Cracks in a paradigm

Walking along the riverside, I noticed a fallen crack willow. They are the kind of tree that simply refuses to give up. Fallen to the watery ground into the stream, it had started to shoot off new branches straight up into the sky, unperturbed or oblivious. Yet seemingly as to let the world know: I am alive; though I may have tipped over and lie here, I will grow anew.

It is this cracked willow that reminds me of our UK traffic forecasts. It looks quite like the graph that CBT produced from DfT’s NTM data, see below and the article on CBT’s website. Just like the fallen crack willow, the DfT forecasters won’t give up. We can grow, still. Peak car, what’s one of those? And so, every year we start again with the assumption that more motoring (cars, driving) will be around, simply because that sort of thing must be around (for jobs, growth, future prosperity).

Source CBT

Our belief is stuck on that rickety carousel with the eerie music of ‘predict & provide’ playing forever. A record that’s been drummed into our ears over and over again – the needle is blunt and the sound scratchy and grating. This, now, is about faith not facts.

Source Andy Singer

What this tells me is this. The trio of oil-road-car (Bermuda triangle for a sustainable world) does not need a lobby anymore. It has become the system. The lawnmower man, fully uploaded. The Matrix, without the red pill. Dr Frankenstein’s son is drawing the lottery numbers on national television. Pervasive. Everywhere. We breathe it, in and out. Professional practice practises it – no thinking required. Politicians believe in it, preach it even. And we, the public, are passively consuming it. Much is implied, goes without saying. For an outsider it is like a secret society. The rules are unwritten, yet strongly adhered to. The system is hermetically sealed in a logic- and evidence-proof container.

Whenever you would like to talk about transport cycling, the strong system of oil-road-car is directly stacked against it. It’s not a fair fight. A dominant paradigm flattens any challenger with no mercy, in no time. This is why it is so important to formulate sustainable transport (energy etc) visions and policies. And to intelligently devise plans, processes and strategies to implement those policies and vision. From what I can see, we have had decades of talking tough to a fortress wall when we should have begun to take it down, brick by brick. It was pointed out to me recently, that 2016 will mark the 20-year anniversary of UK’s National Cycling Strategy. No laurels, just cracked willows. We know the silent advance of the oil-road-car system will have been arrested when two things start to happen:

  1. there is a normalised meaning of inclusive cycling and its associated designs (that vision must permeate into general consciousness)
  2. transport authorities have mapped out and plan cycle networks (like they did for motoring)

Overall, thinking that we can tackle cycling without putting cracks in the oil-road-car system is a fanciful thought for one, if not a ludicrous one for another.

6 thoughts on “Cracks in a paradigm

  1. Excellent article. And I agree with your two suggestions of key markers of real change, inclusiveness and mapped cycle networks.

    It never ceases to astonish me that there is an unpublished, ambitious UK wide cycle network. We don’t even have a workable joined up cycling network in London.

    Manuel Calvo designed the network for Seville years before it was implemented. When the political opportunity appeared, he was ready to go and set up 75km within 4 years. Being ahead of the curve is essential in these fast moving times.


  2. I would suggest that there needs to be lanning for less motor traffic. there was briefly a Road Traffic Reduction Act in the 1990s, but that was dropped like a hot cake. Without working towards this – and breaking the paradigm you correctly identify – we won’t move forward.


  3. I’ve seen this most dramatically over the past 5-6 years, when I have driven, mostly at night or on routes which are a bit off piste for the motorway network. There is less and less traffic around – 50 miles on the A66 between Penrith and Scotch Corner routinely not catching or being passed by another vehicle going my way and less than 10 coming towards me, one Boxing day on the A1 no other vehicles at all for a long stretch between Peterborough and Newark. Even more dramatic barely 300 metres from where I Live is an M8 junction – approaches are gridlocked at 5 pm and by 6.30 I can look along one street which was a queue as far as the eye could see, and not see a moving vehicle for nearly 1 Km (we have very long straight roads in Glasgow). The Controlled Parking Zone also had an interesting effect. Before it we had roads blocked with badly parked cars, and many arriving by 07.30 and eating breakfast in the car before heading in to the office for 09.00, dumping the coffee cups, and other litter in the street – or our gardens. Now the Council has been disappointed by the lack of demand for the parking bays they shoehorned in, and the streets are pleasantly quiet and empty – prompting a thought that we might restore the grass & shrubs which formerly filled the wide medians in the streets in place of parking bays.

    The CPZ introduced several 1-way streets in order to cram in more parking bays, yet ignored the value of these routes for cycling in the other direction – fortunately cyclists (and occasionally drivers) routinely ignore this detail which could have been achieved by a No Entry plug. Even the cycle (and pedestrian) provision has excessive use of traffic signals, which are set up with such disadvantageous sequencing or timings that they need to be ignored if the route is going to be remotely useable. My ride to the station takes 5 minutes – but if I was to religiously observe traffic signals (and not do rapid switches to being a pedestrian) it could easily take 10 minutes or more.

    I shop almost exclusively at places where I can roll in the the bike, load up and go, and have collected from 5 places between 16.30 and 17.00 in Central Glasgow, in this way – right at the peak of (motor) traffic congestion. 20-25 minutes sees a complete round trip to Lidl for a bulk shop with bike & trailer. Amazingly the attempts by Sainsbury and Tesco to muscle in on the SPAR/Co-op/Nisa local mini supermarkets fail completely to cater for the local person cycling to the shop. Even more laughable is the Tesco PR stunt of having a naturist shopping session but not even thinking of having special cyclists welcome sessions.

    Hope Bremen was good for Xmas ..


    1. The DFT counts in your back yard are part of the stacked `oil-road-car’ system. I’ve yet to find a part of the country where the situation is otherwise. CLOS for a significant proportion of count points would be `-300 (Critical! to the power N)’ or similar…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s