how to behave in a revolution (part I)

We can unequivocally support the principle of new infrastructure for cycle-traffic.  It doesn’t mean we have to use it.

In May 2020 it was clear there was a revolution happening.  I didn’t expect things to develop so fast.  We can’t go back.  To borrow a slogan from Chile “we won’t go back to normal because normal was the problem.”The current calamitous pandemic has  reminded us of some interesting things, including…

  • …there are more important things than – the previously sacred – ‘economy’.
  • …health is an issue of social justice.
  • …humanity has a dysfunctional relationship with the natural world or – to put it another way – we have a dysfunctional relationship with the World.
  • …our Government can move quickly when it wants to.
  • …our Government can spend freely when it wants to.
  • …pedal cycles are useful.
  • …pedal cycles are resilient.

Covid19 sparked a global run on bicycles.  In Britain the boom started with budget bikes as bored, anxious people looked for ways to exercise away from their overcrowded, local parks.  Fine weather, motor-traffic flowing like it was a Sunday in the 1950’s and clean air also helped.

The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air(CREA) estimate that – in Europe, in April 2020 – improvement in air-quality resulting from CV19 lock-downs averted 11,000 pollution-related deaths.

Check our exclusive report from inside the great 2020 bike boom.

bike shop frenzy London, June 2020

The British bike sale boom continues with more costly machines – the cheap ones are all gone – as others reassess their future travel options.

The Government – understandably anxious to restart the economy – has a new imperative to get people out working – and spending –  while  keeping them from crowding  inside trains and buses.  Car sharing is problematic.  Too much dependence on private cars will mean gridlock and a rapid resurgence of poison air.

There will be less compulsory travel associated with employment.  The revolution has fast-tracked the ideas and practice of working from home and telemeetings.  Andrew Adonis hasn’t twigged.

You have to be wary when words like ’emergency’, ‘temporary’ or – worst of all – ‘alternative’,  are associated with cycle-travel, but – to take an early example – this Birmingham plan looks good,  like a ten year wish-list  accelerated by, and for, this revolutionary moment.

There are good precedents for opportunistic exploitation of emergencies.  The ‘ring of steel‘ around the City of London which appeared overnight in 1993, a response to Irish Nationalist bombing campaigns, had previously been proposed as a motor-traffic reduction scheme and dismissed by politicians as unacceptable.

Made of concrete blocks encased in plastic, the ring of Lego’s hasty introduction allowed for a ‘suck-it-and-see’ trial period and subsequent tweaks, which would have been impossible had it been approved, and executed in york stone.  Its removal has never been a serious possibility.

The Boardman line – let’s hurry to restructure streets in favour of walking and cycling now. Then see how the new layout works, and whether to keep it – is persuasive.  Boardman is always plausible.  His achievements on and off a bike, his calm logic, stoicism and persistence in spite of personal tragedy make him a magnificent spokesperson.

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

Arundhati Roy

In times like these solidarity and unity are important.  If anyone* is in favour of progressive change lets stand with them in unity and solidarity.  It’s good to be open-hearted.  It’s wise not to be naive.

Adonis

Andrew Adonis is best known as advocate and apologist for costly, destructive,  infrastructure projects that enrich construction companies.  Predictably the fantasist is still talking up HS2 like it was 2019.

The original justification for HS2 was as replacement for a proposed third runway at Heathrow.  Adonis – of course – has always wanted both.   Even this patron saint of concrete and climate chaos is forced to concede:-

“I don’t think the third runway at Heathrow is now going to be built in the 2020s, maybe never.”

(Financial Times 01/05/2020)

Which begs the question, if we don’t need new airport capacity do we still need the doomed folly of HS2?

Adonis is currently in favour of new infrastructure for cycle-traffic.  A subject on which he has some previous…

Should cyclists be allowed to use carriageway where there is a superhighway? Welcome views.

— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) September 20, 2017

You may consider 2007 ‘the olden days’ or ‘yesterday morning’.   2007 was the latest attempt to use Andrew’s argument to criminalise cycling on the highway.  We can be optimistic that it was the last, but our enemies are tenacious as cockroaches, willing to retreat to avoid defeat, likely to return if we become complacent.

Some people like cycle-infrastructure because it makes cycling even more democratic, others like special tracks for bikes because they contain cycle-traffic and containment is necessary to protect their fantasies of universal motor-dependence.

Most of the new riders preparing for modal-shift grew up in a culture that relentlessly dangerised cycling, raised by parents who grew up before Mayer Hillman revealed that cyclist live longer.  Some will be children who deserve to ride without having to engage with the complicated idea that not all adults are kind.  We can unequivocally support the principle of new infrastructure for cycle-traffic.

We can unequivocally support the principle of new infrastructure for cycle-traffic without endorsing the erroneous idea that, when it comes from space previously open to all vehicles, it is providing ‘new space’ for cycle-traffic.

Risk assessment is a hot topic.  To mask or not to mask?  Dangerisation relies on bad risk-assessment.  We can unequivocally support the principle of new infrastructure for cycle-traffic without forgetting the ancient truism that it may be quicker and safer on the road.  Setting an example of good risk-assessment is also useful and important.

We can unequivocally support the principle of new infrastructure for cycle-traffic.  It doesn’t mean we have to use it.

 

*The exception to this principal are facists and proto-facists but they usually prefer autobahnen anyway.

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