The Problem with Sustrans...

The Problem with Sustrans...

Postby nigel_s » Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:06 pm

I've just read an excellent blog post by Josh Hart on his always thoughtful "On the Level" blog.

I thought that it might strike a chord with CTC Forummers:

Have a read: The Problem with Sustrans: How a Grassroots Phenomenon Has Turned Into a Private Unaccountable Corporation
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Postby meic » Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:14 am

Sustrans isnt perfect, lots of people think that they can do better, well who's stopping them?

The folk running Sustrans have to make decisions, lots of different choices can be made, I would not do everything the way that they do. Yet it is they that have gone out and done it.

No one is stopping Mr Hart from trying to set up his route but he wants someone else to do it for him! It just so happens that they may have ideas of their own.

I dont have too much time for people who lean over workers shoulders and tell them how they should be doing their job. Probably the hardest part of Sustran's job is all the tedious dealing with councils, land owners and politics.

A good bit of in-fighting like this will not help the cause of cycling much.

The Telford Judge had form already and his verdict was no fault of Sustrans.
Of course no-one could make any accusations of the CTC going commercial and forgetting its grass routes, could they?

This is the 21st Century and Sustrans and the CTC have to adapt to its ways inorder to pervail.
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Postby byegad » Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:51 am

As a Sustrans Ranger I get the odd comment about 'my' route while I'm out on a job.

There is one stretch of my route where the surface is often muddy. A typical exchange would go like this.

Rider pulls up next to me as I'm replacing signs taken down by the local Yoofs.

Rider
'Are you from Sustrans?'
Me
'Yes. I'm just replacing damaged signs.'
Rider
'Do you know the stretch South of the bridge is really muddy?'
Me
'Yes, the problem is it belongs to the local council. Did you notice the surface improved just before the bridge? That's because it belongs to a diferent council who are willing to spend money on it.'
Rider
'Oh I thought Sustrans owned it. After all your signs are all over it.'
Me
'Well yes but some of our routes are on roads and we certainly wouldn't be allowed to own them.'

If you don't like a Sustrans route you don't need to ride on it. But for newbie riders or none local riders our routes offer a route that will take them where they are going.

I know some of our routes are not direct.

I was involved in an opening ride on a route I did not know which seemed to do a huge S through the countryside. I asked the guy who had designed it why we were swinging so far south and them North od what was in effect a West to East run.

His answer was that we needed to swing South to use the one bridge crossing of the A1, not a motorway at that point but with the kind of traffic you get on a Motorway. The more direct alternatives all involved actually crossing the dual carriage way, on the level. The swing North was to get to the only bridge over the river which lay between the A1 and our destination.

As an experienced cyclist I MAY have chanced a crossing of the A1 but the route planner had less experienced riders in mind. He was probably right!
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Postby EdinburghFixed » Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:12 am

Some of it is hard to believe (although it sounds only too real):

“A local cyclist, Daniel Cadden, was pulled over by the police in Telford for riding on an A road with a parallel cycle path, and charged with obstructing traffic. His case went to court and was featured in the local press. During a radio call-in show, a local Sustrans ranger rang up and ‘apologised on behalf of all cyclists’ for the man’s irresponsible behaviour. This apology was brought into his court trial as evidence of his wrongdoing….


“I was telling [the former CEO of Sustrans] about a ride I had done on the National Cycle Network – because of the poor signage I had missed a turn and ended up on a busy A road that was narrow and heavily trafficked. I was terrified for my life because of the fast traffic and the narrow road, and drivers were honking their horns at me. I was surprised when John rebuked me: ‘It’s people like you who give cyclists a bad name.”


This sort of craven "cycling apologist" attitude makes me sick. :shock: :shock:

If either of the above are true, I am deeply shocked and disgusted. We should be aggressively promoting mixed riding on the road network, not the reverse.

If Sustrans or its employees are (directly OR indirectly) damaging our right to use the road network, we have a problem that cannot be understated.
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Postby hubgearfreak » Tue Jan 27, 2009 11:29 am

Daniel Cadden - charged with obstructing traffic.


drivers were honking their horns at me.



EdinburghFixed wrote:If Sustrans or its employees are (directly OR indirectly) damaging our right to use the road network, we have a problem that cannot be understated.


if they are, you're dead right. in the first example, Daniel Cadden on a bike is traffic. in the second example, it's the car drivers aggression that's the problem, not that a road user is, well, using the road
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Postby drjones » Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:26 pm

I just ride on the road. Rather simple, really.
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Postby EdinburghFixed » Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:28 pm

I just ride on the road. Rather simple, really.


So when you get pulled by the police for obstructing traffic on that road, you're happy to be directly funding through your taxes, a cycling organisation which will go on record as saying that you're being irresponsible by cycling on the road? And support your prosecution (whether directly or indirectly)?

Simple for you, worrying for me.

Another odd thing, is that Sustrans is apparently run by a self-elected board with no way for actual cyclists to get in on setting the agenda.

Is this true? Surely in exchange for millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, we ought to have some accountability?
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Postby 2Tubs » Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:58 pm

EdinburghFixed wrote:
I just ride on the road. Rather simple, really.


So when you get pulled by the police for obstructing traffic on that road, you're happy to be directly funding through your taxes, a cycling organisation which will go on record as saying that you're being irresponsible by cycling on the road? And support your prosecution (whether directly or indirectly)?

Simple for you, worrying for me.

Another odd thing, is that Sustrans is apparently run by a self-elected board with no way for actual cyclists to get in on setting the agenda.

Is this true? Surely in exchange for millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, we ought to have some accountability?

drjones is right.

It's simple. Ride on the roads. The law is very clear about that.

Daniel Cadden won his case setting a precedent protecting our rights to use the roads, even if alternative cycle facilities are available.

However, your concerns are justified. We have to be careful that Sustrans Routes are considered nothing more than leisure routes by government.

Some routes may be useful for commuting or utility cycling but they seem few and far between. My experience is that the off road routes turn into un-navigable mud baths if we have a spot of rain.

Don't get me wrong, I like them for leisure. Give me a ride on traffic free paths for a spot of fun any day of the week. I'll take it. But until we get all weather routes that take us where we actually want to go, anywhere we actually want to go they should be considered no more a highway than a bridlepath.

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Postby drjones » Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:18 pm

Surely in exchange for millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, we ought to have some accountability?


The government uses taxpayer's money to fund Sustrans, who then act to manage/sub-contract the work on their behalf. This is therefore an issue with the government's decision to use the services of Sustrans' rather than those of another organisation.
The accountability rests with the government, not Sustrans.

Edit, edit, edit:

Unless those Sustrans board memebers really aren't elected from outside, in which case, we might have a conspiracy on our hands... :roll:
Last edited by drjones on Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:33 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Si » Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:28 pm

Daniel Cadden won his case setting a precedent protecting our rights to use the roads, even if alternative cycle facilities are available.


Point of order....not quite right. He won the appeal. To set a legal precedent he would have had to lose the appeal and then win at the next appeal, further up the hierarchy of courts as the appeal was held at the county court IIRC.
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Postby byegad » Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:02 pm

If the Sustrans spokesperson made the statement as reported I for one as a Sustrans Ranger would be appalled.
Just to clarify, Rangers are volunteers not paid representatives of Sustrans. We receive a little training, if you are willing to give up free time to attend, and some written guidance.
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Postby FatBat » Tue Jan 27, 2009 3:22 pm

2Tubs wrote:
However, your concerns are justified. We have to be careful that Sustrans Routes are considered nothing more than leisure routes by government.
Gazza

Too true. I wrote to my MP once regarding a plan to install central islands on a main road. He got a reply from a highway engineer at the relevant council saying that as there was a sustrans route nearby, cyclists should be using that and therefore there was no need to install anything cycle-friendly on the road in question. Two things to bear in mind; the sustrans route does run parallel to the road in question, but is about a mile to the west of it; and, the council is responsible for the highways in what it calls "Europe's Premier Cycling City".
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Postby thirdcrank » Tue Jan 27, 2009 3:30 pm

Somebody else made the very good point on here some time ago that this just allowed the govt to give a relatively small some of money to a grateful charity and then ignore the whole issue of promoting cycling.

I've no argument with Sustrans rangers, but I would like my highway provision maintained professionally by the highway authority, rather than through the altruism of volunteers.

It will only be a few years before Sustrans is a vague memory. (IMO)
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Postby byegad » Tue Jan 27, 2009 3:36 pm

Not sure about the memory thing, but in my neck of the woods the County provided bike lanes and such are a total mess. Professional is not a word I'd apply to their 'provisions'.
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Postby drjones » Tue Jan 27, 2009 3:41 pm

Excellent point indeed 3rdcrank. And thanks for clarifying that your predictions for the future of Sustrans are only a matter of opinion. I was about to PM you concerning my Thunderball ticket.

Edit, edit, edity-edit: Perhaps cyclists should drive cars instead? Just a thought. Then there wouldn't be all this kerfuffle about Sustrans. It's no secret that cars are more practical and comfortable than bicycles. That's why, despite their relative expense, most people would rather drive one that ride a bike. Whether or not there's a nice painted track on the pavement is not going to change basic human instinct.

Anyway, on a practical level, I would actually rather see roads improved to the extent that cyclists can ride safely alongside other motor users.
Last edited by drjones on Tue Jan 27, 2009 4:14 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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