Monday, February 1, 2010

According to a Bristol City Council report to the audit committee, it is the local paper's fault that they may not achieve their 'Cycling City' target of doubling the number of people cycling by 2011.

Now I have some sympathy with the idea that the media is not generally cycling-friendly.

But doing anything in terms of improving cycling provision means you come up against a plethora of hostile vested interests. Most people don't cycle, and most people don't like change. Therefore, most people won't like change that favours cycling, especially when it might cost them money, or parking spaces, or roadspace, or pretty much anything. People alway focus on the impact on them rather than any wider benefits. Of course, if you ask people if something ought to be done about traffic congestion, or road safety, or obesity, chances are they'll be in favour of it, because they don't see the potential disadvantages for them.

Which is why councils need to state what their policy is, and follow through with it. By all means consult and minimize any undesirable side-effects, but don't let vested interests derail the policy. I blogged about this problem before in the context of Biking Boroughs. If you let the media damage your policy, then you've failed. But that's why a lot of cycling project do fail - they allow parking in cycle lanes, they don't reallocate roadspace, they don't do anything that might upset anyone, and they end up spending a lot of money pleasing no-one, least of all cyclists.

PS - Green Bristol Blog does a far better job of covering the background to Cycling Cities than I ever could.


  1. In fairness to Bristol City Council, the report did not blame the local paper for the problems that Cycling City are experiencing. It merely noted what is obvious to all of us in Bristol, that the local paper is generally hostile to cyclists and (to a lesser extent) the Cycling City project.

    The Evening Post blew this out of proportion to make an story which they new would touch the right nerves - stupid council, blaming the messenger, wasting money on cyclists, etc. In doing so it rather proved the point made in the report.

    Your other observations are well made. In Bristol we are getting a handful of relatively easy to achieve new or improved links dressed up as some major infrastructure investment. Few of these involve any loss of parking places or reallocation of road space - the kind of things that would need to be tackled on a major scale to bring about real infrastructure change.

    That's to be expected of course, but it's rather sickening to be told that this largely cosmetic 'Cycling City' exercise amounts to something 'ground breaking'. So I've been making a point of recording something of the truth of what is, or is not, happening on the ground which you can check via my blog if interested.

  2. Thanks Chris - I'll link to your blog.