Saturday, 20 September 2014

Bristol: cycling discriminates against the obese and the unfit

There's a bit of an upset in Birmingham currently, where (conservative) councillor came out and accused cycling of being discriminatory on race and gender, and that the £23 M could be better spent on things like parking spaces. And that it is also biased against women who want to wear modest clothing.

Well, we agree, in Bristol it is a discriminatory form of transport too. But not on race or gender.

No, in Bristol, Cycling discriminates against obese people with no legs and a lifestyle focused on fry-ups rather than hill climbs. These are people who suffer in our city.

Take this scene here, a mature Bristolian rastafarian working his way up Bridge Valley road. He's very much not a young white man -but to get up the hill on a road bike he has to be fit. A large proportion of our population —especially the residents of the suburbs, are significantly overweight, smoke, and generally live an unhealthy lifestyle.

These are the people that our city cycling project discriminates against —and no amount of cash on cycling infrastructure will fix that, unless the infrastructure involves lifts and escalators.

These are also the people that the city's expanding RPZ project discriminates: people to unfit to walk more than 15 metres to their destination. Removing all the free parking penalises those people who are too unfit to walk or cycle anywhere, by forcing them to pay.

The only person who cares for those people's needs is Eric Pickles –because he is the only politician who understands what it is like to obese and unfit. This is why his "short stops on double yellow lines" proposal is targeted at them: now they will be able to stop outside the newsagent to buy a packet of fags, then drive on to the chip shop to buy the evening meal.

Segregated cycling facilities will make this worse by removing short-stay parking opportunities, discriminating against the obese and the unfit merely by their very presence.

Returning to Birmingham, gateway to the M6, the councillor's colleague, Councillor Hutchings came out with the other part of the story, when he said “he feared hoards” of cyclists would have “a severe impact on pedestrians and motorists”. That's the other way a cycling program penalises the obese and the unfit. If you aren't fit enough to cycle round the city, driving is all you can do. The more cyclists there are, the more you get held up.

This is why the very presence of cycling infrastructure and increased cycling is so discriminatory against overweight suburbanites who will be hit by the triple whammy of cycling infrastructure removing main-road short stay options, the RPZ removing back road long stay parking, and finally cyclists themselves being in the way. Oh, and of course there's the 20 mph zone slowing down the journeys from their houses to the chip shops.

This is why it is critical that the Birmingham councillors recognise that cycling doesn't discriminate against gender or ethnic groups —if that city doesn't get the funding then it could come Bristol's way, and things would only get worse!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Scotland: a nation once again

It's in the balance right now: which way will Scotland vote?

It's time we stopped being impartial and stated our preference: Yes

Why? One reason is that one of our reporters lived there in the 1980s and remembers how a London-based government killed its entire manufacturing base: the shipyards, Ravenscraig, the coal mines, all the time promising that new industries would take its place: the service industry, the financial sector.

Well the financial sector did go big, but mainly so that London grew so wealthy that nobody can afford to live there. Edinburgh gained too -but it turns out those bankers got so excited about short term bonuses they turned out be a con. Meanwhile, what was left of the scottish industry died. Now, an independent scotland isn't going to get the clyde busy again, but at least now it'll have a government that actually cares about Glasgow, unlike Westminster, which has only just discovered where Glasgow is.

The 1980s also came with the Poll Tax, showing how Westminster was happy to impose its daft ideas on scotland first, a country that could be "an experiment". Aye, we remember that.

An independent Scotland would have a a government that cared about Scotland. You don't get that today, and you have no guarantees it will happen in future.

What you do have today is all the legacy politicians going north of the Border and promising more devolved powers. Promising is the key word: no politician can make guarantees. That's particularly true in the Conservative party, who have to keep their backbenchers happy and try and stop voters defecting to the UKIP, which they can only do by having policies that keep Daily Mail commenters happy. They will try and weasel out of every promise they make to Scotland, and over the years, pull more of them back.

As an example: Eric Pickles. We have a government that claims that it is in favour of "localism", in which councils and people get more of a say in what they do. Yet the councils and people are only allowed to do what Eric Pickles wants them to. He's killing the ability of Bristol Council to drive round schools with a CCTV camera to catch parents endangering schoolkids by parking on double yellow lines and keep clear zones. He's killing the councils ability to use CCTV to enforce bus lane parking restrictions. Why? He'd rather appease daily mail readers who believe in "Common Sense" over having safe schools and a functional transport system. Do you really believe that any promises of devolved power to Scotland will be kept when you have ministers trying to restrict how councils enforce bus-lane blocking?

Scotland going independent will force the rest of the UK to think "how will we be governed". The north of England does have legitimate rights to say "we deserve to have devolved powers to ... there's enough of a cultural gulf between there and London, enough of diverged economies, that it makes sense".

The same goes for Bristol. We're the same size as Edinburgh, diverged from London -yet we don't effectively even have a say on whether or not parents  can park outside schools. Any rethinking of how the UK is governed needs to address that.

An independent Scotland has the potential to bring change that will benefit Bristol. It's not guaranteed -yet it delivers an opportunity which can exploit

A vote for no is a vote for the status quo: irrespective of what the promises are.

Monday, 15 September 2014

At Last. Reclaim that Illegal Road Tax.

Yes. We're sick to death of the endless phone calls reminding us we can claim for mis-sold PPI we bought years ago*.

Yes. We're sick of the texts telling us we can claim for that accident that wasn't our fault.

Yes. We're sick of being promised a new kitten if we watch the internet for long enough.

But most of all we're sick of the WAR ON THE MOTORIST!

So thank goodness it's now possible to use a new website to reclaim overpaid taxes, entirely legitimately. All Road Tax ever paid since since 1937 can be reclaimed here:

and Road Tax Expert will help you through a full refund of any Road Tax paid since 1937.

You could be eligible for up to 77 years of repayments!!! That's probably thousands and thousands of pounds.**

*We didn't.

**non-hypothicated tax payers are ineligible. Apparently.