Thursday, 25 February 2010

Brighton cycle lane scheme scrapped - good decision, bad reasons

The Old Shoreham Road (OSR) Cycle Lane Scheme was scrapped last week. The scheme promised to deliver an important cycle lane linking Brighton, Hove and Portslade. But the Tory controlled Council Cabinet for the Environment scrapped it, giving no reasons and offering no replacement.

Last year I wrote about the scheme (2 Nov 2009). I quoted Green Councillor Ian Davey saying it was "next to useless" for its intended purpose: getting 7,000 school children to cycle to school every day. He was right to say that. The unprotected and broken lanes in the midst of heavy traffic would have meant the scheme was either going to cause casualties, or would have been a waste of £600,000. The money would be better spent on a smaller, more effective scheme, than wasted on window dressing or lip service.

Thirteen children and 141 adults were killed or seriously injured on the city's streets in 2008-9, and cycle casualities rose by 6.8% in Brighton and Hove last spring.

Ideally, the OSR Cycle Lane Scheme should have been extended to provide safe cycling. The scheme was part of Brighton's status as a 'Cycling City'. It is also in line with Government policy to get children to cycle to school. Every morning we can see children attempting to do this, and they end up cycling along the pavements, which is against city bylaws. If we are going to achieve our objectives, serious transport planning has to be undertaken, not lip service.

The Conservative Party in control of the Council Cabinet is pro-motor car compared to the other parties. They lost control of the Council when they lost a by election ward last year. But they retain control of the Council Cabinets due to the constitution. The Tories did not initiate the Cycle Lane scheme; it was a Labour policy in place when they squeezed into power in 2007. In my opinion the inadequacy of the cycle lane scheme was due to the Conservative controlled council's lack of serious interest in sustainable transport in the city. It was a half-measure doomed to failure.

Sustainable transport and safe cycling schemes are possible; look at Copenhagen and Amsterdam. The reason this one failed is because the Council didn't plan it properly, and that is ultimately due to lack of political will.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Signs of recovery for the British media industry detected by Press Gazette Editor

There are signs of recovery in the recession-hit British media industry, Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford told journalism students at Journalist Works training centre in Brighton, February 11, 2010.
2009 was "the worst year in the history of the British media industry." Up to 2,000 jobs had been lost in the recession, when advertising revenues fell. Earlier this month, The Manchester Evening News was sold for £7m, when only a few years ago it was making £30m a year.
But the worst may be over, Ponsford said. New news services are emerging and need staff to produce them. The old guard has been sacked, and new journalists with new media skills are in demand, although they have to be flexible and "may need to do a bit of ducking and diving before landing that staff job".
As evidence for a revivial of the UK media industry, he pointed to start-ups in online news, such as the which employs 10 journalists, and start-ups in print media, such the Cleethorpes Chronicle newspaper, with a circulation of 11,000.
He also encouraged students to be persistent if they had a dream job, pointing to his partner's success in travel writing, which materialised after years of determination.
Mr Ponsford also gave some tips for journalists on their first work placement, from which I offer my own top seven:
1. Be punctual
2. Keep organised, dated notebooks and archive them for at least two years
3. Keep a good diary of upcoming events so you can suggest stories in advance
4. Set up RSS feeds or use Google Reader to stay on top of the news daily
5. Keep your sources confidential and if they want to talk "off the record" clarify what they mean
6. Start a niche blog in a subject you are interested in, and publicise it
7. Keep it simple.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Opinion: Tony Blair may be 'honourable' but was he honest?

In an apparently emotional outburst on television today, Alistair Campbell declared that Tony Blair is a "totally honourable man". That's not the same as being totally honest.

I watched the internet video of Mr Blair answering the Iraq Chilcot Inquiry on January 29. He seems charismatic, intelligent, and a wonderful orator: cool and composed in public debate. He seems honourable: prepared to deliver on a difficult promise and stick to allies through thick and thin. A remarkable man, and no wonder that he held the world in thrall to his words when he was Britain's Prime Minister.

In 2003, Mr Blair told us that the intelligence report of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was 'beyond doubt'. Now he says this was only what he believed. In 2003, he told us that Iraq could deploy WMD "within 45 minutes". Now he says that he only referred to battlefield weapons. The press assumed he meant that WMD were an immediate threat to the world. Mr Blair didn't correct that impression at the time.

His oratory persuaded Parliament that there was no more time for patient persuasion. Parliament voted for war. Hundreds of thousands are dead as a result. Mr Blair convinced us on a matter of honour, when he, and we, should have given patient persuasion, international consensus, and honesty, a little more time.

Did Blair intend his words to emphasise the immediacy of the danger to the world?

According to the Oxford dictionary, honour means "knowing and doing what is morally right". Honesty means "free of deceit". 

Tony Blair is an honourable man: he was true to his beliefs, and he lived up to his promise to support the American military intervention. But we needed more than honour, we needed honesty as well. We needed to know that there was room for doubt, and time to check the facts.

Link to video: Iraq Inquiry: Mr Blair defending 45 minute claim
Link to BBC story: Mr Campbell defends Blair