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
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.
Well I mean, I’m a fat guy and me on a bicycle is not a pretty sight, as to this…
It works for Boris [Johnson, Mayor of London]…
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.