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Not a Vision

1 November 2015 No Comment

HackCambridge took place over the weekend of 31 Oct and 1 Nov 2015 with the objective of getting a bunch of geeks to contribute ideas which might help the citizens of Cambridge to lead more satisfying lives. Anybody who knows Cambridge will quickly understand that this involves (largely but not exclusively) getting cars, buses and bikes to move along the highways more efficiently.

Many serious hacks were completed and presented, and although mine was clearly tongue in cheek on the one hand, I was also trying to make a serious point. We can all talk around a subject for generations, and tinker at the edges, yet nobody has the courage to say what really needs to be said and then actually do something about it!

So here you are . . . a transcript of the 5 minute presentation I gave . . . in full . . .


Not a Vision

I am delighted to have this opportunity to tell you about “Not a Vision”.

“Not a Vision” is not a vision for the future of Cambridge . . . it’s more like an hallucination.

Are we agreed that Cambridge is a good city?

What would make Cambridge a great city?

In his book “Good to Great” Jim Collins tells us about examples of good organisations and great organisations. And he focuses on the “what” in the question “what is it that makes a good organisation a great organisation?”

I can’t summarise the whole book in 3 minutes, so I want to focus on just one the factors which Jim Collins identified:

Great organisations are not afraid to ask the question . . . and are not afraid to answer the question . . .

“Just tell me the brutal facts?”

The Brutal Facts

So here are the brutal facts:

There are too many people in Cambridge . . . but that’s not true . . .

  • There are too many people in Cambridge travelling by car . . . on the road that I want to use.
  • There are too many people in Cambridge travelling by bus . . . on the route that I want to use.
  • There are too many people in Cambridge travelling by bike . . . on the road that I want to use.

And here’s another shockingly brutal fact . . .

It’s not just Cambridge . . .

  • Canterbury
  • Glasgow
  • Bristol

. . . all have the same issues. It’s the whole country . . .

  • including the Periphique . . . ah . . . that’s in Paris
  • and all the roads leading into Berlin
  • and the whole of the island of Manhattan
  • Los Angeles is gridlocked
  • Toronto is gridlocked
  • Geneva is gridlocked

The whole Western World is gridlocked!

  • Beijing is gridlocked
  • New Dehli is gridlocked
  • Mexico City is gridlocked

The entire world is gridlocked, or shall we say . . . every major population centre in the world suffers acute traffic congestion.

So I have some good news for you . . . Cambridge . . . you are not alone!

Another Brutal Fact

And another brutal fact . . .  Einstein was right when he said . . .

“We can not solve our problems by using the same level of thinking we used when we created them”

So I have some bad news for you . . .

  • Cambridge . . . it’s your fault!
  • Her Majesty’s Government . . . it’s your fault!
  • Barack Obama . . . it’s your fault!
  • The Powers That Be . . . in every nation on the planet . . . it’s your fault.

And what is it that you’ve done? You’ve made car ownership . . .

  • too easy
  • too cheap, and
  • too practical

The solution is to make car ownership . . .

  • too difficult
  • too expensive, and
  • too dysfunctional


What’s the real solution . . . ?

Come on? Have I not telegraphed this enough?

[Audience participation took place]

Yes!! Pedestrianise the whole of Cambridge city centre!!

  • no cars
  • no buses
  • no taxis, and
  • a smaller (and very central) bicycle exclusion zone

What’s wrong with that?

[Pause for eye contact with judges]

Not radical enough?

We were given the true answer yesterday. Alex said it in his intro . . .

“If the solution doesn’t involve flying cars or monorail then I’m not interested.”

Cambridge . . . not just Cambridge . . . every population centre on the planet . . . needs a pedestrianised city centre and a widespread monorail network.


I’m seeking cofounders now, and investors too, for my new monorail start up which begins today!


You think I’m crazy? Well let me finish with this famous monologue. . . .

The Crazies

So here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently . . .

. . . they’re not fond of rules.

You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them, because they change things . . . they push the human race forward and while some may see them as the crazy ones we see the genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world . . . are the ones that do.


Dozens of monorail systems are now in operation around the world. When I was a kid (1960s and 1970s) only two functional ones existed. There was one at DisneyLand and one in Tokyo serving Haneda airport. I hadn’t realised how much this sector has developed recently, and I  found this fascianting video from one of the four current manufacturers.

Innovia Monorail 300 from DGDESIGN on Vimeo.

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