Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Austerity Cuts

I'll be upfront with you - I have almost no faith in the government. And no, this is well above that stupid my-daddy-is-bigger-than-your-daddy party-political system we have in the UK.
I guess what I should say is I have almost no faith in the previous, current or future government of the UK, even though that sounds a tad harsh.

The previous government did lots of good things, did lots of things good and did lots of things very bad. Fiscal management it did extremely badly, but lied to us about it. I cannot forgive such lies easily.
They also built the database state, the police state and the surveillance society, all in the name of freedom, of course.

I don't expect the current government to do much better. In fact, the only cameras I expect they'd switch off are the speed cameras - and those are the only ones we really need!
They've appointed a dinosaur as Transport Secretary, a dinosaur who thinks replacing fossil-fuel cars with electric cars of the same size will ease congestion. Even a young child can point out the flaw in that argument, but there you go.

The next government will probably only be the previous government in a change of clothes, so nothing good awaits us there!

Now everybody's examining all the austerity cuts the government's made, and over the next few weeks we'd be inundated with analysis upon article upon blog looking at the cuts in detail. As per usual, the sense of the cut would be in the eye of the beholder, or rather writer, in this case. Some will tell you how necessary it was, some will tell you it doesn't matter and some will tell you that we're all now doomed forever.

Cycling England got killed off, as I expect you're quite aware of by now, and so many cycling-related blogs, magazines and web sites have all been going off about exactly how bad this will be for cycling overall.

And you know what? They're wrong!

The various cycling bodies around the UK are so fragmented, so full of in-fighting, backstabbing and grant-chasing that collectively they haven't actually done all that much good for cycling at all.

Now try to shoot me down in flames if you must, but just hear me out first, OK?

Fairly recently research was published that quite clearly stated some 28% of all drivers do not want to share roads with cyclists. How does that make you feel? Despondent? Angry? Aggrieved? Whichever, but I bet you're neither shocked, nor surprised.

Now let us take that exact sentence and change one single word in it:  some 28% of all drivers do not want to share roads with blacks. Or maybe it should be  some 28% of all drivers do not want to share roads with Jews ,or what about  some 28% of all drivers do not want to share roads with gays.
Now how does it make you feel?

ALL those other groups have one thing in common - they are FAR better at organising themselves.

Have you watched the UK TV series Life On Mars? And were you shocked to see as recently as the 1970's it was perfectly acceptable to make racist jokes at work?

We all feel it is shockingly wrong to attack people simply because of their race, origin, religion or sexuality, so why is OK to hate people because of their form of transport?

The old adage is true: united we stand, divided we fall. And cycling in the UK is not only divided, but shattered into many tiny bits. So maybe, just maybe, losing one of those bits, even if a crucial one, might not quite be the end of life as we know it. Just maybe, it can be part of a process of defragmentation, a process that heals cycling.

Of course that simply won't happen overnight, it will take years. Yet during those years we, each and every one of us, must better ourselves with regards to cycling advocacy. Also: newsflash! Cycling advocacy does NOT mean simply slagging off cyclists that jump red lights.

And in the meantime, we should cycle. Preferably each and every day, in all sorts of weather and in whatever clothes we feel like. The aim is to be seen cycling. Psychologically there is far greater value in being seen cycling in work clothes and without a helmet than what we get cycling in lycra, but you wear what you feel is right for you.

The absolute best thing we can do for cycling is to ensure there are as many of us out there on the roads as possible. That way we keep cycling in the public's eye and mind, and in due course hopefully convert a few more to our cause. And when you see any other cyclist doing something you may not choose to do, stop vilifying them. For heaven's sake, we already have enough enemies and we don't need to fight amongst ourselves!

Now with all these public spending cuts we all know cycling projects left, right and centre will take a massive hit. Even so, that shouldn't stop us cycling. If anything, now we all have even more financial incentives to keep cycling.