We have already criticised Labour’s current shadow Secretary of State for Transport for his car-centrism. It seems that after a particularly lacklustre performance at the recent Times debate on provision for cycling in the next Parliament, some of his advisers had a few words with him, and he was rather upbeat in his recent talk to the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).
So would a Labour Government make things radically different and better for walking and cycling? We analyse his talk below. But first there have been some more bits of nonsense since we last posted on Dugher. Regrettably, it looks like he is still bent on an agenda which sees motorists as an oppressed minority to be pandered to with additional subsidy, soft touch and minimal law enforcement. So here’s what looks like the face of Labour’s transport shadow again.
Yes, it’s the photo from The Mirror again…
We debut with driver-dominated drivel…
Since our last post on Dugher, here are three episodes:
Why don’t people drive less?
“Quite a number of journeys that people make are less than a mile. There is a lot of evidence that if people switched a proportion of their journeys you’d have a huge influence in terms of environmental benefits” , he explains, “but there’s a whole bunch of reasons why people in those circumstances choose to use their cars. there’s got to be viable alternatives. You’re only going to do that if you’ve got a bus network market that isn’t broken, as it is at the moment. You’ll only cycle to the station if, when you leave your bike there, there is a reasonable expectation that it will be still there when you return“.
Now, three RDRF committee members have spent a fair amount of time trying to get better cycle parking at stations. We think it is good and necessary. But is it the main reason why people don’t cycle to the station? Is it even in the top ten? Nor do people drive just because of problems with bus network efficiency (and we doubt that future Government is likely to massively change it).
2. “Stealth cameras”
These utterances looked like they came straight from the Daily Mail, so let’s look at how they reported this. Basically, you have to be allowed to break the law except at limited locations (decided by the number of “accidents” that have occurred at their locations being high enough), and at those you have to be given the warning that you might be given a few points on your licence and a small fine (like Dugher)
Of course, if you really do want motorists to avoid paying, you could conceal cameras and have far more of them. Then drivers would know not to exceed speed limits anywhere, and not get fined.
Transport policy in practice means: declining costs of driving – when austerity economic policy means higher housing costs, static or lower incomes, etc – road building for more cars, predict and provide forecasting, minimal levels of walking and cycling. + cancelling a rise in fuel duty despite a big fall in the oil price and the govt’s desperate need for more income And that is “too heavily” shaped by people who don’t drive cars? And who are these people?
One quote from this interview is: “Given that most people spend most of their time travelling by road – politicians spend most of their time taking to the minority of people who don’t.” Of course , most politicians – of whom Dugher is just one – assume the view of a motorist-as-victim, without even having to talk to them. They certainly don’t base their policies on those who don’t drive, even if they bother to talk to them. And of course, the people who “travel by road” might be walking or cycling, or going by bus. But for Dugher (although he did try to correct himself on this in a tweet afterwards) “going by road” means going by car.
Another: “The idea that I should be cycling from Westminster to Barnsley to show that I’m not anti-cyclist, it’s just bollocks!” . No, but you could go by train. And maybe even cycle to the station. A minor point, affected by precise details of origin and destination – but why is the “proud son of a railwayman” not doing the 2¾ hour journey by train from Barnsley to central London rather than driving the 185-mile journey – which would have be done at a 67 mph average to be as quick?
(By the way, Dugher does like saying “piss me off” and “bollocks” a lot. Does this make him a man of the people?)
…but do we now have a different Dugher ?
At a Campaign for Better Transport event, he said that .A Labour Government would “put cyclists and pedestrians at the top table of transport policy” with a cross-government Cyclist and Pedestrians’ Advisory Board to boost active travel, which would include ministers from across Whitehall, senior civil servants from the Departments for Transport, Education, and Health, and the Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as cycling and pedestrian representatives, and chaired by the Secretary of State. An active travel strategy would then be put in place by summer 2016.
Other key elements in the announcement were a stated commitment to:
* Ensuring “justice is done and seen to be done in cases where collisions lead to cyclist deaths and serious injuries.”
* An end to “stop-start funding” for cycling.
* an in-depth review of how all government departments, agencies, local government, LEPs and the private sector are currently investing in walking and cycling. This will help determine the scale, sources and distribution of per capita funding we need for the future.”
So what conclusions can we draw from this? Cross-departmental working is necessary, and a commitment to Ministerial direction is welcome. But significantly it does not include the Treasury (who always have a big say in expenditure).
That may seem pessimistic, but we have been here before. A key problem with Cycling England (the quango abolished by the coalition) was its failure to get sufficient funding for projects. And in the party political debate, while the Liberal Democrat spokesman gave a figure for the amount of money to be spent on cycling, Labour and the Conservatives would not.
And then we have the issue of what that money would be spent on. The blogosphere is alive with tales of money supposedly to be spent on cycling being misspent.
On sentencing, we note that the reference is to cases of death and serious injury. But addressing danger to cyclists and pedestrians means using law enforcement – not just sentencing – to deter people from endangering others. How does this sit with someone whose best-known other comments on traffic law enforcement are about the supposed unfairness of having speed cameras which are not painted in bright colours?
Dugher’s stated intentions continue:
“…move cycling and walking from the margins to the mainstream – not only swelling the ranks of people cycling and walking to work, but giving people from all walks of life the confidence to ride a bike. We will ensure that we change how our streets are designed, improve traffic management and enforcement, and encourage people to change their travel behaviours.”
Encouragement: Some recent spring cleaning unearthed my delegate badge to the 1984 “Ways to Safer Cycling” conference, where the then Minister, Lynda Chalker, first stated Government intention to “encourage” cycling. The experience of the last 31 years does not breed confidence in Government’s effectiveness in encouraging cycling.
Improve: Without specified amounts of funding, clear definition of what this will be spent on, “improvement” can mean very little in terms of change.
How our streets our designed: Again, we don’t know what this will mean in terms of design standards and how widespread any new design – or more important, re-design – would be. And cyclists and pedestrians use roads as well as streets.
The RDRF has always taken the view that cycling and walking cannot be assessed, let alone genuinely supported as forms of everyday transport, outside the context of wider society and its culture.
Whether in terms of road space re-allocation, general engineering of new and existing roads, engineering motor vehicles, law enforcement and sentencing, land use policy, parking standards etc., that requires changes in transport policy and its implementation which will have an actual (or perceived) impact on motoring.
But everything we have seen from Dugher indicates that he inhabits a car-centred culture bubble. In this bubble drivers are an oppressed minority who must suffer no possible impact on their easily bruised sensibilities, whether policies will have any real adverse effects on their rights or not.
Are we done with the driver-dominated depiction of our destiny from Dugher? As usual, time will tell. My view is that it doesn’t look good.