Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Local Sustainable Transport Funding, and Localism

I was confused when WSCC proudly announced that they'd won (at the second attempt) funding from central government for local sustainable transport. They said that the DfT had only funded work to be carried out in Chichester and Horsham, and not the other towns included in the bid package. This seemed to be the opposite of the government's "localism" ideology, that says that local people know best, and should have more say in where money is to be spent.

So had DfT just ridden rough-shod over the whole "localism" idea?

The DfT summary of the awards made, shows the "Large Projects" award of £2.346 million made to WSCC for the "West Sussex Sustainable Travel Towns" project. This project was refused funding in Tranche 1 and invited to resubmit through Tranche 2. The first bid failed to include any mention of Worthing, apparently, but that isn't available on WSCC's website any more.

So what was the successful WSCC bid actually for? Here it is in all its glory:
Well, the project name is indeed "West Sussex Sustainable Travel Towns", and the area it covers
will be focussed on the urban areas of Chichester, Crawley, Horsham and Worthing.
There's lots of good words about encouraging cycling and public transport, as usual. So it appears that the project as a whole was awarded funding, even though only half that applied for.

So why does the WSCC press release say:
The County Council was awarded £2.46m for its three-year ‘West Sussex Sustainable Travel Towns’ project.

The money will be invested in Chichester and Horsham in public transport interchange facilities, cycle routes and pedestrian facilities, and initiatives that encourage people to change the way they travel.

County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, Pieter Montyn, said: “We believe this funding will help promote economic growth in both towns while reducing carbon emissions.

The Department of Transport has decided that allocating money for Chichester and Horsham will benefit these areas, so this is a fabulous opportunity to make improvements.”

(my emphasis)

Has the DfT really restricted WSCC in how they can spend the money? Or is Cllr Montyn making things up? Why are Crawley and Worthing, the two largest towns in West Sussex, being ignored?

I hope to find out.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Bicycle Safety: Arms Race, or Disarmament?

I've been thinking about the "war on the motorist" and the terrorising of our residential streets by motor vehicles, coupled with a media interest in cycle "helmets" and the dangers of cycling in the UK. What are we doing? I think there are two different ways of approaching the problem.

Increased Safety for Cyclists

A large amount of effort is being focussed on increasing safety for cyclists, without making any changes to motorists at all. We see strong campaigns for cyclists to always wear "helmets", high-visibility clothing, and to take BikeAbility training courses to learn how to deal with motor traffic. The emphasis is entirely on getting cyclists to make changes.

Here is a cause-and-effect diagram I created to show how this creates an "arms race" between the danger caused by the motor vehicles, and the safety measures required by cyclists:

Here, we get perhaps some benefit from giving cyclists more protection, but we don't actually get very many new people cycling. In fact the safety equipment and training we're encouraging makes it clear to non-cyclists that their fears about the dangers of cycling are completely justified.

The reduction in danger possible by wearing polystyrene hats, or flourescent clothing, is minimal. These won't protect you if a distracted car driver drives into you. The benefits of training are also, I think, overstated. Even experienced cyclists are being killed on our roads, not just novices.

The diagram shows several vicious circles, that keep the cycle going:

  • Perceived danger → More calls for safety equipment → Increased perceived danger.
  • Real danger → Fewer people cycling →More cars →Increased real danger.
  • Calls for safety equipment → Perceived danger → Fewer people cycling →More cars →Increased real danger → Increased deaths and injuries → More calls for safety equipment.

The main benefit of this approach is that it's very cheap. Cyclists actually pay for their own protection, and keeping children indoors doesn't cost anything.

This is an arms race, just like those between warring nations, and like our "war on terror" where every action prompts a bigger reaction. There is no way this can lead to more people cycling as a normal mode of transport. It results in people's freedoms being restricted, and much pain and suffering.

Reduced Road Danger

The opposite way of approaching the problem is to focus on the causes of the danger, rather on the safety of the victims.

Here is a similar cause-and-effect diagram:

Here we have fewer circles, and they're no longer vicious ones. In fact, the whole effect is remarkably more pleasant.

The only problem with this approach is that it's more expensive and time-consuming than getting cyclists to protect themselves. However the Dutch and Danish have shown what can be done with the right political will and a decade or two of time. Cycle facilities are orders of magnitude cheaper than motorways, and 20's Plenty for Us is extremely cost-effective.

This is disarmament: everyone lays down their weapons, the two sides talk to each other, and peace prevails. What's more, there are no vicious circles: once we've removed the danger we can relax and enjoy life!

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Brake, RoadPeace, and Cycle "Helmets"

Norman Baker, Minister for Cycling, has had to defend his decision to ride a bicycle without a "helmet", as he doesn't think that these polystyrene hats are of any use to him.

Oddly, rather than congratulate him on cycling, rather than driving around inside a dangerous tonne-and-a-bit of metal, "road safety charity" Brake said that they were "frustrated" about his lack of polystyrene hat. Their arguments are based on discredited and old research and they ignore other evidence - even the statements made by helmet manufacturers themselves. To their credit they do give advice about how to wear a helmet, something that really needs a lot more publicity given the number of people riding with loose-fitting and tilted back ones.

In comparison, the "national charity for road crash victims" RoadPeace, has a well-informed and fact-based policy on cycle helmets. They have clearly read the evidence for and against, and have decided that their policy should follow logic, and the policy of the CTC and the European Cyclists' Federation: cyclists can wear "helmets" if they like, but they should be aware that they provide only limited protection.

Cycle "Helmets" are in fact a dangerously misleading red-herring, perpetuated by mis-informed safety people and by the industry that makes a fortune from selling these cheap-to-make polystyrene hats at highly inflated prices. The real cause of danger to cyclists isn't cycling itself, it is sharing the roads heavy fast-moving motor vehicles.

Some people think that training cyclists to ride "defensively", to wear bright clothing, and to wear polystyrene hats will stop the deaths and injuries we see. But sadly this is wrong: even experienced cyclists wearing hats and high-viz are being killed and seriously injured on our roads. In fact training might make things worse, as experienced cyclists are more likely to ride on busy roads than novices are. No amount of cycle training and polystyrene will help if a car driver on a mobile phone fails to avoid you.

I've tried to appeal to Brake to look at all the evidence, including the actual tests that "helmets" have to survive to be certified. But sadly they continue to peddle their misleading advice, which can only lead to fewer cyclists, more motorists, and more deaths and injuries on the UK's roads.

I think the difference is this:

  • Brake want to increase safety


  • RoadPeace want to reduce danger.

I know which I prefer.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Lovely peaceful morning

Today was a lovely morning: we woke to the sunshine, and after the seemingly endless days of windy damp days it's lovely and still.

The daily bike ride to school was almost perfect: a little chilly but no wind and lovely sunshine. People all seemed happy and enjoying the first hints of spring.

But then the grumpy, angry, pushy, annoyed car drivers start to appear, like vastly-oversized steel wasps on a pleasant summertime picnic. Engines roar, wheels spin, and there's an overall smell of burnt fossil fuels in the still air. The normally-invisible exhaust fumes are visible as steamy clouds that hang pungently in the air.

But we're not in a car, so the cars don't bother us. Life is good, and before long the cars will be extinct.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

New membership marketing training site

A good friend of mine, who knows his stuff, has recently launched a new service. He is offering professional training for people who would like to market membership organisations more effectively. The training is directed specifically at the particular needs of membership organisations, and covers such aspects as:

  • How to recruit more members
  • How to manage membership recruitment
  • How to measure membership recruitment performance
  • Recruitment techniques and processes
  • Targetting the most interested potential members
  • Membership retention techniques

For more information, and to book onto any of his courses, see his website: http://www.membership-matters.co.uk

Friday, 13 August 2010

U-plus 2 tandem trailer bike stolen

STOP PRESS: Word went around locally, and our U-plus 2 was eventually returned by someone anonymous. It had been damaged a little, but is still in working order. Mindless joy-riders, we think. The mountain bike, complete with rare mount for a Miklink trailer, has disappeared forever.

Sadly someone has ridden off with our red Creswell-made U-plus 2 tandem trailer bike. Stolen in the night between 10pm Wednesday 11 August and the following morning, from our house in Lancing, West Sussex, UK. The trailer bike is large, and would need a large car or van to transport it inside, and needs a lot of space to store it: much like a tandem tricycle would.

The trailer bike was attached to my old-and-rusty pink and turquoise mountain bike, as pictured. The U-plus 2 is getting tatty (it has had several owners) with battered rear mudguards, but is in good working order. The rear handlebars are a bit loose, with a rubber shim inserted to try to keep them straight.

This is pretty-much the same bike as the Pashley U-plus 2, but the earlier model made by Creswell Engineering.

Note that we know of one other family in Lancing who own a read U-plus two, but otherwise these trailer bikes are rare (and desirable for cycling families) as Pashley no longer make them. They only appear on eBay at the rate of one a year or so.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Grubtown Tourist Board site goes live!

Well, after only a week, the new Grubtown Tourist Board's web site (http://www.visitgrubtown.com) is picking up nicely. We have 90+ registered users and lots of nice new news stories and reviews to add to the Grubtown Daily Herald newspaper.

The site really benefits from the ideas of Six to Start (the folk that managed the project and came up with the design), and the lovely illustrations from Jim Paillot. Not to forget, of course, the wild imagination and writing techniques of Philip Ardagh (aka Beardy Ardagh).

For the technically-minded, the site was built using Drupal 6, with some custom maps using the Google Maps API. While Drupal and various contributed modules have provided much of the functionality out-of-the-box, there were still plenty of minor changes and customisations to make.

I've enjoyed creating this site, though: my first one with a falling cows option on every page!