My good friend Chris Hutt died on Saturday. He lived in Bristol and was a hero for cycling and the environment, dedicating huge chunks of his time to improving our streets and trying to turn the tide of increasing motorization. We are all fortunate that he started the Green Bristol Blog in May 2008, so we have two years of his detailed thoughts and analysis recorded. As he wrote in his first post, “At the very least (the blog is) no more than a personal record of my thoughts and deeds, recorded for my dotage so that I can see that I was once a literate and rational person (or so I now think) and of course something for posterity, to show the future world that I once existed and thought.” His blog became the go to place for transport campaigners and politicians alike as the caliber of discourse around transport issues was so high. As a politician, you ignored his blog at your peril.
He was one of those rare human beings who lived for the truth. He tirelessly and selflessly worked on his own time to improve our public streets and pathways. He was not stifled or led astray by corporate smoke and mirrors- in fact he had become quite disillusioned about what Sustrans- the organization he helped start- had become in recent years, and he provided a lot of background for my article about the organization last year.
He realized that what we were up against was not just bad policies, but something more deeply rooted- he coined the term on his blog last month, “Institutional Motorism – a deep rooted prejudice in favour of motorised traffic at the expense even of the safety, let alone the convenience, of those that dare to travel on foot or bicycle.” May the memory of his life inspire us to dig this fetid beast up by the root and replace it with something more beautiful, kind and humane.
I met Chris by chance the week I moved to Bristol in 2006 when he was sitting outside the YHA Hostel by the harbourside, where he liked to sit and watch the world go by. In the last year I was in Bristol, we had grown quite close and we often had long talks about transport, morality and politics. He thought the world of me, and I of him. I’d often come upon him riding his pink bike on the Bristol Bath path, and we would have good natured races- after he almost beat me last summer, he said, “not bad for an old man, eh?” He was always so kind to me, and to others, but you could tell that the injustice of the world hurt him deeply- he saw clearly that the people who are doing the most to preserve the world as we know it- those getting around by bike and foot- are also those who are suffering the worst impacts of our car dependent system.
A part of me thinks he was aware that he was not long for this world- the fervor with which he campaigned for a sane and humane transport system has been terribly important for the development of Bristol’s livable streets movement, but it was not personally sustainable. As he wrote to me a month before his death, “I’ve been blogging/campaigning more or less non-stop for a year and a half and haven’t had a decent holiday for years. I know Bristol is just a drop in the ocean of humanity but it’s the drop where I can have some influence so I feel obliged to do what I can.”
Sadly, we won’t be reading any further posts on the Green Bristol Blog, but we can honour his memory by ensuring that the Bristol and Bath pathway that he was partly responsible for creating (and defending in recent years), is protected from development and diesel fumes forever. Step up, Bristol City Council.
Chris, may you cycle forever on continuous, sunny cycle paths through the fields with clean air, and look down at your friends carrying on the good work that you did. We already miss you so much.