Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Conservative AM Richard Tracey's cretinous contribution to the London Assembly's investigation into cycling in London

Having just watched the live feed of the London Assembly's investigation into cycling in London today (11/9/2012), I felt obliged to record the idiotic comments of Richard Tracey (a Conservative London Assembly member, representing Merton and Wandsworth) for posterity on the internet.

Here's a photo of Conservative Richard Tracey looking substantially less fat than he did on my web-feed today. Maybe he could take the advice of the Danish Cycling Embassy and prolong his life by 6 years by cycling to work and losing a few pounds?

The London Assembly had very intelligently invited two experts, from Holland and Denmark respectively (two countries where cycling is both much safer and much more widely practiced than in London), to speak on the issue of cycling in London. The Dutch and Danish experts made many incisive comments about the importance of building safe cycle infrastructure, for instance segregating cycle traffic away from fast moving motor traffic to provide real protection for cyclists. Unfortunately Richard Tracey's contribution did not match their intellectual standard.

Among other questions Richard Tracey seemed very concerned to know just how large Copenhagen and Amsterdam were in terms of population size. Given he's paid £53,439 a year to be a London Assembly he perhaps could have gone to the trouble of consulting wikipedia for this information before the meeting in question, and subsequently avoided wasting everyone else's time. But no. He's too lazy. He's Richard Tracey.

Having established the population sizes of Copenhagen and Amsterdam (500,000 and 1,000,000 respectively) Mr Richard Tracey then jingoistically remarked that they were both smaller than Birmingham, the UK's second largest city. Looking around the conference room for encouragement for his completely irrelevant comments, Mr Richard Tracey then pondered if Birmingham was indeed the UK's second largest city, or whether it might be Manchester. Mr Richard Tracey then concluded that he was initially correct. It was Birmingham. [Again, none of this was remotely on topic. What on earth is this man being paid £53,439 a year for???]

If Mr Richard Tracey was aiming to make a point about journey distance (and hence undermine a pro-cycling argument by conjecturing, even though it has been conclusively proved otherwise, that Londoners make so many long-distance trips that a high modal share of bike use is impractical) he completed missed the mark by asking about population size instead. Was this a bit of completely pointless Capital City Cock-Wagging by our elected representative? ["My capital city's bigger than yours! Thanks for taking all the trouble of coming to London and giving us the benefit of your vast experience! Joke's on you cause my ears were closed you European Pricks!"] Just to clarify those are Richard Tracey's words, not mine.

In fact, the extremely high population density and comparatively small road space of London actually makes a very high modal share of cycling eminently practical, for a reason so simple that even Mr Richard Tracey can understand it: bikes take up far less space on the roads than cars. In London we have lots of commuters and a strictly limited road space. Therefore we need more cyclists in we want to ease inner-city congestion.

This photo (borrowed from the excellent Cyclists in the City) shows about 20 rush-hour cyclists fitting into a space that would only hold 2 cars. Imagine how much worse the traffic would be for Richard Tracey if all of those cyclists were in their own cars, creating a 20 car traffic-jam stretching far back over Southwark Bridge.

Having watched Richard Tracey wasting about 10 minutes trying to undermine the London Assembly's distinguished guests because their cities were smaller than his, I thought he would now shut-up. But, unfortunately he didn't.

Moreover, can you guess which reputable newspaper Mr Tracy decided to draw on for his next 'intelligent' contribution? Was it The Times' CycleSafe campaign, highlighting the shockingly high numbers of cyclists that have died on our streets? Was it The Independent and The Guardian repeatedly calling for London's authorities to do more for cyclists. Was it The Economist cogently (as always) arguing that cyclist numbers in London have been increasing while cycle infrastructure has been staying static, and massive investment is now needed to make cycling safer and therefore more attractive to Londoners? Or was it even The Telegraph arguing that cycling should be our national sport, and listing the many ways in which regular cyclists pay an astonishingly positive contribution to our economy?

No. It was The Daily Mail which published an article about a (possibly fictional) woman that got hit by a cyclist. Now, I am in no way condoning anti-social cycling (if this incident did indeed occur). But Richard Tracey is seriously missing the issue here. Insultingly so. If we are to talk at a public meeting about safety incidents involving bicycles in London, should we not be remembering the many people that have lost their lives on Bow Roundabout before we consider anyone that may or may not have been brushed by a bicycle on a pavement? These people are dead now. The Daily Mail columnist's mother (if she exists) is still alive. Surely those that died on Bow Roundabout represent a much bigger issue?

But no. Richard Tracey continued on, quoting from online media created only for the most intellectually limited members of our literate populace, and called for compulsory bicycle number plates so the anti-social perpetrators of these crimes could be caught. Mr Tracey, if you're going to put the focus on justice, how about calling for greater punishments for the van driver who killed a 12 year old boy last Thursday? Or the driver that seriously injured a Paralympic cyclist last year? David Cameron spoke yesterday at the Olympic Athletes' Parade about his son now - in the post-Olympic aftermath - wanting to be "like Bradley Wiggins". But did David Cameron mention any safety measures that would make his son, and many other sons like him, allowed to have the option of cycling safely segregated from life-threatening high-speed traffic, like the aforementioned van driver? No, David Cameron didn't.

Caroline Pidgeon, the leader of the LibDems on the London General Assembly (pictured here), does genuinely understand cycling and cyclists in London. But she is unfortunately hampered by having to work with buffoons like Richard Tracey. The man's an idiot and I'm quite frankly amazed that one single Londoner voted for him in 2010. I am even more shocked that the London Assembly have allowed Tracey to be a member of the Transport Commitee.

To return to my final point with regard to Richard Tracey and the London Assembly meeting. When Dr Rachel Aldred and our Dutch and Danish friends were very cogently outlining the limitations of many of the current Cycle Superhighways (especially CS2 which runs, as blue paint, from Bow, down Mile End Road and Whitechapel Road, to Aldgate), Richard Tracey was extremely keen to know what the "trade-offs" would be to installing safe, protected cycle lanes for Londoners to use. Clearly Richard Tracey was cacking his pants about the impacts of any slight reduction to London's motor traffic capacity.

But as Dr Aldred very acutely observed, many of London's key roads were closed or constricted during the Olympics. Did we have chaos? No. Not at all. London ran better than many of us have ever seen it run. Moreover, all available studies have shown that road congestion simply expands or contracts to meet road capacity. So, just as building the massive M25 did nothing to alleviate London's long-term traffic congestion, because traffic simply increased to accomodate it, limiting traffic flow on many major London carriageways by the installation of segregated cycle lanes is not going to lead to an explosion of road congestion; traffic levels will simply decrease to accomodate the reduced capacity. So would Richard Tracey kindly stop cacking his pants? No.

I've written here in defence of Boris Johnson's cycling credentials. I argued that the biggest opponents to safe cycling in London are local politicians, often councillors, that have no interest in installing safe cycle infrastructure in their boroughs, where they have almost complete control of street layout since, by law, the local council is the local highway authority. This morning at the London Assembly we heard of Newnham Council's depressingly successful opposition in 2010 of TfL's, and Boris Johnson's, plan to extend Cycle Superhighway 2 - literally just 'blue paint' - into their borough. We also got to see, and hear, one of these anti-cycling councillors 'in action' at the council table: Mr Richard Tracey.

An example - on Whitechapel Road - of the horribly obstructive blue paint of the CS2 that Newnham Council so righteously opposed. I wonder how the traffic can flow at all on this street with that barely visible blue box getting in everyone's way.
Future Cycle Superhighway construction needs to be a hundred times more ambitious.

If you think that Richard Tracey needs to bring his views up-to-date with the 21st century - and lets not forget this a man who was in Thatcher's Tory Cabinet of the 80s, a government which designed most of the 'killer-junctions' which TfL are now improving - drop him an email at Richard.Tracey@London.gov.uk and do please let him know just how regressive and unhelpful his views are.

If you are a resident of Wandsworth or Merton you could also contact Richard Tracey as a constituent of his through www.writetothem.com

After all, we live in a democracy and cyclists using online communication channels recently managed to get Richard Nye to publicly apologise for saying "the only good cyclist is a dead one". Richard Tracey's road management policies aren't much better than Richard Nye's anti-cyclist editorials, and unlike Mr Nye, Mr Tracey has far more power to do cyclists actual harm through these policies.

So I think it's worth all of us dropping Mr Tracey a line at Richard.Tracey@London.gov.uk and letting him know that his idiotic contributions to today's debate simply weren't good enough.

(I didn't see the start of the debate so if I missed any more puerile questions from Richard Tracey do please add them in the comments section. Politicians like Richard Tracey, and Conservative MP Mark Field, need to be brought to public account with the cycling community, so we can all stop simply 'blaming-Boris'.)

Those interested can also watch a recording of the entire meeting here: http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/webcast/transportcommittee110912.asx (Richard Tracey begins his idiocy at about 1hr 40minutes) or read a transcript of the meeting here: http://www.london.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/b6950/Minutes%20-%20Appendix%202%20-%20Transcript%20Cycli.pdf?T=9

-------

Other posts on Richard Tracey being a buffoon: 

- A Personal Note to Conservative London Assembly Member Richard Tracey by Cyclists in the City - Nov 2011
The chutzpah of Richard Tracey by As Easy As Riding A Bike - Jun 2011