Friday, 13 August 2010

The CTC: suppressing cycling

Let’s say it again. Among the greatest obstacles to the development of mass cycling in Britain are the nation’s two leading cycling organisations, the Cyclists’ Touring Club and the London Cycling Campaign. They both deeply damage the prospect of cycling ever really taking off in Britain.

Both are fundamentally committed to the doomed strategy of ameliorating the conditions of vehicular cycling. Cycle lanes are a perfect example of this campaign strategy, supposedly delivering an improvement in conditions for cycling. The fact that cycle lanes have failed to raise cycling’s modal share is of no interest to the ideologues. They are personally prepared to use infrastructure like that shown in the photograph above (Wood Street, Walthamstow) and are baffled that ordinary people won’t. Faced by public resistance to cycling the CTC resorts to statistics, telling people that cycling is safe and healthy.

This strategy has been failing cycling for decades but the ideologues that control these organisations aren’t interested in acknowledging or analysing their historic failure. They have no serious interest in acknowledging that cycling is a marginal activity or in campaigning for the kind of infrastructure that would transform it into a mass activity. The CTC reminds me of an organisation of battered wives devoted to a ‘love your husband’ strategy. Staring out from puffy eyes, the CTC wheezes through its broken ribs that things can only get better.

Both the CTC and the LCC also subscribe to the doomed strategy of trying to persuade drivers to be nicer to cyclists, even though there is not a shred of evidence that such campaigns have any significant impact whatsoever. The latest one is

a campaign backed by the national cyclists’ organisation that aims to increase understanding between bike riders and HGV drivers.

Nothing to do with keeping these two road users apart from each other. No recognition of the reality that campaigns of ‘education’ will only ever reach a tiny minority of lorry drivers and cyclists. Instead, just asking for more niceness and understanding among lorry drivers, a road user group with an established record of recklessness and contempt for road traffic law on a massive scale.

The only aspect of this latest campaign which is remotely of interest is that in a survey of 1,000 cyclists

nearly every cyclist surveyed – a thumping 98% - said that they don’t feel safe on the road all of the time

And these are established vehicular cyclists, not people explaining why they don’t much fancy taking up cycling.

What moral does the CTC draw from this amazing statistic? Nothing. As far as the CTC is concerned, the usual mish-mash of initiatives is just the ticket:

Chris Peck, campaigns co-ordinator at CTC, added: “The health benefits of cycling far outweigh its risks by 10:1, so not cycling is actually far more dangerous.

[You can use statistics to show that walking is more dangerous than parachuting. But you won’t ever persuade me to jump out of a plane on the basis that not parachuting is actually far more dangerous than walking.]

But, crashes involving lorry drivers account for a high proportion of cyclists’ deaths. Per mile travelled in urban areas, HGVs are over 20 times more likely to be involved in the death of a cyclist, than a car or light van.”

He continued: “To improve the situation, CTC would like to see: cycle awareness training for all HGV drivers and access to national standards cycle training; An improvement in the design of HGVs to eliminate blind spots; the adoption of side guards and side indicator repeaters on all HGVs; the restriction of lorries on narrow streets and urban areas and more investment in cycle friendly road design, including quality cycle lanes in the correct places.”

Not segregated cycle paths on the Dutch model, then, but vehicular cycle lanes. In other words, just the usual crap vehicular cycling infrastructure and the usual crap attempt to persuade people that cycling is safe by quoting statistics at them. There are much better ways of reducing conflict between lorries and cyclists, and they involve not education but infrastructure.

The point is really a very simple one. However beneficial these micro-strategies might be, collectively they will fail to encourage mass cycling. No surprise there. The CTC, like the LCC, is always claiming that things are getting better and better, when in reality there are no grounds for optimism at all.

(Below) NO CYCLING on Morgan Avenue E17, where the concept of ‘permeability’ has yet to be recognised by the car-sick, car-centric transport planners of the London Borough of Waltham Forest.