Sunday, 28 February 2010

Cycling scapegoats: addendum

After my last post about cycling scapegoats, John pointed me in the direction of a recent Evening Standard article. The person behind this anti-cycling ranting in Westminster council is Angela Harvey, chairman of the Built Environment Policy and Scrutiny Committee and of the South Area Forum. She also spoke on yesterday's BBC's Radio 5 Weekend Breakfast programme. (It's a 3 hour programme so skip forward to 1:41:00 for the 5 minute feature.) After her Standard assertion about a rogue cyclo-terrorist:

We're always getting little old ladies who are knocked down and abused by a cyclist, who leave them on the ground as they ride away.

was apparently hit by a Freedom of Information request and found to be red-light jumping reality, she dropped this fantasy and, stressing that she is a cyclist, talked about towpath prams:

...cyclists are rushing through and we may end up with a pram in the canal. That's what we're very worried about.

I'm not quite sure how giving Council officers powers to issue fixed penalty notices to cyclists for road traffic offences can have anything to do with Regent's Canal racers. Last time I looked, canals weren't on a public highway. British Waterways affairs actually have nothing to do with what the residents have talked about. And the reason cyclists use the towpaths is because they want somewhere quiet, flat, red-light free to commute and exercise on. Because the roads are jammed up with traffic. Towpath use - responsible towpath use - is actually relieving the strain on Westminster's roads and they aren't thinking of improving cycle provision apart from the City Hall inspired cycle hire initiative*. Each cyclist on the towpath is one fewer on the road. And each cyclist on the road is taking up far less room than the alternative modes of transport.

So, because Angela Harvey has a bee in her bonnet about cyclists, they're damned for being on the roads (knocking down old ladies) and for being off the roads (pushing prams into the canal).
If you want to see this Angela Harvey, she was last seen riding roughshod over Westminster Bridge on a red Vendetta.

*For a cheap laugh, the minutes of Westminster's cycle workshop are worth a read. Whereas we only get a cycle hire scheme, they actually get a Cycle High Scheme


John said...

My understanding is that cyclists are automatically entitled to use the tow paths in London except where signs indicate that cycling is strictly prohibited. To cycle on the tow paths outside of London you need to obtain a free permit that can be downloaded from British Waterway's website:-

What the point of this is, I don't know!

Marmoset said...

Aye, it's probably a technicality - by downloading the permit, you're considered to have agreed to abide by the Waterways Code.

And, as you say, permits are not needed for London towpaths.

I'm fully in favour of the ''two tings'' approach - it's a shared resource and courteous use keeps the whole thing human and safe.

Riding at a leisurely pace along the Lee Navigational last year, a cyclist crept up on me but because of the tyre-on-gravel noise from my own wheels,I didn't hear him until he was almost abreast of me. I almost knocked him into the canal because I hadn't heard him. A ting or two, or even a good old shout, would have helped me leave safe passing room and avoid the danger.

Deptford dame said...

Other cyclists are always creeping up behind me, whether on the towpath or the road. Today I nearly fell off my bike when one materialised out of the semi-dusk behind me. Whatever happened to using your bell?!

Marmoset said...

It's a weird one, overtaking etiquette, isn't it? I remember starting a thread on about the best way of overtaking a horse. The advice I got was to announce your presence to the rider. So, a month ago in Lewisham, I shouted in my loudest voice ''bicycle behind'' to a mounted policewoman. She almost fell off her horse in shock when she swivelled round! Still, the horse stayed perfectly sedate....