Tag Archives: nonsense

Vehicular Cycling Propaganda of the Week #2: “Give Me Cycle Space”

One of an occasional series offering a satirical look at VC propaganda.

There’s something about this long-running campaign by Cycling Scotland that really irritates me.

The original 2012 advert is a pathetic plea to drivers, imploring them to follow rule 163 of the Highway Code. Unless I’m sorely mistaken, it hasn’t improved cycling conditions in Scotland one bit.

Thank you for giving me this much cycle space.” Ugh. Pathetic. “Thank you for not endangering my life.”

The biggest lie is how they pretend that children cycling to school is a normal thing nowadays, and that the cherry on the cake would be if they were given a vague amount of space on the very rare occasions that an automobile is encountered.

Note the holes in the wool they’re trying to pull over your eyes though: The car-sick housing estate the children are on their bikes in at the end, including a car parked on the footway. I expect that normally this street is full of parked cars which would prevent such a textbook overtake, and that the producers of this advert had to ask people to move their cars for the filming. More propaganda.

The 2015 version goes even further, suggesting that cycling is a normal and common way for anyone of any age to get around in Scotland:

To the Dutch this advert probably looks like a normal everyday scene. But anybody in Britain knows that this isn’t based on reality. Perhaps there’s a couple of places that vaguely resemble this, but they’re few and far between.

Doesn’t even do what it says on the rusty old tin

Though for me the oddest thing about this campaign is that it doesn’t even communicate its message clearly. The outstretched arms seems to suggest that drivers should make sure to give an arms’ length gap when overtaking, but we know that’s actually far too close.

No actual passing distance in feet or metres is given, the message “give as least as much space as you would give a car” is open to interpretation. Some drivers would happily overtake another car – or a bin lorry – with only a few inches clearance. They might see this advert and assume their driving is just fine.

So in short, it’s wasted time and wasted money. This sort of thing has been tried again and again for decades, with nothing to show for it as far as I can tell.

A large billboard with the words 'You can never give a cyclist too much room. If you want to keep casualties down, keep your distance'. It has a hugely stretched bike on it. Cars speed past in the foreground.

“You can never give a failed idea too many tries.” (Source: YouTube)

But unfortunately there’s a whole industry that’s been built up around this kind of crap, whole armies of people whose jobs rely on the continuing failure of their dismal propaganda, so we can expect more of the same.

There’s that saying, usually attributed to Einstein, about how repeating the same thing but expecting a different result is the definition of insanity – but when people’s wages depend on the repetition of failed ideas, perhaps that’s enough of an incentive to be cynically insane.


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Vehicular Cycling Propaganda of the Week #1

The first in an occasional series offering a satirical look at VC propaganda.

These children are being empowered to ride on this busy road – but only when dressed as builders and being shepherded by a group of luminous adults riding defensively.

Of course, we wouldn’t want empowered children cycling safely and independently by, say, converting half of that road into a physically protected cycleway. No no no, that would be giving in to the motor industry. It would mean that the cars had won.

The only way we militant cyclists can defeat the motor menace is by getting children to cycle amongst fast, heavy motor traffic.

Because it’s empowering.

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CityConnect: You’ll get what you’re given

You can read all the posts about this particular junction, in order, here.

One thing that this debacle has highlighted is the urgent need for the Department for Transport to set national standards for cycling infrastructure. Not guidelines, or recommendations, but actual standards that must be followed.

Clearly, having local councils make it up as they go along just doesn’t work. There’s a reason why all the road markings and signs and layouts are familiar all across the country: It’s because standards have been set by central government, which must be followed by the various authorities that have responsibility for the roads.

And highways engineers love standards, it gives them something consistent to work from, some reliable measures to stick to, something to back them up if something goes wrong.

So until the DfT create good standards for cycling infrastructure, we will continue to get crap designs.

I’ve also been reminded to be wary of hyperbole. It’s usually an attempt to cover up something undesirable. Like those one-party dictatorships with the word “democratic” in their name, the “cycle superhighway” is anything but super. The results we are seeing are so far from the glossy vision that was promised just a year ago (PDF).

Another thing we’ve learned is not to trust local authorities, especially ones who hate cycling as much as Leeds and Bradford clearly do. I’ve been told by many people that Leeds City Council insisted that the “cycle superhighway” must not reduce motor capacity at all. That doesn’t sound like a council that wants to create cycling conditions for everyone.

The finished junction of Dick Lane and Grange Avenue came as a surprise to the many cycle campaigners who had spent hundreds of hours with the representatives of Leeds and Bradford councils, discussing the plans. I think they expected the junction to be fixed, as I hoped it would be.

Unfortunately, we have all been misled by people seemingly more interested in PR than creating a quality cycleway. (With the exception of commenter ‘severs1966’ who never believed a word they said in the first place.)

On Friday evening, CityConnect released a statement (PDF here) about the junction of Dick Lane and Grange Avenue. It contains many points which I would like to address, some of which have been raised already in the comments on CityConnect’s Facebook post and on Twitter – I’m very grateful to those people who are asking questions and making points. I would be far less informed without you, and I doff my cap to you here.

So let’s have a look at CityConnect’s mealy-mouthed excuses in order.

“There’s not enough space.”

Apparently there is no room for a better design “due to highway boundary constraints” which is utter bullshit. There’s tons of space here. You can bet your life that if another lane on the gyratory was felt necessary, suddenly the grass verge would not be so sacrosanct.

Or, as this cycleway is so important – remember, it’s a “superhighway” – and it needs more space, why can’t a lane be taken out of the main road, taken for use as part of this project?

The sad truth is that cycling is still a second-class citizen here. It’s clearly being squeezed in at the edges, where it won’t interfere with motor traffic. People using this “superhighway” will find themselves doing a lot of apologising as they mingle with people walking in “shared use” areas, looking over their shoulders at dangerous junctions, and waiting at toucan crossings while people in motor vehicles glide by without delay.

“We’ve copied designs from that London!”

Unfortunately for CityConnect, their attempt to find legitimacy by quoting the London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS) has rather backfired.

The design quoted is from the old 2005 edition, and the new 2014 edition actually recommends against installing this type of junction, with a photo of an almost identical junction used as an example of what not to do.

Part of the LCDS 2014, showing a photo of an almost identical junction, with an 'X' in the corner indicating it's a bad idea. The text below reads 'This track works well on links but requires cyclists to give way at each side road. Cyclists often choose to stay on carriageway rather than take fragmented routes with built-in delay.'

Excerpt from LCDS 2014 (chapter 1, page 3).

For two-way tracks crossing two-way side roads, ‘bending-out’ by 5 metres is the recommended option. Where island separation is wide, this can be achieved with little or no deviation of the cycle track. Continuing a two-way track through a priority junction without deviation is possible, but brings with it various risks, related to the visibility of cyclists to turning motorised traffic. It is not recommended unless traffic speeds and volumes are very low and other measures can be put in place to enhance visibility of cyclists – even then, it should be subject to a sitespecific risk assessment. Closing side streets to motorised traffic is likely to be the only reliable way of dealing with these risks.

Excerpt from the 2014 LCDS (chapter 5, page 25) – click to enlarge.

But even if the 2014 edition did recommend this design, it wouldn’t matter – the LCDS isn’t an infallible document, handed down by some cycling deity. This would still be a crap junction. Quoting crap guidance wouldn’t make it any good.

“Those poor drivers, having to drive a little further”

I don’t get this. People love their cars. They keep them shiny and talk about how comfy they are and how great it is that they can listen to whatever they want. But ask them to spend another minute or two in this luxury cocoon, and suddenly they’re outraged! The fear of the angry resident is strong at CityConnect, as it seems they won’t even consider proposing such an imposition here.

The statement says that making Grange Avenue one-way “would have meant residents having a long detour via Thornbury Barracks Roundabout which was not considered appropriate.”

Now you’ll have to ignore Google Maps, as the current layout on there is incorrect, I believe, because Thornbury Barracks Roundabout has recently received a £3.4m make-over (yes, the entire 23km “superhighway” costs only 5x the price of making it easier for people to drive past just one roundabout).

Making Grange Avenue one-way would mean those residents who drive into the centre of Bradford would have an entire two-minutes added to their journey home! This is unacceptable, and installing a deadly junction design is the only solution. Anyone who dies will be either on foot or on a bike, and therefore don’t count as important human beings like people in cars do.

“It’s been audited for safety”

Let’s see it then. Where is this safety audit? Who wrote it? Do they have experience with cycling infrastructure? Did they take account of the many collisions at similar junctions?

(Thanks to RDRF in the comments for reminding me of this post by the Ranty Highwayman explaining what a road safety audit is, and what it isn’t. Essentially, it’s not a matter of passing or failing a road safety audit, and as CityConnect are making it difficult for us to see this audit, their claims of having one are even more meaningless.)

“The design didn’t change”

This one is such utter nonsense, it’s actually a blatant lie.

The exact quote (emphasis mine):

“The construction of this junction has not differed from the original design consulted on in terms of priorities for cyclists. However, we recognise that there is not an obvious highlight on the drawings to show that cyclists do not get priority. Whilst it is appreciated that there were ambiguities on the plans as to the priorities that would be in place for the speed tables located at a junction, there has been no intention to misinform the public or groups that have been part of the consultation process.”

The completed junction clearly differs from the original plans, which not only show the double-dashed ‘give way’ line before the speed table, but also included the green icon to indicate a cycleway priority junction:

The original plans for the junction of Dick Lane and Grange Avenue, which clearly show the cycleway having priority over the side-road

The original plans for the junction show a priority cycleway.

I’ve criticised these plans many times for being vague, but one of the few things that is clear is that the cycleway was to have priority over the side road.

To say that “there is not an obvious highlight to show that cyclists do not get priority” is a lie, as the plans in fact show the exact opposite.

To claim that there are “ambiguities” here – one of the few things the plans were actually clear about – is a lie.

“It was only this one! Oh, and another one.”

Finally, I don’t believe that this would have been only one of two junctions with this crap design, had we not kicked up a stink about it.

There should be no junctions of a known-to-be-dangerous design on a brand-new “cycle superhighway”. Would you feel comfortable flying with an airline which promised that “only 1% of our planes has a potentially fatal defect”?

Note that in CityConnect’s table of junction types on page four of their statement, one section has “cyclists on the carriageway” which doesn’t sound particularly super to me, and another has “design not confirmed” which doesn’t fill me with confidence considering how long this project has been underway (over two years now!).

In conclusion: get stuffed

To summarise: One of the first junctions to be finished on a major project varies massively from the agreed design. Campaigners identified a serious deficiency in it, and have effectively been told to get stuffed, like it or lump it.

That’s not a great start.



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Leeds-Bradford CityConnect: an update

You can read all the posts about this particular junction, in order, here.

Well yesterday’s blog post, and especially photos courtesy of local resident Lee, have caused quite a stir.

In case you’re new to the topic, here’s a good summary here on road.cc, but the short version is this: part of a brand-new cycleway is dangerous crap, a photo was taken which spread like wildfire, and as a result someone at CityConnect has presumably had a bad day at work.

The project’s mouthpiece has now issued a statement on their Facebook page, which I shall reproduce here in case it is taken down:

“Thanks for all the comments on the junction off Dick Lane, we appreciate the time taken to let us know your views and have got the following response;

The design for this junction has not differed from the design consulted on although we acknowledge that the design drawings for this junction may have been misinterpreted. Safety concerns from the safety Audit Team were one of the factors for the design of this junction.

This junction has been subject to the same sign off process by Advisory Group and Programme Board that all other designs have. Advisory Group includes representatives from Sustrans, CTC and Leeds Cycle Campaign as well as other interested parties. The design for this junction has also been subject to the same public consultation process on and off line.

However, in light of the considerable interest on social media and sections of the press, the design team have been asked to produce a position statement to be reviewed by the Advisory Group to ensure that the final design is the best possible outcome in this location.

If we have been quiet today it is because we have been looking at the issues raised and progressing a solution. The safety of cyclists and the provision of an ambitious piece of infrastructure remains our key priority.

We’ll keep you updated. Thanks”

Unfortunately, the two main claims are untrue.

“The finished junction matches the plans”

I’m not sure whether they’re suggesting that the cycle campaigners misinterpreted the plans, or that the installation team did. Unfortunately, as we’ve never been provided with detailed drawings, I have no idea what plans the installation team received.

If they’re suggesting that the consultees misread the plans, then it takes about 30 seconds to reveal this claim to be nonsense – it’s on their own website. Section A, sheet 4 (PDF).

Here’s the junction in question, as shown on the consultation plans. I’ve removed the parking restriction markings as they’re irrelevant here and just confusing:

Original plans for the junction in question, where the cycleway has priority over the side road

Modern art or engineering plans – or maybe neither?

One problem with the plans provided is that they’re not detailed enough. They’ve been over-simplified, in an apparent attempt to make them appealing to the public. The lack of detail was something I complained about before, but while I asked more than once for detailed plans, I got nowhere.

I assume that proper detailed plans must exist somewhere, as the installation crew surely can’t have worked from this vague doodle.

The plans are frustratingly unclear. For example, if the two parallel lines to the left of the junction mouth represent the incline of the raised table, what happens to the left-hand half of the cycleway? Also, where’s the segregating island to the north of the junction?

So the public plans are a vague mess, but one thing is clear: there is a give-way marking on Grange Avenue before the raised table, and there are no give-way markings on the cycleway. This doesn’t match the now-famous photograph of the finished junction.

This means that the plans were changed – but who made the changes, and why? CityConnect needs to provide the answers.

Also, is it only this junction that has received such a change, or have any others been altered too?

“The design was approved by CTC, Leeds Cycle Campaign and Sustrans”

Now, I’m not known for being kind to CTC – quite the opposite – but I strongly doubt that, in 2014, they would have approved this design. (If nothing else, to have given the thumbs up to such a junction would do more damage to their reputation than Turbogate and the Niceway Code put together.)

My contacts within Leeds Cycle Campaign tell me that they too insisted the cycleway must have priority at side roads, and I see no reason to doubt them. They have nothing to gain and everything to lose by accepting such unnecessary compromises.

Sustrans… Well actually, I can believe that Sustrans would approve such a thing, or even design such a junction, given their rather patchy reputation, but again my contacts, who were intimately involved in the consultation process, tell me that in this case the local Sustrans bods did reject designs which gave motor vehicles priority at junctions.

Anyway, the claim that cycling lobby groups approved the finished design (and not the design shown above) sounds to me like rubbish.

So what next?

What next indeed! Well I’m working on a blog post covering what should have happened at this junction, and what could be done to mitigate the current design. Whether any action will be taken is another matter.

Other parts of this project have also come under scrutiny, including the canal tow-path, which I shall be blogging about too (read the comments under the previous article for an overview).

And I also have another question for the CityConnect team: when does your funding run out? For at the moment, it’s very useful to have one point of contact to which we can address these concerns. I’m not always impressed with the answers I get, if any, but at least there’s something.

At some point this year this project will be considered closed. Will the website lapse into decay? Will the Twitter account go silent? Will the Facebook page be removed? Because if that happens, we’ll merely have two silent councils and the only answers will come from painfully slow and obstinate responses to Freedom of Information requests.



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Anti-cycling John Forester versus the facts about Holland

I know that John Forester is older than Mr. Burns (if not quite as pleasant) but while he’s still as sane as he’s ever been then I don’t see any reason to rebut his nonsense any less robustly than I would if he was younger.

He’s a man who, apparently, has never visited the Netherlands and yet feels able to make bold claims about what it’s like to cycle there (passing through on a train in the 1930s does not count, John!).

I’ve never visited wherever the hell Forester lives either, but I can guarantee you that the trees are made of old gloves, and the roads are full of custard. Obviously, this is ridiculous, but I have as much authority there as Forester does on the Netherlands, i.e. none at all. Coincidentally, ‘none at all’ is the amount of sense which Forester frequently makes in his online ramblings.

Someone sent him a link to my post which put two of his comments about the Netherlands in context and he responded by accusing me of having no evidence to back up my assertions.

How much evidence do you want, John? How about an entire country? One which I have been to, and you, apparently, have not! Are you really going to die having never visited the one place on the planet which has achieved high levels of safe cycling across all sections of society? It’s like being a life-long Elvis fan — a self-proclaimed Elvis expert, no less — yet you’ve never even visited Graceland.

How can anyone take this incoherent drivel seriously?

“The posting critical of the views of John Forester and John Franklin … is just one more of the illogical and sophomoric position papers in the spiteful controversy concerning bicycle transportation in the USA. Those with a fervent anti-motoring faith that if the USA copied Dutch bikeway designs and traffic law practices the USA would have an enormous switch from motor to bicycle transport. This is a faith for which there is no evidence whatever. Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence that such an outcome would be most unlikely, evidence from sociology, urban design, traffic engineering, psychology, and similar fields, areas in which the anti-motorists do not show expertise.

The sophomoric nature of the presentation comes across immediately. For example, the photograph of a cyclist in sporting clothing riding on a bike path between a rural highway and open fields does not disprove the argument that, in urban areas, side paths get involved with a nasty tangle of driveway and intersection traffic. No single example of an exception disproves a general statement; only a contrary description of all the instances could do so. However, a picture of a crowded bicycling area does demonstrate the argument that such places are not suitable for cycling at American bicycle transportation speeds.

I have written before that the combination of anti-motoring motivation and traffic-fearing cyclist faith not only does not require any factual support, but it actually requires contra-factual arguments to pretend to be persuasive. I advocate changes that make cycling safer and more useful, based on valid theory and supported by factual studies. However, the anti-motoring, Dutch-favoring bicycle advocates have not been able to present such studies based on American conditions.”

There is so much wrong with this that I hardly know where to start. But I’ll start here: a picture of a crowded bicycling area does demonstrate the argument that such places are not suitable for cycling at American bicycle transportation speeds”. What is he talking about? Is he suggesting that all US citizens are fast cyclists? Because the last time I looked, the average US cycling speed was almost zero, considering that pretty much nobody rides a bike there. He seems to be arguing for elitism in cycling, showing his belief that riding a bike should be reserved for the fast and the fearless. Anybody not fit and in a rush need not apply.

The photo in question shows commuter traffic heading into Utrecht central station at rush hour. Is he suggesting that everybody should be able to travel at racing speeds, even in crowded city centres? Cars aren’t allowed to do this, and I wouldn’t recommend going for a jog around Paddington station at 5.30pm unless you really enjoy bumping into commuters. The fact that busy areas in city centres become crowded is proof of the success of cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands. It’s proof that people are choosing to cycle because it’s the fastest, easiest option.

He also argues that “in urban areas, [bike] paths get involved with a nasty tangle of driveway and intersection traffic.” Well this just isn’t true, and I can say this because I have been to the Netherlands and studied their infrastructure, and John Forester hasn’t.

He goes on to pre-empt this response by then saying: “No single example of an exception disproves a general statement; only a contrary description of all the instances could do so.” So what he’s saying here is that he won’t admit he’s wrong unless someone documents every inch of the Netherlands for him? Or maybe he’s saying that my photographs don’t mean his quotes aren’t true (although he’s happy to use just one photograph to back up his assertion about American speeds). How many photos do you want, John? I’ve got hundreds, and each one of them proves you wrong. Or maybe you want some statistics again?

Well the Netherlands has a very high rate of cycling – far higher than the UK and the USA – and yet it has the world’s safest roads. That’s not “contra-factual argument” or “traffic-fearing cyclist faith” but cold hard statistics.

In the spirit of my previous post, here are two photos of every-day Dutch scenes:

"…in urban areas, [cycle] paths get involved with a nasty tangle of driveway and intersection traffic." - John Forester. Juxtaposed by a photo of a cycle path and driveways, and a large intersection, without problems.

A nasty tangle of driveway and intersection traffic in the Netherlands, recently.

Just because John Forester isn’t clever enough to envisage any practical solutions to make cycling attractive to everyone, it doesn’t mean that these solutions don’t exist.

Do you get it yet, John? You don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to cycle infrastructure, and the VC fundamentalism which you spread has failed to deliver anything but a risible amount of cycling – and a high accident rate – in the US.

People in the Netherlands choose to use the bike for transport because the infrastructure makes it so quick and easy. Almost nobody in the US cycles, and it’s partially because John Forester backed the wrong horse in 1972 and spent the next 40 years shouting about it.


I welcome comments on this blog, but please understand what this post is about before typing: I’m criticising things that John Forester has said about cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands. This post has got nothing to do with the USA or any other country, so I can do without a load of comments about how it’s politically difficult for you, or how it’s economically impossible where you are, or how you ride on the roads and you’re 97 years old with one eye and you love it. All those things are fascinating but they have nothing to do with Forester being wrong about the Netherlands.

The above message mainly goes out to Forester’s faithful army of “bicycle driving” zealots, especially “Erik”/”Clare Wolff” who posted the same message nine times on this page.

Footnote: Forester thinks I’m someone called Paul Nevins – it was on a group email thread, so I guess this name got mixed up in there somehow. I don’t know who this Nevins guy is, but if he’s annoying Forester then he must be a fairly decent bloke. [Update: It turns out he is a decent bloke — Paul Nevins comments below!]

Also, I know that Forester pushed against helmet compulsion and hates ASZs (“bike boxes” in the US) which shows that he’s not wrong all the time. But why can’t he see that people simply don’t want to ride a bike amongst motor traffic?


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78% of Auto Express staff are shitebags*

A bullshit article may have renewed idiots’ interest in the dull magazine, but how well behaved are the people behind the print?

From the toilet window of the Alternative Department for Transport HQ we can see directly into the Auto Express magazine’s car park and entrance, and we witnessed more than 1,000 breaches of society rules during a two-hour morning voyeurism period.

Illegal antics included picking their nose while driving, parking at a slight angle to the white line, and not holding the door open for the person following.

Check out this week’s Auto Express if you’d like to read more biased, divisive and harmful nonsense like this.

AE Staff  %**   Fault                    Non-staff %***

287      29.4  Not wearing bowler hat       NA      NA
104      10.7  Had odd socks                49     1.6
 90       9.2  Didn't say 'thank you'       NA      NA
 84       8.6  Bad haircut                  25     0.8
 58       5.9  Picking nose                 12     0.4
 44       4.5  Using swear words            42     1.3
 33       3.4  Causing derision             17     0.5
 16       1.6  Thinking up crap articles     0     0.0
  0       0.0  Knows about "road rules"     83     2.6
  0       0.0  Can interpret statistics     83     2.6
  2       0.2  Using foreign words          38     1.2
  1       0.1  Whistling a jolly tune        9     0.3
  0       0.0  Able to write competently    22     0.7

719       74.2 Total                       380    12.1

** Sample of 976 AE staff arriving over two-hours
*** Sample of 3,140 non-staff passing during same period

Source: I made it all up

For a more sensible discussion, see here, though I’m not sure it’s deserved.

* Probably

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