The Egg and The Kettle of Fish

To promote the idea of sharing the streets more safely, we’ve made a fun film here in the City of London Corporation.

No.

No, you haven’t.

Hot on the heels of the Nice Way Code’s video campaign, the folk at the City of London Corporation (who clearly don’t pay attention to social media and didn’t see the wall-to-wall kicking that the Nice Way Code received – or, perhaps, who have decide to amuse themselves with some pretty audacious trolling) have decided to make “a fun film”.

(They don’t say for whom it’s fun. I think it’s them.)

Obviously, you’re going to love it. Ready?

Now, I’m not going to have a rant about the way in which the narrative is written and delivered, as if the video is aimed at primary school children. I’m not going to say much about the sickly way in which we’re repeatedly told that the video is fun. Nor the idea that things are simply “put right, after their collision” at the roadside. (Nor the patronising way in which the details of this utterly bizarre exchange are explained.) Not even the fact that it’s neutrally described as “their collision” even though the driver was on the phone, stopped at an illegal point, failed to indicate, and drove into the cyclist. I won’t even mention the use of Comic Sans. Promise.

It’s all been done. Every “share the road” campaign signally fails to recognise that errant behaviour in cars tends to be socially normalised whilst that on bicycles tend to be less so, and – rather more importantly – they fail to acknowledge the absolutely crucial difference between matters of annoyance and matters of safety.

But this one is a bit special.

Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, just don’t berate him for eating fish

Let’s grab a few frames from this film.

I’m going to start near the end.

use-full-width

Note that this shows the egg (really? do I have to talk in terms of eggs, for crying out loud? can we not discuss road safety without anthropomorphising stuff?) riding her bike outside of the cycle lane.

This advice says do not use the cycle lane that we have painted on the road.

Which, to be fair, I agree with. The cycle lane is crap: it pushes cyclists into the gutter ghetto in order to allow drivers to pass closely, safe in the knowledge that the thin strip of paint will, whilst not preventing an accident, prevent any nasty legal challenges coming their way should the unwary cyclist need to swerve for any reason.

Next.

blindspots

In this shot, our irresponsible egg has actually used the painted-on cycle lane. What a stupid egg! She’s in a blind spot!

(Can I just point out: blind spots generally aren’t. Humans have necks, and necks are useful for looking around. Cars also generally have windows in the rear. It’s only a blind spot if you choose to blind yourself to it.)

No mention in the video of the fact that the egg in the car has blocked the advanced stop line and isn’t indicating for his turn. Nope, it’s the egg on the bike who’s being a pillock, by using the infrastructure given to her by OH WAIT, BY THE CITY OF LONDON.

Still, again, I agree. The infrastructure is rotten. Don’t use it.

But the real punch in the face, kick in the bollocks and tweak of the nipples comes early on, when you’re not expecting it. When Greg begins his patronising monologue for this video that’s resolutely focused on Cheapside, he points out that the City of London is “a global financial centre packed into a medieval street pattern“.

Packed in, it is.

Those buildings on Cheapside are like sardines in a tin, I tell you.

You can barely walk between the buildings, which were originally designed with barely sufficient gap to empty a chamberpot out of the window.

Packed. In.

cheapside

Oh.

Cheapside was quite recently reconfigured as above (work began near the end of 2010) having previously had more space given over to road. Cyclists in The City have one article from 2011 and another from 2013 which discuss the conversion.

So, this is a recent and conscious redesign, to take that massively wide street space and make zero dedicated space for cycling. You could march a North Korean military parade down a pavement that wide, but there is no space for cycling whatsoever.

Here, have a fish. DON’T EAT FISH, YOU IDIOT!

It’s bewildering that a staggeringly wide street space can be converted in such a way as to force motor vehicles and bicycles into as small an area as physically possible, with paint daubed on the ground to further constrain each of them. But it’s infuriating for the people responsible for doing it to very shortly afterwards produce a patronising video asking everyone to share safely and saying that safe sharing is “a real priority for the City of London Corporation“.

Why is that a priority? Why wouldn’t you prioritise not having to share? It’s a “global financial centre” for crying out loud. If anywhere should understand the concept of not sharing it’s a global financial centre.

It’s utterly insane. It’s unfathomable how this was arrived at.

Either there are some indescribably stupid people building our cities and deciding to force cyclists right into the path of buses (check the video – there really is no space for the two to be alongside each other) and then wondering why it’s not working, or there’s some frankly bizarre conspiracy going on where the phoney “war on the roads” is being deliberately fomented.

Either way, what’s basically happening here is kettling.

Everyone with wheels is being kettled into a space where the pressure is raised, and raised, and sooner or later it kicks off.

And there’s no need.

Just don’t kettle people in the first place. Build a segregated cycle lane. Stop talking drivel about medieval streets: Cheapside is of a width that small towns would barely know what to do with.

Why do it this way? I’m baffled.

Anyway, I’m always inclined to trust Hanlon’s Razor, so unless anyone wants to dispute it then I’m forced to conclude that it is in fact the work of some indescribably stupid people.

Stop with the bad fish, ok?

There is a pattern here. Authorities build woefully inadequate infrastructure, it causes conflict, they blame the users, the users get angry at being blamed, and the users take it out on everyone. Same old same old.

And then it’s salt in the wound when the very people who give you the infrastructure then – whilst patronising and berating the users of it – point out that their infrastructure shouldn’t be used because to do so is irresponsible and unsafe.

No-one seems to be able to figure out what to do with bicycles. They’re generally either shoved into the gutter, with some crappy ASLs haphazardly thrown in, or they’re brushed onto the pavement to scare the pedestrians and take their chances near the roads.

No-one seems to realise that making a video like this is a howling indicator that you’ve fucked it up again.

But no, Camden is proposing to do it all over again.

Enough!

Just build proper infrastructure!

If nothing else, think of the money you’ll save on however much coke it takes someone to come up with an anthropomorphic egg smashing its own head in with a hammer.

16 thoughts on “The Egg and The Kettle of Fish”

  1. Brilliant – you’ve hit the nail (egg) on the head again.

    The “blind spot” bit was the least comprehensible in terms of highlighting fault. It hardly ever seems to be mentioned that even if someone is in a vehicle’s blind spot, chances are the driver of that vehicle would, as in this fun film, have already seen that person and should know that they are likely to be around somewhere. The driving egg knew full well that there was a cycling egg on the road – he’d aggressively overtaken her about a millisecond before hand. He knew full well that she was staying to the left and may have chosen to use the cycle lane. He ought to have known that there was every possibility that she would be aiming for the ASL (which he was in – I find it utterly bizarre that there is no mention of that). Is there really no responsibility on him to think “hmmmm, I can’t see that cyclist but I know that she’s there somewhere. I will give it a second before turning left, just in case she’s in my blind spot”?

    This isn’t a question I ask purely in the context of this film but for all “blind spot” incidents everywhere.

    In any event how the actual fuck was the cycling egg meant to know that she was in what that specific driver of that particular vehicle considered to be his blind spot?

    Outrageous.

    Right I’m off to boil some eggs for breakfast and will violently bash the tops off them as a tribute to this film. That’ll be fun.

  2. What jumped out at me first time I watched it (I’ve watched it more than once by the way because I thought I was missing some key point), is that if it is made for children (no adult could take this seriously), then the message is that despite the driver being a complete cockend, breaking rules all over the place, even after he has knocked someone off, it’s all OK.
    “Oops, sorry about that, I didn’t see you because I broke at least two laws at once as well as really not paying enough attention to piloting 2 tons of metal about. Never mind, here’s a plaster out of my head and we’ll all go on our way.” Except that’s not what happens because it’s a bit difficult to stick a plaster over someone in two halves.
    Infrastructure will take decades to implement properly, even if they start doing it right and I’m all for making this start happening straight away but we have got to stop presenting the message that crap driving is ok. Because it’s fucking not. (Sorry for swearing on your otherwise pristine blog)

    1. As you know, I’m with you all the way on crap driving.

      Infrastructure will take decades to implement properly, even if they start doing it right

      If we’re talking nationwide, that’s true, but the crazy thing is that they’re talking very specifically about one road which has been reconfigured within the last three years. A cycle lane could so easily have gone in.

      Instead of saying “we properly cocked this design up” it’s a ridiculous film about eggs and “don’t cycle where our properly cocked up design tells you to cycle”. Shameful.

  3. Spot on!

    In the same way as the NiceWayCode campaign I am not sure who this video is aimed at? But like the NWC it’s yet another example of victim blaming and total waste of money.

    I recently read a report where a car was said to have a well known blind spot. In which case surely the onus should be on the driver to take extra care and not be used as an excuse for crap driving.

  4. Sigh. At least it was realistic in not expecting an eggy policeman to book the driver for being an idiot. Perhaps a follow up can have an egg CPS exonerate our lovable idiot driver egg on all charges. Oh, the implication is the driver just shacked up with cycling egg who quite clearly had developed instant Stockholm Syndrome.

    Useless.

  5. How on earth can anyone with even a hint of decency and common sense make something like this and the Niceway code, and not realise the massive flaws and sugary patronisation.

    How on earth could they think “that’ll work, that’s been money well spent”. If it is honest, then again like Niceway Code it is naive beyond belief

    Unless this is all a massive cynical exercise in trying to avoid doing any real stuff. In which case how o earth could they think “that’ll work”

    A complete joke and like the niceway code actually insulting to adults with a smattering of common sense

  6. All these share the road campaigns are basically like asking the fat kid to share his bag of chips. It isn’t gonna happen.

    Possession is everything and no matter how nice, or often you ask a significant proportion of drivers will simply not give up the space. the bloody video even acknowledges this. Even if the majority do, there will still be the doubt and lack of percieved safety

    Safe seperated space is the only way forward

  7. What a bunch of cocks. Here I was thinking the NiceWay Code was the most ridiculous, patronising rubbish around, but the CoL manages to outdo them. Very. Slow. Handclap. It’s like they think we’re all brain damaged from all that cycling we do.

  8. I’ve had a thought.

    Greg Williams is a London Cyclist. He is also Head of Media at City of London Corporation. He must therefore know a) shit cycling infrastructure when he sees it; and b) the power of media.

    I wonder if Greg, in his capacity as London Cyclist, was/is mightily peed off at the mess which is Cheapside for cyclists. I wonder if he is angry at the fact that his direct and indirect colleagues were responsible for this (I doubt very much that Greg himself had anything to do with the reconfiguration of Cheapside – why would he? He’s Head of Media – decisions on road infrastructure presumably don’t come within his remit).

    I wonder if he saw an opportunity to discreetly yet publicly stick two fingers up at those decision makers by either putting forward a proposal to make a video to “promote” road sharing, or when being asked to work on such a project.

    I wonder – and this would be the clever part – if Greg *deliberately* made a NiceWayCode-esque video knowing full well that it – and with it, Britain’s/London’s poor cycling infrastructure and the parties responsible for it – would be ripped to shreds on social media and in blogs all over Britain. As a media professional, he would *know* that that would be the outcome. Of course, he wouldn’t need to have told anyone within the Corporation that that was his intention and would no doubt have presented it to them as a Good Thing which would effectively educate all road users. I’m sure he’s telling them now that he’s just as shocked as they are at the reaction the video has received.

    I wonder if Greg is actually the most clever and cunning person within the Corporation.

    Just a thought.

    1. Also they’ve left the Youtube comments turned on (unlike TfL’s CS2X “how to turn right” video where they probably were aware that they’d get a kicking)

  9. I gave up watching it after the first “accident”. So, the driver is talking on a handheld mobile, overtaking too close, and then stops in an ASL, then not looking over his shoulder before moving away. Grrrr… (was watching it in the office with sound off, so did I miss the voiceover saying how bad all of those things were?)

  10. Let me get this straight.
    You’re against
    a. teaching young cyclists about pragmatic judgment of risk and safe road positioning
    b. promoting courtesy between road users
    and you’re for
    a. regular use of sentences over 50 words long.

    1. I’m not quite sure how you inferred a couple of those points. I’m absolutely not against teaching young cyclists those things. I didn’t say I was; and, besides, this video’s surely not aimed at young cyclists. And I’m absolutely not against promoting courtesy. Again, I don’t believe I said I was.

      Let me set out the points I’m making,

      1. The criticism it makes (or doesn’t make) of the eggs is incredibly partisan. The egg in the car is criticised for using his phone. He is not criticised for: attempting an unsafe overtake, obstructing the ASL, failing to indicate, or failing to look over his shoulder. Meanwhile the egg on the bicycle is criticised for her positioning, even though it is in the area designated for cyclists’ use.
      2. People seem increasingly unable or unwilling to convey these messages to adults in a way that totally devalues the message, often including some bizarre anthropomorphisation.
      3. This is the main point: The road was reconfigured very recently. They made a terrible job of it. They created the exact problem they’re talking about. It was inevitable. It’s their fault. To then criticise and patronise the users of their dreadful road layout is pretty shameful.

      Long sentences: fair cop but no, I’m not really in favour of those either. It’s just the way it pans out.

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