Sunday, 15 November 2009

Letter to Sustrans

I wrote the following letter last week. More details, plus a response from Sustrans can be found in this IndyMedia article.

Hi Sustrans,

I'm one of your supporters (can't remember my number just now). I ride past College Green, Bristol, every day - I believe that's where your offices are. Today as I rode past traffic was banked up because a cyclist was lying in the road injured. I don't know what happened - she was surrounded by people so I didn't involve myself...

I'm writing because this incident focussed my mind on something that has been concerning me for a long time. Bristol is supposed to be a cycling city. There is - apparently - a huge pot of money available to improve cycling in Bristol. But, it seems to me, nothing has happened! I ride my bike to work every day, plus on week-ends. It is my primary mode of transport. NOTHING has improved for me since this money came through. I know that there have been improvements around St Werburgh's - a footpath was widened into a cycle path. This is the only development I'm aware of.

So why am I writing to you?? Because, as I understand it, you are involved in deciding how this money is spent. And because you are the good guys! I'm sure if you had your way the centre of Bristol would be closed to traffic, and we'd have cycle heaven. How I long for the day! I don't doubt that the problem in all this is the council who, so far as I can tell, hate bikes with a passion. Or, at least, they love cars a hell of a lot more than they love bikes.

I wish you the very best of luck in advocating for cyclists in the negotiations that go on with the council as to how this money is spent. But I need you to know that right now, things are just getting worse. And I'm afraid that the council are using this "Bike City" nonsense as a way of green washing the issue away. They're letting the Bike City label excuse them from making any material changes on behalf of cyclists.

At some point some one is going to have to decide that life is made more difficult for motorists. If this decision is not taken then there is no avoiding the fact that cycling in Bristol is on an inevitable downward spiral. Cars are far and away a cyclist's biggest problem, as I'm sure you're aware. I would NOT encourage commuting to work by bike in Bristol to anyone new to cycling. It is very dangerous. (Two of my friends are disabled because of bike accidents in Bristol.)

I would like you to seriously consider your role in the Bristol Bike City program. I am very much afraid that, by trying to work from the inside, you are inadvertently letting the council get away with murder. You need to consider the possibility of withdrawing from this program so that you can publicly state that "this council is not helping cyclists". Because it's true, isn't it?

I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts.

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