This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 2007 at 1:06 pm and is filed under Bicycle advocacy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Dr Ian Walker’s blog makes a valid point about the “preposterous” way three important eco-friendly projects - and the Eden bubble-baubles - are having to slug it out for £50m. In reality, it’s a tiny amount of money and an organisation like Sustrans should be handed money in shovel-fulls by the Government. After all, cycling is a partial cure to so many of society’s ills (obesity, congestion, type 2 diabetes, climate change and so on).
Dr Walker says:
“My main concern with this preposterous contest is that it will almost certainly cloud the public and political memories for many years. Funding ecological or non-motorized transport projects three years from now is probably going to be a lot more difficult because as far as the average person and politician will be concerned, those issues were all taken care of during this high-profile event. Indeed, given the publicity that will inevitably surround the winning project, there’s the real danger that the three projects that don’t get funded will be perceived as ‘unpopular’ or ‘unwanted’ by the public, and so will be marginalized and in a worse situation that they are now.”
Quite right. It’s similar to the ‘helmet debate’ and the white lines malaise.
Once helmet compulsion gets the official nod, DfT ministers can answer Parliamentary questions with ease: “We’ve addressed the safety of Britain’s cyclists, they are now all perfectly safe, they’ve got to wear helmets.”
Some councils feel they’ve adequately provided for cyclists by painting white lines on a busy road and calling it a ‘cycle path’.
However, the lottery beauty contest is there to be won and worrying about its consequences needs to take second place to winning the pot first. Sustrans’ John Grimshaw has already decried the process but Sustrans is still rolling out the barrel in a big way.
Cycling has “won” many other such beauty contests in the past. Cyclists are web-savvy and vote in numbers for their fave activity but that mustn’t make us complacent. It’s important to win such contests by a huge margin. Yes, that’s bad news for the other worthy projects and the whole process might stink, but it’s what we’ve got to work with.
Previous successes for cycling include the bicycle voted as the “best ever invention” and the National Cycle Network winning the vote as the nation’s favourite lottery-funded project.
In 2002, Radio 4’s Today programme accused cyclists of running an “orchestrated campaign” to win that year’s Radio 4/Patent Office ‘best invention’ poll. Such a claim was made again by the mainstream media when cycling won the transport category in a best inventions poll conducted by The Times newspaper. But what’s wrong with having an “orchestrated campaign”? OK, vote rigging by bots is bad but surely getting cyclists to vote en masse for a cycling project is far from an evil activity?
Biking boffin Adam Hart-Davies said pro-bike campaigning was proof that cyclists are clever and passionate about their activity.
In a Radio 4 poll to accompany the Reith Lectures in 2005, cycling won the “best ever invention” plaudit. The president of the Royal Academy of Engineering accused the champions of the bicycle of lacking scientific understanding. Lord Broers was miffed because the bicycle won 59 percent of the 5500 votes. The infernal combustion engine got just 3 percent of the votes, the internet could only garner 4 percent. But there was nothing stopping motoring organisations and computer nerds organising “orchestrated campaigns” to champion their pet causes.
The Sustrans project has a major advantage over the other three candidates for the £50m: it’s national. This means local councils and local newspapers all across the UK, including Wales and Scotland, are urging a vote for Connect2.
However, the Eden Project has upped the ante. Apparently, according to an Eden Project press release a vote for this Cornish greenhouse/car-park is a vote for the planet.
Project spokesman David Rowe said: “This is a major project, not just for Cornwall or even Britain, but for the planet.”