Notes and Queries

A relaxing picture of a meadow

Firstly, apologies to Lo Fidelity readers for the non-posting as of late. The Wife has been plagued since childhood with a condition leading to abscesses in her leg and in particular at the base of her spine. There’s a lot more to it than that but she has just had her eleventh and hopefully final operation which means she might be able to sit down without discomfort for the first time in years. I’ve been tending her and The Boy over the last week and a half as, at nine months old, he is not getting any lighter to carry.

The Wife cycled as a child and her parents were keen cycle tourists. She is always enthusiastic about me cycling and cycle campaigning and does her best to look interested when I ramble on about cycling and cycle campaigning. However, she is adamant that she will never cycle again, partly to the pain and discomfort up until now and the potential to trigger something bad as a result of getting on a bicycle again. She says, quite reasonably, that I should be happy that she’s produced a son to eventually go cycling with. She’s right of course and I’ve accepted that as far as The Wife and cycling is concerned, some things are just not meant to be. In turn, she has accepted that I don’t really like her great love, which is swimming (basically I run like a Dolphin and swim like a Cheetah). The upshot of all this is that she walks everywhere, often with a pushchair for added humour – if you thought facilities for cyclists were bad the UK, I’m getting a taste of my own medicine as she points out the long list of failings for pedestrians with pavement parking, poorly applied work roads and crazy paving. I’ve suggested that she starts a blog called something like ‘Crap Walking in Britain’. She says she’ll think about it.

Anyway, what a week and a half it’s been! Carlton Reid wrote something about the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. Then I wrote something in reply. All’s well that end’s well I’m pleased to report.

The Embassy is, at this moment in time only three weeks old with Governance and formal policies to be agreed that hasn’t formally launched yet. However, I know the following applies;

It was never, and will never be our intention to relinquish cyclists’ right to the road. There seems to be a fear that as soon as someone calls for better infrastructure in the UK, that this will somehow lead to cyclists being banned from the public highway. Personally I accept those fears to a point in the wake of such a car-sick Transport Secretary. However, crap infrastructure continues to be built by Councils who’s Modus Operandi is not to improve the lot of the cyclist, but to clear them off their ‘Strategic Road Networks’. Maybe a situation will arise that’s even worse than Carlton Reid’s vision; that cyclists get shovelled off the roads to the crap that exists already without reform of the guidelines. Now that’s scary. I would envisage the Embassy working in tandem (pardon the pun) with organisations such as CTC as well as Cycling Embassy of Denmark and Fietsberaad so we push for better infrastructure standards based on Dutch, Danish and German best practice, whilst campaigns that enforce the right to the road led by CTC and ipayroadtax.com, continue to fly their standards. Whatever happens, I personally believe we have to cull the crap to enable mass cycling and those that joined the Embassy just want to try something new.

As far as antagonism goes, when a new campaign group starts up, it’s always going to ruffle a few feathers. I sometimes take the microphone as a Comedy New Act (you can’t call yourself a Stand Up Comedian until you’re regularly playing the Comedy Store or Live at the Apollo and you have a DVD out). Sometimes when you first walk out on stage, the collective tension and excitement in the audience builds to a point that someone will suddenly scream something out – not a heckle or anything nasty, but the excitement (coupled with alcohol) has triggered a sudden outburst. They are probably nice respectable people, holding down nice respectable jobs and for that flashpoint, the situation has run away with them. When the cycling public turned up at the Embassy start up meeting, there was a lot of pent up excitement, frustration and anger at what has passed before which also appeared on people’s blogs. However, Embassy policy is not going to be born of frustration and anger either, from blog posts or otherwise (just the excitement at trying something new). Anger is best left to the experts!

When the Manifesto and Policy Documents are agreed, clarity should follow and then people can praise and criticise. Agreed governance will also bring accountability. On one cycle forum, people have already speculated that the Embassy is a shadowy part of the road lobby and that I’ve got my head up my arse. The first point certainly isn’t true and the second point would put my back out and we have had quite enough back problems for one family, thank you.

Finally, and particularly if you live in and around Brighton & Hove, one of the only pieces of decent cycle infrastructure costing £550,000 looks set to be removed at double the installation cost. Funnily enough, this is to ‘improve traffic flow’. Details are here along with a petition, which I urge you to sign.

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Onwards and Upwards

Yet again, thanks for the support and goodwill. In particular Lazy Bicycle Blog, Manchester Cycling, Biking Brits, i b i k e l o n d o n and everyone else in the blogosphere, twitterverse and email..er…globe. A special thank you must go to Anthony Cartmell for setting up the website and continual assistance. Unfortunately for him, he only lives 2 miles away from me.

Embassy news is as follows:

LTP3 page has been opened up and links are being uploaded. This is for you to comment on Local Transport Plans and look at other areas as you please. We shall be creating a page for Cycling Strategy Documents to be uploaded so we may see what has gone before across the land in terms of broken promises in overly verbose documents with added greenwash.

In our Manchester Consulate, Chris Page at Manchester Cycling has set up a facebook page for the Embassy. Wonderful stuff. There is also a twitter account (@GBCycleEmbassy)

I wrote last week to the Cycling Embassy of Denmark and they’ve written a lovely message back expressing support plus advice on what they do & how they do it. I shall post this on the Embassy forum, as I will all my correspondence. It is quite clear that our aims and ambitions are going to be very different from the Danish Embassy and indeed the Cycling Embassy for the The Netherlands (launching next year) – whereas they have a cycling culture, political will and standards of cycling infrastructure, we have car culture, political greenwash with empty platitudes and crap cycling infrastructure.

Deepest apologies but I would like to make the final confirmed date for our inaugural meeting the 29th January. This is because too many people have written to me saying they can’t make it on the 8th (either because they live in far flung areas of our Empire or maybe their hangovers are still clearing). Same venue as before. This also gives me more time to stockpile Fererro Rocher for your welcome packs. Over the next few weeks I shall be encouraging discussion on organisation structure (many have come forward stating they wish to set up Consulates across the country), partnerships, policy, funding etc. This ensures that by the time we meet and greet, it’s a simple matter of finalising issues. I think it’s going to be quite straightforward as the aim is simply to get more people on bikes, to create proper infrastructure to facilitate this based on best practice across Europe and the World and make riding a bike as easy as riding a bike.

I will start contacting pertinent charities and groups over the weekend to form partnerships. If you have any ideas on who we should be contacting, or you are an interested party, please let me know.

Personal news:

I have an office Christmas party to attend in Brighton Friday afternoon where we shall be remembering the birth of Jesus Christ in the traditional British way of drinking enough alcohol to float a Raleigh Grifter. I shall refrain from Twitter et al as a mark of respect to good manners and taste.

I’m putting in my order for a Batavus Old Dutch Friday morning. I’m selling my KHS 3000 Mountain Bike (barely used) and Carerra Zero (fixed wheel) to make room and justify expenditure to The Wife. I’ve sampled riding Dutch bikes now and they make me feel like a child again – in particular the just getting on a bicycle with no need for special clothing or preparation and going about my day. That is proper freedom.

I leave you with a piece of film that reflects what we should be aspiring to (and don’t take any ‘times are hard’ rubbish. If a fraction of the budget for new road schemes and electric cars was spent on proper ‘Sustainable Transport’ it would be easily achievable) – people going about their business on bikes with not a helmet or high viz tabard amongst them. It’s sped up of course – the Dutch don’t have to cycle everywhere at breakneck speed like the British seem to.

Oh, and thanks to Freewheeler for inspiring my resolve 🙂