Innocent Cyclists Accused Of Hijacking
Sometimes it feels like we the world really is slightly insane.
There’s this thing crawling its way through local government at the moment called the Local Transport Plan. Actually, this is its third incarnation, so its acronym is LPT3. Anyway, as part of the Big Society or something like it, local authorities have invited local residents to comment on their draft plans, so that they can be tweaked / amended to match what local people want.
How very democratic.
Except in response, here’s what we find in the Report of the Joint Transport Steering Group for the Tyne & Wear Integrated Transport Authority:
“37% of all responses had come from the face to face targeted interviews across the five Districts in a two week period. If interview had not been suggested by the committee the LTP Team’s sample size would be significantly smaller. There was also benefit in ensuring a more unbiased sample of face to face interviews. E-consultation was more open to ‘hijacking’ by interested parties (see level of response from Newcastle on the importance of cycling). Agree that a variety of methods should be used to elicit response. It could be argued that conducting face to face interviews on street does not allow the respondent time to consider the full documents.”
What actually happened was that people who ride bikes are generally at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to transport planning. So when a consultation is taking place, word goes around that this might be a chance to put cycling’s two penn’th in. People take the time to register and log on to the consultation’s web site. They then take the time to read the full draft documents (well over a hundred pages, written in the sort of language that Sir Humphrey would love), and try to understand what they mean. They then write comments and offer opinions on the relevant parts, trying to make for a better document, and all for no fee whatsoever.
So I resent it when our efforts are described as ‘hijacking’. That would have been something a little more direct - storming into the Integrated Transport Authority meetings and disrupting proceedings. It would have been chaining our selves to the doors of the Civic Centre. It would have been targeting members of the Authority for personal one-to-one lobbying, and maybe making offers that they really couldn’t refuse - I’m sure none of them wants to wake up with a cylinder head in their bed! That would have been ‘hijacking’ the process.
Perhaps what was meant by ‘hijacking’ is that motorists didn’t respond to the same degree. This isn’t really surprising though - they tend not to bother with this sort of thing so much, as transport policy in the UK is already geared towards their needs. They can just sit back and wait, safe in the knowledge that in all likelihood they’ll get the sort of policies and strategies that they’d have wanted all along.