Thursday 21 May 2009

‘Transport for London’ censors this blog

Transport for London (TfL) is the local government body responsible for most aspects of the transport system in Greater London.

TfL is controlled by a board whose members are appointed by the Mayor of London,[1] a position currently held by Boris Johnson, who also chairs the Board. The Commissioner of Transport for London (Peter Hendy since 17 January 2006) reports to the Board and leads a management team with individual functional responsibilities.

Now I have to confess I was unaware until yesterday that TfL had a ‘Cycle London’ web page with recommended links (43 at the last count) to “People, groups or organisations who bring others together to talk cycling or get cycling”.

Looking at the list, it’s a very patchy one. For example, it doesn’t include, as it should, Real Cycling. Some of the sites listed are business sites, selling services. The definition of ‘London’ stretches to include a site promoting cycling in Godalming (four miles south of Guildford) and Haslemere (12 miles south west of Guildford).

One or two are of the what-I-had-for-breakfast sort of blogs, as in

I definitely spoke too soon about the lovely weather that gingerly peaked around the corner and dipped it's toe in the water! Well, it found that the water was far too cold and ran away again! It has been a week of battling against a serious headwind and being lashed by rain showers just like it was winter again! Come back spring all is forgiven!

A friend of mine, who I shall call J, contacted TfL and suggested this blog should be included. After all, it describes the daily experiences of a London cyclist and expresses views on a wide range of issues relating to cycling.

J passed on to me the response from TfL’s ‘Cycle London admin’:

Thank you for suggesting a link for the Your links section of the Cycle London web pages. Unfortunately, we are unable to publish this link because it is unsuitable and breaches our moderation guidelines.

J responded:

Thanks for your reply. In what sense is this link unsuitable? Do enlighten me more about your guidelines.

Cycle London has not replied.

Now frankly I couldn’t give a toss whether or not TfL include this blog on their links list, so I shall not be angrily emailing Boris to complain.

The response simply underlines my belief that cycling in the UK is going nowhere, because all those institutions ostensibly involved in promoting it are in denial. What counts is spin and spurious good news rather than the reality, which is that the cycling infrastructure is crap and that cycling is, much of the time (and depending where you cycle), dangerous and unpleasant. In support of this thesis I simply refer sceptics to the photographs on this blog. If there is really going to be a massive increase in cycling it will require both a radical new approach to road lay-out and a radical new approach to road danger. I see not the slightest sign that either are going to be seriously addressed in the near future, nor do I believe that the three main political parties in Britain have any such commitment.

Where there has been an increase in cycling, this has not been because of TfL but in spite of it. Christian Wolmar:

Having cycled in the rush hour a couple of times recently, it is remarkable the extent to which London has become a cycling city, despite the fact that cyclists are barely tolerated let alone catered for . There are cyclists everywhere and they now form a substantial part of the traffic in central London and yet, for the most part, they are still treated as pariahs.

I would like to dedicate the next song to TfL and to everyone who believes that there has been a 91 per cent increase in cycling in London, and that everything is getting better and safer for cyclists in the best of all possible worlds. This song is about the difference between spin and reality - and I think of it as being about London's cycling infrastructure.