Monday 25 May 2020

Cummings: "the car told me to do it"

The government is scrabbling for excuses for why Cummings drove 260 miles from London to Durham in March, did a 60 mile round trip while there, and then another 260 miles south in April.

The main claim "parental instinct out of concern for a child", coupled with a revision of the lockdown guidelines, aren't proving sufficient -especially given the day trip to somewhere 30 miles away.

Now they look for more excuses: the autistic child, the dying uncle.

But there are two more they need to consider and wheel out
  1. his parent's dog was dying and they needed to let their son see it one last time
  2. his car told him to do it
Now, no doubt some readers will be reading excuse #2 and thinking "WTF?". If you are one of those people: know that you are one of the little people.

Cummings is important. We know that not through is arrogant and self-entitled disdain for the lockdown laws –but because he drives an Important Car. We saw it on the telly when he was doorstepped. How do we know it's important? Look at the BBC video.
  • It's an SUV in a London street. Hence: he probably has money and is therefore important. However, it could of course be an old one, in which case he is unimportant. how to tell?
  •  He presses a button on the tailgate of his SUV. This is a modern important car with a motor to lower it. That, along with power steering, has been essential for mass-market adoption of SUVs people -especially women- without the reach to the top of the tailgate then pull it down can now close it from their keyfob or by tapping the tailgate button.
Yes, Cummings pretends to be closing the tailgate by hand, but he has pressed the button before doing that. He's realised that to avoid being seen as one of the elite, he needs to look like he doesn't really drive an important car. But we Important People see his trick.

And what do important cars care about? Electrical power. Electrical power for that tailgate, the satnav, the hands free bluetooth phone link, the camera and computer for lane tracking, the adaptive cruise control, the power windows, the power sunroof, the 8 speaker audio system, the rain-sensing mirrors, the runflat tyre pressure monitoring, the side radar collision avoidance, the ultrasonic parking sensors, and the always-on headlights. Oh, and starting the engine -especially in an environmentally smug car which turns it of when you are stationary, waiting for the parking sensors to tell the engine control unit that the car in front has set off, and it'll be time to move two metres forward.

Even when parked up it's busy -its alarm powered up to make sure unimportant people keep out of it.

Which means, they have expensive batteries which need to be kept charged.

Based on our extended experience, an Important Car for Important People driven 250 miles/month, with 3/4 of that on motorways, is happy. But during lockdown, it has been complaining about neglect

Battery Discharged it says -Start Engine.
And on the LCD of the "things to look at when bored" feature, it expands this

Battery Charge Very Low.
Recharge by Driving or using external charger
Functions requiring power supply, such as communication, entertainment are
+some warning which continues if you scroll down on the "controls to play with when bored" dial

See that? "Start Engine". "Recharge by driving". Also, see how the warnings were all about what matters in an important car 'communication, entertainment and air condition', not things that important people don't care about or understand like 'engine won't start'.

What was he to do?
Well, he could have done what we did. bought a £50 quid charger, stuck it under the bonnet and ran a power cable over to it. That would not only have charged his Important Car for Important People, it would make passers by think he had an electric car. Because nowadays, running an extension from your front garden to your car is the new status symbol. Especially if you stick an "e" on the back of your car where it tells people what specific variant of the expensive-car category it is.

Why not do that? Maybe he realised that he was about to come down with Covid-19 and because it takes 24h to buy a battery on line and have it delivered, by the time it arrived he would be self isolating and unable to go outside and wire up his Important car for Important People.

Driving to Durham with his entire family. was the only thing he could do. Well OK, he could have got in alone gone up to the M25 and done a lap of it, but really, that's not only boring, there's roadworks between the M3 and gatwick turnoff, so it'd take longer that you'd expect. And without his family to keep him company, nothing to do but make hands-free calls to #10 telling Boris what to think. And that must get really tiring, day in, day out -especially now that Boris is @ work rather than on holiday somewhere.

Nope, Durham it had to be.

So while other people are denouncing him for being an arrogant self entitled elite wanker -which he is, admittedly, we don't support those condemnations for illegally driving across the country to bring Covid-19 to Durham just because he didn't want to have to entertain a four year old all on his own.

Nope, for us: the car is at fault .

At least he didn't come to Bristol.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Hotwell's future in a divided city

Bristol is a divided city.

It's divided between North -especially North West- Bristol where the professionals who moved into the city into the city in the 1980s and 1990s settled, and those parts of the city, where families have lived for generations.

It's divided by the future options in life which children going up North of the river have, compare to those in forgotten places like Hartcliffe.

It's divided by air quality, where people who live outside the air quality management area and drive into or through the centre, then get home expressing how glad they are they don't live in the polluted zone, while complaining that even the delayed and inadequate antipollution plans reluctantly produced by the mayor's office an unacceptable attack on their right to drive to work.

It's divided into those people who live in the city and likely to walk, cycle or take the bus, and those people who live in out-of-town dormitory villages. The latter opted for a mock-rural life with an expectation that driving to work in the city should be easy and free. Really, who moved to Portishead without noticing that the A369 is a traffic jam morning and evening because everyone else had the same idea? Who buys a little Georgian something in Chipping Sodbury and then drives to work down the M4 and A4174 without expecting the roads to be moving 30 mph in the rush hour -and why the fuck do you think the rest of us really want to hear about this fact every fucking morning?

Hotwells is one of those places where the division in transport choices are so starkly apparent.

The Plimsoll Bridge: one of the key ways people drive from South to North Bristol -and vice versa, and the way those North Somerset extra-urban commuters can bring their overweight SUVs from their two-cars-per-household mock rural semi-detached houses into what ever office car park they somehow get to park their oversized vehicles.

Alongside it, the Merchants Road Bridge: how people on foot and bike get between the two halves of the city. Visiting it on Saturday, apart from one or two cars heading to or from Spike Island -the majority of traffic was people are using their own legs to get them over.

Admittedly, the Nova Scotia, the Pump House, and The Cottage seem popular destinations for the pedestrians, so legless could well be final state of the journey -but what better places to enjoy a bevvy or four than the waterside pubs in quiet and historic part of the Harbour?

On a bike, you can carry on over the now reopened "Create Centre Bridge" and then on to points south and west (east is a topic for another post). It's here that the literal stratification of transport choices becomes so apparent. While the people in their cars, are busy wondering which lane to take, under the flyover, people are walking and cycling around without anyone cutting them up.

There is a BMX area for those with skills, and a pump trail, for children and adults alike to enjoy trying to negotiate its bumps and berms in a lovely setting. None of this is apparent to people in their cars.

Which group of people do you think are behind these proposals to destroy Hotwells? Is it the families that bring a small kids down on scooters to enjoy the pump trail? Is it people crossing the Create Centre and the merchants road bridges on their e-bikes, ready to -somehow- get into the city centre unscathed? No. It's those business executives who live either in North Somerset villages, or corners of Clifton, and who only ever see the bridge for more than 30 seconds when they're stuck in traffic jam. Which is why they don't seem to have any qualms about destroying what is a key walking and cycling connection point between the two cities -North Bristol and Greater Bemmy. They won't even know it's there, except on some footnote of page 20 on a report; a report they stopped reading on page 3 once the cost of building a tunnel became apparent, the fact that repairing the existing bridge wouldn't make the money became obvious --and that there was some land adjacent to the river which nobody important seemed to be using.

Yes, the council did donate that land "to the people" in the 1960s to compensate for the bits of the park they'd used for the interchange -but they didn't have spreadsheets in that era. We do now, and they send a message to those people who look at numbers on screens in the day, and think about those numbers as they queue on the A370 en route to the newly opened traffic jam that is the new Southern Link Road.

What we're seeing here is one of those moments when we get to decide what city we want to live in. The attempts to convert the railway path into the first of the Metrobus routes was the last time we really got this. A council deciding that a bus route, was more important then anyone trying to walk or cycle into the city, that East Bristol didn't really need its parkland, not when it held up commuters from Emersons Green.

So what city do we want? We can see what city the mayor wants. We just don't understand why he has chosen to represent the car-first commuters are North Somerset and profit-first businessman of Clifton, ahead of the rest of us.

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Hotwells: the Westernmost Outpost of Greater Bedminster

Hotwells -for that is the name of the undeveloped western harbour area- is part of Greater Bedminster.

Yes, much of it is north of the harbour, but it is on the flatlands, just north of the harbour.

While Clifton isn't that far away, it's a brutal climb up that Hill -and when you get there, there's only Clifton Village to show for it. Apart from the pubs, a chip shop, a very small library, and an underwhelming convenience store, there is not much there. If you live in Hotwells, and you choose to head south, you can you make your way to Asda, and buy food amongst the friendly community that always seems to be wandering those aisles. And nowadays, you have all of Southville to explore. Your parks and green spaces are also south of the Avon.

That's why the council plans for the Cumberland flyover are more than just changes in Hotwells, they are an attack on South Bristol. In particular, to propose putting a two- or four lane road alongside the Avon, through that green space which connects the Avon to Grenville park, is something straight out of 1970s Bristol road planning. Even Glasgow has backed off doing things that awful since the early 1990s (M77 and Pollok Estate, for the curious).

Our mayor is proposing destroying the unspoiled nature of the southern gorge. Proposing building a four-lane road over what today is the best view you get to the Clifton suspension bridge. Proposing making today's walking and cycling route from Hotwells to Bemmy yet another multi-lane bridge where are all walking and cycling facilities and be an afterthought. Yes, they mention "improvements to cycling", but without spelling them out -you know they'll be afterthoughts or extra lights we have to wait 15 minutes to cross the junction. And you know that as the cost of the project overruns, as the schedule overruns start to be measured in years -the "value engineering" of the project will result in the exact outcome which Avon Crescent got from their Metrobus promises: fuck all.

Why is he doing this? Because it is obvious to everyone with a spreadsheet, that large amounts of money could be made by building houses on the land which the flyover currently uses. The only way to turn flyover into profit is if you can think up another way to get people across the river. Clearly, and attempt to estimate how much a tunnel would cost to build has shown that even before you include the inevitable massive cost overruns, it's too expensive for the people hoping to profit from the land sales to fund -and nobody else is willing to. The only way you can convert that bridge into housing is if you find someone else to put the bridge. A nearby park and the side of the gorge which doesn't have traffic jams is the obvious solution -and if that doesn't work, there is always the bridge to Spike Island, which combined with knocking down some of the historical buildings of the harbour, gives you another place for the bridge. Obviously, if the council proposed building the houses on that parkland, they'd expect some resistance. Selling off the Plimsoll Bridge land space and then handwringing over how about road now need to go somewhere else lets some people make their money -too bad that South Bristol will lose a bit more of its green space and that the nice bits of Hotwells destroyed to put in the bridge which will be needed once the current bridge has been sold off for redevelopment.

So yes, we are opposed to this. Expect more coverage on this topic to follow

Friday 1 February 2019

VU61HXM : Nissan Driver doing clifton roundabouts "french style" in the snow

We're an organisation which believes in data and experimentation. We have time for experts.

Normally we can't be arsed to send videos of near misses to A&S police on the basis that it seems an exercise in futility. Let's look at the track record of our limited number of attempts
  1. Sept 2012, R242AAC. Shoots out a roundabout, nearly hits the parent. Outcome: Five penalty points. Notable that (then) Cllr Jon Rogers was pulled in early —is this the way to get a result?
  2. April 2014: Double-overtaking driver of Peugeot L861CDW nearly runs over family. Outcome: A&S Police Sergeant tells off cyclist for swearing when they think their son is about to die.
  3. Feb 2016, SWC scaffolds van HK15FYH. Reporting this van driving over a roundabout while texting involved cycling to Chipping Sodbury to hand over a CD with the video and file a report. When followed later that month, nobody had any record of it. Chipping Sodbury Police: "we passed it on". A&S HQ "we have no record". 
It's got worse. We've gone from Prosecute to Won't Prosecute to No Record of Incident. And that with  a trip to Yate added in.

It's 2019, three years since the last experiment. And this one merits it. A Nissan Note nearly being driven into a cyclist because the driver has chosen to drive the wrong side of the mini roundabout, in winter conditions, where the cyclist is forced to swerve into snow and ice to avoid the car driving into the side of them.

Our tax dodger (expendable) is coming into Clifton on Suspension Bridge road, heading towards the more interesting parts of the city. Because all the side roads are iced up, the main roads are the only options, and there, the central lane where enough traffic has melted the snow.

Our cyclist carefully cycles round the roundabout, making a controlled turn through the junction, avoiding snow, avoiding banking into the turn, lining up perfectly to exit in the snow and ice-free part of the road -the only place to be in these conditions.

Except, what's that engine noise coming from the right hand side? It's the Nissan Note VU61HXM, also taking the roundabout, this time on the completely opposite side of the roundel. If they have a driving license, it had better be a French one. And they have to be able to say more than "quoi? je comprende pas? Est-ce-que il-y-a une probleme?" when questioned.

In normal weather conditions, that would be an selfish and dangerous thing to do. In snow conditions, conditions where the police and met office were warning everyone to think before they travel, and take care when they do —it's tantamount to attempted murder.

The cyclist was: positioned on the snow free part of the road, carefully using their (hydraulic disc) brakes, riding with tyres (2.4" Conti Mountain King ) suited to bad weather, and taking corners really, really carefully, both hands gripping the wide bars for maximum control. Oh, and avoiding the side roads which don't get swept or gritted.

The driver "Oh, this cyclist is taking too long, I'll just dive across the road. Oh, they are shouting and waving. I shall carry on without slowing down or changing my line —they shouldn't have come up the inside of me"

When you see a car aiming straight for the side of you, there's no point trying to argue rights of way, it's time to make an emergency turn into the snow -avoiding braking at the saame time as that's guaranteed to lead to a fall. Then, once to side, controlled deceleration.

If there had been any ice underneath, this would have caused a fall, and, with a car twenty centimetres away, guaranteed injury. We wonder what the driver would have said then —aassuming they stopped at all.

Certainly driving off seemed to be their sole reaction to the near-collision

It's interesting to look back. They only come up behind the bike within the last ten seconds of the approach to the junction —the time the cyclist is gently slowing down. And, irony of irony, because the tax-dodging cyclist stopped to let the family cross the zebra crossing. If instead they'd gone straight over the crossing (the kids hadn't stepped out, so it'd have been legal, albeit antisocial), then VU61HXM wouldn't have had a chance to run over the cyclist.

At the junction itself the driver didn't even make any attempt to drive legally. Look at the angle of the front wheel. They were lined up right from the outset to cut across the roundabout and the cyclist.  Not a moment of hesitation, not even to safely assess whether there were any drivers approaching from the right. The decision to drive on the wrong side of the mini roundabout had been made before they started to pull out.

And it's not like they "just" went onto the painted roundel. They barely grazed it with the passenger side wheels.

The rear view also shows how close they come knocking the cyclist off. With the wide angle lens, that is probably within 15 cm.

The only way to put a safe gap in was to put both hands on those MTB bars bars and steer into the snow, while taking care to stay upright.

This is one of the worse bits of driving experienced for a while. In the worst road conditions Bristol has experienced for almost a year.  In terms of actions, it makes the cut for the CPS guidelines for prosecuting dangerous driving.
  • failing to have a proper and safe regard for vulnerable road users such as cyclists
  • overtaking which could not have been carried out safely;
  • disregard of traffic lights and other road signs, which, on an objective analysis, would appear to be deliberate;
And particularly:
  • a brief but obvious danger arising from a seriously dangerous manoeuvre. 
Let's see what happens. Filing planned for Saturday, with the full "dull" long video and a detailed statement; will do a followup in the week to make sure the NIP is in the post, then we'll see whether this makes the cut as something worthy of the CPS's time. Oh and this time: ruthlessness from our side. Missing report: escalate. Failure to prosecute: escalate and publicise.

If A&S police don't do better than they have done in the 2014 and 2016 experiments, they may as well cancel their safe passing program and give out Nissan Notes instead.

Wednesday 5 December 2018

December 5th: today is the day to object to the BRI's multi-storey car park

Today is December 5th. If you have any concerns about the BRI's proposed 820+ space car park adjacent to the Dove Street Flats and the hospital itself, then go to the council planning portal and make a comment

Here is our objection: Bristol Traffic's Objection to Planning Proposal 

Key points
  • The idea that adding a vast car park will not increase traffic is bollocks. It assumes transport choices of staff and visitors are inelastic, and also that freeing up capacity in the streets and car parks nearby will not encourage others to drive into the city.
  • Even based on the naive assumption that Induced Demand doesn't apply to the BRI, the air quality assessment included in the proposal admits that air quality will get worse in and near the hospital
  • It completely ignores, in both planning, discussion and air quality assessments the Dove Street Flats and play area directly above where the car park is planned. Unlike the hospital itself, the families living don't have filtered air conditioned houses: they will have windows open on the hot high pollution summer days, their kids will be spending evenings and weekends playing in the playground which will be directly overshadowed by the car park.
The best bit: it's going to to make air quality in the hospital worse too, to the detriment of staff and patients.

In our research, we came across some slides from October by Dr Estafandiar Burman of UCL, who provides real measurements of the air quality inside the new heart and lung clinic, or as we call it "the BRI Scottish Hospital"

This new part of the hospital has air conditioning, sealed wards and filters on the aircon to reduce air pollution.

The filters are great at reducing PMx pollution compared to that experienced by the Dove St Flat families

But, NOx air pollution levels are dangerously high all the time, especially given the patients, by the very nature of their conditions, will have reduced capacity to breathe oxygen and pass it round their bloodstream

Given that even with the utterly indefensible traffic model, the plan acknowledges that external air quality directly level with these wards is going to worsen, we can conclude that air quality within the wards is going to worsen —so endangering the health of the patients.

If this was proposed by someone on the medical staff of the hospital, it would go against the GMC's ethical code of conduct, "do not harm your patient"

Have a look at the BRI proposal, add your comments. If you want a copy-and-pasteable version of our objection, here it is.

To close then, here is the conclusion of our objection.


We could go on more detail —such as dissecting the traffic analysis and covering all its flaws. But that is moot. Even based on the assumption of the analysts: "demand for parking is inelastic", the air quality assessment shows that the car park endangers the health of the patients, the staff, its neighbours and the broader citizens of the city.

We will note that The Bristol Traffic Project is a decade-long project to document the city, to build up a defensible dataset on how people get around Bristol. We also like our satire,

Yet for all our attempts at ironic humour, even we could not imagine Bristol's showcase hospital proposing adding an 800+ car parking spaces within the Bristol Air Quality "red zone". We look forward your application for a licensed fried chicken takeaway with outdoor smoking in the Heart and Lung clinic, along with a trampoline in the children's A&E waiting area.

Saturday 20 October 2018

fraternal greetings between arrogant and self-entitled road users

We've observed before that there's no real difference between cyclists and the owners of fast german cars: Arrogant and Self-entitled wankers: the only variable being how much kinetic energy they bring to a collision.

You can see that some of the individuals are in fact self-aware of this little detail. And rather than treat "the opposing team" as unworthy, instead welcome their presence and greet each other as they pass.

Here we can see exactly this at work, with our tax dodging adult and teenage child heading towards the Clifton "dead zone" from the more exciting parts of the city, on a weekend afternoon where almost nobody is around. This St Pauls Road, incidentally, because its the way from Clifton to those more exciting parts of the city. It continues as "Tyndall's Park Road", because the Bearpit roundabout wasn't considered in the victorian era destination, so "Bearpit Avenue" is eternally denied our city.

You can see, as they head down St Pauls Road, a Porsche turning in from Whiteladies Road, cutting the corner as it revs up to the 20 mph speed limit Marvin Rees is yet to publicly abrogate —though his state of the nation "we can't punish driving" hints that it will come soon.

It comes up behind the two cyclists; the father riding alongside the child to stop both of them getting close-passed.

Rather than get upset, the Porsche driver pauses for a moment, assesses the situation, and recognises a fellow arrogant and self-entitled wanker. They pass, but close enough they can see each other clearly, and sound a friendly on their horn as they pass.

Our cyclist, also recognises a fellow arrogant and self-entitled wanker waves a friendly hello back. After all —why else would someone beep their horn in a quiet Bristol road except to say hello?

Thursday 4 October 2018

20 mph sabotage at Leigh Woods

Our mid-august coverage of the 20 mph "firstbus" review, was illustrated with a photograph of a 20 mph sign nonchalantly keeling over.

That photo was taken on Bridge Road, the approach to the Clifton Suspension Bridge from North Somerset. If you are driving from Portishead down the 40 mph-limited A369, or sprinted down Beggar Bush Lane from Failand (60 mph), this is the first sign you are entering the Big City where you have to temper your expectations of speed with the need to share the road with people on foot and bike and keep your speed at around 20 mph.

Here's the sign today.

More specifically: it's where the sign was. Rather than repair the sign, someone in the "hypothesised" North Somerset Highways Maintenance Department has decided that rather than repair the sign, they'll just take it down and fill in the hole.

Which means, for anyone approaching Clifton on this road, there is no large roundel here warning of the speed change. There's one on the other side of the road, but it can be hidden by parked vehicles.
As a result: no major cues that you are in a 20 zone.

Does it change people's behaviour? Hard to tell.

Here's a rear-view clip from earlier in the week of one of tax-dodgers (expendable) approaching the bridge and going past where the sign used to be. They're doing 20-25 mph in the 30 mph zone.

If you look at the speed of the car WR07YFL coming up behind, it's probably doing 35-40. And, as they both cross where the sign used to be, the driver decides she doesn't want to slow down for a bike only doing 25 mph, and instead swing past. Which, given our tax dodger is positioned in the middle of the lane, and there's a lane separator fast approaching, isn't going to work. She eventually slows down and tucks in behind, only getting an option to go forwards when the cyclist pulls over on the "they don't have to pay any-more!" cyclist bypass of the toll gate. And then, the same cyclist pulls out in front and speeds up to 20 mph again, enough to stop the car from overtaking. We've documented dangerous passing on this bridge before; at least here the driver was sensible enough to not attempt it —but we wonder, if it had been an oncoming bike, not a car, would she have done any differently?

In town, she drives less aggressively; the cyclist is now "only" doing 20 mph, but so are the cars in front. Seemingly having the reason for the speed constraint being a car, not a bike winds up the driver less. Again though, we have to ask: if it hadn't been for that, would she have made another attempt?

Who knows? And one recorded incident doth not a defensible dataset make.

For now: if caught driving above the 20 mph limit, anywhere in the inner zone, just say "I came in over the Suspension Bridge and didn't see any signs!" Which, if it works, shows that all it takes is some laziness from an adjacent council for the whole 20 mph project to slowly fail.