Azara Blog: February 2012 archive complete

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Date published: 2012/02/24

Cambridge MP wants the UK to throw vast amounts of money at cyclists (permanent blog link)

The BBC says:

MPs have urged measures to make cycling safer, including more bike-only lanes, lower speed limits on roads and greater awareness of risks among drivers.
Lib Dem Julian Huppert said "lots of small changes" could improve safety without costing huge amounts.
"It's not just about spending large amounts of cash. There are lots of small changes that will improve things for cycling.

"Some of this costs money but not actually a huge amount. To get to European standards, you need about £10 per person per year."

10 pounds per person means 600 million pounds. This is in fact a "huge amount". So Huppert is being daft or disingenuous (almost certainly the latter, since he pretends to be a scientist so must have some minimal reasoning ability).

This kind of idiotic argument is the standard ploy of someone who is up to no good. So practically anything that anyone wants to throw money at can, with a similar standard of argument, be deemed to be "not a huge amount". This is one reason that the UK has a ridiculously massive budget deficit.

The UK should be spending its money wisely. In particular, the government should be focussing its spending on areas which will increase the wealth and economic productivity of the nation over the medium and long term, for example, on research and development.

To illustrate the fact that 600 million pounds is in fact a "huge amount", in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, Cambridge University received around 130 million pounds from the UK government for research (and over 200 million for teaching). The UK government could choose to fund over four times what it currently spends on Cambridge, on research in universities, and improve the future economic chances of the country, or it could spend the same money on cyclists, and in effect throw most of it down a drain.

Well, probably this 600 million would not affect the UK research budget (but it might). It is more likely that the money will be taken away from other transport users, in particular drivers (who the Lib Dems hate). Cycling is a small minority activity, and no matter what sanctimonious middle class (i.e. rich) people like Mr. Huppert would like to pretend, it will always remain a small minority activity in the UK, unless the ruling elite manage to so impoverish the country (e.g. by following Lib Dem policies) that ordinary people can no longer afford to drive. It is crazy for anyone to even think to throw this vast amount of money at cycling.

Hopefully the government will treat Huppert's proposal with the derision it deserves.

Lib Dems waste 19k pounds on a pointless report into Cambridge pubs (permanent blog link)

The Cambridge News says:

Getting consultants to take the temperature of Cambridge's pub trade will cost taxpayers more than £19,000.

The study will explore the problems faced by drinking holes and will look to draw up new planning rules to protect them from redevelopment, but the price tag has sparked criticism.

The city council will pay GVA Humberts Leisure £19,100 for the project, including £1,000 for expenses.

The country is on the brink of economic disaster, and should be focussing spending on areas which will improve economic productivity. And yet the Cambridge City Council, forever living in a fantasy world, is happy to throw 19k pounds at a completely unnecessary report. No doubt the report will be very thorough, but it is obvious that there are many circumstances that have accumulated to mean that pubs are not as viable as they once were, and so they are closing. The city can do very little about most of these issues.

For example, drink driving is no longer tolerated. Smoking has been banned in pubs (and elsewhere). Beer in pubs is expensive compared with alcohol in shops. People have plenty of other ways to be entertained these days, and can socialise even without leaving their homes, via the internet (ok, it is not quite the same). Further, housing is extremely expensive, and so it is far more profitable to build houses than to sell beer.

The last issue is about the one area where the city can have any say in the matter. And quite possibly the Lib Dems are wasting this money on this study so they can point at this fact when they want to make it harder for pubs to be converted to housing. This is not worth 19k pounds. It will also rescue very few pubs. Because even without the pressure to convert to housing, there are too many pubs chasing too few customers. The Lib Dems can try and turn the clock back to 1960, but it will not work.

New train station in Chesterton (permanent blog link)

The Cambridge News says:

Construction of a second railway station in Cambridge has been given the green light by the Government - meaning it should open in 2015.

The long-awaited station, which will be built at Chesterton sidings and will be called Cambridge Science Park, should boost the local economy and enable travellers to catch trains to London and the rest of the country without having to battle through city centre traffic.

There will be two main side effects to this new station. Firstly, London commuters will start to take over parts of north Cambridge and Milton to the detriment of local workers. Secondly, some shiny new office blocks will probably be built on land adjacent to Cowley Road and Fen Road, and in the process some existing small-scale industrial businesses will be forced to leave Cambridge.

Further, it is not even clear that this new station will be preferable to the existing station for people living in large swathes of north Cambridge, e.g. near Histon Road and certainly near Huntingdon Road. There are two key aspects here, site access and train services. The politicians and bureaucrats are promising a good service, but it is unlikely to be as good as the service for the main station.

Access to the new train station is thus going to have to be near ideal in order for people to stop using the existing station. The county council probably realises this, and the train operators certainly realise this. But the city council, in particular the Lib Dems, live in a fantasy world where car hating is considered part of an "integrated" transport strategy. Currently the only access to the new station would be via Water Lane and Fen Road. If that remains the case, then many people will just boycott this station. Or similarly, if there is not enough car parking, or an easy way to drop people off and pick them up, then this station will not be used by many people whom it is allegedly intended for.

Companies in the Science Park and St John's Innovation Centre and especially the Cambridge Business Park, and in the new office blocks, if and when they are built, will be beneficiaries, because it will be easier to hire people who prefer the train to the car for getting to work. There are probably not many people like that, but there will be some.

Date published: 2012/02/07

Another non-story about speeding drivers (permanent blog link)

The BBC says:

Volunteers in Wiltshire have caught drivers speeding 15,000 times in the county in the last year.

Sixty Community Speed Watch groups are in force countywide and volunteers went out 1,700 times in 2011.

They monitor traffic speed, noting down details which are passed to police. Officers can then write to drivers.

Last year 11,700 letters were sent out resulting in 18 police cautions, six fixed penalty notices and three people were taken to court.
Mrs Ngero [ Wiltshire's Community Speed Watch coordinator] admitted that some volunteers had been subjected to "negative" attitudes from drivers.

"What I would say to them is that they should be sticking to the law," she added.

"For some reason people feel like they have to break the law when it comes to speeding and that shouldn't be right."

Wow, a whole 15000 drivers "caught" from 1700 outings. That is less than 10 per outing. One could see that many speeding drivers on almost any road in Britain with any traffic in a matter of minutes. And the result: a whole "18 police cautions, six fixed penalty notices and three people were taken to court". This does not sound like the most significant outcome in the universe, given the effort put into it.

Of course Mrs Ngero has to promote the results because that is the entire point of her position. But her comments about drivers are silly. Drivers do not "feel like they have to break the law when it comes to speeding". They break the law when it comes to speeding because they think the speeding limits are too low. Period. Of course the people who set the limits think otherwise, which is why there is this perpetual war against drivers.

Another fatuous Mill Road consultation (permanent blog link)

The Cambridge News says:

Seventy per cent of residents and businesses oppose the creation of a loading bay in front of a proposed Sainsbury's in Mill Road, Cambridge.

Of 127 responses to a survey over the future of city council-owned land in front of what is currently Mickey Flynn's pool hall, 89 were against its use for deliveries, the authority said today.

A spokesman said: "The executive councillor for arts, sport and public places, Cllr Rod Cantrill, will make an informed decision with regard to the approach made by Sainsbury's after careful consideration of the responses to the consultation process."

This is just the latest fatuous consultation carried out by the city council. They received a whole 127 responses, some of which are from businesses with a vested interest in the outcome. That means less than 1% of the people who live in the area responded.

It is well known that the academic middle class people who dominate Cambridge, and even the Mill Road area, hate supermarkets, and so would complain about anything that Sainsbury's (or Tesco's) would want to do.

And yet they only managed to tally up a whole 89 responses against the proposal. Perhaps the academic middle class are tired out from their anti-Tesco-on-Mill-Road vitriol.

In any case, there is no reason to believe that these responses are in any way representative of public opinion, in spite of the misleading first paragraph in the Cambridge News article.

But presumably Mr Cantrill will be happy to pretend that the responses are representative, in the usual way, in order to provide political cover for his decision.

CPRE whines yet more about planning changes (permanent blog link)

The Cambridge News says:

Prime countryside in Cambridgeshire is at huge risk of being developed under proposed reforms to national planning policy, it is feared.

A report released by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that 55 per cent of England's countryside could be at increased risk from being built on.

You have to hand it to the CPRE, they know how to use weasel words. So 55 per cent of England's countryside could be at increased risk from being built on. That is two qualifications in just one sentence.

The CPRE is just a typical special interest pressure group which wants, in this case, to continually force urban areas to throw money at rural areas. If the rural elite want to keep development out, and in particular people out, of rural areas, then they should live with the consequences in terms of higher costs and reduced services.

Zealots argue for yet more taxes on drivers (permanent blog link)

The Cambridge News says:

Workplace car parking spaces should be taxed across Cambridgeshire to cut congestion on the A14, travel experts said today.

The Campaign for Better Transport said workers or employers should be made to pay for bays to discourage driving, encourage use of public transport and car sharing, and to raise revenue.

The organisation said the charge, known as a workplace parking levy, should apply not just in Cambridge, because this might push firms out of town, but across the region.

Arguing traffic reduction was the key to solving A14 gridlock, instead of a new toll road, the campaign called for £4 million annually to be pumped into better bus services, and for a new park and ride site serving the guided busway to be built at Brampton racecourse.

The so-called Campaign for Better Transport might as well be called the Campaign for Worse Transport. Their whole purpose in life seems to be to screw car drivers and to force taxpayers to throw yet more subsidy at their favoured pet transport methods, in particular buses and trains. They are evidently blithely unaware that these massive subsidies (which they want to increase) just encourage people to live further and further from their workplace. Indeed, one of the main reasons that Cambridge has such high house prices is that London commuters do not pay for the full cost of their journeys to and from work, and so far more London commuters live in Cambridge than otherwise would.

They are at least partially correct that just taxing parking in Cambridge itself would cause some firms to move out of town. But it is in effect just one more tax that most firms would have to pay to do business here, and so probably most of them would try and absorb the cost and stay put. (Although it is in theory a tax on the workers, it is in practise a tax on businesses because they will have to compensate their workers, or at least those who drive, with higher salaries.) But this tax would definitely make Cambridge(shire) a less attractive place to do business in future, compared with elsewhere.

UK universities forced to increase social engineering (permanent blog link)

The BBC says:

Universities that fail to recruit more students from poor backgrounds should be heavily fined, the man ear-marked as the head of fair access has said.

Prof Les Ebdon, the government's preferred candidate for Director of Fair Access, told MPs he was prepared to "press the nuclear button".

This means stripping universities of their right to charge top fees of up to £9,000 from 2012.

Those charging more than £6,000 have to sign an agreement with the watchdog.

At a pre-appointment hearing, Prof Ebdon told the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee that refusing to sign a university's access agreement was a "significant sanction" and one that he was prepared to use if necessary.

It is unfortunate how much social engineering UK governments (Labour and Tory) have foisted and are continuing to foist onto UK universities. UK universities really should just inform the world that the children (and grandchildren, etc.) of all MPs, and certainly of Ebdon, should point blank be refused entry into any of the top UK universities, because, after all, they are the children of privilege, and we need to have "fair" access.

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