Sunday, 7 August 2016

When you call cyclists arrogant -look in the mirror

If you make a list of cliche terms to appear in articles and tweets, "arrogant cyclist" and "selfish cyclist" come up a lot as a way of defining why people hate cyclists —it's because they are "arrogant and selfish".

What does that actually mean?

Cambridge Dictionaryunpleasantly proud and behaving as if you are more important than, or know more than, other people:

OEDHaving or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities:

Now, what appears to constitute arrogant and selfish behaviour? Generally, holding up traffic.

Exercising your right to cycle between two destinations: arrogant.

Placing yourself in the position of the road recommended by the government to make it slightly more likely to reach your destination: arrogant

A parent cycling on the outside of the child so that passing cars will only endanger the parent, not their child: arrogant".

Whoever is using the term arrogant to describe cyclists should look in the mirror.

The very act of denouncing a cyclist for holding up your driving makes it clear that you are the ones with the over-inflated sense of self importance. The fact you consider it more important to arrive at your destination to your unrealistic timetable than it is for everyone to arrive alive is arrogant.

As for "selfish"? Surely wanting the roads for driving and being unable to share it with anyone on bicycle, horse or foot counts there.

Cyclist haters: the word you are looking for is : Insolentrude or impolite : having or showing a lack of respect for other people.

Because yes, we have no fucking respect for people who try to kill us as they squeeze past at pinch point, so will insolently get into the middle of the road to stop all but that 5% of drivers who seem criminal psychopaths on day release community tasks from school run to delivering parcels. Because yes, we have no fucking respect for anyone who beeps their horn repeatedly when we are on the school run and want to get their child there alive —and will insolently slow down just to piss you off. And because yes, if councils are going to build bicycle infrastructure that is utterly laughable, we aren't going to use it —and will continue to hold up your journeys.


Yours: the insolent cyclists

Friday, 26 February 2016

SMMT and the UK Government: Don't mention #dieselgate, buy a low tar car

SMMT and the UK Government: Don't mention #dieselgate

The SMMT has a new video up, claiming the EURO6 diesel is reducing pollution, and that new cars are cleaner.


What does this video ignore?

It ignores dieselgate, repeating the utterly discredited claim that EURO6 cars are better than before.

NOx Pollution in our cities is not getting any better. No doubt manufacturers will say "cities must address traffic flow" —but that's just a way of telling cities that congestion is their fault.

While it highlights the "real world" tests, it conveniently omits how the manufactures have pushed for "tolerances" on the test, so that they can keep driving cars that would otherwise fail the tests

It ignores that Paris is closing its roads to cars on alternate days, because pollution there is so bad *and their government recognising and acting on the problem*.

It highlights that "with Diesel, CO2 emissions are down", while failing to cover the consequence, "with Diesel, NOx emissions are now an unacknowledged public health crisis"

The reason for VW cheating was to save 300 Euros/car. That's all.

VW Audi Group chose to poison people across Europe and the US to save £200 per vehicle. That shows how little manufacturers value the lives of their customers and their families. Because if the claims that in-car NOx is worse than people away from the road, it's actually their own customers who are dying. If dieselgate spans more companies, car companies will have shown that same cynical willingness to kill their customers as the tobacco companies.

And what do they do? They produce videos claiming that their "low tar" cars are not poisonous, that their "filters" work, ignoring "passive diesel smoking". And they fill the press and TV with adverts implying that driving is a status symbol. This is of course, exactly like the tobacco adverts of fifty years ago.




For anyone reading a paper this weekend, look out for the car adverts,

Adverts highlighting how the new models are less polluting than the old ones


Adverts targeting women


Adverts associating cars with sports
Adverts associating SUVs with extreme outdoor activities
Adverts in front of national landmarks

Nowadays we'd look at those adverts and laugh at the naivety of the adverts and their audience, but we still expect and accept papers and magazines full of glossy adverts for products which are, en masse, killing thousands of people a year.

Accompanying the fantasies of the SMMT comes the silence from central government. Even if Cameron gave a fuck —which he doesn't— the EU negotiations would have forced him to do whatever was needed to keep Angela Merkel happy. Now that's done, is he going to suddenly roll out some emergency anti-NOx measures? Not a fucking chance. The environmental legislation that is forcing the government to act comes from Europe, its exactly the kind of "red tape from Brussels" that the Brexiters will be railing against.

Instead the SMMT, the UK government, the main London mayoral candidates are all quietly pretending Dieselgate was a minor US detail, that there is nothing to worry about.

If there's one thing which will break this calm its a pollution crisis which can't be blamed on the saharan desert or pollution from the EU. If that situation arises, pro-city activists need to be ready to draw awareness to the issue. Hold a protest outside a VW showroom, get hold of any form of mobile pollution sensor and start visibly testing cars in parliament square.

This summer: demand air fit to breathe

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Diesel drivers blaming cycling infrastructure for pollution: STFU

A regular theme with the "no cycling facilities" campaigners is the "causes congestion" claim, which they follow through to "creates pollution".


Here is the official response from the People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire:

Nobody who drives a diesel car has the right to accuse cyclists of causing pollution

People who voluntarily bought a diesel car, are the ones causing pollution. Now, it's not their fault: the car companies lied, and governments clearly covered it up. Why did people do it then?

  • Lower fuel cost
  • Car tax benefits, due to CO2
  • Combined message from car companies and governments that "diesel was good"
  • Claims in the early 2000's that EURO3+ was going to fix the PM particulate pollution, by burning the particles off, albeit giving off NOx in the process.
  • Claims that EURO6 was going to fix all pesky NOx problems that surfaced in the Mid 2000s.
The promise then, was clean diesel: fuel economy, fun cars, no pollution. This is what the EU car industry focused on, and what VW tried to sell to the US

It turns out that that this fairy tale had one small flaw: it was bollocks.

We know that now. Post-dieselgate, diesel car drivers can't point to the cyclists and say "it's your fault! you are to blame for pollution!".

They should be pointing at the car companies and said "you lying bastards, you told us these cars were suited to cities, when in fact they are killing them." Then they should turn to the UK and other EU governments and say "Why did it take the US government to find this out? What did you know —and why did you cover it up".

Then they should look at their beloved car, point at it and say "I'm sorry, you have to go"

Except for some special cases(*), there is no law in the UK that says cars and vans have to be diesel. We've always had a choice. Well, it turns out one choice, "clean diesel", was a lie —and that can only be corrected by the individual action of car owners.

Sell the diesel car! Buy a petrol one! If you have the money, go for a hybrid petrol one. And then start campaigning for something to be done about diesel in our cities. Because it's poisoning you too.

Yes, selling off your diesel car will pass the problem down the chain, it will probably get picked up by someone else. But at least now you can say "I've done my bit". And if you aren't prepared to even start with that —you can shut the fuck up when it comes to saying bike lanes cause pollution. Your decision to drive a diesel car in our cities causes pollution. Either get on a bike, a bus or get a petrol/hybrid/electric car.

Finally don't even think about buying a diesel car or van in 2016, new or second hand. Anyone who does that is either choosing to ignore all the press coverage of dieselgate and NOx pollution, or choosing not to give a fuck. Whatever choice, if you now buy a diesel vehicle, you have publicly surrendered your right to complain about: cyclists causing pollution, road tax changes which penalise diesel, fuel tax changes that increase cost/mile of diesel, and any future ULEZ zones across the UK which either ban you from driving your diesel car in —or may you pay for the privilege of causing pollution.

The car manufacturers and EU governments have shown that EURO6 won't deliver; that all those spreadsheets and timetables for NOx pollution going away are as fictional as WMD-in-Iraq dossiers. Which means that city-by-city, controls will have to go in on diesel car use. Don't wait for that to happen, get rid of diesel today. And if not: STFU.


[There's one notorious exception: london black cab drivers who really are made to drive diesel taxis. And TfL is dragging their heels about affordable replacements. That doesn't mean they can point to the cyclists and say "it's your fault"; they should point at the vans, at the commuters, at the cars and say "we don't have a choice —you do, and you still choose to drive diesel". In particular, cabbies should STFU about slagging of Uber drivers for driving Priuses. Smacks of jealousy there.]

Saturday, 12 December 2015

LHR: missing the fucking point

The entrance to Heathrow is three lanes of traffic. Motor traffic: cyclists are not allowed


That's because what was a cycle lane, got turned into a narrow, high-restricted traffic lane instead.


Notice how, along with the signs for the terminal there's one for "short stay parking"

That is: in order to cope with the number of cars entering the area, including private cars doing dropoff and parking in short stay parking bays. And of course the multi-storey staff parking in the central mess of what just another pedestrian and cycling hating 1970s gyratory.

They have added a "cycling hub"


That's not a hub: its a fucking spoke —and if Heathrow management are proud of it they haven't spoken to a single person who has ever tried to cycle to the airport.

The approach? That'll be on road on the A4


It's worth remembering at this point is that only a few years ago, LHR promised "No third runway".

They lied. They probably had it on a roadmap at the time. This shows that (a) LHR can't be trusted and (b) if you want a binding commitment from them, you need to include a penalty in the T&Cs. If they really had meant "no third runway", the government should have said "you wont mind signing this clause that says £5000 pounds to everyone in the flight path plus £5B to central government".

Because all of this is about profit. Why do LHR have short-stay parking? Because its so fucking profitable. Why do LHR expect government to fund the M25 tunnels, refuse to pony up for Crossrail: it would hurt their profits: "Heathrow has repeatedly said it is not willing to pay more than about £1 billion, though the costs are estimated by Transport for London to be £15 – 20 billion." (source airportwatch)

LHR's business is about flying passengers in and out the airport. They like the hub idea, as it gets more people through: on the planes, in the shops. The airlines and the business love it too.

Those are the business in the "Greater LHR", the sprawl of companies nearby. All notable by their vast car parks, roads of death and lack of cycle parking.

This street view, for example, is facing 180 degrees away from Hatton Cross tube station. There's a tube station right behind, yet a vast car park for staff to drive to.


This is the mindset of every company supporting the 3rd runway: we want more planes near the offices which we drive to.

It's why the airport and the roads around it stand out as the outer london pollution hub (source: war on the motorist)


Yet LHR think their proposal will not make things worse: things are already fucking awful.

What's their vision? NOx is Somebody Else's Problem which will magically go away
  1. Crossrail: this does nothing to discourage the "Greater LHR" staff/business traffic which forms the inner ring of pollution, nothing for the core, nothing for the new and expanded runways. And priced such that it will be a luxury option from the West Country.
  2. Euro6 and EVs on the M4. Euro6 has been shown to be a line. That part of the proposal needs to be taken out of the spreadsheet.
  3. The cycling hub
Which shows that they don't give a fuck, aren't prepared to do anything about it except pretend on spreadsheets that the actions of others will address it.

What's their problem? Failure to recognise that they are the central cause of the pollution, and should act on it.

A key point must be for them to recognise that they themselves are directly and indirectly responsible for all the pollution caused in Greater LHR, and they have to address it.

They need to understand something simple: every vehicle driving on heathrow related business is four less passengers. Make it that simple and they would start to think about what they should do.

Why are any private cars coming into the airport? Why not taxi only and dedicated disabled access (enforced) only, with special dropoff points for outside the central hub? Remove that traffic, converting one of each direction's tunnels into an electric tram the way other airports do, and you boost the capacity of the tunnels, and provide something for the commuters to get on their bikes with. Commuters —because every single staff parking bay needs to go. That's for the executive down: everyone who drives to work is costing the airport three passengers.

The airport could take baby steps immediately

  • impose a toll on all private vehicles driving through the tunnel. A pound would be a start.
  • remove that staff parking
  • fix the fucking cycle access
  • give all staff free bus and tube travel.
  • get rid of the magic paint on the A4 and provide cycle routes for the staff from hounslow that are on a par with what central london is rolling out. If there is room for it in Central London, there's room for it by the A4. Boris has shown that.

Then turn to every business nearby whose livelihood depends on the airport and say "every one of your vehicles costs us for passengers: act". Again: close the car parks, offer free public transport, cycle parking. There's a wrinkle there: company funded train or TfL transport is treated as a taxable benefit, employees pay for it. Staff parking is not. That's something that central government could address, but in the meantime, what few parking bays remain could be billed for at significantly more than the tax-per-day of staff commuting by public transport. That will get people to prioritise.

Those trade unions saying "we need this!" —go to them and say "if your employees need this, they're going to have to stop driving". Make it clear there's a fucking choice.

From the perspective of Bristol —which would benefit a lot more from LHR expansion than Gatwick— LHR need to come up with a story. If there is more than one passenger, renting a car to drive from the city to one of those vast airport rental dropoff points is cheaper than two coach tickets, and avoids sitting in that central bus station which is as awful as a Banksy's Dismaland. LHR hate bus passengers. That's in the central hub, its almost as bad at T4 and T5 where you sit in a little bench and are expected to feel grateful.

If there are three passengers from Bristol, a private hire vehicle is less than those coach tickets; a PHV whose driver will come in early, wait in that short-stay parking and so give you a journey home whose experience outshines anything else.

If you are on a company trip and going for less than five days, you can get from the Bristol/S Gloucs North Fringe in under two hours, drop your car off right in front of the airport for a driver of Purple Parking or similar for them to park off-airport, bring it back to you. Because if you can get a private car right up the terminal -you would, wouldn't you? And of course, in a world of autonomous cars, anyone can do this, reading emails to the airport, sleeping on the way back after a long-haul flight to a new BRIC destination

Today the train from Bristol to Paddington and out doesn't cut it. While the LPAD->LHR stage is fast, you go past the airport and back again, on a train which can stop just outside paddington for 15 minutes because "they weren't expecting a train". And on the return journey, miss your reservation and you'll be fighting with all the reading commuters for space. Currently, the Bristol-paddington-LHR route is a premium option which can go horribly wrong. Crossrail will help with the logistics —but do nothing for the pricing, which will still be more than driving to the airport in a diesel car. With an electric car, the cost per mile will be so low that you really won't bother. And while that may reduce your personal NOx, it will create the M4 congestion which boosts pollution of all the diesels on the road.

Now look at Frankfurt airport, one of the big competitors

  1. The Frankfurt AirRail terminal has its own baggage pickup: you can walk to the terminal and pick up your bags there.
  2. You can check in at Frankfurt central train station, getting issued with a train ticket and the flight boarding card.
  3. You can drop your bags at the station too. At heathrow: its trollies, queuing for elevators, pushing them up slopes, walking about half a mile underground.
  4. If you get a flight with Lufthansa, you can buy a return train ticket to anywhere in germany for 29 €.

Imagine if you could do the same in the UK? At Paddington, Reading, Bristol, and at Kings Cross/St Pancras you could check in while waiting for the next train, get on the fast electric train to the airport, arrive at the station, drop off your bag and walk straight to security. For less than today's cost of a Heathrow express return ticket.

That would transform airport access for passengers from places in driving distance to the airport —suddenly it would be both cheaper and easier to get the train.

Finally, it's notable that LHR cite Paris and Amsterdam as the other key competitors. That's paris which bans cars on polluting days, which is trying to go car free. And Amsterdam, which has so many people cycling that their NOx map doesn't resemble other European cities. LHR need to look at London at a whole and conclude that anything done to reduce NOx and CO2 pollution in the city itself benefits them. If flight is so essential, then they need to think about offsetting flight pollution through a reduction in road pollution throughout the city —and work towards it with TfL.

Do Heathrow see that? Do they look at mainland europe and think "we should copy Frankfurt"? Go to BA and FGW and say "copy Lufthansa or we won't give you extra runway slots". Do they go to the business round the airport and say "what are you doing?"

No they fucking don't. They produce PDF files with the usual "empty road" bollocks you always get, fingers pointing at EURO6 cars, which, when that fails, LHR can say "not our fault", and build a cycling hub in the bit of the airport the furthest from the centre of the airport as it is possible to build.


Monday, 7 December 2015

Cabbies: Tavistock Place is not what will destroy you


This is a letter to taxi drivers. 

It's not going to argue about the merits of Tavistock Place, the Embankment cycle superhighway or the other things coming. You might not like them —you may resent the fact they represent changes to the city that you cannot control, but they won't destroy you.

You face an existential threat. Britain dodged one in the Battle of Britain; humanity dodged one in the Cold War. The dinosaurs encountered one and lost. You? You run the risk of being a historical note -like the Viking colony of Greenland. More likely, the brand of the black cab will remain, just like those other icons: the routemaster bus, policemen with helmets too: something for the tourists to have on postcards and tea-towels.

What is this existential threat? If you thought "Uber" you'd be getting warm —but its more: it's the Internet and the devices attached to it.

When was the last time you popped out to rent a video or a DVD? Do you ever reminisce about going to the video rental store as you sit down in front of BBC iPlayer, Netflix, or Amazon? Do you still take photographs on a camera with a roll of film? If so —you can't take them down to a local camera shop to get printed —that shop will be gone. Along with the record shop and possibly the bookshop. 

They faced the existential threat of The Internet and lost.

Nobody set out to destroy those shops on the high street; it just happened. The new companies brought new opportunities to people, and we all embraced them; those stores were simply collateral damage. 

Thats what threatens you. Not just Uber, but the other companies building the stuff that Uber depends on. Uber needs Apple and google for the smartphones. Apple and google need users attached to their phones. Everyone driving is lost revenue, to these companies. And when you look at how much time people -especially in the US- spend in cars, that's a lot of lost revenue. And what are google working on now? Autonomous cars.

Uber are now valued at more than General Motors. That way more than if they took every single taxi journey on the planet and got 25% commission on that ride. So why the valuation? It's because Uber have general motors in their sights —along with Ford, VW/Audi, and the other car companies.

Uber have a simple ambition: to get the money everyone spends on buying and running cars. Why own one when you have a phone, and whenever you wave it, a car appears? It's the magic wand of motoring. No more need to worry about parking by your house, at your destination. No more maintaining it. And, assuming it's electric: no need to worry about range. You'll tell uber your destination, and they'll bring up a car with the range. If something goes wrong, well, Uber can send a replacement out to meet up. And it'll be their problem to worry about charging points, having vehicles ready at pickup etc.

To Uber then, you may be today's competitor —but you are a stepping stone to their greater goal: to replace today's car manufacturers.

Apple and google? They don't care about you one way or the other. But the phones, the cars they work on, the satnav maps they provide —that's the underlying technology that's threatening your business. And there's nothing you can do about that.

It's not just the scale of these companies you have to fear —it's their growing political power. The cash reserves Uber has means that they can start funding the election campaigns of US politicians. Once they do that, Taxi Licensing Authorities in the relevant cities are going to have anything they've done to block uber reversed, while legislation enabling self-driving cars gets pushed through.

In the UK, London is the big target for Uber: you've got the money, you've got the journeys, and, in the centre, an interesting mix of public transport and high-density destinations they can aim for. Your livelihoods. Get that cash flowing, keep the funders happy, destroy their direct competitors (e.g Lyft), and build a future for a transport company bigger than GM which has no drivers whatsoever.

So what can you do? How do you face down this existential threat?

That's a problem which you and your organisations —like the LTDA— have to worry about. 

It is probably the greatest threat you've ever encountered: it's got the car companies scared, and you've never managed that. 

Get together. Get out your phones and arrange a meeting —not Nokia phones, obviously— they lost to Apple and Google. Drive to that meeting past the streets that had video shops, record shops and booksellers. If you see an Uber driving in a crash, use the camera on your phone, post up the image —but spare a moment's thought to all those people who loved cameras and made a living selling them and the developing and printing business. But get together with your colleagues and work out how to survive.

Can you survive?

Maybe a better question is how long can you survive —and what help do you need to achieve this?

TfL are a possible ally. But you need a compelling vision of a real Taxi for the 21st century: one that doesn't pollute, one that recharges at taxi stands, one that is integrated in a world of booking by phone, touch to pay, co-ordinated booking systems with handoff between you and other cabbies. You might even think about changes to the pricing model.

TfL are also an enemy. It's not just their licensing of minicab drivers, or the fact that they are allowed into the city centre for near nothing, it's their sheer inertia and lack of innovation. You need to take the lead there —but it has to be compelling. "Like it was before Uber" is like a  VHS shop saying "like it was before iPlayer". That time is gone.

You might find the Uber drivers can be your allies here. They are in even more trouble than you. They're not employees of Uber: they are expenses —and there is no space for them in Uber's long-term vision. Start getting them to unionise, to demand salaries and rights, and get TfL to set those minimum standards, and maybe it will level the playing field. 

You need to keep them out the bus lanes. Uber, Google, Tesla and others have their autonomous car's LIDAR scanners scoping them out already; in their home cities, bus lane plans are on hold for this very reason.

Which brings this essay back to us: the cyclists. 

We are not the ones who will destroy your very livelihood.

You may look at changes in the city, at the Junctions of Death, along the Embankment, at Tavistock place, and elsewhere —and resent this change, a change to the city you love and which you can't control. Maybe so: but they are coming so that Londoners on bicycles can reach their destination alive.

None of those cyclists are building autonomous cars with a vision of taking over from the car companies, crushing your business as a stepping stone or a mere side-effect of the vision.

Protest about the changes if you want. Put money into a lawsuit over a conversion of what was essentially coach parking into a safe mass transport option if it makes you feel better. Complain about the cyclists whenever you get a journalist, a councillor or an MP in the back of the vehicle. Go to TfL and try to bully them into changing their plans. But in doing so, you are not only getting distracted from what really is going to destroy you: you are using up money, time and political capital which you need for your fight for your very survival

Maybe, just maybe, cyclist could even be allies.

Do you think we are happy that autonomous driving tests don't seem to include cyclists? Do you think we are happy that Nissan and Tesla want their car in bus lanes? Do you think, as we cycle round Westminster looking for one of its six cycle racks that we are pleased to see recharge docks in a part of the city where the congestion charge exempts them?

At the same time: we want to set off on a journey knowing we will get their alive. We want our children to be able to cycle to school and not worry about them. We will fight tooth-and-nail to preserve what little bits of safe infrastructure TfL and some of the councils are slowly adding to the city. Because we know what matters to us: our lives

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Prepare to fight the electric motoring lobby

It's easy to view "the motoring lobby" as one vast mass of lobbyists, all pushing for the same thing: more roads, cheaper fuel, no parking/waiting/loading restrictions, no road use charges (c-zone, bridges), no speed tickets, etc. And of course: no "unrealistic" pollution controls, such as EURO6 diesel testing in real-world scenarios.

That's a simplistic view —and by identifying the different groups and their agendas, it helps to recognise the threats and opportunities.

Freight Transport Association (and their mouthpiece fair fuel UK): these want the £15B in road upgrades, and may be the main beneficiaries. Along with the fuel escalator freeze and raising of HGV speed limits on single carriageway roads, they're really getting their way these days. The FTA have a conflict of interest related to tipper-truck killings in London. Do they admit that the tipper truck industry, with its pay-per-delivery business model and utter lack of enforced regulation is broken, that more regulation is needed. Or do they blame the cyclists. Take a guess.

HGV truck drivers are, long-term, fucked. Autonomous driving will be easier to roll out on motorways due to the simpler road structure. Given the tangible safety benefits of self-driving trucks versus truck drivers on illegal 18 hour shifts watching iPlayer videos to keep awake —legislation legalising autonomous trucks will target motorways first.  The FTA members own those near-motorway distribution centres, and if they can reduce costs by eliminating those truck drivers, will gain a better return on investment that individual commuters. Destroying those truck driver jobs is going to be a traumatic change for those employees, especially in the US, where its the #1 job in many states. Should the cycling campaigns care? Maybe they should support roll-out of autonomous HGVs as fast as possible, even to the extent of setting a timetable for banning manual trucks.

Uber. Uber want to be able to run the world's largest minicab system without the need to pay tax or perform any oversight of their staff. They'd love to get into bus lanes in London, as Addison Lee desire. They benefit from the fact that there's no per-mile billing of car use in cities. If, say, TfL and other regulatory bodies did use GPS unit to (a) add some such taxation and (b) charge more when breaking the speed limit, we'd see a more realistic cost model along with elimination of that problem which exists outside london: aggressive minicab drivers trying to drive at 40 mph in a shared use bus lane. The licensing authorities should also be more aggressive about insurance. Ideally, they'd actually have some fitness to drive standard —but we know that isn't coming.

Uber drivers are, long-term, fucked. Uber has no loyalty to their "associates" and are funding research in self-driving cars because it will keep their costs down and customers happy. Should we care? Yes, if its goal is increasing the number of vehicles on the road, and if Uber want to get those cars into bus lanes.

The LTDA. These are the representative of everyone who resents a millimetre of space being allocated to survivable cycling in the city. Their view is that they've got a livelihood to maintain, and it is threatened by Uber, congestion, and every attempt to make cities better to live in. The addison lee protests shows that there is common grounds with cyclists over defending bus lanes —but that was because of mutual interest. They don't see the same way about keeping cyclists in lanes away from themselves, or in reducing congestion and pollution by getting people to cycle. A militant organisation with discreet backing from their OMIL users in canary wharf and elsewhere.

Taxi drivers are, long-term, fucked. Self-driving cars will take their jobs away too. As somewhat independent drivers, they don't have their employer actively working to eliminate their jobs (contrast with: Uber, FTA), but the same technical trends hurt them. Short term, they are crippled, especially in London, by the cars they are required to drive. That's the cause of a lot of diesel pollution in inner London —the taxis that they are forced to use. TfL and others need to think hard about how to move them to electric/hybrid. Where there is an opportunity there it may be to work on inductive charging in taxi bays. Rather than have the taxis sit their with their diesel engines running, poisoning the air outside train stations, hospitals and other places, those could be charge points.  Or they could embrace hydrogen fuel early: you don't need nationwide fuel infrastructure for London's taxis, just a few dedicated stations which they can visit.  Yet to think about things like that needs the LTDA and peers to lift their heads out of the daily mail, stop cutting op the cyclists, and think about the future.

SMMT. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders want to sell more cars in the UK. That's all they give a fuck about, and anything related to urban pollution is something they pretend their current cars address —and future cars address even better —including EURO6 diesels. Same goes for safety: future cars won't kill people.

If the dieselgate scandal grows their stance will be predictable —offer owners of dirty diesel government kickbacks/reduced tax on new models. We need to be prepared to respond to that by demanding that diesel owners get the same discount on new bicycles. Want to turn in a diesel car for £1000 of a new car? The owners should get the same government cash to buy bicycles for the whole family, or a season ticket from Woking to central london for a year.

The SMMT are keeping so quiet on dieselgate —they are clearly hoping it will blow over and people will keep buying today's cars.

Where SMMT are weak is that 2016 will be a stupid year to buy a car, especially a diesel one. The next generation of engines are going to have to be hybrid petrol or electric —dieselgate has shown that. Today's electric cars have atrocious depreciation, but Tesla's future models promise to bring costs down. If you want a new car, hold off until then.

Equally critically, self-driving cars will transform what a a car is. Buy a 2016 car and you will have to  drive it yourself. Put off buying a new car for 2-3 years, and you'll have one that drives for you. That's fundamentally different in a way that today's self-parking and lane-tracking models won't come close to competing with. A new car will be obsolete as fast as a windows phone. So will older cars —but if you let them depreciate more, you can put aside money for the new models. Or just buy a 2016 model at a massive discount.

The SMMT dare not admit this, because they depend on sales today. They want their customers to buy a new car in 2016, —and then upgrade to a self-driving one in 2018.

A key problem they have is demographics. Their real customers are getting older; the younger generations are the ones most fucked by global warming -and the most likely to want to not make things worse. That trend towards urban living is even more disastrous. If you live in the inner city, you don't need to commute by car, you don't have space for one anyway. And in particular, you don't have the need to own a short-range commute-only electric car, or the driveway or garage needed to charge the car overnight. Car clubs and maybe weekend rentals are all these people need, which can free up space in the cities. That's space which is going to be fought over. We need to make sure that it goes towards cycling and not charge points or dedicated lanes for electric cars.

The current car retailers are, long term, fucked on a number of fronts. As well as demographics, Tesla have shown that they aren't needed at all. Why go through an independent dealer when you can go straight to the manufacturer? No matter how hard the dealers talk about how they care more, how they offer independence and servicing, online shopping and continuously integrated monitoring and maintenance changes the purchasing and maintenance story. As will self-driving cars. Why drop a car off for repairs when your tesla is booked in for a charge and service at 4am to 6am on a Tuesday evening? It can go and do that itself and a Tesla station 50 miles away. You just don't need those local dealers any more.

The european car manufacturers. These are in trouble but can survive if they adapt fast. They've focused on diesel as the solution, because they know how to make engines, and think they can keep tweaking them. Dieselgate has given the game away. Now they need to play catch-up with tesla and the Japanese manufactures. They're pushing hydrogen powered cars as the future, as it retains those old skills: engines. But it needs a whole new infrastructure in fuelling cars to be rolled out. They'll be asking for government cash to do this: we need to make a better case for uses of the money.

Again, demographics threatens them. They need to keep people commuting from the suburbs to the towns. And there they are also their own worst enemy. Congestion destroys the value in driving. And no matter how hard Audi and others claim their Urban SUVs make being stuck in a traffic jam fun, it isn't.

To survive there they need autonomous driving to make those hours stuck in jams useful. They need to make sure there are parking places in the city for those commuters, short-stay parking outside shops, school runs where you can drop your kids off.

Anything which changes cities for walking, cycling and public transport threatens their very existence. We have no common ground here —we are competing for the same roadspace.

Anything which threatens urban car use threatens them. ULEZ zones, especially any that block out rigged EURO6 diesel engines will say "you can't drive here". Congestion zones rolled out across more inner cities will do for them what they've done for London; made driving into the city centres a luxury. 20 mph limits remove even the illusion that driving in a city is fun, no matter what the adverts say. Expanded resident parking zones (hello Bristol!) even making parking a premium option. It's not a coincidence that the people who hate RPZ parking hate 20 mph zones, and that it's the commute-by-car suburbs who are most up in arms about it.

The secondary motor industry. The petrol stations, the Halfords of this world; the cheaper-than the the approved-retailer garages. They are fucked already. Improving fuel economy (when real) reduces visits to petrol stations. While congestion may increase fuel use, hybrid cars kills that, and if it suppresses driving, even conventional engine'd vehicles will use less. The increasing technical sophistication of modern engines and cars means that home-maintenance is dying —look at Halford's numbers to see this. Look at how those shops selling aftermarket car stereos and alarms have gone. Fucked, all of them.

Common ground? Halford's have embraced cycling. Petrol stations? The supermarkets have fucked them. There are other uses of that city space.

Where we have a new threat is the electric motoring lobby.

These are the car companies sluggishly embracing electric power; seeing it as the way to get round restrictions on urban car use which will be rolled out for pollution reasons. They've gone to central government for cash for the factories, they've gone to central government for the cash-backs on overpriced 2nd cars —and you can be sure they are now going after local governments for special treatment too.

Because it doesn't matter what engine type you have —it still takes the same amount of time to sit in the same traffic jam.

That's why they have their greedy eyes on the bus lanes. There's room for more cars there, and if you can drive in them, you get a tangible benefit in commuter times, in exchange for a car that depreciates faster than a Fiat Pinto. If your car is worthless in five years, you wan't to use that car every day. And of course, with a range of 100 miles that will only decrease over time, that commute is essential to getting those miles in.

TfL are against it, so are Edinburgh Council.

What the electric car lobby can do is brief the press, which is what they do


They also get to the politicians, where they can say "we've invested so much, you've invested so much —let's open up the bus lanes".

They've clearly got to Zac Goldsmith, who now thinks he can retain some green credentials while appealing to the suburban driving voter.

This needs be stamped on fast —as what happens in London will serve as a role model for the rest of Britain.

At least here Oslo is now providing an example of why not. Even though the number of electric cars is <35K, they're filling up the bus lanes enough for their privileges to be slowly reverted, and now they have a plan to make the city centre car free. Those can be used as as arguments, along with the same one used by central government to slash funding for all renewable energy sources, "the cost of electric cars has fallen enough they don't need subsidies"

Even so, those bus lanes will remain a juicy target. For the new electric motoring lobby, and perhaps companies like google and uber, who will be able to say "autonomous cars can replace buses'

That's already happening in the US, where a bus lane near google is being blocked because it won't be needed. You can be confident Google, Tesla, Uber and others did a lot of lobbying there. —and they'll be doing the same in the UK.

What can we do?
  1. There's common cause with the taxi drivers again. They may hate the cyclists, but they hate Uber more.  Some protests outside Zac Goldsmith election events may get that point across -and with both cyclists and taxi drivers there, it'll appear less of a single special interest group protesting.
  2. Ask for the electric car and diesel replacement money. Now. Put out press releases saying "if the government is planning any funding to replace dirty diesels, people should be allowed to buy bicycles and public transport season tickets with it.". Mention the season tickets, so anyone who commutes from south london from distances too far to cycle will be supportive of the idea.
  3. Have quotes ready for anyone in the press who is briefed by the electric car lobby. The TfL and EDC papers are good —they are independent data which shows that bus passengers are hurt as much as cyclists.
  4. Finally, it highlights why bus lanes cannot be considered cycling infrastructure. They last only as long as the next mayor of a city. The embankment bike lanes, the bridge crossings -they will endure. Bus lanes: they have to be fought for, again and again —just so cyclists have the right to cycle behind a diesel taxi with a bus up their arse.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

dieselgate: The death of "clean" diesel

What has Dieselgate shown us this week?

  1. European Car manufacturers don't care about the long-term health of their customers.
  2. You can't do low-end diesel cars that aren't polluting in the real world —or if you do, their power profile doesn't match modern customer expectations aggressive driving
  3. The car manufacturers are prepared to systematically deceive governments and their pollution tests.
  4. Self-regulated tests don't work in this world —no more than the cigarette vendor's smoking trials.
  5. The US government's extended test regime eventually caught this —though it took the threat of the 2016 models being blocked for VW to own up. They must have known about the crime in advance, but were just pretending "different driving conditions"
All claims that diesel cars are getting cleaner are complete bollocks

Cars have not got cleaner, they haven't got more fuel efficient. Instead the car companies have rigged the tests.

The current EU certification regime, models a 1970s driving style, and, being self-certified, has been utterly abused to the point where it is meaningless —in both pollution and mileage. 

Now, what is the good outcome of this? Diesel is doomed.

The fact the mileage figures are rigged for all vehicles is now going to become obvious. Everyone who bought a car based on mileage numbers has been ripped off.

Europe is going to need new tests, and soon. These will have to be strict and done independently. The EPA regime of testing real cars is now the only test process shown to work. There is no way the car companies can defend proposals to test this way, as they can't claim the existing process isn't utterly meaningless. And, they can't put it off.

They won't be able to have nice little meetings with Angela Merkel, Cameron, or Francois Hollande and say "cut us some slack". The politicians will know the situation is metaphorically and literally toxic —and want to put some clean blue air between them and the car companies. Now comes a chance to have some real-world tests, and force diesel cars to become cleaner or get taken off the price list.

Same for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Their September 3 paper,  ‘Air Quality; The Automotive Industry Contribution’ is full of coverage of diesel engines, how EURO6 will deliver a 50% reduction in NOx pollution, and some statements which we now know to be untenable

Under Euro-6, diesel cars are the cleanest in history
-no, they are no cleaner than before. They've just cheated the exams better.

An EU policy review in 2013 confirmed Euro-6 will deliver key air quality objectives by 2020

A review written on the assumption that the car companies weren't lying through their teeth. That assumption is now shown to be false, hence the conclusion untenable.

There's one little mention of cycling in there:
Planning policies, which recognise changing mobility trends in urban areas and offer an integrated range of choices to suit journey needs, including cycling, walking, car sharing and public transport, will also be paramount, and must keep traffic moving.
They do accept cities are changing, but retain that phrase "keep traffic moving", which comes just after "Managing traffic to smooth its flow can significantly reduce air pollution.". That's the old "smoothing traffic flow" bollocks. Well, we can now point to people talking about "Smoothing traffic flow" and say "it's not going to deliver"

The DfT must be in a quandry here. They can't use the rollout of EURO6-certified cars as their roadmap for pollution levels in cities dropping, so they can't hope the pollution problem will go away if they wait long enough. Unless radical action is taken, the cities of 2020 will be as polluted as the cities of 2030 —if not worsened by more road traffic and increased congestion.

They're going to have to act, and that means read that Defra paper on NOx pollution and not say "wait long enough and it will go away". Cities are going to have to act, and they're now able to go the central government and say "you have to fund this".

London could be first, as the C-zone is the infrastructure. In particular, someone needs to look at all the diesel models that scraped in at under 100g CO2/km. How many are really doing that —and if not, is it fair for a diesel car that chucks out NOx pollution to get in free, while a petrol-engined car gets billed? The next mayor of London is going to have to look at that issue, and set a timetable for the end of the diesel exemption, as well as perhaps one for non-hybrid, non-electric cars in general.

Dieselgate has shown the world how dangerous diesel is, and how it won't go away. This is too big an opportunity to waste.