Most people will be familiar with the motivational quotation “if the dream is big enough the facts don’t count”. A laudable exhortation for those facing hurdles to overcome them in pursuit of a virtuous goal. It should not be twisted into an excuse for bigotry.
Facts have no meaning in Hackney
Hackney Borough Council surveyed people to establish that 84% were concerned about air quality. This is hardly a surprising outcome, and in itself would seem unlikely to lead to poor policy outcomes. Unfortunately, the survey question was part of a consultation on parking charges in which 80% objected to the introduction of parking charges for motorcycles. Clearly air quality improvements were a substantive part of the justification for policies on parking charges in the Borough. Parking charges will impact the levels of motorised vehicle use in the Borough and motorised vehicles are a source of air pollutants. A complete ban on motorised transport would be the absolutist solution for transport pollution, but clearly the Council recognises that there is a balancing act between air quality and convenient transport.
Taken in the context of air quality there is a case to be made for exempting motorcycles from parking charges. Modal shift from cars to motorcycles can be shown to have a positive impact on reducing air pollutants. This fact can reasonably be taken as at least part of the explanation for the 80% rejection of motorcycle parking fees. The strength of opinion against motorcycle parking fees therefore carries legitimacy and cannot be dismissed as the response of a poorly educated and selfish survey audience.
Hackney Council, however, disagree. An analysis of the consultation responses was produced by Council officers to assist the elected members in their deliberations. I would suggest that the report can reasonably be taken to reveal an active bias against motorcycling. As pointed out by campaigners the case for introducing motorcycle parking charges included factual errors.
On Monday 18th July, a deputation to the Council by MAG representative Cathy Phillpotts provided evidence demonstrating factual errors in the report. Looking at the wording of the report it is clear that these errors are directly used to contradict the wisdom of survey respondents. The report states:
“respondents felt motorcycles were better for the environment compared to cars, vans and lorries. However, this is contradicted by research that shows that motorcycles contribute heavily to dangerous nitrous oxide (NO2), and Particulate Matter (PM10) pollutants on a par with vehicle counterparts.”
Cathy’s deputation pointed to official national statistics produced by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which show that motorcycles produce around 70% less NO2 and 50% less PM than cars on a per kilometre basis. The error is not a question of degree, but a complete falsehood.
In the meeting the Council accepted that the report was erroneous and said they will correct the errors and reissue the report. Given that the corrections effectively remove the only argument against the 80% majority opposing motorcycle parking charges, you might think that the decision to introduce charges would be reviewed. However, Cllr Mete Coban (Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm), said they wouldn’t revisit the decision since the errors weren’t consequential.
It is hard to understand how factual inaccuracies that serve as the only justification for a policy decision can be viewed as inconsequential. The very basis for the Council decision has been accepted to be factually incorrect.
I would suggest that the Council’s decision demonstrates facts getting in the way of justification for a predetermined outcome. The Council is apparently willing to misrepresent and then ignore facts to bypass the will of its constituents. Is this how government should work in a democracy?
Please sign the petition raised by Save London Motorcycling at https://www.change.org/p/stop-plans-for-new-motorcycle-and-scooter-parking-charges-in-hackney-savehackneymc