Thursday 18 April 2013

Parking Priorities at Bristol Parkway

the sign says "Cycle Lockers for Long Term Users", and adds a phone number for a key.
What a great idea -you could cycle to the station, do a day trip to London, pick up a Boris bike and then head home, knowing your bike will still be there. A way to travel across the city without creating congestion.

only the lockers aren't there.
They were there, then they got removed so First Great Western, holders of the train franchise (and a sister company of First Bus), could add some extra premium parking. That didn't come about, but nor did the plans to reinstitute the lockers somewhere else.
Lots and lots of car parking. The RAC Foundation are claiming that parking is the main revenue stream for railways. Presumably they are complaining about how much it costs -certainly those charges aren't suppressing demand -the car park is full on this weekday.
A more sophisticated claim would be "FGW not only charges a lot for parking, it does nothing to enable or encourage you to come by any other means. That means FirstBus buses are never co-ordinated with the trains, and they take away the secure parking

What's left? A row of wheelbenders right in front of the station. Full to capacity, despite their notorious insecurity. These aren't leftovers from the 1980s either -this revamped station building is probably less than a decade old.
Alongside this new station building: a two-level bike park that works if your bike is light and you are strong. Dutch style bikes? not a fucking chance, even for a fit adult male.
If you want a dutch-style cycling revolution, you have to provide destinations as well as routes. First Great Western absolutely fail to do this at Parkway. They do at Templemeads -it's problem is popularity, but they don't at Paddington, but they go out of their way to make parking a bike at Bristol Parkway insecure and hard, even to the extent of removing the only good bike lockers they had in order to get mor car parking in.

S Gloucs can't get the blame here -but it's interesting to consider what influence they have over the station. Can they require them to add more -decent- bike parks, to replace the wheelbenders with rows of sheffield racks, to return the secure racks, and to turn some of the car bays into bike bays.

Because forcing FGW to do it is the only way it is going to happen.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

What kind of role models are these?

There's a series on BBC3 right now, something like "fucking dangerous new drivers", or similar, though they don't actually question why these teenagers think driving is so important.

The first week, one of the fucking dangerous new drivers was described as being from Bristol, but she wasn't. She was from Thornbury, S. Gloucs. She'd had to sell her first car after earning a few thousand pounds worth of parking fines, and now she was being considered for a second one.

During that week's filming, she was seen: texting while driving. Screaming in rage at some vehicle in front for not being aggressive enough at a junction for her liking. Driving on the motorway while waving her hands around signing. Enough in a single week's filming to have earned her a license disqualification. The only reason she "won" is that the other subject -some idiot who could be shown as proof that university acceptance criteria is too low- had to be stopped by the camera crew themselves from driving home from a club while twice the legal limit.

Hopefully they aren't representative of the majority of their age group, but if you wonder where the cycle haters on twitter come from (and no doubt many more on facebook), these fuckwits give you a clue.

So why do they drive? For the fat-arsed Thornbury resident, its obvious: its a dormitory town where you either stay in the town or get out via the A38 or M5. There is a bus service, but it is getting progressively worse. Most people who work -presumably in Gloucs, Bristol or the Bristol North Fringe- will be driving. If you area teenager, unless you can fit your life around the dire bus service, a car gets you out of the dormitory and into the city. Though if you can run up a few thousand pounds of parking tickets, you need to think more about where to park -and whether your journeys are economic.

The program did cover some of their journeys -one of them was to a Range Rover dealer near to Thornbury. The idiot said how she admired Katie Price and wanted a range rover too, sitting in one and dreaming of being famous and driving round in a black range rover with tinted windows.

Which comes  to the title of the post "What kind of role models are these?".

Today the Former Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding has been banned from driving for six months. According to the BBC, "she was pulled over in her Range Rover on 4 April after swerving into the path of a cycling policeman on Charing Cross Road in central London."

Pretty unlucky there: if it had been anyone other than a policeman there'd be a video on youtube and another futile complaint to Roadsfe. It's notable that this is the second time this week that something appears to have happened after a cycling policeman was nearly hit -which shows how important it is that they do, and, given how few do, how common near-misses really are.

Because this former celebrity had totted enough points, she was banned from driving for six months. Her lawyer, trying to weasel her out of this, argued that his client had "suffered more than a normal person because of the media attention her arrest had attracted".

See that? trying to get someone out of a driving ban "because they weren't a normal person"? At least this time the judge declared that to him she was normal -another dangerous driver- and there'd be no exemption. But it shows the arrogance of the elite -and sets the example for everyone else.
  • Chris Huhne: tries to get out of a ban by getting his wife to say it was her. This must be ubiquitous -all Chris did was show that MPs were prepared to do it too. Caught on the phone a few months later and banned anyway.
  • Katie Price, role model for the Thornbury road rager. Gets off on a 12 month ban on December 3rd, "we don't read our own post" and "the white ranger rover isn't the one I use" Spotted texting on the M25, in her pink range-rover December 23rd.
  • Carlos Tevez, banned in January for speeding, "didn't understand the letters". Arrested for breaching the ban in March in a Porsche Cayenne, excuse "I only live down the road, two minutes."
  • This week, Sarah Harding, penalised for having the misfortune to nearly hit a cycling policeman, rather than nearly hit any other cyclist.
What you can see is the general belief amongst the rich, famous and powerful that they are exempt from little thinks like speeding, driving bans, laws against texting. And when they do get caught, their lawyers will try everything they can to get them out of any punishment, including saying they don't deserve a ban because the press coverage means they suffered more than a normal person.

These are the role models for the majority of the country's teenagers (excluding Chris Huhne, who is just a selfish wanker). People who drive high end cars, drive dangerously and then think they exempt from what little enforcement and justice there is in road safety today.

This shows a cultural problem. The Netherlands and Denmark have their cycling royalty. Instead we get royalty, footballers and celebrities who all drive round in range rovers -while the "normal people", including the aspiration fuckwits of Thornbury and elsewhere, aspire to the same lifestyle. They too want a ranger rover -and in the meantime, they can at least drive round texting and speeding.

Monday 15 April 2013

Why do mondays bring out the haters?

As CycleHatred shows, Monday mornings appear to be the time when most of the "fucking cyclists I hope they all die" rants crop up.


Probably because it is the first day the posters have been stuck in a rush hour traffic jam after the weekend. The first day of trying to get across a city on a deadline while everyone else has the same idea; the first day of getting frustrated and angry about sitting around while nothing happens because some bastard has blocked the junction you want to get across.

Later on in the week, the car commuters have become used to this, so only whine about specific bicycles, rather than their very presence on the road.

But why the hate for bicycles? If you follow up with the posters, it's often about them taking up space "hogging the road", "holding us up". They are an obvious outgroup to blame for this experience of having to sit in traffic.

There's also that situation where there's an almost clear stretch of road from one set of lights to the traffic jam behind, where the driver could put their foot down, get up to 30 mph for a few seconds, and pretend to themselves that driving is a fast way to travel at rush hour.

What's not so obvious is that 29% of morning traffic that is the school run parent, nobody tweets "fucking lazy parents not walking their kids to school". Even if they are visible, with the kids in the back each staring at their personal DVD player embedded in the rear headrests of the front two seats, they can't be blamed for "hogging the road" as the driver behind isn't fucking stupid enough to demand they get to the side to let others past.

And of course, nobody is stupid enough to say "fucking commuters, always blocking the road at rush hour", as that would mean having to acknowledge that they themselves were to blame for being stupid enough to drive into or across a city at peak hours and expecting the journey to be anything other than a crawl between traffic jams.

This is probably also why so many of the local-rag cyclist haters rant on about removing traffic lights.

The fuckwit haters seem to blame the traffic lights for causing the jam, missing the point that the traffic lights are to try and ensure that people heading in different directions get across the city. The jams are because there are too many people trying to do this.

Trying to get the haters to clarify their hate over Twitter has proven futile.

What else?

Well, what are our goals. Is it:

  1. Stop the haters ranting on twitter.
  2. Stop the haters trying out punishment passes, cutting in before left hooks or the next traffic jam.
  3. Have them trying to cycle themselves and so stop not only hating the cyclists, but becoming less of a problem to the entire city.
#3: get off their fat arses and cycle in must be the ideal goal. 

How to do that? 

Saturday 13 April 2013

How the S Gloucs transport planning has let down everyone

Here are some photos from September, A4174 between UWE and the M32 -M32 is behind the camera, the direction all the cars are going

or would be going if any of the cars were moving.

Nothing is moving because somewhere on the M4 there is a traffic jam, which goes back to the M32, which then goes back to the A4174.

In both directions: people are sitting in their cars, getting frustrated, no doubt complaining that not enough is being done to prevent jams.

Yet if you look, what is happening here is that too much has been done over 30-40 years to create traffic jams.

The North Fringe offices: apart from the students, you are all expected to drive.

The housing estates of Emerson's Green, Bradley Stoke, etc? You are expected to drive out of there to whereever you are going, and back again.

By creating a featureless sprawl of ring roads, roundabouts, dual carriageways gluing together dormitary housing estates and bracknell-class offices, the area is probably the most car dependent part of the city.

Which is where things failed: no serious attempt has been -or is being made- to change this. The cycle plans get the leftovers, when the traffic planners remember to even think of them. Instead the work goes into the big things, the bypasses, the "managed motorway", the roundabout improvments.

And what do people get for that? They get raised expectations, and, when congestion occurs anywhere within the road network, traffic jams that hold up more people.

On spreadsheets, the planners can look at the number of people held up, use a cost model that says "a minute for a car driver costs X pence", multiply it by the number of people waiting, and use the growth in traffic jams -the mistakes of the previous projects- to justify the next one.

What is never done is look at the entire expenditure over 30+ years and say "was it worth it?"

Because in S Gloucs, all it's done is create traffic jams to dormitory towns, and a commuter class who come in to work in the North Fringe from as far away as Wales, Gloucester and Swindon.

And the cyclists? The very infrastructure put in to help driving has made cycling there awful. You get the cycle paths of varying quality alongside the ring road -but any approach to and from it and you have to share the roads with the motoring commuters, the chavwits of Yate sprinting to get to the A4174, the BMW-ratrunners trying to go through Winterbourne on their way to their mock-rural semi.

We get the leftovers, while the nominal victors in the traffic planning, the drivers, get nothing but traffic jams.

Sunday 7 April 2013

Two tunnels: not just a leisure route, a network

Yesterday was the opening of the the Two Tunnels route -a wonderful example of what local campaigners can do with funding -here from the Lottery and local fundraising- and engineering assistance -credit due to Sustrans.

The opening event wasn't just a celebration of their work, or a get-together of regular cyclists on the first warm Saturday of the year, it was a chance for the whole community at the Bath end of the path to come out an celebrate it.
Which they did. There may have been a lot of cyclists, but there were people on foot, kids on scooters; babies in pushchairs, the elderly. People you never see coming out to celebrate some new red or blue paint on a road.

The path? Long, better lit than the shorter tunnel in the Bristol path. Going along the tunnel becomes an expedition in itself, especially for people on foot and kids on scooter

Low beam lights and reflective strips along a quality tarmac.
This weekend: busy, very busy.
It's touted as a recreational route, but unlike many of the Sustrans-built tourist routes, this goes to near the centre of Bath, and finally makes commuting by bicycle from south of the city possible. Until now there was the rat-run roads over Coombe Down (suffering for the fit), or the A36 (scary for all). Now residents south of Coombe Down have the option of cycling in on a nearly flat route -a route that doesn't even get you that wet.

But it is also a leisure route and not an isolated "drive to the start one". You can get on to it from Bath, and are soon out in countryside which is very wild. From the end of the tunnels, you are at the start of The Colliers Way -which can get to Midsomer Norton and then Frome on mostly traffic-free routes.
unlike the broken-up Muller Road to Abbey Wood road, the locals came out to celebrate it. Nobody from Lockleaze came out to hold a party for the opening up of the rugby ground crossing -they just got the council to block off cycle access to their shared space.

This shows why getting local involvement is critical -you will only get routes maintained and defended if the residents want it. Having something that is a leisure route at weekends as much as a commuter run on weekdays does this. Getting locals to use it for shopping and school runs works too; inner railway path has the edge here, with Fishponds Morrison and Bristol Academy by the path.
The opening day was heaving: queues for the tunnel so long many gave up, queues for food, for beer, for the bike doctor. There were so many kids bikes there, Islabike should have had a stall servicing their customers and finding new ones.

The commuters, today's cyclists, obvious in the hi-viz and helmet; lots of people in other bike stuff too -from 20+ miles in all directions. Yet these were a minority, compared to people in everyday clothes, people on foot. Even the People's Cycling Front of S Gloucs active members took their balaclavas off, the weather was so warm.

A key contribution of the engineering work wasn't just fixing up the tunnels, it was linking them upwith the city. Before the two tunnels path was isolated from inner bath by bridges that were cut off in the 1970s, "the dark ages".

The road crossings have been addressed by bridges, not "fend for yourself" junctions with "cyclists dismount" there more as a liability disclaimer for the traffic planners than a safety solution.
This is how main roads need to be addressed by. Not crossings that take ten minutes to cross, with pig-pens that don't have room for a family with a trailer and an impatient nine-year-old. Here a parent could let their offspring cycle ahead and have nothing to fear.

Of course, not everyone was happy; the BBC and thisisbath managed to find some people to complain about it, here about the loss of trees:
Peter Valentine, another nearby resident, added he thought the bridges were "unnecessary" because people could just walk across the road
The trees have been replanted and will grow back, hopefully the haters will have come out to the opening, enjoyed themselves, and will soon forget they ever thought it was a bad idea.

There's something else about this route, something not picked up on. It may be a leisure route, but it is slowly part of a network that is joining up the Avon/Somerset area.
At the end of the path, it's not that much of a meander -and a crossing of the A4 main road- and you are on the Bristol-Bath Railway Path. From there: Bristol -traffic free to the end of the path. Soon: Yate, traffic free. Today: A4174 as far as the M32 roundabout before you get abandoned with a "cyclists dismount sign".

This is something other cities can only dream of. These are routes that address (some of) the suburbs, provide safe routes out of the city and leisure routes you can set off from your house on.

There's one flaw: they all peter out at the inner cities. These are the bits that Sustrans can't fix, where councils take over. They need to step up here. Why is it that you can cycle from East Bristol to West Bath traffic free; from Midford to South Bath, traffic free, yet the final mile or two from each path to the city centre is just a collection of unsigned zig-zags through back roads and dismount points?