Monday, 18 April 2016

Important isn't Important Enough - Pedal on Parliament -

Important.

How many times a week, or even day do we hear that word. It's important to do this...it's important to do that....This event is important you must go to this....and so on.

Important is a word that these days doesn't seem important. Too many things are important.

So it has been each year when I write a blog asking people to come to Pedal on Parliament. Every year it has been important. The first year because... well... because it was the first! The second because we had to prove it wasn't a one off. The third, as we wanted to build a head of steam. The forth as we needed to keep up the pressure.

Here we are now at POP 5 and....I'm not going to tell you it is important. Quite simply it isn't. The truth is that this POP is far too important for that word. This is without a doubt the most important...ahem....of all.

This POP is absolutely, categorically, significantly, VITAL!!! Attendance is salient, paramount and essential!

(Yes I did look for synonyms of important!)

If you only ever come to one POP, this is the one!!! Seriously!!

Here we are only a few weeks away from the Scottish election. For the first time parties are starting to put spending commitments into their manifestos. For example the greens are committed to 10% of the transport budget. Brilliant! The other parties are making promises too, even the conservatves have for the first time committed some cash (a tiny £5m, but they have never committed anything before!).

I don't think we can say for certain that POP has made a difference on any particular issue, but I honestly think we wouldn't be looking at these promises if we hadn't had POP.

I also hear from various political insiders (including politicians themselves) that POP has had a huge impact in political circles. Active travel is on the agenda here in Scotland.

Despite this I still hear people say to me:

Och, I've been to POP before, so I don't need to go again.

or

What's the point, nothing ever changes. Politicians don't listen...

No!!!!! They absolutely do listen. Sure, they only listen when it becomes politically useful to listen, but right now is one such time. They are listening!!

How do I know this? Well, here we are with the Scottish election looming. Party leaders have lots to do. They have to be out winning every vote. They won't come to POP, will they...?

Oh yes they will!

We already have firm commitments from leader of the Greens, Patrick Harvie, and leader of the Lib Dems, Willie Rennie. We also have a promise from the leader of Labour, Kezia Dougdale to come along barring any last minute issue. She has after all been to every POP so far! Are you listening Ruth Davidson!?!

What about the SNP? Well, OK, we don't have a commitment from Nicola Sturgeon.....yet.....but we do have the Transport Minister Derek Mackay coming, so that's not too bad!

We have many other politicians coming as well. They have all made the decision that active travel is too important not to attend. Yes, ok, we have't got what we want yet, but at least they are listening.

Listening though, is only half of the story. To listen there has to be something to listen to, and that is exactly where you come in. We need your voice, we need your noise, we need your banners, we need your enthusiasm, we need your friends.....

We need YOU!!!!

Don't have a bike? Not a problem. Come and walk with us. In fact, it is people without bikes....those who currently don't cycle, that this is all about. It's about making cycling safe and convenient for people who currently don't cycle.

It'll never happen.....bah humbug......etc....

Oh really? We just need to look to London, and the small baby steps they are taking. Something amazing is happening there. Sure it is only in small pockets, but this is happening....



No, that isn't Amsterdam, that is London. Seriously. Videos and pictures just like that are starting to pop up everywhere demonstrating that even in the political hotbed of London it is possible! Yes, it takes time and it has taken time in London (they have been fighting for infrastructure like this from before I started campaigning...), but persistence has paid off, and it can and will here too.

There are already early signs of a cycling spring, you just have to look hard....

So get yer bike out, or your walking shoe on (or your skateboard, your wheelchair, your adapted bike etc....). This Saturday do your bit to make a difference.

Come to Pedal on Parliament this Saturday (23rd April) at the Meadows in Edinburgh, just before noon. Join us on our journey to parliament. Listen to the speeches. Talk to the politicians.

Help us.........make Scotland a cycle friendly country!!!



Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Swings, Roundabouts, and U-Turns

The Bears Way.

There I said it. Just saying that word is enough to start an argument. I should know. I was out socialising recently (something I get the chance to do very rarely!) and I got chatting to someone I know well. Really nice chap. Really intelligent. Just so happens to live near…..Bears Way.

So, what do you think about Bears Way?

Mistake.

Out flows a whole heap of anger and illogical statements…..cyclists do this, cyclists do that, blah….. the precise nature of which, doesn’t matter. What matters is, that for some people, messing with their (ahem) roads is very bad for karma.

This doesn’t just extend to Joe Blogs at a social gathering, it extends to the press.

The local paper is the Milngavie and Bearsden Herald. This paper is that sort of local paper that is almost certainly struggling to survive in the digital age. It probably has a dwindling readership and thus is trying its best to infiltrate the iterweb thingy with its mediocre online site.

Clicks are gold. Clicks are advertising revenue.

So we have a situation where reporters, and most importantly their bosses, are driven by clicks, so they ensure that any story they can produce will help to increase that days clicks, and perhaps increase the chances of the paper surviving. Yes they have to post a story about a cat getting stuck up a tree, but so long as it is next to click bait....

Bears Way is click GOLD.

We’ve all been around a while and we all know that no story is quite like a car v’s bike for getting an angry fervour going. The population as a whole has, for many years, bought into the dream that the roads are a happy care free place without much consequence. They have bought into it with significant amounts of money. I know this personally as I’ve just bought a new (well year old) car that cost many multiples of thousands of pounds.

Cars are generally the second biggest purchase after homes. In fact for many the car is THE most expensive as few people these days can afford a home. So take away space from their car and you threaten the only thing that many can realistically aspire to.

Anyway, as I was saying.... Bears Way is click GOLD, and thus the MBH has been feeding off that for a while. They have realised that people fear loosing the right to drive 40mph down a 30mph and have thus been publishing lots of anti-Bears Way rhetoric.
Car crashes due to Bears Way. Another car crashes due to Bears Way. Threats made because of Bears Way. Anger at work on Bears Way, even though it isn't actually Bears Way (This article has been completely changed today!). Dismay at attempt to make dangerous roundabout safe as part of Bears Way. Cancer caused by Bears Way….oh wait, we’ve not had that one...yet….

So it has happened again.

New cycle lanes blamed for crash on Milngavie Road today

I would link to the story here, but I can’t, for reasons that will become clear later. In the mean time you can read the text here…

There have been several reports of a car crash on Milngavie Road this morning and one local businessman sent in a dramatic picture of the aftermath.
Crash on Milngavie Road

The accident happened at about 10.50am and sources say that it involved a Volkswagon Beetle and a cyclist near McDonald’s takeaway in Bearsden on the A81. The road layout has recently been altered, it has just one lane for cars now and is less wide than it was previously, due to the council’s ‘Bears Way’ project which involved the installation of a new segregated cyle lane.

One woman, who lives on Milngavie Road, said: “I’m demented by this new road layout. It’s a nightmare.“I regularly get tooted by other motorists now when I’m just trying to get my car on to Milngavie Road from my house.“It’s getting worse. I see cyclists not using the new cycle lane every day and causing an obstruction for cars.“I’m going to contact my local councillor - the council should put the road back to how it was before.”

A Milngavie lady who travelled past the accident on her way to Glasgow at about 11am and then returned an hour later says it’s caused terrible traffic.She said: “People are being directed by the police just now.“It’s all because of this new cycle lane.“It looks like a car has swerved to avoid a cyclist coming out of the lane to cross the road.”

Victor Budas, Vice President of Burnbrae Resident’s Association, also sent us some pictures.He has lived in the Burnbrae area for nearly 40 years and says he’s never seen such an accident at this location. Now he’s seen two nearly identical accidents (another one happened last November), when the traffic light posts have been completely flattened across the pavements, in under five months.He said: “The driver was badly shaken.“It’s scary - this has happened where the road is very narrow.“A woman crossed this road with her baby in a buggy just moments before - they could have been hit.“Most people thought this new road layout was an accident waiting to happen and now it’s happened twice.“Will it take a death for something to be done about it?“I know several old people who are frightened to walk along there now.”

Independent Bearsden Councillor Duncan Cumming said: “This is awful and I sincerely hope no one was injured.”
However Police Scotland insist that this incident was not a result of the road layout.

Sounds horrible, and it was. A car is seen impaled on a traffic light. The poor driver appears to have swerved to avoid a dastardly cyclist who was cycling on a dastardly cycle lane. Poor, poor driver.
The paper heralded it on Twitter and Facebook, knowing full well it would get clicks galore.
However, something wasn’t right. I wrote as much on the Facebook page, which was festooned with commentators asking for the road to be returned to its former glory…

I wrote:

Is anyone actually paying attention to the people who know what they are taking about? Anyone? The police say that it was not caused by the road layout. The police. You know, the people who went to this and will have investigated this. Yet more credence is paid to folk who just have opinions. Fantastic. Do we have the facts of what happened? No. Did the road or cycle lane jump put at anyone? No. Is the cycle lane perfect? Far from it. So your answer is rip it out and return to the people hostile environment it once was? Perhaps just perhaps the issues can be fixed, the lane extended and more active travel encouraged. But wait, that might mean you have to keep to the speed limit. Nah. Can't have that....

The most important point I made was that, we didn’t have the facts. It was all hearsay. The paper, jumped at the chance to get a click-bait story out that was feeding on the prejudices it knew a lot of its readers had, and it thought it was onto a winner.

But….yes you knew that was coming….but……

The problem with filling in the blanks is that you are likely to get the blanks wrong. So here we have the exact same article as above, the following day (note this is not a new article, but a deletion of the old one and a completely new article that is linked from the URL of the old one).


Go on, click it. Yes I know it is giving them clicks, but this is worth seeing in all its glory.
Yup, there was no cyclist. Well, ok there was, but they weren’t involved in the accident in any way, whatsoever. They just witnessed it. In fact, said cyclist not only witnessed it, but hung around for a good long while to confort the pedestrian that was nearly killed by the tumbling traffic light that was sent tumbling by the car, that was being driven by the driver.

Oops.

That and the police re-iterate that the accident had nothing to do with the road lay-out, apart from the fact that the pavement and the traffic light got in the way of the car and its driver’s chosen route.

Now let’s be clear, we still don’t know the full facts. Perhaps a cat ran out and the driver swerved to avoid it. Perhaps there was a failure in the cars steering. Perhaps the driver was busy using their mobile phone, responding to the latest anti- Bears Way article on Facebook. Who knows?! But it wasn’t a cyclist’s fault and it wasn’t the fault of the road layout.

Way to go MBH for getting an article about as wrong as you possibly can! High five!

Will this abate the hatred for the cycle lane? Of course not. The haters will keep on hating it even when in their own minds, it becomes, just 'cause! What I do hope is that the reasonable people of Milngavie and Bearsden will look at this sorry episode and see it for what it is. Blatant stirring of local prejudice.

Is the Bears Way perfect. Absolutely not. The Friends of Bears Way have never said that. Could it be used as a stepping stone for a healthier, fairer, less polluted Milngavie and Bearsden?

Yes it could.


Oh and as I write this I see that yet another article has been edited from a previous version (old one is gone), now with the council comment. Is this a newspaper you can trust?

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Support the Bears Way

Today (Sunday 21st Feb) myself and other concerned people are meeting at the Bears Way cycle lane in a show of support for the lane and for the future plans, which include this exciting prospect at the Burnbrae roundabout.

Some locals are though fighting it as you can see in this recent newspaper article. 


It's worse than that though. There is now a petition (which I won't link to) asking for the council to stop the whole project and take the lanes back to the utter mess they were to start with. This is the wording of the petition:
PHASE 2 OF THE BEARSWAY CYCLE LANE IS UNDER CONSULTATION AND WE HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT UNLESS THERE IS GENUINE REASONS OF OBJECTION IT WILL GO AHEAD.

SINCE PHASE 1 MILNGAVIE ROAD HAS BECOME EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, AND VERY CONGESTED. THE ROAD IS BADLY LIT AND DESPITE THE COUNCIL CLAIMS IT IS MADNESS TO TAKE AWAY ALL PROVISIONS OF SHOP AND COMMUTOR PARKING. 

PHASE 2 WILL INCREASE CONGESTION AND CONTINUE DOWN TO KESSINGTON HALL MAKING IT A COMMUTER NIGHTMARE. PLEASE SIGN THIS TO SEE IF WE CAN PUT A STOP TO THE MADNESS.
Milngavie Road has not become extremely dangerous and it most definitely hasn't become congested. The only issues are if a bus stops at a bus stop, it is harder to overtake it. That's about the size of it. No lanes have been lost and if the above roundabout goes ahead, in the worst case scenario, only about 20m of dual lanes, will be lost.

Do these objectors really want more traffic driving through Milngavie?

If you feel that its time for change, if you feel that roads should be for people, and not just for people in cars, then join us today, at Hillfoot station at 1pm. Don't let a little rain put you off!!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

My Daughter's Birthday.

I wrote the following to my friends on Facebook. I thought I'd share it here.

Tonight on the way cycling home I had 4 drivers drive at me. No, they didn't just accidentally make a bit of a mistake. No, I didn't do anything to annoy them, apart from be on the road in front of them. Perhaps I held them up for 30 seconds or so. They drove at me and I had to take evasive action to avoid being hit. Today was my daughters birthday and I just wanted to get home.

Many of you won't have ridden a bike on the roads before. It can be amazing, but you are so vulnerable as well. It can be frightening. I don't blame most people for not riding a bike.

There are many, many reasons why we need more people riding bikes. As things stand our government is committed to building more roads. More roads, leads to more driving. More driving leads to more congestion (the cars have to get to these new roads on the current congested roads) and....we become yet more car dependant and as a result more frustrated by people like me who want a different way. Anti car? Me? No. I'm about to buy a new one.  But the car is only one of many possible ways to get from A to B. At the moment it is the only one supported by our government. They spend 100s of millions on new roads and throw crumbs and nice words our way.
Some of you will have been to our wee Pedal on Parliament protest before, most of you won't. Please though, come to this one. With the election coming, this one matters. Not for me, I'm beyond saving, but for my kids and for yours. Ask yourself, which future do you want for them.

I don't normally do this, but if you agree with what I say, please share it. I want to get home for my daughters birthday for many years to come.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Cycle Lane Abuse With a Difference

I'm sorry. Yes, I am very, very sorry.

If you follow this blog you will have noticed I've been a bit....well... quiet recently. Yes, I've been a wee bit distracted. Yes, cycling is very important to me, but it had to take a back-seat whilst I work on a different project. If you are interested, you can find out more about it, here (http://www.aurumbiosciences.com/). I'm very excited about this one!

Anyway, enough of that, I'm back. I'll be honest, because of my new working status (two jobs part time), I might not be blogging as often, but I will be blogging. So don't give up on me yet!

I'm not back just for the sake of it though. No. I am back because I am angry. I am back because of....Bearsway.

If you look back through my blogs you will see that I've discussed the Bearsway cycle lane in the past. Let's be honest, I've not always been entirely positive about it. There can be no doubt that mistakes have been made. However, since then I've been to two meetings with EDC, one of which was just with myself and a Go-Bike representative, and one of which was a 'stakeholder' event. I've changed my mind.

No, I've not changed my mind about the issues, many of them remain. However, I can honestly say that the council and its employees are really trying hard to deliver an excellent scheme in what is very, VERY difficult circumstances. I really have come to understand the issues that they have faced locally in getting the first phase in, and now that they are looking to extend it (yes it will eventually go all the way from Milngavie centre, to the boundary with Glasgow), the serious issues that they continue to face.

Last Thursday there was a public consultation event. Unfortunately for a few reasons, I couldn't make it. I know a few people who did make it though. I know one of them is going to post a blog about it in the near future, so I won't go into detail, but I thought I'd share a few comments that were written down by locals at the consultation......

...another way of looking at this is that it will be an opportunity to make the road work for no-one.

What about the safety of cars.

Why not give everyone the opportunity to travel on a pogo stick for that matter. Let's be really inclusive.

Where do we que (sic) to execute everyone here working for EDC?


There were apparently more where that came from.

I also know that one cyclist at the meeting was directly threatened by a local resident, with the suggestion that the resident would aim his car at the cyclist if he ever saw him on the road.

Welcome to Milngavie.

Actually, that is a generalisation. I'm sure the vast majority of Milngavie (an affluent middle class Glasgow suburb) are decent folk who wouldn't dream of making comments like the above. But some residents did. Remember, these were not online troll comments, these were real people who turned up at a consultation event.Some of the EDC staff were understandably shaken.

Let's just get rid of the cycle lane and be done with it. More cars is good for Milngavie!!

I was pretty furious upon hearing about all of this. Bullying, threats, and downright ignorance were flying about in abundance. The people involved should be utterly ashamed of themselves, and had I been there, and had I been threatened by someone like that, I would have been straight on my phone to the police. Threats like that, and the one written down, are unacceptable. This is (though not officially) a hate crime. Simple.

I will for my part be doing everything in my power to help EDC with their plans. I will be critical where necessary, but with the understanding that the intention is excellent, the plans are valid, and the possible outcome could transform the area for the better.

They will need your help too. If you feel that the overall purpose of the scheme is good, let the council know, especially the councillors. They are the ones who need to be convinced about this.

I know for a fact that other councils are watching developments in Milngavie with interest, so lets make it obvious that investment in cycling is the future and the dinosaurs are heading for extinction....