Sunday, 5 October 2008

Cycling City Crisis

Why is it that everything with the initials CC in its name turns out to be such a let down for cyclists? We have Carboot Circus, (Bristol) City Council, and of course Cycling City.

Bizarrely the City Council were awarded Cycling City status back in June even though they continue to back profoundly unpopular plans by West of England Partnership to convert the city's one outstanding cycle route, the Bristol & Bath Railway Path, into a Bus Rapid Transit route.

Not an auspicious start for the 3 year project and things have continued in much the same vein, with local democracy being an early victim as vested interests position themselves to pocket the £20 million of taxpayers' money being thrown at Cycling City. Ordinary cyclists have found themselves very much out in the cold, even to the extent of being refused entry to consultative meetings.

So anxious are the Council to keep trouble makers (i.e. anyone who doesn't agree with what they say) out of the decision making process that they went so far as to nominate the person who they wished to be the representative of the Bristol Cycling Campaign (hmm, another CC) on the Cycling City Stakeholders' Panel, an outrageous presumption that the Cycling Campaign meekly accepted.

But there are thankfully a few local cyclists who take exception to the arrogance of the Council and their acolytes. Led by the redoubtable Joshua Hart (above), they are making a last ditch attempt to gain some influence over the process of determining where the funding should go at a meeting of the Stakeholders' Forum (no, not the Stakeholders' Panel - confusing, isn't it? It's meant to be.) to be held at Fairfield High School, Allfoxton Road, Horfield this Wednesday at 6pm.

It has to be said that the prospects do not look good. Word is that the spending plan has already been stitched up amongst the vested interests, including of course local charities like Sustrans, who will no doubt find themselves with substantial roles (and funding) in the Cycling City project. The termination of the project in a little more than 2½ years makes for rushed decisions and short term thinking.

But who dares wins, in the end. So now is the time for the city's cyclists to ask themselves whether they are content to have their tax money spent to bolster the prestige of the incumbent vested interests or whether they want their tax money spent in a manner that is targeted firmly at making Bristol better for cyclists. If they don't show what they're made of now they may never get another chance.


Anonymous said...

"they went so far as to nominate the person who they wished to be the representative of the Bristol Cycling Campaign "

So who is the BCC nominated rep then?

Chris Hutt said...

Isn't it a little hypocritical to ask that someone else's identity be exposed when you won't reveal your own?

DocSavage said...

its strange that the Bristol cycling campaign website had nothing on it all regarding the meeting until today.
even then you'd be doing well to spot it.
the lack of publicity over consultation about cycling improvements shows that the council aren't interested in getting proper opinion from those of us who use the lamentable facilities on offer.
As you say, we'll watch this money drain away if we're not careful.

Docsavage said...

OK, so my cold got the better of me and I left the meeting during the Q & A, but having just witnessed what I can only describe as the good, the bad and the ugly (BCC's 'stakeholder' get together)I still don't have any belief in this bunch and their intentions for Bristol.
Several low quality presentations that were meant to cover various aspects of the overall grand plan seemed to me to be a mish mash of different departments, none of whom seem to be working as a unified team. The 'PR' lady, I'm afraid, filled me with such despair with what I perceived as an apparant lack of enthusiasm, originality or drive. (I'm sure she's terrific at her job or else she wouldn't be there?)her snide remarks about middle aged white male cyclists seemed to fall right into the black hole that an earlier blog on here discussed.
Andy Whitehead and his 'inspirational' talk about how the infrastructure would work left me no clearer about anything, (oh, except he confirmed that we cyclists might find it nigh on impossible to cycle across the centre easily - sorry about that then Andy?!!) The Bikeability ladies gave a good clear talk, showing how they can simply get on with more of what they do well already. My last point of despair will be about the stupid, and typically over complicated flow chart that demonstrated how the management of the scheme would work...HELP!
it summed it up.

Good speech by Josh though.

Chris Hutt said...

I agree completely, Doc. Two hours of tedious, boring and utterly uninspiring presentations which just showed that they were going to carry on doing the same sort of mediocre stuff as before, only there would be a lot more of them doing it so they can soak up all those lovely tax pounds that are suddenly showering down on them.

Until the PR lady spoke I was under the illusion that PR had got quite sophisticated and subtle over the decades. Apparently not - an A level student could have made that lot up. And the guy talking about something or other in the middle could have bored for England.

Then Josh spoke and I suddenly remembered why life might be worth living after all. That guy is seriously clever and inspiring (and he's on our side!) yet the Council could never bear to hire such a person simply because by comparison he shows them all up as a bunch of useless space fillers.

So now we know how the £23 million of our taxes are going to be frittered away. I went hoping to be pleasantly surprised but I wasn't.

DonaQixota said...

So they did let the rabble in then?

Chris Hutt said...

Yes, there was no attempt to stop anyone entering. It would have been a PR disaster if they had tried. I guess even they realised that.

Their attempt to put people off going by feeding the "invitation only" bit to the Post reminds me of the story put out on the morning of the big Save the Railway Path rally back in March saying that the rally had been canceled.

You never know for sure if these things are cock-up or conspiracy, but I have to say the former always seems more likely with the Council.

In the end their tactic of boring us to distraction with masses of unnecessary detail worked rather well and they managed to whittle down the time for questions at the end to not much more than half an hour, so a lot of people never got a chance to ask anything.