Tuesday 31 March 2015

Head, Meet Table. Table, Meet Head....

I've had my fair share of moments. Oh yes, I have. Today I had one of those moments. It was one of those moments that is absolutely priceless and completely catches you off guard. I was almost.....almost speechless (which is saying something for me!). Anyway, let me explain...

As a cycle campaigner I occasionally take the odd day off on holiday to go to a meeting that interests me. Today was one of those days. The Glasgow Centre for Population Health (well worth a look) was holding a day discussing active travel, something close to my heart. I really like the work that comes out of the GCPH, so I decided to pop along.

It also turned out that the Minister for Public Health (Maureen Watt) was going to be there too.

No. The 'moment' was not anything to do with the minister. In fact her speech was exactly as you would expect, telling us how great things are (hmm) but at the same time accepting (just a little bit) that more needs to be done.

The 'moment' came before that.

I entered the venue, collected my badge, distributed POP leaflets and said a couple of hellos. I then looked for a place to sit down. Hmm, I'll sit near the front.....much easier to ask awkward questions from there.... So I spot a table, notice someone is already sitting there that I don't know, and make my way over to take a seat.


We both say our hellos and I quickly introduce myself as a POP campaigner. The gent hadn't heard of POP before (what!?!?), so I give a quick 30 second, this is who we are, this is what we stand for and this is what we do, as I hand him a leaflet.

The gentleman in question introduced himself as working for Glasgow City Council, for the roads department.

Anyway I explain that we are looking for investment in proper infrastructure, which given the nature of the meeting shouldn't have been too surprising. Then......then....ummm, then he said....

That's all very good, but when are cyclists going to start paying their way....

Umm, errr, paaardon?!

Yes, he confirmed exactly what I had thought he'd said. The suggestion being that we don't contribute, so why should we get investment....

So I quickly point out that we do contribute, at which point the gentleman clarifies the point...

But you don't pay road tax.

Damn. I'd left my Bingo card at home.

Once I'd had a quick look around to be sure there were no cameras filming me for some sort of practical joke show, I tried to explain that no-one pays road tax, instead he and I pay VED. I pointed out that road damage follows a 'power to 4' weight to damage law....that is, bikes do hardly any damage to the roads, cars do quite a lot. I pointed out that on average (as things stand) cyclists tend to earn more than non-cyclists (and so pay on average more tax), and that many cyclists own cars anyway and thus we are more than paying our way.....

He didn't buy it.

Fortunately at this point the gentleman decided that it was time to get a coffee. I was relieved as I wasn't sure I could take any more.

Wow. He works in roads......

So the meeting progressed and later we reached a 'roundtable' session, and yes, we were still at the same table. It all went relatively smoothly for the first couple of questions until we started talking about infrastructure, and the discussion went to ASLs. I and another person at the table pointed out that, we weren't in favour of them (see my reasoning here). The gentleman then came out with another cracker...

It's really frustrating that you cyclists don't appreciate the cycle infrastructure we give you. Each time we give you something you keep telling us you didn't ask for it. 

Umm, yeah, that's because you THINK you know what we want, you don't actually ask us what we want, you don't listen to us when we tell you what we want, and you go a build utter sh1t and then you're surprised when we don't want it!!


Somehow I didn't scream.

Remember, he works in roads at Glasgow City Council.

We also heard about how people couldn't cycle short distances without getting sweaty as he used to work next to a smelly cyclist.

You really couldn't make it up.


Perhaps I should have offered to take him on a ride some time, it did cross my mind, but to be honest, I don't think he would have come, and I could tell that we were so far out of sync, we might have ended up having a wee 'set too'. We parted ways at the end with a hand shake.

Who was he? Actually, it really doesn't matter. I suspect that he is one of many within the council who think this way, and my experience suggests that this approach goes all the way up to some of the councillors. Glasgow has a long, long, loooooong way to go unfortunately to catchup with the 21st century.

I must admit though, I did do a wee Google search of the gentleman when I got home. Low and behold, the first item in the Google search brought up one of his social media accounts. His latest entry confirmed that he had signed the petition to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson to his BBC job.

Nuff said.


  1. "Who was he? Actually, it really doesn't matter."

    Actually it does matter. We need to start naming and shaming these people. And add pictures, with appropriate tags.

    Let the citizens of Glasgow know and recognise the person paid by their taxes, who is a victim blaming, ignorant supporter of a thug

  2. I am not surprised but depressed by your post. I like to think that we are making progress in getting cycling established as a normal form of transport but when a transport officer persists in describing cyclists as "sweaty" you realise how far we still have to go.

    He is, of course, just an individual but I wonder how prevalent his views are in the Roads Department as a whole? About 18 years I met a someone from the roads who was responsible for installing the first of the tentative cycle network we now have. When he told me he didn't cycle I was floored! I had hoped that things had moved on since then but maybe not. I am also curious as to the identity of this individual but I think that you are right in keeping him anonymous.

  3. I think that anonymity is best too, but I would suggest a letter to the head of department asking why such factually incorrect prejudice is apparently acceptable among their staff.

  4. Can the two gentlemen (or one gentleman and one lady) above explain why anonymity is a better tactic than naming and shaming?

  5. I don't think "naming and shaming" is a fantastic idea to be honest. Firstly because the remarks were clearly not intended for publication. Secondly because the point isn't what this one individual thinks but what he represents, which should hopefully highlight the institutional nature of the problem and motivate people to attend PoP, which is ultimately the best way to redress You never know who might be reading and what the fall out might be once things become personalized.

  6. He works for the Roads Department; he'll be the one leaning on his shovel having installed the latest batch of potholes.

  7. All this talk of protecting the identity of someone holding and enthusiastically expressing such repellent and offensive views is reminiscent of how wife beating is swept under the carpet. Next you will be telling us that he really loves you when he hasn't been drinking!

    These comments were presumably made during working hours at an external meeting where they could be construed as representing the position of the council? If not; then what the hell was he doing there? I would not want this individual attending meetings on behalf of any council where I pay my council tax. But how am I supposed to verify this never happens? Oh, I'm not...

    p.s. Yes, every `roads' department in the UK is packed to the rafters with these Jeremy Clarkson wanabees behind the scenes. But, equally, this is unlikely to ever change if they are not challenged when they do poke their heads above the parapet.