Monday, 9 January 2012

The split personality syndrome

Spending some time going through the Plymouth.gov.uk site, I stumbled across some really good sections. For starters, there is the Cycling Journey Times page, which predictable enough shows you how long it would take an average cyclist to ride between various areas in the city, as seen below:


I also stumbled onto the Plymouth City Council Cycling Fact sheet, excerpts of which are included below.

"Isn’t it too dangerous to cycle in the city?
The health risks of cycling are far outweighed by the health benefits. We provide both on and off road routes to help cyclists stay safer, as well as free cycle training for all Plymouth residents, including children through an initiative called ‘Bikeability’ in schools. Evidence shows that the more people cycle the safer it becomes, as motorists get used to sharing the road."

What is this? Does the council (or at least somebody in the council actually believe in the safety-in-numbers principle? Curious...

"Why spend money on cyclists? they don’t pay road tax.
The commonly named ‘road tax’ that car owners pay is Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and is based on how polluting the vehicle is. So even if it was levied on cycles it would be set at zero like the lowest polluting cars.The money from VED goes into the Central Government pot and is not specifically allocated to fund road maintenance.
Investing in cycling brings benefits for ever yone, as people switching to bikes helps to reduce congestion and improve the health of our city.This means reduced health care costs and less money needed to repair Plymouths roads.
The council has recently been successful in securing external funding to support the development of cycle routes and infrastructure"

Wow! Apparently Plymouth City Council is doing a little bit to tell drivers that "road tax" doesn't exist!

"Why don’t cyclists have to insure themselves, like car drivers?
Cyclists are not required by law to insure themselves.This reflects the fact that very few road traffic accidents are caused by cyclists. However, an increasing number of regular cyclists are opting to take out insurance."
This is getting better and better! Here we have the council clearly stating that most crashes (yes, they still call them "accidents" - so 1999) are NOT caused by cyclists. Positive stuff!

"What are you doIng to encourage cyclIng?
Over the next 15 years we will be implementing our Strategic Cycle Network, which will link with National Cycle Network routes and provide local routes across the city.To suppor t and encourage people to cycle we will also:

■   be looking to reduce traffic speeds on residential roads
■   work with developers of non-residential sites to provide changing facilities, showers and cycle parking
■   create more cycle routes along quiet roads and through green spaces
■   create more continuous cycle routes by joining up existing cycle lanes where possible
■   maintain our existing cycling routes and lanes to a high standard to encourage greater use."

Wonderful! Simply wonderful!

Except, let's dig slightly deeper here. Sod the digging, let's simply waft away the bull and look at the reality:

-Cycling "facilities" throughout Plymouth is extremely poorly maintained. So much for their statement of "maintaining our existing cycling routes and lanes to a high standard"!

-Creating more cycle routes, like the one through Victoria park? All that consists of is officially designating footways through the park as shared use, and slapping on a few signs to that effect. In fact, under the East End Transport Scheme (nearly completed), cyclists are worse off than before.

-Designing cyclists out at every single opportunity. Examples include Forder Valley road (the uphill section), North Prospect road (from Weston Mill Hill towards the city), Ham drive pinch-points, Honicknowle lane (inbound, especially the uphill section), Billacombe road (between Laira Bridge and the roundabout) and others.
It seems that whenever road changes are made, the needs of cyclists are completely ignored.

So this made me think, do we have two factions in the city council? One pro-cycling (who produced the information reproduced above) and one anti-cycling. Sort of a council with multiple personality disorder - though it would seem the anti-cycling personality is by far the most dominant!

Or maybe it was just simply political spin and greenwash. Who knows?