First a dabble in the theory. All our thoughts and actions are based on ideas which are formulated with words. If words don't have agreed and recognised meanings then we cannot use them with any precision. If we cannot use words with precision then the ideas based on them become amorphous and ultimately meaningless. Then our thoughts and actions have no solid basis, which leaves us prey to the shysters, snake oil salesmen and politicians of this world. If that makes any sense you might like this piece by Charles Eisenstein, kindly flagged up by Tim Beadle and others via twitter, which takes the theme much further.
Now for a practical example. Yesterday Jon Rogers, who I'm still convinced wants to be as open and transparent as is possible, answered a query about the Hourbike scheme raised on the public Bristol cycling Campaign forum, saying (in a series of responses which I've amalgamated)-
I had a briefing this afternoon about imminent HourBike launch. Small private company that has been quietly trialling up at UWE between Parkway Station and UWE.But then quite a lot more information emerged from another source. It seems this "privately funded private initiative" is mostly funded by public funds (from Bristol City Council, the University of the West of England (UWE) and First Great Western) and originated from publicly funded research at UWE. So Jon Rogers might well be pondering what 'private' means in that context. Clearly the officers giving him advice have a very different idea of the meaning of the word to me.
Officer response..."It's not part of the Council's Cycling City programme, but a private initiative started before the Cycling City funding was announced and consistent with our aims to promote and increase cycling. As part of the programme however we are also looking at the options for wider access to bikes, of which hire on a bigger scale is one."
Hour Bike is privately funded. They have, I understand had a grant of £4k, with further £4K for launch and £4k due next year - total £12K from Council investment. Would you like me to ask if that is counted as part of the council share of it's investment in Cycling City?
We also learn that another £20k of Cycling City money was allocated to the second phase of the Hourbike project. How does that fit with the £12k funding (which may or may not be Cycling City money - we still await a response on that point) reported by Jon Rogers? Some people need to be reminded that Cycling City money remains our tax money, however many different agencies it's passed between, and we're entitled to know exactly what it is being spent on.
The Cycling City launch press release said -
And there are new plans for a 24 hour automated bike hire scheme called ‘Hourbike’, providing bike locations (docking stations) across Bristol City centre and further afield around Parkway Station and the University of the West of England. This is subject to agreements on funding by the operator.So is it right to say that the Hourbike scheme is not part of Cycling City? The Cycling City PR materials seems to say that it is. The funding seems to say that it is. But the officers say that it isn't. Who should Jon Rogers believe? Who should we believe?
My interpretation of this is that Cycling City are distancing themselves from the Hourbike scheme, presumably because they don't think it's viable or simply aren't prepared to pump prime it to the level where it could be viable. The Hourbike map suggests just three new locations in central Bristol to go with the four existing locations at Parkway (above) and UWE. That looks like little more than a token gesture to me.
But of course if Cycling City were honest and open about these things we wouldn't need my 'interpretations' or speculation, rumour and guesswork. We'd have the facts, based on words with agreed meanings. Surely Jon Rogers must be beginning to appreciate the logic of that.