Monday, 24 June 2013

Credit, Where It's Due?

It's actually quite depressing.

Oh, not again.....I hear you say. What's Magnatom moaning about this time! In fact what I find depressing is how negative my blog has been lately. Anyone who knows me outside cyberspace knows that in the real world I'm far from a negative person. In fact I'm pretty chirper...honest! I have to be. When you are faced with the negativity that exists towards cycling in political circles (not everyone of course) it can be difficult to write positive articles. That's why today I am actually quite pleased to be able to say something positive!

Glasgow, might, just might, be taking a step forwards.

Glasgow's Cycling Czar Frank McAveety has written a very positive article on his aspirations for cycling in Glasgow. The article in question is here in the Herald. It's worth a read.

What impressed me the most about the article is that under my very sceptical eye I can only find one detail that I disagree with, and that is Frank's suggestion that our climate is a bigger issue than it is in the cities and countries that we compare ourselves with. We should remember that there is a reason that the Netherlands is synonymous with windmills. Flat European countries have a tendancy to be windy and as I experienced when I was there, it gets pretty wet too. Weather is not a barrier to cycling where it is made easy and safe.

That issue aside I am very heartened by Frank's words, especially the recognition that cycling as well as having many health benefits can have significant social benefits. Glasgow has some of the lowest car ownership levels in the UK, which leads to transport deprivation. A safe cycling environment could provide part of the answer to this issue.

So Frank, I applaud your words and your sentiment.

But, and this is a very big but, words need to followed by action and I am unfortunately sceptical when I read the positive words of politicians and I'm not just a sceptic for the sake of it. For example, our governments recent CAPS document is a step back from the original. Despite warm encouraging words, despite the First Minister himself saying that we were pushing against an open door (more like a revolving door that has flung us back out on the street), nothing substantial has resulted. The government are in full damage limitation mode, knowing full well that their efforts will not lead to 10% of cycling by 2020.

Part of that damage limitation strategy is to pass the buck to the councils. Now, I am not for one minute suggesting that the councils don't have a part to play in this process, they certainly do. Perhaps Glasgow through this initiative will make some progress. However, the pace of progress if we leave it up to councils will be glacially slow.

We need leadership from the top. We need a central fund with which councils can match funding and we need a national not CAPS... that actually provides a clear pathway to 10% and beyond with well defined targets, clear interim targets and a strategy for reaching those targets.

So, well done Frank. You've got our attention. Now lets see if you can back that up with action.

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