27 September 2013

Why 'being nice' won't solve that outgroup thing

This morning, I was trying to explain to my six year old why I had put lights on her bike, even though it was fully light, if a bit murky.  We had an interesting discussion and checked out how many cars had lights on, and if they were easier to see than those without (interesting fact: in Canada all cars have riding lights that are on whenever the engines on, handy for spotting a car that might start pulling out).

'quiet route'
But, the real reason was of course that I wanted to send a signal to drivers that while I might be foolhardy enough to let my 6 year old cycle to school, I was otherwise being as careful as I could.  Which is a completely ridiculous thought pattern.  Why should I care what they think of us?

The night before, we'd cycled home from school by the 'quiet route' - at my daughter's request.  She's right,
it is a lovely calming ride.  But the one weakness - and why I tend not to take that route more often - is a slightly dodgy intersection at the end of our road.  The roads are slightly askew, the sightlines often blocked by parked cars, and in one direction cars are coming off a humped bridge, which makes their velocity difficult to determine.

dodgy intersection
We cross this all the time on foot. It is equally awkward, but drivers are usually very understanding, and  stop and wave us across.  Last night, we tried to get across without inconveniencing the cross-traffic, but in the end cars had to stop in both directions before we could get across.  One of them then followed us down the road and parked near us. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure there was a fair amount of resentment directed at us.

Which made me think - we can do everything 'right' - lights, helmets, bells and whistles - but if the drivers are annoyed at our presence on the road 'holding them up', they're not going to think 'well, at least they were in hiviz'.   It doesn't bloody well make any difference. As a pedestrian crossing that road, I'm treated with respect. As a cyclist, I'm seen as an inconvenience (at best), and my behaviour's not going to change that.

If drivers are going to be anti-cyclist, then us trying to make nicey-nicey just isn't going to change anything.

25 September 2013

The wrong hat?

Sometimes I just don't understand people.  This morning, I was taking my wee boy to nursery on his balancebike, and we came past this bus stop.  As you can see, it is particularly badly designed, because it's set back from the curb, with a stone wall on the other side.  As we came by, the pedestrians remained standing in the bit between the shelter and the wall, even though a bus was approaching.   So, having only a few minutes ago lectured the wee boy about avoiding pedestrians, I went along the narrow section of pavement between the road and the shelter, as we often do.  The bus driver had been edging up and stopped well clear of the start of the shelter - as you would, so that the door is open right where the woman in the picture is standing.  But i could see that he'd been holding back on doing this until the two year old had cleared the shelter. So I looked up to give the driver a wave of thanks for being so careful.

But instead of acknowledging it, the driver shook his head in a 'tsk, tsk' sort of way, and then refused to meet my eyes or respond to me.  So, I put down my bike and walked back to the door of the bus to ask what the problem was.  At which point he closed the doors in my face and refused to make any contact. Even when I knocked on the doors.  I suppose I shouldn't have done that, but I wanted to know what I had done wrong.

Had I prevented the passengers from entering the bus?  Should we have waited patiently on the other side of the pavement rather than risk delaying the bus by two seconds? I hazard to say that if I'd been driving the boy to nursery, I'd have delayed him more.

Maybe he just didn't like my rain hat.

20 September 2013

The problem with pedestrians...

...is that we all behave as if we're 3 years old.  

And no wonder. The only time that we learn road safety is at pre-school or nursery.  

So not only do we internalize that walking is something for babies and children, but the lessons that we learn are aimed at infants. 

Children are told to 'only cross at the green man'.  But pelican and toucan crossings are advisory. 

Pedestrians and cyclists are completely within their rights to cross if the road is clear.  

But most people wait for the green man, because that's what they were taught as children, and what they teach their own children.

This governs our behaviour in so many interactions. We treat cars and cyclists not with respect but with deference. 

The very process of walking around our cities has been infantilized.  

Until that changes, our cities won't be welcoming places for pedestrians, but places that infantilize them, and encourage car drivers to act like playground bullies.

05 September 2013

When is cycle funding not cycle funding?

....when it goes to Cycling Scotland...

The Minister of Transport in Scotland has responded to a Parliamentary question and several Freedom of Information requests to the effect that the £424000 which funded the Niceway Code is not 'cycle funding'.  That's good, because that campaign was so 'balanced' and 'targeted' all road users equally, that it would clearly be unfair if it was 'cycling money' right?

Except that in July, the Minister also claimed that £58 million was being 'spent on cycling' in Scotland. We've already explored how that isn't quite what it seems.

But interestingly, that £58million did include a budget line for Cycling Scotland - £2.424 million in 13-14 - with £424 000 being just the amount that was budgeted for the #nicewaycode.  Interesting coincidence?  Nope.  That is indeed the allocation for the much-maligned 'mutual respect' campaign.

So, it is cycling money then, I guess?

Except the Minister says it isn't....

Except when he says that it is....