Aberdeen Community Cycle Challenge logo.
We were initially concerned when we heard about Aberdeen City Council's "Community Cycle Challenge". Of course we were concerned - anything which promotes cycling is against our core values and primary aim of increasing the number of cars on the ever-increasing number of roads in Aberdeen "City and Shire". (We think economists call this "The Multiplier")
But then we realised that our council is engaged in some quite clever misdirection here. Firstly the name "Community Cycle Challenge". Yes: "Challenge". The message payload which is freighted within the very name of this initiative says that cycling is a challenge - difficult, unusual - like polar exploration, pot-holing, calligraphy or learning Japanese.
Further research comforted us more. This "Community Cycle Challenge" has been developed by pro-car local transport quango NESTRANS "in order to help a local community deliver an increase in cycling trips across a defined project area." Yes - a "defined project area". In this case the areas in question are covered by tiny local parish councils. This initiative will, we're delighted to report, do nothing to increase the number of cycle journeys taken across town or between individual project areas. If it achieves anything, the project will only create cycling 'ghettos'. And indeed this is confirmed; the one and only project which will be getting the go-ahead is in the tiny local area immediately around Greenbrae Primary School in the far flung Bridge of Don suburb.
This area at Bridge of Don was chosen as the one and only "Community Cycle Challenge" zone because of its participation in the risible "In Town, Without My Car!" day last year. This EU mobility initiative is intended to shut roads to motor traffic, like Broadway and Times Sq in New York have now done. But, of course, in Aberdeen we're wiser than that! New York has nothing to teach us! There's simply no way that we could ever stop important motorists from getting to the shops by car to create economic growth on a Saturday. So instead we closed the road outside a suburban primary school for a few hours on a Wednesday.
"In Town, Without My Car!"
All sorts of pointless and laughable activities were undertaken on that day in order to marginalise and humiliate the car-less. Fancy-dress was encouraged; a Grampian police officer delivered a "safety" lecture which emphasised how dangerous walking and cycling are; and a world record attempt involving synchronised cycle-bell tinging was undertaken. There was a fair-trade café run by hippy crusties. The message was clear - cycling and walking are for weirdly-dressed losers who don't care about their own safety; these activities require special permission from the authorities, need special planning and equipment and at best are whimsical and time-wastingly pointless activities.
Thus we must thank our local council for defusing that dangerous initiative and dis-arming its anti-car message. Firstly, Aberdeen City Council placed it in the context of a child-centred event (adults don't walk or cycle, and we should never ever suggest that they might or could, let alone should). Secondly, they succeeded in subverting and diverting the event in order to reinforce the message that walking and cycling are bizarre minority activities. Far better that these children remain apprehensive and in fear of independent travel and get used to the idea that they should aspire to getting about in a nice car when they grow up. We are pleased that the new ostensibly pro-cycling "Community Cycle Challenge" is being dealt with in a similar manner, and so is being subtly subverted to deliver a pro-car message. Brilliant!
So, this new "Community Cycle Challenge" initiative will not, thanks be to Ford, attempt to make any changes to the vital car-driving habits of the important people who generate economic growth in Aberdeen "City and Shire". Nor will it make any impact on the coming generation. No, this project will merely try to get some primary school kids in one area on the outskirts of town to cycle to school across the park once in a while.
Ford's in his flivver, all's right with the world.