Sunday, 29 December 2013

What do decision-makers do?

Traffic Jam (homemade) Maybe I should not have been surprised after experiencing the Transport Select Committee's level of knowledge on cycling safety?

Locally we are none the wiser too.

Is this really 2013?

I'll spare you the countless spineless remarks from local Councillors on "balance of all road users" and never mind TWITA chair Cllr Dave Wood, but I would like to focus on the big shot decision makers. Here's what Cllr Joanne Kingsland, cabinet member for Children Services, had to say when I contacted her about making a specific road safer for children walking and cycling to school - so that parents could actually envisage letting their kids use the bike.

"Firstly the responsibilities of Lead members for Childrens Services are prescribed by legislation and are set out in some detail in guidance given by the Dept for Education. These largely cover safeguarding and school improvement.

"However that doesnt mean that I have no interest in the health and well-being of children as they travel to school and even though transport falls under Cllr Bells portfolio it is a cross-cutting issue that we all need to be involved with not least as local ward councillors."

Oh, Joanne. Just who will take overall responsibility for transport? You also shrugged off any responsibility as there are travel plans that "belong to the schools themselves and it is up to them if they want to engage with council officers to help develop them".

So we are still running round about in circles.

You sometimes wonder what policy-makers do.

Making policy that sits on the shelf gathering dust like the sustainable transport policy must be disheartening. Policy that was to bring about a shift in thinking as well as modal share has not translated into reality to any noticeable levels worth celebrating in Newcastle. Do they ever go back and check?

I asked another chief executive, Pat Ritchie, following Barry Rowlands, about Newcastle's carbon reductions promise, space-for-cycling design delivery and general transport focus of the council. Her reply:

"How we best deliver a successful [Cycle City Ambition Fund] bid is something we will be looking at as we develop our new structure. I want to bring a clearer focus on all transport issues at senior level."

Oh dear, Pat. Will you actually do something? The council re-structuring as far I can see fragmented transport responsibilities even further.

And in the Guardian Pat tells us about her leadership style: "I'm a real believer in building strong teams that are built on clear values, clear outcomes and delivery; you can't impose that on a team, you have to build it with them. I think you have to be visible. I think you have to both empower, but hold to account when you need to – and you need to be seen to do that. You have to build teams that enjoy working together and get some pleasure out of their achievements."

Furthermore, you and your board of directors snubbed the Dutch Embassy by not showing up at the conference to learn and draw inspiration from the experts. So far - it's words, and no action to show for. No show. No visibility.

And here's Cllr Ged Bell, cabinet member including all matters transport:

"Through our Transport 2030 vision we will look for opportunities to make the best use of road space for all users and ensure we prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over other road users, particularly in the city centre."

So, if you have fine-tuned your feelers, there is a slight subtle change in rhetoric. Cllr Ged Bell's not ringing quite of Cllr (as was) Henri Murison's tone "we aren't afraid of compromising car user amenity"... so I still I think we need to talk to understand where the (institutional, political, professional, technical) barriers, hold-ups, difficulties are and - with honesty and transparency.

And see action.

In the meantime, this is how I roll, and I am proud of it. But a rebel at heart you got to be.

this is how i roll

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