Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Pavements cause pollution.

Known saboteur Redvee has a video up showing the taxi WR54KZX forced to drive on the pavement to turn left into Bridewell Street.

We say forced, as this is clearly due to the Metrobus roadworks going on further ahead on the road. Before Metrobus there were never any queues on the roads leading to the Centre, and so no need for taxis to drive on pavements in order to stop this city grinding to a halt. And, as this is a 2004 EURO3 Diesel taxi, the pollution from its engine is awful, even by the standards of the VW test rigging team. By driving up on the pavement, the Taxi reduced the amount of pollution the city experiences. This is why pavements cause pollution. No pavements: more lanes. No pavements: fewer people walking, no need for zebra crossings or pedestrian phases in lights. We must do more in our city to discourage walking —even more than the Metrobus works team are already doing for us.

One thing to consider though: the taxi did go up the blind spot of that bus. If the bus had turned left the taxi and its passengers could have been crushed.

We propose that every bus and lorry in the city should have a sign warning taxis not to drive up the inside of them to prevent such a calamity happening in future

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Evening Post discovers the Bristol Traffic Photo Portfolio

We don't do much coverage of the Evening Post these days, primarily because we've given up reading it. Eventually you get tired of its whiningly repetitive stance against resident parking and 20 mph zones, portraying them as a war on motorists, the death of the cities, a tax on Bristolians, etc. etc. The one thing we never saw was anything praising how the yellow lines have made paveparking and "optimistic corner parking" illegal —and how this was making inner Bristol a nicer place to walk.

Because the bits of the city with RPZ markings have had their pavements restored, and are now easier to walk round with a pushchair those areas still saying "RPZ isn't needed here", such as, say, St Andrews, where the contrast between that and adjacent Montpelier is now significant.

But no, no coverage of that in Evening Post articles, something we criticised it for in the past in a post looking at the history of pavements, parking and "walking opportunities" along Richmond Road, notable for nowhere to walk but the road and being an awful road to drive up or down: cars almost touching on both sides, nowhere to pass an oncoming cyclist, let alone oncoming car. With the RPZ rollout it became not only better to walk and cycle, it became driveable.

From the sole printed press news source in the city: silence.

It's interesting to discover then, that the paper has now moved on from "20 mph will kill our city" to "pavement parking is epidemic" and "is pavement parking getting worse?" The latter is quite amusing as we've been covering this issue for coming on a decade, and the main reason we cut back on coverage was that the RPZ reduced it so much that life was boring. It was not "epidemic", it is "endemic": so widespread and ongoing it barely merits a mention.

The BEP hasn't picked up on that, instead it's filled the paper with various photos of what to us look like everyday parking scenes in the bits of the city that aren't RP-Zoned. If you find it shocking, you need to go for a walk. Anyway, they had the pics up, no doubt shocking those people who don't walk further than the car they've parked on the pavement outside their home. For us, all too familiar. Very much all too familiar. In fact, one which was so familiar we recognised it as one of our own photos

This photo originally appeard in a post denouncing the car S589JDG for being parked on the specific bit of pavement where Richmond Road narrows —and in doing so, stopping cars and vans getting down the hill. That was the reason it had earned a note criticising its parking: not for paveparking, but for paveparking in a way inconsiderate of other drivers.

That photo was published in 2013, republished in an article 2015, where we used it as one of the "before/after" articles on the RPZ changes, an article which explicitly called out the BEP for its failure to cover the benefits of RPZs for pedestrians.

The photo the Evening Post printed was taken from an article criticising the Evening Post's coverage of pavement parking and RPZs.

Amusing as it is, it is still a copyright infringement.

We have a non-normative policy towards reuse of our images and videos.

The Bristolian: unlimited rights, no permission needed.

Everyone else: ask first
  1. If the requester is one of: Daily Mail, Sun, Telegraph, tell them to fuck off.
  2. If the requester is any other press org, we'd check with the original submitter, probably give approval with credit due us and that original submitter. (if the original author refused, that'd be passed back too)
  3. Videos: Link/embed them without any restrictions (obviously), but no to use in some video remake unless its more than just some branding exercise. And again, the Daily Mail can fuck off.
Now what about publication without getting permission?
  1. If it was timely news, again, no problem.
  2. If it was some photo from the archives, well that's a different matter. Any failure to check there has to be be a due diligence failure or a wilful disregard of our property.
The last time this happened, we extracted a donation to the Bristol Cycling Campaign. Someone had clearly just googled for an image "car parked on zebra crossing", and copied the photo without bothering to question image licensing T&Cs.

What about now?

We see two ways forward without resorting to the legal system, DMCA copyright takedowns, etc.

Option One: a modest donation —say £250— to the Bristol Cycling Campaign. 

Easy all round, it'd make upfor publish an article denouncing cyclists for cycling over a shared use bridge designed for walking and cycling on. We'd get some good coverage of the fact that the BEP was now supporting cycling campaigners in the city.

Option two: an in depth review how the RPZ makes walking in Bristol better.

We to collaborate on an article looking at richmond road's pavement parking over time, where the van-passing incident was nearly one of the bad examples. Here we could not only provide photos from our archives, we could approach the Montpelier resident forced to walk her kids home from school down the middle of the road. She could not only cover the experience of a parent in the "before" period, but her experience now that the RPZ has been rolled out. Maybe she could even talk about the impact of the RPZ on driving round the area.

Seems a reasonable choice to us. Fund the cycling campaign after a week of denouncing cyclists for going on a bridge built for them, or get an opportunity to work on a fascinating article looking at how a inner city parental school dropoff experience has been transformed for the better by the RPZ rollout.

Personally, we'd like the article —it would be a good follow up to the previous ones, and we don't want the author of those articles to feel chastised for writing the first articles we've ever seen to criticise paveparking. We'd even help with the content.

Over to you, Team Evening Post

Friday, 10 March 2017

Proposed: tax vehicles based on their width

A quick trip through the capital of 4x4s that never see mud in our city, Clifton, makes it clear that even here we don't have space for such fat vehicles. Even the parked ones like that silver mercedes is wider than the parking bay -and that's with the bonus wide Clifton bays.

It really becomes clear following the BMW X5 across the suspension bridge. The thing is simply too wide. Why is it so fat? It's to compensate for the fact that it's centre of gravity is too high on account of the raised suspension: this is a land-barge which would topple over on bends otherwise, as Ford Explorers turned out to do. The X5 is so fat that when it meets and oncoming Landrover Discovery, they have to slow down to negotiate passing each other.

In other bits of the city, in everyday cars, drivers would go past each other without even looking up from their
phones. Yet all it takes is one or two selfish drivers thinking "hey! an SUV would be cool!" and our city is brought to its knees.

Hence our proposal: make the VED of a vehicle proportional to its weight and width. The weight: the maintenance cost of our roads. The width: how much they inconvenience everyone else.

Without this, there will be no way to stop this plague of overweight barges on our roads.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Bristol Post: cut and paste journalism? Share the data

There is one news outlet in the city whose coverage is insightful, cuts to the core of the city's problems and of whom every article is worth a read.

Yes, we refer to The Bristolian. Being ad-free there is no need for central-HQ agendas to be pushed; no need to try and generate click-bait content at the lowest cost per article, and so instead they can write independent content.

There is also another news outlet in the city, The Bristol Evening Post, which is part of The Trinity Group, as is the

We've been avoiding covering the Bristol Evening Post since it's "witty" Bikes and Lorries April 1 2015 article. Every link we make to a low-value web site devalues our own rating in google's PageRank algorithm, and since most of their coverage is bollocks there's no real point.

However, today it's time to link to an article, albeit through a nofollow marker: Revealed: The number of cyclists involved in crashes while undertaking other vehicles, covering the 5-6 cyclists hit a year by going to the left of cars in those little painted bits of bollocks on the road.

This turns out to be a seminal piece of work

  1. Because it appears in[Cox17], Tara Cox, Revealed: Hotspots in Cambridge for accidents where cyclists undertake other vehicles, Trinity Group Cambridge News , 2017, where 4-5 cyclists are injured/year.
  2. And in [Grant17] Rob Grant 2017, Dozens of cyclists have been involved in collisions while undertaking, new figures show, of the Manchester Evening news, where the collision rate is 11/year, no variance/stddev supplied
  3. and [Grant17a], Rob Grant, How many Birmingham cyclists are involved in accidents while undertakingBirmingham Mail,  2017. Here the collision rate is "an average of 8/year", again, without any variance.

As a news outlet that believe in weakly-defensible data to back up all our ill informed opinions, we are always pleased to see our press outlets following our strategy of "have an opinion, grab some meaningless statistic and then turn into an article defending our prejudices. Which as our detractors will point out, we do all too often.

But we do like to see that weakly-defensible data. Indeed, we're happy to critique the DfT's data gathering processes as a relic of the twentieth century, and suggest modern, big data alternatives.

Which is why, given the broad covering of this seminal piece of work, we'd really like to see the data.


  1. The cleaned up DfT data, either in the painfully generic CSV format, or something more efficient and with tighter typing, like Apache Avro.
  2. The data science notebook used to take the data and produce the numbers which got published. A Jupyter Notebook pushed to github would be fine.
Reproducible analysis of the results of an experiment is something which is becoming a big issue in science: given the same data, can different scientists come up with the same answers. Publishing the data and the analysis code is the foundation to this.

At least this dataset is going to be small, it's not like the datasets lurking in CERN CASTOR , or worse, the feed expected to come off the Square Kilometre Array, a feed that has everyone fucking scared right now. 

So to the Evening Post, as one datascience organisation to another,: if you are going to write articles on traffic issues in the city,  even if they are copied and pasted from the same piece of tier-2 prose seen in Manchester, Birmingham and Cambridge: show us the data, or STFU.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

A letter to Smiths of Gloucestershire, re the blind overtake of their van VE08NKX


I'm the cyclist the driver of your van VE08NKX chose to overtake on a blind corner on Belmont Hill, Somerset, at 15:46 on 25 November.

I'm the cyclist who shouted a warning to your driver that there was an oncoming car —a warning he chose to ignore:

And I'm the cyclist who videoed your van nearly hitting the oncoming car.

That car braked to avoid a collision, incidentally, and we both waved an acknowledgement to each other of how close it had been.

I've not got in touch before; I was waiting to see how Avon and Somerset Police were going to respond to the complaint that I'd filed online with them. As the time limit for them to file a Notice of Impending Prosecution has expired and they are yet to get in touch, the answer is: nothing.

Your driver has to consider themselves lucky to have not only avoided a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle, but to avoid any form of punishment from the police for nearly doing so. That is despite the irrefutable video evidence showing them ignoring a shouted warning and overtaking where they had no visibility. If A&S Police were to adopt the prosecute-on-video-evidence policy which the Central Midlands Police are now operating, they would now be facing a choice between prosecution to Dangerous Driving or pleading guilty to the lesser offence of Careless Driving.

As it is: no prosecution, no pleading, no penalty, no points on their license, and no insurance premium.

That fact reflects as badly on our local police as it does on your employee.

Given the police's utter inaction, you can report to your driver that this particular near-crash won't result in any prosecution.

However, you do need to consider your brand tainted. It's clear from your website that you take site safety as seriously as it needs to be —but it's also clear from the video that your staff are treating off site safety with utter disdain. This driver endangered other road users in a van with your business name and telephone number painted on three sides of the vehicle, making identifying this employer trivial. The more incidents like this, the more videos of your drivers will go online, the more that safety theme gets devalued.

Please: tell your driver that in a world of helmet cameras and dashcams —the era of "getting away" with dangerous driving is over. If they drive dangerously in their free time, it is only the lives of themselves and others and their own driving license which they endanger. When they do it in company vehicles, it is your vehicles they are also threatening, your insurance premiums they are risking, and your brand that they are destroying,

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Psychology of Overtaking and VE08NXK

There is surprisingly little literature available online on the topic of The Psychology of Overtaking.

One paper you can find dates from 1997, Overtaking Road-accidents: Differences in Manoeuvre as a Function of Driver Age, by Clarke et al, of Nottingham University

Without going into the details, in particular questioning whether there's enough information on the general population of drivers and overtakers to reach conclusions about age, it does contain a good introductory summary of past work.

One quote in particular stands out
Wilson and Greensmith (1983) returned to the theme of the ‘‘inertial driver’’ in their multivariate analysis of drivers’ accident status in relation to observed driving patterns, gender and exposure. They report that accident-involved drivers drive more quickly ‘‘...and move around continually (especially overtaking) in traffic’’. The typical inertial driver differs from his high-exposure accident-free counterpart, in that he seems unwilling to change speeds in response to conditions by using gear changes, deceleration or braking.
This is interesting, as it does document a common behaviour you encounter on a bike: the driver willing to endanger themselves and others rather than tap on the brakes.

Here is a classic example on Belmont Hill, N. Somerset

Although it's a sharp bend, the gradient of the hill means that you can see oncoming traffic, especially when they have their lights on in the late afternoon. Look up to the top right of the picture and you can see a car coming down the hill. Bear in mind, it is still daylight, there may be an unlit vehicle or cyclist, and they would not be visible.

The presence of the car hasn't stopped the van VE08NXK from choosing to overtake precisely at the corner, going round the bend on completely the wrong side of the road. Either they hadn't looked or they didn't care. The driver coming down the hill was distinctly unhappy.

It would be really interesting to see what the reasoning of the driver was here. We cannot but suspect that it would be a "the cyclist forced me to make a dangerous overtake" claim, when really it was a "I was unwilling to adjust my speed in any way". Maybe we shall find out, having just reported them to A&S police as part of "Grass a Driver week".

Monday, 28 November 2016

Grass a driver week: MK59USB, texting across a junction

Apparently some police forces in the country are now rolling out enforcement of driving too close to tax dodgers, maybe even section 59 ASB orders, which are interesting as there is a lower burden of proof. It doesn't impact penalties or insurance, simply threatens to take the car away.

We watch these experiments with trepidation.

Meanwhile, Bristol has a page to report incidents for their records alone.

This week we are conducting a small experiment to report a few dangerous drivers to this site, to see what happens. Expect followups if there are any results.

First, MK59USB on Tyndall's Park Road, crossing Whiteladies Road while reading their phone.

There are now pedestrian crossing lights on some of the arms of the junctions, specifically Tyndall's Park Road has a walk and ike one (a small dip in the kerb allows the bikes over); Whiteladies Road inbound also has green. These require left-turns to be restricted, which has long been a rule more ignored than observed. The council has recently done some raised corner sharpening; be interesting to see what's happening.

Where there is not any pedestrian crossing is on St Pauls Road —the Clifton Side— people run across when there is a gap, such as when vehicles heading inbound are waiting to turn right, and in that little gap between Whiteladies Road going read and TPR/St Pauls Road going green.

Which means this mercedes is about to head towards a junction where there are likely to be people sprinting across. Will they put down their phone?

No, is the answer, they keep on looking at it, going down to one-handed so they can hold the steering wheel with the other. About half way through the junction, they look up, notice the cyclist, and hold the phone down out of sight.

Interesting question: what would have happened if the tax-dodger hadn't been there?

The experiment begins, then, by filing this on the A&S police site, see how they react.

What about the full report an incident process? Too much hassle given its inevitable that nothing is going to happen. If they don't act when you go to the station with a CD of a video and a complaint, it's unlikely that they will react to a youtube URL.