Sunday, 14 April 2013

Boris bikes and bad journalism

Thank goodness few people read the Wandsworth Guardian, because it contains one of the worst pieces of journalism I have ever read. It pains me to give it more coverage than it's due, but here it is.
Boris bikes - a threat to children and blind people? Unlikely

Once you've got over that shock, a few points are worth making. Firstly, at the end of the article Nick Aldworth explains why the power supply has been put in early, and makes it clear that it will be removed if planning consent is not given. The rest of the article is mainly scaremongering. What possible danger can sedately-paced Boris bikes pose to a nursery school, or for that matter, to a blind person? Far less than motor vehicles I can assure you. The loss of six parking spaces is nothing compared to the multiple journeys which will be possible into and out of the area by hire bike. As for the Shrubbery's 'Tudor foundations', has no-one noticed cars have been parking outside it for years? Let me be clear - cars clutter our streets, pollute, and are potentially dangerous. Bikes are smaller, emission free, and safe. My hope for Lavender Gardens is that it will be transformed from a busy motor thoroughfare into a haven for pedestrians and cyclists.

We need a shift in perceptions. One of the reasons given for rejecting a docking station on the Mall was conservation. Yet that street is a busy dual carriageway, with a car/coach park down one side. I hope Wandsworth, and other councils, will see through this sort of nonsense and embrace cycling as a safe, clean and healthy mode of urban transport fit for our future. I look forward to docking in Lavender Gardens soon.


  1. Turns out putting a docking station on a narrow one way street with parked cars on either side was enough to persuade the council of the stupidity of this application. If you had any knowledge of the situation you would know that the safety concerns for children and blind residents was not the bikes per se but the likely fact that the one way street would make people cycle on narrow residential pavements.

    As a "NIMBY" resident I'm very supportive of Boris Bikes, use them regularly and am happy that they will be coming to my area but why TFL chose Lavender Gardens I'll never know! The positioning would have guaranteed people would have cycled the wrong way up the one way road or to ride on the pavement, as the alternative is a 5 min detour. The pace of a Boris bike may be sedate but they are pretty heavy and I wouldn't like to know what the effects would be on my 2 year old were she to be hit by one being cycled on the pavement. Probably unlikely but possible especially with the location of the nursery school, which you dismiss as nonsense.

    Although you may claim it is scaremongering these are very real concerns and the fact there are no gaps between the parked cars would mean anyone cycling the wrong way up the street would have no where to bail out should they have oncoming traffic heading at them. No matter what you may think of us residents I didn't really like the idea of coming home to find a squashed cyclist who's lost a game of chicken with a speeding car.

    Finally regarding the installation of the junction box by TFL, this may well have been eloquently explained away in the Guardian but it certainly wasn't to residents before it appeared without notice. This combined with the fact the application process had to be extended as the only notification given originally was a laminated card on a lamp post gave the impression to residents that the decision was already in the bag for TFL without any kind of democratic consultation. This is the context that exists behind the story you quote.

    Fortunately the council has seen sense on this and hopefully TFL will do what they should have done in the first place and apply to put the bikes 20 metres away on the corner of Clapham Common where I, and the rest of the area, can benefit from them without inconveniencing people and risking safety unnecessarily.

  2. @Simon

    Have you considered perhaps removing one side of the parked cars and thus creating space for a contra-flow or two-way segregated cycle lane?

    That would really make your street far more pleasant. It would be quieter, cleaner, less polluted, become eroded less, and would be safer for children.

    Too many Londoners are still addicted to high rates of private motor car ownership... It's not necessary!

  3. I would love it if the road was pedestrianised let alone turned into a 500 metre cycling thoroughfare. However, bearing in mind the council refused our application to have speed bumps put in I doubt it would get far. Also, increasing the traffic on other roads because of our urban idyll would probably not go down well. Why not just put the docking station somewhere sensible?

    Also, not sure where I would park my car! Your admirable sentiment that private motor car ownership is not necessary is not really a reality for me and I would argue a number of other people, even in London. Don't get me wrong I didn't have a car for my first 5 years in London, I hate driving in town and avoid it as much as possible. However, since having a family, once every 2 or 3 weeks we pack everyone up in the car and drive to see grandparents or friends in far flung places out of town. To do this I need a car. Trains/car clubs etc cannot compete on price or convenience.

    In the real world grey areas dominate and for every assertion that "cars clutter our streets, pollute, and are potentially dangerous" someone else will equally be able to say "bikes are impractical for many journeys, are often riden by people who seem to think the law doesn't apply to them and are a danger to pedestrians." Both are valid points of view and as long as the debate is dominated by people at the extremes who dismiss each other, things won't really change.

    Cars are here to stay, we can only hope they get cleaner. Bikes also have their place and should be given all the help required to spread safely in a city environment. Saying people who have a car are "addicted" or need to have their "perceptions changed" or that residents with valid concerns in one specific case are "scaremongering" puts people's backs up and pushes them away.

    As an example, I never comment on forums but this article, which I stumbled on when looking for the result of the planning application, irritated me enough to want to say something. As I've said, I support the Boris Bike scheme and am really pleased they are coming to my area but this one site was badly thought out and attracted critisism. Unconsidered support of something just because it is something you like irritates those more closely effected or in posession of the full facts and this is the trap I feel the author has fallen into.

    1. Actually, I think you'd have a pretty good chance at getting some sort of solution for this street, given that there are other roads that are designated to take through traffic. You need filtered permeability -- enabling vehicular access for residents (from one end of the street only) while making through ratrunning impossible. Wandsworth are actually quite receptive to this cheap and effective solution, and this guy can explain how it came about across a whole network of residential streets in Tooting: