Autobots or a Global Decepticon?
The Militarisation of Pedestrian Air Space
Part one dealt with how the news haulage industry perverted the course of justice ahead of Charlie Alliston’s unprecedented prosecution for cycling manslaughter. Part two covered his show trial crucifixion. Part three, revealed a wider concerted effort to destroy freedom of movement, and here I’ll predict the future, made easy because patents of today are the technologies implemented tomorrow.
Transport Minister, Jesse Norman, announced August 21st that there will be an “urgent” two phase rewrite of UK traffic law. The pretence is a moral panic over one death by careless cycling, but this belies a move towards mass surveillance and imposition of a ground traffic control system where anything moving is electronically tagged. That means you. Don’t believe me? Read on.
How Volvo drives a false Autonomy
Rumbling in the mines of Scandinavia, Volvo have been quietly developing underground drones. To claim full autonomy, they’ve attached a LIDAR laserbeak, RADAR, soundwave sensors and optics to a regular diesel FMX. In September 2016, they debuted “the world’s first self-driving truck” releasing video of senior advisor, Torbjörn Holmström, testing out their collision detection capabilities in the flesh.
However, things aren’t what they seem because this new technology is incredibly dependent on a built environment full of squawkbox sensors and surveillance. One also wonders why Holmström had his headlamp turned off for the collision test yet on afterwards.
“There’s a ground traffic controller that sits at the surface that oversees the entire operation, from blast to transport.”
Speaking to Popular Mechanics in May 2016 in a video revealingly titled “Putting the truck before the car”, Holmström describes an operation buzzing with wireless communications. A central traffic management system is used to govern routing and tracks all moving objects whether person or machine. This implies radio beacons for all humans and/or vision systems built into the walls. GPS signals don’t carry a kilometre below ground, but even if they did positioning has inaccuracies up to a hundred metres. This is one reason why “self-driving” vehicles count wheel revolutions to assist self-location. Down in the mine trucks triangulate themselves using a local mesh network of static radio towers whilst broadcasting back their position to a central traffic controller. This can then govern routing, predict collisions and issue commands to even halt vehicles or warn people in dangerous situations.
One should also suspect that their system doesn’t rely on self-reporting alone and the static sensor network constantly tracks moving objects as part of a verification process. In that way Unidentified Ground Objects that can’t, won’t, or refuse to register locations can be monitored for and perhaps neutralised.
The important idea here is that Volvo have been training computerised machines to interact with people wearing radio beacons, hard hats, and full length retro-reflective clothing. What you see is what we get.
Volvo are also keen players in the “road safety” movement. In December 2016, they started a “Stop Look Wave” initiative which is an attack on the minds of children across the world. Translated into at least twelve languages — Korean to Polish — this is a comprehensive package they describe as:
“…a global campaign to keep children safe in traffic [which includes] inspirational training material in an easy-to-use format for parents, teachers, government officials, and other actors to train children…”
Basically the kit includes exercises indoctrinating children to think “road safety” is them having the responsibility of avoiding vehicles. They are familiarised with people needing to wear retro-reflective clothing at all times, day or night, and at the end of their programming they even receive a mock pedestrian license. Transitioning such requirements to cycling would come “naturally” for such students.
Volvo’s Life Paint
Although initially launched a year before, Volvo pushed another “road safety” initiative in December 2016 — one seemingly commercial and this time thrust on cycling. They developed a spray containing retro-reflective plastic micro-beads for fabrics, helmets and shoes. Their advertising video (as sampled below) was eventually banned because they misled the effectiveness on hard surfaces. For that they used a second, which curiously is low-visibility grey during the day but highly white reflective under headlight.
Volvo are very keen for users to spray their shoes, helmet and arms. It’s as if they’ve been training their vision systems to recognise people cycling by their retro-reflective pentagram.
LIDAR stands for “Light Detection and Ranging” which is the same technology that makes digital tape measures, speed cameras, and the looming false autonomy of vehicles plausible. Such devices pulsate invisible light for a receiver to capture any signal reflected back. The time delay is how distance can be measured and intensity can inform on what material got in the way. Problems are immediately apparent when looking at images produced by LIDAR units in cars, because who knows what pedestrian menace could be lurking in the shadows?
If you return to the images of Torbjörn Holmström (or visit the full video if not done so) you’ll notice that his light was off, but he was wearing his yellow suit and helmet. That’s LIDAR in action handing off we presume to echo location for the final metre. It doesn’t need bright visible colours to function nor even daylight, and works best against hard surfaces that don’t scatter or absorb light. Better still is retro-reflectivity — think cats eyes, road signs, license plates, and car head lights — any surface that can reflect light directly back towards the source.
With a reflectivity index of around 5%, tracking the fuzzy hair and black lycra of those jogging or cycling would be like tracking a nightbird for LIDAR systems even in the day. By comparison tarmac has more than three times the luminosity. Holmström may have appeared to us as some shadowy figure but to their machines his signature would be overkill.
Volvo and Microsoft partnership with HoloLens
Volvo say their integration with Microsoft’s HoloLens “mixed reality” headset is about selling and designing cars, but I’m not so sure. There’s the obvious driver vision augmentation where a robocar could illuminate emerging threats a human might not be able to perceive like black ice, debris, or even plot direction routes onto the landscape for them to follow. (I’m sure some of these holo-cinations will also be tailored advertising.)
However futuristic self-piloting concept cars are presented, they always include that male-nipple runt of a steering wheel. Perhaps it’s decorative, or only there for special occasions like those found in underground car parks, secluded country tracks and any other place outside the reach of Google’s Panoptimus Prime.
Other scenarios might include ferrying children around who only have walking licenses (or those that don’t), or when drivers have had one too many for the road. What then? Perhaps it will be like calling a bank: you get a robot doing the easy work but any complex task is outsourced to human intelligence. The same may happen for drones when there are no cheaper alternatives, and the games children are encouraged to play today are likely the jobs of tomorrow.
Motorways for the most part are already sterile environments primed for drones, and that’s where the first test runs of “smart” HGVs are scheduled in earnest starting from next year. Millions of pounds have already been spent installing cameras and electronics to create “smart motorways”, and like down in the mine, they are already governed by ground traffic control. Sign based commands are issued from regional traffic centres to drivers but unlike the perfect drone, a human may not obey. Rather than installing all this expensive infrastructure surely it would be cheaper (for them) to have road users buy heads up display like Google Glass and HoloLens.
Once in urbanised areas driving gets trickier. It could be the case that motorway service terminals of the future could be converted into driver barracks for whenever a drone wants to leave its safespace and is in need of a human chaperone.
Perhaps an environment with even more difficulty is the narrow country lane that might have too low traffic to justify an indulgence of positioning electronics. Here, the potential for roaming auto-tractors or drones filled with fracking fluid makes conflict with vulnerable road users an increasing risk. That could explain the hysterical attacks coming from Irish farming and road haulage associations who want cycling licensed or preferably removed entirely. Likewise that could suggest the real motive being a flurry of professionally made anti-cycling posters that appeared in Dublin around the same time as the attacks. Trinity Mirror was of course on hand to boost negative promotion. Too slow, too fast, a dig at black lycra. Too many Irish cyclists voting for Trump…
Back to HoloLens, when combined with a live data feed this technology would be sufficient to provide remote assistance whenever humans need to pinch back the steering wheel.
Like at the supermarket where an overseer manages perhaps a dozen or so unpaid self-checkout drones beeping through their weekly sundries, the same idea can be applied for any type of vehicle whether carrying vegetable, animal or mineral. This may be the route through which Autono-mutopians solve their biggest problem after cycling: going from zero (false) automation to full decepticon.
As humans increasingly devolve into drones, a transitioning person becomes the weakest link as skills atrophy yet will still be expected to deal with the most difficult scenarios. One can easily imagine this can be solved by having a hive mind of former gaming enthusiasts operating like a silent valet service. The decepticon can be transitioned with a seamless hand-off between car drone to office drone then back again, and the occupants may never need to know.
Such new forms of motoring technology might be reason enough for a full rewrite of the Road Traffic Act and liability issues abound, so all the fuss over Alliston was probably not about a boy.
Wider Patents Pending
Vehicle vision systems and retro-reflectivity
The basic form of a rollo-bot regardless of manufacturer has a rough standardisation of components. All are trying to solve the same problem so naturally they have converged towards the same sensor technologies:
Sonar (or echo location) although very precise is only accurate up to three metres or so, good for parking but not much else.
LIDAR has a longer range up to perhaps 50 metres, but suffers in rain, fog and snowy conditions similar to the human eye. Expensive but getting cheaper.
Radar is perhaps too good, passing through atmospheric noise but being reflected off essentially every solid mass leading to messy reflections. A high enough density of drones may even struggle to hear themselves think.
Computer vision is equivalent to human eyesight so benefits and drawbacks can easily be imagined.
GPS is also useful but flawed having a low accuracy when not used alongside a local positioning system similar to the mesh networks described in Volvo’s mining operations.
As early as 1990, technocrats were filing patents on LIDAR retro-reflectors embedded in road surfaces to facilitate navigation. Another from 2011 uses retro-reflectivity and image processing to distinguish between rear and forward facing vehicles. (I didn’t find an equivalent patent dealing with cycling.) Google has one on determining whether a surface is wet or dry. Luminar filed new patents in 2016 so this important technology in active development.
A theme for vehicle recognition systems is the reduction of an object down to a static pattern which persists across a sequence of images (ie live video). From 2004, patent US6711280 details how this can be achieved by using a vehicle’s retro-reflective lights and license plate as a signature. Combined with stereoscopic vision metrics like position, size, distance, and acceleration can be calculated by the viewer. In short, these systems are constantly looking for lifeless robotic faces in their vision clouds: -_-
One may perceive how the agile nature of someone walking or cycling and their dancing feet will make for a rapidly changing signature not easily tracked. Someone cycling parallel but close to a car might even be confused for being a tail light. That could explain why Australian and other news trolls always complain about “weaving in and out of traffic” and have been demanding people cycling give motorists an “equal” 1.5m birth when overtaking.
Likewise, someone cycling and naturally wobbling from side to side could induce a panic in a drone not knowing which way they will go and then there’s the problem discerning arm signals. Researchers still doubt that today’s technology can perform any better than humans at this task.
“Bicycles are probably the most difficult detection problem that autonomous vehicle systems face,” says UC Berkeley engineer Steven Shladover, 2017.
Heather Knight, Computer Science Professor at Oregon State University, was more forthright. She made headlines by saying “Bikers Will Die”. She estimated that Telsa Autopilot could only classify 1% of those cycling and issued a warning…
…given the lives at stake, people should NEVER USE TESLA AUTOPILOT AROUND BICYCLISTS! [her emphasis]
Ontario based Magna International is perhaps the largest motor manufacturer you’ve never heard of. With a revenue of 36 billion US dollars, they provide components (including vision systems) to General Motors, Ford, Tesla, Toyota, BMW, and others. In 2016 they filed for a vehicle LIDAR patent which uses a retro-reflector pattern recognition system combined with a database of known signatures. Reproduced here are key sections rewritten in a readable English but retaining original meaning:
…the database may include retroreflector patterns on carried items like satchels, backpacks or purses, or items worn like vests, jackets or shoes…
And such systems would want to see…
…reflectors on bicycles, tricycles, rickshaws, scooters, quarts, rollerblades, skate boards, longboards, kids toys (such as Bobby-Cars™ or the like)…
…reflectors worn by (dogs, horses, etc.) or humans, such as shoes, socks, jackets, pants, helmets, glasses, umbrellas, bags, satchels, seats, cellphones, decorative elements, backpacks or students’ satchels or the like…
Such retro-reflectors may comprise a predetermined pattern on clothing or carried items to enable machine identification.
These patterns may be [standardised] by [product manufacturers]and the automotive industry, or may be set by a consortium or by law. [Meta-data invisible to humans] may be embedded in the [retroreflective properties] of an element, for example whether or not a horse is insured against third party risk, the horse rider is a beginner or advanced.
That’s a highly specific piece of information needed by a computer vision system that would only be used to police economic crime or to determine who best to crash into should the event horizon.
The unseen psyop and the minion mind mold
Perhaps it’s time to take those curious pedestrian flags seriously, and it’s not about people but about drones. In 2004 they appeared in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Take It To Make It” flags in Washington.
In December 2016 they appeared in Cupertino, home of Apple Inc (another company developing pseudo-autonomous cars).
Drones are going to be a bit like dogs but without the charm. They are going to make a mess on the pavement and only see in two colours.
Parallel parking along side this toxic meme have been moves within elite fashion to illuminate the world by embedding an order of retroreflective plastics into consumer clothing and accessories. This is the vision of the future as sewn by Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Anya Hindmarch back in 2013:
Incidentally, that small Eddie Stobart clutch bag looking like a cheap child’s pencil case originally retailed for 858£, and much of the collection even conformed to industrial health & safety standard, SEN1150. Such requirements include roughly an A4 sized area of retroflectivity, use on sleeves should they exist, and even stipulation of the number of laundry cycles because hard plastics don’t survive long in the washing machine.
The last image was still the fashion show, but reminded me of another cinematic meme that has been normalising and no doubt incepting positive associations for dayglow roundheads into many an impressionable mind.
Magna International has a patent section preoccupied with measures to identify children no doubt because that would generate the fiercest public backlash. Taking their plan of classifying all manner of persons by retro-reflectivity patterns one can imagine where the inspiration ends. The neo-neo chain-gang for an auto-auto world.
If you can’t engineer a smart enough artificial intelligence, engineer a dumb enough population. Forcing armbands on people as part of a classification scheme makes me a little uneasy, but at least this time the general motoring industry isn’t moving towards a final solution although that could still be a trump card.
Ground Control to Mister Tom
Ground Control to Mister Tom
Ground Control to Mister Tom
Have you taken your location pill and put your helmet on?
Ground Control to Mister Tom
Commencing countdown, engines on
Check recognition and may Ford’s love be with you
This is Ground Control to Mister Tom
You’ve really failed the grade
And the papers want to know the colour shirt you wear
Now wasn’t time to forego the capsule as you dared
This is Mister Tom to Ground Control
After crashing against the door
I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the people are looking in dismay
I could’ve been sitting in a tin can
Gliding through the world
Planet Earth mapped and true
And there was nothing I needed to do
Though I saw one hundred robot smiles
I’m feeling very ill
And that spaceship didn’t know which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much so she knows
Ground Control to Mister Tom
Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong
Can you hear me, Mister Tom?
Can you hear me, Mister Tom?
Militarisation of pedestrian airspace
The emerging “smart city” should be rapidly coming into focus and it’s something like a company town version 2.0.
Limiting liabilities of all lifeforms
So far motor manufacturers have outsourced liability to whoever bought the car. It’s the driver who has to ensure good maintenance and would (in theory) be prosecutable after collisions. At the same time the costs of building infrastructure and dealing with motoring violence are socialised. Taxes pay for roads, repairs, police, legal aid, judge salary, health services, paramedics, and disability payments. This can be all justified and accepted because everyone is a motorist, right? At the same time, car manufacturers lobbied for pathetically weak motoring offences and weaker enforcement to create a system of driver impunity.
Increasingly though car sharing services like Uber and Lyft transition to fully automated fleets and want rid of human agents. They’ll be the owner and the absentee driver so would be accountable for failure unless they can further expand their corporate structure of limited liabilities. No one is likely to be imprisoned but civil suits are a business threat and these can be avoided in various ways:
- alter law to maximise the number of ways a victim can be blamed;
- maximise the likelihood that juries will side with drivers;
- move matters of road violence to the private courts of insurance companies;
- privatise road networks and make your own laws;
- re-engineer humans as drones;
- or eliminate humans as far as possible through highway cleansing.
Perhaps a more urgent task is making sure your incredibly large investments see no economic competition. Should the driverless utopia deliver safety as promised what is stopping people moving to free forms of transport, bike hire, or low-cost light-weight electric alternatives to the car? China already has 200 million electric bikes in use which could rise to 2 billion. No wonder the world’s auto manufacturers wrote a letter to China wanting them to stop imposing electric car quotas and nuclear war is threatened on its border. This is just the latest in a history of anti-competitive moves by the steal-n-oil industry to block alternatives including sitting on battery patents, subverting biofuels under the guise of the Anti Saloon League, blocking hemp car production for 80 years, and General Motors killing off then literally crushing all of the electric cars they produced.
In previous years the violence of the public highway has been a feature, it’s been one of the main reasons why people have kept driving despite average speeds in urban areas being as slow as chickens. An electric bike or even a modestly fit pair of legs already provide the fastest, cheapest most convenient transport available. If you can’t beat the competition, beat the competition.
Pounding more patents
In 2014 Melvin White Junior filed a patent for a “smart” motorcycle backpack with optional GPS tracking. In 2015 Tech firm OxTS started selling a backpack to drone manufacturers wanting to test pedestrian tracking systems. They boast of real-time 200m range capabilities with a 2cm accuracy facilitated by wireless local area networks.
In July 2017, Australian telecommunications giant, Telstra, announced their new mobile phone application which continually broadcasts the owners location. They claim “smart cars” with compatible sensor technology will be able to avoid collisions by tracking these signals. The technology would also enable two-way messaging which examples a broader industry standardisation around “Vehicle-2-X” communications where X equals vehicle, pedestrian or infrastructure.
Probably deliberately, News Corp advertised Telstra’s technology by using a terrified human and a smirking motorist and it’s no wonder. Forcing others to adopt electronics that only the auto-industry needs is one way of outsourcing infrastructure expense whilst raising the costs of competing forms of transport.
Dr Gollakota reckons that such chips can be made for less than 20 cents each and can be detected at ranges of hundreds of metres. With a power consumption of just 20 millionths of a watt, a standard [Apple] watch battery should keep them going a decade or more.The researchers are keeping quiet about the orders they have received, but early applications could be medical. The team have incorporated the chips into contact lenses and a skin patch.
My money is on them being integrated into mobile devices to track people within a Differential GPS system where local area networks of predetermined static ground transmitters relay standard GPS data along with their own location. Receivers then triangulate relative position reducing 10–100m GPS errors to under 5cm. (That’s also a summary of how Volvo’s mining environment operates.)
There may be a time in the near future when a pedestrian will be blamed for their own death because they were not using a mobile, and would explain why Google Glass, HoloLens and other devices are seeing so much investment.
Deep learning from a deeper state
The UK government has been wanting warrant-less retention of communications data, which has seen resistance from the European Court of Justice (#brexit). They have also been trialling “public emergency mobile phone alerts” which will be very useful for drone operators who want the ability to message pedestrians. (That’s probably better seen in a heads up display like HoloLens.)
Jeff Peters of Vehicle Tech Venture Capital — a former systems engineer for arms manufacturer Northrop Grumman — went further than most. He’s floated the idea of radio-tagging everyone so a system can fail gracefully by crashing into low value targets to save superior lives:
[Studies have shown] people intervene to save younger, fitter people with higher perceived social values (doctors over criminals, for example). To handle these relative preferences, we could equip people with beacons on their cellphones to signal nearby cars that they are a certain type of person (child, elderly, pedestrian, cyclist). Then programmers could instruct their autonomous systems to make decisions [on who to kill] based on [society’s preferences].
Everyone should know that the US police state uses jaywalking laws and bicycle offences to shut down political protest and disproportionately criminalise ethnic minorities.
How the West laughs at China and their social media scores but such a system described by Peters needs something similar here. “Smart streets” could use “smart phones” to track for “smart people” of high economic value, determining the most acceptable kill zones by aggregating iGDP scores in a given area. Points can be deducted for misbehaviour like cycling without a helmet. People not wearing their assigned yellow vest — which may or may not be a lawful requirement in future — can be run over with full knowledge of a limited liability. People in wheelchairs will have a particular retro-reflective signature. Women earning less than men will be of course at a disadvantage, but we could always just have the system run passively by assuming whoever has the most expensive vehicle should be sacrificed last.
Eugenic principles may become overt law, but surely we’d have heard about this on the BBC, or from other broadcast media outraged that a nanny state might want a return to the 1920's, when kings could be kings, men could be men, Fleet Street had its Lords, and peasants could be ran down with a fuller impunity?
The News Haulier’s Way
Pictured above is an example of a printing and distribution centre owned by News International. Paper is hauled in and out smears the Times, Financial Times, the Daily Mail’s Metro & Evening Standard, the Sun, the Daily Telegraph, and all manner of other commercial magazines loaded with car advertising.
Not much has changed. Around the turn of the 20th century the major industrialists moved towards using mass produced media to exert their economic and political control. Henry Ford used his to ‘inspire’ Germany towards a holocaust. Ontario born, Max Aitkin used wealth generated in various industries like insurance and steel to become Britain’s official and unofficial Minister of Information. He bought the London Evening Standard, the Express, the London Globe, and used his media empire to attack rivals and promote friends. Amongst other targets Aitkin (now known as Baron Beaverbrook after being knighted by King George V) promoted Nazi appeasement, attacked Ethopian independence, and its claimed even aimed for black civil rights musician, Paul Leroy Robeson. He also had a huge stake in Rolls Royce.
Another heiling from Ontario was Roy Thomson, who went from selling radio to owning the Times, the Sunday Times, the Scotsman, and eventually over two-hundred publications across the US, UK and Canada. Money was also moved into North Sea oil, and his reward was a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire. Now known as 1st Baron of Fleet, his legacy lives on as Thomson Reuters with assets of 30bU$, and chairman David Thomson his grandson, the 3rd Baron of Fleet and Toronto.
Motoring and Media Cartels
In the US market and for the year 2015, motoring companies had three of the top eight largest advertising spends totalling 8bU$. This just continues a century of budgets buying adverts, anti-pedestrian opinion pieces, and other campaigns against the earliest victims of road violence. They even set up a news service which would take police crash reports, rewrite them to remove blame from the driver often condemning those killed or injured, and then passing them on to publishers who would hide source of authorship.
If a motorist runs down someone cycling, report “a cyclist hit a car”. Should a driver die, don’t detail their horrible painful death because that would hurt sales so instead drop hints about filling in potholes or installing better drainage.
The strategy was so effective they triumphed with “jaywalking” laws and massive car sales despite them being unsafe at any speed. The system still exists today somewhere between British police and the Press Association, Australia has Fairfax and News Corp, and in South Africa there is News24.
Cape Town - A cyclist died in Cape Town after the wind from a passing delivery van caused him to lose his balance and…www.news24.com
By news24: The accident occurred on Thursday on the Steenberg road as two cyclists were moving in the direction of Tokai. Police… www.all4women.co.za
But it’s not just true to say publishers might have automotive interests close to heart because that hides the deeper reality of them being an integral part of the motoring industry. News printers are news hauliers whose vehicles run on diesel and sometimes over vulnerable road users, so what is good for Volvo motors will in general be good for News International.
To operate a truck some 30% of costs is just paying the driver — I’m not sure if this includes training, sick pay, retirement plans, and any costly mistakes. If you could have your drivers travel 10% over the speed limit that could be a saving of up to 3% which could explain why news hauliers aggressively attack the legitimacy of speed cameras. Trinity Mirror is so embedded in the motoring industry they turn obstructing police business into a public service.
Most of Devon's speed cameras are well sign-posted and are housed in the familiar yellow boxes, and if you didn't see…www.devonlive.com
Most of the speed cameras situated in and around Bristol are well sign-posted and are housed in the all-too-familiar…www.bristolpost.co.uk
Mobile speed cameras will be out and about patrolling Nottinghamshire's roads over the coming days. Speed camera vans…www.nottinghampost.com
If this data isn’t being fed to drivers then head of logistics should be fired, and of course that technology already exists as part of a whole industry of speed camera counter measures. This reminds me of how in 1905 the Automobile Association had bicycle riders scouting round for police speed traps and relaying information back to member drivers.
Talking of which, if there is a technology that promises to remove drivers that would be great but better still would be transferring the expense to the public. Who will pay for all the road sensors and mesh networks demanded by haulage as it transitions to a false autonomy? That’s where public funds and induced motoring comes in, and in their world cycling would be a tax avoidance system.
There is none. The Guardian provide 2% of TNT’s total business and also have an in-house public relations team called Guardian Labs:
We’re tailor-made to deliver exceptional branded content, by bringing together world-class [artists], technology, and data expertise. Our team of over 130 specialists combine the best in editorial and multimedia talent, [delivering] our stories via a wealth of online and real-world products.
One such project was for SEAT cars who were looking to change perceptions about their brand and increase test-drives which was an explicit goal. The Guardian claim 6% increase in brand awareness, 2.5% increase in pre-orders, and 312 test-drives. Believing that the Guardian can promote cycling is like believing the Anglican church would recruit for a Russian synagogue.
Another example typifying the idea is the Evening Standard which is owned by the Daily Mail and Independent. They could not operate a fleet of 33 trucks serving 8000 London outlets if dangerous vehicles were banned from London. They’d also suffer increased costs if police aggressively pursued drivers who use mobile phones.
Some might say that reclassifying news-printers as news-hauliers has a short lifetime of utility due to online media being increasingly dominant. But publishers will still be advertising for the latest devices and any other products that will ultimately be hauled across the road network. As for digital and as I discussed, it is a medium that will be increasingly controlled by the motoring industry as it seeks privatisation of the public highway.
One thinks of the Guardian as a competitor to something like the Daily Mail, but really they are partners, and I mean that literally. Along with Murdoch’s News UK, Archant, Trinity Mirror Telegraph, and all the other main publishers, they share ownership of the Press Association Group which is a “public relations” firm that exists to not just report the news but to make the news. They were the manufacturer controlling reports on the Charlie Alliston showtrial down to the hour, and also delivered the announcement for the “urgent” legislative crackdown on cycling even before this was published on official government websites.
The Press Association is also the largest media training company in Europe, and are literally the ones that mostly decide who can officially call themselves journalists through NCTJ accreditation. Talking of which…
On Her Majesty’s Public Service
There’s a curious trend amongst prominent opinion havers who attack cycling in that they like cars, deny global warming, don’t like Russia, and tend to agitate in the direction of GCHQ. I’m not talking about James Bond but those like Times writer, NATO clerk and editor of The Economist, Edward Lucas. He thinks “we cyclists have to stop our lawless ways”. Others include SKY news actor, Adam Boulton, who thinks cyclists should be tested, licensed, and taxed, because they pose a danger similar to a communist missile threat.
But to really get insight to what the deep-state thinks of cycling one should look at Baron Carlile of Berriew who amongst other things was architect of the Communications Data Bill — aka warrantless mass surveillance but disarmingly known as “The Snooper’s Charter”. He also produced racist anti-terror legislation to target muslims, and is co-owner of a political risk consultancy firm with Sir John Scarlett, the former head of MI6.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 in March 2017, Carlile blamed the parliamentary terrorist attack on a cycle lane even though the perpetrator drove a car along an expanse of pavement, and concluded that no more should be built and any removed if necessary.
The deep state has already built a surveillance system around and throughout London with the capacity to track all number plates in real time. They call it “congestion charging”. To them unmonitored freedom of movement could be considered a threat to national security, and I’m sure they are salivating over the ability to stop driverless cars via a remote kill switch.
(If you want to really push the Overton window consider how the increasingly frequent and pointless terror attacks using weaponised vehicles against civilian targets, have rapidly created the “political will” to usher in driverless technology at home, and bomb abroad those arabs around oil fields outside NATO’s control.)
Returning to journalism, on September 22nd 2017, Janet Street-Porter ran an article attacking cycling in the Independent:
Cyclists are rude, abusive and uncivil but they do deserve more protection on our roads
I suppose this could be considered the sequel to her March 2016 piece:
Cyclists and their powerful backers are destroying London for the rest of us
The first was written to block cycle lanes being built, the second pivoted from attacking Charlie Alliston to lobbying for oppressive legislation under the guise of protecting cycling. She explains…
There are other aspects of cycling which demand attention — it should be a legal requirement to wear a helmet, as drivers and passengers have to wear seat belts. Children under a certain age should not be allowed to cycle on city roads without an adult accompanying them. Bells or horns should be mandatory. Anyone who rents a Boris Bike should have to hire a helmet, and be prepared to submit to a breath or drugs test.
Porter has had a long career in journalism and was promoted to Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire which is unsurprising — her father was a sergeant in the Royal Signal Corps during World War II. She’s been editor of the London Evening Standard, presenter on LBC radio, BBC commissioner, managing director of the Mirror group, and now exists as a free-range opinion editor who has previously called for NHS privatisation.
Another media personality and product is Katie Hopkins. Her life’s ambition was to work for British intelligence, but epilepsy saw her instead move to the corporate world. Facilitated by the BBC and Lord Alan Sugar saw a return to prominence as a hate preacher and inverse anti-semite. She’s called for immigrants to be “gunned down”, demanded a “final solution” to the Muslim problem, and aggressively promotes Israel. It’s unsure whether her 35 year contract with the military was actually annulled or extended.
Another one of her targets for elimination is cycling and she really hates lycra (with a reflectivity index in the single digits I remind you). From 2015…
Cyclists live, breathe, drink anger. I’d ban them from London City #KatieRules
In 2016 she was using her LBC radio show claiming that “we give cyclists too much freedom over our roads”, and signed off on the subject February 2017 with a final tweet:
I hate cyclists, am not vegan, love Trump. And think global warming is bolllards.
LBC radio is a London based broadcaster owned by Charles Allen, Baron of Kensington. He was director of Tesco, CEO of ITV television, was chairman of the Labour Party, and now owns one of Britain’s largest meat hauliers.
I hope by now it should be obvious that the parts of government you don’t get to vote for run the press like the Roman Catholic Church ran medieval Catholicism. The giants of industry and the ruling aristocracy assert their opinions through an irreligious priesthood of various shades of self-awareness. It’s in the opinion pieces they commission, the headlines, the stories written or spiked, and the reader’s letters they cherry pick from the online mail bag. They ready the populous to accept particular ideas at particular times and there’s a current drive to Make Automotion Great Again. Part of that is running over unmonitored freedom of movement.
Surely cycling organisations and cycle journalists could mount la résistance?
An Inside Job?
One would think there could be resistance, but as we’ve seen publishers have an environment that guides business practices along the same evolutionary path which seems to be sell cars or die trying.
Road.cc has a habit of laundering “sexed up” press releases and seems to be plugged into something like a Press Association feed for cycle shaming videos. They aren’t known for robust investigative pieces but reviews for products and the like.
“…on course to become the number one UK provider [for automotive content] not only in terms of reach and reputation but the revenue that goes with it”.
They also own Autoexpress, Buyacar, Carbuyer, Driverpower, Enzo, Evo, Land Rover Monthly, Octane, and Vantage. There is just no imperative to put the iron horse before the cartel.
There’s a very narrow selection of people that get to represent cycling in the main news haul. Dominant voices include Andrew Gilligan, Carlton Reid, Martin Critchlow, Peter Walker, and something of a token female, Laura Laker. They’ve all — to a greater or lesser extent — ingratiated themselves to cycle campaigners in superficial ways whilst fundamentally damaging the cause.
Reid wrote some popular books Roads were not built for cars and Bikeboom that pandered to his target demographic. However, he’s consistently undermined the strongest cycle campaign message demanding “space for cycling” to mean cycling with cars.
“The beauty of #space4cycling is how it means different things to different people. “Space” is vague.”
Reid also ran damage limitation for a bus lobbyist who was rumbled spreading fake news about cycle lanes causing pollution. He assured us that “Professor” Begg “was on the side of the angels” being a cycling advocate too, yet was strangely reluctant in telling readers about Begg’s employment at one of Britain’s largest bus operators. It’s no wonder Reid gets regularly published in the Guardian and even once under a Rockerfeller sponsorship softly encouraging the idea that cycle infrastructure wasn’t a necessary goal.
When asked why news hauliers attack cycling with so much misinformation Carlton replied:
It’s a spiral of journos reading other journos, and sniffing the wind.
Upwind from them I suppose would be Peter Walker, editor of the Guardian’s bikeblog which is statistically proven to be anti-cycling. He too has written a book which again panders to cycle campaign sensibilities called How Cycling Can Save the World. He first denies the media war on cycling exists, but when it does it’s driven by…
“…freelance feature writers spinning an extremely tenuous story which began as a conclusion borrowed from the fringes of the internet”.
Walker’s predictions — even in the short term — have been consistently “wrong”. He thought a government announcement announcing a change in cycle laws wasn’t going to amount to much, then he claims the more detailed announcement isn’t likely to happen. His current stance is cycling won’t suffer under a new road traffic act because…
“…[although] ministers want to help car firms they more urgently want to stop NHS & social care collapsing from a pandemic of inactivity.”
This comes after Labour MP and former shadow health secretary, Heidi Alexander, loomed large over cycling when asking Parliament to implement oppressive legislation.
Luckily for us Walker’s argument is self-refuting…
If you’d witnessed a group of print journalists trying to organise anything — even a trip to the pub — you’d see the impossibility of any sort of overt, organised managing of the media message.
…which means journalists who are paid to keep stories straight are incompetent and should be ignored, or you agree that the media war on cycling resembles something Lord Beaver brooks could have imagined.
Andrew Gilligan was a work of political genius. When Boris Johnson, was still not delivering on cycle lanes five years after being elected mayor of London, Gilligan was installed as his cycling commissioner. He worked a few days a week on a salary of 100k£ pro rata and generated great positive publicity for his boss. He was even the BBC’s moderate voice of cycling reason allowed to “oppose” Street-Porter’s wild claims about who was destroying London.
Gilligan has had an interesting career. He started at the fake local Cambridge Evening News, moved through the Daily Telegraph, and on to the BBC where he was picked up by Rod Liddle as Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent.
Like many people, I am worried that too few cyclists are being killed on our roads each year. This suggests to me that car drivers have become more accommodating in their behaviour towards these people and have lost their radical anti-cycling zeal.
Gilligan is most known for acting as opposition to the invasion of Iraq when he reduced a quest for oil control down to a couple of “sexed up” paragraphs about exaggerated WMD claims. If Peter Walker’s freelancers giddy on internet memes can run roughshod over editors, then perhaps the creative writing of an intelligence analyst can take a country to war.
In 2003 he quit the BBC and was offered a job at the Spectator by then editor, Boris Johnson, but moved to the Evening Standard later that year. In 2009 Gilligan became editor of The Daily and The Sunday Telegraph.
One may think then this insider would be well placed to offer nuance and detail regarding the media war on cycling, yet like the rest, he can only offer ahistorical nonsense and unexplanation:
You must remember that newspapers are not written for the benefit of the staff but for the benefit of the readers, and in the case of the Mail that’s old farts in the countryside who hate cyclists.
The reason newspapers often cover cycling is purely clickbait. You do something about cycling and you immediately get a thousand comments and it’s just the way it is. It’s truly weird.
I don’t know why it attracts such passions, I really don’t… I don’t know.
Unbelievable. Gilligan now works for the Policy Exchange, a post-cold war think-tank first founded by hauliers, who lobby for road privatisation and against public transport. Gilligan’s department even has a ten point plan to deal with London air pollution but strangely for this former London cycling “czar” cycling isn’t one of them.
Will Norman is Gilligan’s 2017 replacement. Prior to being made London Cycling Commissioner he worked streamlining global logistics for Nike and had Sainsbury’s workers closely integrate themselves with police via special constable training.
That leaves Critchlow, who is or was or wasn’t a cycling journalist at the Telegraph who would “happily pay a cycle tax” but thinks building more cycle lanes is a terrible idea. He joined the army as a grenadier guard occupying places like Northern Ireland, East Africa and the Middle East, before becoming Gulf OPEC correspondent and deputy bureau chief at Bloomberg. (He doesn’t want to be taken out and shot by John Stevenson.)
It’s essentially all Rupert Murdoch’s Team Sky with royal approval.
Sir Bradley told [the BBC] that helmets should be compulsory on the road and that it should be “illegal to have an iPod in while you’re riding your bike”.
Chris Hoy: my anger at dangerous road cyclists. ‘You’re not helping matters here. If you want respect you have to earn it.” (2014)
“Of course lycra makes cyclists look ridiculous. A lot of people think they have to wear something black or something Day-Glo [but] decent cycling clothing today is designed with reflective strips or subtle detailing. You’ll find that you can be seen just as well as you would in a builder’s fluorescent vest.” (2017)
F-PACE is Jaguar’s most practical sports car. Blending performance, intuitive technology, and agility. It supported Team Sky across the entire challenging route of the Tour de France.
Team Sky to use Ford vehicles in 2016 after Jaguar partnership ends
The Campaign Groups
We are Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking. We want to create a walking nation, free from congested roads and pollution, reducing the risk of preventable illness and social isolation and making walking the natural choice.
We are Sustrans. We are the charity that makes it easier for people to walk and cycle. We are grounded in communities and believe that grassroots support combined with political leadership drives real change, fast.
The AES Corporation is a Fortune 200 global power company … dedicated to … coal [75%], diesel, gas, oil, pet coke and [barely any] renewables.
Cycling UK has championed the cause of cycling for well over a century. We promote all forms of cycling, protect the interests of existing and would-be cyclists, and inspire people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to discover the joys of cycling.
The Queen is ‘not a fan’ of cyclists: The Queen let slip that she is no fan of cyclists as she sat for the photographer David Bailey, his son Fenton discloses. (2014)
A row has erupted between the Royal Parks and Boris Johnson as officials refuse to allow the mayor’s cycle superhighway route to run in front of Buckingham Palace, leaving a 300-metre gap in the protected lanes. (2015)
Speed bumps — to curb cyclists! Park forced to install ‘rumble strips’ to make 20mph bikes slow down. London’s Royal Parks are spending [tens of thousands] to slow down cyclists. (2016)
Others of lesser importance include Jeremy Vine, John Snow, and the useful stooges, Traffic Droid and “the most hated cyclist in Britain” Dave Sherry. The last pairing have been regularly exploited by SWNS and others like the BBC and ITV, to generate negative associations around cycling.
A Warning From Manchester
Manchester — as perhaps the world knows — is the heart of British Cycling and the speed junkies at Team Sky, so it’s unsurprising that we are seeing a rumbling of technological change and a high profile appointment within the city walls.
Sir Chris Boardman is the latest personality cycling has pinned hopes upon. In July 2017, he was made Manchester Cycling Commissioner which comes after a long and continuing career working alongside organisations threatened by movement free at the point of use. He’s worked with Sky, insurance company Aviva, and presents inbetween car adverts on ITV. His bicycle brand, Boardman Bikes, was picked up by Halfords, and above that lies CVC Capital. This same opaque global investor group owns RAC motor beakdown assistance, motorway service stations, oil pipelines and various other haulage interests.
Chris Boardman: riding a bike on UK roads feels too dangerous for me (Guardian August 31st 2017)
Imagine if Manchester’s Commissioner for Tourism said coming to visit Manchester feels too dangerous. For those that cycle this may feel like a representation of their cause but for others wanting to start, the message is a clearly dissuasion.
Et tu Chris Bé?
In the same article Boardman voiced sympathy for the driver who killed his mother. She was smashed from behind whilst cycling. The driver and passenger appeared in court today, September 25th, charged with perverting the course of justice by way of destroying evidence. The driver is charged with death by dangerous driving and both plead not guilty.
Mirroring Boardman’s driver sympathy and delivered the previous day, BBC Crimewatch presenter and cycling personality Jeremy Vine, made the curious comment of wanting to “apologise” to the driver who threatened to kill him. This seems playing to the crowd considering on the day of conviction he was retweeting a damning statement made by the accused.
BBC broadcaster Jeremy Vine said he regrets the fact the female motorist who screamed abuse at him during a road rage…www.coventrytelegraph.net
Jeremy Vine has said he regrets that a female motorist who screamed abuse at him during a road rage row while he was…www.standard.co.uk
CRIMEWATCH presenter Jeremy Vine says he regrets that the woman who screamed abuse at him in a road-rage row was jailed…www.thesun.co.uk
Both these examples can be compared to the blood lust for Charlie Alliston discussed in previous chapters.
Where as Vine seems to be an opportunist, the personal nature of Boardman’s still raw emotion sets him apart from the rest. It’s hard to believe he’s not genuine but with such close involvement it’s easy to believe he’ll raise the white flag in front of the coming haulage juggernaut. Especially worrying is what is happening on his watch and under his nose…
Autonomous vehicle trials
In April 2017 the Manchester Evening News reported on how driverless shuttles that “listen to your every [word]” could soon be ferrying passengers between Stockport railway station and Manchester Airport. This is right by the oldest pub in the area which is getting knocked down during a planned road expansion. The MEN using a petition set up by an ex-Shell employee created a fake news article shifting blame to a non-existent cycle lane. The MEN is owned by Trinity Mirror.
To fund this false autonomy, 5m£ of a 110m£ government funding scheme has been used to subsidise deployment of a few decepitcars for the road and a few ‘pods’ for use around the airport. Marketing boasts passengers along the 10km route so will have plenty of time to engage with the “interactive services, social media and buy duty free”.
“Traffic won’t work, there is nowhere to park the cars and yet this is the smarter way forward. We should take the cyclists out and shoot them.” Michael O’Leary (CEO of Ryan Air), 2016
On June 4th 2017, O’Leary restated his call for a cycling holocaust in the Irish Business Post under the title “Breaking the Cycle”. In response to forthcoming road law changes, journalist Catherine Healy claimed to be “clearing a path through the red mist” of cycle hatred but instead fanned the flames:
Michael O’Leary pulled no punches: “We are just fucking up this city. Headbangers in Dublin fucking Corporation [should focus on sensible solutions to traffic congestion rather than worrying about] fucking cyclists… I’d shoot them all”.
A Brief trip from Down Under
Channeling every single demand of the motoring industry was Australian designer, Toby King, in 2014. With a straight face the Daily Mail and Australian Telegraph would claim this could be the answer to cyclist registration…
If you can’t engineer a good enough artificial intelligence, engineer the world’s dumbest smart helmet. A heads up display, electronic beacon, brake lights, license plate, indicators. Who would want to cycle under such conditions? (Exactly.)
The See.Sense trojan horse box
The government has subsidised another Manchester transport scheme. Began literally on the day of Charlie Alliston’s showtrial, August 14th, nearly two-hundred riders have been given “smart lights” that enable a centralised hub ran by British Telecom to enable real-time tracking. Another feature is signaling patterns to those behind during turning events, but I doubt humans have the right cones to understand them. I suspect computers might actually be the target audience.
Here’s Professor John Davies, chief researcher of Future Technologies at BT:
“There are a wide range of opportunities emerging from the real-time data collected from the lights and other sources stored in our platform, bringing valuable insights for the city’s infrastructure and policies, and helping develop a safer and better cycling experience for the people of Manchester.”
The technology would also facilitate a better driving experience for Volvo’s or any other false autonomy by taking it from you and giving it to machines.
Back to Manchester Police jumping a red light
On September 15th, Greater Manchester police issued a hastily retracted decree along with a curious “road safety” diagram:
“Due to increased reports of inconsiderate cycling in Denton the team will be challenging / fining those not following good practice.”
In a follow up tweet after outraged replies, they offered the excuse that they have a “limited image bank” from which to choose from. Yet almost nothing about their infographic has anything to do with current laws governing cycling in the UK, but it does align precisely with the description of one of the patents previously discussed. The actual image hails from an Ontario government website, the home province of Magna International, and unsurprisingly there’s a french translation.
With everything now in place freedom of movement can be lost for a full ground traffic control system and militarisation of pedestrian air space. All that’s left is implementing a strategy to turn previously illegal behaviour into lawful actions, and previously lawful actions into illegal behaviour. First they came for the cyclists…
Forward Engineering the Road Traffic Act
Because people will want to link straight to the last chapter I’ll publish as a separate article. Link to follow.