Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Socialist Plot that is cycle lanes ... Or not ...

As brought to my attention by the "Biking in Heels" blog, some folks with an interesting world view (that is the most polite way I can think of to put it!) seem to think that encouraging cycling is a BAD THING.

A quick quote from the New York Times article that is referred to:
The Tea Party people say they want nonpolluted air and clean water and everything we promote and support, but they also say it (sustainable development) is a communist movement. I really don’t understand what they want.
... and I suspect neither do they, but it no doubt it brings the Tea Party the publicity (and the funding!) they so much desire.

Meanwhile back in the small community of "Lovelyville" where we live, and everything is, of course, lovely, things are somewhat better.
(Oh dear, "community" sounds a bit like "communist" - better not tell the Tea Party!)

Our town became a "Cycling Demonstration Town" a bit less than seven years ago, and a number of projects were pursued to encourage cycling, as well as showing what could be done.

In brief:
  • Nine cycle routes were developed, all running into the town centre. Many pavements were increased in width, making them suitable for dual use by both pedestrians and cyclists, and some quieter roads had cycle lanes marked on them.
  • A large new bridge was constructed for use by pedestrians and cyclists, providing an additional, central, link from the southwest side of town to the centre, crossing the North-West to South East railway line that intersects our town. This bridge is used by four of the cycle routes, and provides a shorter, safer, and more pleasant route from some parts of the town to the central area than the other existing railway crossings.
  • A number of additional bike racks were installed in the town centre, and retailers and businesses were encouraged to develop cycle parking areas. A number of cycle-sized "lockers" were also installed at the railway station for secure storage, primarily aimed at owners of higher-value cycles who were also rail users - there are about 300 "formal" cycle parking facilities in the central area, as well as all the "informal" places (streetlights, railings, etc. etc.)
  • Schools were encouraged to run cycling campaigns to reduce the amount of motor traffic used in the "school run". Use of the various cycle routes for travelling to school was encouraged.
The results were startling!:

Or to but it more simply:
  • Spend a pound (or dollar) on cycling infrastructure, and get overall benefits worth about five pounds (or dollars).
  • What's not to like?
  • To put this into perspective, the new HS2 London to Birmingham route has been suggested at best as giving a 2 pounds benefit from one pound of infrastructure expenditure, and many are challenging whether the return in overall benefit will be more than the cost at all! - so forget the HS2 and build more cycle paths!

But public transportation planning is not just about cycling.

Our town opened a second railway station a couple of years ago, situated near to the edge of town, to serve the extensive new housebuilding in that area.
(Maybe the Tea Party think that government-funded schemes like building expressways are also a hot bed of commie anti-Americanism!!! - remember road building doesn't have to be done by the state, which is why toll roads and turnpikes used to be so popular - our local railway company, however, is privately owned and German - surely a good capitalist railway company!)
Note that the station was opened BEFORE most of the houses were built, not the other way round.

Now the commuters that travel to London from that part of town don't have to drive to the town centre to catch the train, avoiding all that extra congestion in the central areas!

Several of the surrounding villages are also served by bus connections to the new station (with free bus travel for rail season ticket holders), further increasing transportation choice and reducing road congestion and air pollution, allowing faster movement for the folks who do use cars and a cleaner, higher value, atmosphere for the various light industries and commercial buildings that the town has attracted - banks/finance companies being a notable example, as well as the surfiet of lawyers offices that one attracts as the major administrational (de facto "county town") and judicial (de jure "assize town") town in the area.

I don't call our town "Lovelyville" for nothing :-)

I am by no means anti-automobile (car) - indeed:
  • I have been driving for a good bit more than 20 years
  • we currently own a family-sized car which has a modestly-sized turbocharged diesel engine (actually notably more fuel-efficient than petrol-battery hybrids (such as a Prius) for the type of out-of-town longer distance driving that makes up the bulk of our mileage).
I do, however, believe in using the most appropriate transport method for various journeys:
  • in terms of number of journeys undertaken, my primary means of transport is by far a bicycle (usually at least 5 trips a week, but not more than about 1000 miles (1600km) in a year)
  • in terms of mileage covered, my primary means of transport is by far an automobile (once a week or less, but totaling about 4000 miles (6400km) a year)
So, as you can guess, I do a lot of short journeys on a bike, and a few,  much longer, journeys by automobile - like going on holiday, for example!
Were I to need to commute to Central London in the future, I would use a folding bicycle, taken on the train.
A good while back, I did occasionally commute to work by train, using my folding bicycle to complete the last  3 miles (5 km) from the station to the office, but know I work MUCH closer to home that I just cycle to work!

So, you see, it is all about using the "right" method of transportation for the "right" task. 

Part of that mix of transportation methods should be cycling, particularly in urban areas, and the arguments for investing in cycling infrastructure are both persuasive and relevant (as outlined above).

Spend a pound (or dollar) and get five pounds (or dollars) worth of benefits sounds rather like it ought to be a good Capitalist idea (employ capital to get a larger return!), but if, somehow, in some faraway place, some ill-informed folk think this counts as "European Socialism", then I suggest that they know very little about either "Europe" or "Socialism"!!!

Enough of the fancy politics - THIS seems to me to be a good reason to ride a bike more and drive a car less:
Be part of the solution, not part of the problem ...
the path on the left is a dual-use pedestrian/cycle walkway.
The cars are all stuck, while I was able to proceed at a faster speed
 than them along the dual-use walkway !
This regularly happens at busy tines of the day.

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