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. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

'Responsible Family Cycling" is what is wrong with Britain's Cycling culture

Spot the common theme

1. The manufacturers of "mid tier" bicycles saying they haven't seen a boom in their product sales. Mid tier is defined as "some form of on-road bike between supermarket and MAMIL", ignoring women roadies and other apparently niche groups.

People are interested in cycling but it's not correct to say cycling is booming in the UK. In our part of the market, which is mainly mums and dads going out for a ride with the family, we haven't seen the same effect. There's not a massive uplift in cycling across the country."

The weather was blamed (this year) for being too hot:

"Without making excuses, if it's baking hot would you go and get on your bike? You would probably want to sit in your garden and have a barbecue.

2. The New Forest NPA trying to think of things to do with the money so the DfT doesn't take it back, and proposing some out-of-forest cycling hub, —and repeatedly using the phrase "responsible family cycling" in their press releases to define what they support: families cycling around not holding up locals or causing any annoyances. It explicitly excludes groups of adult cyclists, and implicitly the notion of "cycling as a transport option".

3. Sustrans promoting "traffic free cycle paths" with books showing their named routes.

The common theme: the notion of cycling as a leisure activity, one that families do sometimes at weekends, often by driving out to some special car-free path so rare it has to have a name.

As such, it epitomises what the "Cycling Culture" is in Britain. for families, its something you can do together —you just have to drive somewhere where the adults feel that it is safe for the kids to cycle.

For Sustrans, it's where to showcase the project they have worked on -the great railway to path conversions, which, lovely as they are, are not the cross-nation car free routes they've envisaged. They are so rare they have names, and so unique in Britain that people do drive long distances to visit them. As a result, work on new routes, such as Chepstow to Tintern, can crippled due to local's fears they will increase car parking pressure, something which has now been held up since at least 2007.
 Think about that: resistance to new bike routes because it will increase visitors wanting somewhere to park. How fucking NIMBY can you get? Yet they have a point: family leisure cycling is about driving somewhere for a safe and pleasant ride. And with projects focused on "family leisure cycling", they fail to sell themselves to locals, who view the cycle routes as an inconvenience rather than an opportunity for their own benefit.

Ignoring the fuckwits at the NPA, Dawes are interesting. As well as their classic tourers (currently out of fashion), some of their bikes seem non-aggressive urban bikes, with baskets and mud guards. But look at some of the others: "Hybrid" bikes, where hybrid means "Comes with shit suspension for for no reason except it is what people have come to expect from a bike that goes along gravel tow paths".

Those are the bikes targeted at "responsible family cycling", which is what, to a large proportion of the country, cycling is viewed as.

  1. Those monday morning "what the fuck are cyclists doing in my way in the rush hour" twitter haters cannot conceive of somebody actually cycling for anything other than a hobby.
  2. The New Forest NPA can't conceive of cycling facilities to benefit locals, so instead are rushing to fritter away their cash on family cycling out of the way of those locals.
  3. The ongoing battle for a Tintern Path where the locals fear those families coming and causing congestion or taking away parking spaces.
  4. Dawes complaining that bike sales were down as families would prefer BBQs.
And think about what that cycling culture isn't about
  1. Families cycling with their kids to school.
  2. Kids cycling to school on their own.
  3. Weekend family leisure rides they can do straight out their front door, rather than having to load up the car and drive somewhere safe to cycle.
  4. Cycling to work being anything other than a niche activity for the bold -usually young male- cyclist.
  5. Mass market bicycles being practical tools, rather than hybrid bikes that are neither a mountain bike or a useful urban bike.
It's not that there's anything fundamentally wrong with family leisure cycling —it is just what we get in Britain is broken. A system has developed wherein the leisure cycling is pushed into the places where the cyclists don't hold up traffic —but instead now the volume of leisure cyclists is itself perceived as the problem.

It has dug itself into a rut of leisure cycling, where the infrastructure and bicycles are optimised to match.

As the Dutch, the Danish and the Germans will point out: it doesn't have to be this way.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

New Forest: Cyclists Fuck off. Official

In June, an article arguing that Sportives are the new Critical Mass —and that the way to get back at the haters would be to go to the Wiggle event, wave your wallet around and bring tourist ££s to the community.

This week the New forest National Parks Authority —which already has a code of behaviour for everyone, and one for organised events, has come out and is planning to hand back £3.7 Million pounds to encourage family cycling round the area by having a boris-bike scheme biased towards leisure use.

That's nothing to do with Sportives, nobody is going to turn up, rent a forest-boris-bike and then do an 80 miler. Few people are going to head down to the forest for a weekend carrying Sky team wear and get changed in it to cycle with the rest of the family for half an hour. Boris Bikes and Sportives have nothing in common except they involve people cycling on public roads.

The NPAs rationale for their decision makes it clear this is because they hate cyclists.
Since the original feasibility study was done and the invitation to tender was issued, the backdrop to cycling in the New Forest and elsewhere has changed significantly.
Actually, nothing major has happened nationally, only locally:
In the New Forest a major anti-cycling sentiment has come to the fore in the wake of large-scale cycle sportive events which have impacted on local people.

True. But what does this have to do with leisure bike rentals?
A fresh wave of concern exists about the safety of on-road cycling. 
From who? People who want to cycle, or people who hate cyclists and are trying to come up with reasons to block these proposals?
Concerns about safety featured prominently in the responses to the recent questionnaire about the proposed scheme, especially amongst those who live and work in the Forest.

That is a metric for sentiment against cyclists in the area, not evidence that cycling in the forest has become less safe.

To put it differently:

1. If no evidence that cycling has got more dangerous  "emerged in timescales parallel to the running of the procurement process" then the safety claim is completely spurious and should be dismissed. 

Because if it hasn't actually got more dangerous, then the safety conditions for cycling in the forest are exactly as they were when the process started. All that has happened is that NIMBYs objecting to the proposal out of their hate for sportives have been using safety as an excuse in their objections.

2. If it has got more dangerous, then this is a situation which the NPA and local authorities must address, not by discouraging cycling —but by making the roads safer.

The NPA should publish their objections. No doubt the haters couldn't just say "I hate them lycra-clad riders we should ban them all", so do have to hide it "I don't think it's safe for people to cycle on the roads"

And the authority has gone along with sentiment, rather than saying "we have a duty to encourage sustainable tourism". Instead they are saying

Some of those who live and work in the Forest hate cyclists and will do anything to stop people cycling in the Forest. We, the National Parks Authority are prepared to acquiesce to their demands, even if it means returning millions of pounds of central government funding which was meant to encourage tourists to visit the area in ways that minimises congestion.

What to do now? There's still the wiggle sportive: get down there and show the haters that you are not intimidated. Make it the cyclists equivalent of Pride Parades.

And now that the NPA are using "perceived cyclist safety" as a reason for cancelling projects, then any proposal that appears to endanger cyclists in the area must be objected to on these grounds. To show them up for being hypocritical wankers that they appear to be.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Lost visions of the 1980s: don't just blame sustrans

The post about the Lost Cycling Visions of the 1980s generated a fair few tweets faulting Sustrans.

Its not fair to blame them for the state of the UK's cycling infrastructure.

Blame them for

  1. Acquiescing to councils that want anti-cycling barriers on routes
  2. Acquiescing to councils that want gravel paths
  3. Approving the bedford turbo roundabout —and continuing to do so.
  4. Producing a set of design guidelines in 2014 that are truly dire
  5. Approving of the London Quietways
But don't berate them for building paths where they could. The real issue is: they didn't get to build paths where people are.

Why not?
  1. Lack of political will
  2. Space in towns considered too valuable for housing and other uses. Indeed, the Bristol-Bath path only got through the late 80s/early 90s precisely because those tram-assessed civil engineers in Avon County Council wanted it retained for their plans.
And why the lack of political will? Not enough people being noisy, and not enough clarity over what they wanted.

If you want someone to blame, and you cycled in the 20th century you know who to blame. Go and stand in a mirror. With your mountain bike.

Mountain Biking may be fun, but it's a sport, not a transport. The early MTBs may have taken mudguards and racks, and offered a sit-up position, but they evolved into suspension toys that are utterly unsuited to most commuting runs. Or at least, they would be in the NL. In the UK they can cope with the dropoffs that paths have, the gravel stretches, the bits where you have to brake hard and veer over in a different direction. People adopted bicycles that worked around the awfulness of UK cycle paths —and called it fun. And the mass market went with them, so hybrid bikes with heavy and mediocre front suspension are common. These are bikes that don't take mudguards, yet sold in the UK as urban, sold at a price that includes those awful coil-sprung forks that do nothing but increase weight. Even worse, the bike-shaped-objects often go for Unified Rear Triangle suspension —who hasn't despaired at the sight of a six year old on solid steel URT bike with a coil rear shock that even  a dedicated DHer would find overweight.

By embracing mountain biking as everyday transport, a large proportion of the UK cycling community effectively got out of caring about the quality of those cycle tracks that did get built.

As for you in the mirror: where were you? Did you accept what was given? Did you believe that the government and councils were going to make things better? Did you rely on others to be the campaigners —and did you know what they were asking for in your name?

Not sustrans then: you. 

Never mind.

Sustrans have to redeem themselves now by focusing on what they are good at: engineering, and pushing back on things that don't work: niceway codes, roundabouts with two-tier provisions that suck for both tiers, barriers on the paths, gravel. They need to recognise that their original goal, was what that 1985 book cited: paths that children, the elderly and families can all be happy using. Only: these paths must be in cities and alongside A-roads, not just somewhere quaint in mid-wales. Because while the NCN82 may be a lovely leisure route, it's not a commuter route. 

And for the people looking in the mirror, feeling slightly guilty over their inaction? It's not too late.

Freewheeler showed us all how dire everything really was; Hembrow an Mikael show how things can be different. tools like twitter help people find each other.

Just like Sustrans, we need to recognise what we want, and shout for it —together