Sunday, 14 April 2013

Keen parents to encourage others

Get stuck in!

Yes, I am an infrastructualist. I believe that urban settings shape how people interact and behave within it and towards each other. I believe that setting aside road space for cycling, will shape the UK into a cycling nation. I know that it works. I have seen it with my own eyes.

That's why articles like this one in the Guardian are so upsetting. It diverts and distracts from what's really needed. Where officers from sustainable travel groups say their softy-softy stuff. Talking them into shark-invested waters. But yea, we can give you a hiviz life jacket. Look at it, it's beautiful. It even has our logo on it. Yes, these people want to keep their jobs. Yes, there is vested interest on a personal and an institutional level. (Maybe a conflict of interest list is needed. Like the Lords.)

I have a local example. A through-road. It's clogging up with parking mums and dads in huge monster cars, dropping of their little-loved-ones during school run, otherwise leaving the road a speeding stretch of a stinking rat run.

Here's what the mum said 
I would like to share how shocked I was this morning when I cycled with my children on our tandem to go to school. A car driver insulted me while the children were on the bike and treated me like an idiot.
I was cycling up towards our school while cars were driving in the opposite direction. The car, whose driver insulted me was parked, waiting to pull away. Once all the cars in the opposite direction had passed, he pulled away without indicators right in front of me and cut my way, he obviously had not looked in his wing mirror either. I signaled to him angrily that I was there. He parked further close the pedestrian crossing that the lolly pop man looks after, opened his window and insulted me.
As I was with the children, I did not go to him to clarify the matter as the agressive tone was intimidating and I did not want the children to experience their mother being insulted further for cycling. What makes me concerned is the intimidation and the lack of care and understand of parents driving their children to school.
I would most appreciate if a note could be added in the next school newsletter. I am particularly concerned about the intimidating aspect due to the fact that we have no dedicated space.
And here's what the local sustainable travel school officer had to say in response
I'm really sorry that you had to deal with, it is pretty devastating when drivers act in such a way. Especially if you then cycle past them again and again. I know that there have been previous incidents between drivers and bus drivers, it is a recurring theme at the school and one which my role aims to reduce. It would be really great if you could come to our meeting on [date] at the school. It's the beginning of a project where keen parents would encourage other parents to try out cycling. If there is anything else you would like me to do let me know. I think sending the survey out to parents would be great. And as far as I know the cycling statistics were used to gain Eco flag status, so I'm surprised it's not mentioned. I'll ask my contact at the school to add it in. 
Email foot note
We believe every child deserves to be free range, with freedom from their front door to explore, play outdoors, and make their own way to school and beyond. 

We make smarter travel choices possible, desirable and inevitable. We`re a leading UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day. It`s time we all began making smarter travel choices.

 The school's position is this [their emphases]
We already have done a HUGE amount of work with the local councillors and LA to try and make this road a safer place for pedestrians, cyclist and parents dropping children off by car.
We have had a traffic consultation group and endless meetings with traffic officers.
I do not want to disappoint everyone but we have found it hugely frustrating as every suggestion for safe parking zones, drop off zones and one way systems have been rejected by the council and local residents. I find the tone of some of the recent emails and tweets upsetting as it implies the school is not interested or has not done everything possible already to make the roads around school as safe as possible.
It is also worth remembering that the school is a PFI building and therefore we cannot make any alterations to the site without enormous costs and our budget for next year has already had all funding for structural alterations removed as part of the LA cuts so any costs will have to be raised by parents or be taken out of the school budget.
We have had to fight for two years to even get some bollards on a nearby road to stop cars mounting the pavement and potentially running children and parents over! These have been promised but have yet to appear (we were expecting them to be installed over last Summer holidays)
Please do not put in your emails that you want the school to get involved or come to the table as if we are blocking you in some way! We have been leading this for 4 years now but residents hold the most sway and it is them we need to convince not the school.
The road I believe cannot be pedestrianised because it is a designated emergency access road for the metro, for this school and the other schools on this road. This also means it cannot be blocked in any way.
So. There you have it. Everyone is involved and raising concerns. Each in their way. And what is clear to everyone is that changes to the road layout are needed for walking and cycling safety. And all this lands in the council's lap. Rightly so. And what do they do? Nothing.

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