Kinky Pickles

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.

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23 responses to “Kinky Pickles

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Kinky Pickles « The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club -- Topsy.com·

  2. Hi Jim,

    Glad to give you a plug, and you ARE funny!

    Just for the sake of fairness and accuracy, I should point out that the interjection “It works for Boris…” came not from me but from the Chair of the conference. I’d never dare interrupt a minister of state when they are in full hyperbolic soundbite meltdown….

    All the best, and see you on Saturday!

    Mark

    • Mark

      Apologies. I have altered the post accordingly. A very good show I thought. It’s a pity that Jack isn’t given an hour.

      And yes, I’m very excited about Saturday. Which is strange as I don’t believe that any of us are going to be wearing rubber knickers of any kind. Those days are behind me. As are the photographs.

      All the best

      Jim

  3. So why were the cars illegally parked in a fire route not towed away?

    I would have thought that this sort of tragedy would have prompted ensuring that all illegally parked cars are immediately towed away to ensure that this terrible tragedy never repeats itself.

  4. Residential parking is something which I think is quite interesting. I can see the reason to want to restrict spaces, in order to reduce the number of cars owned, but it doesn’t seem to work out like that. A while ago I made a comparison of a new housing estate near where we used to live in Cambridge I compared before with a new one here in Assen.

    The British example has cars parked over everything, and this makes walking or cycling relatively unpleasant. The Dutch example has ample car parking, much of which is never used, and lots of cycle paths and pavements which are never obstructed by cars. As a result, walking and cycling are very pleasant. Of course, it also has wonderful cycle paths in and out as well.

    Bizarre as it may seem, I think providing adequate car parking in Dutch residential areas has actually helped a little with encouraging people not to use a car for every journey.

    • David

      Good points, but as you say, it’s in conjunction with the decent pavements and cycle paths that makes it work as you are giving the residents increased options and therefore better mobility. Sadly lacking in the UK!

      Jim

  5. Great post Jim, as always 😀

    Regarding residential parking and the like, here in Manchester the council/planning department is being sensible and (in the scale of things) forward thinking in applying the 1:1 ration across any new development: 1 car per 1 apartment unit. In some developments the council has even agreed at 1:2 ration – 1 car per 2 apartment units, and on the other hand providing a good percentage of secure cycle racks. Now, it’s not wonderful or the perfect set up, but it’s certainly the right way forward. With all its flaws Manchester may have (infrastructure wise) the reduction of car parking – hence car ownership within the city – has helped improve Manchester’s streets no end.

    I am sad, but not surprised, to hear Mr. Pickles say “we artificially restricted the number of parking places for new developments, and all that simply happened is people parked on the roads.”… I don’t think Mr Pickels is misguided, I believe that he is ‘anchored’ to too many car-centric lobby groups that have lots of money and exert lots of power…

    ride on – sans rubber knickers 😉

  6. “Nice stuff, eh?”

    Might be, but I’d like to see it translated from Post Modern Bizarro Speak into English before I commit myself. Personally I find that most people are more comfortable using streets that remain passive, rather than have the streets engage them overmuch. If they start giving them Real People Personalities I’m out.

    “A right of way that spans the planet and what do they use me for? To run down to the corner for a pack o’ fags.”

    ” . . .laws to stop climate change.”

    Good luck with that, Eric.

    • That little literary flourish about engaging streets, I have to confess, was my interpratation as opposed to Professor Gehl’s. When I first started working in London, it was as Practice Administrator for the Architect and Urban Masterplanner, Rick Mather. I liked his thinking as he was basically saying that you saw more on foot or bicycle saddle as opposed to whizzing through in a car.

      Sometimes we are all capable of having an ‘Armitage Shanks Defication Interface Scenario’ as opposed to just taking a sh*t!

      • “That little literary flourish . . . was my interpratation”

        Understood.

        “Sometimes we are all capable . . .”

        Indeed, but I do think it is an issue to be cognizant of and perhaps regarded in a negatory fashion when seeking to engage the perceptual perambulations of the general public who are likely to remain in closer proximity to their comfort zone with Plain English phrases , exempli gratia: “active and permeable membrane.”

  7. Whilst Eric Pickles’ saving grace may be his self-deprecating sense of humour, this exchange shows the problem we face, regardless of which political power has power: too few politicians ride bikes and they haven’t internalised the benefits in terms of health and well-being and the potential extra convenience to be enjoyed from cycling short journeys.

    We need to identify and engage with politicians who ‘get it’ and encourage them to make the case on our behalf.

    • Absolutely. Politicians like Mr Pickles are always going to look at cycling as ‘too much like hard work’ and we should be focussing on the cross party paliamentary cycling group, for example.

      I understand that Mr Cameron was going to carry out a ‘Happiness Survey’ fairly recently. If we achieved mass cycling, at least he could then conduct the survey with confidence 🙂

  8. “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.” Interestingly there is no mention of “artificially” encouraging car ownership in the ’80s and ’90s or the “artificial” decimation of public transport which helped/forced this growth.

    • Well, how about we artificially increase the amount of cycle parking instead, and “induce demand” with proper actual superhighways? I’m fairly sure induced demand applies elsewhere in transport – ie if Emirates launch a route from Dublin to Abi Dhabi, more people will fly between the two places because it is easier to do so.

      • “if Emirates launch a route from Dublin to Abi Dhabi”

        They might go broke. Many people have when they make things on the assumption that buyers will flock to their product simply because it is available. Things go best when there is demand first. That demand might be “pent up,” or induced through marketing, but the demand must be there.

        Here is the demand for Danish cycle paths:

        Cyclist Demonstration on City Hall Square 1970s - Copenhagen

        And of course the English campaigner must always be cognisant of two words: Milton Keynes.

      • Milton Keynes was designed with the motor car first and foremost and it shows hence the lack of usage of the cycle paths which pass through dingy undercrofts and serve really as a leisurely afterthought.

        When London SkyRide was held laze September, people turned up in their droves for safe, traffic free cycling. Even if not on main commuter routes, the boost to tourism alone would be worth consideration. In Worthing however, the Highways Agency are consulting our local Cycle Forum on facilities along a very busy trunk road (A27). what we’ve told them is that segregated lanes are preferable (and not shared use pavements) but to consider the fact that quite often the issue is getting across these heavily trafficked roads that machete through communities to get to quieter roads and amenities as opposed to cycling along them

      • Skyride: They didn’t turn up ‘in droves’, they came out en masse! 85,000 Londoners came out to ride their bikes in safety and have fun. It was the biggest mass participation cycling event ever held in the UK and even lead to epic bicycle traffic jams;
        http://ibikelondon.blogspot.com/2010/09/2010-mayor-of-londons-skyride.html
        Hows that for induced demand?

        Milton Keynes: There are problems with the network at Milton Keynes, not least the primary one being that the entire City is designed to make car journeys very fast. There’s not much of an incentive to ride a bike on those rare occasions when it is quicker to go by car…. It also has a terrible place in the eyes of UK cycling campaigners due to the concerted efforts of a certain author who just happened to really dislike the bike lanes but also earnt his living from selling a book all about how to cycle on the road… Conflict of interest, much? I really do need to do a follow up visit to Milton Keynes and take apart some of the statistics surrounding the Redways, ‘cos I have a sneaky feeling they don’t hold up to much scrutiny…

  9. in a way, bizarre language aside, Pickles has got it exactly right. As long as cycling is seen as something only a small minority can do, in specialist clothing (be it rubber knickers or a magic plastic hat) then it’s not the answer to congestion in our cities. And I for one would pay good money never to have to see Eric Pickles in lycra. But if we can make it so that cycling is something you do in your suit, with your kids, whether you’re carrying a few extra kilos or not, then it does become part of the solution.

    Shall we all club together and buy Mr. Pickles a nice (maybe reinforced) Dutch bike so he can see for himself?

  10. Pingback: Eric Pickles Confused Over Libyan Fly Zone « THE RANK NEWS: spoof news and satire·

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