The first thing to do is to make regular visits to the blogosphere. Staring at a screen, after a hard day staring at a screen, may not sound attractive – but that’s where the voices of opposition to the status quo spend much of their time.
What can you expect?
The dominant (but not only) tone of the independent cyclists/pedestrians/sustainable transport blogosphere in the UK is persistent sarcasm. Sarcasm may be the lowest form of wit, but when you consider what we often have to put up with, it is understandable. And at its best, it can be funny. Sometimes the odd chuckle from bloggers who know how to spot greenwash is just what you need.
- The local.
The radicals are good at showing how local authorities fail, often give regularly updated examples of what has been going wrong. It could be what’s needed to chase up the powers that be. On the down side, when you’ve seen a few photographs of illegally parked cars and lorries, you’ve seen them all. Also, local issues are often only important to the people who happen to live there.
- Horror stories.
Reporting of cases of motorists who have lenient sentences (or who don’t get caught) for killing or hurting others. Not exactly fun reading, but it shows that someone is taking note.
- A journey outside the mainstream.
A fair amount of time is taken up criticising the mainstream lobbying (particularly cycling) groups. Sometimes I think this is misguided – are better policies actually being presented? But it shows that some people are just not prepared to accept the inevitable compromises that lobby groups – which by definition have to be in bed with the authorities – will make. And even if compromises and failures are inevitable, at least we need people who can say that is exactly what they are.
A dominant theme among the cycling blogs is the desire for fully segregated cycle tracks. Not all, but most, push for what appears to be a transposition of (some) Dutch-style cycle tracks to the UK as the solution to cycling’s problems. Currently the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club is hosting a Cycling Embassy of Great Britain to push this agenda – and as posted on their site, I don’t think this is the way forward.
A key element of the RDR programme involves accepting risk compensation/ behavioural adaptation: this lends itself to the critical mass for cyclists theory, and most of the RDRF backers support this. For many this will be a breaking point – but we’d like to keep the links open. I think the cycling bloggers agree more with us than disagree. Fortunately some are prepared to handle the issue delicately, and if they want to down an alley that I think will turn out to be blind, then they have to do it.
Our guide to the best blogs:
Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest http://crapwalthamforest.blogspot.com/ . The daddy of them all: although the “c” word derives from the moderate and polite Warrington Cycling Campaigns “Crap Cycle Lanes”. As its author, the enigmatic “Freewheeler” puts it:
“…this blog doesn’t do diplomacy. This blog has captured the niche market for sullen cycling ingratitude and angry dissatisfaction.”
CCWWF is a daily blast of righteous indignation against car-based transport policy, greenwash from the local authority and local politicians, official tolerance of or lenience to motorist law-breaking by the police and the courts, individual rule and law-breaking motorists (who get their cars and lorries photographed in what should be seen as embarrassing positions), inadequate cycle and pedestrian “facilities” – and anyone and everyone who is seen as colluding with, or failing to address, this state of affairs.
“Freewheeler” doesn’t allow corrections to what are sometimes factually incorrect posts. Some of the items are too local to be of interest beyond his (her?) geographical area. Like all bloggers, you tend to get plenty of repetition. At his/her best though, gems of local (mis)behaviour are highlighted in ways which others don’t, and linked to wider issues which affect us all.
A number of London-based sites have followed:
• Views of a Croydon cyclist
• Crap Cycle Lanes of Croydon
• The Grumpy Cyclist
• Cyclists in the City
• Kennington People on Bikes
I would nominate the politely spoken Cycalogical in south west London as worth a visit.
The Cycling Lawyer http://thecyclingsilk.blogspot.com/
This site has a fair amount on the author’s cycle racing, but that’s not what it’s really about. We have calm, well argued and carefully described accounts about the law and its (non)application to the well-being of cyclists. Most recently we have accounts of assault on The Cycling Lawyer and the response of the police: previously we have seen the way a camera worn by The Cycling Lawyer has been used (eventually) by the CPS.
There is plenty of good quality background material as well: but just for the regular blog, this is a necessary read for those interested in the treatment of cyclists.
After The Cycling Lawyer’s commitment towards cyclists’ rights being integrated in the rest of the traffic, we are back in the land of an advocate of segregation. But more important than that is Mikael Colville-Andersen’s tone: whereas the previous two sites highlight what can go wrong in the UK, Mikael has a resoundingly positive and optimistic attitude.
We use material from Copenhagenize.com, so here’s what we like about it:
• A commitment towards cycling being everyday activity requiring no special clothes. Mainstreaming it so that saying “I’m a cyclist” makes as much sense as saying “I’m a vacuum cleaner user”. (I don’t actually use a vacuum cleaner, so this analogy wouldn’t work well with me: the point is that cycling has to become unremarkable).
• Pushing this culture, particularly in the sister site copenhagencyclechic, with regular artistic photographs of smart everyday cyclists. OK, they happen to be preponderantly svelte 20 something women in high heels, but it’s for a good cause.
• In fact, culture is what it’s all about. The approach to generating cycling culture is for cycling not to be marketed so much as “fun”, and certainly not sport, but as simply the most obviously intelligent way to get about.
• Standing up to the culture of fear.
• Most of all, seeing motorised society as the source of a city’s road safety problems. Criticising the police and the “road safety” lobby’s approach, Mikael accuses them of not seeing what we could call the gorilla (or elephant) in the room. I used to call this “Hamlet without the Prince “- appropriately for Copenhagen – Mikael calls it “The Bull in the China Shop”.
Back in the UK, I’d take a look at http://quickrelease.tv/ by cycling industry journalist Carlton Reid and At War With The Motorist http://waronthemotorist.wordpress.com/ for regular updates on contemporary transport policy as it affects the sustainable modes.
So will this cheer you up? The accounts of police and the courts inability and/or unwillingness to tackle motorist rule and law breaking, the descriptions of the pathetic excuses for not implementing sustainable transport policy, all wrapped up in a welter of sarcasm can have just the opposite effect. This is something which comes up in the occasional discussion about whether we should focus on dreadful things that can happen, but on typical journeys actually don’t.
But then there’s always the positive side – even if it generally comes from another country.
So do we need this kind of voice? Do accounts of law breakers (replete with identification of offenders) actualy help us if they are not followed up? (as they would be with any other kind of law and rule breaking with the potential for death and injury).
But the point is that in their different ways – and with different strategies – a number of intelligent and committed people are voicing their opposition. That at least should give you heart.