I’ve written quite a few articles on how to encourage cycling. Generally, these are suggestions for other people to do something. I ride my bicycle and sometimes pontificate in a cafe. But, I’m not the one to change the world, not even the small world of UK transport policy. But, if other people want to actually make an effort, they have my fullest support.
When a closed road got opened to traffic, I wrote a blog post complaining about the loss of a traffic paradise. It was good to moan, but I never expected to actually change anything.
But, a reader called Tom, left a comment on the blog ‘Talk to the council – or better still a councillor, demand it be put back in! If enough people complain to the right people we can get things like this changed!
What, you mean I should do something?
Somehow, this galvanised me into my greatest act of political activism since I sent off my postal vote at the last general election (I vote by post because I’m too lazy to go in person).
I thought who would be most likely to be sympathetic to cyclists? So I wrote to two local Oxford green party councillors (David Williams and Larry Sanders) and mentioned my blog post – and if it wasn’t too much trouble perhaps they could have a look into it. With the support of Cyclox (local cycling pressure group) and the green party councillors making the right enquiries, the gate got put back in.
I felt a little shocked. Just five days after spending two minutes writing an email, a road in the centre of Oxford was once more closed to traffic. Now perhaps the council were going to put it back in anyway. Perhaps someone else would soon have complained. I don’t know. Of course, a gate in the middle of a road, is not exactly fighting for the welfare state or gaining the right to vote. But, it shows that sometimes, a little enquiry and activism can actually achieve something positive.
Perhaps buoyed by my success, I should start handing out leaflets to motorists stuck in traffic jams along the lines of ‘have you ever thought of walking or cycling to work, you could save money on petrol, gym membership and contribute to an overall decline in air pollution e.t.c…’
Well, it’s not going to happen. But, everyday when I cycle along Queens lane on my way to work, I will remember the days when I shared it with cars and enjoy the small bit of transport paradise just a little bit more.
It’s wasn’t just a selfish desire to close roads to traffic. (I do also have a car and sometimes drive into Oxford). But, for me it is an ideal of how city centres can be marvellous places. When you have some roads like that for pedestrians and cyclists – it’s really good and adds tremendously to the character and enjoyment of the city. Yes, there is some inconvenience to close roads to traffic, but whilst you lose some motoring convenience, you gain in other ways.
So thank-you to those who do more than just pontificate like me