jenny jones on narrow roads 1

On random play through a massive backlog of podcasts, my phone stumbled upon this, from The Bike Show, earlier.

Well I think it’s very important to put segregation in where you possibly can, but on our road system, some of which is Victorian — some of which is Roman still — sometimes there just isn’t a space, so what you have to do is be flexible and you put the appropriate conditions in for the appropriate road.

Obviously the statement is irrelevant to the issue. Nobody thinks that cycle tracks are needed on tiny old Roman and medieval streets. Cycle tracks are needed on big fast busy main roads, which have plenty space if you’re willing to take it away from other uses, like car parking. Indeed, the second half of Jenny’s statement shows why the first half is nonsense.

But I’m not so much interested in how it’s wrong as where it gets us. Here are some other examples of the claim being made:

Also in 1977, the Labour Government’s Transport White Paper, ‘reflecting government concerns about the rising cost of oil, erosion of the quality of life through road traffic, and the needs of non-car users’ … stated that ‘[c]ompletely segregated cycle routes would be impractical or far too expensive in most cities, but local authorities should consider ways of helping cyclists when preparing traffic management schemes…there is scope for many more practical initiatives [to support walking and cycling]’ (DoT 1977: 28).
By 1981, such projects were deemed successful enough to be considered for extension in the now Conservative Government’s Cycling Consultation Paper, which identified ‘a boom in cycling’ (page 1) also stating that ‘[i]n an ideal world’ cyclists would have ‘their own tracks, separating them from other users of the roads. But there is not enough space and not enough money to do this everywhere’.

“Not enough space to do it everywhere” seems to have been an excuse to do it nowhere. Before “encouraging” local authorities to provide for cyclists, the DoT first told them how they could easily get out of actually doing anything.

Here’s one more, which reveals the real issue:

Question by John Biggs
Do you agree that these facts demonstrate that segregated cycle tracks are safer and more popular and will you, therefore, be prioritising segregated facilities on future highway routes?

Answer by Boris Johnson
We must also be realistic. In many places, the existing layout of roads and buildings means that there is simply not enough space to provide segregated cycle lanes without adversely impacting other users. As a highway authority TfL has to consider the needs of all road users, as well as nearby residents and businesses.

Rather than emphasising first where it can’t be done — even when nobody is asking for it to be done in such places — you need to emphasise that second bit: “you put the appropriate conditions in for the appropriate road”. And on big main roads, that’s going to be cycle tracks. The space is there, if you’re willing to reach out and take it.

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One thought on “jenny jones on narrow roads

  • Paul M

    There is a reason why it would never occur to a mainstream politician to doubt the proposition that cars must always have their own way, that you must never inconvenience a motorists but it is OK to inconvenience other road users.It comes down to financial dependence. Quite simply, the motor industry buys influence, through political donations, lobbyists, sponsored consultations and polls, press and TV advertising etc, and expects all those beneficiaries to repay the largesss they are showered with. the Auto industry is of course not the only industry which does this: armaments, nuclear power, agriculture, and air travel are other conspicuous examples.What do all these industries have in common? That they cannot survive without state aid. Arms manufacturers work on de-risked "cost-plus" contracts for defence misnistries the workd over. Who else can get such contracts? Airports and airlines are subsidised by being exempt from taxation on their fuel, and able to reclaim all the VAT they pay despite the fact that they don’t add VAT to their charges, because transport is "zero-rated". The nuclear power industry profits from selling electricity for the life of a reactor, and then passes the decommissioning cost to the state.Truth about the motor industry is that almost no major car manufacturers in the US or Europe would exist today without massive state subsidy at some stage in their corporate lives. The industry was able to gain a toehold because the state paid to build smooth roads, orignally intended for cyclists. Even today, Nissan has received state aid to build a new model in Sunderland.So, industries which can;t stand on their own two feet must of necessity shell out buckets of cash – your cash and mine, in truth – to promote the fiction that the car is essential to modern industrial society and economies, that car use must go ever onwards and upwards, expanding without limit, that nothing may be permitted to interfere with this aim, that viable alternatives, which threaten this aim, must be killed off, preferably with kind words and insincere support.The car itself is not the enemy, it is just an inanimate object. Used wisely, it can be a great benefit. Without the captains of industry which stand behind it however, it would be a smaller industry making fewer and more expensive cars which – yes – fewer people could afford to own but everyone else would therefore demand that they are properly served by alternatives. That might include car clubs, but would certainly mean much better public transport and safer conditions for cyclists.