Better by foot

Posted on March 15, 2011


Biking Bristol

Biking Bristol

I am going to risk the admonishment of a number of friends with this post, but these are the risks you must take if you are to write about things on the internet, so I shall venture forth regardless.

Bristol has recently announced that it is the UK’s first Biking City, which is nice, but what does it mean?  With a budget of £23m you’d think you’d notice something wouldn’t you?  Well, I’m happy to report that I have noticed some things, but predictably everything I have noticed is, at best, mediocre and at worst a complete and utter waste of money.  Incidentally, I just received my council tax bill for the year which is significantly over the national average, I wonder why?

I walk to and from work.  I can walk on pavements, roads, grass, steps, gravel even dog mess and I can climb walls if need be, fortunately I don’t need to, although I have considered this as a way of avoiding my six-year-old nemesis.  Incidentally, I saw the six-year-old try to trip up a partially sighted man with a white stick yesterday (He didn’t try to trip him with a white stick you understand?  The man had a white stick, not the boy.) – I can say no more on the little loan shark for fear he tracks me down and anyway, I think that last statement is all I ever need say for you to get the picture.

The point I’m trying to make is that my fellow walkers and I just get on with it, even if we are partially sighted and “Wee Neds” try to trip us up.  We don’t need convoluted, publicly funded programmes to help us on our merry way, just give us a pavement (although we can off-road nae bother) and we’ll do what comes naturally, unless of course we’re a bit on the porky side in which case a shop mobility seems to be the (wrong) answer.

Don’t get me started on fat people and shop mobilities…  can you dive-thru at McDonalds in a shop mobility?  I know, I know I sound very Daily Mail, but come on!


Walk and you might not need one of these, at my expense...

What I do notice on my walk to work is ill-conceived bike lanes.  These cut across pavements, or start on the left-hand side of the pavement and then jump across to the right with no warning.  This isn’t the fault of the cyclists, but I do find myself hoping and ducking and generally fearing for my cup of scolding coffee as cyclists whiz past me at speeds which aren’t really pavement-friendly.  I do wonder whether the job of painting cycle lanes is given to the YTS gang at the council so they can practice on the pavements before they are allowed out onto the roads?

When I learned to ride a bike I was always told that you can’t ride on pavements – when did that change?  I do see the necessity to provide cyclists with an alternative to being crushed to death by your average bus-driving psycho.  Is it me or do all bus drivers drive like cyclists?  They jump red lights and cut people up at will – so I guess it is karma that in doing so they take out a few cyclists who, let’s be honest, don’t give a hoot for the highway code.  I just don’t think that the solution for cyclists is the pavement.

For £23m you’d think they could create something a little better than some wobbly lines of white paint on the pavement.  The picture at the top of this post is a picture I took on my phone in the centre of Bristol last autumn.  It’s no-longer there.  This was a poor copy of the scheme which is proving a successful drain on the public purse in London.  How many cyclists have been hit by the van drivers who scoot around the capital moving bikes from one stand to another – there’s a stat I’d like to see.   Anyway, the scheme failed in Britain’s cycle city, as evidenced by that picture above and the fact that the stand is no longer there.   It was, of course, doomed from the start.  For the scheme to work they needed to put these stands all around Bristol, not put a couple of stands in the centre of town – pathetic!  However I’m sure that gobbled up a good chunk of the £23m budget. Why is Bristol City Council so useless, I’d like to know.

Do you know what I would do with £23m?  I’d create a series of bike parks around the town where people can safely leave their bike after their commute. They could even have a shower and then walk to work.  I know that’s not ideal, but let’s face it cars work and are not going to go away.  If you can’t accommodate cars and bikes together safely then you’re going to have to make a decision and preferably one which doesn’t involve compromising the poor pedestrian who, with no funding whatsoever can traverse the city without being a bother to anyone.

Sorry cyclists, I would make Bristol the Non-Cycling Capital.  Keep the buggers out I say and while you’re at it ban shop mobility for anyone who weighs more than 15 stone.  Cars pay for the roads, so they can have them. Just give me a pavement, free of dog’s doings and evil six-year olds and I’m happy.

I was about to post this article and decided instead to go for a lunchtime walk first before pressing the publish button and I’m glad I did because take a look at what I happened upon on my stroll (us pedestrians can take photos on the move too, try that cyclists!).  Here is the £23m in action, a half-painted cycle lane that cuts through a taxi rank, genius!  The road has been closed for a few days already and I was wondering why, now I know.   The insidious creep of idiocy is unrelenting at the council and it seems I am stuck with them, what to do – move maybe?

bike lane

I can only assume we are getting rickshaws in Bristol

In marketing terms then what’s this all about?  Well, you can’t just make a statement that you are something you’re not – you’ve got to carry out what you say.  I could claim to be the brightest, most attractive man in Bristol, but if I did I’d have to back it up with some action, unlikely – although I’m told I’m quite debonair and interesting… by my father.

So Bristol can claim to be Britain’s Cycle City, but it might as well claim to be the best beach destination on the planet, such is the unsubstantiated nature of the claim.  It could certainly claim the title of most feckless, useless and wasteful council in the country and I’d give them the title without argument… bunch of idiots.