Monday, 20 February 2012

Cycling advocacy sometimes isn't worth the bother

Do you ever get that feeling that peeing straight into a hurricane? That's how I'm feeling about cycling advocacy right now.

For starters, there's the stupid in-fighting between various cycling factions. Pro-segregation, anti-segragation, pro-helmet, anti-helmet, pro-this, anti-the-other. Seriously, it makes me sick!

And that is BEFORE we get to local authorities' pathetic excuses for not delivering decent cycling infrastructure. Still, it gets even worse when we get to politicians! I've reached the stage where I honestly don't believe that there is even ONE trustworthy MP in the UK. I hope I'm wrong, I want to be wrong, but I suspect I'm not!

As you're probably aware, The Times has done a massive U-turn on cycling, and has recently launched a Cities Safe for Cycling campaign. This is a good thing, as it raises the profile. Despite such a very visible campaign, not one of the Plymouth MPs even bothered to respond to my asking whether or not they support the campaign. If they cannot be arsed to respond, there's simply no chance of them supporting it!

Why are supposedly intelligent people acting so exceptionally stupid? Do they really think voters will never start thinking for themselves?

So, this post is meant to be about cycling advocacy, you say. Well, it is, but I needed to set the stage.

Here's the rub - most people aren't interested. I spend time and effort only to be fobbed off by Plymouth City Council the cheapest bidder to deliver council-like services, and there is NOTHING any one of us can do about it, as Amey is not a democracy and doesn't listen to people.
I write to local councilors, and I get fobbed off with promises of them "talking to some people" or "looking into it". Needless to say I never hear back.
I ask MPs where they stand, and I just get ignored.

Worst of all, I suppose, is the lack of support from fellow cyclists. Sure, there are some that try hard to improve things, including the Plymouth Cycling Campaign and the local Sustrans rangers, and yes, even the local CTC representatives, but there is almost no support from most day-to-day cyclists.

Cycling advocacy can be soul-destroying. When you see yet again how cyclists are actively being discriminated against by people who claim otherwise, when you see how a dual-lane road is reduced to a single carriageway, thus ensuring there is plenty of room for a cycle lane, yet no cycle lane is created, then you realise that you're having no impact whatsoever.

When you see these things, you realise it is time to stop peeing in the wind, and simply ride your bike. Forget the advocacy, forget fighting the good fight, and just go for a ride.

UPDATE: And just when I thought I was getting nowhere, Plymouth City Council the faceless corporation that effectively hijacked the council, a.k.a. Amey, finally installed the sheffield stands along Embankment Road in Plymouth. Finally cyclists have somewhere to lock their bikes up when they go to the shops.

As an added bonus, they even added a few benches! I've been arguing with them over a period of months, but never about the lack of benches. There are many people that will welcome these benches, so it looks like cyclists and pedestrians had a very minor victory here.