Wednesday 10 September 2008

Boris still has much to learn

This Boris has had a little accident. But in
time he will learn how to help vulnerable
members of society.
The photo on the left is of a billboard sign in the Netherlands which reads "Boris still has much to learn".

This is an advertisement for people to adopt a puppy as a way of donating towards training for guide dogs for the blind. In time, this Boris will learn to help vulnerable members of society.

However, there's another Boris who also seems to have much to learn so far as transport policy in London for the vulnerable is concerned. I read this morning that London is not to have a hierarchy of transport users but to just let everyone decide what to do. It's a recipe for chaos.

Cities have been civilized in The Netherlands by design, not just by letting people do what they want. What people think they want depends on the conditions they live in. By not changing those conditions, people will continue to want the same things, continue to behave in the same way.

There is already a good example of this principle in London: London has a much higher percentage of people using public transport than most of the UK because public transport works better in London than in most places. Changing the environment within which people live to make public transport a more useful option increased the number of people who took that option.

Cycling has recently grown a little in London but this happened in large part for less positive reasons (terrorism, recession, cost of other means of transport for people on low incomes). The level of cycling in London now only looks good now in comparison with how it was earlier in London. London is still well behind other European cities, and particularly behind Dutch cities, because cycling in London still only has a positive appeal to the small percentage of people who are relatively easy to attract to cycling. Even they are under pressure, as you can see by observing the amount of safety gear worn. If it is to become a real cycling city, there must be changes in infrastructure that make cycling appeal to all.

We tried to help Boris
Once you have that mass appeal cycling will flourish because people want to do it, not because they are priced out of cars through the congestion charge or scared from public transport due to terrorism.

This was the first post on this blog about Boris Johnson. There are now many more.

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