Positivity

Andrew Jones MP – the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, with specific responsibility for cycling – spoke (and answered questions) at an All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group meeting on Tuesday last week. A video of that meeting was recorded by the APPCG – you can see it here.

The full video is 36 minutes long, but at about the 4:45 mark, Jones has this to say –

One thing I think we do need to do, and that’s change some of the music around the whole sector. At the moment it is I think often quite negative. And I think we need to change that. In fact I am slightly puzzled by people who say that cycling is such fun always seem to have such a negative social profile. Social media sometimes lends itself to that. But we won’t encourage more people to making these choices unless it is a positive choice. And it is a positive choice. It is positive because it is fun. It is good for the environment. It is good for you. There aren’t that many things that are good for you and that are fun, but cycling is one of those things. It also helps tackle congestion within our streets. So the upsides of cycling and walking are just fantastic. So I want this to be a very positive moment. I want the Cycling and Walking Strategy publication to be a bit of a landmark, where we start to see more support going in, but we start to talk about things in a more positive way, and try to encourage people to make that trial if they haven’t been cycling for a while, or to make that switch to a more permanent choice.

These are curious comments. The implication is that if people who have enthusiasm about cycling as a mode of transport somehow fail to be ‘positive’, we won’t ‘encourage more people’ to cycle.

Now I wouldn’t be a cycle campaigner if I didn’t think cycling was a fantastic mode of transport – I am positive about it, in that sense. It’s a straightforward, cheap, fun, fast, and convenient way of getting about, almost certainly the fastest way of getting about in urban areas. It is an enabling mode of transport that will make all our lives better.

This

This is what I want to see in Britain.

But that does not mean my enthusiasm will extend to cycling in any conditions; nor does it mean my enthusiasm has to extend to any initiative, from government or otherwise, that alleges to be ‘for’ cycling. Nor does my enthusiasm mean that I won’t be critical about policies that will have negligible effect, or will be useless, or actively harmful.

Equally, I resent the implication that being critical (or ‘negative’) will in some way keep anyone from cycling. There is an overwhelming body of evidence that the main barrier to cycling uptake in Britain is an absence of safe, attractive cycling environments; people do not want to cycle on motor-traffic dominated roads and streets. No amount of sunny ‘positivity’ is going to change this; likewise, no realism about the fact poor cycling environments are a serious barrier to cycling is going to stop people from cycling.

Positivity or negativity from cycle campaigners will have no effect on whether people choose to cycle in these kinds of environments

Positivity or negativity from cycle campaigners will have no effect on whether people choose to cycle in these kinds of environments

I am more than happy to be positive about policy that will genuinely enable cycling; to be positive about policy that does lead to changes to the way our roads and streets are designed, to allow anyone to cycle. But the blunt reality is that government has a consistent, long track record of failure in this regard, particularly when it comes to leading on the matter of design.

In this regard it is particularly noteworthy that, in the very same APPCG meeting, the Minister described the frankly woeful LTN 2/08 Cycle Infrastructure Design as ‘fit for purpose’. It is nothing of the kind –  instead it is out of date, filled with half-hearted (and often mistaken) advice, a document of low horizons and lazy compromises, one that has very little to offer in the way of inclusive design.

In the face of such complacency, negativity is precisely the right response.

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13 Responses to Positivity

  1. Clive Durdle says:

    Interestingly trumpesque, don’t suppose he has a copy of the new crow yet

  2. Pingback: Positivity) As Easy As Riding A Bike

  3. Bmblbzzz says:

    Is Jones even talking about cycle campaigning? It sounds from the bit you’ve quoted as if he’s talking about the general twittersphere.

  4. Jim Wightman says:

    On the contrary going out and riding a bike after a couple of people dying completely un-necessarily in the space of a few days, due to either incompetent driving, infrastructural design and/or insipid policies is in reality about as positive as you can get!

  5. Jonathan Hill says:

    Government needs to insist on nationwide standards for cycling infrastructure. Local authorities then have to adhere to these so that routes integrate seamlessly with eachother, just like roads. Maintenance needs to be factored in, so that markings remain clear. All barriers to be made passable to wheelchair users, tricycles and trailers. That would be a positive start.

  6. Simon says:

    I think that, given the amount of negativity that is thrown at us, cyclists are remarkably positive.

  7. Caspar says:

    The governments positivity is based on increased modal share brought about by increased spending. They are increasing spending from less than 1% of DfT budget to around 1% of DfT budget and hoping to achieve 8% modal share by 2025.

    It is difficult to be positive about being thrown the odd crumb when the rest are feasting.

  8. congokid says:

    Andrew Jones doesn’t appear to understand that in Copenhagen at least, and probably other countries and cities with high modal shares of cycling, personal health, sustainability and low environmental impact are way down the list of reasons why people cycle, compared with speed, cost and convenience.

    Doesn’t he have advisors to tell him this?

  9. Bmblbzzz says:

    Having watched to 5:47 (the end of the section quoted), I’d say:
    -The video quality is poor, particularly the sound!
    -He talks about “cultural change”.
    -He seems keen on Bikeability.
    -His positivity comments seem very general. Sound at least as much aimed at “Got left hooked on the way to work” as criticisms of infrastructure and/or policies.

  10. It’s a silencing tactic, or tone policing. It means he doesn’t have to acknowledge any views or opinions or facts if he doesn’t choose too. He can now dismiss the complainant as being ‘negative’ and ignore the point they were trying to raise.

  11. Paul Mason says:

    In the Tunbridge Wells Bicycle User Group whenever we hear talk about ‘encouraging people to cycle’ we try to correct it to ‘enable people to cycle’.

  12. MJ Ray says:

    In the face of such complacency, positivity is precisely the right response: we’re positively sure they must do better!

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