Monday 17 December 2012

Walk, Cycle or Die: what should the NHS do?

Gven the Daily Mail
What about the NHS? What are they going to do without waiting for the Daily Mail to become "enlightened".

Freewheeler used to criticise the NHS in Waltham Forest for being car-sick. That's pretty common round the country.

  1. They implicitly encourage their staff to drive in, by providing infrastructure to enable this.
  2. They implicitly discourage their staff from driving in by providing shit cycling infrastructure.
The shit infrastructure goes further than the hospital site -the adding of an extra lane at the A38/A4174 Airbus roundabout is to cope with the extra traffic of the expanded Southmead hospital. The NHS now knows that driving is bad for the long term health of the patient, yet they aren't translating that into actions on the ground.

Anyone who has tried to park a bicycle at a Bristol/S Gloucs hospital will know they will have to trudge round looking for an obscure bike park which will be:  in an random corner of the site,uncovered, blatantly insecure and not even well signed.

Supermarkets with eight bike stands in front of their supermarket entrance alongside a 500+ car parking area have better bike parking facilities than most hospitals, as they have eight bike stands somewhere useful.

In Bristol, The BRI is pretty awful: one row of bike stands 6? in a well known theft zone. That's all. There's also a four storey staff car park round the corner and various other parking zones nearby. Not much visitor parking, but once all the staff parking is taken care of, there's little room.

Frenchay? It was pretty bad too. Apparently they were looking at a scheme whereby the amount staff paid to park was proportional to your salary: the more you earned, the more it cost. That's a nice idea. Frenchay also suffered from: no secure bike parking, minimal bus access. Regular patients knew the best tactic was to park in a nearby street and walk in. 

Southville -which is expanding as Frenchay gets shut down- will be test for Bristol and the North Fringe. Will it discourage driving by staff and patients, or will it encourage it.

The roundabout fiasco sounds like they aren't trying to discourage it, not matter what they say.

Yet a hospital staff should be the ideal place for the NHS and NICE to see if they could effect change in UK driver's habits

They NHS has an opportunity to change the reward scheme for transportation choices -in a way that it lacks for all other employers. 

It could
  1. Provide secure and convenient bike parking for staff, where secure means "your bike and its lights will be there when you get back", convenient: closer to your office/place of work than any car parking. Some electric charge points could be good tool
  2. Provide changing and shower facilities for staff. Yes, this is just icing on the cake, but it makes cycling more acceptable amongst colleagues -and if you live in Bristol, you will know about getting wet on the commute. You need somewhere to dry your wet things.
  3. Provide convenient and secure-ish parking for visitors. Here, covered, near the entrance parking with good lighting and CCTV coverage is what to hope for. You want every patient going to the hospital to see the extended bike park even closer to the entrance than the disabled parking bays for the heavy smokers.
  4. Provide safe cycle access to the hospital premises.
  5. Provide information and assistance on cycling to work. Loan electric bikes, adult 1:1 cycle training  which covers the route from  home to work -these can come after the infrastructure.
  6. Provide information to patients on cycling to the hospital. Today: little leaflets on parking and public transport. Nothing about cycling. An outline map of the approaches to the hospital, with details on how this connects to the rest of the city, could be good here.
  7. Provice disincentives to driving. For staff, salary-proportional parking fees. For patients, pay to park. There's complications there: not just the disabled patients, but the long-visit day patients on dialysis, chemotherapy, etc. You can't expect them to pay a lot, or cycle in. At the same time, you don't want the Scottish vote-seeking model "free hospital parking". 
The safe cycle access is critical. Staff will come on the same routes regularly, so you need non-leisure routes that aren't too indirect, slow or unsafe. The development of these access routes could be an integral part of hospital development. Not meaningless 'we have a cycle plan' pieces of paper, not 'some S106 cash for some shared pavement', but "make increasing the percentage of cycling staff and patients a short-term goal. Short term, because failures and success needs to be visible within a year, to stop you pretending that 'by 2020 15% will cycle', when nothing is happening towards that goal. 

How is southmead coming close to this. It isn't.
How will you make it easier to get to Southmead?
The Trust has agreed to pay £1.5 million for improvements to public transport and almost another £1 million for improvements to road junctions in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. Work is underway between the Trust and the local councils.  A Joint Officers Transport Group has been established to lead this work and this will include identifying how the Trust’s public transport investment should best be spent in order to enable as many people as possible to get to the hospital by bus. An accessibility study has been produced which helps to inform these discussions.  It will also finalise proposals for how the road infrastructure funding will be invested and ensure there is appropriate provision for those who may come to the site by bicycle or on foot.

See that?  £1 million for improvements to road junctions. And a footnote about appropriate provision for those who may come to the site by bicycle or on foot. As if that will be a special case that they mustn't forget about -not the way they expect most of their staff and many of their patients to come by.

The NHS -if they want to fix society, they should look in the mirror first.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Walk, Cycle or Die: the Daily Mail vs the NHS

The Daily Mail loves its scare story, "lettuce gives you cancer", but one time there is something with a clear cut connection between action (driving everywhere) and outcome (10 years off your life), the DM refuses to acknowledge this, instead going for "Nanny State to increase parking costs".

If the DM news crew though it through -and believed the NHS reports- then they'd realise that shortening the lives of daily mail readers is bad for their long term income plans, unless they plan to "hook" another generation of daily mail readers. The demographics of printed press sales mean that isn't going to happen -unless they can convert this to page hits of people that don't use flashblock and adblock in their browsers, then even their web site's business plan is weak.

It should be in the DM's interest to get its readers to do some exercise, unless there's another goal. What? Well, there's the advertising revenue to think of; all the Car adverts. That hasn't stopped the Times.

It's most likely that the DM needs their agenda "europe to ban cheddar cheese", "asylum seekers groom teenage girls for sex", to sell papers. If there weren't scare stories on the headline, (or royalty joy stories), then people would leave the DM copies on the stalls as the newsagent, and so their paper sales -the ones they depend on the most- would fall.

That's something to consider as a tactic -if they could be switched into treating travesties of justice by law-breaking lorry drivers as something to put on the front page, then maybe they'd start to get through to an audience which, like it or not, represent a large proportion of suburban England (no comment on Wales, Scotland, NI),  But the DM isn't going to do that unless they think their audience would care -and if they don't, they won't. Maybe the tactic is that their children, and their grandchildren cycle.

Friday 14 December 2012

Fucked by Justice

What happened in the courts today shows that Britain thinks cyclists are expendable; a slight inconvenience for drivers. Door one when you illegally tinted your windows? You won't even get enough of a conviction to see your premiums go up.

As for the lorry driver: on the phone, not looking, yet "careless?". You don't kill someone through carelessness. Careless is forgetting where you left your keys.

Even he must have known he did something wrong -because he lied about being on the phone. He knew he should have been looking -after the fact.

Meanwhile, over in Cambridge, the police are cracking down on cyclists who cycle on the pavement.

Everyone should buy a copy of the Times tomorrow -not just  to see what they print, but to show your support for their campaign.

And then what? If justice is broken -how do we fix it?

Everyone who cycles needs to go to their local "police meets community" meetings. They may seem a waste of time -but that's what directs police resources -and nowadays that means against cyclists.

You all need to go, and get your needs addressed, but subtly, in a way that even the cyclist-haters can come round to

  1. "I think school parents park really dangerously round school XYZ". If you do the school run by bike, you'll fear actually arriving near the school, and of course it's just as bad walking. Make clear that pedestrian safety is one of your concerns, so you can't be boxed as "a cyclist"
  2. "Speeding cars mean I can't cross roads safely". Again, pedestrian safety. How can the anti pavement cyclists complain there.
  3. Drivers on phones, especially texting, nearly hit me at (cite some recent example, especially at a zebra crossing".
  4. Cars don't stop for me at zebra crossings; run predestrian lights at junction XYZ. Again, cite places where this happens.
Can you see the commonality. Instead of complaining about the actions that endanger you on a bike, the actions that endanger everyone on foot. That stops it being lawbreaking cyclists unfit to complain "until they get their own house in order",  but instead people who walk round the city -proper citizens, yet ones who still get treated like shit in a society that places driving above all else.

What else? 

Press coverage. This could maybe, just maybe, be something to bring the Daily Mail and its readers around. Yes they hate cyclists, yes they want to ban them from the streets, but they also believe criminals should get what they deserve. A lorry driver (from abroad!) who leaves a woman in hospital for life pays a few thousand pounds and will be driving -on the phone again- within a year. Even they could resent that. 

But how to get the Daily Mail to even mention it. That's the next challenge. And a hard one.

Sunday 2 December 2012

£20 million? You couldn't build a roundabout for that!

The government has somewhere in the trouser pockets of the transport secretary managed to find a few million pounds to stop the cyclists complaining.

They'll probably have to put off adding an extra lane on a motorway slip way for three months or something similar.

What does that 20 million quid say about britain today?
  1. It was portrayed as "for cyclists" and for "cycling', not "for the country"
  2. No range-rover driving CBI spokesman (it would be a man) turned up to say this would be a boost for the economy, the way they do for roads
  3. Claims that this would somehow make britain a better place to cycle were accepted by the press, rather than greeted with ridicule and laughter.

 This shows a key problem, cycling is viewed as "for others". CBI  businessmen believe that they and their employees need more roads to address congestion. Politicians view it as "for them" and not for the country. As for the press, they are either docile and naive or they saw through the bullshit but decided not to call them out on it.

If there is one thing to be grateful for: the daily mail didn't denounce it as a war-on-motorists action. No, they saved that vitriol for the NICE "walk, cycle or die" proposal (that's a good phrase -expect a followup article on it).

No doubt the people that will pick up on it will be the fuckwits who, to this day, comment on the Bristol paper's articles with anti cycling rants saying "£27 million wasted on lycra louts". Certainly, the portion of that spent in S gloucs was a waste -but some of the things they did in Bristol were good. It's just even there: nobody was prepared to take road space away from cars in the city centre; nobody prepared to to block off roads to motor traffic. And if they weren't prepared to do that in the city, well, S Gloucs was fucked from the outset.

Which shows problem #2 with the funding: you can do good things with money for cycling, or you can
  • Waste it on bluewash paint jobs, of which the London CS routes are the key example. 70 million for nothing.
  • Fritter it away on hi-viz giveways, leisure route maps and "personal journey consultants" who show you how it's easy to get to your destination by bike, -and you will probably reach it alive.
In the cycling world, that means there are two problems
  1. Getting the funding needed to make our cities and suburbs safe to cycle around.
  2. Getting cycle facilities designed that aren't so fucking useless that their sole purpose is to make the "cycling facility of the month" web page.
The CEoGB is pushing hard for #2, but you can see that TfL don't fully understand it. They need to really want to do good cycling facilities, rather than be a petrolhead who views bicycles as things that should be pushed to the side with pedestrians.

Funding? That's going to need all of us to stand up and say "you are taking the fucking piss".

Every few months, the fuel duty campaigners start their whining again, blackmailing politicians into giving them more than the cycle campaigners ever, ever see. We need to be as noisy, and we need to get listened to.

Monday 19 November 2012

Why have scotland's roads got more lethal for pedestrians?

The scottish road statistics are out, and behind the "roads are getting safer" claims both walking and cycling has got more dangerous, as magnatom shows. This increase in ped/cyclist deaths is merely hidden by a drop in car deaths (gradual retirement of non-airbag, non-ABS fleet?)

The increase in pedestrian KSI is something to draw out.

If it was just an increasing in cyclist KSI, one could discount it by saying "due to an increase in inexperienced cyclists". One could also blame bikes that are more dangerous (fixed wheel) than -the official S Gloucs recommend cycle path bike, an MTB with disk brakes and enough front travel to handle potholes and 20cm drops in the paths.

You can't do so much victim blaming the pedestrians. Unless there has been a surge in walking, something else is happening.

Here are some possibilites and ways to test them.


More pedestrians -cost of fuel and public transport
any gathered pedestrian counts.
Urban walking has somehow got more dangerous
Increase in percentage KSI in urban/rural environment, assuming constant pedestrian count

increase in speed after cameras removed

turn cameras on but don't issue tickets -just #of vehicles
speeding in town/country roads

drivers on phone

look at phone records after KSI; survey percentage of drivers phoning or texting in urban & rural environments.

drivers texting

consult phone records (and phone)

pedestrians on phone or texting

again: phone records & sampling of pedestrian numbers.

bad weather

compare KSI stats on wet days vs dry days at same time of year/day of week.
Risk compensation of newer cars
Compare change by car model/year from previous year of KSI statistics.

All these are testable -if not in 2011, from now. Cameras can measure the #of speeding cars in an area, correlated with KSI to show if it is an increase in speed, or some other factor.

There's another hypothesis: increase in driving kilometres, but that's already decreasing. Maybe a reduction in car traffic increases speed by reducing congestion.

The two recent trends are: better cars possibly triggering risk compensation, and a growth in phone and texting use.

Phone and text use can be gathered after any RTC -the police can sieze the phone and look for half-competed texts in the drafts folder; phone records will show texts sent and received, phone calls (recent and active). The mobile phone companies will also have records of web requests  and emails made at the time of any crash, though not the content of encrypted communications (mail could be background updates, as facebook and twitter activity could be).

Without attempts to collect these statistics, the reasons for the 6% increase in KSI numbers cannot be determined -and hence cannot be fixed.

There is no evidence that Transport for Scotland are doing this -and until then the causes are guesswork.

If the Pedal on Parliament people want to push for something in the statistics gathering, this is what they should be thinking of -especially the gathering of phone/text data from both drivers and pedestrians.

(side note: cyclist texting/phoning is much rarer than driving; the increase there is unlikely to be due to a rise in cyclists using phones. The other hypothesis list may apply to the increase there -or there may be other causes).

Monday 29 October 2012

pricing roads and cities

This week the government is wheeling out the mad-think-tank idiots -the ones who no doubt blame the rail privatisation failure for "not going far enough", and now they are talking about privatising roads, presumably pavements too.

This is because the government is publishing something on car tax changing that is proposing two tiers of tax
  • Urban roads, country roads and most A roads.
  • Premium: All roads, including motorways and "some" A roads.
The "premium" deal will fund motorway "improvements".

This is bollocks for anyone who drives, as the "value" edition will mean you can never, ever, ever drive on a motorway. You may not get stuck on the M4 every weekday to have the option of using a motorway on a summer weekend. No, most car owners except for people who live in the scottish highlands will end up with the premium car tax.

It's like the BBC license tax that use to have a B&W option as well as colour: now everyone except for a very, very few all has a colour license.

This seems just like a tax increase then -but it's worse. It's the plan to fund a new generation of road improvements "to kick start the economy".

Those private-financed-motorway lanes? Here's the funding. Those new motorway exits? Here's the funding. The south coat m-way? The oxford-cambridge m-way? Here comes the money.

The government will hypothecate the motorway premium to building new motorways and expanding existing ones. This will generate extra traffic anywhere near the motorways, whose costs will be borne by everyone else.

This thinking shows how fucking simple-minded the DfT is. all they give a fuck about is how much it costs to keep motorways working. What the government doesn't give a fuck about is in-city congestion. It is in the cities that the external costs of driving are the highest -and borne by the residents, the pedestrians, the cyclists, the public transport users.

Anyone who drives on a motorway creates congestion -a cost imposed on everyone else on the motorway; everyone gets held up and the congestion costs are shared. (there's pollution, fuel consumption, the impact of oil imports on the UK economy of course)

In a city, the space taken up by each car on the move could be used much more efficiently: bus lanes, segregated bike paths, pedestrian/bike areas. The pollution caused by everyone sitting in traffic jams makes the cities worse places to live, the parking spaces they take up are where our segregated bike paths should go.

Would an inner-city car tax surplus work? No, still bollocks. Because per-use charging is the only way to make people change their actions. Once you've paid for an m-way pass, you may as well drive on them whenever you need to. There's no financial incentive not to. 

Per-use charging encourages people to make decisions based on the individual cost & benefits of that single choice. That's motorway and road tolls -though that may just push vehicles onto the roads we cyclists try to survive on. In town, a congestion charge used to fund public transport, cycling improvements and traffic mitigation policies would force every car commuter to consider their options every day. If those fees changes based on time of day, you'd even level out peak hour traffic.

A premium motorway-edition car tax will do nothing at all to improve our cities. All it will do is create unrealistic expectations in the people who pay it.

Why red paint on a road is such a waste of money

The reviewing of the Gilbert Road history makes a key point to the members of the  People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire:

Painting red strips at the edge of the road is not only a waste of money -it is a dangerous waste of money.

Why does any money get spent on cycling facilities? It's not out of the goodness of the heart of politicians, who have many other things to do with it.

  1. Safety: People -cycling campaigners and voters are demanding facilities to improve cycling.
  2. Take-up: A goal has been set (locally or centrally) to increase the number of cyclists, to achieve modal shift

Red paint on the road does not achieve goal #1, hence #2, take-up of cycling falls by the wayside.

Why doesn't red paint achieve cycling safety. Because it is fucking useless.

  1. It often goes up in the door-zone, the place where you don't want to cycle.
  2. If it goes up alongside a pavement, irrespective of what no parking signs go up, selfish lazy wankers who can't walk more than two feet to their destination will park there. Usually they get away with it from a society that thinks it is acceptable.
  3. Motor vehicles zip by you fast if you are naive enough to cycle in the paint zone.
  4. If you cycle out of the paint zone, out of the door zone, you get the cars sounding their horns, the people complaining the cyclists don't use the facilities. In the worst case, you  get the councillors saying the cyclists don't deserve any more facilities because they don't use the shit stuff they've been given. 
  5. It's not the straight road stretches that are that dangerous -if they are, a 20 mph zone helps. 
  6. What is dangerous -and which the red paint never does anything about- is crossing junctions safely. Often the red paint goes away just before you get to a roundabout, to some four way crossing, to somewhere where you need the acceleration of Cavendish or Grimpel to get across the main road. That's not just some road crossing -many of the "cycle path" crossings of junctions do the same. 
People who cycle will continue to do it, either in the red door zone or, if sensible, in the piss-off-driver zone, and hope to get over the junctions safely. Having cyclist thighs and experience helps them, which is why the vehicular-cycling-only group are usually fit males. Women, kids, they don't have the edge or the hormones.

People who don't cycle -remember that goal #2, take-up- won't, because they try that red line, feel the cars going past, then discover their local council has abandoned them at the junction. Once they get over it, they say "never again", and don't. The bicycle only comes out on the leisure routes, routes the council is happy to give out brochures on -not once wondering why the leisure routes are the only places that you see families on bicycles -families that drive there.

Because red-paint-roads don't achieve safety and hence modal-shift, there is no fucking point wasting any money on them. Because they take away money and time that could make cycling safer. Even ignoring segregated routes, it could be spent making roundabouts and other junctions safer for people cycling on roads -something TfL is clearly failing to do. 

Cycle campaigning groups must make it clear that red-paint achieves nothing. If you see the proposals, ask what the goals are -safety and modal shift- and make clear they don't achieve them. Then say "what can you do that makes things safe and so encourages take-up"

If a council cannot make the roads safe for cycling -and they acknowledge that fact using words like "flow", then that leaves them with only one alternative: safe, segregated routes with safe crossings of junctions. 

It's that junction crossing which is the thing to watch out for. It's why the vehicular cycling advocates have got it right -cycling over a roundabout offers better rights of way than hiding in the traffic islands waiting for a gap. Except neither are safe -which is why both have to go. 

Which raises the question: is the CTC really the Popular Cycling Front of S Gloucs: the committee people who cycle down the rounds, sprint over the junctions, and believe it is their inalienable right to die on an A-road after a transit van driven by a git on a mobile runs into them saying "they just came out of nowhere."

We have to stop compromising on shit paint that does nothing. Either a facility makes cycling safer, achieving modal shift or it doesn't. If it doesn't: there is no fucking point doing it. 

Sunday 7 October 2012

After British cycling's Arab Spring: the storms

The first half of 2012 has to go down as British Cycling's Arab Spring. Consider:

  • The Times making cycling safety a key issue for the paper.
  • Mass protests round London about junction safety.
  • The CEoGB changing the agenda from "right to die on dual carriageways" to "right to get to school alive"
  • All the London Mayoral Candidates having to make a promise towards Dutch Cycling.
  • A change in the thinking of the LCC towards safe infrastructure, and even the CTC considering it.
  • TfL promising to review its most dangerous junctions.
  • Mass protests to Addison Lee about their "just use the bus lane" policy and a U-turn on that.
  • The Sky cycling team finishing the Tour de France in yellow
  • The UK olympic team finishing with lots of gold.
That was the spring. Now: autumn. And its storms.

We have already seen the press pushing back, NYC-style "bikelash" articles usually referring to Wiggins or that MP and then somehow blaming every cyclist for existing, while the councils and TfL continuing to do nothing dutch-style for their regions.

Now it is getting worse. The councils are moving beyond indifference to cycling to adding features that make things worse -prioritising more motor traffic at the expense of the inconsistent, incomplete and usually shit cycling facilities we get today.
What little leftovers we had on the side of junctions is being taken away to add extra traffic lanes.
Twickenham is the most well known example right now: a council working with TfL to convert a bus lane into an all-traffic lane, omitting all consideration of cycling -and when pushed back saying "it's too early for detailed planning". Except we all know, that that phrase will suddenly change to being "it's too late" -which is already where it is in the minds of the road planners. This also shows a key flaw in all on-road bluewash paint-jobs: it only takes another layer of paint for it to go away. At least proper infrastructure takes effort to destroy -someone really has to want to do this.

Here, South Gloucestershire council has started exactly that at the BAE/Airbus Roundabout on the A4174, where the A38 Northbound crosses the ring road. On the E. and N. sides -dual carriageways. On the W. and S. sides: single lane traffic jams -better to cycle through as the stationary traffic makes it easier to negotiate.

The Road Planners wanted to widen the road by taking away the parkland, the we want your shubbery debacle.

They went back to the drawing board, listening to Filton Council's suggestion of "use the pavement".

Now they have returned, with a plan to exactly that -remove the shared pavement cycle path to make a driving lane. 

The proposals are online in a three week long consultation.

If you look at the plans, you can see a wide bit of pavement being cut away.

If you look at google streetview, you see something different. You see a cycle path on the pavement, helping people cycle over the overbridge to the shopping centre on the other side, or to the crossing lights. As only the bold use the road here, this (shite) pavement infrastructure is the closest the area has to utility cycling. It's not great, but between junctions it is survivable.

Once the council take this away, you will get dumped onto the ring road, now forced to cycle over a junction which has an extra lane of traffic trying to feed left. Or you will just give up cycling altogether.

This is beyond indifference. This is beyond ignorance. This is a wilful removal of off-road cycling infrastructure to add extra traffic lanes.

If they can do it here, they can do it anywhere in the area -and the whole ring road cycle path is at risk.

Here comes the storm.

Friday 5 October 2012

Councils don't give a fuck about cyclists -how to make them?

This week we have Southwark Council closing one of the main cycle routes in their area for a year, the city of London, proposing to divert cyclists out of their area, and Twickenham converting a bus lane to another roadway. -adding an advisory bike lane that even they state in their press release will be of no fucking use at peak hours -that is, school run and commuting times.

What to these things have in common?
  1. Local councils that don't give a fuck about bicycles. 
  2. Last minute discovery of plans about to happen.
  3. Last minute objections by cyclists
  4. Councils unwilling to accept they've fucked up or make any changes.
This happens again and again. Only one thing appears to stop it: large scale protests which generate negative press reports about the council and trigger the electorate contacting all their councillors.

This works because councillors need to realise that cycling facilities are not just for "a few cyclists", but are for their electorate, the businesses of the region -and for them themselves. If we get viewed as strange lycra-and-hi-viz troublemakers, we won't get anything.

This is not so much a safety-in-numbers story, as a strength-in-numbers.

The councils need to know the cyclists matter. TfL and Boris may have got this message, even if they aren't willing to do much about it. Addison Lee's management have the message, even if their drivers have different views.

Regional and Borough councils seem to have different views. The worst is Westminster, which resents the very presence of anyone on a bicycle in their area. The City seems, well, to have twentieth-century street models. They may say the road designs are "medieval", but that's no reason to put in 1995 road narrowing/pavement widening.

How to put in extra pressure on them:
  • Public protest. Southwark and Twickenham could be targets here, with different reactions. Twickenham: some kind of mass protest outside the council house might be noticed.
  • Southwark could be a site for some other experiment -what about an organised "bicycle bus" over the diversion at set times of the morning? If you don't feel safe going over the diversion on your own, wait until the  half hour and set off en-masse with everyone else who is doing it. A kind of critical mass for commuting. It might annoy some people trying to drive through, but as nobody is going to go out their way to cycle over Blackfriar's Bridge in the rush hour, it would actually reduce cycling traffic between the "bike buses". 
What about here in S. Gloucs? It has the Waltham Forest problem: so few cyclists that they really can afford not to give a fuck. Which is why they
The Bristol Cyclists, they have their own issues (BRT2 anyone?), and need to focus their efforts there. Few of them would willingly come out to S Gloucs unless they were heading as fast as they could to nicer areas (over to Wales, the Cotswolds). Which means the council can get away with cycling facilities that at best suppress cycling, at worst make it more dangerous.

Fighting the battle here is -almost- a losing battle. Almost, because even if the residents are a bunch of fat-arsed car potatoes who would rather raise a petition to stop the one bike friendly thing the borough has done -a bus and bike only route- than use a bus or bicycle themselves.

If change is going to come from Bristol, it would have to come from the employers of the big North Fringe businesses. 

Returning to London, then, a nicer note to finish on: Londenneur's proposal for a cycling city plan. The vision the councils and TfL lack.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

ASA & road tax. fuck off, again

A complaint

Advert, "Lexus CT" Guardian, Sept 15 2012 p11
The Second Bullet Point in this car advertisment was " no road tax"
This statement is misleading as it is referring to Vehicle Excise Duty.
The conflation of "car tax" and the right to use a road creates needless conflict between cyclists and drivers -as the latter believe that people on a bicycle have no right to be there.
As an example, consider this video of a couple abusing someone for being in their way, arguing that they shouldn't be there as they don't pay road tax:
Before replying with the stock "it's the vernacular form", consider the following facts
1. Peugeot and Nissan have switched to using the phrase "car tax". They clearly recognise that their customers will understand the concept. Given that Lexus is targeting the high-end of the market, their customer base should also be able to comprehend this.

2. The failure of the ASA to even pass these complaints on the car manufacturers is becoming a story in its own right:

This shows that there is no reason for the manufacturers to not use "Car Tax" in their advertisments, and that your organisation is failing in its duty -something that is becoming more obvious over time.
The reply
Thank you for your recent complaint about a press ad by Toyota (GB) Plc for the Lexus CT. I understand you object to the use of the term “Road Tax”.
We have assessed the ad and your complaint but consider that there are insufficient grounds for ASA intervention on this occasion. Whilst we acknowledge that the correct term is indeed “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. The requirements of the CAP Code are such that the ASA draws a distinction between technical inaccuracies and claims which are likely to mislead consumers to their detriment. In this case we consider it unlikely that the use of a common term for this type of tax will mislead consumers to their detriment by influencing their transactional decisions in relation to the advertiser’s products and we will therefore not be taking further action on this occasion. Please note that the ASA does not pass the details of complaints to advertisers if we consider that no action is required. You would need to contact them directly with your concerns.

I realise that this outcome may disappoint you, but thank you for taking the time to contact us with your views.

Which means : fuck off and we won't even bother telling the car company.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Cars: status symbols or tools?

Today cars are an expression of status, to say "I am more successful", "I care enough about my family to drive an SUV", "I can afford a new car every 3 years"

If cars go from status symbols to tools, the need to spend over the odds for metallic paintwork and more lights goes out the window -indeed, the need to replace it every 3-5 years goes out the window too. Status symbols you need to upgrade regularly. Tools you use until they break -and you value a tool by how long it does its job, not what it looks like.

More subtly, you don't use a tool for every task, not unless you are an incompetent tool user. You choose. Some days, walking. Some days, cycling. Other days, public transport. Some journeys, yes driving is it. You make those decisions on a case by case basis, rather than reaching for the car keys.

Once you stop viewing your car is a status symbol, you stop caring whether or not you are seen using it.

This is a great vulnerability for the Empire of the Car -the lie that a car is a visible display of status, wealth and success. It still is for a lot of people, hence fucking useless tools like the Porsche Cayenne are built -the ultimate in fucking useless- and why so many politicians, footballers and celebrities like their tinted-window range rovers.

The rest of society doesn't have to copy them. The (somewhat exaggerated) rise of the City of London MAMIL shows this -you can show wealth and fitness about a high-end bike without being stuck in traffic. The fact that these people are cycling not only helps devalue the car as status toy, it recruits more people to care about cycling conditions. Powerful people who can influence their companies and who can then influence their local councils.

In S Gloucs., it's the employees of the large local employers that have this power. If they can get their companies to start pushing the council for better cycling conditions over more bypasses, we can get a suburb you can cycle through. How to get the companies to care? Get the site managers to recognise there is no more parking space -most sites have this problem- and that adding more cycling facilities -secure parking, showers, changing rooms- and encouraging cycling is far cheaper than building multi-storey car parks. The MoD have realised this, what with their three mile "exclusion zone" -if you live less than three miles from work, you aren't going to get a parking bay on a busy day. UWE hasn't, and still lives a world where 3/4 of the site is parking space -more for staff than students. The vice-chancellor even has his own private car park for his shiny black jaguar and a couple of staff. He still mistakes a car for a status symbol, not a tool.

There's an easy way for the rest of us to destroy the value of the car as status symbol: look down on them.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Ford Social : Dad Dancing

Learning to drive has been a rite of passage, as a way to impress your teenage friends, so getting you into "a habit" that starts off with a Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Corsa and ends with you driving down the M4 for a living in a BMW M5, talking into your phone, complaining about traffic and demanding that "more motorways are good for the economy" -because your time is worth more than losers on foot, bus or bike.

It's an addiction -once you stop walking and cycling, you view it as "childhood hobbies" -something you can see from the fuckwit's letters to the local rags -and reflected in the "bicycles shouldn't be there" rants from drivers. It is also reflected in the TfL, Dft, West of England Partnership viewpoints -which is dangerous as they design the roads.

A key threat to Imperial Car is that driving goes out of fashion, that teenagers stop aspiring to drive, that young adults choose to do other things. What other things? Facebook, twitter, emails, texting. Talking to their friends instead of reading car magazines.

What will the car manufacturers do? Ford Social.

Look at this piece of turgid web site. You can get ford "badges" for your own facebook page -and notice how the bicycle is in the "play" category -shown on the roof of an SUV, not in use in a town. Indeed, Ford Social doesn't have any photograph of a car in a situation with pedestrians or cyclists. They aren't part of Ford Society.

This whole web site is "Dad Dancing" -Ford trying to be hip and cool to the youth and doing it so badly it's painful. Want an example, hit the "social networks" button on the bottom and you'll see one icon that you won't recognise. It's for Delicious. Once upon a time that was a "Web 2.0 company", though Yahoo! bought it and effectively shut it down. In 2010.

Dad-dancer Ford Social hasn't picked this up yet, and still links to it, even though that page vanished a while ago.

We are lucky that this isn't going to get new recruits to driving, any more than a Dad Dance to Joy Division is going to inspire interest by the offspring into late 1980s music. Instead it's preaching to the converted -Ford customers- to reassure them that they made the right decision -and that they should buy a new Ford, either a later model or a status upgrade.

Maybe that will work. What it -hopefully- will fail to do is get the rest of society to care, as seeing what your friends are up to on Facebook is way more interesting.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Bollocks to Number Plates

"They need number plates" is a classic piece of bike-hater bollocks, now being reprinted in articles in the Daily Mail, quoted in the London Transport Committee, etc. They also cite Geneva as a case in point, "Switzerland has licenses"

Maybe, but here's something those fuckwit fascists don't say "Geneva is surrounded on three sides by france -and as they don't have licenses, nobody gives a fuck about whether a bike is registered or not."

The little fact that major suburbs of the city -places like Annemasse a couple of km from the centre means that a large proportion of commuters don't have license plates. Which means that all attempts to enforce cycle licensing on the streets of the city would fail.

Another quirk: that license plate is forever -no need for renewals, no need for paperwork saying the bike has changed. And given Switzerland's "One registration number for any number of cars" rule, you can probably swap your plate onto another bike.

Together that means something important that the cycle-haters don't recognise: "cycle registration is meaningless". If it works in Switzerland it is because the native residents are so law-abiding they bother to pay however many swiss francs it costs -but nobody else does.

There's also something else that the fuckwit fascists don't realise that Geneva has -and which they won't be demanding: Geneva has armed police on Mountain Bikes.

Imagine how differently drivers would be if there is an off chance that the bike they saw and chose to cut up happens to belong to a policeman who could be pointing a gun at their head in twenty seconds while they wet themselves and promise to behave. Imagine how happy you'd be in a bluewash cycle path if you knew that in your group of cyclists was a policeman who could do more than just shout back at the taxi driver that swings into you sounding his horn.

Remember that the next time someone says they want to copy the swiss rules -ask for the armed cycle police as that would also improve car/bicycle relations.

Returning to the licensing issue -are they really going to propose a license for every bicycle? How big will it be? As the Swiss one is a tiny red plate that you could easily obstruct with a light or a saddle bag -and if your light is in the way, what are they going to do -have a new law "obstructing a registration plate"

How is it going to be enforced? Are the police really going to pull over every cyclist that they see without registration and say "where is your license plate?". And if so, what are they going to do when you reply in French saying "Je suis ici en vacance?". Or are they going to have some extra law saying "all bicycles brought into the country are required to also have a license" -which would mean some global licensing scheme with cross-country registration and enforcement. Even then -how would they deal with the "my license got stolen" gambit?

Returning to fuckwit commenters and columnists in the newspapers, they always say "registration would be good for cycle theft". Bollocks. How would that be implemented? An international set of strictly issued Vehicle Registration Documents for all bicycles? It couldn't be based on registration numbers, as they would be easy to steal and re-use -so it's frame numbers, which have no global numbering scheme.

What would make sense from a theft perspective is something else.

  • Every new bike issued to have an RFID tag in the frame
  • Every bike owner to have registration documents showing they own the bike with the frame.
  • EBay to require that the resale of all bicycles retailed after the roll-out date of the mandatory RFID scheme must have their RFID marked, that all purchasers should have the RFID tag of any received bike checked at their local bike shop, and that if the bike is shown to be stolen, the purchaser gets their money back, the bike gets returned. The sell would get nothing but a visit from the police.

That would work. A piece of plastic cable-tied to the back of a seat post won't. It won't help the fuckwit's goal, something to call the police about whenever they want to complain about a bicycle.

Why then, do fuckwits keep asking for registration? It's because they are fuckwits.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Congratulations on coming out as a cyclist hating wanker!


This is just to congratulate you for coming out as a cyclist hater, or as is known in the cycling community "a selfish wanker"!

Coming out as this publicly is a bold move -and one you can't go back from- so we congratulate you for your bold decision!

Some people may have suspected you were an "in the closet" selfish cyclist hating wanker before now. Cyclists may have waved their hands up and down in the international gesture of this as you drove past them too close!

They may also have videoed your bad driving, stuck it up on youtube -and maybe even reported it to the police. Why not enter your registration number without any spaces into google and see if this is the case? If you have been videoed, don't be offended -all it does is show the world what a wanker you are -which is something to be proud of!

Now that you've come out, what can you do?

1. Watch Top Gear and believe everything Jeremy Clarkson says! He is "the wanker's wanker" -though the fact that he gets paid so much for saying the same stuff you say must be very frustrating.

2. Join a "wanker's rights group"! The Association of British Drivers is its public name -but it is nothing but cyclist-hating wankers!

3. Complain that the government is waging a "war on the motorist"! It takes longer to drive round the UK than it did twenty years ago -back when there was only half as many cars.

4. Drive up behind bicycles and sound your horn repeatedly! If you were already doing this -and perhaps have been videoed doing this- carry on. Do remember to put your phone down when you do this, as the police may get the videos.

5. Join "wankers pride" events! These are when lots of selfish cycle hating wankers get together in places where there are no bicycles, and hold sit down protests. These happen on the motorways near all our big cities, twice a day. Now that you have come out, spend some time on the M25, M4, M5/M6 interchange or somewhere else where you can be confident there will be no cyclists in the way.

6. Consider a career in politics! Most politicians are wankers. The UKIP is the best party for hating cyclists -theirs was the only manifesto who came out against them.

7. Consider a career as a taxi or minicab driver! Many of these are wankers. You will be able to spend time with other wankers complaining about bicycles.

8. Write letters to your local newspaper -or even become a reporter there! Regional newspapers only get read by a small number of people, but as most of them are wankers over sixty that vote for the UKIP they'll like to read it.

9. Shout it out to the world. Don't just declare it on twitter, shout out to passers by that you are wanker!

There are lots of other things you could do now that you have come out on twitter, so be bold!

Now that you have come out there is no going back!

Talking Points

Here are some things to use as arguments against cyclists to back up your opinions!

1. Do say: they pay no road tax!
Don't say: it's a car tax and all Class A vehicles pay nothing -by the same logic Fiat 500s and Toyota Prius's shouldn't be on the road either..

2. Do say: they don't have the right to be there!
Don't say: they have a legal right, and as roads are paid for from general and council tax, they pay for them too!

3. Do say: they hold up cars and cause congestion and pollution!
Don't say: congestion and pollution are caused by fat-arsed wankers in cars

4. Do say: they need insurance!
Don't say: cars need insurance because of the damage they can cause, and 20% of London's cars are still uninsured!

5. Do say: cyclists are lawbreaking criminals!
Don't say: most drivers break the speed limit!

6. Do say: cyclists jump red lights!
Don't say: driving into the Advanced Stop Lane on a red light is technically jumping a red light -and carries the same penalty!

7. Do say: cyclists cycling two abreast hold me up!
Don't say: it's legal to cycle two abreast, and if you were to pass a single-file cyclist with safe clearance you'd need to change lanes anyway!

8. Do say: cyclists are required to get out of the way of cars -not ride in the middle of the road!
Don't say: the Department for Transport actually recommend this (legal) position to stop cars trying to squeeze you off the road!

9. Do say: cyclists must use cycle lanes!
Don't say: most cycle lanes are blocked by wankers parked in them, and those that aren't are usually shit!

10. Do say: cyclists endanger pedestrians!
Don't say: all but the odd pedestrian every few years are killed by cars and HGVs!

11. Do say: helmets should be made compulsory!
Don't say: helmets do fuck all when an HGVs driven by an blind driver on the phone turns left over them!

12. Do say: cyclists wear lycra!
Dont' say: lots people wear replica football shirts that look even dafter when they are that fucking fat and unfit.

Your arguments don't have to hold up! These are "politician" arguments, not "scientist" arguments. Talking bollocks is OK as long as you repeat your message regularly and consistently!

Otherwise -now that you've come out, carry on! Cyclists are the only group of people that you can publicly hate now that the the EU and human rights gits have made abusing people for being gay, black, brown, foreign, traveller, disabled, muslim or some other minority group! Make use of that luxury while it lasts!

Finally: avoid making threats on twitter to run cyclists over or teach them a lesson!

That looks really bad when you do decide to teach one a lesson by running them over -it makes it look like a premeditated action, so the police may actually do something about it!

Sunday 2 September 2012

Why do the Twats hate? Fuckwit or Frustrated?

Go to twitter and search for "hate cyclists" or "pay road tax" and you'll find outbursts of prejudiced hate from fuckwits who blame cyclists for being the reason they are being held up as they try and sprint from one traffic jam to the next. Why the hate?

They've spent lots of money on a car, and despite the adverts showing empty roads and open spaces, they are stuck in a narrow traffic jam waiting for the lights to change (notice how the ABD hates traffic lights?), if they are lucky they get through the lights in time for the change, if not they are stuck there again, maybe driving into the ASL for a bit of satisfaction.

While they sit there all these cyclists come up past them and get right in your way, making faces for the wanker sitting in the ASL. The lights go green and they can't sprint off, put your foot down to get up to 20mph, because these cycle-people are slowly pootling off. Of course they are angry. Of course they sound their horn at them. Of course they vent hate on twitter and at the pub as they and their fat-arsed mates whine about everything, "fucking cyclists" is up there with "global warming myth" and how much petrol costs. Or it's how the council is anti-car despite the government promising to end the "war on motorists"

Or they get a gap in the traffic and for 20 seconds they could put their foot down and go into third gear, only they can't as there's a bicycle in the way, "forcing" them to slow down.

You know what pisses all these fuckwit wankers off the most? The way, at the next set of lights, the cyclist catches up and goes past them, to repeat the same thing all over again.

There they are, spending lots of your money on some overpriced status toy, paying various taxes and lots for petrol and diesel, and there are people on bicycles who not only don't have to pay all these costs, they don't take any less time to get round a city?

How unfair is that?

Of course these people hate cyclists -they need someone to vent their anger on. Twitter? That's verbal abuse. The ones to worry about are the wankers that drive extra close to show how they dont think that you should be there; the ones that sit right on your tail sounding their horn then try and squeeze past when there isn't room.

What should we do about the twats on twitter? Call them fuckwits? Retweet their posts? Entertaining. Will it make them change their views or make them safer drivers? Who knows.

What about reporting people who say they would "run cyclists over" if they don't get out the way? Someone should try that. Racist abuse, threats to an oymplic athelete, declared intent to participate in a riot -all of them on twitter have led to convictions, as well as that poor bastard who got done for threatening to blow up an airport.

that court case is interesting as he was tried not under any terrorism act, but for "causing distress"

There's a legal article on this topic, which concludes that the initial judgement implies that under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, any 'indecent or grossly offensive' message that causes 'distress or anxiety' to the recipient can lead to prosecution

Someone should try that some time, for a sufficiently offensive message. Maybe an explicit threat to a specific individual would be the one to try, as that's gone from generic expression to a threat.

In the meantime, here's something for all the cycle-hating twitter twats:
If you have expressed an intent to run over a cyclist, then were you to actually collide with a cyclist, it may appear premeditated.
Bear that in mind

Wednesday 22 August 2012

#sharetheroad vs Drive a car and insure it with us

A end-of-career sports pundit joins up with a car insurance company trying to get some press coverage by pushing for a "share the road" campaign -one that by saying "compulsory training" means "compulsory licensing"

Yeah -and compulsory training and licensing means that every cyclist killed by an HGV this year was killed by an illegally unlicensed HGV driver? Does it mean that cyclist awareness of the left hook dangers will stop lorries of death -like the terrifying one Gaz just filmed- killing them?


It's not like its the cyclists who have problems with "sharing the roads", its the fuckwits who complain about cyclists "being there", it's the drivers who cut in fast after passing a bicycle to make it clear they are unwelcome, to "teach cyclists a lesson", it's the idiots who spout cyclist hate on twitter.

Bikeradar are backing off, Garry Lineker blaming it on "extremists".

As for the insurance company -what's their story? Twofold

1. It gets an insurance company nobody has ever heard of publicity, possibly in the national press and cycling press -a potentially new market for them.

2. It tries to portray them as cyclist friendly.

The latter is possibly a sign of changing demographics -a fundamental threat to "Imperial Car"

The fat surburbanites who own two cars and still drive everywere are still the bread and buttter of the car companies -and the insurers - but once the current batch die of heart attacks, where will the rest come from?

Because the kids are cycling, not driving.

That's the best part of that mad "Cycle Danger" letter:
What makes it worse is that both children are now begging us for bicycles for Christmas.
The people who complain about cyclists may write into the piss-poor local papers to get their whine out the way. But the kids, the kids want bicycles.

Which must fuck up youth-centric can insurance companies no end. If the educated, the new workforce of society prefer bikes to cars, anyone whose money depends on getting them in cars at the age of 18 are fucked.

All they have left as customers are fiesta and corsa-driving Chavs from the chav-towns of Yate, Swindon and the like -and car insurers do not want to touch 18 year old fiesta drivers from those places.

Sitting in some meeting room with posters showing happy people driving on empty roads, the insurance sales team must have stared at power-point presentations showing that not only was their market base dropping with population decline and falling incomes, but those people who had money and were considered low risk to insurers weren't buying cars.

That graph must have scared them -"percentage of under 25s who do not own a car". Silence. Then someone in the room must have said "if they are cycling -why don't we try and become a cycle-friendly insurer?"

Hence the happy friendly "Share the road" bollocks. Press coverage, warm fuzzy cyclist feelings, no actual outlay by anyone at all.

Gary Lineker is just the lightning rod here -some investor/stockholder in the company who could be relied on face up the campaign and use his 1M twitter followers as people to advertise to.

Now he's blaming "extremists". We are not the extremists. We are the people who want it to be safe for children to cycle to school. Is that so extreme?

Thursday 9 August 2012

A nation of fuckwits. Maybe soon: two nations.

A tragic death in London, and instead of the country's reporters asking "why are buses and bicycles mixed?", one of them goes to Bradley Wiggins, says "do you think cyclists should wear helmets", and the argument begins.

The fact that the national discussion is about whether or not to wear helmets shows how backward things are -the US is making the UK look lost in time.

The cycling campaigners try to use evidence-based arguments in the helmet debate -but miss a key point: the people they are trying to argue with are fuckwits.

Take the letter that Kim Harding reposted, High-viz vests a must for cyclists
Few will argue that helmets are not a good idea, but all roadway users – cyclists, walkers and runners – should be obliged to wear high-viz vests.
The law should be changed to make high-viz mandatory and the Scottish Government could win praise for common sense by handing out the vests free (buying them in big numbers will bring the cost down to pennies each).

That idiot isn't just saying cyclists should be forced to wear hi-viz, he says walkers and runners too. That is: everyone not driving a car.

How the fuck is that going to be enforced? Are you going have police (wearing hi-viz), stopping pedestrians in central Glasgow and issuing spot fines for anyone walking round without hi-viz tabards? Can you imagine that on an Old Firm match day? Or at 12 pm on a Friday night?

The fuckwit won't have even thought through whether or not it would be legal to between your house and your car, or your car and your destination. The letter writer's published address, 1 Alder Grove, Scone, has a garage and a driveway big enough for a car or two, so he's unlike to be fined for "walking on a public pavement without hi-viz" there, but what about at his destination? Is he one of those people who park half on the pavement so never have to cross a road? Or is the only place he visits some superstore off the Perth bypass?

Perhaps he expected a special case of "walking to your car" - people who do that are sensible, not like the crazed maniacs who cross zebra crossings in dark clothes, the cyclists he keeps nearly missing as he drives from his featureless cul-de-sac to the bland superstore.

Whatever -these are the people who would back any mandatory helmet law, the people who would have bicycles taxed, MOTs, banned from the both roads and the pavements. They are not capable of holding two rational thoughts in their head -you can't argue with fuckwits like this -it's like trying teach a cat to leave a plate of raw meat alone. You will lose.

The worrying thing -out in the suburbs, these idiots could well form the majority of the population.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Freewheeler has returned!

The People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire extends its black kevlar-backed glove towards Freewheeler, as Crap Walking and Cycling in Waltham Forest is back again!

Waltham Forest and S Gloucs. both represent "lost" areas in cycling -places where the cycling percentage has not undergone the (small but tangible) increase in cycling that the inner cities have undergone.

The reasons why they have not done so is different.

Waltham Forest has much of the inner city demographics, including large areas of urban deprivation. This would be ideal for encouraging cycling, except that the council actively works against this -the Cycle Superhighway Obstruction being the key example, something which has entered the national stage with the Olympics. With only TfL to provide some form of leadership, Waltham Forest council can get away with this.

S Gloucs doesn't have quite the poverty levels, though parts of bristol on the border do (Southmead, Brentry, L-dub). Instead it has a population that has embraced driving as the way to get to the shops and the city, and view the resulting congestion as an anti-car conspiracy by the council, high fuel prices as an attempt to rob motorists, and anything Bristol does to reduce car dependence as the war on motorists. Nobody appears to have correlated the increased in car use as a factor in congestion, fuel demand (hence increase market prices of crude oil), difficulties in parking in the city, and the need of the inner city to come up with alternative transport policies.

This puts S Gloucs and its sibling rural suburb to the south, North Somerset, into effective conflict with Bristol.

Bristol: a safe and healthy environment for its population. Pollution and speeding cars are obstacles to this.

S Gloucs and N Somerset: fast journeys to work, school and shops by car, with free parking at all destinations.

What these areas do have in common with Waltham Forest is

  1. A complete failure of leadership in the council
  2. An unwillingness to recognise that attempting to satisfy demands for driving through more roadbuilding will only create more demand. 
  3. A failure to recognise that adding more parking will not revitialise dying high streets
  4. A refusal to invest trivial amounts of money and political capital through funding quality dutch-standard cycle routes, so effecting tangible transport shift.
  5. Unquestioning adherence to the "war on motorists" bollocks pushed out by the daily mail and other press outlets.

Which is also something they hold in common with central government.

Thursday 2 August 2012

A survey on soft measures? How does "fucking waste of money" sound?

In the inbox, an email from someone who is clearly a member of the Popular Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire:

Dear Bristol cyclist, 
  My name is Adam Banting and I am a postgraduate MSc student at the University of the West of England. I’m contacting you because your unique cycling experiences and knowledge of cycling in Bristol have the potential to increase the uptake of cycling amongst non-cyclists in Bristol. The comments you made on the cycle city layer on the Bristol Streets* website picked out the types of cycling infrastructure improvements you, as cyclists, would like to see in Bristol. This study wants to gather your ideas and understand your thoughts on the development of ‘soft measures’ that might encourage more people to cycle. The link below explains the background to the study and takes you to the questionnaire which will take no more than 5 minutes to complete. The ideas you produce will be presented to SUSTRANS, Better By Bike and Bristol City Council cycling team who will consider the best ideas. Or copy and paste the URL below into your internet browser:  (deleted)Those of you taking part please complete the questionnaire by the 21st August, 3 weeks from today. Feel free to email me with any questions you may have. (email at Kind regards, Adam Banting Faculty of Environment and Technology (FET) MSc Environmental ConsultancyFollow this link to the Survey: (waste of fucking time)

Not once did any of our members add a comment saying 

"The A4174/M32 junction is a bit scary. If some people went on cycle training courses, they would soon realise that there is nothing to fear from trying to sprint across three lanes of traffic trying to get onto the M32 and up to speed to pull out onto it using a junction that doesn't have any lights to let bicycles over and instead relies on your reflexes and speed"

If they are did then they are a clearly an infiltrator from the Popular Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire who shall be expelled from the People's Cycling front at the next committee meeting -after they have paid their monthly dues and bought the committee a round of drinks.

The stance of the People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire towards "Soft Measures" is clearly stated.

Saturday 28 July 2012

A new bike path?

The People's Cycling Front is forwarding a statement issued by a representative of the Bristol Cycling Campaign, in which he, Terry Miller, announces that there will be a new bike path opening today, Saturday July 28:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Terry Miller
Subject:  Opening of new path in South Gloucestershire

Work parties have been working on the Coxcrove Hill to M4 stretch since Monday 23rd July.
The surface is machine rolled "stone dust".
I have been privileged to assist John Grimshaw, local residents from Pucklechurch other volunteers (& local contractors operating heavy machinery) for part of the week.
At the end of Thursday & Friday work was "on schedule".
The final working party for this stretch commences 10.00 Saturday 28 July ready for the opening ceremony at 13.30.
John Grimshaw is on Radio Bristol on Saturday 28 July around 08.20.

Working parties for the next stretch (north from M4) are expected from Monday 6th August from 15.00 to 19.00 (weather permitting).

The surface does not sound great -but it is exactly what the Pucklechurch branch of the railway path had before S Gloucs council and the West of England Partnership put a dual carriageway over it. The fact that John Grimshaw and Terry Miller were involved bodes well, while the engagement of the local residents may mean that it is welcomed more than a bike path goes down in Filton.

We can not confirm or deny the attendance of any representatives of the People's Cycling Front at the event. 

Friday 20 July 2012

RAC Foundation totally blows the "foundation" idea

This week the "RAC Foundation" has gone from being a car-centric research group to being the people that send mad rants into newspapers blaming bicycles for causing traffic jams.

Why? Their article on the conversion of gardens into driveways, covered in their blog.

It says
  • Seven Million gardens have been paved over to make driveways
  • This is due to the rise in car numbers, from 2M in 1950 to 28.5M today
Then it goes on
  • This number will rise to 32M
  • Councils need to "provide adequate space for stationary cars,"
This is bollocks -ignoring the elephant in the room

By saying that the number of cars in our cities is the driver for driveway-conversions, it is acknowledging -but failing to draw out, the harsh truth

There is not enough space to park the cars already in the country -and adding more cars to the country will only make things worse.

Blaming the councils for this is utterly fucking ridiculous. Where are councils expected to "provide adequate space for stationary cars," on residential roads. The roads have cars on both sides, many roads have cars half on the pavements to ensure traffic flow. All that is left is a formal conversion of the pavement to parking with parking bays (the Waltham Forest strategy) or complete occupation (the Montpelier strategy -were the lack of gardens forces this action in earlier than the rest of the country).

The only alternative way for councils to expand parking capacity in residential areas is to add underground parking areas under every city street. That's all that's left, and to whine on about "surpluses" that councils make from parking is so daft they should remove the world "foundation" from their title and call themselves "three-year-olds".

The Pedestrian Liberation Front (who are not associated with the People's Liberation Front, though we reach out the Black Kevlar Glove of friendship towards these fellow strugglers who also refuse to wear Hi-Viz) put the boot in  and make a key point.

You can reduce parking demand by providing alternatives such as car clubs.

Here is another point the RAC "foundation" missed as a cause of this. 

The rise in car ownership has been driven by a failure of government and councils to provide any alternatives that are safe, convenient and affordable.

Look at all the campaigning by the RAC foundation, the AA and the papers against fuel duty rises. Compare with the silence about train fare cost increase. Compare with the silence about the fact that UK train system is a complete fucking disaster.

Residential streets are meant to be the quiet and safe roads in the cities to cycle -the back roads that we are recommended to use. Yet cars parked on either side means that rat-running drivers end up chicaning down them at speed, making it quiet most of the time but hazardous whenever there is passing traffic.

Those parked cars take up space that could be used to provide safe cycle routes. There is a cost to that 28.5 Million cars that the RAC omits -even when not being used they impact better forms of transport.

If there really is going to be 32M cars soon -which shows the RAC believes those DfT numbers that appear to be pulled out of a hat to justify their own projects- then that means 4M more cars trying to take space away from walking and cycling.

Instead of complaining about lack of council investment in space for stationary cars, they should be looking at how much damage four million cars does to our cities, even when stationary, what better uses could be made of that roadway, and how to transition our cities from places where even the gardens are being paved over into ones where people can walk, cycle, use modern public transport -and car share when they actually need the carrying capacity or range of a car.

Monday 16 July 2012

The Vehicular Cyclists are missing the fucking point

One of our propaganda units has been arguing with @oceanmaestro on twitter -he believes that

  1. Hi Viz and bright helmets improve visibility to drivers, so increase reaction time, so improve safety
  2. "Florscent Bright Color make object bolder & easier to react to, inspires confidence & assertiveness?"
  3. "CycleLanes may account for 60% of majority of cycle trips & breed a safety complacency for 40% rest of journey"
  4. Segregated Cycle Lanes increase Cyclist-Pedestrian Collisions in busy Pedestrian areas?

Either Oceanmaestro is an "old school" Vehicular Cyclist, or he's someone trolling the modern cycle campaigners. Whatever: here's the response, including the swearing he was complaining about.

Let's look at the key points of the VC people. The old guard.

  • Roads are for cyclists too, aggressively claim them
  • Resist cycle paths because they are shit shared use paths
  • Resist cycle paths because they encourage complacency that will get you killed on the remaining bits of your journey.
  • If people were more confident they'd survive
  • All we need is to teach people confidence and they will cycle.
  • And today: Hi viz inspires confidence.

This is fucking bollocks.

Cycling has been designed out of modern roads and junctions -and in the eyes of the drivers. It doesn't fucking matter whether or not is it legal, whether or not you are in hi-viz -any junction that forces you to sprint across three lanes of traffic trying to get up on a motorway is not a road for cycling on. Hi viz might keep you alive for longer, but it is not the environment needed to create a mass revolution in cycling.

Same for A roads: if you look at the stats for the "he came out of nowhere" cases on the cycling silk's blog, a lot of them happen on A-roads, dual carriageways, etc. Dual Carriageways have designed out cyclists, A-roads that lead to them are going the same way.

It doesn't fucking matter whether or not you are allowed to cycle on a dual carriageway, it looks like a fucking motorway and people don't expect bicycles on it. That's a harsh truth. We have been designed out of roads where you can drive at 70mph. Which is fine, provided there is something safe and pleasant as an alternative: segregated bike paths that provide safe crossings of all junctions.

The VCs can whine on all the time about how cycle paths encourage complacency and will result in people being forced off the roads -but the roads and the drivers have done that already. All that is left are a few fanatics that the rest of the country views as brave, foolhardy people.

Their fanaticism hasn't resulted in a mass cycling revolution.

What we need are cities safe and pleasant to walk and cycle. Not shared pavements, not shared spaces, but proper pavements that don't have fat lazy drivers parking all over them, segregated cycle paths that aren't just short-stay parking, don't have HGVs driving past 6 inches away, and connect up the city rather than abandon you at the roundabouts.

  1. Anyone who thinks hi-viz is an alternative to this is someone who has given up and relies on superstition to get to their destination alive.
  2. Anyone who thinks that training is all people need to get round alive has to explain this: why do many experienced cyclists get killed?
  3. If the VCs want to put their hi-viz on and cycle along the A38 and A4174, that is their choice -the People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire will not stand in their way.

What we will oppose is any attempt from these defeatists to have any say in where the UK cycling money goes. Spending money on training is bollocks because

  • It doesn't make the streets any safer
  • It doesn't last. You'd need to spend the same amount of money the following year.
  • Infrastructure investments are that: investments. 

If the VCs are happing going on the ring road -they can. But they have to fuck off when it comes to asking where the money goes, as giving out hi-viz and saying "the ring road is safe, really, provided you have hi-viz and ride aggressively" is a failing strategy. It has failed for thirty years.

The old revolution is over! Cyclists! Arise and create the new Cultural Revolution!

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Urban SUVs -are they really that fucking useless?

Here's an advert from the weekend's guardian, a paper that is meant to be "forward thinking". It's for some kind or urban SUV

"Be the envy of the School run"

Is that all they can fucking say about it? It means "your five year old car that still works perfectly and is on its second set of tyres doesn't look like an urban SUV so you should get rid of it and lease something more expensive so that people can look at you on the school run and say "cool", although by the end of the lease we'll have changed car styles to make this thing look out of date and you will want to do the same thing again"

This shows how the car industry is running out of things to say about cars -or reasons to justify replacement. This is why they are getting heavily into autonomic vehicles -there's nothing left to be done in engines, but integrating computers gives them a lifespan of a laptop.

What's really depressing is

  1. It assumes that everyone does the school run by car. Want to be the envy of the school run? Cycle there. 
  2. It assumes that how new your car looks is the definition of status in modern, suburbanite society.
  3. It assumes you'd get rid of a perfectly functional car in order to display this status symbol on the school run.
The scary thing: it may actually work.

If the advertising team know their customers, they will know that their customers really do want to show off which car they drive their precious offspring to school in. They may also know that the demographics of guardian readers means they are the target audience.

Whichever fuckwit came up with this probably drove home across london in their c-zone busting urban SUV feeling so fucking smug with themselves.

If you look at the money spent on car advertising, a single weekend's spend probably comes out to more than the entire annual "marketing bicycle" budget for the councils and government. They do the little leaflets saying "why not walk your kids to school", but every paper has half-page adverts saying "you need a newer car for the school run"

Indeed,the annual advertising budget probably comes to much more than the actual infrastructure investment on cycling. Someone -Carton Reid?- could research that, as it would make a good story. 

Car advertisments are the propagada arm of Imperial Car, as they repeat the same lie: get a new car and you will be happy. This is why pushing back at bollocks they say is important.

Sunday 8 July 2012

The origin of the Great Wall of Filton

At their AGM, Joe Steinsky took the attendees from the showcase Bristol City infrastructure, to the "what not to do" infrastructure of S Gloucs -infrastructure that was, remember, funded out of the Cycling City program.

David Arditti has put up his review.

First, regarding the MoD paths, those were the ones where bollards without illuminated markings went up to narrow the cycle route down to less than 1m for two lanes -making it the nationally famous Bollards of Death path. It may be abysmal now, but consider this: the S Gloucs cycle team spent money making it worse, then more money reversing their mistakes.

Which brings us, naturally to the Great Wall of Filton, which as David Arditti observes is "foolishly obstructed by a wooden post".

Its far, far worse than that. The shared space went in a couple of years ago to make this stretch of road walking and cycling friendly. Instead it shows why shared space is a shit idea that actively punishes anyone cycling. By allowing cars to park on the edges of the space, and giving people the "option" of walking and playing in the centre, it created conflict with anyone cycling, and Great Wall of Filton is the result.

What they could have done is a proper, segregated path through the shared space. No, giving the (new) residents the right to park their cars in front of their houses is more important.

Going back a few years, here is the planning decision.

"to achieve a significant shift in travel behaviour away from the private car towards a greater use of walking, cycling and public transport;"

Well, did it fucking succeed?

Reasons for the closure
  • The problems identified by the residents included the use of Eighth Avenue by through traffic to avoid congestion on Filton Avenue and vehicles travelling at inappropriate speed.
  • 15 injuries on the road in the previous 3 years.
  • "Traffic calming does not effectively deter either rat- running or anti-social driving"

These are all good goals. Closing the road to through traffic has helped. It's just the shared space development completely screwed things up:

The closure ties in with Bristol City Council proposals for the Horfield Estate Regeneration. This section of Wordsworth Road forms part of the proposed Home Zone and a large volume of fast moving through traffic would undermine the Home Zone.

See that? the closure came in with the shared space zone, not after it. There was an opportunity to do things better when the houses that were there before were ripped down - a segregated route that would encourage cycling, and, while it couldn't stop motorbiking, could isolate the damage. Instead the area got a shared space with some barriered road closure, and then, last year, the Great Wall of Filton.

At the original event, who was opposed?

One resident who felt that the turning point would be blocked (probably true), it would devalue their property (bollocks) and that other forms of traffic calming would be better. Some lazy git who likes driving, by the sound of things.

Who else? The S Gloucs Taxi association
The Workers Union Taxi Branch 2/106, whose address is in South Gloucestershire, are as follows:-
  1. Closure would be detrimental to their trade,
  2. A lesser measure should be imposed
  3. Making one or two roads traffic free will not help cyclists

Point #2 isn't an argument; it's a suggestion. Point number one: "we want our rat runs". That's what it means. This road used to be a high speed alternative, especially southbound, to Filton Ave. Northbound, the right turn at end meant you relied on goodwill from drivers stuck in the Northbound jam -and goodwill is pretty fucking sparse on a weekday morning.

Point #3 is fucking hilarious. When has the S. Gloucs taxi association ever given a fuck about bicycles before or after this? Never. Did they suddenly get take over by a cycling group and decided to care? Pretty unlikely. Instead they use the "we care about bicycles" argument to say "this road should stay a rat-run for taxis."

They make a point :making one or two roads traffic free will not help cyclists, but to say that means that roads should not be closed is specious-fucking-politician-style-argument-dredging.

Unless someone in Bristol or S Gloucs is prepared to declare a dedicated road closure down a fully joined up route -and it would be wonderful, if unlikely in the city, and never going to happen if fat-arse-allinson has power- closing roads one by one is all that's left. This road has joined up with the concorde way. it could almost be a good cycling route. Yet the taxi drivers were against the initial closure on the grounds that it wasn't a good solution for cycling in the city.

At least here the council had the backbone to tell the taxi drivers to go fuck themselves:

  • Eighth Avenue/Wordsworth Road are not suitable roads to be used as a through route by taxis and it will be possible for all properties on these roads to be accessed by taxis.
  • Lesser measures such as traffic calming would have little impact on the volume of through traffic.
  • The closure will have a beneficial effect on a 2 mile long ‘rat run’ that is currently promoted as a signposted cycle route between Bristol and the North Fringe.

Meaning :you shouldn't be rat-running here, traffic calming would miss the whole point of the proposal, and it is on a sign posted cycling route.

What has happened in the last eight years, then? The housing is done, the shared space built, and the residents -suburban car drivers that they are- don't see the point in a cycle route. All they see are motorbiking teenagers coming through their shared space, and are happy to have the route blocked.

Here's what happened, as an email forwarded to us says:

The changes were made through the Bristol Neighbourhood Partnership budget for Horfield & Lockleaze and were jointly funded by South Gloucestershire, (as it is right on the border of the two authorities). The issue was addressing a road safety concern with motorcycle speed through the stopping up, which was affecting pedestrians, cyclists and local residents using the facility. Bristol has received phone calls and correspondence from Ward Councillors, the Police, local residents and users on this particular issue. The speeding issues had been reported throughout the day as well as the night and were not easy to address through enforcement due to numerous motorbikes using this as a short cut.

As there was very little funding to address this, CCTV or completely re-engineering the stopping up was not an option, due to significantly less funding within local government currently. We believe the amendments probably do act as a very minor inconvenience for cyclists, in much the same way as a York-style staggered barrier may act. We also agree for the minority of people using a tag along or tricycle this is not perhaps a route we would advise using. Yet for the majority of cyclists it is still possible to use the route in a far safer way, without potential or actual conflict occurring at high speed with motorbikes. For tricycles or tag alongs we would suggest using The Concorde Way, (if they are heading to the MoD or other employers in the area), or the other alternative would be Filton Avenue. Although we do not envisage the amendments stopping motorcycle misuse, it will slow the current speeds and be a road safety improvement for most users and residents. Unfortunately a solution to this age old conundrum, which allows access for all, but stops issues with motorbikes has yet to be invented, although we do try trial new solutions to regularly check this.

In terms of alternative design solutions we did investigate at a number of other options including one to three bollard/s either side of the islands allowing cyclists to weave around them, but due to bollards potentially being struck by turning traffic, (particularly large lorries or refuse vehicles) and little or no budget the current arrangement was the best placement in terms of future maintenance.

As regards the footway, the staggered barriers have been implemented within our current BCC Environmental Access Standards and are as such DDA compliant, as far as we are aware. Finally, in terms of making the bollards visible at night, they do already have a retro-reflective band around the top.

There you have it. The Great Wall of Filton was the easiest and cheapest way to keep motorbikes out the shared space. And if you have an odd-shaped bicycle, Filton Avenue is your option. Which is fucking ridiculous.