Sunday, 18 March 2012

Chasing a mirage

Lately there appears to have been more vitriol than usual from drivers against cyclists. I'm not simply a cyclist, but like most adult cyclists in the UK, I'm a driver too, as well quite often a pedestrian. This allows me to view things from distinctly different perspectives.

Once upon a time, everybody was a pedestrian, but nowadays some people almost never walk any further than from the door to the car. There are many reasons behind that, including vanity, false feelings of superiority over those that walk or cycle, pressures of time, but above all else it amounts to pure laziness. Yes, those who drive everywhere (or worse, adults who are driven everywhere by others) have become so conditioned that they now view the car as absolutely indispensable - in short, they have become too lazy to even think of alternate forms of transport.

Typically those in large, luxury vehicles tend to be bigger culprits. If you think about it, there can be no bigger and clearer signal indicating the level of personal greed than driving a Range Rover! People who drive large, expensive vehicles grew up in a world where oil supply was plentiful, and where symbols of greed were actively encouraged. They have been conditioned to a large extent that bigger, faster, more expensive, more luxury are legitimate targets to pursue.

But the world has moved on, and the oil supply is dwindling. Slowly, very slowly, more people are waking up to the fact that by callously burning fuel  they are in effect driving the need for foreign wars that are, in the end, purely about securing oil supplies. More and more people are beginning to realise that no matter how many "fuel protests" they organise, the only direction fuel prices will go is up. And up. And up!

If you're one of the greedy few at the top who look down at almost everybody else, stop a moment and survey your legacy.
See, you have inspired millions to try and emulate your example. They all try to buy as expensive cars as they possibly can (often crippling themselves with debt in the process!) and they all try to look down on cheaper/smaller cars, and they all despise "lower" forms of transport, such as buses, bicycles and walking.

The trouble is, their numbers are growing by the minute, as is the number of cars on the roads. And in the end there is only so much space onto which you can roll out new roads.

Sadly, people driven the hardest by personal greed often rise "higher" than the average person, which may explain why so many MPs are multi-millionaires yet still chase down more power. This simply means that more often than not we have those most damaged by the system, those least fit to give an objective opinion, in positions where they call the shots.

If you're one of them, here are some basic truths:

  • The oil is running out. No, the world won't be out of oil by tomorrow morning, but decreasing supply and increasing demand will soon drive the prices far, far higher than where they are now.
  • The roads are clogged. Building new roads is a bit like a balding man buying glue and gluing in individual hairs that fall out. Treating the symptoms is a dumb idea, and building more roads is nothing but that.
  • More cars on the road means less road space for big, important people like you.
Fortunately, there are simple fixes that can easily be implemented. Start by having a joined-up, subsidised public transport system. Rail fares in the UK are artificially and unsustainably high. In Europe, trains services are better, more regular, more punctual and cheaper. With Britain having won World War 2 (with some help!) are you now saying the Germans are in fact better? If not, sort out the trains!

Buses aren't much better and there is massive scope for improvement.

Re-organise the roads, giving far more road space over to cyclists. Yes, that does mean in theory less road space for your Range Rover, but in reality doing so will get many more out of their cars and onto bikes, which in practice will allow you more space. More cyclists = lower congestion, see?

With more people using public transport, there'd be more pedestrians too, as people need to get to and from the starting or end points of their journeys, so pedestrian provision would need to be hugely improved.
And yes, that does mean you'd need to yield to pedestrians on  crossing, even if they're not as big and important as you. But hey, overall, if you implement these measures, YOU will reap the benefits!

What are you waiting for?