Are cyclists really the scourge of our streets? Of course not, the Ch5 show was just prejudice and entertainment

A cyclists on the towpath of the Leeds Liverpool Canal in Aintree Village

The Channel 5 entertainment show of last night was all about the evil of cyclists – yes that’s right the people who have gone carbon neutral to try to help save the planet and who generally are fitter and healthier than many vehicle drivers too I bet.

Here’s a take on the programme from The Guardian web site by Rebecca Nicholson :-

That some cyclists ride in stupid and irresponsible ways is a given; why they probably drive vehicles with the same lack of respect for all around them too. And yes I grumble about grown adults riding on pavements, jumping red lights and not stopping at Zebra crossings as well. Only the other night – it was 10.15pm – in Maghull and I was sat at a set of traffic lights in my car (you see cyclists are drivers too) on the dual carriageway A59 when a youngish chap wearing a black T shirt and shorts rode his bike past me down the wrong carriageway. A deliberate attention seeking act no doubt. But as I say drivers of vehicles can be just as bad.

Me in my cycling gear

We used to be a nation of cyclists but after World War 2 we fell out of love with cycling and head over heels in love with driving cars. This shift, which has led to air pollution that is killing us and huge obesity problems is now on the turn again. You could say that what comes around goes around as cycling is once again becoming a mass participation mode of transport and a way to get and stay fit.

I’ve been a regular cyclist now for around 4 years having spent a good 30+ years when I hardly ever peddled at all. I can’t understand why I stopped cycling as I love it and feel much better both mentally and physically for getting back in the saddle. I mostly cycle for enjoymnet and fitness although at times I find my bike can get me into places where car parking is hard to find to do a bit of shopping.

Yes I have encounters with vehicles and I’ve blogged about them previously; there are some very bad drivers out there. But the real problem is the lack of cycling infrastructure, another issue I have commented on before – cycle lanes that finish in the oddest and sometimes the most dangerous of places, the lack of safe cycling routes from logical point to point places and even such simple things as no dropped kerbs such as right outside the brand new Maghull North Station. I could go on but you get my drift……

As a young lad living in Rochdale between the ages of 6 and 10 in the 1960’s I cycled all over the place and as a mature chap in his 60’s I’m now doing the same thing. Cycling, like modern tramway systems in urban areas is the future of sustainable transportation.

3 thoughts on “Are cyclists really the scourge of our streets? Of course not, the Ch5 show was just prejudice and entertainment

  1. nigel hunter says:

    Sustainable transport should also include ELECTRIC buses in plenty t.o encourage people NOT to need a car. Equally electric cars should be cheaper.More models to choose from to reduce the price of them.

    • Steve says:

      Unfortunately Electric vehicles aren’t a complete answer. The electricity needs to come from somewhere and most of it is still generated in power stations. We need to reduce our overall use of energy (electric and fossil fuels). Obviously public transport is more efficient than numerous private cars. It’s our use of private vehicles that isn’t sustainable, not the fuel that’s used, whether it’s fossil fuel or electric. It’s an error to think that even wind turbines and solar panels are the solution even if we had enough of them, they still require a lot of energy to construct. We use energy in an incredibly wasteful way, regardless of source.

  2. Bob Jungels says:

    Kudos, Tony. A good article that quite rightly, points out what an utterly absurd idea for a programme that was. I never watched it as I had nothing to gain, and one hour of my life to lose. The premise was neither funny nor clever, and only designed to further drive a wedge between those who ride a bike, and those who don’t.

    But for me, actually, the well-rehearsed arguments about bikes being great (because they are clean and healthy) vs the car (quicker and more convenient) are now becoming stale and losing their worth.

    For me, the essence of the Great Cycling debate should, at heart, be about two things: Respect – for each other, and Civic Pride – that is to say, to be proud of living in nice areas, with nice streets, safe roads, and public realm to be proud of.

    I view cycling as a small example of where/why our society has disintegrated over the past 30 years or so (but probably longer than this – post-ww2).
    It is of course, just a means of getting about.

    People cycle for all sorts of reasons – we are never going to please all cyclists, in the same way are never going to please all transport users.
    But it’s something we should be striving for, if we are to stand any chance of restoring respect and civic pride within our communities.

    For me, the issue revolves around standards of design – housing, road/street layout, whole neighbourhoods, parks, etc, and infrastructure – how we can best use what we already have, in conjunction with what we do with any new developments.

    They say the definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing to get a different result. Well, this is precisely what is going in with every new development – be it housing, business park, retail park, rail station, highways.

    We see examples on holiday, on TV, online, all over the world of what deem to be “a pleasant place to live”, and then question “why can’t it be like this back home / where we live?”.

    But then we get home (in some cases metaphorically), and immediately revert to type. “We must continue to build things the same way as we have the last 40 or 50 years, and that means: low design standards (to keep costs to a minimum), and always, ALWAYS ensure the motorist comes first. All developments continue to revolve around the needs of the car.

    We (also the government) then continue to decry air pollution, climate change, obesity, and all these age-old things that cyclists and environmentalists continue to shout about.
    And then wonder why nothing is changing? And why obesity is getting worse? And more congested roads?
    Oh but of course, if the roads get more congested – the solution – the ONLY solution is to build more roads!
    What was it I was saying before about the definition of madness?

    The solution isn’t to just build more cycle lanes per se. The whole structure of British politics and its economy is in need of a massive overhaul.
    If local councils and regions had greater autonomy to control their own destinies, more [big] local projects can begin to blossom – free of the shackles of Whitehall approval.

    HS2 is a classic case in point. It’s been shown how at least 28 local/regional projects of varying degrees of size and scale can be invested in for the same cost of the HS2 behemoth (white elephant even?).
    If this isn’t social injustice on a national scale, I don’t know what is.

    And it’s exactly this kind of economic policy we have to switch away from if we are to stand any chance of investing in local communities again.

    We can point to a whole plethora of reasons why people voted for Brexit, but one of the common themes that comes up time and time again, from Labour leavers, Tory leavers, UKIP leavers, working class leavers, middle class leavers – is this constant theme of alienation, lack of investment in projects that the people want – not what the big corporate machine wants, lack of respect from politicians for its people, “politicians don’t listen to our concerns” (of which of course, there are too many to name), “we have been left behind”, and so on, and so on.

    We all know these sentiments by now because this is what people are saying. On the street, in the pub, online. There is a constant thread throughout the underlying causes of Brexit – and this apathy has only deepened since March with the country’s failure to leave the EU – deal or no deal.

    Without this huge overhaul of British politics and economic policy, nothing can change at the ground level. People who get out on their bikes will continue to face their daily/weekly/yearly battle against our angry motorists, our narrow roads, our poor road surfaces, our appalling cycling infrastructure and of course, an underlying mentality perpetuated by ridiculous programmes like this on Channel 5.

    No amount of ‘quick-win’ cycling infrastructure can put right the lack of investment of the past 50 years – we need to be actively discouraging driving but it needs to positive discouragement. The trade-offs need to be equal. Less road building to be traded off with more rail development. Higher petrol prices to be traded off with lower rail fares. Less car parking to be traded off with better public realm and greater pedestrianisation. Less on-road car parking to be traded with more space for cyclists, i.e. segregated cycle lanes.

    Whilst the above might not be immediately what Brexiteers want to see investment in after all their complaining about feeling left out by the liberal capitalist elite, if at the heart of these policies, is a vision – and an achievable one – that starts to shift power away from Westminster and around the country’s city and town halls, local communities will be able to have more of a say in whether they want to see these projects to go ahead in the first place.
    Do people want to live in nicer, safer areas? Yes. Do we all agree that busy roads and towns are unpleasant spaces to live on, or to walk along, or ride along? Yes. Okay. So what do you want to see happen?

    The only way to break this status quo is to be bold and courageous in making the sort of decisions that initially may outrage certain kinds of NIMBY, not to mention the motor lobby – but without this courageousness, we simply continue to go round and round, driving around in congested towns, walking along dirty, noisy, busy roads….

    Investment in civic pride starts with investment in people. Listen to what their concerns are and build from there.
    People will soon being to realise that investment in cycling and walking infrastructure eventually begins to equal investment in civic pride.
    If people don’t to see investment in their local areas, they can’t continue to moan. This is how democracy should work….

    But of course, we are not a democratic country.

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