Monday, 3 August 2009

Bullshit Corner

Despite the Lib Dems taking control of Bristol City Council back in June, and even a recent plea from Venue magazine ("no more bullshit PR"), the tide of civic bullshit remains unabated. Even Cllr Jon 'openness and transparency' Roger's City Development department continues to insult our intelligence with such egregious extravagance as this below, highlighted by an opinion piece by Roger Tavener on Bristol 24-7.
(£92,000 a year)

Give 500,000 people the freedom of the city

One of Europe’s most successful, green and vibrant cities, Bristol’s progress is being slowed by congestion, with the associated issues of road safety and air quality. By delivering a visionary transport system which addresses these challenges, you’ll release opportunities, and give ½ million people the freedom to enjoy their city in the ways they want.

This is one of the biggest jobs in city transport. Spearheading one of the largest improvement programmes outside London, your remit is simply to drive a step change in the Bristol Transport offer, and deliver the 21st century system our residents deserve. In doing so, you will change people’s perceptions, influence travel behaviour, and prove that sustainable city transport is truly attainable.
Those of us who daily struggle with getting around this city might well be cynical. There are fundamental problems with reconciling the many contradictory expectations that people have when it comes to transport. We value personal freedom, in particular free (in both senses) access to the highway network where we like, when we like and in whatever vehicle we like. But we castigate the inevitable consequences of that freedom - congestion, pollution, social exclusion, conflict between different road users, obstructive parking and expensive and inefficient public transport.

The inconvenient truth is that no politician, even Honest Jon, is going to be able to deliver real change because when it comes to the crunch the turkeys aren't going to vote for Christmas (as demonstrated by the Manchester congestion charging referendum), however much some might insist it's the only way forward. So the politicians have to resort to sleight of hand, making extravagant gestures to foster the expectation of some future transport fantasy (above) so that we don't notice that nothing much has really changed. Even the bullshit above refers to changing "people’s perceptions" rather than the reality.

Later edit - here's the result of an automated bullshit detector test, highlighted words being from list that Local Government Association says should not be used. (thanks to Woodsy for that).


woodsy said...

What's the betting that the new transport wonk will be blind to the opportunities that could be made of Bristol's woefully underused rail network?

Anonymous said...

'when it comes to the crunch the turkeys aren't going to vote for Christmas (as demonstrated by the Manchester congestion charging referendum'

isn't the point of democracy that people have control over the decisions which control their lives?

Therefore, if the people want something which differs from your point of view, then it is either tough, or you have to talk them in to it.

Chris Hutt said...

But do you "talk them into it" by trying to explain the realities of the situation or by bamboozling them with wildly unrealistic fantasies?

I'd go along with the former but not the latter.

Tim said...

Hah, love the bullshit detector.

While some cynicism is probably well in order, I'm not entirely sure about the "Turkeys don't vote for Christmas" thing here.

I think in Bristol an inner city peak-time congestion charge might even stand a chance in a public vote *if* the offer was right. Such a "right" offer might involve a number of tram lines instead of showcase bus routes (which includes the BRT). One can dream, right?

But of course that's not going to happen, because busses are cheaper in the short run and easier and faster to deliver (sigh). Well, better than nothing I guess.

Having said that, there are areas where public vote style decision-making fails, and I think congestion charging might be one of those.

As for the 'realities of the situation' - I still wonder how much of all that is political laziness, unwillingness or ineptitude, and how much is due to immutable externally-imposed circumstances/limitations.

I simply fail to believe that a prosperous and growing city like Bristol can't sort itself out transport-wise. Does the city really depend so much on central government funding that it can't move forward substantially without?

(Wandered off a bit again, apologies.)

The Bristol Blogger said...

re: bullshit detector.

Surely the terms 'vibrant' and 'spearheading' are local government bullshit?

That should be a score of 6.

Gary Hopkins said...

Bit flowery for my taste but what it says is that there is a big job to do because our poor transport system is letting down a city that overall is pretty sucsessful.
It does not pretend that the transport system is right and it also gives the strong steer that sustainability is going to be a big factor.
Somehow I think that "join a bunch of dinosaurs who really do not give a damn" is less likely to attract anybody who has some imagination and a good chance of making real progress.
Of course life would be an awful lot easier if central government let us get on with the job but ring conjestion charging is not the only possible solution.