The stupidity it burns….

Reading LegIrons round up of Madness reminded me of a little press release from the London assembly I read a while back.

Transport for London’s plans to reward people who make their journey on foot or by bike under a new incentive scheme

I thought at first that the headline had to be misleading as with all the savings we need to be making paying people to walk or cycle rather than just say improving cycle facilities and the like would be silly. But no the press release goes on to say:

“rewarding people with offers and discounts should help get even more Londoners walking.”

Nope it does look as though they want to pay people to walk and cycle, part of some health concern maybe? Nope it’s to avoid spending money on trains and buses:

“The more people who walk or cycle, the fewer people there will be on overcrowded trains and buses, improving the transport experience for everyone.”

Yep Londoners given the choice really like paying shit loads of money to be crammed into each others arm pits on a regular basis. Obviously the only thing keeping people paying through the nose to travel in conditions that would be illegal for livestock is the lack of some S&M vouchers (are you sure about this? – ed.)!

It gets better though they plan to tell if someone its walking or cycling by having tracking software on their phones:

“The scheme will use technology on people’s smartphones to record journeys they make on foot or by bike and then award them points for their trips which will be redeemable against a range of offers and discounts from companies such as Marks & Spencer.”

Now given the average speed of traffic in London is slower than the average cycling speed I’m sure this won’t possibly be vulnerable to being gamed at all. On the other hand reaching for my tin foil hat, this is quite the wheeze to get people to volunteer to have their every movement tracked by the state. What despot could even dream of getting their citizens to sign up to have their every movement tracked for the promise of cheap microwave polenta? No more complaints about the loss of civil liberties for tagged criminals, they’re just early adopters of the UK abandonment of motorised transport for all but the elite.

The report this idiocy comes from is a comedy gem in itself. Not least for the bold claim on the PDF file that:
“This publication is printed on recycled paper”
I hate to break it to them but the pages I printed were on no such thing, I didn’t even use recycled electrons.

However onwards, there are far more gems in there:

“By 2031, the Mayor wants to increase the number of walking journeys by almost one million every day.”

The power cuts, and prices hikes we’ll likely see by then given how well the governments doings – will probably achieve this goal without any help from TFL. You have to wonder at how connected to reality the writers of the report are when they say:

“Walking is not commonly thought of as a mode of transport”

Unless they believe all that Government advertising telling us it was a form of exercise and it can’t surely be both. Ah but mainly walking is a way to boost profit:

“Those visiting town centres by foot spend on average over 40 per cent more than those arriving by car and over 55 per cent more than those travelling by tube.”

To be fair to them they do consider that making the streets nicer might actually encourage people to walk, mainly they talk about widening streets and de cluttering street furniture – mention of just fixing pavements and street lighting and the like waits until page 15. Ooh they want to maybe use oystercards, so I guess you touch “in” as you go past a bust stop then touch “out” when you arrive and as long as the journey is slow enough you get vouchers – phew no way that could be abused, and it won’t need load more oyster readers on the de cluttered streets either.. oh wait it will.

The report concedes that 70% of journeys under 1km are already walked, so it’s those longer journeys we insist on making that they’d like us to stop using buses and trains for. I hate to give them ideas but they could achieve this by just having fewer bust stops, a minimum spacing of 1km between each stop would surely do the job as well as helping with that de cluttering. It would solve all those pesky “short” (short but over a kilometre) journeys we insist on using motorised transport for. I’m sure no one would be using motorised transport for short journeys because they’d considered the cost and time invovled – nope that can’t be it. I mean spending 30 minutes walking 2 kilometres rather than nipping onto the train or a passing bus is just madness. Likewise we all love spending money to travel long distances to spend money as opposed to using local shops. I do hope that there’s a marks within a kilometre of everyone otherwise spending those vouchers could be tricky.

I’m going to offer no comment on the next gem as I think anything I say would just be superfluous:
“there is a growing body of evidence to support the view that as a mode of transport, walking offers a relatively cost-effective, environmentally sustainable and healthy alternative to other modes.”

To give credit where credit is due, they suggest that letting people know clearly when the tube is delayed would encourage people to walk. I’d also suggest not getting charged when you discover the tube is stuffed and you leave at the same station having given up on the tube.

Not quite finally I shall leave you to wonder at this gem:

“the value of transport is not merely in shuffling passengers from A to B, but doing so in a way that maximises choice and takes into account their health and well-being.”

as personally I’d quite like it if they could get the hang of getting people from A to B first, but I’m odd like that*.

Finally out of interest did anyone know 2011 was the “year of walking”?

* In many ways I’m quite impressed with how well the public transport system in London works but can’t help feel that concentrating more on the getting people from A to B would help with the choice and well being etc. quite nicely.

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