June 2011 archive

Peugeot: Just Add Colloquialisms

And here is the Advertising Standards Authority’s response to the complaint I raised….

Mr J Davis
X XXXXXXX
Worthing
West Sussex

Dear Mr Davis

YOUR COMPLAINT ABOUT PEUGEOT MOTOR COMPANY

Thank you for contacting the ASA with your complaint regarding a TV ad for Peugeot Motor Company. I am sorry to hear this has caused you concern. I understand you were concerned that the ad’s reference to “Road Tax” was misleading and should have been referred to “Vehicle Excise Duty”. The ASA can intervene if an ad that has been broadcast appears to be likely to be in breach of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertsing by, among other things, being likely to cause serious or widespread offense, risking causing significant harm or being materially misleading. In this case we do not consider there has been such a breach and will not be taking any action.

While it is true that the correct term is “Vehicle Excise Duty”, colloquialisms such as “Road Tax” are often used by advertisers to articulate a message in a way that will be understood by the widest audience. We do not consider that the use in the ad would have misled viewers or promoted a view that only motorists pay for road building and maintenance, and will therefore not investigate the matter further.

I realise that this may disappoint you, but thank you nonetheless for taking the time to contact us with your concerns. The ASA website, www.asa.org.uk, contains more information about the work we do, including the results of investigations into complaints.

Yours sincerely

Xxxxxxxx

Complaints Executive

 In fairness, it was jolly nice of them to write. I completely disagree. I know I’m not alone either.

This from Carlton Reid’s IPayRoadTax website.

Beside the Seaside, Beside the Sea

Worthing Promenade looking toward Brighton. Now a shared use path and part of NCN2.

When most people think of Worthing, they probably think of the seaside, the elderly, bowls and the place where Oscar Wilde wrote ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. I moved here in 2007 and since then I’ve changed jobs once, moved house twice, got married and now have a beautiful [if loud] baby boy, trained as a comedy new act, kick started the local cycle campaign group back into action, established a town cycle forum, started a national campaign for better infrastructure standards and to try to convince County Councils in Great Britain that the Netherlands and Denmark with their more civilised and superior approaches to transport planning actually exist. It must be the sea air.

The Victorians thought the same way and it became the height of fashion to visit seaside resorts to sample the reviving air, the invigorating water and ‘promenade’. The Promenade (or ‘Esplande’ or the ‘Prom’ to take its abbreviation) was an area where people – couples and families especially – would go to walk for a while in order to ‘be seen’ and be considered part of ‘society’. Nowadays they are just as popular as ever and forward thinking District and Town Councils such as Worthing have allowed the humble bicycle on them.

I have written about Worthing Prom here and road.cc also reported on Worthing Councils decision to reinstate cycling on the Prom (following a dreadful accident that led to the banning of cycling there in 1994)  here

The decision to make Worthing Promenade a shared use facility has been regarded such a success that other resorts like Hastings and Brighton & Hove are taking an interest. I would like to tentatively offer the following advice:

  •  If you are thinking of introducing or reinstating cycling on your promenade, for the sweet, pure, tender love of Victoria Pendleton, do not make it purely about cycling when taking the idea to the public (just like ’20′s plenty’ campaigns). ‘Cyclists’ in the pure British sense of the word means either ‘lycra clad hooligans’ or ‘the unwashed’  or ‘taxdodgers’. By taking your bold decision, you are boosting your town/city’s health and wellbeing, tourism, clean air targets and access for all.
  • This still means that you include your local cycle campaign group in the consultation along with residents and disability groups. Your scheme is going to be heavily scrutinised down to the last slab of tactile paving. Local cycling groups would probably be very keen to assist you with publicity and organising promotional events.
  • Make sure that the scheme is shared use as opposed to a dedicated lane. A cycle lane on a Prom will push cyclists speeds up as they see it exclusively as ‘their territory’ as Worthing once found to its detriment. Promenaders will wander into the lane because they will be [rightly] talking with friends or looking at the sea or guarding their fish and chips from seagulls as opposed to checking where they are putting every single step. Shared use means that cyclists and pedestrians can ‘mingle’ keeping speeds down. Just like everywhere else in Europe.
  • The local press will initially print something negative to whip up their readership. The letters page will become choc full of people stating with a strange authority that there is bound to be a 14 bicycle/pedestrian pile up before long or comparing your new vision of the seafront to the opening 20 minutes of ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Be strong, only play to the positives and stress the need for ‘responsible cycling’. Remember that they don’t understand the bicycle as there isn’t a bicycle culture in this country [yet]. 
  • Just because a Council creates Promenade cycling does not mean it can shirk its responsibility to provide decent cycling facilities in the rest of the town/city. The Promenade must only be regarded as a leisure route. Whilst they are great to ride in settled conditions, seafront paths are a grind when pushing into a prevailing headwind for mile after mile. Always look to provide a quality inland route and decent connections from the prom to the centre means local businesses feel the benefit too. This is usually where the schemes are lacking.
  • Bear in mind that in a major public event such as a marathon, carnival or Birdman in the case of Worthing, the Prom will have to be closed to cyclists. Again, the need for an alternate quality route is paramount. particularly when one considers that Worthing Promenade is also supposed to be part of National Cycle Route 2. People may have cycled a long way, often along substandard paths to suddenly get massively inconvenienced.

Finally, here is the newly completed and regenerated ‘Splash Point’ at the eastern end of the Promenade which Worthing Cycle Forum was consulted on. You will notice the blue markings set into the surface treatment indicate without being too obtrusive a route where cyclists and pedestrians can pass through. Now all we need is some sunshine.

Splash Point: Western approach from the Promenade. Seating to the right with fountains. Blue markings to the left to indicate the through route.

Blue shows the way. A bit like a London Superhighway but without the parked cars.

A place to sit. With an umbrella.

Additional bike parking for Splash Point and the cafe opposite. NCN2 to Brighton runs off to the left

Words and Pictures

The police escort arrives to give me my Guard of Honour to the Houses of Parliament. Oh, and escort some MP's and Lords and yadda yadda yadda.

Last Wednesday, I caught the train up to London for the Annual Parliamentary Bike Ride which is the promotional prelude to Bike Week. As I was taking my Dutch Bike along, I had to catch the first train out of Worthing to beat Southern Rail’s [non-folding] bike ban which operates between 7-10am. I then cycled along Victoria Street, round Parliament Square (fine for me on an upright Dutch bike but I wouldn’t expect my mother to cycle this comfortably – unless she was actually a reasonably fit man aged between 18-45), over Westminster Bridge taking the vaguest of vague left turns into Belvedere Road toward the start point at the London Eye.

Carlton Reid interviewing Ed Clancy. He'd just interviewed me which was all the work he had to do really.

This is an event organised by CycleNation and ex-colleague Adam Coffman of CTC in particular. The great and the good of cycle campaigning were there including London Cycling Campaign’s new Chief Executive Dr Ashok Sinha. The ride was to take us over Blackfriars Bridge where Carlton Reid made this film.

We cycled along the Embankment, past Buckingham Palace and on to the Houses of Parliament where Norman Baker (MP for Lewes, East Sussex and Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department for Transport) took questions before dashing off to catch a train.

Cycling over Blackfriars Bridge. It's quite pleasant and relaxing with a police escort. Some decent infrastructure and a maintained 20mph limit will do.

 It was all very nice but that’s all it was. I’m all for devolving power but it needs the Department for Transport to treat the bicycle seriously as a mode of transport and keep a grip on Local & Highways Authorities whose main mission seems to be making cycling look as inviting as a timeshare in Tripoli. Councils across the land are continuing to build pitiful infrastructure whether cycle campaigners want it or not and the Local Transport Fund is not going to help that – if anything it will only encourage them to paint more bicycle symbols on pavements. The Monday before the Bike Ride, I wrote a blog post for the new Cycling Mobility magazine outlining my views on this and more here.

What I really cannot understand is why this country continues to ignore the Netherlands and Denmark – countries that have had proven success in creating bicycle cultures, that have made lots of mistakes since the 1970′s when developing its infrastructure and learnt from them now using a mixture of solutions to achieve modal shares we can only dream of over here if we continue the way we are. Maybe I should have asked Norman Baker on the study tour I’m going on in September.

The day after I was commuting to work and the puncture fairy visited me..

Bicycle repair in Shoreham by Sea

 In a former life I would have thrown my arms in the air, sworn a lot, replaced the inner tube as to engage in repair would lose valuable time in my cycling rat race (time was always against me when I cycled quicker for some reason), sworn again as I get grease from the chain and derailleur onto my work clothes in my super dooper courier bag etc etc. This time I just set about the gentle art of bicycle repair, reminded by the advice given to me by Stefan Petursson when I purchased the bike from Amsterdammers in Brighton. The conversation went like this;

Stefan: (put on your best Icelandic/Dutch accent here) ‘you know the best way to repair punctures on a Dutch Bike?’

Me: (put on your sexiest British accent here) ‘No’

I was at this point expecting to hear some incredible tip known only by the Dutch Peoples – maybe something treasured & carried over from generation to generation by word of mouth

Stefan: We pump the inner tube up like so…….and we listen.

I closed my eyes in a half wince/half flinch way. This advice was of course nothing new to me. But in that instant it made me realise that I had been taking the commute far too seriously with all the kit and speed and competitiveness and the subscription to Cycling Plus. By buying an upright utilitarian bike, I had yet to realise that things were about to get a lot slower and far more interesting. Again, this is not to discredit other forms of cycling as we are all part of one big family. But since riding the Dutch Bike my life has become simpler and cheaper and more spontaneous with more freedom and time for thought as a result. Exactly as cycling should be.

Lancing Beach just off NCN2 looking back toward Worthing. I can think of worse commutes.

Obviously they are not everyone’s cup of tea but quite why we ignore Dutch & Danish bikes (and indeed classic British roadsters too) as well as their infrastructure standards is quite beyond me. In the UK, mudguards are still regarded as an accessory! In Wimbledon Fortnight!! Madness, I tell you.

All the Fun of the Fair

Apologies that it’s been a while since I last posted but things have been very, very busy at Lo Fidelity Towers. The Boy has teeth pushing through with a vengeance which is bad enough for the poor little mite but they’re also deciding to make their push every morning between 2.30 and 4.30am. As a result, I look as though I’ve been punched in the face yet happy to be punched in the face as I weave the Old Dutch Bike through the school run stationary traffic.

On the cycling front, I’m soon to be guest blogging at Cycling Mobility magazine and my first post explaining my vision for the Cycling Embassy of Great Britian goes out on Monday. It’s probably too diplomatic, but I’d rather not get flailed alive by people getting the wrong end of the stick.

As I’ve stated before, riding a Dutch Bike gives one a lot of time to think. Freed up from the heads-down-Tour-de-France-peleton-of-one that is the default for British Cycle Commuting I can take great gulps of sea air and look at stuff such as the fun fairs setting up along the seafront. In a way, there are many aspects of fun fairs that, for me, have similarities with cycling in Great Britain…

The Carousel

Like Close Encounters of The Third Kind. But in Bognor.

 The fun fair carousel is a bit like the ongoing ‘Battle of Blackfriars’. TfL and the Conservative Assembly members are crammed into the control booth, with Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ blasting out so loud, they can’t hear the screams of the people on the ride. ‘Do you want to go faster?’ they keep yelling over the tannoy. From time to time they will try and alter the angle and spin. Occasionally someone tragically and needlessly dies or is injured as a result of poor maintenance or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time but that doesn’t matter to TfL. Just keep the punters going faster and faster. If they crank up that music nice and loud, they don’t have to hear a thing.

For further reading on the Blackfriars Bridge debacle I strongly recommend the London Cycle Campaign website this brilliant post by Cycle of Futility, I Bike London and of course, Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest

The Arcade Coin Machine

It’s mindless, but still better than watching ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ on every level

I admit that I used to love playing these machines on family holidays in the 70′s and 80′s. I believe that these machines accurately represent local and national government spending on cycling. The money that you are looking at through the glass represents the transport budget. You put our money in hoping, often in vain, to get something back in the way of investment for cycling and sometimes some pennies drop out. Sometimes you can hear money drop but it doesn’t make it to you. That’s your local authority syphoning off yet more money for pothole repair to ease traffic flow, or maybe a strategy document that might as well have been written by Ken Dodd on ecstacy.

Dodgems

Due to Coalition cuts, this might be the new driving test.

To some, it’s a fun way to pass five minutes. I agree, but I would go one step further and say they should be re-branded from ‘Dodgems’ to ‘School Run’. The fact that the lady in the foreground  has let her childs hands on the wheel may occasionally happen in real life as it allows a parent to answer a mobile phone call. After all, cars practically drive themselves these days, don’t they? Also, children learn from a very early age that as long as they are encased in a car or car like object, they’ll be safe if they collide with anything else.

The House of Mirrors

Again, more fun than ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ on every level.

The House of Mirrors is supposed to be a maze like puzzle giving a vision of alternate realities to our own. I also think it represents the Vehicular vs Segregation debate. It’s just an illusion. Vehicular Cyclists are all rough, tough fellows who like exhaust fumes and would regard cycling along the A40 Westway as a mere bagatelle. Segregationalists are only people that would have segregated infrastructure everywhere including the drives leading up to their houses. Then you leave the House of Mirrors to realise that we are in the same reality seeing the same thing, that the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany does not have segregated infrastructure absolutely everywhere because even they will say that that is a bloody stupid idea and what we all really want is the difficult mode of transport to reflect that difficulty and the easiest modes of tranpsort to reflect that ease for all ages and gender, just like in continental Europe that have proven success in obtaining high bicycle modal shares with lower casualty rates. Obviously there will be different views, but I simply cannot believe we are still ignoring what’s been occuring across the North Sea. Since about 1975. Funnily enough the ideas for current Great British cycling infrastructure came from a House of Mirrors. Actually, I made that last bit up, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I got all that from cycling past a fun fair on a Dutch Bike. Mind you it was into a headwind.