Tonight (but see PS below) I get my 15 seconds or so of fame in a TV programme, Inside Out, going out at 7.30 pm on BBC 1. My brief appearance will be part of a 10 minute slot on Cycling City, also featuring Cllr Jon Rogers and a few other local cycling savants. Basically Jon will be seen shivering out on the St Werburgh's path being upbeat and positive while I will be seen shivering on Hartcliffe Way being critical and negative. We were both interviewed (separately) for about an hour or so, but little of what was said will find its way into the programme, perhaps just a few sound bites to fit the narrative.
One sound bite that I'm sure will be used is when I am asked if Cycling City is succeeding or failing and I reply....well, you guess. So why is it failing? Well in the first place it set itself hopelessly unrealistic targets, especially doubling the number of cyclists within the three years, and so by its own criteria it's bound to fail. If it was merely a question of setting over ambitious targets Cycling City might be forgiven - we've all been there. But the problems are more fundamental than that.
I blogged about these fundamental problems on many occasions but in essence in comes down to a lack of honesty and openness which we can trace back a very long way, through the previous Labour administration of Bristol City Council to Cycling England and Sustrans. All subscribe to the idea that you can and should spin a story even if it has little substance to back it up. The Sustrans National Cycle Network was an outstanding example of this and it was a remarkably successful sleight-of-hand since no one was really in a position to go and comprehensively check on what really existed, before and after NCN, on the ground.
But in Bristol it's different. It is possible for one person to explore all the existing and proposed cycle network and see exactly how existing routes are being presented as new ones (e.g. Hartcliffe Way above). But having based the Cycling City strategy on this deceit it's very difficult for the Council to back out of it - what would be left to give credibility to Cycling City? As it happens the more intangible aspects of Cycling City, like the publicity generated, may well prove to be the more significant in terms of encouraging cycling, but people expect to see physical changes on the ground and they are difficult to deliver, especially within such a short time scale.
PS. Having just posted this, I now hear that this Inside Out feature may be postponed and replaced with a 'snow' special. I'll update if I hear anything more definite.
PPS. Yep, it's confirmed that the Cycling City feature will now go out next Monday instead.