Cycling campaigns – improve city infrastructure and manure madness

Could anything be better than the yellow brick road?

Could anything be better than the yellow brick road?

Like the proverbial bear I have been in hibernation, or in letago as my Italian chums would have it. However with this flagrant display of spring, which has witnessed the trees blossoming and much a-pottering about in the garden (well a selection of flower pots on the balcony – courgettes, runner beans, sun flowers, varying herbs and strawberries this year in case you were asking), I feel I should re-emerge with new winter refreshed thoughts and musings on the cycling world.  

Much of late in the recent cycling press has been made of the developments in the London and general UK pedalling world. There does seem to be a wind-change, and even the PM has announced his support for cycling on Wednesday past’s Prime Minister Questions – once provoked to such a response by Dr Julian Huppert MP – more below on this outstanding champion for cycling in Westminster.  

The excellent All Party Parliamentary Group Cycling Group, co-chaired by MP for Cambridge Dr Julian Huppert (Lib Dem) and Ian Austin MP for Dudley (Lab), issued its state of the (cycling) nation report “Get Britain Cycling” on 24 April which called for “a national cycling champion to lead a drive for 10 per cent of all journeys in Britain to be by bike by 2025” among other excellent things to entice us all onto two wheels, and once enticed remain safe and secure in our wheeling ways. 

Key recommendations include: 

  • More of the transport budget should be spent on supporting cycling, at a rate initially set to at least £10 per person per year, and increasing as cycling levels increase
  • Cycling should be considered at an earlier stage in all planning decisions, whether transport schemes or new houses or businesses
  • More use should be made of segregated cycle lanes, learning from the Dutch experience
  • Urban speed limits should generally be reduced to 20 mph
  • Just as children learn to swim at school they should learn to ride a bike
  • The Government should produce a detailed cross-departmental Cycling Action Plan, with annual progress reports

Sensible stuff I would say, and if it does receive the backing and support of a senior Minister (ideally a Prime one) then we could see a step change, as surely once the head of the serpent starts wriggling in one way the rest of the body will have to follow… 

Widely recognised as a driving force behind the increased public interest both in the media and Westminster, is one of the UK’s leading national papers. No, it’s not the Guardian, but rather the Times (I might pen another piece on why it had to be the Times over the Guardian). They have dropped their paywall to ensure they reach as wide an audience possible, which is worth a mosey around if you are so inclined and were the financial force behind the APPG Cycling Group’s report too.  

The spearhead behind the Times’ campaign is surely one Kaya Burgess (@kayaburgess), who is well as seemingly holding down his day job while writing prolifically on cycling matters, is also responsible for starting a petition to “Promote cycling by implementing the recommendations in the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report.” So far 37,875 have signed up since the report was issued on Wednesday past, which clearly shows the level of popular support in the UK for cycling. However this is not the magic number. 100,000 need to sign up for this petition over the next year for it to stand a chance of being debated in the House of Commons, so read that report and if you agree sign up and tell your chums about it. 

The above however is not the purpose behind this note. I have emerged from my wintery cave to campaign for something slightly different:  

The mandatory clean up of horse dung by riders in urban environments.  

I am growing increasingly fed up of encountering large dollops of horse poo along London ways. My regular rides take in many of the magnificent parks of town, which are also understandably popular with those taking their geegees for a trot, and as a consequence one is forced to skip round fragrant steaming mounds. 

Look at that poor chap - his fun day out on a bike about to be spoiled by a heap of horse droppings

Look at that poor chap – his fun day out on a bike about to be spoiled by a heap of horse droppings

Now horse dung is less offensive than doggy do-dos but just as your dog owner has to face the indignity of having a plastic bag / pooper to hand and can face hefty fines for not removing evidence of their hounds’ digestive tracts, I do wonder what special rights a person on a horse has which means that they do not have this responsibility.

The lefty activist in me suggests that it is a class/wealth issue, following this conclusive equation: person + horse = (money + posh) squared. The more reasonable beast growls that it is probably down to the fact that horse dung is less likely to be toxic than dog mess, and therefore is not such a pressing concern to sweep up immediately. 

However the health implications are clear as noted by Arizona state’s Pina County Department of Environmental Quality

“When not managed properly, horse manure can pollute the environment as ground or surface water pollution, affect the health of horses and caretakers, promote unwanted insect breeding, and become a nuisance to neighbors by generating excessive odors and flies.” 

Now what stands in the hot, dry and dusty state of Arizona is clearly applicable to one of the UK’s finest metropolises. Especially as back in the day when Hackney Carriages were horse drawn the collection of dung was considered a very real issue due to the impact on air quality. Therefore, I call upon my gathered brethren, be the afoot or on two wheels, to help stamp out this vile practice of letting horses crap all over the place by joining my public outcry.

We must make these riders descend from the high horses and collect their manure as it happens.

Only then can the madness stop.

Alternatively you could invest your time and energies in the far worthier cause of making our cities safe as mentioned earlier.

Your choice really – choose wisely.

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