Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Blogger Gets Some Stick

I know my critical style isn't to everyone's liking but my critics rarely present anything resembling a rational argument against it, so it was interesting to find this in this morning's Google Alerts. 'Dapper Dan', who tells us little about his background or interests, obviously isn't a fan of Green Bristol Blog and doesn't hold back in making that clear.
There's a blogger out there that I don't think would be able to see anything in a positive light, who somehow manages to make even the sunshine seem gloomy. Yes I accept there may be a role of scrutiny in there somewhere, and yes, at times the Council can be crap but there must be better, or more constructive ways of criticism than this.
Somehow I knew he was talking about me even before I followed the links back to this site. I suppose it's gratifying to have confirmation that I'm making an impact, but I was a little disappointed that Dapper Dan's critique wasn't a bit more sophisticated.

Dapper Dan seems to think that we should be uncritically positive about whatever the council do without regard to the paucity of the reality on the ground, rather in the style of 'Pravda' in the former Soviet Union. It's hardly necessary to labour the point that this is not the British way of doing things, however much Dapper Dan (who with that attitude surely works for the council?) wishes it were.

I believe that there is a real danger of this country drifting towards 'statism', particularly under the impetus of the need to adapt to environmental concerns. Each step along such a path will consist of small, almost trivial steps but in time that's where it will lead.

Cycling City, as originally constituted, is one such step. From the outset it sought to exclude those of us who had years of practical experience of campaigning for cycling and place all the power with the apparatus and apparatchiks of the state, whether under the guise of Bristol City Council, Sustrans or Cycling England.

Such arrogance was bound to provoke a fierce reaction and I make no apologies for playing my part in that. Cycling has survived and even prospered not because of the actions of the state but despite the actions of the state. Even today we see the state at every level pouring massive subsidies into long distance motorised travel, so encouraging lifestyles which are increasingly unsustainable.

Against this we have pathetically tokenistic gestures like the £100 milion allocated to the Cycling Demonstration Towns. In terms of national expenditure on transport that is no more than the small change that one might toss to a beggar on the streets. And yet the Dapper Dans of this world think we should all be terrible grateful and positive. Who is the deluded one?


Anonymous said...

Keep going Chris. I keep coming here to hear your thoughts on different subjects- may not always agree but I appreciate the perspective. I always thought the joy of the internet was that the 'elites' are held to greater accountability by us little people, and reminded that the stuff they try and brush under the rug will be found.
Maybe you struck a nerve.

Anonymous said...

I completely concur with Dapper Dan. I added this blogs RSS feed to my reader thinking it would be good to keep in touch with the cycling issues in Bristol, but all I`ve got since then is pessimistic criticism. I was wondering why nobody commented on it till now. The only reason I haven't unsubscribed is because in spite of the pessimism there still is a bit of news worth knowing woven in.

Anonymous said...

cycling and walking is a fringe issue. So few people care about it. But it keeps you out of mischief and maybe work. No doubt you will say it is the top of everyones agenda but maybe you are just too close to it all. Good luck with the navel gazing though. I get the impression from your blog that you have a very high opinion of yourself, I would have thought with such talent you would not have time to blog quite so much. Or maybe it is unfulfilled ambition that is being vented via the blogosphere.

Docsavage said...

'cycling and walking is a fringe issue'


Everyone one of us is a pedestrian,
I can how that the arrogance of the motorist will push that fact down to the depths of their tormented psyche,

but look down, those funny things called feet, we've all got 'em!

a Mr T moment!!

Chris Hutt said...

Having physical access to employment, housing, social, health care and educational opportunities is a major issue throughout the world. In many countries even access to clean water and food requires an afordable means of transportation.

Cycling and walking are the most accessible means of transportation for most people, so I would have thought these were anything but fringe issues.

Even in our relatively affluent country there are many people spending a significant proportion of their limited income on motorised transportation when they could be cycling and thereby improving their health, wealth and opportunites.

Euonymous said...

Anonymous maunders "I was wondering why nobody commented on it till now"

LOL I've got news for you Anymous, THEY HAVE! Just about every single Anonymous on this blog since I've been reading it, has come on to have a grumble about Chris having a grumble.

Moaning is the British way - as British as camping in a rainstorm or drinking tea you can stand your spoon up in.

Having a good old grumble is very healthy.

Keep it up chaps!

Chris Hutt said...

First Anon, what is there not to be pessimistic about?

We are busily undermining the environmental systems on which we depend and heading towards catastrophic climate change.

We continue to subsidise motorised transport at the expense of sustainable transport.

We continue to fail to tackle traffic congestion which is undermining our economic performance.

We have a society divided by car ownership into haves and have-nots whose interests are irreconcilable.

We slaughter over 1 million people a year to the altar of the automobile god, crippling and injuring hundreds of millions more.

Have I missed something?

Mike Armstrong said...

Who is this "Dapper Dan" anyway?

I suspect a Bristol City Council insider...

Chris Hutt said...

Hi Mike, he's just posted again, blaming me for the impending failure of Cycling City!

He didn't respond to my suggestion that he must work for BCC so that seems to confirm that he does. So there's another surprise.

Anonymous said...

DocSavage, I refer to public opinion, if it is such a major issue in the publics mind why do I not see mass protests on the streets. Seems like I touched a nerve.

Anonymous said...

ps Docsavage..I am not a car driver, a cyclists would you believe.

MJ Ray said...

Surely "keep[ing] in touch with the cycling issues in Bristol" is "pessimistic criticism" if you're a cyclist? I cycled around Bristol recently and some of the newer cycle facilities surely can't be used on a bicycle by their designers - the new Prince Street Bridge is a special piece of awfulness, but Temple Circus is pretty bad too.

In my neighbouring area of North Somerset, the successes near me have mainly been reopening old routes (Worle Moor Lane) and signposting. We're just about to get two junction redesigns - I've commented on drafts but I'm still nervous. I hope it's more like the Flax Bourton Greenway than the Cycling City stuff.

Docsavage said...

Dear Anon

no nerves ruffled here I can assure you.
my point is that we are ALL pedestrians, how anyone can be daft enough to call it a minority interest makes me smile.
we've got waaay too comfortable with our pampered lifestyle, that only represents some 5% of the worlds population. (but thats another argument I guess)

I'd add the reason we don't get out en masse on the streets is probably to do with them being choked with cars most of the time! ;)

Anonymous said...

"We continue to fail to tackle traffic congestion which is undermining our economic performance."

Chris - I would be interested in your views on the recent decision by Portishead council to remove some traffic lights that only increased congestion in the town? There are now calls for the town to become traffic light 'free'.

Do you think there are any traffic lights that could be removed in Bristol to help ease congestion?
Do you think any of BCC recent traffic planning decisions have only seemed to increase congestion?

Sorry to hijack your blog with direct questions in the comments section...would just be interested in your views?

Adam said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...if it is such a major issue in the publics mind why do I not see mass protests on the streets."

Although they may called organised coincidences rather than protests for technical reasons what do you think "Critical Mass" events are? They happen regularly (usually once a month) in Bristol and many many many places throughout the world.

In the UK alone they happen in Aberdeen, Birmingham, Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Guernsey, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham, Oxford, Preston, Sheffield, Southend-on-Sea, Swansea, Worthing and York.

For a full worldwide list have a look at http://criticalmass.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_rides

And Critical Mass is just one type of event. There are many more.

Anonymous said...

Critical mass tends to be more about confrontation in my experience. Making it bike vs car. That method has very little future. Plus how may people join the Bristol one about 50 or so. hardly mass protest for a city of 1/2million.

Chris Hutt said...

In reply to Anon @11.50, you ask a very pertinent question. I'm thinking of blogging on it some time soon in view of the Portishead experiment.

My initial thoughts are that getting around Bristol is very frustrating with so many traffic signals and I think that is why so many cyclists, pedestrians and motorists jump the lights when they think it safe to do so.

This is obviously not an ideal situation from anyone's point of view. I think most road users would on the whole prefer to be able to make progress without breaking the law but the current proliferation of traffic lights makes jumping them very tempting. We are all human and it would be unrealistic to expect any of us to behave like saints.

I think we should look at the Portishead experience and consider whether a lot more of the road network might be managed in a different way, with lower speeds, fewer lights and more priority junctions like mini roundabouts and zebra crossings.

There would have to be a change in attitudes on the part of all road users, more 'give and take', less 'get out of my way'. Above all pedestrians should have general priority. I think providing we start off with lower speeds, that is below 20 mph, we ought to be able to have more civilised and less stressful streets.

Adam said...

Anonymous said...

"Critical mass tends to be more about confrontation in my experience. Making it bike vs car. That method has very little future. Plus how may people join the Bristol one about 50 or so. hardly mass protest for a city of 1/2million."

A relative minority of people on critical mass are looking for confrontation but many aren't. Many are there just to raise awareness and often just to enjoy the ride in the company and safety (in numbers) of others.

Bristol has had turn outs of a lot less than 50 people, but has also had turn outs of a lot more.

If you take 50 as an average and look at how many cities that happens in every month then those numbers aren't so small as one avenue of "protest".

I think maybe you're using the "large but nonspecific amount or number" definition of mass, whereas I was thinking in terms of "A grouping of individual parts or elements that compose a unified body of unspecified size or quantity".

I'm not aware of a definition of mass that requires numbers to be measured in proportion to other factors (eg population) as far as I know. Maybe there is one?

Getting into semantics that are beside the point I know.

Adam said...

comments are getting hilarious.

v serious all.


I have mixed feelings about Critical Mass too. I agree with the idea and think it's a good thing that it happens, but not sure there isn't a more effective way to achieve what it's trying to do. But then with lots of people coming together you're going to get different ideas, expectations and intentions.