Archive for the ‘Car Culture’ Category
UK inflation hit 4% today and to judge by the images in the media it is all about petrol prices – the picture above is from the Guardian website.
But it isn’t. The Consumer Price Index is a weighted average and petrol has a weight of 4.1% – so petrol would have to double in price for it to cause inflation to reach 4%. Now I don’t hear even the most ardent Clarkson acolyte claiming that petrol has doubled in price in the last year.
So why the media images. Two reasons I think:
1) The price of petrol is on every forecourt and when people buy it they tend to buy just petrol. So increases are far more visible than, for example, increases in prices in bread and potatoes.
2) People know petrol is heavily taxed and they sense that complaining about petrol prices might lead to a weakening of resolve by Government whereas complaining about food prices feels similar to complaining about the weather.
Why should cyclists care? Simply because linking inflation and petrol prices fuels the ongoing delusion that everyone drives and everyone is affected and therefore petrol prices are the big transport issue. Personally I think this prevents serious consideration of other much bigger issues around transport, safety and accessibility.
The photograph above is taken from Google Streetview but shows a situation which is all too common for Sheffield Cyclists. The van is parked on Crookes Valley Road on a double yellow line within feet of the junction with Crooksmoor Road – forcing passing cars onto the wrong side of the road. Visibility is very poor here because of the curvature of the road – it is impossible to tell if there is a third car behind the black Ford Galaxy. The gradient means a cyclist approaching from Barber Road could find themselves face to face with oncoming traffic at high speed.
[Photo by dvs on flickr ]
My first ride of the year. A grand total of 7.8 miles as part of my bike-train-bike commute. Full marks to the conductor on the 17.40 Northern Trains service from Barnsley to Sheffield – he didn’t bat an eyelid at the 5 bikes crammed into the space designed for two. This presented the opportunity for a quick survey.
4 with rear racks and all 4 with Ortlieb panniers
3 Campag equipped
Clearly superior bike commuters!
Elsewhere I discovered today that the Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest blog had misrepresented my views on Chris Rust’s post on Sheffield cycling, but that didn’t stop the use of one of my photos. Puts me in mind of this:
Still it is reassuring to read that the war against the Romans is officially over. By the way, does anyone know when it started?
In the latest piece of car culture populism, junior transport minister Mike Penning has ended financial support for councils wanting to install fixed speed cameras. He is quoted as saying ‘The public must be confident speed cameras are there for road safety – not as a cash cow’
So let me get this straight. We apparently have a ginormous deficit. We need to pay more taxes or spend less. Taxes are often levied on social ‘bads’ like tabacco and alcohol. Speeding is incontrovertibly a social bad. What is wrong with cameras all over the place fining speeding motorists to raise a bit of much needed revenue? Don’t want to pay the tax, don’t speed. Simples (to quote a phrase).
So our nice new Government have acted quickly to stamp out the nastiness of garden grabbing, where those evil developers build new houses for people to live in. Oh those developers are so evil! They are like drug pushers but instead of drugs, it is homes they are trying to sell. You know – homes, the ones that keep people warm and dry.
Why does this matter to cyclists? Fact is people have to live somewhere and less ‘garden grabbing’ means more homes on the edges of towns and cities. And if people live somewhere, they might just work somewhere else. If that somewhere else is a long way away they will quite possibly drive. If it is near, they might walk or ride a bike. It is a simple equation, Traffic equals numbers of people times how far they are going. Longer distances means more traffic. And this from the Government that said it was going to be the greenest ever.
So fewer homes in Hallam and more in Stocksbridge, and more traffic. Thanks Nick.
Photo of North American traffic by smith on flickr
The last installment today as the Green Party reveal their manifesto, and at last a specific commitment:
“We would prioritise transport modes according to the following hierarchy:
1. Walking and cycling
2. Public transport (trains, trams and buses) and rail freight
4. Heavy goods vehicles
To encourage walking and cycling for shorter journeys and improve road safety we would:
• Reduce speed limits (e.g. to 20mph in built-up areas, including villages).
• Make streets safe; make them public spaces again. Plan for mixed-use developments where shops, housing and businesses are closely located and connected by pavements and cycleways.
• Introduce a maximum speed limit of 55mph on motorways and trunk roads, and 40mph on rural roads, to make them safer for all road users.
• Introduce schemes such as Home Zones, Safe Routes to School and pedestrianisation.
• Ensure that at least 10% of transport spending is on securing a shift to more active travel like walking and cycling……..”
As the saying goes, what’s not to like?
Day three and time for the Lib Dems. To misquote Iris Murdoch from last Saturday’s Guardian the Lib Dem policy in Sheffield seems to be one of shameless self promotion, but nationally they have bought out a manifesto with a commitment to ‘Include the promotion of safer cycling and pedestrian routes in all local transport plans.’ Sounds good, but as I observed yesterday, pretty vague. In fact I’m starting to get the impression that because cycling is showing a surge in popularity the parties have all thought ‘how can we name-check it without committing ourselves?’
This suspicion deepens when the next section is headed ‘a fair deal for motorists’. Car culture is alive and well and presenting itself as a downtrodden majority currently getting a rough deal it seems.
The Conservatives have one reference, namely:
‘We will support sustainable travel initiatives that work best for local communities by:
• giving the concerns of cyclists much greater priority;’
So far so vague, but the motorist tempting populist commitments seem rather more concrete:
‘We will stop central government funding for new fixed speed cameras’ and ‘We will consult on the introduction of a ‘fair fuel Stabiliser’. This would cut fuel duty when oil prices rise, and vice versa. It would ensure families, businesses and the whole British economy are less exposed to volatile oil markets…’
Personally I would be more convinced if cycling commitment had a similar level of detail.
Labour has a commitment to ‘ trebling the number of secure cycle- storage spaces at rail stations.’ jolly good but then in an obvious populist touch they also argue that ‘Tackling road congestion is a key Labour priority.’
Plus ça change….