The RAC fails to get it.... COMPLETELY

The RAC Foundation purports to "campaign to secure a fair deal for responsible road users."[1].  By that statement one would assume they mean ALL responsible road users, you know, cyclists, motorists, people on buses, the lot. Right?.. Wrong!
In commenting on their report "A Roads Policy for Londoners" [2] released today, they had the following to say about cycling:
"The Mayor of London is in danger of becoming pre-occupied with minority-focused transport schemes, and high-cost initiatives rather than concentrating on the fundamental travel problems faced by millions of people every day.  His emphasis on cycle ‘super-highways’, bikes for hire and a new bus for London has blinkered him to the wider strategic issues.  With increasing demand for road space, many areas of central London could become no-go areas for cars because of the proliferation of road works, bus lanes and cycle-ways. In outer London population and traffic growth is set to bring increasing misery for motorists."
The chairman of the foundation, Professor Stephen Glaister, goes on to say:
"There are already an estimated 7.6 million people in greater London and this figure is set to grow by 800,000 by 2025. In the same period an extra 900,000 jobs will be created. This means an extra four million journeys in the city each and every day...
...[the Mayor] needs to think less about attention-grabbing policies linked to niche modes of travel like cycling and grasp the bigger problems of transport in the capital, not least congestion in outer London. With the best will in the world, encouraging a few more people onto their bikes is not going to solve the relentless jams in the suburbs." [3]
Now, maybe as a cyclist I am being somewhat facetious here, but is it just me or have the RAC Foundation totally failed to understand the point of cycling and schemes to promote cycling here?  Boris Johnson's cycle superhighways scheme (on which I will write more of later) is part of a raft of measures aimed at bringing about a 'cycling revolution' here in London - a scheme to help instigate a modal shift from other forms of transport to the bicycle (ie. to stop cycling being a 'niche mode of transport' and become a major form of transport.)  In a country where 60% of car journeys are less than 5 miles in distance [4], and considering the health benefits to the population, you'd think this would all be seen as a GOOD THING.  Clearly not by the RAC Foundation, whose entire tone seems to be somewhat focused on the private automobile as the only solution to all of our ills. There isn't one solution to London's traffic problems - not cycling, not new buses, no magic wand.  But, a focus on diversifying transport options (and this is where bikes come in) is a valuable path forward and if this means the motorcar becomes an element within a broader range of transport options then this has to be a positive.  Inner city London, incidentally, has the lowest ownership of private car levels in the whole of the UK according to the Office of National Statistics, so when Boris is focusing on transport options other than the car he is appealing to the whole of his electorate, not just a select few. (56% of us do without a car in my home Borough, Tower Hamlets.  57.8% in more affluent Islington.) [5]

Furthermore, I find it galling that the RAC Foundation is complaining about a comparatively low sum of money (off the top of my head the Transport For London budget for cycling schemes and promotion in London this year is somewhere in the region of £120 million - less than half than the approximate cost of building just one mile of new motor-way.)  Viewpoints like the RAC’s only help to re-enforce the idea that cycling and cycling schemes are somehow 'stealing' money from motorists when of course we all pay for roads through our Council Tax and not, as so widely believed in this country, by our 'Road Tax'.
When Professor Glaister says "This means an extra four million journeys in the city each and every day" he fails to quantify how those journeys will take place (they could be by tube, or tram, or car, but not JUST by car) so is clearly employing alarm tactics.  And, when he goes on to say "With the best will in the world, encouraging a few more people onto their bikes is not going to solve the relentless jams" he clearly hasn't grasped the importance of cycle advocacy and promotion schemes and their potential effects for transformation - back in the 1970s Denmark, and specifically Copenhagen, were as jammed and clogged with cars as any other European city - now they are a model transport city where 55% of all journeys are made by bicycle [6]  That's how big the dream is at stake here and it's a poor show by the Professor for thinking otherwise.
It's a big FAIL for the RAC Foundation - Proffessor Glaistor, see me after class.
Links & sources:
[1] "About Us"


Mark said...

Boris fights back! Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor's Transport Advisor said:

"Unlike the RAC Foundation, the mayor's focus is not only on drivers.

He makes no apology at all for pursuing radical measures to increase cycling and walking and greatly enhance our public transport network."


Andreas said...

You are so right! Someone pointed me in the direction of this on my blog post regarding the news. I have linked to it from my sidebar.

That is an interesting statistic about the cost of building more motorway. A good way of looking at it. The RAC Foundation is absolutely clueless

Andy in Germany said...

I'd suggest that the RAC have got it. and can see exactly where this is going, and they don't like it. So they whine and complain like a child who can't have a cookie (as they've been shovelling themselves full of cookies for several decades, it's tough to suddenly lose). Besides, less cars mean less members.

This time it's deliberate twisting of facts and ignoring inconvenient information. Next will come the threats and the intimidation, the propaganda displaying cycling as 'dangerous' It'll take time, but I think it's irreversible.