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Topic: A message from Winchmore Hill Police

A message from Winchmore Hill Police
22 Jan 2018 22:50 #3570

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It's politely and softly said, but there is an underlying criticism in Tristan Lockheart's most recent contribution to this thread which I think ignores far too much.

First a bit of history. The UK lost its cycling culture during my lifetime of 80 years, mainly in the first 30/40 years. Before then boys learned the cycling skills from older boys in the street outside their homes; few girls/women cycled. Most male manual workers cycled to work - in my town anyway - some boys cycled to school. No child turned up at the schools I went to in a car. Some came and went by train or bus.

At just over five years old I walked to school supervised by the ‘big girls’, who were around eight or nine years old. From about 10years old I cycled alone.

But of course there were virtually no cars due to the war and the legacy of war.

I told that story partly because it highlights the freedoms children have lost, but could be brought back in purely residential streets if drivers behaved. Why do does anyone other than the fire service have to drive above 15kph in a street designed for living and access? These are ideal places to learn/develop cycling skills.

Whether that sort of freedom can return or not, bringing a cycling culture back is going to take much time. There will be no surge on the Green Lanes cycle lanes for a long time. Why? Because changing a mindset is a slow business: decisions will have to be made to buy bikes, and it’s hard to find time to help kids learn. Fitting seats on parents’ bikes for kids below cycling age will not come easily to the modern mind, nor the willingness to put a youngster in a trolley behind your bike in Netherlands and Denmark style (probably Sweden, Norway & others as well though I haven’t been there for some years). Plus the fact that ours will be rather difficult cycle lanes to cope with until walkers get the hang of staying on the pavement (not as difficult as some of Strasbourg’s though, and it has an excellent cycling culture) .

Meanwhile there is still the 'pull' of that comfy car; especially when it's snowing as yesterday, or raining hard, or windy, or hot. Fair enough if weather is really bad, but when I lived in a village and cycled 12 kilometres each way to work I several times made it to the office when cars couldn't get through the drifts. Which is not to suggest that people go that far, but is to say that there seems to be mindset now which sees biking as impossible. Not so except when there’s much traffic, and drivers are in ‘entitlement’ mode. Which most usually are, because until now government at every level has fostered cars over common sense.

Now that vexed issue of experienced, often commuting, cyclists who are continuing to cycle on the carriageway. Of course they will! Some of our cycle lanes are on the pavement, are not as direct or smooth as the carriageway (which if you got an expensive bike is a nuisance), and there will probably be jay-walking pedestrians on cycle lanes along the social centres such as high streets. Further there seem to be more delaying traffic lights though I haven’t counted.

For the moment I'm mostly sticking to the cycle lanes, partly to assess their qualities and partly to be part of the pedestrian reminder system; some pedestrians seem genuinely amazed at my presence. However, it's likely that I'll ultimately revert to the carriageway. It's quicker, and I can play my part in undermining the 'sense of entitlement' so many drivers have: everything should be organised to suit my needs. Here’s a few examples:

• pedestrians required to walk out of their way to cross the road on a zebra crossing;
• giving children's independence on residential streets is not my problem;
• rat-running is OK even if it does limit children’s’ freedoms;
• parking selfishly, and
• travelling alone in large cars over short distances..

Tristan started with this sentence: "I understand where they are coming from. An immense amount of funds was spent on the project...............". Not an immense amount by comparison with the money spent over the years on systems for traffic; often making traffic safer for pedestrians. And had London remained mainly a walking, cycling, public transport culture it’s probable that only a smidgen of that money would have been needed.

If a walking culture been retained public transport could have carried the extra customers relatively comfortably; cars need an awful lot of room per person, especially when driver-only.

Finally there is the question of health. By now just about everyone knows about the dire effects of poor air quality (though drivers go on driving), but lack of fitness is also a serious problem accompanied by its soul mate: Type 2 diabetes.

Meanwhile cycling is wonderful for old geezers like me because it is excellent exercise, and it’s so easy on creaking hips and knees.

Just for the record I have a car. I/we, my wife and me, use for journeys were the big three can’t help.

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