Making Britain better for bikes (latest CTC Cycle magazine), Making Cities fit for Cycling (The Times Manifesto), ‘promote the use of bicycles as a mode of transport’ (All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group), MPs launch a cross party inquiry into cycling (Press release) and the CTC Strategy 2013-20 are just a few of the things now happening since Wiggo won Le Tour and Olympic gold. Also worth a mention: the London Cycling Campaign Love London, Go Dutch.
Meanwhile, the Environment Agency is ‘creating a better place’ generally, not just for cyclists but for people whose homes and businesses were recently flooded several feet deep in rain water and lost all their possessions. Together with local authorities and internal drainage boards (I’d never heard of these boards before) the Environment Agency has a programme of flood and coastal risk management schemes which they cannot really afford – I know that because they said so the other day on Radio 4.
North Wales, November 2012
During the Radio 4 interview the Environment Agency’s representative explained how they have all these schemes to prevent flooding but because there isn’t enough money they ‘manage’ the floods or work with their partners to mitigate them – something like that. The cost of protecting all British properties from floods would be even more enormous than ‘going Dutch’ on cycling infrastructure across the UK. One irony is that the Dutch are also the world’s best at holding back water. It’s a question of political priorities although, to be fair, cycling and dams in that country are not a new thing. Anyway, after the interview I wondered what level of priority the promotion of cycling really has in the mind of the British public, compared to protecting homes and businesses from going under, so to speak. I wondered if the huffing and puffing by the CTC, The Times, cross-party MPs, Boris and all the other cycling campaigners is nothing but reading material spewed out by a machine that no-one can switch off.
Public opinion can be a force for harm. It seems that Greece has run out of dosh and, together with various other cash-strapped nations, will not be taking part in next year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The cost would be a drop in the ocean and it might cheer them up if they won, but this is Political (is anything more Political than the Eurovision Song Contest?) After years working in a local authority with elected representatives I know there is no such thing as ‘no money’ – but there are priorities, most of which relate to their concerns over re-election. The song contest is probably not a vote winner and nor, I suspect, is infrastructure budgets diverted to cycle paths and fancy road junctions for cyclists when thousands of British homes are being ruined by floods. That the increasing frequency of heavy rain storms might somehow be related to long-term polution from motor vehicles won’t ‘cut ice’ in short-term politics.
I’ve seen some fine examples of places designed for cyclists in the UK but they are few and far between, and in circumstances more favourable than my home town, and probably most other towns. When I ride in the local streets and imagine how they might be ‘made dutch’ (or even just Borissed) a sense of reality kicks in. I simply can’t see it, but then I’m a segregation sceptic* so lucky for me I don’t feel a need.