Friday, 25 October 2013

Revolution or Planning

Yesterday morning the article and video of Russell Brand on Newsnight was being punted about.

It's still doing the rounds and there is plenty of buzz and chatter and blogging and various articles and what not about the relevant merits or not of his attitude.  Essentially, yes he may be right about there needing to be change, but there aren't any answers there.

The idea of revolution is fun: anarchy, equality and all that, but reading Animal Farm in GCSE English has left too much of an impression on me about who benefits from revolution.

Anyway, at around the same time the TCPA had published a report "Planning out poverty: the reinvention of social town planning"

Having been to a number of events recently, and following news and reports endlessly about planning, housing and so on I found the coincidence of these two 'activities' revealing themselves to me so close on the old twitter timeline interesting.

It was my intention to write a full-on critique of the two.  But I'm not an academic, and my bike broke in the afternoon so I got sidelined and in a foul mood not able to cohesively bring together all the themes on my mind.

But essentially Brand's idea of revolution is all well and good, but for my money the TCPA publication at least offers real tangible solutions to inequality.  If these ideas could get a higher profile, if everyone that 'liked' or shared the Brand video wrote to their MP and local councillor to push for adoption of these policies, or at least more serious consideration of the issues under discussion maybe there's a chance that more could be done, and there is an alternative to just not voting or being revolutionary.

But then, the biggest problem is apathy,

In which case, maybe I should do just that right now.

Sure, Brand is more entertaining than policy.  But we do live in a world where there is top down control, and in order to change this, for the better, engagement is required at some level.

Having first skimmed through the report it offers a very good introduction to what planning is, and the relationship with poverty and social equity.  Kind of outlines what it is that I mean when talking about studying planning.

And even though in my last job interview I signed off with my recommendation that maybe the planning framework should be given time to bed down after so much change in the last few years, can't help thinking that some sort of way of engaging the powers that be with some idea of proper long term planning may be a good thing.  We'll see how I feel once I've actually been working for a few years aye!

And just to sign off a favourite quote from my dissertation, just to add a counterpoint to my whole argument:

Planning Fails Everywhere It has been Tried
Wildavsky 1973

 [edit; now that I've re-read the New Statesman article and TCPA report more thoroughly I'm not sure of the comparison.  Both trying to make a change, one is slightly more emotive, but when I've seen Hugh Ellis of the TCPA talk he an be very emotive indeed about the need for strategic planning to solve some of the societal problems in this country specifically.  I probably wanted to make the comparison for a bit of sensationalism and marketability, and being made aware of both streams of thought at the same time yesterday morning made a point of interest.  Maybe it should have been a tweet instead after all.  Or just a bit of chat down the pub.  And I will write to my MP, as should you, about whatever it is that bothers you.  Or just protest, I don't care, which is kind of the problem isn't it.  I'll leave this here for now quietly and see if I come back to a better critique or solution in future.  And my bike's still fucking broken!]

Friday, 18 October 2013


In the protracted process of compiling a comprehensive account of my cross-continental cycle trip; a photo journal to share with friends and co-riders; a more comprehensive, engaging presentation on findings from the research of P2P; an account of how I saw the trip personally; and just trying to collate the adventure into one take away artefact, I've been re-visiting my pictures and commentary a lot this last couple of weeks.  Having seen a few co-riders this week was compelled to spend a friday night making some progress on these 'artefacts'.  But instead I navel gazed and ended up compiling a hasty slideshow of pics.  But now I've done it why not share it quietly over here:

I'm still surprised that when I meet friends I've not seen in a while, or am introduced as 'Ben that cycled across America' at the credence it allows.  Chatting with a few of the other P2Pers this week reminds me what a strange adventure it was.  I may think it's old news, but there is still interest, and I still have a couple of months before it's last years story and I need to move on, so here is another reminder of the fact that I, along with a motley crew rode across America and returned to tell the tale.  And tell the tale I will... eventually

Sunday, 6 October 2013

32 London Boroughs in a day

It started with this

Which led to this:

Which took me here and someone had luckily done the leg work, so to speak, on a general route.

View Larger Map

So I'd kept the Saturday free, part of my whole JFDI attitude, which is really quite good actually.  On Friday I toyed around with a rough route on Google maps.

View Larger Map

My massively high tech way of navigating was to print the google directions and follow the sheet of paper, mostly, follow my nose a little and on a few occasions rely on gaining bearings through the trusty smartphone.  Being that I live in Lambeth and Southwark is the other side of the road, I had a quick win at the start.  So with the adjusted route my ride list was as follows:

Kingston upon Thames
Richmond Upon Thames
Waltham Forest
Barking & Dagenham
Tower Hamlets
Kensington & Chelsea
Hammersmith & Fulham
32 Boroughs mosaic
So my ride was recorded like this:


  • The view of London from Redbridge Cycling Centre.  An unexpected surprise at the perfect time of day.
  • The sense of achievement passing over into Wandsworth to complete the list
  • The kindness of strangers offering help in random places when the bike was upturned



  • The fact that I've probably undone any benefit from giving up smoking 10 months ago, I was filthy when I got home, and the inside of my lungs feel even dirtier, the air quality on London's roads ain't good.
  • Getting a puncture just after the only shower of the day.
  • Getting a second puncture on the canal.
  • The North Circular... a couple of pretty hairy miles near Walthamstow.

In summary, would I do it again? What'd be the point in that.  Could clearly do it in a quicker time and quicker route.  But this ride really was proof that cycling in London is not a pleasure, only on a couple of times when I took off down a canal, or found some of the off road routes was it comfortable.  I clearly fall into the "Strong & Fearless" group of cyclists.  Not that there weren't moments of fear.  And with my cycling fitness still being pretty good this was achievable with little preparation, or sustenance in fact (just a sausage roll, Double decker, 2 pints of Guinness and 2 packs of peanuts).  But the road quality is generally terrible, random bike lanes ending abruptly, if they're there at all.  Lots of crud in the hard shoulder.  And exhaust fumes.. urgh, my throat really feels very harsh a day later like after a big night out smoking a pack or two of camels.

Generally there weren't too many incidents, two ridiculously close overtakes and cut ups both in Barking & Dagenham, but I'll not draw any conclusions from that.  Also someone laughing pointedly at me fixing a puncture, or maybe I was assuming it was at me rather than the radio or another phone conversation. I was doing the smug overtaking of long lines of cars, but what was the point of being smug when I was essentially going in a big bloody circle to end up in the same place I started?

Yup, certainly not a fun jaunt out for the day, and I can't really see any parts of the route I took being a draw for cycling tourism or as best practice for attracting cyclists, or getting people on their bikes.  London's an amazing city, with all kinds of life there, but the roads are not all welcoming, and there's a lot of grime and dirt out there, but from a planning/urbanist point of view it's an interesting way to explore the city beyond heading to a destination and getting a tour.

The adventure side of it was fun, if there's a challenge out there, a bit of an idea of something to do, then why not just go the fuck out there and do it?  I've done it now and it gives me a point of interest for the rest of the week while I think of something else to do.