I have a dream. A dream that one day I could hop on my bike, nip up onto some elevated cycleway, get up to 20mph and just keep going, thusly reaching my aunt’s place in Leytonstone in less than an hour. Apparently, this dream isn’t quite as mad as it sounds, because someone’s looked at doing something similar in Toronto. Also, right now Ken Livingstone (in full uh-oh election year mode) has mooted a transformation of cycling here with 12 “cycling motorways”, which alas have been welcomed by Freight and motorist organisations as a way to clear cyclists out of the way.
Just imagine it, take all the money you’d spend on something like Crossrail (£12bn+?) and for maybe £1bn we could have a suspended cycleway running east to west – maybe even far enough to get people to beyond the M25. It would be revolutionary, it would be different and it would change London totally. The more I think about it the more I like the idea. After all, what surer way is there to get people to travel in a zero-carbon method?
You may be a little confused yourself as to how exactly New Labour has managed to go from abandoning almost every road scheme when they came to power over ten years ago to spending the ungodly sum of Â£13bn expanding the roads network. Well, it turns out that it’s all the fault of some quite bonkers economic calculations in the DFT. I strongly recommend you take a look at the article because it’s a really good example of why sometimes you have to stop thinking in terms of numbers and calculations to reach a decision and instead take a look outside the window and breath in. Or even in this case, bother to take a look at the oil price. If they’re right that the Eddington review was based on a 30$ price for a barrel of oil then pretty much all transport policy is suspect and beyond contempt. Here’s a fair example:
How does this work in practice? Look, for example, at the scheme to widen a 56km stretch of the M1 between junctions 30 and 42. The cost to the taxpayer is Â£1.5bn, which sounds like a lot, but the Highways Agency has used the Nata system to claim that, over the next 60 years, the widening is worth no less than Â£4.5bn because of the time it will save travellers. Since this supposed “benefit” to the economy far exceeds the cost, the scheme has been approved.
Just how biased this system can be is set out in the Nata rules that assign lower values to other types of traveller. A minute saved on a cyclist’s travel time, for example, isn’t worth 44p but just 28p. A bus-user’s time is valued at 33p a minute. The implicit assumption is that cyclists and bus-users make less contribution to the economy than car drivers.
But I guess we knew this, and I don’t say this just because I want a bullet train to Edinburgh.
It’s a hard habit to break. Even tonight I came home, turned the telly on at 7PM and hopped to ITV 4. Alas, the tour is over now, but despite all the controversy I still enjoyed it. Cycling Weekly got it badly wrong when they called for the tour to stop early. Whilst it is clearly wrong that top line cyclists like Alexandr Vinokourov, Michael Rasmusen and Iban Mayo doped to improve their form it is far more important that this is the first year I’ve known in which favourites were caught and dealt with promptly.
David Millar and his fellow majority of clean riders in the Peloton are rightly getting very angry at many of his fellow sportsmen who clearly are taking a long time to wake up. How far back the culture of doping goes is hard to guess. Tom Simpson certainly died whilst doping and tales of doping from that period on are all over the place. Sadly there’s little interest in the veterans in tarnishing their reputation and coming clean, especially when like Bjarne Riis they were running a team. However, slowly the truth is emerging and perhaps we’re looking at the end of a scandal that has lasted several generations. That’s not to say all successful riders doped , there’s clearly been a number of outstanding riders such as Lance Armstrong and Miguel Indurain who by skill and genetics were able to operate on a different level. That said we do know almost certainly that Bjarne Riis and Marco Pantani doped their way to a yellow jersey.
It will be very interesting to see what shape of tour ASO (the TDF’s organisers) pick to run with when they announce in October. There’s talk of national teams, Millar’s moved to a new American team who appear to have a much stronger anti-doping regime than anyone else and also there’s a strong possibility of another stage to reach London in the coming years. However there are many issues to be resolved in cycling which essentially boil down to arguments between the organisers of the tour and the organisers of elite cycling over who has real power. If they can agree on entering national teams then a UK team is certainly on the cards in ’09 if not ’08. In the longer term a cleaner tour will only mean good things for the sport of cycling in the UK, as it will become only easier to enter our clean athletes and hope for success on a fair basis.
Roll on Tour ’08