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CYCLING-AND-SOCIETY  February 2012

CYCLING-AND-SOCIETY February 2012

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Subject:

Re: CYCLING-AND-SOCIETY Digest - 31 Jan 2012 to 1 Feb 2012 (#2012-13)

From:

John Meudell <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Cycling and Society Research Group discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 3 Feb 2012 20:32:58 +0000

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I forgot to mention, in five years as a director of the CTC Cycling England never once offered to come and discuss their programme or approach with CTC National Council either (Kevin Mayne informed us he was on the board as a private individual and, as such, could not provide any insight into CE's programme).

The issue isn't whether or not they were paid, but is whether or not they were prepared to be accountable to the people (cyclists) on whose behalf they were working and spending tax money.  Given the poor reputation that quango's have (not just) amongst the general public, one would have thought it essential to avoid that particular banana skin.  Instead it looked a bit like a cartoon that appeared in the Guardian Weekly during the period that Vietnamese boat people were in the news in the late 70's.  Unfortunately there's no means to share it on this forum but, in summary, it could be described as the "message in a bottle" approach to PR.

I'd note that, as a former director of the CTC, I also didn't and don't get paid.  I also work evenings and weekends, and provide information for free.  But my contact details are publicly available (still) and I regularly appeared at conference and exhibitions, and people still ring me up and e-mail me long after I've gone, and I've never bothered about being challenged (as you may realise I quite like it!).  That's part of the process of developing robust answers (and I mean in terms of the quality of the replies and solutions not the style of response).  External stimulus, in any form, is an opportunity to challenge one's own thinking....and needs to be grabbed with both hands and not punted into touch ('scuse the rugby metaphor....as a Welshman it was too good to miss!).

To quote one of my bosses, "to do things right you first have to do the right things".  What I am questioning is whether Cycling England was doing the right things (I believe not) and if not why not.  Noting the high profile campaign that the Times has kicked off in respect of cycling's safety,  if Cycling England was such a success why have high profile cyclists (some of whom were involved with CE) signed up in support so quickly?  Furthermore, if a company was so successful at persuading customers to buy its product, what would their customers response be if they were then told it increased the likelihood of them being killed (cycle KSI's are increasing)?

I agree, comparisons with the Netherlands purely on the basis of cycling, in isolation from all the other social and physical factors have limited value.  Direct translations of individual measures to a UK environment likewise.  Each nation has its own culture, which defines it's approach to the political, regulatory and social frameworks which in turn define the physical environment and the norms which make it work....for them.  

In truth the UK is where the Netherlands was about 40 years ago.....so the comparisons need to be taken at that starting point....and a change process figured out, along with associated tactics and measures and timings to enable that change.  I haven't noticed anyone, not least Cycling England, describe how they are going to create effective change and ensure that it works, effectively and cost effectively.  And few of us have ever had the opportunity to discuss it, in an open and professional forum, with Cycling England.

I'd note, I have a presentation I gave to our local Town Centre Forum, comparing Dorking, a rural market town, with Assen, a rural market town in the Netherlands and one I've lived in (and worked and etc., etc.) on and off for nearly 35 years.  In the case of the latter the difference are stark, in the former, well....it just hasn't changed.  It looks and functions as it did 40+ years ago.  Quite happy to come and discuss it anytime...and talk the hind legs off the proverbial donkey on the subject of "The Dutch Way".....at least my take on it.

Cheers

John Meudell




-----Original Message-----
From: Cycling and Society Research Group discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Adrian Lord
Sent: 03 February 2012 12:58
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: CYCLING-AND-SOCIETY Digest - 31 Jan 2012 to 1 Feb 2012 (#2012-13)

John
Cycling England Board was not paid apart from their expenses.  Only their Programme Manager, Cycling Towns Manaager and Bikeability Manager had fixed term contracts with the DfT.  Phillip Darnton received an allowance for 2 days input per week but typically put in 5 or 6 days work and still continues to be involved in the Cycle-rail Taskforce for example.  Myself and other consultants were employed on a call-off basis to assist the Board with admin and to help out the various Cycling England sponsored projects with advice and information, and occasionally technical help such as design.  Every Cycling Town had to go through the usual political battles over removing parking spaces, causing delays to other traffic, unsympathetic and disinterested councillors, adverse anti-cycling press reports, opposition from disability groups and pedestrians, and often the local cycle campaigners who were more interested in their personal journeys and long-standing issues than in getting 'new' people to cycle.  Resorting to cliché, everybody I met who was involved in Cycling England gave 110%,travelled around the country, worked overnight and weekends at various times and did way beyond the 'job description' so I'm sorry if you didn't see anyone at Excel but don't on that basis condemn the entire set up and compare them to merchant bankers!

There was no sense of doing things a certain way, and the towns and other partners did try all sorts of ideas, but as with all funding there was pressure to spend the money each calendar year which inevitably leads towards the 'art of the possible' rather than trying to change the world all in one go and getting nowhere. In most cases we are starting from such a low and poor base of infrastructure and knowledge in the UK (e.g. my first visit to xxxx their engineer asked me 'what is an advanced stop line?') that some guidance on what would be helpful to get more people cycling was appreciated.  

One thing that Sir George Young (ex transport minister and 'Bicycling Baronet') said to me when we visited Holland to look at Bike and Rail infrastructure was that the whole 'terms of trade' between cyclists and other road users is different to the UK.  I think this is very astute (and also becoming apparent in various UK shared-space schemes), and even in the way in which Dutch people step straight onto zebra crossings.  Some infrastructure only works if there are lots of cyclists and pedestrians and until we reach that point in the UK we perhaps have to design for a more cautious and defensive style of cycling - while at the same time trying to give cues to the more experienced and confident cyclists about when to 'take the lane' and merge into general traffic.  So (together with the fact that there's no political appetite to reduce car tyranny) we end up with two slightly compromised and different approaches instead of the more coherent and uniform infrastructure that is seen in the Netherlands and Denmark.


Adrian Lord
Associate

Arup
Admiral House, Rose Wharf, East St, Leeds, LS9 8EE  United Kingdom
t +44 (0)113 242 8498   d +44 (0)121 213 3650  
f +44 (0)121 213 3001   m +44 (0)785 031 8882
www.arup.com
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