Monday, September 29, 2014

Cause and Effect–Pollution, Victim Blaming, Urbanisation

Saturday, 21st June 2014: Saturdays are when I catch up on the weeks radio podcasts. If there is a Grand Prix on the  weekend I normally start with the  Chequered Flag Formula 1 roundup, followed by the tale of countryside angst – the Archers and then another radio soap that I am enjoying, which although it has tragedy somehow doesn’t create the same level of misery for me – Homefront. It is great to listen to whilst cycling. Although for the record I do the bulk of my listening on byways and bridleways.  Roads are just so damn noisy you can’t here yourself think when on a bicycle.

Which means that there aren’t too many pictures – I must have been too busy listening.

Before I mention the pictures though I have been in touch with someone I have known for 40-odd years, he was one of my early bosses and someone I credit as one of my influences. I learnt a lot from him. We were catching up and he mentioned his cars (long hobby), I of course mentioned my bikes. Now he still lives in the area where I first knew him and I used to cycle regularly all over the place when I lived there. He mentioned that he used to cycle when he was younger but it would be terrifying where he lives because of the preponderance of motor traffic.

As a society we seem to be happy that people are driven from walking and cycling and we seem to think it is normal, or progress. Look around towns and see how cars, vans and lorries clog up the streets, to the detriment of those that can’t or don’t want to drive. Yet when we seem to focus on the needs of the motorist more than the other road users.  Take a look at schools during the morning arrival and afternoon pickup. You often see cars park up sometime before the pick up, clogging the roads for those wanting to get past.

The trouble is the whole attitude to cycling is that is is a second-class activity. Because a few cyclists might jump red lights all cyclists are treated like kids. So I was a bit annoyed to read that a Portsmouth Councillor who has seen his council preside over an increase in cycling injuries between 2012 and 2103 of 9% call for a red light & pavement cycling crackdown. Talk about trying to pass the buck. That seems to be victim blaming, in fact it makes me wonder if the plan is not to make the problem go away by driving more cyclists off their bikes into cars!

I think we need to ensure that those that are in charge of the road and cycling infrastructure understand cause and effect and we also need to ensure that their intended effect is not to drive cyclists off the roads. Talking about cause and effect there was a news item in the Cambridge News – “Cambridge traffic levels have remained ‘relatively flat’ for two decades – but number of parking fines hasn’t”. Well as anyone who has had the misfortune of driving into Cambridge will know the traffic congestion is pretty appalling and we have the highest rate of commuter cyclists in the UK. The primary cause of congestion is too much motor traffic trying to get into a pinch point. Which is a function of where people live, where they work or go to school and the level of urbanisation.) Although there are some idiots who seem to think that the high number of cyclists causes the congestion.  Now I reckon that  the high level of congestion is what causes the cycling.

Why have the number of parking fines increase – well perhaps the fines are too small relative to the congestion/parking charges. Maybe the fines need to be increased.

If the roads into a place get “improved” than that increase the chance of more congestion (A14), if there is more development around then again it increase the probability of congestion. So given little can be done in Cambridge to change the road structure then I reckon every opportunity needs to be taken to encourage people out of their cars. You can do this by having better alternate means of convenient and safe transport (decent cycle routes, decent bus lanes, better rail links, better use of the CGB). You can penalise drivers more (tolls).

Indeed business sources are often cited to justify more spending on road infrastructure, what happened to the Cambridge Futures report – recommending a congestion zone in Cambridge. That was sponsored by many of the Great and Good – yet got ignored.

You can’t just carry on doing more of the same – that will not work. Also trying to mix up different modes of transport can be a problem – ask this cyclist who caught his bike wheel in the tram lines in Nottingham, or this cyclist in Edinburgh again getting caught by tram lines.  The solution is not a patronising video. One of the worst things when riding a bike is having to deal with traffic and a very dodgy road surface.

To cap it all we then have our MPs who seem to want to indulge in victim blaming like local-ish MP Stewart Jackson – what a shameful diatribe. All I can say is that seems to be no evidence of evidence-driven policy – just cheap electioneering.  The MPs shared the  responsibility for the shameful levels of pollution in our cities – nine of which fail WHO guidelines.  Pollution linked to 28,000 deaths in the UK. I say pull your fingers out MPs, give a damn about the real issues.

And with that onto peaceful matters. In the skies above the fens a Blue Islands plane, practising for the direct flights between Jersey and Cambridge in the Summer of 2015? Or just passing through? It doesn’t seem to be on the current route map though.

Blue Islands Flight above Lodes Way

Across the Fields to Soham (I think)

Traffic Jam on Lodes Way
They moved to let me through without any hassle once I had taken the picture

NCN51 between Quy and Bottisham
Shared-use path – overgrown and narrow