Category Archives: Uncategorized

Disabled cyclists in England: imagery in policy and design

Kevin Hickman (2015) Disabled cyclists in England: imagery in policy and design. Proceedings of the ICE – Urban Design and Planning. Published here (access-controlled). Pdf for personal non-commercial use here.

Things have moved on a little since I submitted the above titled abstract to the ICE journal Urban Design and Planning for a themed edition on disabilities, vulnerable road users and navigation of the urban environment. However, as this Design Manual being consulted on at the moment demonstrates, it remains relevant.

My thanks to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, to British Cycling and to Sustrans for permission to use images from their documents; to Wheels for Wellbeing, Ann Wright, Caroline Waugh and Martin Symons for the pictures; and to Rachel Aldred for the initial advice and encouragement.

I hope the paper proves useful.

Bloody Bicycle Week!

BikeWeek2015

“The bicycle takes gold, silver AND bronze in the race to normalise riding a bike, everyday, for everyone, as long as  you’re on two wheels.”

I’m never quite sure who’s managing Bike Week each year, but I think I’m on fairly solid ground when I say that this year, 2015, the year that they’re officially wrapping up involvement in their latest Inclusive Cycling project, that it’s our national cycling charity the CTC.

I’ve been pointing out this mismatch between words and imagery to anyone who’ll listen for over two years and now I’m tired. Tired that despite great, dedicated people within CTC fighting our corner, the bicycle reigns supreme in any national imagery. Would it kill anyone to draw a picture of a handbike or a trike? Of course not. And that makes the continuous refusal to do so unacceptable.

So here’s the finger CTC. I resign my membership forthwith.

Presumed Liability: Who Benefits?

Topically for me, Denmark got a mention during this UCL Cycling @ Lunchtime talk about presumed liability (gets into its stride at 7m45s) although that wasn’t what made it memorable.

Derek Halden, presenting on behalf of Road Share (a campaign rather than a charity – at least under that name) gave a fairly factual explanation of what PL is, what it isn’t, and how it would help victims like a 13 year old Scottish girl who had to wait 10 years for a claim of compensation to be settled. But for one thing. Something that acted like a magician’s misdirection or one of Lynton Crosby’s dead cats. The suggestion that introducing PL reduces casualties.

As I recall, my twitter timeline erupted into a polarised slanging match. Nobody was thinking about victims – people ‘encouraged’ by the authorities and various cycling orgs to get on their bikes in a transport system that’s stacked against them when it goes wrong – because they’d moved on to a cerebral pissing match about what works best in the absence of any hard evidence to prove or disprove where PL ranks.

Based on that my conclusion is this: DON’T DO IT.

No matter how much you qualify the statement by pointing out that it’s a correlation rather than a proven cause, don’t suggest that simply by introducing a legal framework to look after victims it will prevent them becoming victims in the first place. Regardless of how good safety stats are in some of the places where PL operates, there are still people there being knocked off their bikes or their feet. They are the people who need presumed liability and would suffer most if it didn’t exist. Don’t lose sight of who it actually benefits.

And that was despite a slide devoted to how PL is misrepresented and misunderstood(!) and which had the best piece of advice I’ve seen for some time…

“Systems thinking needed.”

More on that to come [insert link here].

Foreign Fieldwork

Keep Right! Does Copenhagen’s success as a cycling city derive from the rigorous application of this simple rule?

That, until I missed the deadline for abstracts, was the title of my submission to this year’s Cycling and Society Symposium. So waste not want not, longer than an abstract but far from finalised, here’s where I currently am post-processing a three day study tour in and around Copenhagen.

I stayed in the fabled City of Cyclists for four nights in an apartment in a harbourside development in Christianshavn. Every morning I got up early and entered the flow of bike traffic circulating around the city’s central streets, copying what everyone else did, getting a feel for how it ‘works’ there, until it was time to follow my GPS back to that day’s meeting point and join the rest of the group. This train of thought is largely concerned with cycling on the busy stuff.

CPHSchoolRun

You quickly learn to keep right on a busy bike track as a newbie from a lefty-land, and that’s where you’ll find the kindergarten kids cycling to school on their own bikes, with either a parent giving a helping hand alongside or shadowing directly behind. Once you’re amongst the crowd on the correct side of the street, ‘keep right!’ isn’t something you need to give any conscious thought to – you have the visual indicators of the pavement on one side and the road on the other. Pavement slow and objectively safe, road fast and subjectively scary, and within the bike track itself an effective gradient of increasing speed running out from the pavement towards the road. I don’t think the kids or I were putting any mental effort into trying to remember our right from our left – we were just instinctively staying out of the way by keeping to the edge. Continue reading

Going by the Book

Paris, 1994…

“On Saturday afternoon we went to see Schindler’s List, the Steven Spielberg movie about the man who rescued Jews from the Nazi concentration camps, saving thousands of lives.

In later life, when I had got to know Spielberg, I told him how the movie had affected me more than any I had ever seen. Steven, being actually a rather modest person, probably thought I was exaggerating in that way theatrical people do, but I wasn’t. I was spellbound throughout the whole three and a quarter hours. We sat through it, missed our dinner and talked about it long into the night.

There was a scene in it I kept coming back to. The commandant, played by Ralph Fiennes, is in his bedroom arguing with his girlfriend. He gets up to urinate, they’re still arguing and she is mocking him, just like any girlfriend might do. While in the bathroom, he spies an inmate of the camp. He takes up his rifle and shoots him. They carry on their argument. It’s her I think of. She didn’t shoot anyone; she was a bystander.

Except she wasn’t. There were no bystanders in that situation. You participate, like it or not. You take sides by inaction as much as by action. Why were the Nazis able to do these things? Because of people like him? No, because of people like her.

She was in the next room. She was proximate. The responsibility seems therefore more proximate too. But what of the situations we know about, but we are not proximate to? What of the murder distant from us, the injustice we cannot see, the pain we cannot witness but which we nonetheless know is out there? We know what is happening, proximate or not. In that case, we are not bystanders either. If we know and we fail to act, we are responsible.

A few months later, Rwanda erupted in genocide. We knew. We failed to act. We were responsible.

Not very practical, is it, as a reaction? The trouble is it’s how I feel. Whether such reactions are wise in someone charged with leading a country is another matter. But more of that later.”

That’s an excerpt from Tony Blair’s political memoir A Journey. It’s early on in the book and palms up he’s casting a seed for the inevitable discussion about the various wars to come. A personalised, dramatised variation on the phrase “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Did TB have that in mind at the time? Is the girlfriend in the metaphor the ‘good men’?

In 2015, I’d hardly put the book down when the news media began following the movements of a young woman linked to another killer. We’re in Paris again and a lingering question formed – is she the girlfriend in the metaphor? And then I thought, what exactly did happen in that scene from Schindler’s List?

Things are bound to be a bit sketchy after 15 years, but we’ve got iTunes and its equivalents (Blockbusters then?) to check the details we’re about to put into print. So I did just that –  I hired the film to see what it portrays. Irritatingly, I’ve just found it’s also available to stream free

The scene begins at about 1h15m with the camp commandant, whose character Fiennes has already developed way beyond a-nasty-piece-of-work, standing on a balcony overlooking the camp.  There is no preceding argument, and juggling a cigarette he fires two shots killing two women. After the first Spielberg cuts to the young woman in bed putting a pillow over her head. After the second the killer walks into the bedroom and we hear the last shell case bounce as the next bullet is driven into the chamber. She throws the pillow at him. He laughs. He urinates.

Assuming there isn’t another cut of this film, TB’s asking us to leap with him from; half-naked woman armed with a pillow at the point of a recently fired gun to; bystanders, proximate or not, being responsible for horrific acts of violence.

And what of the ‘good men’? Aren’t women more likely to be bystanders in atrocities? Perhaps when they’re not the victims.

It’s a good film, but more manipulation like this and I feel I’m unlikely to finish the book before the election.

Please Make It Stop II

Meeting tonight at 7:30 in Langdale Hall, Witney about Green Party member and Bampton resident Mark Wood and other disabled people whose deaths have been connected to the policies and actions of the government’s Department of Work and Pensions.

Reported by the Oxford Mail and The Independent.

Another letter to Mark’s MP…

Dear David,

I wrote to you about your constituent Mark Wood at the beginning of March asking you three questions. When we spoke in June we didn’t manage to get beyond the first, the discussion becoming mired in your government’s perception that GPs are too soft to do the right thing for their patients. That was disheartening, and all I left with was the assurance that a DWP investigation was underway and would report soon.

So, here I am with yet another question: What is the result of the investigation into the actions of your government and the organisations they commissioned with regard to Mark Wood and his subsequent death?

Tonight I shall attend a meeting in Witney at which Mark Wood’s sister will speak. No doubt Cathie Wood will question why Mark’s MP has subsequently done nothing to get to the bottom of what happened, and at least ensure disabled people like Mark don’t suffer unnecessarily in the future. He hasn’t been the only one; Gill Thompson will address the meeting on behalf of her brother David Clapson who died after being ‘sanctioned’. There are more.

You’ve made much of your own family experience of disability recently. Since you’ve brought it up, valid as it is, it’s an experience of one disability in one family. The circumstances of other families living with other disabilities are very different. Are you sure your government is treating them with the same dignity you would wish for your own? I suggest to you that to date it hasn’t, and so I ask again, please make it stop.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin.

David Cameron is too busy

Gazing at the ceiling in Westminster’s Central Lobby on a comfy green leather bench. Beats waiting at the dentist. Are those bulbs in the candelabrum low energy? Judging by the blown ones they can’t be LEDs. Twenty five Watts each at a guess. Thirty two around the upper tier, sixty around the lower less the one where the holder’s dropped out. A rated total of… over 2kW. Looks like a job for Witney’s DFx Technology.

Natasha’s been and gone, responding to the Green Card I filled out. She said David’s in the chamber. I knew that. I can hear his disembodied voice straining above the din of PMQs, drifting across on the sound waves from a distant TV. Pretty much everyone knows where my MP is midday most Wednesdays.

Alan on the desk says Natasha’s checking again and she’ll phone the answer through but the Prime Minister’s bound to be busy. Freewheeling down the fast track to security the Bobby at the entrance called the same thing after me. I know he’s busy. What other reason could there be for not answering my letter over the past two months?

Greg Barker’s here. Jeremy Hunt shakes a hand and leaves with its owner. Tour parties crisscross the octagonal floor and the young woman beside me asks if Prime Minister’s Questions is over yet. It is, sometime ago. She’s early. Didn’t think she’d make it in time what with the tube strike. Yesterday was a nightmare on the bus, but the tube’s running again today. Isn’t the ceiling lovely?

We lean back. Alan comes over to share what he knew all along. My MP is too busy.