The coming struggle for space on our streets
The Covid crisis has sparked a tarmac turf war
The Covid crisis that emptied our streets has now sparked a war for their control.
I don’t mean the occasional battle between police and protestors, but a gruelling conflict between three everyday armies: motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.
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These factions — and others — are expanding and there’s not enough space for all of them. Social distancing is hard to do on public transport and that means greater reliance on modes of personal transport. If that primarily means the car, then lockdown will be replaced with gridlock.
An alarmed government is now putting serious resources into cycling. Writing in The Times, Edward Lucas notes the “£2 billion of taxpayers’ money [for] more cycle lanes, better parking, vouchers to fix old bikes and subsidies for new ones.” Clearly, two-wheeled transport is going mainstream, but Lucas implores the worst of his fellow cyclists not to let the side down:
Of course, it’s not just these “devil-may-care” cyclists causing the problems, but also fatally dangerous drivers and smartphone-focused zombie pedestrians. As we get more of all of them, the problems will get worse.
In theory, infrastructure investment should enable traffic segregation, but there are complicating factors. Lucas mentions the growing popularity of e-scooters, electric bicycles and other novel modes of personal transport that are blurring distinctions. These gizmos have a lot of potential, but where on the street do they belong — pavement, bike lane or road?
Other complications include the conflict among pedestrians between walkers and the sweaty, puffy runners who are so much thicker on the ground than they used to be. Meanwhile, among motorists, there’s another slow-fast conflict: the ever-expanding, stop-and-start fleet of delivery vehicles versus through traffic (or can’t-get-through traffic, to be more exact).
The tarmac turf war isn’t just about transport either. Extending pavement space to make room for outdoor dining, drinking and retail has an important part to play in saving shops, pubs and restaurants from the strictures of social distancing. But more space for café culture has to mean less space for everything else.
I should also mention another group of people with as much right to use our streets as anyone else: children. One of the few cheery things about lockdown was the sight of kids reclaiming the traffic-free space outside their homes. Deprived of their schools and playgrounds, they took to the pavements instead, coloured chalks in hand. In a lot of places they’ve now been forced back inside — as if their right to play free from the fear of death, injury and pollution counts for absolutely nothing. And yet, I suspect the months of lockdown have reawakened an old instinct — which is that streets aren’t the exclusive property of those who want to be somewhere else, they also belong to people who only wish to inhabit the places — public, not just private — where they already are.
So from every direction (except public transport, for the moment), we see growing competition for the same amount of space.
It’s all very well for the government to give people choices. But a quart into pint pot won’t go. Street-by-street, we are going to have to decide between conflicting demands.
Let’s first make pavements safe for pedestrians and let the cyclists and motorists fight for the roads.
Cycle lanes are generally pointless and contribute to the problem. As an example, Alton, Hampshire, near me, has a population of about 16500. It has a railway station, it has a by-pass road, and the High Street is one way. There are never any traffic jams in Alton. And yet, a few years ago, it introduced cycle lanes – what for? There are few cyclists, even in what passes for the rush hour. The cycle lanes come to an abrupt halt in odd places, after which the cyclists presumably are required to levitate onwards to their destination. What a complete waste of taxpayer cash. Elsewhere, in cities, all the cycle lanes generally do is compress and restrict traffic, slowing journey time and increasing pollution. No, I’m not a taxpayer in Alton, and yes, I do have a bike myself.
Don’t visit Southampton then, miles of freshly painted new cycle lanes cause congestion and pollution where there was none before, conveniently next to pollution monitoring stations in several cases, nothing to do with the council wanting to charge motorists with the expensive ANPR charging system they’ve already installed, but told they can’t by central gov’t…
I seem to remember that the whole thing was kicked off by an EU grant a few years ago, and councils spending the money just because they didn’t want to turn it down in case it affected the possibility of future money. I didn’t know that about Southampton – thanks for the warning!
It wasn’t an EU grant. The UK was a net contributor to the EU. The EU was merely repaying some of the UK’s money after taking their cut.
I really appreciate not having to be squeezed by adrenaline filled drivers, in bike lanes off the road but the older bike lanesb are filled with not so much pot holes but hazardous craters so these need to be sorted out. As someone who drives (but don’t own a car) cycles and walks I am also concerned with the speeding and pent up aggression of some drivers.
All three, cyclists, motorists and pedestrians could do with retraining in basic manners and consideration for others in public spaces.
Government may need to invest a bit into sorting the weather out if they want people to ride to work. And why not?…..they seem to want to control everything else.
Northumberland county council are spending a lot of money on cycle lanes, many of which have the problems already described in other comments here. The “serious” enthusiasts ride on the road anyway because they do not wish to be slowed down by pedestrians and the like. Those that do use the cycle paths – many are polite and considerate but some come speeding along on their near-silent bikes and are NOT pleased if you don’t get out of the way sharpish, with your pushchair, wheelchair or pesky kids. The shared paths which are marked cyclists on one side, pedestrians on the other, are ok – I never know what the etiquette is on the ones with no markings. Bells on bikes are very rare – they can be helpful.
A walking staff/stick in the front wheel works wonders…
If only we dared.
The points already made are all valid and have been voiced for many,many years. However the key element and rarely mentioned is attitude. That is from negative pedestrians who would find fault even if a toddler on a toy bike appeared any where near them. The attitude of mindless drivers and the potentially fatal stunts they perpetrate on – usually leisure bikers (Not always potential either).
Then there are the bikers themselves: Well where would you start? Let’s be fair, club riders wouldn’t ride on a pavement and often not in rubbish strewn cycle lanes. By law they don’t have too. Their bikes are often worth more than the idiot in a car that is trying to prove his masculinity. But the vast majority refuse to use lights or hi-vis gear. Madness. Then as mentioned the cretins who provoke pedestrians often older people. Solve that!!!
Contrary to popular argument, most cyclists do pay tax, for example most drive a vehicle which makes some of their behaviour bizarre when on a bike.
I believe I can write with some knowledge of different vehicle usage on our roads. Many countries cope better then the British. Why? Forget for a moment the endless negative responses even if they are valid. After decades of riding everything from a clapped out ‘push bike’ to 150 mph plus motorcycles (on a track:-)) Cars well, bangers to Porches etc etc. Also HGV’s . In driving/riding in many countries around the world you find a more ‘flexible’ attitude. I therefore firmly believe the key to our road usage is down to attitude. We can make a fair system, that is acceptable to all people. Not easy I accept, but start by getting off the righteous indignation manner and really think what you would do to make our complex system work for all. Do look up Chris Boardman on the subject.
We’ve just experienced six months disruption having the wide long road down our steep mile long hill reduced in width to add a metre to the foot way so it can be used as a cycle track.
Locals seem to think it is a nice place to park their cars now the width of the road is reduced . Cyclists of all types from lemon clad lycra lout groups of 15 or more to the single individual over 13 yrs old still use the road both up & down the steep hill even if there are no cars on the footway/ cycle track .
Go and figure the whole antisocial mess of it .
I’ve often gone out wearing a high viz jacket to stop traffic whilst a disabled person on an electric buggy or mums pushing prams has had to go into the road to get past the parked cars in relative safety & with me as a witness if things kick off . Even the local police don’t seen too bothered about the problem in it’s many guises.
Do many of your others see the same parallel?
I think you’ll find that the children were only playing on the streets because all the playgrounds were padlocked.
Its always helpful to look at the data. Who exactly is murdering black people in the USA .
Is it the Police ? Is it white supremacists ? is it other Black people ?
What are the numbers ?
In the UK a young black persons chance of being murdered by a policeman is so low as to be statistically unmeasurable. But His chances of being murdered by another young black person with a knife is worryingly real. The police want to search people to get knives off the street to save lives. But this is said to be racist.
in the UK there are 85 assaults on policemen every day . Imagine what it would be like if they were “defunded” and not there ?
I am quite comfortable in my white skin and hope that you are happy in yours whatever the colour. But if you come looking for me to apologise or kowtow to you because of your own colour, well, you can f*#k off!
If inhabitants of our society are hellbent on making skin colour an excuse for destructive, violent revolutionary behaviour then counterrevolutionary action has to be taken with as much prejudice as is necessary to restore freedom, equality and safety for all colours.
Most roads have a pavement each side. Why not one side for walking and one for cycling? It will be a bit of a nuisance at times but ultimately much safer.
Secure cycle parks will also be a necessity, especially in towns. They will need to have CCTV and a police force that actually cares about arresting and charging thieves. You can put as many cycle lanes in as you like but if people can’t park their bikes safely when they arrive it will all be a waste.
Dept Homeland Security’s Mr Bryan Murphy instructed intelligence officers to refer to individuals in protests as “Violent Antifa Anarchists’; despite reports that intelligence had “low confidence’ (ie NO evidence) that the attacks on the courthouse reflected a broader threat.
But of course, in his career, Murphy, has ‘form’ in seeking advantage from US hysteria, faking, bribing witnesses and entrapment ; one such being the high profile Sheik Moayad case – a trial judgement, being overturned in 2008 with scathing remarks by the Judges… Look it up.
If you want to see how Murphy ‘sees’ himself, read the Esquire article by John H Richardson 26 Feb 2007. It can only be looked at with irony – in light of what we really know about people like him in Iraq.
Oh well. Maybe it’s time to abolish America, if it can’t provide a basic minimum of security from a state of anarchy. & maybe everyone who lives there should go & live in Russia instead. Especially since they hate everything about it so much.
Guess, when you talk about lack of security, maybe you are referring to the burgeoning plague of school shootings, and those numerous guns ‘legally’ fed to sociopathic nutcases? Oh, and the ‘rights’ of oafs like Jones to then bully the grieving families.
ordering pf extract now. fdr
truth. 4 hours a day all of a sudden is larger number more inensity into each of their 4 hours and it appears with continuity. they are pedophile. temps do not have genetali i.e. they dont sex they dont reproduce. to do behave according to their makeup. denial of sex….kids arent safe….some fit comfortably in setwear…those scooters were supposed to be only us a couple months ago…obviously abandon that strategy….who ordered it and who called it off? disaster. i ordered certain streets barricaded within the last couple hours. there is no law enforcement. the shield wrx. however the divine takeover controls it 100%. overwhelmed here. i ordered nuke over portland yesterday and ordered military to use it if they felt appropriate. flattened it. 🙂
sLdr kte target then wrapped old bomb detonated above ground. sLdr extracted. great job everybody!!! thx rich fdr lastly…the shieLdwrx…however…it appears more and more can talk to me they wont. portland was a hideous on the other side of the planet area where hideous war criminals hid out. that, i sense, is the big reason for the no conversation for the most part. great article mr peter frankLin thx xrich check it all out fdr
Need to cut back on the gin and meth., I think.
You really are very mad indeed.
just like to ask the question and point out to supporters of this “movement”. who do you think they will come for next. and the answer will probably be you (THINK before you act.)
A walking population is easier to control
Cycling is a slightly faster way of walking
The Hypotehsis of this article is worth considering, however, you are a journalist on the East coast that just happens to be in Portland now? Dubious, detail your travel. I know indirectly of a few people that have been there every night and they are very unthreatening but principled young people. It could be that there are exteremists stirring things up, that is usual, but fringe.
I love happening upon articles like this. I feel as if I have been on my travels to the opposite side of the country and learned things I would probably never have known even if I went there. It sounds an enigmatic and fascinating place and one day when things are back to normal ha ha I hope to go and see it.
Is Unherd amplifying the voices of the unheard herd of the alt-right groupthink propaganda machines? Look at these subcortical examples, “The overwhelmingly white, anarchist activists who populate the ongoing protests in Portland, Oregon should not be underestimated for their strategic savvy.” Paranoid conspiracies run amok aka McCarthy legacy. And yes, Portland Mums and Dads are communist sympathizers protecting these anarchists 😉 parody: just in case you think I am making a true statement. And here is an example of thin white skin. “The Left/liberal political and media class is deeply invested in preserving the untouchable sanctity of BLM” is typical alt-right hyperbolic polarizing statement to feed the beast of fake patriotism. Is Unherd just for herds? This paradoxical question is an oxymoron. Nudge, nudge, say no more… wink, wink …
This is true.
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