Saturday, 26 January 2008

Pious crap from the NHS

Town planners and architects will today be told to give pedestrians and cyclists priority over cars in towns.

That’s the pious aspiration of the NHS’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Or Nice, as it calls itself.

Nice has departed from its usual remit of advising on NHS treatments to produce guidance on the built environment with regard to health. The organisation urges local authorities to crack down on vehicle use, by such means as charging and traffic calming. The guidance was commissioned by the Department of Health, motivated by the obesity, cancers and heart disease that can accompany the sedentary lifestyle.

A bit rich, really. Of the surgeries in Waltham Forest that have car parking for patients I can’t think of a single one that has a cycle stand. The only one I know that had cycle parking facilities – fairly useless ones, in the form of concrete blocks with slits in, to park your bike in – removed them when the car park was resurfaced.

I once asked the local health trust (i) how many car parking spaces are there at local hospitals? (ii) how many cycle stands are supplied at local hospitals? The Trust refused to answer my questions.

Before Nice starts lecturing local authorities it should put its own house in order. The medical profession is just as much addicted to car dependency as any other profession. Many consultants and doctors seem to like big flash cars and reserved no-charge parking spaces.

The most important part of the guidance is, of course, this bit:

Nice guidance is not binding on town planners.

Which means it will end up in the litter bin, where it belongs, along with all the other pious crap about people needing to cycle and walk more in urban environments which are profoundly hostile to cyclists and pedestrians.