Friday 29 March 2013

Swimming with sharks in Walker, Tyne & Wear

Damp SquibThis hilarious if contradictory Newcastle Councillor, David Wood, is in a bit of a split-mind pickle about cycling provision.

On the one hand as TWITA chair Cllr D Wood wants peeps to pedal to school.

This recent article in the local newspaper makes that clear. A 'Schools Go Smarter' poster, depicted below, cheerily reads "When you think about petrol and parking, the costs of driving really adds up. That's why it's a great idea to get about on your bike. You'll be fitter, healthier and much better off financially. It can also be a really fun way to get to works [I can assure you it's not, Cllr D Wood]. So what are you waiting for [safe cycleways, please, Cllr D Wood]? Give it a go. [Gee, this is a bit negligent, don't you think Cllr D Wood, if you do not pull the sharks out of the water first?]"

Talking people into cycling? Encouraging folks to use their bikes? Oh, dear. Sounds all too familiar. Let's appear to do something without any actual action. Or checking up how these initiatives pan out. We've had twenty years of talking people into cycling to no great success.

There is some salvation. Or is it a slip in the press release? The Councillor says "Schools Go Smarter is investing in the infrastructure to grow a cycling culture in Tyne and Wear’s schools." Maybe he was listening to some findings for evidence-based decision-making contained in this report, also mentioned here and here. Who knows.

On the other hand just what does he mean by infrastructure?

I am asking this as it's the same Councillor, this time in his Walker ward capacity, who doesn't want to provide safe cycling infrastructure to Walker Tech College and other schools, shops and destinations on Welbeck Road. And it's the same Councillor who with his colleagues Cllrs G Allison and J Stokel-Walker heckled the Regulatory Appeals Sub-Committee where Newcycling spoke in support of the Welbeck Road scheme and expressing agreement with the officer's report.

That 'damp squibd' pedalling in shark-invested Walker waters needs help. Or possibly: They are just peddling the lovely beaches of the menacing maelstrom to the public. Don't mention the sharks, or the downdrafts. Like that holiday brochure photo that is conveniently missing out the huge nuclear power station overshadowing your lovely hotel.

Make up your minds! If you like people to pedal, then stop peddling behavioural change but actually do something.

Newcastle is in its road space re-allocation phase. We've given all the "spare" space to cycling: it's where cycle lanes suddenly start, and then just as suddenly end - because at that point drivers could not be convenience. The space debate is heating up. Politicians will have to jump of their cosy fences, put their cards on the table and show some true colours.

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