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OPINION: Look after the pennies...

OPINION: Look after the pennies...

Monday 27 March 2023

OPINION: Look after the pennies...

Monday 27 March 2023


I may cause a debate with my cycling work colleagues over this topic so it's lucky for me I am working from home today so I can state without anyone around me that I think the new bicycle rack at the top of Smith Street is an utter waste of money.

I don't have any real opinion on bike racks - I don't cycle so I don't use them. However, I am all for anything that makes anyone's life easier, and more manageable.

We do, collectively, need to reduce the number of cars on the roads and encourage active travel but I fail to see how spending £4,800 on one piece of kit for the use of a maximum of ten bikes at a time goes any way towards doing that.

It's designed to look like a car, to show how much space is taken up by one car compared to ten bikes. Is that an insult to our intelligence or what? I think we all know that bikes are smaller.

One problem I have with this bike rack is that it's incongruous where it is, so it is a positive that it can be moved and used elsewhere.

I often go to, or walk through, Candie Gardens and the similar bike rack there, in the shape of a bike, doesn't cause the same rankling feeling as this car shaped one does. 

It's shaped like a bike for one thing, it fits in better with its surroundings, it was also paid for by a non-profit organisation which isn't directly responsible for spending tax payers money wisely. (Indirectly maybe through its States grants but I'm not going to nit-pick against the Health Improvement Commission). 

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Pictured: The bike shaped bike rack at Candy fits in much better with its surroundings than the one at the top of Smith Street.

The Smith Street bike rack is facing a wall...so only visible to those passing by on the pavement which corners the top of Smith Street/Hirzel Street, not the side visible to all passing traffic.

It's also been placed in a 30-minute parking space. So this moveable bike rack hasn't taken away a ten hour parking space to show how commuters could (and maybe should) cycle to work. It's taken away a spot most likely used by people 'popping into town'. From the top of Smith Street you can be on the High Street in less than a minute and with diminishing numbers of 30-minute spaces around town, did anyone ask the retailers what they think about removing another?

On to the money side of things, and spending £4,800 on one bike rack to prove a point is just not something I can agree with though.

£4,800 is a lot of money, and if you don't think it is then you clearly have a lot of money yourself.

I'm not blaming Traffic and Highways Services at all for spending money which is within their budget, on something which is within their remit to do. They have to manage our traffic infrastructure and the top of Smith Street is (I am told by my cycling colleagues) a very busy parking place for cyclists. 

I worry that the spending of £4,800 to prove a point on something which very few people would disagree with anyway is an example of a wider problem within our government. Recently we have been told services will be cut, service charges will rise, the pension age needs looking at again, health costs may go up, means testing may be needed for universal benefits, and so on. If money is that tight within the States why is money being spent on non-vital items? 

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Pictured: Our government tells us we're skint but then spends thousands on a gimmicky bike rack.

Some very basic maths follows, but I was thinking about what else £4,800 could pay for States-wise:

The GP subsidy is £12 per adult, so £4,800 would cover 400 patients's visits to their doctors.

£4,800 would cover 3,840 bus journeys at the current fare, which is already subsidised by our taxes.

It would cover 26 weeks for someone on long term sickness, or unemployment benefits.

A full States pension gives one person just under £13,000 a year to live off in their old age. Half would be covered by the cost of one bike rack.

For one adult earning around £35,000 a year, £4,800 is nearly 1/6th of their annual net earnings. 

£4,800 would be around three months wages for someone working full time on minimum wage.

Child care fees vary but I had a quick look around and for someone needing nursery care for around five hours per day, five days per week, £4,800 would cover maybe five months worth.

It costs around £10,000 to educate a child for one year in a States school - so this bike rack costs half of one year's schooling for one child. 

Paying privately for a hip replacement costs around £10,000 and with around 800 people waiting for orthopaedic surgery in Guernsey currently, £4,800 could go someway towards taking the pain away for at least one of them.

It may not be a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, with committee budgets of tens of millions of pounds a year to manage and improve our collective lifestyles, but as the old saying goes if you look after the pennies, the pounds look after themselves.

With States expenditure on things which may comparatively cost pennies continuing, despite the island's wider fiscal challenges, it does make one wonder about the pounds. 

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