Making Your Mark

May 3rd, 2011 by WitneyBUG Leave a reply »

It took a while. It’s been going for about five years now, but the BUG eventually got an account, sending the first tweet in February. Sustainable Witney have an account too which is generally used to publish posts.

Depending on how many people or things you choose to follow, you get a relatively constant stream of twitterings of 140 characters or less on all sorts of topics throughout the day – should you need it.

Two that came in to my own account one after the other this morning caused the Mr Angry cogs to engage.

First, from _Capitalism_

I am capitalism and it does not matter whether your children are taught creationism or evolution, as long as they are taught consumption.

Followed serendipitously by someone retweeting ridetowork2011

‘Every bicycle km ridden saves society 25 cents in the dollar, every car km driven costs society 60 cents in the dollar’ Jan Gehl

Gehl is an architect based in Copenhagen credited with being highly influential in the successful resurgence of cycling in the Danish capital. And that argument he’s peddling in the quote isn’t wishful thinking, it’s based on the Danes’ experience.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard economic arguments for promoting and encouraging cycling. From a health point of view alone everyone knows it makes sense and is worth the investment. What I can never understand is why the UK hasn’t invested. “Oh, but hang on a minute, we have”, I here you say.

Well, have you ever taken a look at the transport budget and the percentage of it spent on cycling? Then compared that with the desired percentage modal shift away from cars to bikes for local journeys? And pondered on why those two figures are so very far apart? It’s the kind of distance Prof Brian Cox marvels at from the end of his telescope.

I won’t bore you with the figures, here’s a link to some information if you want it, but you can take it from me, if you saw the spending per capita on cycle friendly transport in the Netherlands, Denmark, even Germany, and compared that to the spending in the UK, you’d have no trouble understanding why cycle schemes or infrastructure here often amounts to a white line on a pavement.

There’s no shortage of good words and goodwill to supporting cycling, but there’s precious little cash to back it up. So why is that? Is it really because despite the obvious good, the obvious benefits, the taxpayer savings, the no-brainer that can be thought over there but not over here, that despite all of that, is the real reason that saving the taxpayer money might be seen as a loss to business revenue? A possible reduction in the bottom line growth figure? A reduction in consumption?

I say that’s codswallop. If they can do it there – and they have done, they’ve got the proof – then we can do it here. You don’t need to be a dyed-in-the-afghan-wool-wearing-treehugger to support reduction in waste, enjoy green spaces, a more livable town and reduced congestion. Everyone benefits. The guys holding the purse strings just need a helping hand to let go a little when the cycling option’s on the agenda.

When you go to the polls this Thursday, consider asking yourself these questions:

  1. Could I inject a little more sustainability into our local government?
  2. For all the radical changes going on in government today, why are some changes so unthinkable that the big guns have to get down and dirty?

We’re doing everything we can, but it’s clearly not enough. We need some help. We often blame the engineers for implementing crap schemes, but I ask you, how innovative could you be with thruppence-hapenny in the last five minutes on a Friday afternoon?

Safe cycling needs proper funding.



  1. Impavidus says:

    While I have every sympathy for the cycling lobby and I think that in urban and sub-urban areas use of bicycles should be greatly encouraged and appropriate investment put in place I have some reservation about a very aggressive stance on cycling alone, without looking at the whole issue of transport integration.
    The reason why countries that are often mentioned as examples like Denmark or Holland have such a successful cycling policy is because this is seen as just one of the many ingredients of a fully integrated public transport policy that has at its heart the desire to ensure that citizen can make as much use as possible of these services through interchangeable tickets (much cheaper than the UK), more advanced units, more frequent timetables and so on.
    In the UK politicians have used cycling as a cheapskate solution to appear to be environmentally friendly (makes nice photos opportunity…) or as a flimsy argument to distract from the big issue of public transport integration.
    Therefore I think that the strong and vociferous cycling lobbying should join forces with all the other groups that are advocating for example a renationalisation of the rail network, a firmer regulation of bus services providing more affordable and more frequent services and the abandonment of monstrously inefficient schemes such as the high speed line.
    Just cycling alone, however desirably, will never solve the problem of reducing environmental impact and providing truly 21st century public transport services.

  2. Kevin says:

    Like this perhaps?

    Along with Sustainable Wintey, the BUG is a member of the West Oxfordshire Sustainable Transport Forum – unfortunately I can’t give you a link to it at the moment because it’s not quite made it onto the district council’s site yet – but it’s not far away.

    And there’s a good case for approaching this not just as a group of ‘cyclists’; the venom triggered by the sight or sound of the c-word makes the discussion of two-wheeled human assisted transport nigh on impossible in the UK.

    In fact the narrow, sport based promotion of cycling in the UK prevents many people who get around by bike from considering themselves to be ‘cyclists’. That’s the main reason WitneyBUG is a group for bicycle users.

    When it comes to money and investment though, we may be fed up with the lack of support for rail and bus, but they still get significantly more funding than bike. I think the rant is more than justified on that basis.

    What your proposing sounds like

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