Thursday, 11 September 2014

The negatives of positivity

Earlier this week I wrote a blog post about the East-West Superhighway, entitled 'Get off the hype train'. I suggested that you only partially support, rather than fully support. This is despite it being probably the best cycling scheme to be proposed in London, and well, probably the rest of the UK.

Now I would like to explain my reasoning, with a little bit of help from Royal College Street.

Hooray for pointless conflict!
I'm sure most people know about the Royal College Street scheme. It consists of plastic armadillos and planters, which are are constantly breaking. There have been plenty of blog posts about the failings of the scheme, so I won't go into detail.

An Armadillo, working exactly as planned.

Last night, Camden Cyclists tweeted this:
Just like the original Royal College Street, there are things to be praised. Space is being given to cyclists, and often conflicts with parking have been removed.
Why the loading bay conflict?

But there is terrible stuff here. There are loading bays with door zone problems, the fact armadillos don't really work, and also an appalling bit where cycles and cars are expected to just merge together through a pinch point

This is incredibly dangerous. Why are Camden Cyclists supporting this?

The big problem here is the amount of praise and awards. Here is a tweet from a Camden councillor:
Why does Camden need to improve on the Royal College Street scheme. They know they got loads of awards and praise the last time, so why bother? There is no point working any harder if the results are the same. The level of effort required for praise has been set so low, the designers needn't consider proper cycling infrastructure. Just place out a load of armadillos, and the cyclists will be happy.

This is why I have my reservations about praising the East-West superhighway too much. Yes, it deserves praise. But too much praise, and it sets the benchmark too low.

London and the rest of the UK will never progress while praise is just given out on a whim.


  1. This has been going on forever. Even if there's nothing really praiseworthy, cyclists hand out praise anyway. York's "Magic Roundabout", a roundabout which puts cyclists into maximum conflict with motor vehicles, won awards and was referred to as something which "should be copied by engineers around the world".

  2. In Waltham Forest we have the mini-Holland £30m to spend, but there's also an anti campaign. We have (excellent) volunteer council liaison officers who try to make sure the proposals brought forward are as good as they can be. When they come to consultation we suggest people support them (assuming they are reasonably good) but also make as many detailed criticisms as they can to get them improved.

    If you say you support a scheme that doesn't mean they ignore the comments (or at least not in Waltham Forest), although I agree saying 'partially support' is probably best if you have any significant criticisms.

    So I hope lots of people highlighted the conflict in their response and hopefully Camden will review and improve...