Politicians love them. In fact politicians prosper and fall on account of them. It is their bread and butter. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that politicians are great at delivering them.
Now that's another beast. Politicians, as I now understand them (and there are some exceptions to this), will avoid action as much as possible, unless it benefits them in some way. They also much prefer action that costs nothing. Generally, it does not matter if the action is pointless or a waste of time, that doesn't usually matter. So long as the action provides the opportunity for further words, words that include, 'we very much support the development of x as which we can prove if you look at our previous action'. It doesn't matter that everyone derided that action for being a complete waste of time. Politicians know that the general public doesn't have the time or inclination to check all of the politicians claims about the effectiveness of previous action. They know that the public will have to take their word for it, and that is how politics works.
It should come as no surprise then, that this is how it is with cycling.
There have been many, many words.
Cyclists are knocking on an open door....we are investing £54m....we have a target of 10% of cycling by 2020.....we now have a vision of 10% of cycling by 2020...we continue to invest to make Scotland a cycle friendly nation (words that they stole from us)....
However, there has been very, very little action. Small amounts of money...crumbs...are occasionally thrown from the table to keep the cyclists from throwing too many words back. Not that they really listen to any of our words or action anyway.
It therefore came as no surprise back in May this year when the government released some words, telling us that they were going to release some more words later in the year which they would in the future be able to inform the general public, was an action. These words that they were going to release wouldn't be the normal cost free variety, but they would be more powerful words, costing £424,000. They were going to ask us to be nice to one another.
Surely, there would be more to it than that?!?
Later this morning Keith Brown will be in Glasgow to launch these powerful words that will, and I quote directly from Keith here,
... help change behaviour on our roads.So what are these words? What words can change years of attitudes on our roads? What words can make prospective cyclists take to the streets on their bikes in droves, make drivers realise that cyclists need space, and actually give it to them? What words can do what in many other enlightened nations, has only happened through proper action?What words can save cyclists lives?
Well here they are:
(Note to international readers: The following section may contain traces of sarcasm, something that I understand does not always translate well)
Inspired. Brilliant. Life changing.
Let's soak that one in for a moment.........
Let's all get along. Follow the NICE WAY CODE.
It's certainly a nice graphic. It has lots of nice colours in it which might well represent the different types of road users, coming in all shapes and sizes, and it even has some stars in it too, nine to be exact. Hmm. I'm not sure what that number of stars represents, but that might become clear as the campaign progresses, or, it might just have looked nice. It does look good. There's also the use of capitals that really captures your attention and makes it feel like you have to take notice. It also has some arrows and some white spots in the blue bits. I assume that these represent white lights....or...or...maybe they represent the white lines on the road. Now that is clever!
Mind you, even the casual reader of this blog might just sense I have a very slight niggling doubt about this campaign. There is just something that doesn't work for me......
OK,I'll hold my hand up and admit, I have only seen a short action call about this campaign. I have not actually seen the campaign itself, and for all I know it might be witty, charming, and thought provoking (though I have very serious doubts about this)......
Seriously though!?! Nice Way Code? Be nice to one another?! This isn't a bl**dy Bill and Ted film?!?
Is this the conversation that Keith thinks will be happening in bad driver households across the country?
Mr Bad Driver: Betty, come in here love, there's an interesting advert on the TV
Betty: Ooohh, what's this....Nice way code? What's that?
MBD: They are saying, my lovely, that me passing cyclists too fast and too quickly isn't very nice and that I should be nicer.
Betty: But, don't they hold you up dear? I thought you hated them as they don't pay road tax, they go too slow, they shout abuse at you when you hit them and they wear lycra...
MBD: Apparently, and I hadn't realised this, they are human beings and have families that care about them. Crazy I know, but apparently it is true. So the government is telling me that if I give them a little room, they will be happy, they won't be as dead as before, and I'll be happier to.
Betty: But they wear lycra...
MBD: I know dear, but you know what, that was such a nice wee advert I think I might give it a go tomorrow. Maybe if we all just got along a bit better Scotland would be a happier place.
Betty: Mmm. you are right. And if you are being nicer, then I'm sure everyone else will be too. It'll spread....you know, like a virus.... Perhaps it will now be safe for us to go out on a bike and work off the fish suppers...
MBD: Tell you what Betty, lets switch off the telly, pop down to Halfords, get us a couple of bikes and hit the road. Here's to a cycle friendly future!
Stop wasting money! Seriously! Keith and his government have just wasted £424,000 of tax payers money that could have been used to build cycle infrastructure. Sure it would only be one project, but as long as it was part of an ongoing commitment to invest in a fully funded, fully connected, and properly designed network, then it could have actually made a difference.
Mind you, what this 'action' does mean is that when we hold POP3 Keith can come along to the event with his head held high telling us.....'look what I did, you should be grateful'.
Keith, honestly, if I was you I'd find another of those prior engagements to attend. The heckling that Paul Wheelhouse got this year is nothing compared to the words you would have to face.