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.