Monthly Archives: November 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Nothing has changed

This article has swearing in it. If you don’t like the sound of that then I recommend this article by David Arditti, which covers much the same ground but in a more measured tone. (Also, he published his article before I finished this one, and as always it’s very well researched and written, so I suggest you read it anyway.)

Fuck Norman Baker, and fuck you too if you’re one of those Uncle Tom cycle campaigners who are kissing Baker’s arse over the £20 million bone he’s just thrown on the floor for cycling to gnaw on.

I know it sounds like a lot to you and me (and I even go to Waitrose occasionally) but really it’s nothing. It’s barely even scraps from the table. It’s an insult.

Cycling is the DfT’s mistress for whom he keeps on promising to leave his petrol-addicted wife, but he says he can’t right now because of the kids and the mortgage, and his wife and his boss’s wife are friends, but one day he really is going to leave her. “I love you, here’s £20m to tide you over, spend it however you like. By the way, I can’t see you until after Christmas or she’ll start to suspect something…”

Cycling sighs, “I love you too, Norman. This £20m proves that you must love me back!” But the mistress knows deep down that his promises are hollow words designed to placate her, and she’s never going to get what she really wants.

Well it’s about time we ended this abusive relationship.

You can stick your £20m up your arse

If anyone of power in the DfT is reading this, then can I ask you to take your poxy £20m and give it to your true love – maybe a motorway widening project would make her happy? Because £20m spread across the country is going to do nothing for cycling, except maybe the installation of more of the same kind of crap we’re used to getting, and maybe some more pointless posters to ‘encourage’ people to ride a bike, and more vehicular cycling training which will enable cycling to continue to tread water as it has done for decades.

I wouldn’t mind quite so much if there was some sort of plan of how to spend the money, or some decent minimum standards of cycle infrastructure which local authorities must meet. But there isn’t. The money will just be given to councils with grand schemes to give 35% to consultants, 35% to architects, and only 30% will actually end up on the ground. Or maybe those local authorities who really can’t be bothered at all with cycling will use it to paint a few ASLs and put up a few “cyclists dismount” signs.

Come on DfT! You’re meant to be the Department for Transport damn it! Make some plans, set some standards! The Dutch are making you look like a bunch of cavemen, or at the very least, the worst kind of motorway-obsessed town planners of the 1960s. (Watch this short, edited video and heed his warning – learn from the mistakes of the past!)

But the problem remains that the DfT doesn’t really see cycling as a proper mode of transport. Sure, it acknowledges that there are some crazy bastards out there mad enough to ride on the road, so the they have to pretend to give a shit. But £20m proves that they don’t care about cycling. Even if you add up all the promised amounts this year (as David Arditti has done in the final paragraph) it comes to £65m, and we can then work out what percentage of a shit the DfT gives about cycling: 0.5%.

That’s right, the government gives 0.5% of a shit about cycling. Using the standard imperial measurements as a rough guide, by my calculations that isn’t even one flying fuck.

What does cycling look like?

If you’re reading this blog then you’re probably familiar with the wonderfully safe and pleasant conditions for cycling that exist in the Netherlands, and you’ll have gathered that I’d like to see the same high quality cycle-friendly infrastructure here in the UK.

Well, if you needed any proof that the DfT’s vision for cycling is far, far removed from my own vision for cycling, look no further than their homepage today:

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

Yes, the DfT will probably be happy to spend the whole £20m on high-vis vests and ill-fitting helmets to be given away at village fêtes. Maybe that will encourage the population to ride on the roads – after they’ve bought a mountain bike without lights or mudguards for urban use, of course!

That’s how little the DfT cares about cycling – they can’t even get a photo of people enduring the horrific conditions on British roads right.

Campaign groups: stop meowing, start roaring!

All the national cycling campaigns commented on the £20m, and each one was along the lines of “we welcome the money, but the government needs to do much more…” (CEoGB, CTC, British Cycling, Sustrans – they all said more or less the same thing.)

Maybe I’m not being political enough, but why can’t they just leave out the “we welcome this” bit? As organisations I’m sure they have contacts and connections in government that I don’t know about – and some of them receive funding from the government, which they don’t want to jeopardise – so maybe that’s why they won’t rock the boat too much.

But I fear that couching the criticism in kind words of thanks means that it isn’t actually heard. The DfT probably just reads the headlines, sees “welcome” and “praises” and “pleased” and thinks it’s a job well done, everybody’s happy. If cycling campaigners really want to send a message to the government, why wouldn’t they tell the truth and say “we’re disappointed that only £20m has been offered, the government needs to do much more…”?

Because, remember, there isn’t even a plan for more or better-spent investment in cycling – or, in the over-stretched analogy, the DfT isn’t even saying he’ll leave his wife! There’s no plan for the future at all — vague words about cycling becoming important one day are not a plan — yet we’re just hoping it will happen and grinning whenever our name is mentioned.

£20m isn’t good enough. It isn’t even nearly good enough. Even £200m wouldn’t be enough, especially when it’s spread across the country.

We shouldn’t be afraid to ask for the same level of investment that the Netherlands gets. £20 per person works out at £1.2 billion, or 10% of the transport budget. These are the kind of numbers we need to get used to – and start saying out loud – if cycling really is going to become a real transport option for everybody.

There currently seems to be some sort of push to get cycling to become a mainstream activity, it feels like some sort of public awareness is happening, and the cycling campaigns need to get headlines by admitting how much it will cost — as well as how much it will save in the long run, of course. By avoiding mentioning the £1bn+ needed every year, they’re giving the false impression that £20m here and £20m there is a great thing the government is doing for cycling.

Say it out loud, cycle campaigners: “If the government wants to keep its promises, then it needs to invest £1.2bn annually in cycling infrastructure.” Repeat it three times in the morning and the evening, and before you know it you’ll be saying it at meetings and it will start appearing in the Times.

Of course, a £1bn+ cycling budget might never happen – I’ll admit that it sounds far fetched sitting here in London in 2012 – but if we cycling campaigners keep on smiling every time the DfT strokes our hair briefly before returning to his wife, then maybe we deserve to be treated like the bit-on-the-side that we are.

Say it loud, say it proud

It’s interesting to see that I’m not alone in thinking that the government is messing us around with this £20m bullshit.

David Arditti’s article I have linked to already, and I was pleased to see CTC’s Chris Peck write a blog post on the subject, using the same analogy in the headline too!

Similarly, all of the comments on this road.cc article are complaining about the paltry sum offered, too.

Perhaps the cycle campaigns are a little out of touch with the wheels on the ground? I would have sung the praises of the first group to say “that’s nowhere near enough, £20m is nothing but lip-service” but, unfortunately, came there none.

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Cycling in the Netherlands picture post #2: Shopping

Time for another picture post! This one shows people going shopping. A rather dull, every day activity really, but one which most people would never dream of using a bike for in the UK. In addition to the general fear of cycling on the roads, sensible bikes with storage aren’t the norm here, there is often no cycle parking, and shopping centres are usually designed with only cars in mind.

Most Dutch people would think this a very boring blog post, as in the Netherlands it’s a common sight to see old women filling panniers with their shopping and riding off, for example. But that’s something you’d never see in the UK, and it shows that shopping by bike is perfectly feasible for people of all ages when you have the right infrastructure.

It’s interesting to see that at supermarkets in the Netherlands the cycle parking area is right beside the entrance, as opposed to the standard UK provision of a few wheel-bender bike racks shamefully hidden round the corner by the bins.

A bike parking lot outside a supermarket in the Netherlands. Hundreds of bikes can be seen with customers amongst them.

Many bikes parked outside a supermarket in Groningen, Netherlands. A young woman rides past on a bike.

A middle-aged woman rides a bike on a cycle-path in the Netherlands. She has a shopping bag on her handlebars and flowers in the panniers on the rear of the bike.

Bikes and shoppers outside a supermarket in the Netherlands

Bikes parked outside a supermarket in Woerden, Netherlands. Shoppers are loading items into their bikes' panniers. The bike parking is nearer to the shop entrance than the car parking!

A person cycles home from the shops in Amersfoort, Netherlands. Both panniers are full and they are holding a large shopping bag on the rack behind them.

A huge number of bikes parked outside a supermarket in Utrecht, Netherlands. Shoppers can be seen.

Cycles are parked ouside shops in Groningen, a woman is riding away with shopping bags hanging from her bike. A man waits with his Saint Bernard dog in the large front compartment of his 'bakfiets'.

 

I don’t know why the only supermarket in these photos is Albert Heijn — other supermarkets are available in the Netherlands and people cycle to those too! Maybe I should mention Jumbo, C1000 and Plus, just to even out the balance a bit.

 


You can find all the picture posts here.

 

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Cycling in the Netherlands picture post #1: Families

A picture is worth a thousand words, and most of the words I write tend to be rather cynical.

In an attempt to focus on something positive instead of banging on as usual about why cycling in the UK is so awful, here is the first of a series of photo-posts. The aim of the series is to show how people in the Netherlands enjoy and benefit from the cycle infrastructure — and to show how good we could have it, too.

This first instalment shows how Dutch families use the safe cycling conditions as an easy way to get around town. These photos don’t show rare occurrences — they’re all simply normal everyday scenes in the Netherlands.

A family riding bikes on a cycle path in the Netherlands.

A woman and her son ride safely along a cycle path in the Netherlands.

A mother and her two daughters set off at the traffic lights.

A mother and daughter cycling in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, a mother cycles to the shops with her young daughter in the large container at the front of the bike.

A young family prepare for a journey. Father and toddler on one bike, mother rides a 'bakfiets' with the baby in.

A family riding bikes in the Dutch countryside

Families ride bikes on the Dutch cycle paths.

A woman rides her bike along a cycle path in the Netherlands, her toddler in a seat behind the handlebars. The child is drinking from a bottle.

 

And I didn’t say the f-word once!

 


You can find all the picture posts here.

 

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History continues to repeat itself

In a recent post I pondered on the fact that cycling campaigners were saying the same stuff in 1978 that they’re still saying today. I find it quite depressing that cycle campaigners seem to be running around in circles, although that article did generate some very interesting comments from people who were there 30 years ago, discussing how they’d do things differently if they had their time again.

The focus of that post was newsletters published by Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign. If their response to Edinburgh’s “Quality Bike Corridor” is anything to go by then they don’t seem to have learned anything at all:

“While Spokes very much welcomes the new corridor, we would have liked stronger measures, including further restrictions on parking in cycle lanes, trial of segregated sections where possible and resurfacing of the worn-out red lanes on The Mound.”

I actually feel a little bit sick reading that sycophantic, snivelling quote, with its ultra-mild criticism, as if they’re meekly asking “please sir, can I have some more?”

Let’s get one thing straight: the “Quality Bike Corridor” is shit. It really is absolute shit. (I know I have a reputation for swearing after writing that article, but I really only use it when necessary; this is one of those moments.)

Let’s have a look at this great new infrastructure:

(Video by Dave McCraw – also, see his updated video here.)

Remember, you have just watched footage of what Spokes “very much welcomes” as “progress towards achieving the aim of making Edinburgh a truly cycle friendly city”.

Their criticism is so very mild it’s almost non-existent. Their most daring request is for a “trial of segregated sections where possible.” Even here you’ll notice they’ve handed the council a get-out-of-jail-free card with the words “where possible”, which will come back to haunt us as “segregated cycle paths just aren’t possible here”.

Is this really what Spokes were hoping for when they started in 1977? Is this the result of 35 years campaign work?

I know that Spokes isn’t responsible for the actions of Edinburgh Council, but why do they “welcome” such crap infrastructure? Are cycle campaigners so starved of success that they’re willing to accept any crumbs that fall from the traffic planner’s table?

Well — like David Arditti — I don’t welcome it. Many local cyclists don’t welcome it, the great Kim Harding doesn’t welcome it, and the Lothian Cycling Campaign certainly shouldn’t be welcoming it. (Those who drive or walk along its length probably won’t even notice it.)

Instead of welcoming this sort of crap, they should be condemning it. They should be telling the local news that they asked for a protected cycle route that children and the elderly would be safe using, but that Edinburgh council went for the easy, dangerous, unappealing option instead. They should be saying that Edinburgh’s target of 10% cycling rate by 2020 will be missed by a mile if this is the sort of thing they’re installing. They should be telling the council that they reject this route completely, instead of slapping each other on the back and considering it a job well done.

It’s not just Spokes who think this sort of thing is great, either – according to the Times, the CTC “praised” it, albeit with the same quibbles about enforcement of car parking restrictions and so on.

Transport Minister Keith Brown says that “Edinburgh already has an admirable reputation on cycling” although when I visited in May 2012 I found it to be no better than any other UK city which has been following Whitehall’s guidelines for decades. It was the usual crap, multiple lanes for cars, narrow paths for pedestrians, and little or nothing for bikes. (While we’re on the subject, Edinburgh isn’t even a particularly pleasant city to walk around, thanks to years of car-centric planning. It should be one of the best cities in the world to visit, but it’s badly let down by its transport planners. I won’t even mention the trams…)

Edinburgh councillor Leslie Hinds, Transport Convenor, said that the “Quality Bike Corridor” will help to make “cycling as safe and appealing as we can to commuters and cyclists of all ages” and will “encourage even more people to take to two wheels.”

If this is how people view the kind of infrastructure shown in the video, then we might as well all give up now. Seriously. Forget the target of 10% by 2020, it’s not going to happen if this is your idea of “safe and appealing” cycling. Spokes might as well disband if this rubbish is something they “very much welcome”.

This so-called “Quality Bike Corridor” is not an example of the government supporting cycling or finally taking it seriously as a transport option. This is yet another example of the government paying lip-service to utility cycling, along with – and this is the saddest bit – yet another example of cycle campaigners lapping up the crumbs from the floor.

 


 

Footnote:

I expect that Spokes do all kinds of wonderful stuff that I’m not even aware of. I’m sure they’re dedicated and working on the front line. What have I ever done? I sit here writing this stuff, I’m not out there on the street, etc.

But I couldn’t let this lie. The congratulatory tone grated on me when compared to Dave McCraw’s video and Kim Harding’s photos. As long as cycle campaigners continue to accept crap and say ‘thank you’ as if everything is fine, all we’ll ever be given is yet more crap.



 

Another footnote, added on 20th November 2012:

Sigh.

So Edinburgh’s goal is 10% modal share for cycling by 2020.

Well funnily enough, in 2001, Edinburgh’s goal was 10% modal share for cycling… by 2010.

Which didn’t happen.

Is there an echo in here?

(Source: here, via here.)

 

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Is TfL scared of mass cycling?

A few nights ago, I cycled from Barbican to Waterloo in 15 minutes, at a leisurely speed and along a convoluted route of mostly quiet streets.

I can ride from Waterloo to Kings Cross in 20 minutes, it’s mostly uphill and entirely via a complicated route of back streets. (These journey times are on a London hire bike, which aren’t the speediest bikes around.)

If it was safe for everybody to ride a bike, and the routes were convenient and direct, would fewer people use the tube? Would the bus operators lose customers?

To get from Waterloo to Kings Cross on the tube takes 20 minutes — if you’re lucky. I couldn’t get from Barbican to Waterloo in 15 minutes by any means except bicycle — although a taxi probably could do it if the roads were quiet, but it would cost much more of course.

I wonder, is TfL scared of the effects that mass cycling would have on the existing transport network? Is it so reliant on income from crowded buses and over-capacity underground trains, and so in thrall to the taxi drivers, that suppressing cycling is the real goal? (If that is their plan, then they’re doing a great job of it!)

In a London with good cycle infrastructure, would we need the multi-billion pound tube upgrades, or Boris’ new Routemaster? Would we need as many buses and taxis? Would the Victoria Line need 33 trains per hour?

Is it a problem that cycling is essentially free, and there’s no clear way to charge for it per-journey?

Funnily enough, I don’t think the taxi drivers have anything to fear from mass cycling. The type of journeys for which taxis are used — tourists with luggage, business people, drunk groups of friends — are less likely to change to cycling than those journeys which are currently made by bus and, to a lesser extent, the tube.

Of course, someone living in Morden but working in Edgeware would probably still take the Northern line, but those making shorter journeys would be more likely to change to bike. For example, I reckon that Camden to Waterloo could be done in 20 minutes with the right infrastructure.

I can say with certainty that if London had Dutch-style cycling provision, I would use my Oyster card far less than I do now. I’d probably hardly use the buses at all unless the weather was bad.

So where does this leave London’s future? Is TfL scared of mass cycling? Why wouldn’t they be? It would massively change the face of transport in London, all those new bike journeys have to come from somewhere — and they would come mostly, I think, from current bus users.

Are they keeping us imprisoned in the tube and on the bus, just so the status quo can continue? Is it too much to expect the authorities to have the citizens’ interests at heart, rather than the financial interests of the privately-owned bus operating companies? Or do they feel that their jobs are reliant on all that money we top-up our Oyster cards with?

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Why sharing the road will never work

It’s all about systems.

Human beings are fallible. We all make mistakes. Some people are very selfish, some are very altruistic, some are careful, some are careless. Nobody is perfect.

I’ll make a couple of examples, abstract as they may seem. (They have nothing to do with cycling, but are here to demonstrate why society needs systems.)

Stalin takes advantage of a poor system

In Russia, after the Communists had taken power in 1917, a very selfish person was given a job in the Party that didn’t have enough controls on it. Lenin didn’t trust Stalin, and gave him the apparently minor role of General Secretary – essentially, he was head of the HR department. But there were no checks on this role, therefore the job had too much power and Stalin was able to hire and fire people at will, making him the de facto boss.

Had there been more controls on the job of General Secretary – say, all appointments had to be voted on by the politburo, or something – then Stalin wouldn’t have been able to fill the Party leadership with his cronies.

The system failed in this instance because it didn’t account for the fact that you can’t trust everyone. Checks and balances should always be present.

Savile and the absence of a system

To pick a more topical comparison, the recent scandal surrounding Jimmy Savile at the BBC in the 1970s and 80s is also the failure of a system.

Any large organisation is going to have untrustworthy people working there. There is no way to employ thousands of people and guarantee that they’re all wonderful human beings. The BBC, Microsoft, HSBC, Tesco, any large organisation – they will all have paedophiles and rapists working for them. There’s simply no way that they can’t. Even a CRB check simply means that the person hasn’t been caught committing a crime (yet) – it doesn’t mean that they have committed no crime, and it’s no guarantee that they won’t.

Which is why we must have systems in place to minimise the risk of misbehaviour, and to minimise the damage of misbehaviour should it occur. The BBC should have had a system of managing guests on site, especially for minors – signing in lists, no guests allowed in dressing rooms, all minors must be accompanied by guardian at all times, etc. Having the right system in place helps to reduce and mitigate mistakes and misdeeds made by imperfect human beings.

Ourselves and the system on our streets

And that brings us to our roads. (It had to come around to this eventually!)

It’s the system that is at fault. Any system which allows people to behave in a dangerous manner that puts others at risk isn’t fit for purpose.

The idea that we can train everybody to never break the rules is ridiculous. It’s just not feasible to expect to change the habits and lives of millions of people by putting up posters or running TV ad campaigns. The road system must be changed to reduce and mitigate bad behaviour.

There’s a woman in Doncaster who is upset because she’s just been dumped, and she’s driving home crying and angry. There’s a man in Inverness whose wife has recently died and he’s been drinking too much, but he’s driving while tipsy anyway. There’s a young man in Kidderminster who is under peer pressure to drive too fast around a housing estate. There’s a tired lorry driver in London who is under pressure from his bosses to make deliveries faster. There’s a middle-aged woman in Swansea who is reminiscing about a holiday, while driving to the shops.

Do “share the road” campaigners really think they can reach all these people and the millions like them? Do they really think that everyone will see these campaigns and change their ways permanently?

The thing is, people are fallible, they do make mistakes. Most people’s minds are on other things while driving. This is how humans behave and all the “mutual respect” bullshit will never change this.

But what we can change — and quite easily, too — is the environment, as the Dutch have done. They adjusted the design of their streets and roads so when the hurt woman is thinking about her broken relationship, any mistakes she makes won’t result in the death of innocent people. They separated the tired lorry driver from the people riding bikes so that he doesn’t run them over when the lights go green. They arranged their housing estates so that fast driving is impossible. They separate and protect children cycling to school from the woman whose mind is in Spain.

Of course, we will never entirely eliminate all human error and misbehaviour, but redesigning our roads will minimise the potential for damage when something does go wrong. A small error could be lethal when a bike is sharing the same space as a lorry, but the same error may have little or no effect when the bike is on a separated, protected cycle path. We only have to compare the death rate of cyclists in the Netherlands with those of the UK to see that whatever the Dutch are doing is much safer than “sharing the road” in the UK.

Changing the design of our roads is easy – the first and biggest step is getting the government to re-write the road design manual. It’s far easier to implement separate facilities for people on bikes, as we have already done for people on foot, than it is to try to change human nature or the habits of a lifetime, or to expect everybody to focus intently on their driving 100% of the time.

The Dutch system of separating traffic types is proven to be a far more attractive environment for cycling, and a far safer one too.

Of course, I’d love to share the road with a bunch of perfect, Stepford Wives-esque automatons who follow all the rules all the time. But here in the real world, when 99% of drivers are flawed, normal human beings with other things on their minds, I’d rather be on a high-quality Dutch-style cycle path.


Another parallel

Cycalogical wrote a post which humorously drew parallels between the Jimmy Savile controversy and the state of our roads today. Some might consider it to be in bad taste – sexual abuse is no laughing matter – but I think he makes a valid point. There are many things which were acceptable or tolerated in the past but aren’t acceptable today – racism, sexual harassment, children working as chimney sweeps, for example. Many things which are seen as normal today, such as the design of our streets and the resulting death and injury toll, may well be seen as unacceptable and bafflingly cruel in the future.

When describing Dutch-style cycling to ‘normal’ people (i.e. the vast majority of British people to whom utility cycling doesn’t really exist) they often have difficulty grasping the concept, as it’s not something that they have come across before. It’s like going back in time a few centuries and trying to explain indoor plumbing and sewage systems to medieval peasants.

“Ah, that’s too difficult,” they’d say, “it’s too expensive and there’s no space for sewers or toilets! We’re fine with crapping in a bucket and throwing it out into the street, thanks all the same. Deaths due to cholera are natural, just a by-product of our modern city lifestyle.” (It’s also interesting that the Romans had sewers, but that we became unenlightened again somehow and forgot about them. The Romans are the Dutch, for those not following the analogy.)

Likewise, today’s peasants citizens consider the road traffic deaths, and the deaths and illness due to air pollution, to be an acceptable part of the modern lifestyle. I think that future generations will look back on 2012 and consider us as stupid as we think the medieval city dwellers were, as cruel as the society that put children to work in mills and up chimneys, and as ignorant as those in the 1970s who turned a blind eye to sexual abuse.


Addendum, 12th November 2012:

My point about not being able to reach every driver also applies to those who suggest that if every single person who rides a bike followed all the rules perfectly then suddenly things would change for the better – it’s not going to happen! Please don’t fall for the government spiel about cyclists proving themselves as law-abiding before changes will be made, they say this because they know it’s an unattainable goal. You will never reach every single person who rides a bike and convince every red light jumper to change their ways.


Another addendum, 16th November 2012:

To save all those selfish and blinkered cyclists out there from furrowing their brows, sticking out their tongues, and jabbing at their keyboards with one finger, the title of this blog post should probably have been “why sharing the road will never work as a method of getting large numbers of people to start cycling” or maybe “why sharing the road will never work as a way to reduce cycling casualties and deaths”.

If you’re one of those happy VC fundamentalists who feels that sharing the road works just fine and you’ve been doing it that way since the dawn of time, then I’m pleased for you. But you can’t escape the fact that hardly anyone wants to ride a bike among motor vehicles. It ain’t working, nobody is doing it. John Forester has been trying to tell America that VC is great for 40 years now, without success.

If you want to debate this point, please begin by stating the modal share for cycling in your town or city, and the corresponding road traffic death rate for cyclists.

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Truth and propaganda

I’ve got lots of half-finished posts which for one reason or another I never got around to completing. This one covers old ground – many bloggers have tackled TfL’s “encouragement” of cycling already, as have I. But I like the propaganda parallels between TfL with the GDR, so I’m putting this out there anyway. (Though it’s not my intention to trivialise the situation of GDR citizens back then, or suggest that TfL are as bad as the SED or anything.)

In May 1989 the citizens of the GDR (East Germany) voted in national elections. This was the result:

East German ruling party-owned newspaper Neues Deutschland reports election results, May 1989. 98.5% voted for the incumbent government!

East German ruling party-owned newspaper reports the election results of May 1989

98.85% of votes cast were in favour of the government candidates – that is, almost everybody voted for the ruling dictators.

Six months later, this happened:


Elections in the GDR were not anonymous, and anybody voting against the government’s list of candidates would find themselves receiving attention from the feared secret police.

The government-run newspaper report didn’t show the truth.

Although it would be silly to compare life in the GDR to life in London, I think there are some similarities in how the government provides us with information:

TfL's "Freedom" campaign poster

(Photo credit: sludgegulper on Flickr)

This is also a lie.

The truth looks like this:

Bikes, motorbikes and cars – not a pleasant cycling environment

Some citizens keeping their wits about them, recently.

What makes TfL believe that yet another propaganda campaign is going to increase cycling rates? They can tell the public about how great cycling is (or, indeed, that the government has the support of the majority of the population) but everybody knows that it’s false.

The thing about the “Freedom” campaign which made me laugh is how desperate it is, showing a cycling environment which simply doesn’t exist in the UK (outside of a few small areas, at least). For most people, the scenes shown in the posters have no relevance to the world they live in – just like the newspapers of the GDR. It feels like the authorities have given up actually trying to improve conditions, and have instead resorted to insisting that things are fine when they’re really not (like the GDR government did).

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