How To Leave The World In A Better Place
Cllr Gabriella Giles on e-bikes, and Hounslow Council's preference for consultants
Scalable and sustainable. My councillor colleagues must be bored to death with me saying this. Repeatedly. A huge part of our responsibilities as councillors is that we support initiatives that leave the world in a better place than which we found it. With that thought in mind, I have been looking into the cabinet papers for the Climate Emergency Action Plan and Greener Borough with interest, and had planned to propose a motion at Borough Council at the end of January.
What I find fascinating is that some people are very happy to talk about things, but very reluctant to make the changes needed to achieve their goals. As someone with a project management background, I am all for plans. Plans that are robust, costed, measurable and realistic.
I would also add that these need to be aspirational. Hounslow Council produces a lot of reports, and plans, however, the more I read, the more I despair. Somewhat like the failed bid to be a London Borough of Culture, these documents are well-intentioned but rely far too much on external consultants and not enough on local experience or knowledge.
This is something that is blatantly apparent in the Climate Emergency Action plan. Based on estimated figures from 2017 from a government report that classifies data based on regions, rather than locally available data.
At the borough council meeting on 28 February, we heard that for the borough “existing aircraft noise monitoring infrastructure is not as robust as that for air quality because system is rather antiquated and deserves major overhaul and further investments” (sic). The response from the administration? That we would rely on reporting from Heathrow on air and noise pollution. As much as I applaud organisations self-reporting, surely we, as a borough, have a responsibility to keep track of this ourselves to ensure that the measures we adopt are measurable, and realistic, for our local environment.
With that in mind, I leapt at the opportunity thrown onto Twitter by WestTrans to trial the new Brompton ebike.
As some of you may know, I’ve been an active cyclist for years and, like many, I have looked longingly at the Brompton folding bikes with the desire of heart and legs, but not my wallet. For those of you who don’t know, WestTrans is a partnership of six boroughs in West London, including Hounslow, formed to develop and implement sustainable transport projects in the area. One of these projects is to encourage more people to cycle, including by getting them onto ebikes, and, from time to time, ask locals to test the feasibility of some of the bicycles they might then roll out across the area.
Never having ridden an electric bike, I was super keen to give it a go, and eager to get my hands on the handlebars of the new Brompton ebike and start pedalling. It is lovely to ride and surprisingly fast. One point that I really appreciated was cycling to and from meetings and turning up looking smart, if a little windswept, even in the depths of winter. The speed is limited to 15.5mph so, for me – who normally tootles around London at anything between 10mph and 14mph – it felt as if I were flying with very little exertion. Until I rode over a pot-hole. Or ironworks. At which point, the battery had a tendency to disconnect, and the bike lost power. Which was fine when cycling during the day. At night, the battery-powered lights turned off; when cycling uphill, all the power would go when you needed it most.
One of the most attractive reasons for ebikes is to get people who may have mobility or health issues to be more active, or to encourage people who want to cycle but have neither the courage nor experience to do so. As far as this cycling experience went, it was nice, the upright position made me feel that I was seen, and I had a good perspective to see what was going on around me. When not used and folded, it was cumbersome to move around. And heavy. And bruise-inducing. You need to be quite strong to carry the 14.7kg bike and the 2.9kg battery, especially if you have to lug it up two flights of stairs with your weekly shop. Brompton says that their bikes are not for everyone.
WestTrans wants testers for bikes to see if it will encourage those who wouldn’t normally cycle to get on a bike. I have fed back to WestTrans saying I am yet to be convinced that this bike will be suitable for those users.
WestTrans are always looking for residents’ feedback, and volunteers and organisations to trial their bikes. If you are interested, Emily Shovlar, the senior WestTrans coordinator, is available via email on ShovlarE@ealing.gov.uk.
DATES FOR DIARIES
· Borough Council: Tuesday, 25th February at 7.30pm at Hounslow House
· Chiswick surgeries: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick library, upstairs in the private room
· Gunnersbury surgeries: First Saturday of the month from 10am to 11am at The Triangle Club, The Ridgeway, W3 8LN, usually a group discussion but privacy can be arranged.
Councillor Gabriella Giles
Chiswick Riverside Ward Email: email@example.com
Phone: 07966 270823
NEXT BOROUGH COUNCIL MEETING: TUESDAY, 25th FEBRUARY
This should be an excellent meeting as the council will present its budget for the financial year ahead. Council Tax is set to rise by 3.99%. All householders will be paying extra. Cllr MacGregor is working, on behalf of our group, on presenting our alternative budget.
February 15, 2020