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Blogger gets some stick

I know my critical style isn’t to everyone’s liking but my critics rarely present anything resembling a rational argument against it, so it was interesting to find this in this morning’s Google Alerts. ‘Dapper Dan’, who tells us little about his background or interests, obviously isn’t a fan of Green Bristol Blog and doesn’t hold back in making that clear.

There’s a blogger out there that I don’t think would be able to see anything in a positive light, who somehow manages to make even the sunshine seem gloomy. Yes I accept there may be a role of scrutiny in there somewhere, and yes, at times the Council can be crap but there must be better, or more constructive ways of criticism than this.

Somehow I knew he was talking about me even before I followed the links back to this site. I suppose it’s gratifying to have confirmation that I’m making an impact, but I was a little disappointed that Dapper Dan’s critique wasn’t a bit more sophisticated.

Dapper Dan seems to think that we should be uncritically positive about whatever the council do without regard to the paucity of the reality on the ground, rather in the style of ‘Pravda’ in the former Soviet Union. It’s hardly necessary to labour the point that this is not the British way of doing things, however much Dapper Dan (who with that attitude surely works for the council?) wishes it were.

I believe that there is a real danger of this country drifting towards ‘statism‘, particularly under the impetus of the need to adapt to environmental concerns. Each step along such a path will consist of small, almost trivial steps but in time that’s where it will lead.

Cycling City, as originally constituted, is one such step. From the outset it sought to exclude those of us who had years of practical experience of campaigning for cycling and place all the power with the apparatus and apparatchiks of the state, whether under the guise of Bristol City Council, Sustrans or Cycling England.

Such arrogance was bound to provoke a fierce reaction and I make no apologies for playing my part in that. Cycling has survived and even prospered not because of the actions of the state but despite the actions of the state. Even today we see the state at every level pouring massive subsidies into unsustainable motorised travel, so encouraging lifestyles which are increasingly unsustainable.

Against this we have pathetically tokenistic gestures like the £100 milion allocated to the Cycling Demonstration Towns. In terms of national expenditure on transport that is no more than the small change that one might toss to a beggar on the streets. And yet the Dapper Dans of this world think we should all be terrible grateful and positive. Who is the deluded one?

Total Twenty for Bristol

Just a quick post to remind you all that today is the last day of the formal consultations on the proposed 20 mph pilot areas so please get your comments in if you haven’t already (see here for details). But the campaign doesn’t stop here so let’s keep plugging away at local councillors and officers so that they know this issue isn’t going to go away.

The big issue is not whether the pilots go ahead but whether they go ahead as Total Twenty areas where all residential streets are covered, or as timorous, tepid twenty/thirty areas where speed limits chop and change in a confusing way. The streets the officers want to keep as 30 mph  are the streets where cyclists and pedestrians are in the most danger, have the most difficulty crossing and are subject to the most harassment. Leaving these streets unchanged renders the whole exercise largely pointless since the streets currently proposed for 20 mph already have speeds of that order anyway.

Many of us have questioned the need for Pilot schemes in the first place. We already know 20 mph areas of the sort proposed bring some benefits so what is there to trial? But what we don’t know in detail is how much more might be achieved by a Total Twenty approach including all residential streets without exception. That would be something worth trialling, giving some purpose to the Pilot schemes. In the unlikely event that a Total Twenty approach turned out to be counter productive then something useful will have been learned.

And if Total Twenty proves to be an altogether better approach then that would surely be something that Bristol could be very proud of having pioneered. Bristol likes to think of itself as innovative and entreprising. Well here’s a chance to prove it. After all what’s the worst that could happen with Total Twenty? It’s hardly likely to deliver worse conditions that we have with the 30 mph limit. If the city council can’t find the courage to seize this opportunity to make a step change then they will show themselves truly deserving of the odium heaped upon them by certain bloggers.

This Monday morning at 11 am Radio 4 are broadcasting a 30 minute programme looking at Bristol’s Cycling City project, based on interviews with local cyclists, including this blogger. The BBC site actually refers to interviews with “a couple of cycling visionaries who sense that a better world is within our grasp” – I wonder if I’m one of them? The presenter and interviewer Miles Warde is a regular cyclist and asked some very pertinent questions so it should be informed and interesting.

I expect there will be positive and negative opinions expressed and judging by this piece written by the producer, Christine Hall, one of the more positive ones will relate to the subsidised cycle training being provided by LifeCycle.

This training is receiving hefty Cycling City subsidies, £25 for each first one hour session, leaving the trainee to pay just £5 for a session supposedly worth £30. However the existing subsidy budget (£25,000) allows for just 1,000 people to receive the subsidised first training session. Not many in relation to the numbers who appear to need some educating about their cycling-in-traffic technique.

As is often the way with state subsidies this one tends to redistribute wealth in favour of the wealthy since the training sessions are disproportionately taken up by the relatively affluent middle classes. It’s also inefficient as most of the middle class beneficiaries are quite capable of getting much the same guidance on cycling from books, magazines or the internet without the need for public subsidies. As we see again and again with Cycling City the funds are channeled into into schemes that just happen to create jobs for the boys and girls.

Green Bristol Blog again?

Green Bristol Blog has been running over on Blogger for about 18 months and has been far more successful in terms of engaging with the public than I ever expected. The volume and quality of comments has been exceptional and I’m particularly anxious that this aspect should work as well as possible.

I’ve noticed that WordPress seems to display comments in a more prominent and accessible way and allows links to display more effectively so I thought I’d give it a go, running it alongside the original site for a while to see which works best for me and the many commenters.

Initially I’m going to keep this low key until I’m sufficiently familiar with the operation of WordPress, then if it looks like the way forward I’ll suggest it as the new home for Green Bristol Blog while running the two in parallel. Then it will be up to the many viewers and commenters to decide which they prefer to use.

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