Thursday 31 July 2008

If you are in the car, it isn't actually parked

The gloucester road showcase bus lane is one of the prides of the Greater Bristol Bus Network. From 4:30 pm, you can't use the parking spaces along the road, as it is a bus lane.

On those rare days when this parking rules are enforced, its not only fast to cycle, buses can go down there quickly too. But those are the days when Bristol's three parking wardens are out somewhere other than the profit-earning city centre. Today, at 5:31 pm -rush hour- they aren't, and there are vehicles parked in both directions.

But if you look closely, there are people in them. Either it is last-minute shopping, or they are actually picking up people who work in the area.
The problem here is that it only takes a single parked/waiting car for the lane to be rendered useless. Bikes here have the easiest option, they just slide past. Or go down North Road, parallel to Gloucester Road, which, apart from the odd very-impatient car is fairly quiet. If you are happy to ignore a car right behind trying to intimidate you by revving its engine, it's a good route. But buses, both FirstBus and the U1/U2 UWE buses have less room to manoeuvre, literally. They get stuck behind the cars and have to wait to be allowed out. And if you are driving, you don't want a bus to pull out as they don't accelerate, stop for passengers and stop to give way to oncoming buses.

Which is why on evenings that the parking rules are enforced, Gloucester Road is faster to drive along than Kersteman Avenue: buses and bikes get their lane, cars have theirs -and the cars do not have to worry about buses in the other direction swinging into their path to get round a van that shouldn't be there.

Further up Gloucester Road, by Horfield Common, there's a traffic info board. It should flag whether or not parking rules are being enforced along the bus lane, so drivers can choose whether or not to turn into Kersteman Avenue.

Montpelier mixed-use area

Here's a lovely shot of evening Montpelier. Three kids cycling round the street; two adults pushing the bikes up the hill. Further down Richmond Road there are some more people walking in the middle of the street, carrying shopping bags. A taxi will nudge its way up the hill, but carefully, rather than the 35+mph that is their ideal speed.

This street effectively makes Montpelier Bristol 's first people-first-cars-second area. And to achieve this, the residents didn't need any contributions from Bristol City Council. Instead they came up with their own goal - a safe place to walk and play- and a simple strategy to achieve this.
What did they do? Well, if you look at the edges of the picture, you can see it. Along each side of the road, completely blocking every pavement, is a near-continuous line of cars. This forces pedestrians into the street, but the cars are positioned such that the road is too narrow to drive fast. If the parked cars were not here, through traffic would speed, and the children would be constrained to the pavement, rather than being able to enjoy the whole width of the street. And, as they are cycling, that would increase the risk of pedestrian/cycle collisions, which as we all know, is the greatest danger facing this city.
It is contributions to innovative road design like this that make Montpelier a leading part of "Cycling City Bristol"

Bike Lane? No, Parking space

Richmond Road in Montpelier was blocked off to cars over a decade ago, leaving a narrow gap for bicycles.

Or alternatively, leaving an extra space to park cars, here the mondeo P322VUY.

This is 7 O'Clock in the evening incidentally, there is room to park three cars in the street in front of the Passat and the little Nissan. This car doesnt need to waste time reverse parking though, not when there is a perfectly good space here for a car. And bikes? Who cares.

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Proud to be a rebel

Another shot of a car parked facing the wrong way down a one-way street.

There's something about Fremantle Square, Kingsdown, it brings out the rebel in people. It would be trivial to drive another 6 metres and do a quick turnabout to park facing the right way, but then the driver of the VW polo H954FPK wouldn't be making a statement. Namely "I don't believe in one way streets".

Parking Lessons

One photo we are always fond of is the learner-car-parking-bristol-style snap; the car doing something that would have the driver fail their test instantly, but which are a prerequisite to driving and parking round the city. Speeding, running traffic lights, anything of that nature, though parking is the easiest to snap.

Here Robbie's Driving school, car a blue renault clio WV06FXL, teaches a learner driver the correct way to park on double yellow lines. Notice how well the car is parked -aligned with its neighbours, and not even blocking the corner. This is skilled parking.
{car: WV06FXL; location: kingsdown}

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Range Rover: All parking tickets will be offset

This site is gradually building up a datset of vehicles, but not one that is statistically valid. We can't say "silver cars are more likely to park illegally than blue ones", because we don't have the data on all the cars parking legally. All we have are photos sent in by our team members on their journeys round the city. However, in our current photoset, 100% of all parked range rovers we have encountered are either parked on the pavement, on double yellow lines, on the no-waiting bits by schools, or all of the above. That would appear to be somewhat significant.

It could in fact represent a design defect in the vehicle. It's just too wide to park in Bristol, and unsuited to reverse parking. Drive-in, drive-out parking is all you can do, which means you need to find big empty places (school no waiting zones) to drop your kids off.

Which is why we propose that just as Landrover offset two year's worth of Carbon on a new Landrover Discovery, when you buy a Range Rover, the company should offer to offset two year's worth of parking tickets. For vehicles YJ52NYE and L008YXR, that would make parking in Picton Street much less stressful. Indeed, it would make parking your range rover so stress free that more people in Montpelier could consider buying one.

Monday 28 July 2008

Cycling rule enforcement in NY

As part of the coverage of cycling-city-ideas-from-abroad, here's footage of the New York Police enforcing traffic laws, which apparently includes a requirement to have a bell. Clearly lacking a bell is a punishable offence.

Bristol cyclists do not yet receive such treatment, which must upset some of the people who write letters to the Evening Post on a regular basis. Incidentally, this shows the merits of wearing a helmet. (Source: Gothamist. Very divided comments).
Updated: the New York Times has more detail. Apparently the cyclist was arrested for his part in the incident -for "attempted assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest".

Pavement Parking: we have no choice

Similarly to the corner parking issue, pavement parking is only done in Bristol due to the parking pressure put on a street by residents and commuters

Here, for example, is the new suburb built near UWE, that clearly suffers from both problems. These cars, including the saab P82KGM, would not willingly remove the ability for people to walk on the pavement if they had any choice in the matter.

Corner Parking: what makes you think we have a choice?

We want to make it clear that despite the articles on corner-parking , we understand that often times parking at the corner is not done
through choice, but because there is nowhere else to park your car

Especially in a busy part of the city, like Clifton.

Sunday 27 July 2008

Innovative corner parking techniques

During the holiday season, Bristol residents are encouraged to take photographs of interesting traffic innovations that can be brought back to Bristol. Here Pete Jordan has highlighted a more advance form of corner parking that he encountered in Galway, Ireland.

Instead of parking parallel to the kerb, across the corner, the car drives directly onto the pavement at the corner. This allows a bigger car to park while using up less of the valuable kerb space. It may also give more options of directions to drive off in when setting off, so delivering more flexibility to a driver in a hurry.

Perhaps this parking style could be encouraged by the appropriate markings on Bristol's streets.

Saturday 26 July 2008

Cul de Sac safety

It's very considerate of Bristol Council to help people driving into a cul de sac; they paint these yellow lines in the road as an indication that one cannot continue further. Of course, on reaching the end of the road, what else can a driver sensibly do but stop?

Blocking the slope in the curb there is an extra thoughtful addition: it stops cyclists shooting straight out onto the road and possibly having an accident.

(Picture and text by Pete Jordan)

Monday 21 July 2008

East Street: a secret short cut

There is a secret back-route through Bedminster that only a few cars know about it. Here we are going to blow the secret wide-open and share a way to skip three traffic lights and about ten minutes on a weekday morning.

It's called the East Street pedestrian zone, here demonstrated by -----. It may say buses only, but as we've seen before, that's a hint. Any law that isn't enforced doesn't exist, and as driving through here in a car is never punished, you may as well. So who wastes time going round the back streets of Bedminster, when they could punch the core at speed? Losers.

Sunday 20 July 2008

Bristol Motorcycle City

One unmentioned beneficiary of the Cycling City initiative will be Bristol's motorbikes, who can take advantage of the bike parking in Gloucester Road, thus avoiding having to block the bike lane the way cars need to.

In broadmead, a couple of bike park slots provide a great place for a bike. Some people may argue that there are areas for motorbikes, areas marked Solo M/Cs, but as these are used by cars, motorbikes only have one remaining option: the cycle stands.

There are also lots of motorbike friendly short cuts

You can recognise these by the drawing of the motorbike with the red ring around them.

Cotham RTA

People say there is no community in Cotham, but when a large crunching sound happens in the street at 9 in the evening, all the neighbourhood comes out to see what happened. The driver of the Corsa was sitting down in a daze and not in any obvious need of first aid. Which was good, given the only trained first aider was myself, and on our last site training exercise we lost three of the two patients -from preventable issues. Here I got to stick up the hazard signs and take some pictures.

A red ford escort van had been descending Cotham Road, probably at or below the 30 mph speed limit. There is an 20mph sign, but it's a hint only to be ignored on school hours. A silver Corsa appears to have made a right turn into the path of this van, being hit hard enough to rotate round and do serious damage to both vehicles. With the fuel leakage and all, whoever dialled 999 asked for the set: Police, Ambulance and Fire.

While waiting for these to turn up, friends of the Corsa driver "mysteriously" turned up, at which point the driver tried to do a runner. This is where the Cotham community kicked in, as we managed to stop the driver and hold him there until the authorities arrived. That's what they don't show on Casualty, nor do they show that its the fire brigade who turn up first, as the police and both ambulances are busy in the city centre with the usual Friday night festivities.

When the police and ambulance did turn up, the Corsa driver was stuck in the ambulance and then, apparently, detained by the police, allegedly due to them being drunk.

What is apparent is that even at "urban" 30 mph speeds, a car-car collision is enough to do serious damage to cars, possibly even write them both off. The Escort van was built by Ford from its traditional balsa wood material, and without features such as air bags or ABS. The manufacturers fought tooth and nail against airbags being mandatory, because that would reduce profits (increased sales of unequipped cars, and the premium pricing of the feature for drivers who wanted it), and still make safety features -ABS, anti-skid, etc, as options except on fast cars whose engines make the features irrelevant. It is possible that here they could have made a difference.

What is also apparent is when such a collision occurs, it helps to have active engagement from the community. Not lynching the driver who screwed up, just retention, basic first aid, that kind of thing. Drivers should consider carrying a disposable camera for photographs -one with a flash.

Finally, know the laws of the road. Not just the "don't drive drunk" rule, but the fact that only the driver is liable. Because that Corsa appeared to have a head-shaped dent in the passenger side of the windscreeen, the side with no airbag. Yet no passenger. Whoever hit the window did a runner before anyone could get out and see what was up, possibly to call their friends over and get help home. Yet they didn't need to. They could have waited and been seen by an ambulance. Still, getting into a car with a driver who has been drinking is not what one would call a smart move; you can't expect them to think through the followup either. I believe my son has learned this lesson from watching the whole event instead of going to bed, and he was very proud of how his dad helped stop someone running away.

Mistakes: your purpose in life may be to serve as a warning to others

Saturday 19 July 2008

Disabled Parking Economics

If you ever go down Horfield Road, by Saint Michael's Hill, during weekday or weekend hospital hours, you will see a line of cars on the double yellow lines, often including the bus stop.

None of these cars get ticketed, because they have a disabled sticker on them. Which, given they are clearly visiting the hospital, could well be justified. You don't go to the BRI if you can avoid it. But why park on the yellow lines? Is it because they can, and there is no room in the car park? Not quite.

There is room in the car park, at least on this weekend shot. So that's not the reason. Here's the reason, from the United Bristol Healthcare's parking site Terms and Conditions.

2 pounds 20 an hour, 60 quid fine. Disabled parking is only allowed in the few disabled slots. Which at the time of inspection, were all taken up. So disabled people driving to the hospital on a Saturday for some ongoing treatment are given a choice of 2+ pounds/hour for the car park or free parking where the bus stop is. What rational person would not block the bus stop?
Given the patients are making a rational decision: it's cheaper to park on the double yellow lines, why doesn't the hospital recognise the ongoing need for disabled parking and say "anyone with a disabled sticker can park free for the first two hours?". Again, rational thinking.

Every disabled driver parked in their car park would bring in zero pounds/hour revenue. Every space used for disabled parking is essentially lost money. Assuming the opening hours of the hospital are 0800 to 2000: 12 hours/day weekdays, and during those hours the car park was full of cars. That's 185 pounds/week, or 9600 pounds/year for every disabled parking space, or every disabled car parking in a non-designated parking space. If an average of eight disabled cars were to park in the BRI car park (that's the normal number of disabled cars on the yellow lines), that would be an opportunity cost to the BRI of just under seventy-seven thousand pounds per year.
And that's why you get disabled cars blocking the bus stop outside the BRI. Not because the disabled drivers are being lazy and selfish, but because someone in the UBHT with a spreadsheet decided that letting the disabled patients park for free would cost them too much money, and having them park illegally outside was not their problem.

Friday 18 July 2008

MOD path improvements: MTB race training

Mountain Bikers will be pleased to see that the MOD have just added a race training obstacle to their course; a left hand bend where you arc through the vegetation before hitting the road at race speed:

Overtaking through vegetation is actually an effective race technique, though you have to have speed before committing as you shouldn't pedal during the operation -too much risk of plants getting into the drivetrain.

For those cyclists who do the Filton-city centre run on a regular basis, this is welcome. Currently only the Lockleaze to St-Werburgh's route has anything in terms of offroad entertainment; making the through-MOD route more technical would make it less dull. Some people may argue that in fact South Gloucestershire Council, as part of the Cycling City initiative, would actually want to make the route better to cycle, but they are missing the point. Bike lanes are not for bicycles. They are either to keep bikes out the way of cars -by putting them in the way of pedestrians- or they are part of section 106 inconveniences which companies have to pay for when they build big things.

(thanks to Shawn for this photo)

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Rights the CPZ will remove: shopping parking

Once the CPZ is deployed, it will no longer be possible to nip out to your local shops, park where you line and run in to the shops, the way the owner of black range rover KJ03YRS is probably demonstrating.

Remember: as far Bristol is concerned. you aren't breaking the no-parking rule once at least two wheels are up on the pavement.

Tuesday 15 July 2008

If the junction had visibility, it would be boring

Here's another example of how Bristol is leading the way in community-initiated traffic calming.

By parking across the junction,approaching vehicles cannot see ahead, and are forced to slow down and proceed with caution.
It also forces cyclists to merge with the car traffic, so eliminating the dreaded "car turns left over bike" collision, which is such a recurrent problem with bike lanes and other car/bike segregation experiments.

Many thanks to blue van WR56FME, sponsored by TGI, for this piece of much needed traffic calming.

Monday 14 July 2008

Why the CPZ is wrong: working vehicle parking

We are ingratiated to the white vane W286 LHY for showing us why the CPZ would be so destructive to everyday working vehicle use in the city.

If the city became residents only, there would be no way a working vehicle, which needs to travel around the entire city, would be allowed to park on the pavement over double yellow lines except in a restricted set of streets near their home. This would destroy the entire value of the vehicle.
Now, readers of this blog may have noticed that we have, in a short amount of time, built up a large amount of photos of cars and vans doing exactly this: pavement parking over double yellow lines. This is because so many vehicles in the city park this way. Why? Well, the reason the lines are there are because the road is too narrow for cars to park on that side. So if you are going to park here, the only way to do so is on the pavement. These drivers have no other choice. They are forced to. And if the CPZ comes along, that option will be taken away.

Sunday 13 July 2008

Rights the CPZ will remove

This blog is strongly against the vastly expanded Controlled Parking Zone as it stands, because it will take away many fundamental rights that inner city residents have. Here, for example, is "the right to park another car in front of your driveway"

Once the CPZ is deployed, double yellow lines will be painted on the road, and it will no longer be possible to park your car in front of your own house on the pavement in front of your driveway.

Bike Lanes Near Annecy

For contrast, here is a bike lane near Annecy, France.

It is designed so that road cyclists and rollerbladers can proceed at top speed down the path

A small gravel area on the side with a "pedestrian marking" shows the area for mountain bikes to have fun in, though there are no jumps or other technical obstacles to make it very interesting.

At the actual junction there is an offset barrier which allows roller bladers to zig-zag through at full speed

While bicycles have a slightly harder chicane-style solution to the problem of crossing the road without stopping.

No cycling in London

This bit of London near the University of London Union deserves a special mention, a sign telling people not to cycle

In the middle of a cycle park. Presumably the cyclists are expected to carry the bikes, the way mountain bikers are.
Despite being a cycling city, Bristol is behind on such signage. The only place where "cyclist" funding has been applied to no cycling signs is the Downs, where a few thousand pounds were invested to discourage people from getting in the way of the Zoo parking area.

Saturday 12 July 2008

Oxford 5: enforcing give way junctions on bike paths

One recurrent problem with on-pavement bike lanes is that they lose the right of way at access points to the road. If you were cycling along the road, cars would be required to wait for you while they were pulling on or off the road. But on the pavement, you are expected to stop. Which makes them less efficient for cycling, unless you ignore the give way signs.
Clearly in Oxford, the students have been doing this, so the fact that bikes were meant to give way had to be backed up by something more substantial. In this case, a large iron bar across the bike lane appears to do the trick

Now fast moving bicycles are forced to swerve into the oncoming bicycle lane before crossing the junction at exactly the same speed as they would have done before.

This shows precisely why bike lane design is a highly skilled task left to professionals. An amateur would have looked at this and described it as useless. A professional traffic planner would have collected data on throughput and velocity, run simulations on risk of injury before and after the bar was put in, and demonstrated that having a metal bar across an unlit bicycle lane was in fact safer for cyclists.

Friday 11 July 2008

Oxford 4: The intermittent value of helmets

Just along from the Oxford cycle path of dubious value was an ambulance and bicycle. What were they doing

Looking after the cyclist who had come off -no car involved, seemingly- and hit the kerb

After which a large amount of blood was deposited over the scene

Head injuries always bleed a lot, so that may not be a sign of a bad injury, just a messy one. But it does show that sometimes helmets do have a role to play.

Perhaps once the risks of going under a lorry or bus have been eliminated, its time to worry about what happens when you fall off .

Thursday 10 July 2008

Considerate Parking

Here we see how to park a car carefully near a school without endangering pedestrians or inconveniencing other road users.

Whoever parked this car did it in parallel to the kerb, did not get any wheels on the pavement and is in fact far enough away from the corner from the junction. This high quality parking.

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Oxford 3: bike/bus lane

Here in another street in Oxford, we see evidence that it is possible for bikes and buses to co-exist, a wonderful example showing how buses on the Bristol-Bath railway path would improve the lives of all path users.

Here a bus is just managing to squeeze down a bike lane.

If all bike lanes in Bristol were opened up to buses, and if they were allowed to use the Advanced Stop Lanes, then bus timetables would be more reliable and the experience of bus passengers greatly enhanced. FirstBus are already in meetings with Bristol Council on this topic, and will be rolling such a program out during the summer months.

Oxford 2: bike lane

Here's an interesting bike lane in Oxford, a city famed for its cycling. It directs cyclists off the pavement to somewhere where they can be run over by cars.

The path begins by curving you off the pavement. Note the ambulance in the distance -that will be visited later.

After it skirts round some parked cars, the path runs you alongside traffic, with a double yellow line to discourage parking. There's also a "no bikes" sign on the pavement, to discourage any cyclists who were a bit scared of what is to come from trying to avoid it by going on the pavement.

And what is to come?Well, the bike lane is simply too narrow and covered in three strips of paint to make it extra slippery in the wet. Here we see someone with a trailer just skirting past this transit van, a van which doesn't have any option but to drive down the lane.

To survive, the cyclist has to get past the van and then pull out into traffic, which they manage to do safely.

This is a classic example of a bike lane that provides no benefit to anyone, except to add to the statable quota of number of bike lanes in a town or city.

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Oxford 1: the signage

Here are some photos of a trip organised to Oxford, to see if there are any lessons in cycle friendliness that Bristol could learn from this city, which is famous for its bicycles.

First, the signs. Here is a 'no bicycles' sign at the entrance to a shopping area.

And a 'Do not park bicycles'. No please, just a Do Not.

And bets of all, Christ Church having a big "No bicycles either wheeled or ridden" sign.

It would be good to experiment with unicyles and tricycles to see how broad the ban was, or whether carrying was ok. But notice how the signs say nothing about Mini-Motos. Which is surprising, as the city seems ideal for them.

The Cotham Brow traffic free zone

The experiment in making Cotham Brow nearly 100% traffic free continues. When these photos were taken, it was blocked to everyone but buses, locals and taxis in a hurry.

As a result, the whole of Cotham is much quieter. By blocking the main route through the area, you can see that most traffic is through traffic, not local.

And interestingly, people walk on the street. It becomes somewhere pleasant to be, somewhere you can cycle without worrying about pulling out in front of the taxi or the oncoming bus.

It is a lovely place to visit. Enjoy it while it lasts. It looks like the traffic calming is moving South towards Horfield Road next.