Fighting over scraps

This week, it’s evidently the turn of ‘the joggists’ to be the folk devil in the media, helpfully standing in for ‘the cyclists’ who traditionally take on this popular and coveted role.

One isolated incident, in which a man committed what appears to be an unnecessary and unprovoked assault, has proven fertile territory for journalists and opinion columnists to veer off into stereotypes and ludicrous commentary, in much the same way they do following an incident involving someone on a bike. (It’s perhaps no surprise that it’s some familiar faces making precisely same kinds of arguments).

There was rich competition for the most absurd take, but a strong contender surely has to be Sky’s Adam Boulton, who weighed in with this gem –

With an inevitable dig at cyclists

Closely followed by Julie Bindel, who, on Radio 4’s Today Programme, implied that jogging on pavements in cities should be banned entirely, again with an inevitable dig at cyclists –

Webb: Julie Bindel, what’s your solution?

Bindel: Running tracks are great. I like watching runners on tracks, it makes me feel envious about how fit they are.

Webb: What, ban jogging on the pavements?

Bindel: Jogging on the pavements… It’s very different in the city, I think, to runners I’ve seen in the countryside, and of course not all runners are aggressive. But when people are out walking and somebody’s coming at you, at a speed, and showing their clear irritation that you’re in their way, it’s not right. It’s exactly like pedestrians on the pavement when cyclists decide that they’re going to take their bicycle off the road, where they should be. So I think that runners should have their designated spots, and we should give priority to that, and that we shouldn’t be pushed out of the way under any circumstances.

And finally Michelle Hanson, with an extended whinge about joggers in general –

Most joggers do seem mad keen to jog in a straight line and not stop for anyone or anything… most joggers tend to look rather miserable and tormented, as if beset by personal problems, which perhaps stops them from giving a toss about the other people passing by.

Oh, with an inevitable dig at cyclists too, before rambling on about how apparently ill-mannered we are on pavements nowadays, getting in each other’s way.

Not one of these opinions actually engages specifically with the incident in question. They’ve just used that incident as an opportunity to veer off into a moan about joggers in general, crowbarring in cycling at the same time for good measure.

And worse than that, they all deal in the easy currency of blaming individuals for conflict on our streets, rather than examining why people are coming into conflict in the first place, and how we might stop that conflict from occurring at all. (This is a familiar theme, as you might expect…)

A clue is provided in one of the Radio 4 ‘vox pops’ in the piece preceding the interview with Bindel, as a man describes how a jogger annoyed him –

There was a lorry parked on the pavement, and they were digging up the pavement, and there was only a narrow strip. And he kept running towards me. I’m visually impaired, registered blind. He bumped me. But he came off worse. I shoved him back.

The easy option is of course to blame the jogger. But hang on a second. The pavement is being dug up. There’s also a lorry parked on it. Human beings only left with a narrow strip. Would these two people have even collided in the first place if we didn’t treat pedestrians with such contempt?

Bloody joggists running directly towards me, no manners. It’s obviously their attitude that’s the problem, not minuscule pavements.

Might it be the case that joggers are annoying not because of who they are – some inevitable ‘joggist’ tendency – but because pavements are desperately narrow?

And by the same token, might it equally be the case that cyclists are annoying not because of who they are – insert some guff here about ‘lycra louts’, or ‘smug, or ‘self-righteous’ – but because cycling is legalised on these pavements by councils unwilling to reallocate road space, and happy for cycling and walking to come into conflict as a result?

Legal cycling

Or because hostile roads leave ordinary people withnowhere else to go?

Illegal cycling

In reality, all this bickering about cyclists and joggers being annoying and ill-mannered is spectacular point-missing. It’s utterly ludicrous to say that cycling and jogging ‘doesn’t fit’ in our cities and towns. You could only arrive at that conclusion if you think tiny pavements and roads without any cycling infrastructure are somehow god-given and immutable, rather than the product of decades of car-centric planning. Jogging and cycling can obviously fit in cities, and the only reason they come into conflict with walking is because of a failure to give appropriate space to these modes of transport.

How annoying would joggers be in the entirely pedestrianised city centre of ‘s-Hertogenbosch?

Complaining about joggers and cyclists amounts to nothing more than fighting over tiny scraps, the crumbs from the feast on the table. If you’re coming into conflict with them, try looking at the tiny pavement you’re forced to share with them, rather than instinctively stereotyping them.

Just for once, just for once, I’d like to see some engagement with these issues, some constructive criticism of the way our urban environment engenders conflict between human beings, rather than just lazy criticism of them.

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12 Responses to Fighting over scraps

  1. Pingback: Fighting over scraps | As Easy As …

  2. awjreynolds says:

    Reblogged this on CycleBath and commented:
    I swear two of those pictures used in this article are from Bath which really isn’t saying much for Bath. We really need to change the conversation around road design. If we want healthy, efficient, safe urban streets, we must treat walking, cycling, and driving with equal importance and provide separate space for each with no one mode getting priority. Sharing really is bad.

  3. Matthew says:

    It’s a gambit. The reason why these commentators blather on stupidly about joggers and such is precisely because they do not want people to start thinking “hey, what about those ridiculously wide carriageways and horribly narrow footways?” They’re not missing the point, they’re misdirecting the point.

    • pm says:

      I think it’s more because it’s easy money. I don’t think they think it through at all, even in the way you suggest. Lazy unthinking clickbait articles are a good income-stream for these people.

      Why would they engage in the unnecessary work of actually thinking when they can just go with knee-jerk reactions and auto-pilot brainlessness, regardless of who it ultimately harms, and collect their fee?

      There’s a whole industry of such people now. It’s mildly Interesting that it includes not only vocational trolls, but also those who probably consider themselves right-on and highly politically-conscious, like Bindel, who seem to get seduced by large dollops of cash and instant gratification.

  4. mv says:

    This incident has nothing to do with cycling, but given that it has somehow gotten into the discussion, one observation I haven’t seen mentioned yet is that if there had been a cycle lane on that bridge, getting shoved would push you in front of cyclists rather than heavy buses. I’m not saying it’s impossible to get seriously injured that way, but statistically speaking the expected injuries will be much lower.

    And when the pavement is broken up for works, being force to step out into a cycle path is probably much preferable to stepping out into a lane with motorized traffic.

  5. Har Davids says:

    In some cities in The Netherlands, over 50% of public space is allocated to the car, and somehow we’re still called a cycling country. I guess it’s even worse in other parts of the world.

  6. Nah, Billy Connolly had it right on Joggers

  7. rdrf says:

    A few points:
    1. I don’t think all this is about infrastructure. I was very nearly taken out last week by a jogger exiting a park on to a road where it’s unlikely there should be any change to infrastructure by anybody’s book. Also some footway cyclists are behaving badly for reasons which, again, have nothing to do with infrastructure. Some people will misbehave/be careless and cause some kind of problem to others whatever the street layout. What we CAN say is that the problems posed to and by pedestrians and cyclists to each other will be pretty trivial compared to those posed to them by drivers.
    2. The “journalists” you refer to aren’t going to discuss the above, or what you’re talking about. They are there to shit-stir, never mind the fact that this stereotyping and abuse can and does exacerbate existing danger from motorists. They have vile prejudices which aren’t going to disappear because of rational argument – although it’s worthwhile stating the facts.
    3. Which brings us back to giving the facts about the danger posed by drivers to both pedestrians and cyclists (as well as other vehicle occupants, particularly in non-urban areas). It’s worthwhile giving some facts about this, and making it clear that this danger doesn’t just come from extremes of bad driving, but is more commonplace and linked to typical everyday drivers. This needs to be addressed by a variety of means (including highway design/infrastructure), all of which are based on seeing (ab)use of motor vehicles, not walking/cycling/jogging as the problem.

  8. Bmblbzzz says:

    Now that I’ve seen the bus CCTV of the incident, I think this blogpost is misplaced. Narrow, blocked, potholed or simply non-existent pavements/footways are a problem for many reasons but had nothing to do with this incident. The pavement in this case was wide, there was ample room for the runner and the woman walking to pass, but he deliberately pushed her to one side. You can see he doesn’t just elbow her out of his way as might – perhaps – be excusable if there was no room, but veers slightly towards her and shoves her with both hands to her shoulders. This was an attack and its reasons lie in the runner’s head not in the quality of the infrastructure. A campaign for better pavements is well worth making but not if hitched to this violent episode.

  9. marmotte27 says:

    “A campaign for better pavements is well worth making but not if hitched to this violent episode.”

    But it’s not @aseasyasriding… who abuses of this incident, is it? He’s the one speaking up against those so called journalitsts and opinionmakers having yet another go at ‘joggers’ and ‘cyclists’, thus contributing to the despicable climate on our roads by their lazy stereotyping .

    • Bmblbzzz says:

      Therein lies the problem. Journalists will present this as “jogger rage” (whatever happened to the endorphin high?) when it’s a straightforward assault. It has no connection with running or pavement width. The second photo (by the Victoria Pub on Upper Bristol Rd, Bath, as someone pointed out!) is a far better illustration of the need for wider pavements and better places to walk, run, cycle, do things other than drive.

      • Mark Williams says:

        It has no apparent connection with cycling, either, but that didn’t stop the numerous talking heads as pointed out by marmotte27. Their obsessive hijacking of unrelated stories to flip the narrative back towards their irrational hatred is classic misdirection.

        Does anyone want ‘wider pavements’ for cycling on, if that’s what you’re getting at?

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