Cambridge Cycling Campaign and John Mallows from CycleNation to ensure we’re not treading on old toes. I have a lot of high hopes now for the Embassy and with the incredible groundswell of support garnered so far, we are going to succeed.
As my trusty Batavus Old Dutch and I were slowly grinding it out along the seafront against a biting, bitter 15mph easterly (something else we have in common – we both hate headwinds!) I was doing some more thinking.
The Governments approach to transport is like trying to cram lots of round pegs though a square hole. Instead of considering that there may be too many pegs trying to squeeze in together, or that the hole isn’t suitable, they increase the size of the hole so even more pegs can be crammed through whilst everything else has to squeeze in through the pockets of air that are left. If not as many people are killed and injured as the year before, this is regarded as ‘successful’ and ‘sustainable’. Repeat ad infinitum.
I then thought about some hilarious jokes regarding Moultons but I won’t share those with you yet, dear reader.
The meeting is to be held at Look Mum No Hands in Old Street, London at 12 noon. This is a new national campaign that I hope offers a bit of an antidote to cycling campaigns in the past. PLEASE NOTE that this is the start up meeting and not the official launch, which will have way more glitz as opposed to people agreeing organisational structure, strategy direction, website development, marketing and actions. The reason we will be able to have more glitz at the launch is because we are catering for the 97% that aren’t regular cyclists in this country that won’t want to clad themselves in ‘rubber knickers’ as a Conservative MP or a casual Scuba Diving fetishist might say.
The Embassy has also now been mentioned on this wonderful blog post from Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest. Freewheeler has basically summed up my personal thoughts entirely as we have both made the steady transition, not from integration to segregation but from integration to segregation and cycling streets and decent cycling infrastructure standards and frankly anything else that tames the bull in a supposedly civilised society. If Freewheeler can make it through the urban jungle that is Outer London cycle infrastructure, he’d be warmly welcomed by all. I shall be wearing a suit, maybe with a carnation.
Apparently Karl McCracken is providing bagels (home made and shipped from the North East, no less!) and Mark Ames (who sounds almost as well spoken as me) is providing us with our first ‘Infrastructure Safari’ where we go for a little jaunt around London seeking the best and worst of attempts to squeeze cycling around the more important modes of transport.
I will be doing more mentions in posts subsequent to the meeting as there has been some lovely support from lots of unexpected quarters, plus a technical review of the Old Dutch as by then I would have ridden it consistently 24 miles a day through very grimy coastal conditions and Central London too.
Mark Ames of ibikelondon was interviewed on The Bike Show last night on Resonance FM. You can see the preamble and listen to it here (well worth it too). Highlights for the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club include the moment where Mark cites the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club as a favourite blog with ‘Jim from Worthing’ being ‘funny’ and ‘right up his street’. Marvellous. And true.
The discussion was mainly about ‘Liveable Cities’ which Mark writes about in full here. In particular, Creating tomorrow’s liveable cities: Urban planning in a cold climate which took place on January 19th in London. Talks given by such luminaries as Professor Jan Gehl, Founding Partner of Gehl Architects who has spent his professional life improving the quality of other peoples lives by redesigning cityscapes to favour bicycle and pedestrian traffic allowing the street to engage with the people passing through it and vice versa.
From his website:
Gehl Architects’ vision is to create better cities. We aspire to create cities that are lively, healthy, attractive, sustainable and safe – and thereby improve people’s quality of life.
At Gehl Architects we firmly believe that a good city is a city where the human scale in city planning is looked well after. By allowing the aspirations for the public realm to drive the design process, the public spaces can serve as a place for all, while embracing the unique qualities and amenities of the specific urban context: A city should open up, invite and include people, having different activities and possibilities and thereby ensuring multiplicity and diversity.
Gehl Architects work to create sustainable environments and promote a holistic lifestyle. Our approach to design extends beyond the use of sustainable materials and advocating walking, cycling and alternative transport.
Nice stuff, eh?
Another speaker was Eric Pickles, Conservative MP for Brentwood and Ongar and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Erm, a man who..er..received helicopter transport valued at £4099.75 last year from London to Llandudno and back courtesy of Noble Foods (from theyworkforyou.com), but did vote very strongly for laws to stop climate change.
Mark stood up and asked the following question to Eric Pickles MP
Mark: We’re here today to talk about sustainability and liveable cities, and as a cyclist the end product of these kinds of discussions for me and for my fellow cyclists and pedestrians are the actual conditions on the streets.
So, as Secretary of State for Communities and given the known effect that overuse of private car transport has on local communities in terms of urban blight and noise, pollution, obesity and all the rest, how do you reconcile and balance those problems that face communities with your and Philip Hammonds ending of the so called war on the motorist?
This is the reply.
Eric Pickles Well I mean, I’m a fat guy and me on a bicycle is not a pretty sight, as to this…
Chair: It works for Boris [Johnson, Mayor of London]…
Eric Pickles: Boris is more svelte than me, I mean… Come on, don’t be such a p… don’t be such a puritan. We can find a reason… Well, not everybody can pedal in sort of rubber knickers up and down the place to go to work. It’s a question of finding a proper balance, that’s what we’re trying to do, is a proper balance. Boris’s bicycles work really well, I want to see that extended around the country. And I think we need to find better ways for making it safer for cyclists. Even I might venture out eventually if we make it just a little bit safer. And I think we’ve got to look for intelligent ways of helping people pool cars, work together. Also we’re going to be introducing more points for electric cars. I want to see public transport being made better, that’s why we’re, I think, paying that more attention towards high-speed rail underlines.
Everything has got to be a kind of a balance. You see, the problem with the old system was, we artificially restricted the number of parking places for new developments, and all that simply happened is people parked on the roads. Now without getting too emotional about it, I lost two constituents – young people precisely because of this ridiculous policy because people parked on the side and fire engines couldn’t get through to the appropriate place. So it’s just a kind of an example of how targets don’t match reality. We think ‘Job done’ because we got this kind of target. And I think that the motor vehicle has a perfectly respectable place in society and people who use them aren’t the enemy. So let’s encourage bikes, let’s encourage walking, let’s encourage obese people like me to lose a bit of weight by doing all this kind of things, but let’s not regard of people who travel by car as the enemy.’
Again we see common sense leave the room for a moment to go for a leisurely stroll through traffic clogged streets. If we can assume that ‘if you build it, they will come’, surely that works for cars on additional spaces in private developments as well as free parking on public roads thereby creating even more congestion. Mr Pickles plays the emotional card very well despite saying ‘without getting too emotional about it’, firstly with the tragic story of (we assume) fire crews being prevented from reaching their call due to parked vehicles leading to needless fatalities and then the victim mentality in defence of his ‘War on the Motorist’. I don’t believe Eric Pickles is a bad man or an evil man but just extremely misguided.
As for his ‘hilarious’ cyclist stereotype, rubber knickers might be in the thoughts of Conservative MPs and Max Mosley, but they aren’t really the garment of choice for mass cycling.
Here is yet another film about riding bicycles, not in rubber knickers (or even lederhosen with clogs if we’re going to use pitiful cultural stereotypes that don’t fit) in Utrecht. The beady eyed amongst you will spot Eric Pickles being overtaken at the start of the film.
This 99 page document mentions the word ‘cycling’ a stonking 88 times.
It’s filled with nice stuff. Here is the Introduction;
‘Two-thirds of all journeys are under five miles – many of these trips could be easily cycled, walked or undertaken by public transport. We want to make travelling on foot, by bike or on public transport more attractive. Our work indicates that a substantial proportion of drivers would be willing to drive less, particularly for shorter trips, if practical alternatives were available (British Social Attitudes Survey, 2009). That is what this White Paper is about – offering people choices that will deliver that shift in behaviour, in many more local journeys, particularly drawing on what has been tried and tested. ‘
Not bad eh? Here are some more examples;
‘Encourage sustainable local travel and economic growth by making public transport and cycling and walking more attractive and effective, promoting lower carbon transport and tackling local road congestion.’
‘Cycling and walking offers an easy way for people to incorporate physical activity into their everyday lives. The importance of active travel is also emphasised in the Department of Health’s Public Health White Paper (Department of Health, 2010)’
‘Often there are a number of other potential benefits from sustainable transport schemes e.g. greening local transport corridors to encourage walking and cycling may also reduce the heat island effect in towns, improve air quality, provide valuable space for sustainable urban drainage, increase biodiversity in towns and increase the value of neighbourhoods. When devising transport solutions it is important that opportunities to realise wider benefits such as these are identified and properly considered.’
‘Cycling can make men look incredible, especially that Jim Davis with his physical sleekness and prowess (Worthing Herald 2011).’
Oh, alright. I made that last one up.
With all this dynamic language, you feel quite excited as you read through more bits like this;
‘For short distance travel, the challenge is to make the least carbon intensive modes – walking, cycling or public transport – the most attractive options’.
‘Cycling and walking present an easy and cheap way for people to incorporate physical activity in their everyday lives. As well as the health benefits, they offer other benefits when they replace vehicle trips, including reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality, and reducing congestion.’
However, then we come to the small matter of the finance to back this bold vision. Cycling, as you know all too well dear reader, receives the thin end of the wedge even when times are good. The document leads you on a bit, like a man trying to end a relationship face to face until eventually we get to a nice box outlining how good Cycling Demonstration Towns are. There’s something written in tiny, tiny print at the bottom that the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club shall enlarge for you,
‘Note: Future funding for cycling will go through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. £13 million has been set aside in 11/12 as a transitional arrangement to fund links to schools, Bike Club, Bike It as well as Living Streets Walk to School campaign and the Cycle Journey Planner. These are discussed further at paragraph 5.14.’
I’ll take you to paragraph 5.14 [and the rest of the gory detail]
5.14 The Department for Transport will support Bikeability for the remainder of this Parliament – until 2015. The focus of Government support for Bikeability will be on providing children the opportunity to receive training when at school. By providing training in year 6 of primary school, the Government will give children the chance to develop a life skill, enable more safe journeys to schools and encourage physical activity – which is good for children’s health. In addition, fewer school journeys by car mean less traffic on the road in rush hour and lower carbon emissions. The training is already popular amongst parents and children, and over 90 local authorities and many Schools Sports Partnerships are delivering it in their area.
5.15 Local authorities will be encouraged to integrate Bikeability fully into their local transport planning. Better cycling routes, cycling parking and adult training are just some examples of local authority measures that could supplement and amplify the impact of Bikeability in their area.
Funding for cycling and walking measures in 2011/12
5.16 The Government believes there is benefit in continuing to fund the Links to Schools programme in 2011/12. This is a transitional arrangement while the Local Sustainable Transport Fund is established. Links to School is a programme run and administered by Sustrans, a national charity, and provides safe walking and cycling routes to schools. The extra year’s funding will enable additional routes to be provided and will complement relevant cycling and walking programmes funded through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund as well as the Bikeability scheme.
More drivel on pavements then.
5.17 We are also funding Cycle Journey Planner in 2011/12 as well as Bike Club, Bike It and Living Streets’ Walk to School Campaign. This funding will enable a smooth transition from the 2010/11 programme to a point where the Local Sustainable Transport Fund is operational. Funding for the Cycle Journey Planner will allow completion of the surveying of all urban areas with a population of 30,000 and will provide local authorities and the public with a ready made journey tool at a national level (England) to help plan cycle journeys.
Or, maps as they used to be called. Unless I’m misunderstanding the situation, this to me does not help people that don’t have access to the internet, or feel intimidated about using it. The same people that probably don’t have access to a car either.
5.18 From 2012 onwards, local authorities may choose to support Links to Schools through their bids to the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
Councils are facing massive cuts and this puts cycling in an extremely precarious situation indeed. Cycling England had a meagre £60 million to spend each year. The pot has unbelievably got smaller and it takes 99 pages to explain this. I don’t believe that County Cycling Officer is the most secure position in any Council and it will be eerily fascinating to see how many are dropped, along with funding for Bike It officers.
It is the ‘Eddie the Eagle’ of White Papers – great build up but ultimately falls way short on delivery. This is the Department for Transport yet again holding sustainable transport solutions at arms length to detract from the greater levels of funding being handed over to road building schemes and feasibility studies for High Speed Rail 2. Philip Hammond doesn’t feature in this document, it is down to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker MP to introduce and publish it.
There needs to a comprehensive reform of cycle infrastructure design and implementation in this country otherwise all these schemes and airy fairy initiatives will come to nothing. As discussed before on this blog and indeed elsewhere, you can train all the people you like to cycle, and even experience a slight rise in numbers, but if the roads look dangerous, then the numbers will fall again and the expense would have been in vain. There’s a reason cycling is flatlining at between 3-4% and this document doesn’t address it directly in any way. And metal boxes will continue to whizz through communities, indifferent to the pollution and safety issues that they pose. We need infrastructure standards based on the Dutch model with other best practice from Denmark and around the World. We should do this as a supposedly civilised democracy – giving more people more mobility.
Casting cycle funding out to the provinces also negates the need for the Government to have any rational debate on cycling at national level, particularly with the demise of Cycling England. Once again the stick has been thrown and now it is down to local campaign groups and individuals to obediently chase and fight for it.
Well, I’ve been picking through the Local Transport White Paper and will write my comment for what it’s worth when the combination of lunatic hilarity and anger simmers down.
In the meantime, here is something to lighten the mood. I know it has appeared on other sites (such as the wonderful Copenhagenize) but it’s so lovelyI really must bring it to the attention of Lo Fidelity Readers. It was made by Dutch students and is simply wonderful.
Today’s post has a bit of London-centric feel to it (if you hadn’t already guessed by the title and picture with rib-tickling caption). This feels a bit strange as I’m typing this in my home in Worthing to the melodic sound of nesting seagulls and an 8 month old boy who has reached the stage of Picking up Bright Object and Banging It Against Another Bright Object.
Firstly, the start up meeting of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain is nearly upon us which will be held here. It turns out that Saturday 29th January is also the birthday of Mikael Colville-Andersen, creator of all things Copenhagenize and Cycle Chic. If he would like to attend, I may stretch to buying him a couple of drinks. Oh, alright, a couple of drinks AND a cupcake with a candle in it.
The Agenda is available here and our draft Manifesto and Mission Statement are also available for download from the Cycling Embassy website, so you may peruse and comment. The meeting will be followed by an informal chat and then an ‘Infrastructure Safari’ where we shall be taking in the delights of cycle facilities Transport for London style. The route is going to be the creation of Mark from ibikelondon (many thanks). On a related note, I am going to organise an Embassy field trip to the Netherlands later this year where we can go to Groningen and bemuse the locals as they watch a group of British tourists openly weeping.
Also, I would also like to remind Lo Fidelity Readers that have any connection with the City of London to write to the City before February 21 and object to the City’s local implementation (transport strategy) plan. According to Danny, scribe of the Cyclists in the City blog,
‘The reason is that the last LIP in 2005 resulted in only three submissions from cyclists with the result that, well, not much happened. So far, we’ve generated over 50 this year and want to encourage several hundred responses.
The City has the money to make a massive difference to cycling in London. But it’s transport plan is full of worrying compromise. For example, it undertakes
1) To ensure no increase in average journey times for car drivers (i.e. cars and taxis will continue to dominate the City’s streets)
2) That cycle infrastructure will be built with the needs of all road users in mind (i.e. forget improvements for bikes)
To my mind, this is a manifesto for car drivers, not for sustainable travel or safer roads.
Contrast the City LIP with Southwark, which explicitly states that car speeds will be subject to improvements for cyclists and pedestrians.
According to Wikipedia, War is a phenomenon of organized violentconflict, typified by extreme aggression, societal disruption and adaptation, and high mortality. There is some debate about other characteristics, but in general there is agreement that war involves at least two organized groups, is a premeditated activity at least on the part of one side, and at least one of the groups uses violence against the other. The objective of warfare differs in accord with a group’s role in a conflict: The goals of offensive warfare are typically the submission, assimilation or destruction of another group, while the goals of defensive warfare are simply the repulsion of the offensive force and, often, survival itself. Relative to each other, combatants in warfare are called enemies. The terms military, militant, and militarism each refer to fundamental aspects of war, i.e. the organized group, the combative individual, and the supportive ethos (respectively).
As you have just read, it doesn’t really fit into this ‘War on the Motorist’ does it? Above all else, it’s an insult to our armed forces currently fighting overseas (who, you may be surprised to read, are not trying to fight the Taliban with use of average speed cameras and increased parking charges). It polarizes views by implying that all those that don’t have a car or can’t afford a car or don’t want to have a lifestyle dominated by the car are ‘enemies’ and leaves no room for maneuver. It achieves needless anger and resentment which, if allowed to proceed unchecked without the correct facts being made available can spill over into something far more intimidating on our roads. More like a War really.
The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club always likes a challenge – in this case, how to match the rising tide of Coalition hyperbole. We’ve already had a go at likening British cycle infrastructure to Shanty Towns of the Third World but as a kindly Lo Fidelity reader pointed out, that polarizes First World into ‘Good’ and Third World into ‘Bad’. Where we have a car culture that alienates communities, the Third World doesn’t see people suffering with depression or collapse of community. Fair points well made (and the Third World is seeing the uses of Royal Mail bicycles even if the Executive Board can’t) so let’s crank up the hyperbole dial to maximum to try and take this to its logical conclusion by describing the plight of cyclists and pedestrians in the style of Philip Hammond & Eric Pickles….
I know it’s not like it in reality as that would be an incredible insult to the unimaginable suffering of Genocides past. I bet that as you were reading it, it seemed more pertinent to cyclists and pedestrians than the claimed ‘War on the Motorist’ though didn’t it? All I’m saying is that whilst Phillip Hammond and his ilk insist on playing the victim mentality card with overblown rhetoric, we might as well go mad and have fun with language to trump the stupidity of what is being stated by those in power. Churchill used far more literary devices than the current administration to far greater effect. And he abolished Road Tax which misguidedly gets caught up in the current ‘War on the Motorist’.
Suggestions are always welcome from Lo Fidelity Readers to suggest overblown phrases of their own to show the lot of Cyclists and Pedestrians (I’m certainly sure Freewheeler could think of a few).
To keep in the spirit of things, I’m now going to get on my Dutch Bike of liberation to pedal along the Road of Destruction and Despair to the Supermarket of Global Domination to buy a Yoghurt of Internal Hope.
We at the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club sincerely hope that now Philip Hammond MP has ended this War on the Motorist, he gets the Nobel Peace Prize he so richly deserves.