Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why I will be attempting to make Jeremy Clarkson cry on December 11th. Why he will no doubt be grinning like a horse faced loon.

So, yeah, I ride a bike, you got a problem with that, eh? Eh? Jeremy Clarkson & all you local Mancunian Clarksonistas? Yes, you probably have. And that's fair enough, I can see your point, I am sort of *in your way* as I pedal along; my luminous yellow cloak flapping in the wind; my 14 flashing red & white lights lighting me up like a lovely festive Christmas tree.

But give me a wide berth, please. And you too, big bus driver. Thanks. And yes, that's me up there not actually riding my heavily laden bicycle up a massive - I tell you it was massive - mountain in the Brecon Beacons. Not a little tiny hill. Really. It was a biggie. But freewheeling down the other side was -
wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee - yippeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee -
ooops here comes a Range Rover at 70mph.
brake brake brake. phewwwwwwww......

See that's the problem: traffic. Or more simply: other people.

You are going somewhere important and you don't want to faff about waiting at lights, queuing up behind idiots, slowing down for cyclists bla bla bla. Other people get in the way, no matter if you're in the countryside or in the city. They are all annoying.

I'm annoyed by you, you're annoyed by me. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. No wonder millionaires buy their own islands.

Other people!!! If they're not driving around too slowly, they're parking and blocking up the streets or there's some lollypop lady stopping the traffic to let some little kids cross the road. Cross the road!!! AMaZinG! Who do they think they are? Bloomin children.

Okay, you're not allowed to say that, but you probably have thought it. Why do they always want to cross in front of me? Hmmm. Little *************s.

Ideally we'd all like to be the last person alive who owns a car or a bike. No one else anywhere, not even the police. Wouldn't that be the greatest. Life as a video game. Or life as a psychopath, thinking you're the most important person in the world, which is kinda the same thing.

I did used to drive a car as well, up to a month ago, when it was forced to return to its spiritual home in London (for reasons not explained here). So goodbye little car, we had a good laugh didn't we? We listened to a lot of CDs together, shared a lot of petrol, oil & water. But (for those unexplained reasons) we had to part & now you're living in South London. In the Congestion Charge Zone, where you probably don't get out much. Never mind, car; enjoy your retirement.

Congestion Charge

See that's the thing - in Manchester we're all going to have a lovely big vote. Y'know, like they do on the telly for dancers and singers - and in America where they get some interesting people to choose between. Like that only a bit more dull and a lot more predictable. We're having a mass debate about whether to have a peak-hour charge for cars coming into the city centre. Drivers are not happy. No one else is that bothered.

Well that's not true, various companies and local government people have made statements. Norwich Union, House of Fraser, Manchester Metropolitan University and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's Fresh Retail Ventures are in favour of the charge - which will be backed up by lots and lots and lots of new trains, trams and amazing fuel efficient buses. Strangely, whilst House of Fraser love the idea of lots of people coming into the city centre on cheap trains from all about the north west of England, the manager of Harvey Nicks & loads of other shop owners are whining about how it will be a bad thing bla bla losing customers.

Who knows what will happen in the vote and whatever happens afterwards.
  • Vote yes and we get a lovely transport system and maybe slightly less cars on the road.
  • Vote no and we don't get the billions of pounds of infrastructure improvements that have been promised.
  • Umm, blackmail, they're calling it.
But I just can't see people going for it. Voting for the future, voting for something they can't see, voting themselves out of their cars and back into the world full of nasty other people? Nah. I doubt it.

It will be easier and simpler to vote no. They can see what they're getting if they do that: nothing. They can kvetch all morning at the traffic, but at least they won't have to pay any more money.

I can't quite believe that this vote is even taking place.

Manchester is different to London in that it's actually a very small city centre with a very big suburban area. One that has grown and been built on people's ability to drive to work. However, the people that travel from Chapel-on-Le-Frith and Buxton and Chorley don't get a vote. But they'll try and make sure everyone else living in Greater Manchester does vote NO.

I say:
  • Pedestrianize more of the city centre.
  • Introduce a congestion charge just in the inner city.
  • Provide parking at the edges of the congestion zone.
  • Provide more of all the good things on a smaller scale: nice buses, big healthy cycle lanes that I don't have to share with buses...
This vote is a big waste of time. I can't remember any referendum that voted in favour of a conceptual, progressive change that would actually cost anyone any money since.... since... I don't know, if anyone has ever voted for something like that. The planet needs less traffic, we all need less traffic, but none of us want to be the ones that have to pay for it. A conundrum that will only lead to more congestion.

O. I've depressed myself now. I need to watch some puppies to cheer myself up...... Ahhh, that's better....


  1. Uhh, have to comment, too tired to be coherent, will try...

    Edinburgh had a similar referendum 3/4 years ago. The people of Edinburgh voted a resounding "no".

    The congestion charge was to fund a number of transport initiatives as well as reducing the number of cars on the road. Fandabbydozy, less cars so buses don't get held up, revenue to fund *important* things like new trams. The focus was on the revenue, which was interpreted as "new things funded by the car driver". The car driver already pays a small fortune for the privilege of using the road and is not ever happy about being targeted for further revenue collection.

    Most people don't cycle because of the danger, (as well as the fact that they're lazy, but hey, blame the safety). There is not an infrastructure for cyclists, there is no real good reason for this. But what seems to elude the powers that be is that you can't simply ban cars or make it difficult/expensive for drivers without providing an alternative. Cycling is mostly not an option because there isn't the road layout and signage required for cyclists. There's no real reason not to put proper cycle lanes that don't disappear for parking and a variety of other things that allow cyclists to safely travel.

    There is no limit for cycle parking for offices, there is serious limitation for car parking. Good, secure cycle parking, showers and other facilities, cycle purchase incentives - these should all be the norm, not a novelty.

    Public transport is not good enough to be the main mode of transport in a city and so people will drive. They need to put the infrastructure in. And as to the revenue, they get lots and lots of it already, they just spend it on other things. If they demonstrated sensible options that the public could appreciate instead of simply pissing off the car driver constantly, then perhaps people's attitudes would change.

    The policy of our esteemed government decrees that we are to try and reduce the number of cars on the road for environmental reasons. Yet they don't know how to do it. Because they're idiots.

    I'm going to fix it though. Manchester first.


  2. ps shameless use of puppies.

  3. but. what is the answer? also, if you have time: meaning of life?
    (42 is not an acceptable answer, obviously)

  4. The answer is to cycle and for longer distances, the train. And integration of the two. Cars not obsolete, fewer, better, not for commuting.

    The meaning of life, I believe, is something to do with nutrition and reproduction. Hunger for all things therefore defines life. Or to be more flowery, life is defined by what you need, made pleasant by that which you desire.

  5. wow. i bow down to your all round knowledge. I will now resign from the field of traffic discussion and return to things I know more about. Cupboards. Spiders. Stick to what you know....

  6. I know very little, I just have an answer to everything. Note "an" answer, not "the" answer.

    Ah well, back to boring the children about cycling.

  7. Jeremy Clarkson could not ride a bike. Why? He's knock-kneed for starters and his head is so big (on account of his oversized gob) that he would not be able to balance right.
    You get the idea I don't like him. He always opens his gob before putting his brain into gear.