There’s a new segregated cyclepath linking Milngavie and Bearsden, north of Glasgow – the Bears Way. It runs along a main commuter route, and has been built by reallocating space away from private cars and returning it to people on foot and on bikes.
Predictably, therefore, a minority of people have been vocal in their displeasure, culminating in an anonymous threat to execute the members of East Dunbartonshire Council who’d been involved in the scheme’s creation. Elsewhere, some thug was warning people that if they saw them on a bike they’d deliberately drive into them, and later someone did actually drive into some of the street furniture protecting the route (although that was apparently because they were paying so little attention to where they were going that they drove off the side of the roadway).
Similarly, council staff spreading the word about the Victoria Road consultation this evening (about which, more later) ran into hostility from a small number of local traders, with one individual slowly tearing up a flyer in front of them (one hopes they were subsequently fined for littering).
All this anger is massively unpleasant (not to mention criminal, if we’re talking about the death threats). People who ride bikes regularly are no stranger to hostility from a minority of drivers, but for non-cyclists working to put in place these schemes, the venom must be surprising and dispiriting. There’s already a suggestion that the planned extension to the Bears Way may be postponed, and some of the folk working on the Victoria Road plans I spoke to tonight were also disappointed
A personal plea then.
Don’t give up.
Don’t stop. Don’t walk away from what’s been started. These latest schemes are finally getting a reaction because they’re going against the grain of sixty years of blinkered investment in road capacity around Glasgow. The Strathclyde councils have thrown millions at the private car, and all we have to show for it are massive urban highways clogged with cars going nowhere and some of the worst air pollution in Europe.
The only way to break this ruinous cycle of bloating supply and demand is to make other, more space-efficient transport methods viable. If what you’ve been given to work with is a residential dual carriageway, then that means taking away lanes from cars and giving it back to people on foot, on bikes, and using public transport. Some of those who’ve become accustomed to using their car as a crutch to their existence will sulk.
No-one likes contributing to council funds either, but that doesn’t mean that we should abolish council tax. Endless studies have shown that investment in modern street design quickly returns massive benefits to those who live and work in those areas, and the short-term grumpiness from a few isolated individuals stuck in the 1970s needs to be borne with good will and a slightly rubber ear.
As Easy As Riding A Bike eloquently argued in Cycling needs a backlash that the reason people are starting to complain more is that some new developments are finally being bold enough to make a difference. The South West City Way and Bears Way are genuinely good pieces of infrastructure that, as the network expands, will provide many people with a better choice than driving. To make the change happen, councils must keep pushing forwards, adding joined up routes of safe cycleways and making the private car less and less attractive.
After all, the medicine may have an unpleasant taste for a short time, but the doctor knows it will eventually cure the disease.
PS: Post-it photo at the top from @SturmeyArcher3