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Response to the open letter from the Mayor – 2 June 2020

Dear Chichestor City Mayor Richard Plowman,

Sorry to say but your open letter from the Mayor – 2 June 2020 came across as negative towards cyclists and cycling. Of course it is a concern to everyone that accompanying this great renaissance in cycling there have been accidents and fatalities. However, to put these issues into context, the British Medical Journal reports an uptake in cycling generally tends to reduces rates of mortality when cyclists are compared to car-dependent control sample groups.

We are certain you have best interests for community safety at heart but opportunities for cycling can benefit the city in so many ways we feel they need to be broadcast more loudly. Criticism of people riding bicycles in a no-cycling area is clearly a legitimate subject but your open letter continued with numerous adverse comments about cycling and mentioned few supportive points to balance those remarks.

Here follow some of the comments we felt could be viewed negatively:

  • I heard recently of a gentleman who had not ridden a bicycle for many decades. He bought a brand-new one, set off down his drive, wobbled, crashed into the gate, fell off and broke his shoulder. Hardly a help to the NHS! (We expect this poor chap was intending to take up some fun heathy exercise following NICE guidelines and this was just a very unfortunate outcome. However if he remains inactive he may well develop chronic illness that would eventually make him a greater burden to the NHS).
  • The Government’s promotion of cycling is welcome, but there are consequences. (Yes, one consequence is air quality has enormously improved because of such a huge modal shift towards sustainable transport)
  • There are now many cyclists who are inexperienced. (Yes, this has been an ideal opportunity for people to gain experience while there has been less traffic. Hopefully we can provide safe cycleways so people can keep up these good habits of using active travel)
  • How many riders will stop cycling to work when the weather is cold, wet and miserable, especially when social distancing will mean few spaces at work for changing? (I cycle to work every day. If we maintain safe road space for people who want to ride a bike to work, we will have many people who continue to take the responsible choice of adopting sustainable modes of transport. Waterproof clothing technology has come on leaps and bounds since the 1950s but even back then, a little rain and snow didn’t stop my grandparents getting to work on a bicycle)
  • Children are often seen on two-wheelers that are too big for them. (Living next door to Centurion Way I see kids riding past all day. There are quite a few wobbly ones learning to balance in a safe environment but I can honestly say I have not recently seen a child riding an ill fitting bicycle. We feel this point is exaggerated)
  • Advice and training will be available soon to keep road users and pedestrians safe. (This implies that cyclists represent a significant threat to other road users and pedestrians. Training is a positive thing but there are so many unhelpful local cycle schemes that deliberately put cycles on the pavement in conflict with pedestrians. Local city planners could benefit most of all from re-training. Sending them on a cycle training course in the Netherlands is possibly the wisest investment the council could make. They might enjoy it and bing back some tasty Dutch cheese in return.)\
  • The City Council is heavily involved in this matter. (Indeed the following question was asked in the neighbourhood plan: Q12 Should there be more cycle lanes provided for new housing areas? 86.22% Yes (in two categories) only 8.45% Said No. There is clearly solid support for better cycling provision in the city!)

We are in a state of climate emergency and desperately need to decarbonise transportation in the City. We are in a state of climate emergency and desperately need to de-carbonise transportation in the City. Whilst electric cars produce less local pollution at the tail pipe than traditional cars, they demand huge amounts of energy to manufacture and run leaving them a long way short of being a sustainable technology.

In comparison to the carbon cost of any type of motor car, manufacture of a traditional steel framed bicycle generates only a minuscule fraction of CO2. Bicycles also tend to last far longer than a car making their manufacture an even better investment. Bicycles are powered by the kind of healthy exercise that is essential to maintain health and well-being.

A huge disadvantage with mass reliance on motor-vehicles is the vast and ever expanding expanses of brutal concrete and tarmac infrastructure needed to support the car is king culture. It would be much better if we could promote sustainable forms of active travel like cycling instead.

Constructive training and safety advice is something ChiCycle, Chichester District Cycle Forum and the Friends of Centurion Way would all be happy to become involved with. Local cyclists feel it will be more productive to encourage better road safety practice amongst cyclists than focus on demonising inappropriate behaviour. This evening as dusk fell, I did see some cyclists that would have been safer if they had lights. I am sometimes exasperated by the number of bicycles lacking a bell.  However there are so many positive aspects to people moving away from polluting, unsustainable,  car dependency, that we hope you can mention some supportive points about cycling and active travel in your future open letters from the Mayor.

Yours Sincerely

Mark Record (On behalf of ChiCycle)

4 thoughts on “Response to the open letter from the Mayor – 2 June 2020”

  1. Mark,

    Agree with the vast majority of your response about cycling. The only error is around electric vehicles. It is based on a discredited report that appeared in Germany by the Institute for Economic Research. The mistake they made is the assumption that the national grid emissions will come from the existing mix of coal and gas in the next few years. Too complicated to explain in a brief note but here is the article:
    https://www.carbonbrief.org/factcheck-how-electric-vehicles-help-to-tackle-climate-change

    In summary, electric cars are about a third of the overall emissions of a petrol or diesel car, taking account the mining of all that Lithium for the batteries, steel production and the carbon footprint of the electricity used over a car’s total lifecycle. This is why I am buying an electric car, though I still hope to cycle a lot!

    1. Thanks Andrew,
      I have just been discussing similar issues with Ian Swann who has an EV that sees modest use and he has solar panels on his house to help charge it up.
      The whole picture on EV might be a bit more complex with the biggest new market becoming the production of massive hybrid 4WDs. There are significant tax breaks if people by a hybrid and there is evidence that they are rarely charged (dealers say the plastic packets for charging leads often remain unopened).
      1/3rd the emissions of a V8 Range Rover might differ from a friendlier Nissan Leaf specification.
      National highways is planing towards significant increases in traffic volumes and we have to be careful with some of the zero emission claims for EV.
      I am sure you will choose a more sustainable level of vehicle use but that does not mean everyone else will follow your wise example.

      1. Hybrids are just efficient petrol cars. I don’t rate them at all as a method of reducing emissions. Plug-in hybrids are better, but we have found that most of our carbon footprint is the longer journeys for which a plug-in hybrid doesn’t help. I wouldnt rule this out though if you do a lot of small journeys. I am looking at a Zoe which is the smallest car I know that can get me 200 miles between charges. My brother has one. Last month he ran it almost entirely on solar power. In fact the carbon footprint for his entire household was 38 kgCO2 for the month. This is amazing! We have a carbon calendar where we compete to see who has the lowest carbon footprint, a battle that we are losing at the moment, hence the cunning plan to get an electric car. I have also been cycling into Emsworth more, but now that traffic levels are ramping up again, it is becoming too dangerous.

  2. Nothing more I could say that Mark hasn’t already. It is abundantly clear that Chichester center will die. Noone can get there. Stuck either in a traffic jam or taking risky bike rides. less and less parking when you do get there. Why would you when you can have anything delivered to your door, bank online etc. Electric cars are not the answer. The bicycle in all forms is. Get rid of the cars and cycling is safe. https://youtu.be/Boi0XEm9-4E

    The Mayor should take an all expenses paid trip together with planning department to Utrecht. I’d support that as a good investment.

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