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Miscellaneous

How I would Nationalise Britain’s Railways

Imagine it with a B instead.

Great British Railways. I don’t know about you, but to me it comes across as an arrogant, old fashioned branding exercise to attract Tory voting baby boomers who are desperate to be told that Britain is still the best. We need a modern, simple naming system like that of Japan Railways (JR). BR South, BR North, BR London, BR Scotland (if they stay with us) etc. We would have a unified logo but with different colours for each region and matching train liveries.

Simple JR branding on the side of this Yamanote Line train

Unlike the Japanese system, we need to fully nationalise it. Privatisation works in Japan because trains are the default way of getting around, and it’s a priority for government to keep it running smoothly and the technology up to date. They will spend big to prop up the private operators. In the U.K., cars are the primary mode of transport and because of that, rail has been underinvested in. The infrastructure is out of date and the prices are high because the government has left it to rot. And private companies are probably not going to invest in improving the service if they don’t see it as an effective transport monopoly as most of the lines are in Japan.

Grant Shapps compared Great British Railways to the London bus and Overground systems. That’s not what we need. We need full public ownership of all of our transport networks. It’s the only way we’re going to be able to make rapid changes in sustainability, pricing and general appeal in order to end car ownership in the face of the climate crisis. It’s not enough to just build bike infrastructure or incentivise e-scooters (not that we’re doing either or those). We need to do everything possible now to cut emissions and make us a healthier and happier society. Public ownership and investment is the only way.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Why Road Bikes Should be Called Sports Bikes

Road bikes suck for commuting. They just do. They require huge amounts of maintenance, they’re uncomfortable, you have to wear special clothes, they generally don’t have built in lights, they’re magnets for thieves. They just don’t tick the boxes for most commuters.

In general, with a commuting bike, you want something that is reliable, durable, practical in terms of storage as well as built in lighting. Unless you’re commuting more than 10 miles, I wouldn’t even think about using a road bike. And even then, now we have e-bikes, you can have speed and comfort, so why would you ride something that’s going to be painful on your backside and your hands, is totally impractical and has a pretty good chance of being nicked.

I was watching an episode of Japan Railway Journal a few months ago now when I started writing this post and saved it as a draft. It’s an NHK World show about the incredible Japanese railways. In this episode, they were showcasing a special train designed to take road cyclists and their bikes from Tokyo out to the seaside in Chiba, the neighbouring prefecture.

The train was kitted out with everything a cyclist could want including dedicated hanging bike storage for every passenger. But as much as I loved the train and the concept, the thing I want to talk about is what they called the bikes on the show. They didn’t call them road bikes. They called them Sports Bikes. What a great name for them. The term road bike is a pretty stupid one really. We ride all sorts of bikes on roads.

When you talk about Mountain Bikes, you know what that term means. It generally means a bike for serious off-road riding for either professionals or amateurs with a serious interest in that type of riding. Sports Bike would be the equivalent for performance tarmac machines. I think that’s why Gravel Bike is also a better name that most of us previously thought. The more obvious the name, the better.

Categories
Miscellaneous

How To Get Worthing Cycling Without Doing Anything

Worthing council is famous for being unwilling to do anything to encourage cycling (aside from literally encouraging it). This is a special post for the powers that be over there. The definitive guide for getting people cycling in Worthing for the lowest possible price: free.

1. Introduce bicycle hire (including electric bike option) with docks everywhere. The Donkey bikes are good but no where near enough.

2. Introduce car free weekends.

3. When people realise the town is better without cars, ban private cars all the time.

You’re welcome.

Categories
Miscellaneous

The Paris Agreement Was a Failure. The Glasgow Agreement Will Be Even Worse

I remember watching that famous ending to the COP21 when Laurent Fabius hit his leaf shaped wooden mallet on the desk to signify the deal being accepted.

Al Gore was happy, and I was happy. I remember feeling emotional in that moment. Maybe this really would be the start of huge change to the way we live. But it wasn’t. Anyone who follows the up-to-date science knew that 1.5c was a fantasy, but we could forgive that because it showed real ambition. But it turned out that no one cared to live up to that. It was for show on that day, and nothing more.

COP26 however, is almost certain to be far worse. It will be a political affair, not a scientific one. The only job of the UK negotiators will be to get every country to agree on Net Zero 2050. A target that requires basically no government action for the next 20 years. It’s just a nice round date far off in the future. And you can be sure that the net zero target everyone agrees to will have all the loopholes you’ve come to expect. Wood burning? Of course. Shipping and aviation? You bet.

If you still have your hopes up for COP26, I would politely suggest that it’s time to lower them. All the way down. At least then you will be somewhat prepared for the bullshit that’s coming. You’ll still be angry when it happens. Such is the nature of being human. You can never fully prepare, but you can at least lessen the blow.

I’ve been thinking this way about COP26 for a while, but recently reading the book “A Chicken Can’t Lay A Duck Egg” really helped me to relax more. The realisation that nothing you do in the neoliberal political and economic system can save us from climate disaster really helps focus the mind. We have to change the system. That’s all.

Rich people buying electric yachts, electric helicopters, electric sports cars, electric private jets, eco mansions etc is not sustainable. The only way for them to be truly sustainable is to live small and live local like everyone else. We’ve all enjoyed the little things in life during the pandemic, and we have to make that a permanent lifestyle change if we’re to have any chance of having a future to look forward to.

COP26 has no intention of going in this direction. It’s up to the rest of us to make sure we do.