More Cars, Less Mobility…

It’s a paradox that at a certain density of motor vehicles, mobility starts to reduce quite rapidly. This is because pedestrians and cyclists are cowed by the fumes/noise/etc, and the motor traffic itself is close to stationary. It’s a familiar scene and shows had the means to achieve a goal can actually, without careful thought, prevent the goal (mobility) being achieved. Perhaps this obvious truth is, alongside Wiggins and petrol prices, one of the reasons why cycle use is increasing, even if Bradford’s usual dumbness (and this is both a matter of the council’s inability and disinclination to encourage bike use and the wider culture of stupidity evident in Bradford’s car use) prevent it happening much here.

And there are definitely, even to a small extent in Bradford, more cyclists about. This, in itself, is excellent. The bad news is that a great many of them are not on the road but on the pavement, travelling at speed and have a low level of cycling skills and politeness. It’s a bit scary for the pedestrian, the lowest rung of the structure of mutual oppression that is the UK road system. You don’t expect to have to look behind you on a pavement before walking around a lampost or postbox, but it’s I’m finding myself nervously glancing around in case a bike is approaching at a fair old speed. Cyclists on the pavement often reproduce the attitudes of motorists, feeling that other pavement users should get out of their way fast. The key thing is that councils have not, in my experience, made any additional provision for cyclists even though the numbers are up. Bradford’s cycle lanes are mostly rather faded – a lot of them you’d hardly notice. The way to civilise roads is well known and will make your average petrol freak get hot under the collar – slow the traffic down, reduce the number of lanes so there’s space for a good bike lane, texture the road surface at key points so that it is evidently not a speedy tarmac road, put a few raised crossing points in for pedestrians, and do some bouts of serious enforcement of road regulations as to speed, licencing, etc.

If only the pavements had more trees, both to delight the eye and to prevent them being used for cycling and parking. Indeed, it is at this time of year when you
wish there were far more trees in our urban streets. The picture is of a Holm Oak, an evergreen oak, at Westbury Court Garden, a National Trust delight. I’m using it as my wallpaper at the moment on my double screen (2560 x 1024) at work. It looks rather nice. The Holm Oak is categorised as an invasive species (and may become more so with climate change) but this particular specimen is absolutely wonderful, one of the great trees of England, and several hundred years old (indeed, it predates the National Trust garden in which it now stands). Westbury Court Garden is at about sea level and so is an ideal location for an oak which doesn’t like cold winters. I would guess that the biggest threat to this stunningly beautiful plant is rising sea levels, with the River Severn only a few hundred yards away across the water meadows.

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