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?


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.


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?