Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Half-arsed, but better than TfL's work.

In a break from the whining, here's an Xmas gift, the route to St Werburgh's. This is good quality, though missing a few features that would prevent it being used as much as you'd think. Little things like lighting and signage.

This is a video of the descent from UWE to St Werburghs, following the official path with a few mountain bike options exercised. After all, the quality and intermittentness of the S Gloucs paths do effectively mandate mountain bikes with good travel on the front forks and -ideally- disk brakes. If you have the transport needed to negotiate bike paths whose entry and exits go over undropped kerbs, paths with 50cm dropoffs where the paths meet, etc, then you may as well make the most of it and have some fun.

Anyone who depends on TfL for their cycle safety will stare at this video and say "we wish we could have something this good", but the dutch will look at it and say "Could our children get to school on this?".




This video was taken in October, just as the sun was starting to set during the evening peak commute times. Once the clock changed, this went all dark and even on foot you'd worry about the underpass beneath the M32. You'd also stop using the fishponds roundabout underpasses and use the road crossings. Which, in their favour, are there at all: those over the M32 entry/exit points are recent. Until a year ago there was a sign saying "three pedestrians have died crossing here -use the underpass". Now there is an overground option that is survivable, even if you have to wait a minute or two.

Speaking of underpasses, the stairs are optional. You can go down the slope, though it's a bit skittery when the autumn leaves are there. A direct descent of the (shorter) steps avoids the corner and the traction on a 45 degree flight of steps is consistently bad in all weather.

Once you cross the roundabout you get into the 20 mph zone, with speed bumps to enforce deceleration. Heading out, the pavement is a shared use route, heading in you can grab the lane and head down it before scooting right. Then comes the final stretch to the St Werburgh's bridge, up over that and it's in to St Werburghs. UWE to the city, in under 14 minutes, with minimal risks, at least during daylight hours.

Most of this route is under the control of the Bristol Council cycle team. The good features: the 20mph zone, the give-way crossings, the new bike/pedestrian crossings at the roundabout, the frome valley path are all their work. Presumably the stretch through stoke park is theirs too.

In what is clearly the S Gloucs stretch at the beginning, you can see their official bike path features. Crossings and barriers. No signage saying "city centre 15 minutes".

And all the way along: no lighting. You would be fairly bold to do this on foot or bike on your own.

The biggest irritant is that stretch of road. It's a wide road with minimal parking pressure. Why didn't they put a segregated bike path along here, with some formal crossing at the roundabout? Do that with some lights and you do have a safe path that the kids could use.

The other issue is that the M32 bridge can't sustain heavy bicycle traffic. Two bicycles cannot pass on the corners, and visibility as you approach those bends, especially uphill, is pretty bad. If the volume of cycling traffic increases, this bridge could become a choke point. This would be an opportunity to put in access routes that are wider, and add some lighting at the same time.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Hembrow will be weeping blood over this

Our dream "cycle paths the dutch won't laugh at". Well, Hembrow won't be laughing at the next set of proposals. He will be crying tears of blood, at what a wasted opportunity to make cycling -in an area where there are few of the space constraints of a city- vaguely pleasant.
It would be a waste of time to go through these point by point and criticise them, because nobody in the council will care what anyone says. The cyclists will be given something shite and expected to be grateful.

Rather than do the whole lot, let's look at the short stretch from the MoD Roundabout to Abbey Wood station on the ring road, covered in just one fraction of the plans.

Do the plans note the presence of a bus stop in the bike path, and propose adding some more path over the wide green space to the left?

Not a fucking chance.

Whenever something gets too narrow for a bicycle and pedestrian to pass each other, the segregated signage gets replaced by "shared path"

But even in the segregated path, they turn a blind eye to bits where it goes away.

What about this outcrop of greenery that forces pedestrians and cyclists to collide? Any thought of moving the signs -designed for passing drivers- and widening this? No. It will stay as is, with one more pole for some sign to go up.
One more, after things like the pillar saying this is a shared route, in the middle of what is painted as a segregated route.
If any of our members could be arsed to turn up at the "cyclists patronising forum", the question they would ask is
Why the fuck do you put signs in bike lanes saying "This is a bike lane" while you are at least sensible enough not to put them up in the middle of road lanes.

Then there is the underpass by the brige. Lethal on the road, impossible to pass anyone coming, on foot or bike.

yet because of all the no bicycles/no cycling/handlebar barriers on the other crossings nearby (like the Abbey Wood train overpass, 100 metres to the left of this picture), this and the equally useless path on the other side are all we have.

Now imagine such mediocrity to continue for  miles and miles. That is S Gloucs.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

A Statement about Shellmor Avenue

The People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire have issued a statement at 10:00, 10, November, 2010. Or, in S Gloucs council time, the little hand is near the big hand on November 10, 1974.

Here is the statement in full:

WE ARE AWARE THAT REPRESENTATIVES OF MANY OF THE LARGEST EMPLOYERS IN S GLOUCS ARE ATTEMPTING TO ENGAGE THE COUNCIL IN DISCUSSION OF THE SHELLMOR AVENUE PROPOSALS, HENCEFORTH KNOWN AS "THE SHELLMOR AVENUE FUCKUP"

THE ISSUE THESE REPRESENTATIVES HAVE IS THAT OF THE FOUR TRAFFIC CALMING MEASURES PROPOSED ONLY ONE HAS TAKEN CYCLING INTO ACCOUNT TO PROVIDE A SAFE AND CONVENIENT ACCESS POINT TO THE TRAFFIC CALMED ROAD. THE COUNCIL WOULD RATHER CYCLISTS RISKED THEIR LIVES ON THE A38 THAN USING QUIETER ROADS.

WE HAVE A MESSAGE TO THESE REPRESENTATIVES -WHO ARE CLEARLY SPLITTERS AND PROBABLY MEMBERS OF THE POPULAR CYCLING FRONT OF SOUTH GLOUCESTER:

"WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU EXPECT? THE FACT THAT THE PLANNERS INCLUDED ONE CYCLE FEATURE IN THEIR PLANS FOR THE JUNCTION IS EITHER A MIRACLE OR AN ACCIDENT. THE PLANNING TEAM MUST HAVE GOT OUT THEIR "1973 INTERCHANGES IN LEEDS AND GLASGOW" VISIO TEMPLATE OUT AND PUT TOGETHER FOUR PROPOSALS FOR A JUNCTION, WHILE STARING AT THEIR PROUD AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH OF THE M4/M5 JUNCTION."

"YOUR ATTEMPT TO ENGAGE THE COUNCIL IN DISCUSSION ON THIS TOPIC IS WASTE OF YOUR TIME. BY NOW CLLR BWIAN ALLINSON WILL HAVE ADDED ALL YOUR NAMES TO HIS JUNK MAIL FOLDER, AS WILL THE TRAFFIC DEPARTMENT."

"THE COUNCIL OFFICERS MAY HAVE SAID THAT YOUR NEEDS WILL BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT LATER -BUT THIS SHOWS EXACTLY THE PROBLEM. YOU WILL BE FORGOTTEN ABOUT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE AND LEFT WITH SOMETHING WORTHLESS. EVEN THEN, THE RESIDENTS WHO HAVE CHOSEN ANY OF THE THREE OPTIONS THAT LACK CYCLE LANES WILL THEN BE UPSET THAT CYCLE ACCESS HAS BEEN ADDED."

"YOUR ATTEMPTS TO ENGAGE IN DISCUSSION WITH THE COUNCIL LEGITIMISES THEIR PLANS, AS NOW THEY CAN SAY THEY HAVE CONSULTED WITH THE LOCAL CYCLING GROUPS AND LOCAL EMPLOYERS"

"THE CYCLING CHAMPION IN THE COUNCIL, THE CYCLING OFFICERS IN THE COUNCIL, AND THE COUNCIL TRAFFIC PLANNING DEPARTMENT ARE NOT YOUR ALLIES -THEY ARE YOUR ENEMIES"

"RECOGNISE THIS, JOIN OUR ORGANISATION, AND TOGETHER THE COUNCIL WILL COME TO FEAR THE KEVLAR BACKED BLACK CYCLING GLOVES OF THE PEOPLE'S CYCLING FRONT OF SOUTH GLOUCESTERSHIRE"

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Introducing Councillor Bwian Allinson, South Gloucestershire’s "Cycling Champion"

In examining the work of South Gloucestershire Council and its attitude towards cyclists we’ve so far been focusing on Council Officers and their apparent ignorance, incompetence and/or indifference.

But we’re being unfair. It’s not just Council Officers who are ignorant, incompetent and/or indifferent – it’s the elected Councillors who are supposed to wield the power and have the influence it’s them that are supposed to set strategy, give direction and make decisions.

Even if the Council Officers did have a clue what they were doing, their efforts would be of no use if they didn’t have the support of elected Councillors. And they don't because the councillor is meant to care about cycling doesn't give a fuck.

When South Gloucestershire Council became part of Britain’s first Cycling City it was noted that they hadn’t appointed a ‘Cycling Champion’. Cycle Forum members (we’ll be explaining all about the “Cycle Forum” in a future blog) suggested, very strongly, that the fact there wasn’t one demonstrated that the Council wasn’t showing commitment and support.

So what exactly is a Cycling Champion? A Champion Cyclist? Not quite.

The role of the Cycling Champion is nicely explained by the Cycling Champion in one of our neighbouring local authorities: Bath and North East Somerset.

His name is Councillor Roger Symonds

He says:
"The key objective of an elected member nominated to act as a Cycling Champion will be to support and encourage the Council in its work to ensure that the promotion and encouragement of cycling as a means of transport as well as for leisure plays a central role in the development and implementation of all its policies and strategies. This will involve engagement with stakeholders and other partners both within your council and externally."

You might think it would help if that person rides a bike. In Roger’s case he does, and he recognises the problems we face.

Our immediate neighbours in Bristol have a Cycling Champion too, theirs is Dr Jon Rogers, a GP, he also rides a bike, keeps the council on track and even supports measures like community-installed bike parking:

Here in South Gloucestershire our Cycling Champion is Councillor Brian Allinson. He looks a bit rounder than the other two, as if he doesn't get enough exercise. If a member of the Cyclig Front were a doctor -like Jon Rogers, they'd be suggesting a blood pressure and cholesterol test before asking if there was a history of heart disease in the family.

You’d assume that like Roger Symonds and Jon Rogers, Brian Allinson is a Councillor who happens to ride a bike and has volunteered to ‘champion’ cycling. Unfortunately, although perhaps unsurprisingly you’d be wrong. Very wrong.

Councillor Allinson doesn’t ride a bike. Cycling campaigners asked him if he owns one and he didn’t reply so we’ll assume that’s a "no" then. In fact we’ve even been left wondering if he’s ever ridden a bike.

Sure, Councillor Allinson used to turn up at events to promote the Cycling City projec.. in his car (which happens to be a large executive four wheel drive). Sure he seems supportive and says the right things in press releases, but are they his words? Or are they just written by someone from the press office who’s wants us to believe that he cares about cyclists?

Does Councillor Allison really even get cycling? How can he possibly be "a cycling champion" if he doesn’t ride a bike? In any event is he the kind of person you’d expect to be ‘championing cycling’? He doesn't believe a word of anything he says as these press events or he wouldn't look like someone about to have a heart attack in his 4x4 as gets so irate about being stuck in traffic.

Perhaps he used to ride a bike? No.

Councillor Allinson used to be a policeman. A very senior one. Perhaps he was responsible for encouraging more officers to ride bikes? No. Apparently his big thing was the police helicopter. After he retired from the police he became a consultant advising on police helicopters and later he became Conservative Councillor for Stoke Gifford.

So why was he chosen as the Council’s Cycling Champion we wonder?

Let’s have a look back at what he’s said in the past about cycling…

(pause)

Oh…. we’re afraid that despite searching through the press releases and council minutes we can find no record whatsoever of Councillor Allison ever having spoken out for cyclists before he was appointed ‘Cycling Champion’. In fact he’s never even mentioned cycling.

In 2007 he was reported noting that it often takes an hour to drive 2 to 3 miles in his Stoke Gifford ward in the rush hour, half-an-hour to drive one mile! (A journey that would take 5 minutes on a bike).

His answer? Reduce congestion by encouraging more people to cycle, build more cycle paths, improve the infrastructure, removal obstacles?

You must be joking! Councillor Allison’s wanted to build another road across a railway line and at huge expense!
"We've been asking for a long time for the Stoke Gifford bypass - but it really needs now to be called the Stoke Gifford relief road. "The real problem is all the traffic from Bradley Stoke, Almondsbury and Thornbury wanting to go south, has to go through the Parkway railway bridge and it's a real pinch point. So we have to have a second crossing of that railway line which will free up the whole of Stoke Gifford."
Oh dear. The real problem, Bwian, is the failure of your council to provide any alternative transport options. As it is, that "choke point" is the only bit of traffic calming in the area.

And it get’s worse - Councillor Allison spoke out more recently against Highway’s Agency plans to signalise the slip road onto the M32 at Junction 1 – Hambrook.



Anyway, back to Councillor Allison and his view on the Highway’s Agency’s plans. Did he speak out for cyclists? Did he ask officers to look at what could be done to improve the junction for all users (not just drivers). Did he even consider other road users?

No, of course not. His main concern, in fact his only concern, was that the Highways Agency plans would cause “road chaos”. He said "I am concerned that, despite the best intentions of the Highways Agency, these plans will worsen congestion at the M32/ring road roundabout" he said, proposing adding an extra lane for traffic to queue up to get onto the motorway.

Perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he became Cycling Champion so that he could liaise with and listen to cyclists, take their views into account?

As we mentioned above, South Glos Council hold periodic ‘Cycle Forum’ meetings and they’d provide an ideal opportunity for Councillor Allinson to meet cyclists and hear their ideas and concerns.

Apparently he went to one meeting and, yes, you guessed it, he didn’t like what he heard and has not been back since.

This has been pointed out on numerous occasions. He always sends his apologies. One meeting in September 2009 was re-arranged especially so that he could be there. He still didn’t bother to turn up.

As we said, yes Councillor Allinson does turns up at events to promote Cycling City (and get his picture taken) but what’s his motivation, does he believe the words he’s quoted as saying?

Speaking at the opening of the new cycle route between Bradley Stoke and Parkway Councillor Allinson was quoted as saying: "For those who want to start the New Year with a healthier lifestyle this route offers a great opportunity to combine a cycle ride with a trip to the gym or for a swim. For longer cycle rides the new route also offers good links to cycle paths in the Three Brooks Nature Reserve and the local area.".

Notice how in the same article Jon Rogers from Bristol says "this newest Bradley Stoke route will encourage healthy, friendly, sustainable commuting as well." It's like Jon recognised that Bwian is clueless about the needs of the cycling community and stepped in for a bit of damage limitation.

Talking about the opening of another route to the shopping mecca that is Crappy Cribbs Causeway he said "This route will make it easier for cyclists to travel to Cribbs Causeway, which is timely for that last bit of Christmas shopping."

OK we might be being picky but note he doesn’t refer to himself, he always refers to cyclists, gym users.. as if they (we) are another class of citizen. That  is, an out group, not his electorate, not the people who work in the industries of the area that bring in revenue to the city.

One of the key aims of Cycling City was to encourage non-cyclists to take up cycling. To encourage people to consider using other forms of transport other than their car.

Get those people to benefit and we all benefit. Improve their fitness and therefore health: reduce the burden on the Health Service. Get them out of their cars, reduce congestion: we and the environment all benefit -and save money on road widening.

If the words Councillor Allinson is quoted above as saying are really some PR gimlet's list of quotes for him to mouth as he tries to get his over-round face in the paper. What does he really think? Each Councillor is required to submit an annual report. The report sets out a brief description of the Councillor's main activities, what Committees they sit on, membership of Outside Bodies and achievements and successes during the year.

Councillor Allison’s report mentions traffic congestion as the number one concern raised by his ward members. He writes at length about his responsibilities and achievements over the year. Cycling does not get one mention. Not one. Well, OK, a half, a tinsey bit, near the very end of his report he mentions he officially opened a BMX track in Little Stoke Park “which has been so well supported by all the youth of Stoke Gifford” – see,again, he thinks bikes are for other people, kids (until they are old enough to get a proper form of transport).

Brian Allison doesn’t think bikes are a form of transport.

He thinks bikes are for fitness freaks



He thinks bikes are for kids, provided they dress up like bollards to cycle round a school playground


Councillor Bwian Allinson. South Glos Cycling Champion. Says it all really.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

City to UWE, via the motorised suburbs

This is funny. The cycling bristol video of the park where the sounds of the M32 have been edited out with some "rural joy" soundtrack added on. You'd almost expect to see bunny rabbits dancing, rather than hear the background hum of the motorway which the opening of the video actually goes underneath.



Notice how it stops "that's as far as we'll go today". Whyy stop? They aren't embarrassed about what comes next are they? We would be. The dutch would be shaking their heads in despair.

Let's look at the reality of a Bristol City. S Gloucs showcase cycle route.



The narrow bridge has a dropoff at the end. OK on an MTB if you like your leaps, useless on a narrow wheeled bike. Why didn't they put in a hint of tarmac? Certainly you can see why they stopped the official guide before this bit. And why we recommend an MTB with some decent front travel and disk brakes as a practical commuter. Except for the rain, obviously. There is no way you can have a bike which has decent mudguards and the MTB features needed to negotiate the cycle lanes and paths of S Gloucs.

The road is pretty rough here. 20 years ago it was a rat-run traffic jam, so it's some improvement, though it tends to flood in winter. Nobody seems to care about that. Mud tyre time.

Then you get on the Frome River path; the new feature. The surface will make it all year, and the width was a negotiated settlement to keep the area rural. No dissent there, but it would be better with some solar lights to make it somewhere to walk in winter evenings. That would let students on foot use it without feeling quite so nervous.

As you approach the end of the path what can you see? A van blocking the exit. Except when you get there, it's legally parked; the exit forces you out onto the main road immediately, rather than some gentle angle to get up to speed -because a safer exit would have taken away one whole parking space.

Once on the road, it's fast. No 20mph zone here. And there are parked cars. The taxi is very nice, waits until it's safe and goes past with lots of gap: they deserve credit for being a good driver.

Except: why the parked cars, half up on the pavement?

There is enough room here to have done a segregated path. Instead, to avoid conflict you get abandoned at this road until the roundabout. And what a roundabout. Nobody expects anything to go straight on, but today the driver on the left is attentive. It's worse heading the other way, as you aren't considered to be part of the motorway sequence, and traffic leaving the city in the evenings never give you a chance anyway.

Today, all is well until the bicycle filter is reached. This is designed to stop anyone with good skills to clear it. For the record, keep your pannier on the same side as your drivetrain, tilt the bike to the left and put the left pedal up to the top. You can just hear the pedal as it clears the barrier.

WTF were they thinking? It doesn't let recumbents. family bikes, trailers through. Yes, it stops motorbikes, but since they can get in on the other side and ride XC over the hills, that's just fucking pointless. Don't even think about trying to get through on a wheelchair either: you are not welcome.

Then the M32 underpass. Wouldn't be pleasant to walk through at night, and again likes its flooding. It has a bit of a bad reputation for mugging: dark and places for muggers to hide until you get to them. Lighting and encouragement of more traffic would mitigate this, but as nothing has been done, the problem remains.

Then the dull bit s hill climb. There are a lot of foot passengers on evenings in summer, but not winter. Why not? Again, the complete lack of lighting, perhaps?

Skipping most of the climb we go to the end.



We have arrived in suburbia, somewhere full of garages and two-car houses. This entire estate was built on the expectation that you would drive to work, to school, to the shops. Because there's fuck all in walking distance apart from UWE, the MoD and some of the business park offices near the UWE. Yes, this is the S Gloucs idea of "sustainable housing development".

There is no sign at the end of the path showing you how to get to the university, the MoD or elsewhere. In one respect, that's good: if one had gone in it would probably be in the middle of the path -like all the others. It doesn't help anyone trying to get to their work or study along here though -and it does nothing to encourage people who live in the two-car surburban estate to walk down the hill to the pub. A sign like "pubs and shops" would be all you need. After all, there isn't any other bar in walking distance except the UWE student union, and the people who live here wouldn't fit in.

Carrying on, we head towards UWE. The yellow lines are new; they are not put in to stop the locals from parking -it's to stop students driving in and parking there, so creating congestion for the locals. It's a start, we suppose, though we doubt it was put in by the residents for the sake of the city, more to ensure their own driveways don't get blocked.

The cyclist takes the bridleway into the uni; there is an alternate option through the sprawl. Either way -you need to know the secret route through a maze of featureless houses. The thought of painting bicycles on the path hasn't occurred.

The bridleway dates from when these were all fields -it's a piece of history. At the end of it, where we meet another cyclist properly equipped with an MTB, there's a stretch that everyone must take. It does get muddy in winter. And it ends with a motorbike gate that can clip handlebars too -you can hear that- and which is again impossible to get through with kids, trailers, wheelchairs etc.

We cross the road to get into UWE territory and continue along, stopping at a new road being built. A new road, breaking up the bike path. Does the path get a raised pavement and give way signs? No. It gets give way signs. This new road is for bus and bike only, but that doesn't mean that buses should have priority over bicycles, and we suspect cars will use it too.

Why didn't they give bicycles priority here? This time, no blame is directed towards the council. This is UWE land, and all UWE care about is having 25+ car parks, with extra parking from the proposed football stadium. If you want to see Institutionalised Motorism in S Gloucs, visit the University of the West of England.

There you have it then. The bit the cycling city didn't cover:

  • dropoffs off narrow bridges
  • flooded roads
  • exits with vans in the way
  • the wasted opportunity of a segregated cycle lane
  • gates to keep bicycles out of the path
  • an unlit underpass that floods
  • an unlit hill climb
  • a suburban estate with no directions to the university -or to the city
  • a muddy path
  • another stupid gate
  • a bike path that is being cut up for more roads.

Why didn't they cover all of this. What was there that they weren't proud of?

Friday, 5 August 2011

We complained: will you?

Our last complaint to the ASA was dismissed, though if you search for ASA and road tax, the organisations habit of dismissing such complaints is starting to make the organisation itself look as independent as News International's internal hacking investigations.

We were shown another advertisement, this time in Sport Magazine; a Fiat advert, "Avoid Road Tax without being arrested". Another complaint. This time, we'd like everyone else to complain too. We know that single complaints do get ignored. What is unknown is how many people does it take to complain before the ASA recognise that this is a problem that won't go away, pass the news up to the advertisers, and have them change their prose.

Here is the text of the complaint

The article says "Avoid Road Tax without being arrested". As road tax was abolished in the 1930s, it is clearly confusing Vehicle Excise Duty -a car tax- with some hypothetical and hypothecated fee that gives motor vehicles the right to use roads, and which does not confer rights onto any other users, such as cyclists. 
Furthermore, if it did mistakenly refer to VED, that's not an arrestable offence.
This article is repeating in its headline a myth: that paying for VED gives motor vehicle owners exclusive rights to the road.
You will no doubt reply with some dismissive stock "we don't expect the readers to be that stupid" reply, but be aware of two details
  1. Some of the readers are that stupid, and are now appearing on video assaulting cyclists for being on the road without paying road tax.
  2. Every time the ASA dismisses these complaints, it makes the ASA look weaker -it makes you look as effective as a voluntary regulatory body as the press complains commission. 
Please recognise that road tax does not exist, that such advertisements repeat myths that do have dangerous consequences in this country, and that your inability or unwillingness to address this issue is detrimental to your own organisation.

Remember -if you don't complain, things won't change.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

And Frank?

From IMDb, web HQ in Bradley Stoke, comes the opening quote of Once Upon a Time in the West:
Harmonica: And Frank?
Snaky: Frank sent us.
Harmonica: Did you bring a horse for me?
Snaky: Well... looks like we're...
[snickers]
Snaky: ...looks like we're shy one horse.
Harmonica: You brought two too many
We've been wondering what happened to "Frank", who took our criticisms of a path with a 50cm drop in it personally.

Well, finally plans to fix it are in order. Or at least a plan to close off a big chunk of the path with the goal being to fix it: .
The work is being carried out to upgrade and realign the path. Construction is expected to take four to six weeks; the diversion should be lifted at the beginning of September.
We like that, "re-align the path". Presumably its less embarrassing to fix getting your height wrong by raising the entire path than it is to lower the other one, especially when you have large mounds of earth piled up nearby, earth you'd have to pay to get removed.

Will the work be done by September? No idea. In their favour there is a diversion, and the work is scheduled to be done out of term time. What we fear is that the result won't actually be rideable.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Incompetence or Institutionalised Motorism?

There's a sign up on one of the ring road roundabouts, asking for comments on the new cycle route seven proposals.

Some people may think "good, the council cares, they aren't as incompetent as the People's Cycling Front of S. Gloucestershire claim"

Except where is the sign: it's on the ring road, visible only to passing motor traffic.
The foot/cycle path is to the left of the road here, and you cannot see this consultation sign from the cycle path.

Think about that: the people who would care most about having the cycle paths in the area improved aren't actually being asked what their opinions are, because the signs asking for consultation are only visible from the dual carriageway road approaching the main dual carriageway ring-road -a route that only brave, fast, roadies would be doing.

That's either sheer incompetence, sheer indifference or Institutionalised Motorism?

We wonder if the cycling team even have a clue where the signs went up, they just handed it off to the bit of the council that deals with consultations, who stuck up the signs "in the usual place". Nobody thought about putting them up where people cycle, and nobody has bothered to go and look up where the signs are to see if they are in the right place for anyone cycling to see them.

S Gloucs Council: The No Cycling City.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Institutionalised Motorism near UWE

We have another "I" today, to go with the council's thinking: Indifference, Incomptence and Ignorance; it is Institutionalised Motorism

This means: to think about cars first, everything else as an afterthought.

You can see it here, in this two way walking and cycling path on Coldharbour Lane, heading north from the UWE entrance to either Old Filton Road or to the crossings to get to Bristol Parkway station, or, if you turn left, to the MoD roundabout. It is wide, no risk of conflict between pedestrians and bicycles. But what's that in the distance

Yes, it's a bus stop. The foot/bike way is cut in half width, just where people will be queueing for, getting on and getting off a bus.
There's no shelter either. While that may stop people cycling into the shelter -which would otherwise block the entire pavement- it means that people waiting for buses will get wet as well as potentially hit by people cycling along. Anyone waiting here on a dark and went winter evening will end up resenting anyone cycling past.

But why does the road narrow here? It's because the alternative would be to allow the bus to hold up motor traffic.

Given a choice of two options
  1. providing something safe and pleasant for public transport users, pedestrians and cyclists
  2. something that kept motor vehicle traffic flow at its highest,
the council went for the traffic flow option, rather than having a wide pavement, a wide bike lane and a covered shelter with seating.

This is why there's continuous conflict between people walking and cycling in S Gloucs and the city to the south: the cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users are left scrabbling for the leftovers while the majority of the road "investment" in the region goes into road widening.

That is Institutionalised Motorism all the way to the top of the council. There's no real pretence of supporting cycling in this city, other than the Boris Johnson "poor people can if they must" kind of viewpoint.

The worst part is this: the council planners are probably proud of such bollocks. They will drive home in their SUVs to their Bradley Stoke semi-detached suburbs with one car per adult and say "I did something really good for people who walk and cycle in the area. I helped provide a bus lay-by to encourage public transport use, and we painted a bicycle path on a widened pavement". Because to say "I fobbed off everyone who doesn't drive with some shit infrastructure" would be an admission of incompetence.
We wonder how long it will be before they want bollards or "cyclists look out for pedestrians" signs?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Institutionalised Indifference

On the approach to the M32, the A4174 ring road cycle path has an option to turn left and head to UWE via Old Filton Road. That's "the pleasant option".

There's a sign saying "cyclists, please give way to pedestrians"

It's as if the key fear of the council is that someone walking may get hit by a bicycle.

It isn't. The key danger for anyone walking or cycling is getting hit by a car. Yet down by the MoD roundabout, anyone on foot or pedal is left to fend for themselves on many of the crossings. No "motorists, please give way to cyclists and pedestrians" signs.

Some have a bit of green: meaningless. If you get run over using one of those, it'll be dismissed as "they chose to die"
Within the MoD premises, even the green lines go away, and you expected to run or cycle over two-lane wide roads to get to the narrow little traffic islands in the middle.
When the Bristol Rovers grounds opens, there will be two lanes of cars sprinting up this hill to get to the match; somehow we suspect cycle parking and safe cycling nearby will be "forgotten about", or pushed to one side the way each supermarket always has six bicycle stands looking forlorn in a far corner of the car park.

The presence of cycle-city funded roadsigns show that this a recommended route.  Not recommended by UWE, who are most pleased that the new football stadium will add an extra 1200+ parking spaces during the daytime. Who the fuck for? Students? Not the vice chancellor, he has his own space for his shiny jaguar. Staff? We have no idea, we just know that this seems to be what they wanted. Not better buildings. Not the building of a public transport hub with secure bike parking (compared with today's "where do you want your bike to get stolen from" facilities). No, 1200 parking spaces. A university that cares.


This isn't what you'd get the Netherlands. The only reason the crossing is survivable today is that stadium isn't open and the people who cycle over the crossing it are today's cyclists: adult men, going to work or university. It's not a "kids cycling to school with their parents" path -and at this rate it will never be.

If the number of people cycling increases, so will the risk of collisions. You can say what you want about drivers "expecting more cyclists" when there are more of them; S Gloucs council gives drivers the right of way at these roundabout junctions, and you can be 100% sure they will take it

Putting in zebra/cycle crossings now will keep expectations of people driving down, rather than having to wait for some deaths. Maybe, just maybe it could be made a requirement of the UWE/Rovers deal, but somehow we suspect that it's not something Cllr Bwian Allinson will be pushing for.

Friday, 1 July 2011

A reply from the ASA: fuck off.

The team has been exploring the issue of complaining to the ASA that the concept "road tax" is not only non-existent, it helps encourage the belief (as seen in evening post/daily mail comments, Top Gear and video harassment of cyclists), that people on bicycles have no right to be on the road

The complaint was about an advert for a hybrid lexus that was "exempt from Road Tax":
In the advertisement the phrase "road tax" is used to mean "zero-rated Vehicle Excise Duty". While using the term "road tax" may be viewed as a simplification of the truth, those of us who cycle round the UK are continually harassed -in the press and the streets, due to our failure "to pay road tax" -in the belief that we do not do so and hence have no rights to the road.
Car advertisements provide an opportunity to actually educate the customer, rather than re-inforce mistaken beliefs which many motorists -and perhaps the copywrighter- appears to hold, and so reduce conflict between people cycling and driving.
Given that your organisation recently forbade a car advertisement showing adults cycling without a helmet before 21:00 as it may give children a bad impression, it seems only fair that car advertisements that give drivers a bad impression -that we cyclists do not pay for the country's roads- get frowned upon.
The reply
YOUR COMPLAINT ABOUT LEXUS UK AD
Thank you for contacting the ASA.
We have assessed the ad and your complaint but consider that there are insufficient grounds for ASA intervention on this occasion. Our role as an organisation is to help ensure that advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful. We can intervene if an ad that has been broadcast appears likely to be in breach of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising by, for example, being likely to cause serious or widespread offence, being materially misleading or risking causing significant harm.
While I appreciate your point, the ASA has no influence over the creative decisions taken by advertisers (or the agencies that work on their behalf) to use a particular character, situation or theme in their ad campaigns. As long as the content of an ad does not breach our Code, it is really up to the advertisers what they want to put in them. In this case, although we acknowledge that the correct term is “Vehicle Excise Duty”, more commonly used phrases such as “Road Tax” are often used by advertisers to convey a message in a way that will be understood by the widest audience. We also note that this ad makes no direct or implied comments about cyclists or their right to use public roads. I further note that you have made reference to a previous scheduling restriction we required for an ad which showed potentially unsafe cycling practices which could result in harm to children. In that case, we were concerned about the potentially harmful effect of glamorising cycling without a helmet to children. We do not have similarly pressing concerns in relation to this particular ad. We consider that this ad is unlikely to mislead consumers to their detriment or promote a view that only motorists pay for road building and maintenance. For these reasons we will not be taking any further action on this occasion.
I realise this outcome may disappoint you, however we will continue to monitor the public response to this ad.

A shorter summary is: "fuck off"

There is one subtle extra point, that hint that  the more people who complain, the more likely they are to react. Yet the ASA blocked the showing before 21:00 of advert that included adults cycling without a helmet after only a single complaint.

Let's summarise then
  1. Single complaint about adults on bicycles: immediate reaction.
  2. Single complaint about use of "road tax" term: fuck off.
Perhaps if more people were to complain they may react better. Or equally importantly -the more people who complain, the harder it is for them to defend their hypocrisy.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Meanwhile, on the Lockleaze "technical" route.

Readers may ask, what's happening elsewhere, like the cycle path that ends in a 50cm dropoff.

We were informed by Rob of Really Useful Bikes that the plan was to "raise the old cycle path 50cm", so eliminating the height difference, albeit at the cost of making the climb out of UWE steeper. This would happen "in the next few weeks". We didn't bother repeating this news, pasted as a comment, adopting a wait and see strategy.

That was back in February. Since then: nothing. We'd hoped that if it had happened, it would happen during the UWE easter break. It hasn't. But then the summer term is nearly over, so maybe it will go up during the student summer holidays.

Until the paths join properly a bit of rough gravel is being used to smooth the dropoff; it's in use, though visibility is pretty bad for anyone dropping onto the UWE path.

Apart from that dropoff, what about the rest of the path?

Well, that's interesting Here is another bit of the same path. You see it? Give way signs on either approach to the path. Therefore , despite the 50cm dropoff on one side and the ending on a kerb on the other, makes it the best cycle path in the whole of S Gloucestershire.

Compare to the path at the MoD roundabout. On a bicycle, you have to swerve right, sprint over a gap in traffic and get to the island -then repeat.
There is a sign warning cars of bicycles, but that's not a "give way", more a "look out, you may get some damage" warning, like a pothole warning sign.

That's on a roundabout where cars come off the A4174
Commuters come down from Gloucester, Swindon, even further away, at motorway speeds, then will have been doing dual carriageway speeds all the way until they get here. And what does the council put in for cyclist safety on a cycling city route? A warning sign. Not a stop, sign, not a give way sign, just a warning sign.

Frank, if you can fix up the dropoff so the whole Redrow route works, you've got our recommendation as replacing the entire cycling team in S Gloucs council, though someone will need to deal with Bwian Allinson and colleagues first.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Old Filton Road: this is what they give us

Old Filton Road is the road where cycling city money was wasted putting in a cycle lane "hint" on one side of the road, and a shit cycle/walk path on the other, purely so that the road could be re-opened as a rat-run, something the councillors were proud to take credit for. This is how South Gloucester council spent their part of the cycling city money, improvements which they say were "designed to improve the environment for cyclists and pedestrians". Exactly how turning a dead end road into a through route while giving a shit bit of pavement to the side for the walkers and cyclists to bicker over escapes us.



Before:
  1. A closed road with room for people to cycle in either direction on safely.
  2. No pavement, but no need to worry about rat-running cars.
  3. Room for pedestrians and lots of lunchtime runners.
After
  1. A road that cars can sprint along to avoid the traffic jam that is the A4174. Yes, it's left turn only at the end, but that gets you to UWE and the science park.
  2. A pavement that hasn't had any gardening budget spent on it since it was installed.
  3. Traffic calming in the form of some signs and one of those 30mph signs that lights up to remind people who were unintentionally -as opposed to knowingly- breaking the speed limit.

Say what you like about Bristol City Council, it didn't add something this awful and then stand up and be proud of it. Admittedly, S Gloucs council didn't either, not to the cyclists -they sold the entire scheme as "a road re-opens", with a sob story of how "drivers who had used the route were forced on to the already congested ring road instead.", missing the point that it was people choosing to drive were the problem, not the victims.

Some people are unhappy that not everyone cycles along this newly designated path. If the UKIP -the official party of the Association of British Drivers- got their way, it would be mandatory to cycle along the path.
That's the path that is getting slowly overgrown after two years of utter neglect; the trees overhanging the path while the vegetation curves back in. Of course anyone in their right mind would cycle on the road, such as the person vanishing into the distance.
Which raises the question: what was the fucking point in spending all this money on "cycle safety" in the first place. If you are going to build something so awful that nobody will use it, then neglect it utterly, it isn't worth bothering about.
Note that to reduce the risk of head on collisions on a cycle path so shite nobody uses it, there is a big sign on the west end of the path saying "No cycles". That just about sums it up for the entire S Gloucs council cycling plans: No cycles.

Given that the bollards are missing, this photo is probably going to become the official site logo.

Cherishing the leftovers

One of the weird things about the S Gloucs cycle paths is that they keep on trying to put in traffic calming and road signs into  them, instead of making the paths wider, and without understanding how people cycle.

Here's a bit of the ring road cycle path, near the Bridge Inn pub. You can see some fading signs which tried to split the cycle path in two with formal give way markings between them.

Fortunately, at some point in the last decade, they've been left to fade -perhaps somebody realised how useless they were. But they are there, if you look
If you look at the width the markings give you, there's just over two handlebar widths in the cyclists' part of the cycling|walking lane. It's better than the newer path on Old Filton Road, but you'd still need to not be pulling a cycle trailer, not doing a family ride with wobbly kids or encountering such oncoming traffic if you really had to share that half of the tarmac with oncoming bicycles.
The reality is, most people on a bicycle take up the whole of one of the lanes. If this was official, and there was a parallel walking route "a pavement" alongside, this would actually work and could be held up as good route.

The only reason there is no conflict here is that it is in the middle of fucking nowhere and nobody walks, even people on a bicycle aren't made to feel welcome, what with the lack of lighting. 

But no, there's no money to create a path wide enough for two lanes of cycles and pedestrians, to add lighting -everyone on foot or bike is left scrabbling for the leftovers.

What leftovers? This. The A4174 Emerson Green to the A4 link
Before this was built, the Bristol-Bath railway path -which the existing path connects up with -without a single gate or road crossing- ran up here to Pucklechurch along a lovely quiet path. But then the road planners said "Oh look, we could link up the North Fringe with Bath" and built a four lane near-motorway that only the very brave would cycle. At least we did get somewhere to walk and cycle, but
  • Why is it so narrow compared to the space dedicated to motor vehicles?
  • Why isn't it lit at night? The road is, until midnight. Are we somehow undeserving of street lights? You could argue that people on bicycles should have lights, but what about the pedestrians? 
  • Who is in the council thinks that painting give way and lane markings in cycle lanes too narrow for two bicycles makes sense? 
The whole path works, but it could be so much better. When you get to the Railway Path, you see people walking and cycling, it's lit at night, it's busy. Here? You see some people, between the vegetation growing in that nobody maintains, walking or cycling. No families out for a walk or cycle. Nobody caring about a boringly utilitarian path that has the background noise of any four-lane highway to deal with.

Welcome to South Gloucestershire: the council that doesn't really care for people on foot or bicycle

The Cycling Front claims victory in the Battle of the Bollards


Comrades! Citizens of South Gloucestershire! We have been quiet recently, but today have decided to confirm that it was our actions -along with someone making the national press from crashing into them- that caused the bollards of death to removed from the path West of Abbey Wood.



It was only after our direct action (and possibly the threat of more injury lawsuits) that the council acted to remove the bollards they had put in to try and keep people walking and cycling separate.

It is now possible for two bicycles to pass one another, albeit by having one of the bicycles swerve into the "pedestrian" side.
It is now possible to cycle along the path at night without hitting bollards which had to wait for direct action by the People's Cycling Front before they were visible at night.
However, the fundamental problem remains: the path is too narrow for people walking from the station to work or college and bidirectional cycling traffic. It may seem quiet here, mid-morning, but before 9:00 it is busy with people walking to work -often after haven gotten off the train, others cycling to work and schoolchildren. It's not just that the path isn't wide enough for the current load of bicycle and pedestrians at this time of day -it's not even wide enough for the current number of pedestrians.
Which raises a fundamental question: what were their traffic plans for the concorde way going to be? If there was going to be an increase in cycling, then an increase in conflict was inevitable -and the solution would be to widen the path. Not bollards: path widening.

This is the fundamental issue here: the walkers and cyclists are left scrabbling for leftovers while the council's main traffic "investments" go into road widening.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Glorious news, Comrades!

Comrades! Fellow cyclists against the incompetent regime that is S Gloucs council! We have some good news for a change!

Firstly, the bollards on the bollards-of-death path have been removed! Only two are left standing -apparently at MoD insistence- to keep motor vehicles off the path. Sadly, the fundamental problem: the path isn't wide enough for two lanes of bicycles and pedestrians remains. We suspect our comrades in the Netherlands will still be unimpressed. Widening the path would be the obvious solution, but instead the council insists on wasting money on road widening elsewhere instead.

Secondly, the sign-of-stupidity in the middle of the A4174 path has been moved.

We, the People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire take all credit for this, and denounce the collaborators in the Popular Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire for their attempts to politely point out the weaknesses in the designs. While they may claim credit, those polite complaints have been going on since August 2010, yet it is only a few weeks after we publicly denounced the cycle team at S Gloucs council of being incompetent that they acted.

We have won our first battles! However now the real war begins! All we have done is fixed two recent changes that made the existing bicycle paths worse. Yet the council still spends millions of pounds on road and roundabout widening, puts in car sharing lanes then removes them as they were under-used, and fritters away money on new routes to Cribb's Causeway that don't stop John Lewis naming and shaming that out of town shopping centre as having significantly lower revenue than their in-town stores. And who was the councillor pleased to have that new road opened? That's right, Cllr Bwian Allinson, the so-called cycling-city liaison councillor.

We cannot achieve our goal: cycle lanes the Dutch won't laugh at, while S Gloucs councillor doesn't give a fuck about bicycles except when they get a chance to get their face in the local papers pretending to care. Overthrowing the council is our only solution.

This is what we all must do!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Old Filton Road

We'll cover this more over time, but here is a video from Yangtse55:



People will look at this and say "oh, this is the usual half-arsed cycle lane put in by some idiot". But it is more than that. It is a road that was closed to through traffic, and re-opened with a half-arsed cycle lane, due to councillor pressure.

For a year this was a nice road. No need for a cycle lane. Cars had the A4174 ring-road, this was the quiet alternative. Yet the need to provide a rural rat-run forced the road to be reopened and this piece of shite-cycling-facility to be rolled out. The cycle team probably worked hard to produce the least mediocre design they could given the constraints, but the key constraint was this "re-open the road to cars".

That was the mistake, and the blame goes above the cycle team. No, this lies at the Councillor level.

Bwian, was this your idea?

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Coldharbour Lane and a council that doesn't care

Comrades! We welcome a new Comrade to the People's Cycling Front: yangtse55!
While they have not yet taken direct action against the council, they have documented its maintenance of Coldharbour Lane


This has to come into the "indifference" category, unless they tried to clean it up and got it wrong, in which case: "incompetence".

We hear the collaborators with the existing regime will be having a little get together. Obviously, members of the  are not welcome, but that's OK: if we had been invited, we would have had to decline the opportunity. Presumably Cllr Allison will be driving to the event. If he were to cycle, he'd appreciate how shite what they've done is. That's probably one reason why he'll be driving. The other: he doesn't ride a bicycle, not as far as we know.

Let's repeat that: we have no evidence that the S Gloucs Councillor, Brian Allinson  ever rides a bicycle. You can see that in the press coverage of the Cribb's Causeway Route, the shiny press release by the council themselves:
This route will make it easier for cyclists to travel to Cribbs Causeway,

Not  "this route will make it easier for people to cycle to Cribbs Causeway" -because cyclists are not people.  Not "this route will make it easier for myself and others to cycle to Cribbs Causeway." Instead, implicitly, he's distanced himself from the cyclists: he is not one of us.

No Brian, you aren't. Which is something anyone who tries to cycle on any of the facilities you are so proud of will realise.

We could have done so much better. We still can. But not with you, Brian.

Or is Bwian?

Monday, 28 March 2011

All quiet on the Eastern Front

On the other side of the MoD from the Bollards of Death route lies "the eastern front". It's quite nice in daytime. Here we see two people with orange rucksacks doing the route into town.

The rucksacks say RAF on them, and as you can see, the cyclists are riding in formation. Years of experience paying off.

Is this a bike lane the dutch would laugh at? Well, let's look at some other bits.

Heading to the A4174 on a weekday morning.

The bike path isn't wide enough for two bicycles to pass, but at least there aren't any bollards here.

What is an issue is that anyone walking to work on the MoD site has to cross the bicycle side of the path to get to pedestrian side, increasing risk especially at the bus stops. Why not make the path wide enough for different lanes of bicycles and people walking? And put the footpath on the side by the bus stops, on the basis that that is the obvious destination?

One interesting feature is the green lanes on the road here. Some cars do actually give way to bicycles on these bits, even though it's not a legal requirement. You can't trust it, so perhaps both sides slow down just to make sure. It's a shared space kind of thing.

Now, the final view: heading south on a weekday evening. It's getting dim, and you can see that about one light in four on the MoD site is lit up. If all were lit up, you'd have better visibility on this stretch, which would really benefit pedestrians, who aren't encouraged to walk down here. Oddly enough, all the lights in the car park work.



The bike path is on the right (remember how it is on the left on the bollard path). With two bike paths joining, and the one at the end actually connecting with the bollards route, you have to swing into the pedestrian lane as you approach it, or to pass other bicycles.

Then you hit the rugby grounds. Pleasant at day, at night you have to deal with the narrow fence to get through -this was a change that got worse a couple of years back, before anyone with an MTB -as you need on these paths- could just clear the berm on the left. Now, if you have a road bike you have to slow down and zig zag through, on an MTB you can go on the grass and swerve through faster, hitting potholes as you go. There are more potholes at 1:18, stuff no bike can avoid, potholes that form massive puddle in the rain. At night you don't get any warning of this.

What could be done?
  1. Widen the path between the bus stops and the nursery/car park, giving a proper pedestrian lane on the side of the bus stops. Eliminate crossing risk, better for everyone. It's not as if there isn't the space.
  2. Move the bike path to the other side on the rest of the route, reduce risk of collision from the right. Or just recognise that there is no lanes. 
  3. Fix the lights on the MoD site.
  4. Change the entry point to the rugby grounds so you don't need to come completely to a halt. Instead widen it enough to get a trailer through, and line it up better. 
  5. Fix the potholes.
  6. Add some st-werburgh's path style solar LED lights through the rugby grounds. They show the route to everyone, and do benefit pedestrians.
The annoying thing none of these need much imagination to come up with, the problems are immediately visible. Yet nobody fixes them, nobody cares. Incompetence or Indifference: you choose.

Update: Fixed the link to the final video.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Bristol Parkway to UWE. Could try harder.

Before watching the video, know that 20 years ago, you could walk or run through fields all the way from the railway bridge to the UWE entrance. Since then various office facilities have appeared, along with lots of parking, and, unsurprisingly, big traffic jams on the A4174 ring road, along which everyone will have to cross, unless they are heading north to Bradley Stoke.

That means that in the past 20 years, many of the side roads went in, giving an opportunity to have a wide bicycles-first route alongside the roads. It didn't happen, and what has gone in recently can best be described as damage limitation, or more precisely "damage limitation designed not to upset anyone driving"

This is the official video on the better by bike site. This is the best video they could do to sell the project. Imagine how much less compelling it would be if it was done on a day when rain screwed up visibility and stopping distances, bikes coming in the opposite direction, and more pedestrians.



For a citizen of S Gloucs who is not affiliated with the People's Cycling Front, here are some issues the video highlights
  • 0.14 - The chance to mix it with bus queues and their trolley suitcases  -
  • 0.42 - 1.50 The convoluted detour to do 2 left turns.
  • 1.19 - The chance to cycle on a narrow pavement under the bridge -
  • 2.15 - The chance to scare the living daylights out of pedestrians on yet another
    pavement. 
We add:
  • 0:00 No coverage of the car parking here. Yes, that increases train traffic, and there is also some secure bike parking, but it still implies that the primary expected transport option here is by car, not walking or cycling. Compare with the NL. 
  • 0:31 the usual pavement/path problems. Two people walking side by side and bicycle traffic are not expected or supported in S Gloucs. #FAIL
  • 0:44  A  zebra crossing with a designated bicycle option. This is is good, and should be replicated elsewhere, on this route and on all other routes where pedestrians and cyclists are expected to yield to motor traffic. Well done!
  • 1:05 How can crossing be cycle friendly when the cars don't stop and the island is not wide enough for any bicycle with trailer or tagalong. Better to pull the island (removing a pinch point for the vehicular cyclists) and put in another bike+foot zebra crossing. Why wasn't this done? #FAIL
  • 1:10 the signpost is not in the path. Well done!
  • 1:19 this is a choke point you can't avoid. Yet someone was scared of, say, narrowing the road to one lane (alternating) and putting in a dedicated two way bicycle route. You know, something that says bicycles matter. #FAIL
  • 1:25 a single bollard, with the blue markings but not that reflective. Just one bollard though. 
  • 1:55 note the traffic speed. There's an expectation in cars that there aren't bicycles and you can drive at 60 on the roads. Lower speed limits would help, but the ever present dual carriageways reinforce the "cars only" feel. Yet these bike lanes are the alternative.
  • 2:08 The loopback to the bridge is now complete. If a segregated bicycle lane had gone in under the bridge, the bike journey would have saved all the time since 0:44. This is a bike path designed to encourage you to cycle on the road as it is faster. #FAIL
  • 2:10+ This is just a fucking pavement. Why not come out and call it that instead of a designated bike route. Oh, and it's no fun to walk either. The fields were prettier. 
  • 2:20 Now the pavement gets narrower. The bollard to the right is there to stop you cycling into something that would hurt, like a fence. #FAIL.
  • 2:43 Bicycles give way to staff car park. #FAIL.
  • 3:05 another crossing with no ped/bike support other than "hope for the best". #FAIL.
  • 3:20 a quiet back road with no parked cars would be the ideal place to retain a real segregated bike path;  instead you are expected to embrace the road. If you wanted that, why not just start off on the road? Oh, and what is the speed limit on this road? 30 or 60?
  • 3:54 video forgets to warn about buses coming up the RHS, especially in a morning, as its the bus route to UWE. #FAIL.
  • 4:01 we'd recommend looking right for cars doing 70+ mph before trusting the green man. Just a thought. 
  • 4:03: the roadwork sign is the A4174 road widening, way more expenditure than the cycling work. It does add a bus lane, but doesn't take away any driving space. And how long before people get fed up by an empty bus lane before they turn it into another car lane -as they did with the car sharing lane the other side of the M32 junction?
  • 4:08 - video doesn't say "These are responsive lights". There's a reason for that, expect up to a minute's wait, always including time stuck half way. You could say "well the cars are going fast here", but why not downgrade the road speed then? Why not give pedestrians and bicycles priority and give a full sequence to allow people to walk or cycle across the route without that wait in the middle? #FAIL
  • 4:21 - we'll look at the UWE site bike paths some other time. Someone on site believes that bicycles are a threat to cars and so need their own special traffic calming. 
There we have it then. A half-arsed bike route that tries to provide a safe route to UWE from the station but tries to do it on the cheap by not putting in enough safe road crossings, and for a lot of the way, just putting some blue circles on a pavement. We think the Dutch will be, well, disappointed.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Bollards of Death Path

Here is the famous "bollards of death" path at 17:30 on a weekday. MoD staff, other commuters. This is what it really looks like, compared to the sunny quiet-day video.

The bollards are visible, you can see where we taped some of them up, but they do blend in with the white line. It makes you realise why many road-side posts are in alternating white and black -visible in more conditions.




0:08 -swerve into oncoming lane. No protocol here so there's a risk you both swerve. It happens. That's why when there is a lower pedestrian count the path switches to normal left-side-of-road rules.

0:18 anyone walking over the zebra crossing is lined up to get hit here. Also note the barriers. Rationale unclear. Not bicycles, so it must be stop pedestrians crossing the road except at the zebra crossing. So why not allow that?

0:55 mediocre visibility on an uphill route; hope nobody is descending.

1:12 MoD pedestrian access point. Again, having the bike path on the RHS would reduce risk here, but look at what comes up

1:19 foot access to the train station, key part of the pedestrian route. Oh, and a pillar in the middle.

1:24 even two people walking side by side are something you have to worry about

1:39 notice the vast space for parking. This site fills up its parking, a lot of staff were reallocated from elsewhere. Now people who live within three miles aren't allowed to park. But what is the alternative. We're on it.

1:56 its quieter here as its either residents of Northville or Lockleaze on foot, or bicycles. At the end of the path there's a blind corner, but we are avoiding it as we are taking the Northville exit.

2:10 This is a bike path, marked up on the maps, oddly not in the better by bike video. When we say "you need an MTB to cycle round here" we forgot to mention the max handlebar width and travel. The more travel your bike has, the higher your bars go, the harder it is to get through here. Good thing there's nobody in the way, and that we arent carrying children on the front bars -or in a trailer or tagalong.

2:17 narrow bridge. Clearly this is a path for pedestrians that's had some anti-motorbike barrier for a while and with a blue circle is now a pedestrian/bicycle shared route.

2:28 into the garage zone. It's interesting how much space is allocated to parking here. Even though you are a few minutes cycle/walk from the supermarket, the whole Bristol suburb culture is about driving. The busses are less frequent, the corner shops bleaker and further away. You are expected to drive.

2:46 and we are in the cars-on-the-pavement suburbs.

Now, is this path a failure?

Experience: Fail. In that it doesn't go out of its way to make you feel welcome and valued yes. Neither pedestrians or cyclists will enjoy this walk. Indeed, one of the things about walking round this area, or up to parkway station, is how mindnumbingly dull it is. Even the graffiti isn't that interesting. All you see are car parks, dual carriageways and cars, until you get to crossings that make you wait for 30-60s before you react. It's implicitly designed to make you wish you'd rather be in a car.

Maybe this is why its so rare to see anyone walking around. In the inner city, people out and about. Here, people walking to their cars, some teenagers loitering, and people waiting for busses looking miserable.

Use: Unknown. We have no before/after data, the MoD exclusion zone will encourage more walking and cycling so the statistics won't be reliable. It's busy with pedestrians and some bicycles. Some morning and school time data would be useful, probably between 8 and 9 am is the peak hours.

Scalability: Fail. The path may only have a few bicycles, but its already saturated. The segregation fails because the path isn't wide enough for two directions of walking and two directions of cycling. If the number of people cycling down here were to double or triple at peak times, it still wouldn't make much of a dent in the car traffic statistics, but it would overload the cycling infrastructure. And what then? A new lane?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

What have the Romans ever done for us?

To us, the People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire, our enemy is the roadbuilders who stick up the new roads, widen the old ones, and add walking and cycling features as an afterthought -one that neglects our needs and is constrained by the inability of the roadbuilders to imagine the needs, care about them, or execute on their own plans.

We call them The Romans. For what have the Romans ever done for us, apart from the roads?


This is the A4174 ring road path, by the UWE entrance. 20 years ago you weren't allowed to cycle here, and as a consequence there was none of this traffic calming stuff up. It was easier to cycle down, and way safer than the ring road.

Since then, the ring road has got busier and wider. This week they opened a new priority lane for buses, one that avoids taking any space from cars.
That worked, didn't it?

Looking the other way, you can see that some of the pedestrians are wearing camouflage and not hi-viz.
This shows a conflict of goals. The motorists and the councils would like all pedestrians to wear hi-viz, obvously. But many of the MoD staff are wearing work clothes designed to keep you alive in war zones, and bright reflective clothing fails then. It went out of fashion when officers stopped wearing red jackets.

The combination of traffic calming and pedestrians whose lives depend on not wearing hi-viz makes for a higher risk environment.

Descending to the roundabout, you can see that it is too narrow to have separation from pedestrians, so we are grateful for the current lack of bollards. Admittedly, the various road signs don't help, and a wider path would actually eliminate the conflict entirely. This would good as the people cycling up the hill are all in uniforms.



Note the different roundabout crossings

1. MOD entrance: light controlled, safe.

2. MOD back entrance and shops -no lights, cars may coming off the main roundabout at speed. There is a traffic island designed for at most one bicycle to wait, limiting the cycle traffic flow to one bicycle every 30s maximum. Everyone cycling across has to look at the traffic, then keep looking in front to see its clear to get off the crossing.

3. Shopping centre entrance. There is a green strip here, and the driver coming off the roundabout did give way. This is unexpected and welcome, as a green line on the ground has no legal force. If you get run over, the car had the right of way.

What did the SGC get wrong here?

The key issue is a focus on motor traffic rather than pedestrian and bicycles, and not making it safe to cross the roundabouts. Pelican lights that would block both the entrance and exit of crossing #2 would make it safe to cross and eliminate the traffic island bottleneck in the middle. That or a zebra crossing would be good. But perhaps they fear the tailbacks created by stopping for pedestrians and cyclists.

3. Again, no formal cycles-have-right-of-way setup at the junction. This time someone was being generous, but you can't rely on it.

The biggest hazard is the main MoD roundabout
  • The main road has 50 mph speed limit, people are still in motorway-mode -and not expecting pedestrians or cyclists.
  • No pedestrian/cycle crossing lights or scheduled period in the main light sequence.
  • The traffic island has room for one bicycle at a time and is already saturated.
  • Pedestrians and bicycles are sprinting over, attention split between traffic coming off the roundabout and what they will run or cycle into.
The metric we ask is "would you trust an 11 year old child to use this bicycle path safely". Not with these crossings and paths we don't. 

Better by bike?

The city's better by bike site has a video from the Bollards of Death route to the B&Q bridge.

We see they chose a sunny off peak period. This is it at its best. Try doing it at 17:15 after the MoD knock off, in winter conditions. the MoD lighting is for their IR cameras, the rubgy grounds completely unlit with large potholes that fill up with water. Add some pedestrians trying to get home in darkness and a couple of teenagers on trials bikes.



A quick post mortem of the video

1:14 Swerve into "the forbidden side" to pass pedestrians. This shows a fundamental problem here that bollards don't fix. People walk side by side, the bike paths are two way, the path isn't wide enough to segregate either traffic option. All the bollards do is increase the likelihood of collision, as segregation isn't possible.

2:06. This is three way junction with restricted visibility -something the video doesn't warn you about. Anyone coming from the route that joins on the left has to be in the pedestrian side to avoid colliding with people coming from the direction shown in the video.

2:21. Note the large water filled potholes. Then consider what the path is like in darkness.

2:48. Note how conflict is reduced at this point because the road is wide enough. But on winter nights when the rubgy match lights aren't on, pedestrians are invisible -nobody likes it.

3:57 (now in Bristol) observe the large oncoming bus. With vehicles half parked on the pavement on both sides of the road, oncoming traffic will swerve into your lane, and as few people give way to bicycles, the advice to keep your speed down would be correct -though of course having the cars do the same would be better. That is, after all, why people park on the pavement -to protect their own vehicle's bodywork.

Those vans on the left are a fixture by the way. We are promised some signs -let's see if that makes any difference in behaviour. Making one side of the road no parking, and making pavement parking illegal, might, because then everyone would park on the same side of the road -and less swerving.

4:27 You need some acceleration to cross here, cars are in a hurry to get in or out of Lockleaze.

4:59 locals tend to drive to these shops (no bike parking), look out for double parked vehicles, cars stopping, pulling out and U-turning without warning.

The shopping stretch is interesting. It is hazardous, because so many people drive there. Why? No reason not to other than fuel costs. There's little congestion, no parking problems (just double park), and you know there'll be somewhere to park when you get home. Unlike the inner city, the local shops are further away but easy to drive to. Downtown, the combination of congestion, one-way streets, road closures and traffic lights means you are best off walking round the corner. Here driving still works. It may cost, but as that weekly cost is decoupled from the drive to the shops, it's not immediately obvious.

Monday, 7 March 2011

BBC on Cycling City

The BBC is doing a post mortem of the Cycling City program on the radio, and in print

On the one hand, the BBC are saying "It's failed because it didn't reach its goals", then we have the Bristol Council Conservative Party leader saying "It's failed because all the features they added have taken away road space from people who choose to drive. Choose to Drive, remember that. It is optional within the inner city, despite what some people think:

The leader of the opposition Conservative group on Bristol City Council, Geoff Gollop, said the new cycle routes were to the detriment of motorists.


He said: "The Cycling City initiative brought in match-funding which has delivered new cycling routes but these have largely been achieved at the expense of the majority of road users - by reducing road space or capacity.


"Whilst we recognise the merits of promoting cycling as a leisure activity for the individual - delivering personal health benefits and helping to improve the environment for all - this form of travel is unlikely in the near future to be a major means of commuting.


"We do not believe the £22m project can be said to have been successful even in its own terms."

From this, "the Clarkson perspective", anyone cycling is (a) a loser and (b) in their way. While the conservative party are a mostly irrelevant minority in Bristol -where the power has mostly been held by Labour, now LibDems (though elections in May might change things, the nightmare scenario is the cons party hold the balance of power.).

For all the criticism the BBC points at the council, the Bristol council leadership and the traffic team has embraced cycling. You don't see that in S Gloucs. They will be with Geoff Gollop: they want the money, but don't want it to take any space from roads, because commuting is what cars are for.

There's discussion about "what next", and proposals for more funding. We in the People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire don't believe that any funding should go to the S Gloucs team unless there are fundamental changes not just in their engineering team, but in the council themselves. They will never embrace Dutch Infrastructure when they view cycling as an odd hobby for outcasts.

If you think Bristol City cycling is a failure, then you haven't tried to go round S Gloucs. And here is the joke: They have the space. This isn't the inner city, with its windy hills, residents parking on the pavements because there's no room for anything else. No, this is the quiet suburbs where you park your cars on the pavements because you can, where mediocre cycle paths are designed to keep them out of sight and out of mind. Yet these lanes aren't designed to cope with a doubling in the numbers of people using them, as they couldn't even begin to cope.


The People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire will change this. All who stand in our way shall be defeated. They shall fear our very name!

South Gloucestershire Council: this is how it is done

For the S Gloucs team -you don't need to fly to Amsterdam to get a hint of what could be done. just head down "the concorde way" to the city to see a new bridge done by the Bristol Team.

It has lights. Clearly overkill, but it makes it feel less threatening to pedestrians, and reduces the risk of pedestrian/bike conflict as they can see each other. [That said, in-path solar lights would have kept things wilder, retained some visibility and not pissed off the locals so much]
It has one, count it one bollard at either end of the bridge, to keep motor traffic off. And there is a reflector on it.

there are
  • No signs in the middle of the path.
  • No dropoffs.
  • No zig-zag routes that aren't actually rideable.
If there were bollards all down the bridge and the path was actually popular then it would be dangerous. Hence the cycle city team -who want their paths to be used- left them out, except to control car access. They could still do with a bit of daylight highlighting, but otherwise it's a lovely bit of infrastructure. But what does it connect up to? That's right, the S Gloucs council works.
Come on S gloucs cycling team, head south and see what can be done!

(note this doesn't mean we think much of the route from Abbey Wood to this bridge, more on that another day)