Saturday, 30 November 2013

Dear Northumbria PCC

Dear Vera

By writing to you I hope I will be able to impress on you the gravity of investigating road deaths in accordance with the Road Death Investigation Manual (RDIM) and working with partnering organisations to get this right and build up community trust - this comes in light of a cyclist's death on Durham Road (A167) this morning. Your force asked for witnesses in this appeal.

I am involved in an organisation called Newcycling, the local cycling campaign - lobbying for better road conditions and better road layouts by working with decision makers. We recently were trying to meet with you personally. Eventually we were catching up with your deputy Mark Dennett, which we appreciated.

When we met with Mark we asked a lot of questions about road death investigations because we are concerned about the enormity of the task in hand of getting it right first time and the devastating consequences when evidence is missed. Some questions from that meeting with Mark remain open; and I believe that leadership from the very top is still required.

Please work with us and our local partnering organisations RoadPeace Northeast and Sustrans Newcastle. We previously asked for a liaison officer to be appointed to form a stronger link with the cycling community. We would like to renew that call. There is so much to do still. Our roads are changing, and sometimes they seem places that are not fit for purpose anymore.

And I'd like to think the police would be supportive of fostering better understanding and engage in process of mutual learning. Especially as officers themselves may still get things wrong on the occasion. I was also wondering whether you could sign CTC's Road Justice and support their recommendations.

So. If there's anything we can do to help, or any clarification needed, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks for your time.

Thanks again,

30 Nov Sky Tyne & Wear  - BBC Tyne & Wear - ITV TyneTees - Chronicle - Northern Echo
1 Dec Chronicle

UPDATE 2 January 2014 (received following a reminder that a reply was outstanding)

Dear Katja,

Many thanks for your email, please accept my apologies for the oversight and you not receiving a reply.

I will certainly speak to Mr Dennett and I will also speak to the Chief Constable about your request for a Liaison Officer.

Once I have answers to the above, I will contact you again to arrange for us to meet.

Best wishes.


Vera Baird

UPDATE 3 January 2014

Dear Katja

I hope you are well.

As I mentioned in my earlier email, I promised that I would look in to the points that you have raised.  I am continuing to do this.

I'm pleased to inform you that I have spoken to Northumbria Police, and Chief Inspector Sav Patsalos has agreed to the request of a Liaison Officer for the cycling community. The officer will be Insp Dave Gould who can be contacted via 101.

I will be in touch soon.

Best wishes


Vera Baird

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Dear BBC Newcastle

You state your mission is to enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain; and some of your values being things like independent, impartial and honest, as well as respecting each other and celebrating our diversity so that everyone can give their best. Source

I have difficulties reconciling this with the recent angle you imposed on cyclists in Newcastle. You started your radio programme (BBC Radio Newcastle, Wednesday 20 November 2013 between 16:00-18:00) with briefly describing the recent road carnage in London. Sadly six people had been killed on London's streets using their bikes in the short spell of a fortnight. A tragic subject worth exploring, debating and possibly resulting in drawing some big conclusions about politics, policy, society, transport and equality.

But following the mention of the road deaths, the programme went on to focus on cyclists in Newcastle who did not have their lights on. I was then left to 'collectively justify' on air why that was the case. As far as I can see there was nothing in the programme that put responsibility on drivers to get 'their house in order' and stop killing people on bikes (to put in emotively - as I believe it is the road layout and design that creates the conflict and ultimate damage and death). I was left saying, let's all take two steps back and look at the bigger picture. Something I would have liked the eminent BBC to do 'for me' and with me. The bigger picture is much more pressing to be discussed but was left untouched. The increasing KSIs of cyclists on our roads when generally road deaths are falling.

I think your programme's angle on this subject was badly out of balance. It defied the tragic reality and, at the very least, lacked creative thinking (another one of your stated values).

It was not independent or impartial - it simply portrayed the car-centric status quo (thereby supporting the oil/petrol/road./car lobby whipping up fear in a herd-instinct society and pulling wool over politicians eyes) that many of us are trying to challenge and change. The Categorical Imperative tells us that a world ruled by motor cars can not be fair and square for obvious reasons of space sparseness, pollution and cost to society.

It did not celebrate diversity. It put it in a corner and stabbed it.

Above all, it was not decent. People have lost their lives in tragic circumstances. The programme's focus was in disregard to road victims and their families and friends.

And I can only see your reporting style and angle, in this instance, as uninspiring in the least and victim blaming at the worst.

You say "we are one BBC: great things happen when we work together". Let's work together!

In the meantime, and forever more, rest assured that I will do my bit and remain saying to my fellow cyclists battling Britain's roads in atrociously hostile, aggressive and dangerous environments: Please do switch your lights on. And I pray for you that drivers will see you on this not-so-level playing field that is the not-so-great British roads.

= = = = = = = =

Updated 19 December 2014

From: Andrew Robson-Newcastle>
Date: 16 December 2013 10:53
Subject: Cycling
To: "Katja Leyendecker Cc: Jon Harle


Thank you for your email which has been forwarded to me by Jon Harle.

We regularly look at the subject of cycling on BBC Newcastle.  Topics we cover range from the implementation of cycle hire in Newcastle, to the debate about proposed investment in cycle track provision in the region, to the recent news story about cyclists killed in London. Cycling is a topic which always stimulates much debate with our audience. 

In terms of balance, because we cover the topic of cycling so often we need to be able to take a different approach to the topic each time we cover it.  On occasions we take opposing views on air at same time such as the Alfie and Charlie phone in, on other occasions we focus on one particular aspect of the subject we are covering.  We do seek to be balanced in our output over time.

BBC Newcastle has many keen cyclists in the building, some like Jon commute to work, and others, like myself cycle for fitness.  I can promise you we have no agenda to bias our output.

Thank you for your email.

Andrew Robson
Managing Editor
BBC Newcastle

= = = = = = = =

From: Katja Leyendecker
Date: 23 November 2013 13:03
Subject: Not quite a complaint
To: Jon.Harle Cc: Carlton Rei

Hi Jon
Maybe next time you could consider taking a different, more equitable, angle?

Please note that I always like to see cycling in the news, even if it is about road deaths and tragic events as these clearly need to aired and discussed. But seeing cycling reduced to "put your lights on and wear hiviz" - especially with the tragic London backdrop - really hurts.

- - - - Newcastle Cycling Campaign
- - -

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Unmoving DfT

We don't talk about it much at the DfT but...
Some of you may have noticed, I was quiet yesterday. And here is why. I was buried in reports, trying to make sense. I was reading.

I was reading that the IPCC suggests business as usual is not an option if we'd be keen to avert catastrophic climate change. Assessing three emission pathways - let's call them "trying hard", "very hard" and "very extremely hard" - and relating them to keeping below 2C global temperature and its risk of happening, they conclude the current "trying hard" pathway is a high risk rocky road to take. The "trying hard" pathway is the one we are currently on (well, kind of - not even).

The "trying hard" pathway "cannot plausibly be taken as a 2°C pathway [the point of run-away climate change], and this notwithstanding the fact that the 2009 G8 declaration stated its emissions goals in the context of the 2°C objective."

"Decision-makers now face a choice among future pathways. The temptation to choose a pathway that allows us to defer action will be great, but deferral has consequences."

"Ultimately, the choice of a global mitigation pathway reflects political, economic and ethical considerations as much as scientific ones. These decisions are inseparable from the assignment of newly-scarce emissions rights across countries and classes and generations, and choices about who
will bear the associated costs and risks. And this, of course, is why the subject of ambitious mitigation pathways is so fraught, and so crucial. An “emergency transition” like the
one implied by the 1.5°C pathway (and arguably the 2°C pathway as well) will be neither cheap nor easy, and this despite the vast flowering of low-emissions energy technology that’s now on the near horizon. The budget approach makes it obvious that, despite the difficulties, such a transition
is necessary."

So, business as usual is not an option and ethical decisions by leaders are now needed. This realisation can be seen in other organisations. The EU is/was trying carbon pricing and even the off-setting approach (how-ever-much upsetting) is along the same lines. In a similar vein of "trying hard", Defra, UK department for environment, food and rural affairs (and flood risk management), recently run a few trials and case studies. It is now issuing guidance for policy-makers on the ecosystem services idea (2) of bringing biodiversity and economics together. It's another sign of transitioning in action. And I was reading that CIWEM is understandably and rightly cautious of monetising Mother Nature:

"Whilst the economic system in which business operates will not radically change soon, this debate provides an opportunity for influence and the space in which to reconsider the potential opportunities for ‘ecological growth’, thereby revaluing economics in service to the natural environment."

"CIWEM warns that putting a price on nature is highly contentious with a number of unanswered moral and ethical questions. There is a debate to be had surrounding the consequences of adopting this approach. As a relatively new concept to the broad environmental disciplines within the UK, there is a lack of experience and an insufficient evidence base to provide certainty on what this approach offers and what it may lead to (though this varies across sectors). As such there is a need to proceed with caution on the specific element of monetary valuation." (3)

It's where nature and man collides. Only that man is nature, when the opposite can't be true. Just man alone isn't quite (going to be) so much fun (let alone be possible) - so without biodiversity surrounding us, we are pretty much done.

And that diversity can be seen in human kindness and its diversity (as so many company policies now state is important and valued diverse work force), diversity in thinking and shall we extend that to a little bit of transport diversity too. Transport after all still stands at about a third of UK emissions and if we cycled like the Dutch and Danes... could be reduced drastically. What an opportunity! Yet DfT (Department for Transport) is hell-bent on systematically and institutionally supporting cars (polluting our air, land and water that Defra "tries hard" to safeguard). Our Df(mm)T continues its out-dated "predict and provide" model in their usual pro-car fashion (4).

Thereby surely admitting they are crap policy-makers and a lame toothless watchdog-pooch (no dangerous dog owners there then, Defra again). DfT are standing still. Like a dinosaur, too lazy to run, burning in a fire storm of transition that's raging all around them. Whilst everything else begins to move, the Df(mm)T stands still.

So what have I learnt yesterday? More than ever. It's time to change. Because change is coming regardless. It's just a matter of what type of change you fancy. Catastrophe or car-restraint.

Literature digested

(1) IPCC "The Three Salient Global Mitigation Pathways
Assessed in Light of the IPCC Carbon Budgets"

(2) Defra "Ecosystem services -Guidance for policy and decision makers on using an ecosystems approach and valuing ecosystem services"

(3) CIWEM "From microbes to mountains - Understanding and debating the role of ecosystem services in environmental management – Volume 2"

(4) DfT figures as analysed by CTC Peck and CTC Geffen

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Balance in action

space for cycling (Newcastle)Here are a two (typical) comments about the subject of balance (of all road users). And striking such a balance. Starting with a comedy classic.

Cllr Dave Wood

"As a local councillor I am in favour of cycling as a mode of transport as I am also supportive of walking, buses, motor cycles, motor cars, aeroplanes etc as modes of transport and firmly believe that travelling space is there to be shared and enjoyed."

Dear Dave, I can tell as much: I really have tried the sharing, it's not easy. So, dear Dave, my local-councillor-in-favour-of-cycling-as-well-as-everying-else (hence simply and silently perpetuating and endorsing the painful status quo), walk in my shoes for a mile. Please get a bike, get on it and try it on Welbeck Road for yourself.

Big city bosses had this to say in the past. Here is Barry Rowland (ex-chief of Newcastle) speaking through his then-Director David Slater:

"I am sorry that you seem unable to understand or accept the duty on the council to take an overview and strike a balance between all road users. We are committed to improving facilities for cycling and increasing the numbers of cyclists. This is clearly set out in ‘Delivering Cycling Improvements in Newcastle’ agreed recently and unanimously by full Council. In some cases this will mean giving positive advantage to cyclists, on strategic cycle routes for example, or by connecting existing well used networks. In all cases, it will mean as outlined in the Manual for Streets, ensuring that the needs of the most vulnerable users are considered in all highway schemes, but not necessarily to give priority to pedestrians and cyclists in each and every circumstance."

Whilst Newcastle is still languishing on a car-modelled modal share, have a think... just how could it change, if not to take away space from motoring and give it to cycling will our city shift towards people, get human-sized and humanised?

These are the old folks. Some are now gone. Some getting less and less power. I may, next week, have a look at what the new, the radical, the awoken have to say. Until then, let's see whether Dave gets on the bike.

Friday, 1 November 2013

NE1 The How(ling) - Part II

Leading on from NE1 - The How(ling) here is some more delusion or mind tinkering teasing. The swirly green-ish thing in the image below is a car park. In the street scene, however, there are no cars. There is a major bus interchange left of the car park. But the street shows no buses. Magic! Maybe it's another location that has been solved by helicopter.

NE1 Percy Street 
Image thanks go to The Journal