Monday, 1 December 2014

The S Gloucs problem: the attitude to cyclists

During the the Bristol "crumbs to cyclists" event, praise was directed to the BB Railway Path: the jewel in the sustrans crown. In strava, a burning line between Bristol and Bath.

What nobody said was that the RP is now closed until march and that nearby residents are sabotaging cyclists detouring the closure. As that is what is happening.

A road bridge is closed for repairs. This was meant to be for 12 weeks, but now the signs say 32 weeks. 

If that had happened to the M32 there'd be outrage, the local press attacking the council and the repair teams. As its the cyclists, nobody gives a fuck. Not the press, not the council, not the repair team.

The cyclists? They get to detour onto roads where cycling is so unusual that they have to put up signs saying "cyclists on the road". Think about that: a warning that there may be cyclists. 

This is near two schools, on roads so narrow that half the cars have to park on the pavement, yet roads a few hundred metres from the Railway Path. There's nary a sign on these roads saying "cycle to Bristol, 30 minutes". Some temporary diversion signs have been put up,  but for the permanent residents there's been no attempt to show them that there is an alternative route to the city that doesn't involve traffic jams, parking problems, waiting at lights and generally having a miserable journey.

As a result, the locals appear to live a miserable life completely isolated from cycling —and viewing cyclists as intruders on "their streets". 

We know this because some of the people are putting down tacks on the detour. This isn't somewhere in the New Forest where a 1000 riders on a sportive are a threat to rural calm. This is an alleyway in one of the UK's showcase "Cycling Cities".

The original detour sent cyclists through this little alleyway. Only it turns out that this isn't "an adopted road", and cyclists are effectively trespassing. The locals, instead of not giving a fuck, or even using the route themselves, started off shouting at cyclists, and have now resorted to putting down tacks on the path.

The council? No attempt at negotiating a settlement -a carrot like getting the roadworks team to pay some compensation, or threatening them with change "we will adopt this road", or a bigger stick "anyone putting down tacks will be prosecuted". 

Instead: a sign asking cyclists not to go down it, some temporary plastic barriers held in place with sandbags, and an extended detour pushing cyclists onto the main road.

That's the road at the the lights, past the queue of HGVs. 

Any cyclist with a hint of self preservation is going to continue to use the alley —which is exactly what is happening. And the locals? They've been putting the tacks down and then brushing the sand from the sandbags on top of them.

This shows the clash of cultures in Britain's "Cycling cities". In the core, you have the people who walk and cycle. In the suburbs, you have people who hate cyclists so much they are prepared to attack them for having the arrogance to want to use a minor alleyway through a dull suburb. This clash of cultures isn't good for anyone trying to cycle through the city, and it isn't good long term. These are the Crews Hole campaigners who would rather be a rat run than a safe walking or cycling route to school. These are the people who resent a few crumbs being thrown at cyclists, and appreciate the £15B of pollution-creation announced list week in the mistaken belief that it will solve any problem other than the balance sheet of construction firms. 

These are the fuckwits that think those parking tickets they get are a fund raising conspiracy by councils, that CCTV bus lane and parking enforcement is cash-creation, that Eric Pickles is talking common sense. These are the fuckwits who drive to the shops round the corner for a pack of cigarettes, get a ticket and then whine. 

And the council, here in the S Gloucs part of Bristol, what the fuck do they do? A few detour signs and a "cyclists please don't use this alley" sign. Not even a cyclists dismount, which would actually be progressive. Just a cyclists "fuck off onto the main road"

What could they do? There's the carrot of cash, the stick of enforcement, the threat of worse "after we adopt it we can make it a through route to cars too". 

More critically, address the conflict by getting the fat-arsed locals out of their cars and on their feeet. They could start to sign up the links from the RP to the shopping streets, stick leaflets through the doors encouraging people to find the path and use it to get into town —or at least as far as Fishponds. But no, this is not Bristol city Council we are talking about, this is S Gloucs council —and S Gloucs Council don't care about cyclists.

This actually shows one good thing about the selective funding of those crumbs for the cyclists. By directing it to a few cities that are actually making some attempt to improve cycling, with engineering teams that can actually do something —and most critically, with a political leadership willing to inconvenience drivers to make their towns and cities a better place to live and work.

Because if not, those crumbs will get frittered away in places like S Gloucs —or worse, Brent.

Crumbs before dinner

Thursday and the politicians meet in central Bristol to announce a couple of hundred million for improving UK cycling over a few years —no guaranteed of continued funding, and such a pittance that it has to be focused on a few towns to show any sign of delivering anything useful

This is the meeting going on, behind the cyclist in the hi-viz and the man smoking

Turn 180 degrees and you see the cycling-in-Bristol bit of the council —all wearing hi-viz themselves. If even the council can't say it's safe to cycle unless you dress up like a christmas tree, then it's not safe to cycle.

And four days later: same politicians get up and show where their promised billions will be wasted. Billions. So that people from London will have the traffic jams on their drive to Devon moved a bit. So that people trying to get on or off a motorway in the north of England will have to weight slightly less. At first, anyway. The S/W of england want that widened A303 precisely because they want the traffic generation. It doesn't matter to them if the existing holidaymakers have to wait 30 minutes on a friday; they want more visitors. The alternative —a good electric train service via Bristol— doesn't get a look in.

That £15B announcement puts the crumbs of Bristol into perspective: a pittance to retain votes in a few cities where the green candidates threaten the libdems. £200M is all the libdem coalition partners could get out of Osborne, enough for their candidates to claim to care come election day. Well, now for those people in the city who have the campaigners come to their door in Stephen Williams's constituency have an answer: how can you promise £15B to road building within four days of £200M for cycling and keep a straight face.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Cycling Mileage: tax deductible even if your employer doesn't care

Those people lucky to earn enough to qualify for filling in a tax return now have the luxury of opting to receive 20p/mile expenses for business miles cycled —even if their employer doesn't support this.

People who don't have to fill in the paperwork can opt to do so if they ask HMRC, at the price of time and possibly some tax return software (here: TaxCalc).

The HMRC guidelines are all about car-based commuting. Assuming everything applies to cycling, the rules are online.

  1. Commute Miles don't count
  2. Travelling between two places of work does count, provided neither of the locations is the employee's home. Except it may count as another permanent workplace and you may not get a refund for commuting to either place

the HMRC guidelines still haven't taken on cyling; all the examples are about driving. Some of their criteria "10 miles" crops up as the minimum for out-of-the-way journeys

It's interesting to consider that neither walking or public transport appears to be suitable for tax rebates. One doesn't count, presumably the other is expected to be refunded directly by the employer

What about cycle-to-work schemes?

They are treated separately, and are viewed as a "company bicycle" during the scheme.
They are expected to be used primarily for journeys to work and other business trips. But: there doesn't appear to be anything saying you can use a different bike for those journeys which are eligible for cycling expenses.

What about somebody else's bicycle?

Probably —provided they aren't company bicycles.

Abroad: yes.

What about Boris Bikes?

No mention. On a business trip from S Gloucs to London, a Boris Bike at the far end could be part of the journey. Would the entire day's fee be something redeemable from the employer, or could you claim 20p/mile for the Boris? It would probably be the former: you can't expect to deduct business miles from a rental car, after all.

What if you are a cycle courier or similar?
If you use your own bicycle, then all journeys between customers appear to count as refundable. Cycle 50 miles a day as a courier, get £10 back. Once you earn enough to become eligible for tax.

What if your employer does give you a rebate?
you appear to be eligible for the difference between what they pay and the 20p/mile value of HMRC

Is there a limit on how far you can pedal?

None listed. You may need to justify the journeys though. A business trip to, say, Amsterdam would probably cover all journeys from hotel to place of work. Cycling from Bristol to London would count too, as they are not trying to distinguish vehicle types:  you get the relief of your transport option.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Death of Plan B

Normally the DfT withholding £1.5M of money for a cycling project would be viewed as a setback for cycling. Not today. Today it is a step forward.

It says: you can't expect money for proposals that do nothing for cycling.

It says: cycling money should not be wasted on normal road maintenance

It says: you can't break your promises on innovative projects and expect to keep the cash.

It says to the New Forest NPA: you made a choice, live with it.

They were so fucking confident weren't they.

Going ahead with the funding would have been the easy way out for the DfT, no paperwork, just a wave and a handshake on some mediocre work, NPA happy, locals happy, local press happy. Instead they actually called the NPA to account and said "you have failed to deliver on your proposal".

This failure of the NPA is going to hurt them long term. Look at the DfT details on the grants proposals, especially page 7 of the application form:
e) Please list any major transport schemes costing over £5m in the last 5 years which the authority has delivered, including details of whether these were completed to time and budget (and if not, whether there were any mitigating circumstances)
They are fucking tainted for a long time. Every proposal for anything from central government is going to take the failure of this project into account, they way they let the DfT down, and its politicians —stopping them from pointing to the project as a sign of their support for cycling. Nobody is going to trust the current management to be able to deliver things; the leadership of the NPA clearly broken.

Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre needs to be called out and have the blame placed on his head. He got into his position purely because of the "bikelash" amongst the verderers.

He is the one that killed the original project. He is the one who said  "The grant has been given and now it's up to us to spend it responsibly and wisely  responsibly and wisely". He took the money for granted and came up with a plan B that did nothing except stop locals in a hurry being held up:

He has cost the region millions, and should be held to account. He may also have brought the management of the NPA into focus as acting out of their remit, and should have his position as chair of the NPA reconsidered. Maybe it should go beyond that and look at the voting structure of the authority as a whole: who does it actually represent?

Next: where does the money go? A lot of other national parks would be able to do something good with it; near S Gloucs/Bristol the Brecon Beacons and Forest of Dean stand out as regions that value cycling and welcome them, rather than resent them. They are close enough to London for easy weekend visits; they welcome overnight guests. (For anyone considering it, the Castle Inn has a bunkhouse next to the pub, XC MTB rides in all directions straight out the door)

Finally, respect to the @forestcyclist. He has shown that we have power, and that we can bring councils and authorities to account —and stop bollocks projects. Which is something all should consider. Many projects that councils propose are worse than useless: they waste cycling money and do nothing, let local cycling groups often accept that because it is all they ever get, and because it appears to be throwing money in their direction. It isn't: it is throwing money away, and the opportunity cost —good cycling facilities— is enormous. Nobody should be afraid to say No! to things that suck.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

"We're not Dutch" Bingo Card

As promised, here's the People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire's bingo card for use when reading local press, listening to politicians, local councillors or other people lost in a fantasy world of 1972 when there were four cars a day up the M1 and cyclists tipped their caps at passing drivers after they got out the way for them.

How to play:

  1. take out your bingo card
  2. Every time they say one of the phrases, respond with the recommended answer
  3. When all phrases have appeared, should "BINGO!"
  4. Hand the card to whoever it was that made the final statement in the set.
  5. Take a photograph of them holding the card
  6. Post photo on twitter with the tag #notdutchbingo
If more than one person is playing, each cross out a different entry on the card. 

Friday, 7 November 2014


There's a paper out: Pedal Cyclist Fatalities in London: Analysis of Police Collision Files (2007-2011) Anyone who cycles reading this must feel the fear of being in a followup article, becoming a statistic showing Britain is no less dangerous to cycle than it is today. Each of those numbers represents a death: someone's child, possibly a parent, possibly a partner. Dead.

It's a shame nobody from the BBC read this paper before their week of drivel. They could have visited a different junction every day, a cause of death, with discussion about how to make it safer. After looking at tipper truck left hook they might ask less about helmets; on pinch-point-killings their "mutual respect" story might be different.

Returning to the paper

Not only are HGVs a key form of killing, Tipper Trucks are the death of choice. This is something to highlight in engagements with the FTA and other truck-lobby-groups. It is not all HGVs that kill, it is tipper trucks. But why/

-are tipper trucks responsible for 37% of HGV miles on those routes people cycle? If not, are they significantly more or less?

-22% of HGV drivers had driving convictions. Is that spread evenly, or are tipper truck drivers more likely to have convictions? And how does that conviction rate compare to HGV and tipper truck drivers in general.

These are important details as they would help confirm the beliefs of many: tipper trucks kill more than other vehicle types. If it can also be shown that the conviction history of their drivers is higher, it may hint about their employment standards. If it also turns out that having prior convictions is a significant sign of future participation in a fatal RtC, it shows that the history has to be taken more seriously.

More succinctly: professional 747 pilots are held to significantly higher standards than amateur cessna pilots. The UK/EU standards for "professional" driving does not do so. Actions that would be careless in a car are invariably dangerous in an HGV: something the prosecution and penalties should take into account.

oad narrowing due to parked car is called out for the loss of control and collision with cyclist events. This shows why the parked cars should be between cyclists and motor traffic: a buffer. The WCC "death mall" proposals are the absolute opposite of this: painted into the swerving zones of both traffic directions.

ASLs. ASLs in front of HGVs are where cyclists go to die. If an HGV comes up behind you while you are in one, you would be safest setting off before the lights change. This is not a joke: remember it. 

"Hear an HGV, get the fuck out of the ASL"

This also highlights why ASLs are bollocks. While designed to defend against some actions (left turning cars at junctions), they entrap you into a new one "crushed by HGV drivers who forgot you where there while they were on the phone. " Because yes, "driver on phone" was listed as a distraction in two of the four deaths

Left turning truck: 14 fatalities of 52, slightly above 25%

We've all seen those videos that show the truck turning left over the cyclists. Some of us have even experience the terror of cycling on a road to see an HGV pull up alongside with its indicators on, warning it is about to left hook you. If that ever happens: brake hard and fast. 

Being in the same lane for straight on and turning traffic is listed as a factor —maybe there's not enough cues that the HGV will turn and so people slide up the side of the vehicle. Maybe if you can think you can get at least one vehicle in front of it at the lights it could be justified. Otherwise, better of overtaking.

There's also two cases where the HGV was in the straight on lane to turn left -on account of their size. That shows that HGVs are not suited to Britain's "narrow historic streets". If there isn't room for a cycle path on a road, there clearly isn't room for an HGV to turn.

Death by road narrowing: 7

Seven of these crashes are characterised by the cyclist ‘running out of space’ meaning that the available lane width narrowed forcing the cyclist and truck into closer proximity.
Of these, five crashes occurred at junctions – both the truck and the cyclist were turning left in two cases, turning right in one and travelling straight on in two. The sixth occurred as the road narrowed on the approach to a junction and the seventh crash occurred in close proximity to a pelican crossing on a build-out.

We all know those too. Its easy to say "give way to the HGV", but what happens if you are partway across and a speeding HGV barrels past then swerves in?

Helmets: 42% of the cyclists wore a helmet. Did they work? Clearly not. Did more or less than 42% of cyclists on the route have helmets?

The section on injury locations (p49) goes into detail on where injuries were sustained. Summary: get hit by a speeding car on squashed by a truck and injuries happen everywhere. Helmets do appear to do fuck all. P52 does compare what percentage of non-fatal injuries involved head injures: more than the fatal ones, which tend to be all-body. Even those numbers don't show which did have/would have their severity reduced by helmets. All we can say is the "if a helmet saves just one life" then the argument has to cover full body armour strong enough to survive a 7+ ton truck rolling over it. Just tell the fuckwit making the "Saves one life" argument to put a helmet on, lie down and let a truck drive over it. 

p53 looks at infrastructure in the specific, junction by junction, not london's roads per se. 

ASLs suck

cycle paths that abandon you at junctions suck. Think about this: junctions are the most lethal bit of the roads, yet cycling "infrastructure" abandons you at this, the most dangerous. Why? It's easy to paint something on the straight bits, making junctions safe is hard work AND MAY AFFECT TRAFFIC FLOW.

p57-71: infrastructure improvements

This is a compelling section, not so much due to any innovative ideas, but because they can look at their data and say "how much this would have reduced their fatality set". 

it is very powerful when you can look at proposals -here the WCC "admiral's blender" stands as a highlight and campaigners can tear it apart with data. They can go though a junction and say "which of these documented fatality classes are prevented in this proposal? Which are left? Why have they been left?"

ASLs get special mention here. They propose either a "no vehicle zone" or a special cyclists only phase. A no vehicle zone would just be more wasted paint, more of the tarmac that the police wont enforce. A cyclists only phase, with a cyclist level bicycle green, that is another matter. It would formalise that chance to get out of the way of the ASL. As for claims about traffic flow: the cyclists would be out on a green light anyway, so you can have a shorter green phase for other traffic.

The biggest change the paper calls out is designing trucks for safety: positioning the driver, mirrors, automatic sensing of cyclists, better side guards, etc. Yet this is precisely what is being postponed at the EU level. And UK cyclists can be confident that were the UK to leave the EU, better truck safety is not something a new "sovereign" government would bring out.

And mutual respect? 

The authors call out cyclists needing more experience of driving, especially to understand cornering. It may also give the riders more appreciation of how cyclists aren't that visible at night unless lit: the strength of headlights effectively darkens the rest of the street to the driver. Maybe side lights should be mandated again for that very reason.

Drivers are encouraged to recognise that cyclists do need to position themselves safely, being in the lane is not "arrogant" or "rude", it is where they need to be on many roads, especially if there is trouble ahead. Which is something the paper doesn't call out: drivers of vehicles need to be less obsessed about the bike in front and look past them to what is next, then decide whether to bother trying to overtake. Maybe that is something 20 mph zones will bring about, reduced benefits from passing, leading to increased patience. Maybe, but you still get impatient wankers and they are the ones that will kill you.

To summarise then,

This paper provides harsh detail on the actions that result in the death of people in our streets, people killed because they decided to cycle to their destination. These deaths could have been prevented.

We know that because the numbers from other countries show this. What the paper does is go into detail in London and highlight case-by-case where recorded deaths would be reduced. Which now gives ammunition to call out bollocks infra for what it is.  Anyone proposing bollocks -and here the new westminster Mall of Death proposal stands out- can be called out to show how their proposals will avoid the causes of death recorded here. Hint: ASLs don't cut it.

For the CSH proposals, it makes it a lot easier to defend the embankment plans against bollocks coming from Westminster, maybe even shite from the City of London. It's notable that the westminster plans never discussed safety at all, just said cyclists want "clear and convenient" routes. The fact that those few people who do dare to cycle across London are at risk of death doesn't show up on their radar. All they care about is their limo rides from Westminster to the City, then on to London City Airport for their weekends in Monaco with their fellow one-percenters.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

S gloucs first cycling protest ride!

S Gloucs is spending its government transport cash on "eliminating pinch points" at busy junctions, where "pinch points" means "bits where drivers sit round for more than usual". There is nothing in their proposals for this —a topic for another day, but which the message from S gloucs council is pretty much "Fuck off you cyclists and stop bothering us"

It turns out they didn't even fucking bother with safety audits. As a result, Richard Burton is calling for a protest ride on Friday:

From: burton richard
Date: 20 October 2014
Subject: SGlos road schemes A38/M5 junction PROTEST RIDE

The sorry tale of woe that is SGlos continues, and as if ignoring all their own policies and government guidelines wasn't enough, we've found out that the Safety Audits weren't conducted properly and did not consider cyclists or pedestrians, despite the government guidance on safety audits specifically demanding that they were.

This is a very important junction for cyclists, with alternatives requiring a detour of four or five miles.  There have been at least 10 cyclist collisions at this junction in seven years, but this is a considerable underestimate and the real figure is probably double that.

We responded to the council's consultation and were ignored.  We raised a petition with 437 signatures, and it has been ignored.  We've asked the local MP, Jack Lopresti, to take action, but the council won't respond to him.  It's time for action!

There will be a protest ride at 1600 on Friday 24th, riding between the Aztec West roundabout and the motorway junction.  It won't be long, just enough for the media to get some good shots and to interview some cyclists.  Please come along if you can make it, we really need the support to show the strength of feeling about SGlos' continued utter incompetence.

This is important. Even people from Bristol should come up if they can —to highlight how shit S Gloucs treats cyclists, even though it is really part of the extended Bristol.