Douglas Shaw: The Conservatives are wrong to oppose CS9

A guest post by Douglas Shaw, Avonmore resident, and a keen cyclist:

Can I make a few points about the CS9 debate? It has been very disheartening to see how quickly positions became entrenched. I won’t lob any more data into the discussion because I suspect that won’t move the dial but I do think some context is helpful. 

I first became a cycle commuter in 1994, out of boredom rather than any environmental motive. I now live near Olympia and bike daily to Mayfair. It is just so convenient. I don’t bother with a helmet, I own no Lycra and leave any pious attitude behind when in the saddle. But it wasn’t always like that. Early doors, I biked as fast as I could and frequently held motorists to an impossible standard of conduct even at the expense of my own danger. But then I realised that queuing for the work place shower ate up any time savings and that might really was right when arguing with the traffic. A legalistic approach to riding a bike is a literal dead end. A cyclist’s momentum is valuable so, yes, I have ridden through a red light when no one’s around (that one at the north end of Queensgate, if it is pedestrian-free) and might sneak a left turn on red if the traffic is snarled. Cyclists can also hop off and instantly become pedestrians so, yes, I have recently cycled on a pavement. My bad. 

So, I ain’t no saint but a bike is so nimble and so flexible that there is no more point approaching cyclists and cycling with a rule book on your lap than there is complaining about jay-walking pedestrians (who themselves can turn on a six pence). There is even less point saying that, as some have, cyclists should not “undertake” stationary traffic as they filter to the front: bikers are gonna bike just like pebbles will tumble through boulders. 

One feature of the debate is a false categorisation. Cyclists own cars, car drivers cycle, pedestrians also drive, bus passengers also walk. It is just folk moving about the city, there’s no homogenous block of people. I drive, renting since I sold my diesel VW, and take Uber and Black Cabs. Another feature if the debate is just plain nimbyism. People don’t mind change provided it is experienced by others and not by themselves. We want less pollution but are unwilling to sell our cars. Before moving to Olympia we lived in Chelsea and I was active in the debate about whether there should a Crossrail2 station on the King’s Road. My neighbours thought a billion quid might be better spent elsewhere lest the wrong sort of person came to the area. I was on the side of progress. 

And I remain so with regard to CS9. Of course, change can be temporarily disruptive; might car journeys take a minute longer? Big deal. But might there be fewer cars and less pollution if more folk cycle? But might our kids be more independent and healthier if we let them bike to school? Could our streets be more pleasant and humane if we reweighted the balance between their different users? What has been the experience elsewhere in London? A bike provision was installed on Green Lanes in north London, my original manor. Like Chiswick High Road and Olympia, councillors’ post bags were deeply negative. Residents hated the idea, retailers loathed it. But installed it was and the naysayers not only piped down post construction but actually like it. Now, my esteemed ward councillor advises that the N21 scheme is “very different” to the proposed CS9. To which I politely shrug, because it is clear that being against CS9 “in its current form” actually means opposing it in any form. 

For Tories like me, this is a mistake. We should be leading our post bags on this and making the case for more balanced road use and more humane and workable streets. The N21 scheme might differ from proposed CS9 which, in any case, will be improved through the consultation period as any flaws become evident. But bike lanes, like CS9, will be better for our health, better for communities and, as N21 retailers will attest, better for business. 

11 thoughts on “Douglas Shaw: The Conservatives are wrong to oppose CS9

  1. If you don’t “bother with” helmet do you “bother with” private health insurance so we don’t have to pick up the bill if you get a serious head injury ? How about if drivers didn’t “bother with” seatbelts ? Fine by you ?

    Also it is typical of the arrogance of cyclists that you equate jay walking pedestrians (not an offence of any sort in UK) with simply illegal rule breaking by cyclists, riding on the pavements, ignoring red lights and so on.

    • What did Douglas Shaw say about pointless generalising? It’s a shame the Roy Grainger didn’t bother reading the article before posting this predictable, bigoted rubbish. Yes, sometimes people on bikes don’t follow the rules, but mostly there are no consequences, can the same be said of drivers who don’t follow the rules. I suggest Mr Grainger read the article and actually learn something. Fortunately progress is coming and our towns and cities will no longer just become giant car parks and roads, for the sake of our children change will come.

      • I did read it. Interesting you have assumed I’m a driver – talk about a fixed mind-set ! I’m not, I am a pedestrian whose daughter has nearly been run over twice by cyclists totally ignoring red lights on a pedestrian crossing on Shepherds Bust Road – I’ve never seen a car do that. Making King Street more dangerous for pedestrians is hardly progress.

    • Hello around. Thanks for replying. Yes I do have my own health insurance and you are right that rules should be scrupulously respected. I try to but I am not perfect, for the reasons I laid out. But I am not sure a legalistic view point gets one very far. Your point about helmets is a red herring: you’ll see none in Amsterdam or Copenhagen, whose designs CS9 seeks to emulate in part.

  2. Hey Roy, I ‘don’t bother’ with a helmet either. Haven’t worn one in 43 years of safe cycling in London. If you did a little research, you’d discover that cyclists are at no more risk of head injuries than pedestrians or drivers. You’d also learn that helmets aren’t designed to protect people on bikes from motor vehicles. The only thing that does is infrastructure that separates the two. Hence why Dutch cyclists have the lowest rates of head injury in the world, despite the fact hardly any of them wear helmets. Yet in Australia and New Zealand where helmets have been compulsory for the best part of 30 years, cyclists are at a far higher risk of head injury. Care to explain that? A friend of mine suffered a serious brain injury while driving his car, and yes he was wearing a seat belt at the time. Perhaps he should have been wearing a helmet… After all, racing drivers do.Truth is, if more people cycled than sat around in cars on their fat lazy bottoms, the NHS would save billions. The entirely preventable diseases of obesity are bankrupting our healthcare system. It’s drivers and the inactive who should be bothering with private health insurance not cyclists. As for cyclists breaking the rules of the road, you’re wrong on that point too. Research shows that drivers are more likely to go through reds, not to mention all the ignoring give way signs, mobile phone use, turning without indicating, dangerous speeding I see drivers doing each and every day in London. Around one in five don’t have insurance either. These drivers are largely responsible for the 10 (!) hit and runs that happen every day in the city. Now get on your bike (though I doubt you’ve got one).

  3. Thanks Douglas, thoughtful piece.

    I too have many thousands of miles of cycle commuting all over London, and in from the suburbs. I have done a lot of riding on country roads as well.

    Just a personal view but I don’t feel streets like King Street are dangerous enough to justify the heavy duty infrastructure of CS9, with all the costs it imposes. Traffic is held to 20mph, not much more than a bike’s speed.

    I think in urban settings like this vehicles and bikes can mix safely. CS9 is moving in the opposite direction to trends that integrate pedestrian and road traffic in ‘shared space’. With a 20mph limit this will work.

    Big danger in London is roundabouts and junctions. They do need investment and design solutions. But long strips of segregated cycleway along already quite safe – no.

    • I did think, back in the day, that if cycles proliferated, then we’d all just rub along with good manners and courtesy. But I have revised my view: I did find I needed courage on some junctions, even as an experienced cyclist and the number of road deaths remained high (often women, skip lorries….). So I think separation is needed. I am open minded on whether it is heavy duty infrastructure or merely indicative and cheaper like wands, rumble strips or “armadillos”. Maybe that is where a compromise can be reached with the “antis”.

      • Agree that it has proved impossible for cyclists to rub along with pedestrians with good manners and courtesy. I once made the mistake of telling a woman who shouted at me to get out of the way on the pedestrian path on Hammersmith Bridge that she shouldn’t be cycling on it in the first place – all I got for my trouble was a mouthful of abuse.

  4. Interesting the cycling lobby think I’m a motorist. I’m not, I’m a pedestrian whose daughter has nearly been run over twice by a cyclist going through red lights on the same pedestrian crossing on Shepherd’s Bust Road, once gratifyingly the cyclist fell off whilst trying to avoid her at the last minute. I have NEVER seen a car go though those red lights. care to explain that ? Making King Street more dangerous for pedestrians by taking away pavement space and allowing rule-breaking cyclists free reign is of no benefit to LBHF residents and will draw further shoppers from King Street.

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