Monday 30 November 2009

Christmas shopping in Bedminster

Look at this: the bike parking outside Asda, Bedminster, is full, with cyclists having to struggle to get their bicycles in an out of the six racks assigned to them.

This is the only bike parking on this side of the supermarket, the rest of area is dedicated to people who drive there.

It may seem a bit odd for a supermarket in a Cycling City to only have room for twelve bicycles and what appears to be thousands of cars. But consider this. Asda is owned by Walmart, the world's largest retailer. Do you seriously think that Walmart got so big by people cycling to the shops? Of course not. Their business model is built on bulk purchases, for which you need a car, ideally a proper 4x4.

Look more closely at the cyclists and compare them to the people making their way to and from the car park.

The cyclists: little bags, barely big enough to hold a snack. The car drivers: trolleys full of goods. Walmart's business model is based on high-volume low-margin sales, and cyclists bringing at most a rucksack just aren't buying enough food or other goods. These cyclists should be grateful that Asda has provided any parking, instead of turning this space over to support two more cars, especially on a busy weekend in the runup to Xmas.

Sunday 29 November 2009

The Recession Is Over - Official

These are hard times, but the end is apparently in sight.

As part of our ongoing Product Placement series, we see a new enterprise in the Gloucester Road. The photo is taken during the fit-out period, but it is good to see a new independent on Bristol's most famous street. Providing the sort of service and products so necessary in this part of town. Even better that this is taking place during a recession.

Notice how the new entrepreneurs have settled in seamlessly with their new neighbours, allowing their frontage space to be immediately occupied by the drivers of T8CKX and XZ4CCX in a real expression of community spirit.

We do wonder, however, just how long they expect the shopper to protect their escape route. Or is this performance art?

Here at Bristol Traffic we can't wait for the opportunity to sell our gold for cash and then buy a phone with the proceeds.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Communication on Richmond Road

Some footage of one of our cyclists shouting at car drivers. Do we car drivers do this? Rarely. A quick beep of the horn, a friendly little note, that's all. Yet here, this tax dodger can be heard repeatedly shouting "Wait" at the vehicle pulling out, despite the fact that that vehicle has paid real money to use the road.

Yes, the vehicle pulled out without indicating or looking, but the fact is that indicators are for indicating intent to other cars. There are none in the area. Therefore they are not needed. We also note that if there had not been a group of tax-dodging pedestrians walking down the middle of the road, the van would not have been held up so long, and this near-miss would never have occurred. Yet again, if there had been a collision, who gets the blame? The bicycle, merely because of its right of way? Or the van that just pulled out without looking. That's right, the van, despite the fact that's the kind of thing that everyone does every day and nobody else on the road has any right to be there.

Thursday 26 November 2009

What is the bicycle speed for College Road?

After Dru Marland got penalised for cycling too fast, we sent one of our unwitting cyclists down College Road to see what speed cyclists should do down it.

Notice how, although the bicycle was going at the same speed as the car in front, it was still holding up a Volvo XC90, school-run, presumably. This car was forced to overtake the bicycle, which, with the oncoming traffic and narrow gap in front was not an easy move, especially in such a large car.

This is a busy road with a school, Clifton High, just passed on the right, with the parental parking/dropoff zones on either side of the road. Forcing cars to overtake aggressively right in front of a school is a dangerous action and it is selfish for the bicycle to do just that. To make matters worse, the bicycle then immediately swings past the Volvo only to come to a complete halt in front of them. This is a selfish operation that will slow down the important driver whose time is, according to DoT equations, worth more than pedestrians or cyclists.

Clearly then: a bicycle travelling at the same speed as motor traffic speed is going too slow and holding up important people. But going down this road at above traffic speed, as Dru showed, is too too fast. The obvious solution is to ban bicycles from such important roads, namely any road near a school. It is for the safety of them and pedestrians, you understand. Think of the schoolkids!

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Product Placement: R.P. Glass of Bristol

It's notable that our denunciation of the 20 mph zones came out on November 17 -it was 24 hours after we broke the news that the Evening Post discovered the news.

As you may recall, we also complained that the so-called mainstream press would be seeking quotes from such organisations as the Association of British Drivers, and not us, Bristol's premier pro-car news organisation.

When will they realise: the ABD do not represent Bristol Drivers!

Look what they say about this proposal:
"It's difficult for drivers to stay at 20mph in modern cars, you have to keep it in third gear and keep your eyes on the speedometer. You could be skittling over pedestrians at 20mph that you would have seen if you were going 30mph.

It could make the situation worse."
See that? The ABD are worrying about the safety of pedestrians. When did we, the city's drivers care about that? We want them banned from the streets along with their bus using and cycling friends. There shouldn't be any pedestrians out there for us to worry about.

But what really hurts us is this claim that having to keep an eye on the speedo will cause drivers to take their eyes of the road. This shows us, sadly, how out of touch Captain Mainwaring and the rest of the ABD folk are. They may go out for "quick jaunts" in their beige Austin Allegros, taking care to top up the windscreen and radiator water levels, and wearing both driving gloves and a flat cap, but the rest of us have moved on. Driving round town is not about watching where you are going: it is about phoning ahead to your destination complaining that you will be late because there is another bastard cyclist in the way. You don't look down to see the speedo, you look up from the phone where you are trying to compose a text message.

These people have just lost touch. Pity. We could have made a great team.

Now, if you are going to use "safety" as a reason to argue for 30mph limits -you really need some good arguments that are up to date with modern driving techniques. For this end, we have co-opted the white van of R.P. Glass, on their way up Shaldon Road to Kellaway Building Supplies.

First, an apology not just for the sound but the placement of the camera, our unwitting cyclist is still trying to adjust it to get the "light" to work. If only only they knew.

As you can see, the cyclist is pootling up a hill at 10-15 mph, the van is coming up at 30+. As it passes the cyclist, it has its left turn indicator on, indicating it is about to swerve in front of the bicycle and enter the building supplies site.

The only way this operation can be accomplished safely, for the van to clear the bicycle, is at speeds of 30 mph or greater: proper speeds. At 20 mph the van isn't going to go fast enough to get past the cyclist, it's going to end up having to pull in right over the cyclist. Which will then be the fault of this cyclist, who is clearly guilty of not following Transport for London's Cycle/Lorry safety guidelines; guidelines which tell bicycles not to get on the left of left-turning lorries. But it will also be the fault of all those cycling campaigners who pushed for lower limits. Yet who will get the blame? That's right, van drivers like the one driving R.P. Glass of Bristol on Tuesday November 23.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Kingsdown and cliftonwood RPZ update

Breaking news: the detailed Kingsdown and Cliftonwood RPZ plans are up on the council site, go look for them.

Looking at the Kingsdown proposal:
  • The Council also wants Saturdays to be RPZ only, 9-5. This will ensure revenue to Cabot Circus by reducing lower cost alternatives
  • Will allow resident parking on the top of nine-tree-hill, a road that is currently only of interest to cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Will add more yellow lines on corners etc.
  • Have dodged the Kingsdown Parade bullet by still allowing parking on one side, except where there are yellow lines already

Although it will inconvenience commuters, out of hours it should still be OK to park as this car CN53MZZ has done: far enough onto the pavement that the double yellow lines no longer apply, and with the wing-mirror safe from being clipped

Monday 23 November 2009

Control Alt Debate

This just in from a concerned St Werburgher:

Dear Friends

You may be aware of the recent campaign by a few local residents against
trucks, vans and caravans parked in Easton, St Pauls, Montpelier, St Andrews
and St Werburghs.

This activity has extended to vandalism, personal threats and serial complaints
to the police. Local PCSOs at Trinity and Newfoundland have responded by
issuing obstruction tickets to legally parked vehicles, along with threats to
tow and/or destroy them. The people committing vandalism or threatening
behaviour to owners of vehicles have not been challenged.

As a friend of a truck owner and St Werburghs resident, I have been
alarmed by the language of the attacks, which have included stickers
reading 'you're not welcome here'. My friend is often afraid to approach
her vehicle out of fear of attack and harassment.

I believe we need to broaden representation of the issues involved beyond a
vocal minority whose prime objection to the vehicles appears to be aesthetic.
As residents we should be able to park legally in our own neighbourhood without
fear of aggression or harassment.

Festival, surfer and camping vans have been part of the economic and cultural
life of one of the UK's most diverse and progressive areas for decades. If the
complainers and threateners succeed in clearing these vehicles off the streets,
your own way of life might potentially be the next at risk.

There is a meeting being held at the Jack Brimble Hall, on Lynmouth Road, St
Werburghs tomorrow Tuesday 24 November 2009 at 19:00.

Please come.

Keith Hunting

(Real name withheld for reasons of National Security)


We must apologise for the lack of interesting photographs or videos, but it has been a dull week. Our secretly "instrumented" cyclist has not been doing anything dangerous or exciting, apart from an incident with a car on shaldon road that did not appear on film. This is a pity, as the "you cyclists don't pay road taxes so should get out of the way" lecture the tax-dodger apparently received would be worth sharing more widely.

What we do have is this video of one of our monitored subversives cycling the wrong way down a one-way street.

It is only through the selfless actions of the red car that chose to drove the wrong way down Marlborough Hill, that no oncoming traffic could endanger the cyclist. We praise this car for recognising the dangerous situation which was developing, and addressing the safety issue in a non-confrontational manner. This is why the car drivers of Bristol deserve more praise than the cyclists and pedestrians -whine, whine, whine, that's all they do. But this car, sees a dangerous situation "bicycle going the wrong way down a hill" and rather than complain or create conflict, just slid in front to protect the bicycle. Sadly, we cannot see the vehicle's registration number to award it the full recognition it deserves, it will have to go down as an anonymous samaritan.

Sunday 22 November 2009

The Shortest Cycle Lane in the Universe?

I reckon the Bristol to Bath railway path must be the longest cycle lane around here, a glorious traffic-free 14 miles to Bath (despite having a ring road built through it and recent attempts by First Group and the previous administration of Bristol City Council to turn it into a glorified bus lane). It was the first facility that Sustrans - then cyclebag - built and something that we can all be proud of. It's famous the world over, you know!. Well, here's another first that the cycling city can be proud of. Tucked away along Newfoundland Road and nestling quietly beside the M32 is possibly the shortest cycle lane anywhere. Not having my tape with me, I paced it at about 3 metres - my trusty steed added for scale. At either end is car parking, so it can be regarded as a separate lane, unlike the other side of the road which does have a cycle lane, punctuated by occasional bits of red asphalt, but is actually a lot longer.

We'd better give it some kind of protected status, just in case the powers that be want to run a bus route along it. So there you have it, the shortest cycle lane in the known universe. Unless, of course, you know better....

Saturday 21 November 2009

Secret BRI Parking

If you ever get directed by the NHS helpline to drive a small child down to the BRI kids A&E, you are left with the problem of parking.  Assuming you do have an emergency, go into the ambulance only bit outside the Bristol Heart Institute, then -staying outside the warren of buildings- go down to the A&E unit. Drop the kid off and then nip out to worry about the problem of parking without getting fined.

Even if there is space in the parking area, it's minimum cost is £4, in coins, and if you are on an emergency run you may not have it to hand. Out in the street is cheaper as you can pay in smaller amounts. But pay you still do.

Which is why we are pleased to pass on some news about secret BRI parking places, this time credit to the Kingsdown Conservation Group for tipping us off.

Southwell Street. Between Horfield Road and St Michael's Hill (the direction the camera is facing). On the left, St Michael's Hill hospital, on the right, the BRI's new Southwell House. And what's that on the right? Parking. Big enough for a truck

Coming from St Michael's Hill, you can fit a van or estate car in. Even though you poke out into the road, the large yellow barrier ensures that there will no passing traffic, not even passing bicycles. Your paintwork is better protected here than in any nearby roads.

Here then, is our secret BRI parking. There's just one small problem, according to the signage that appears to have gone up as an afterthought.


This is where it gets complex.The hospital clearly consider these parking spaces theirs, and not for anyone else. Yet in a lovely worded letter from the Kingsdown Conservation Group, we are let onto the true nature of the parking spaces. They are, technically, pavement. As the KCG put it
UHB has appropriated the whole of the pavement for private parking. Photograph 1 shows the path on the north side of Southwell Street to be continuous. Buried in the modern concrete are the remains of traditional stone paving slabs. KCG is not aware of a Highways Act order that entitles UHB to block the pavement to pedestrians.
See that? Not hospital parking. Pavement. It may have concrete on top, but the slabs are still there. Which makes it our pavement. Open to any of us city tax payers to park on.

The KCG include some questions in their letter
We would like the City to answer a number of questions. They are:
1. Does UHB have a legal right to invite drivers to park across and block the whole of the northern pavement of Southwell Street?
2. Does UHB have legal authority to erect and to maintain a permanent barrier across Southwell Street?
3. Does the Highways Department have a right to approve the quality and appearance of a legally authorised barrier?
4. Does the Highways Department agree that vehicles emerging from the hospital car park into a Southwell Street are a danger to pedestrians and cyclists?
5. Does it propose to improve the safety of Southwell Street?
We have some of our own.:
1. If the north side of Southwell street is technically pavement, who is authorised to fine vehicles for parking there without permission?
2. In particular, does that "you risk being fined if you park here" sign mean that it is Bristol Parking Services, Avon and Somerset Police, or the BRI?
3. If you do park there, and the BRI do issue a fine, can they actually enforce it?
We await answers. We would also be very curious to know what happens when you do park here. Anyone willing to experiment would have an entertaining day. Alternatively, someone malicious could call Bristol Parking Services or the police and report a number of illegally parked vehicles. That would be fun too, especially if they hung around with a video camera to see what happened next.

In the meantime, we would like to draw attention to the fact that this popular student route suffers from bicycles on the pavement, just by the barrier. It seems that a wide yellow barrier and a chain on one side is not sufficient to prevent bicycles. We propose a low barrier at the height of a cyclists head. They may get knocked off, but provided they have a helmet it will do no damage -and they are at least outside a hospital.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Selfish Parking

There is room for two cars on this build out, yet the mini VN02ZGU has taken up the middle of the build out, blocking all other vehicle access. Yet we have seen that there is room for two cars here.

They may protect their bodywork and mirrors, but one other Clifton Resident will have to park their car further away from where they live.

Of course, the real blame goes to the council. If they did not have those needless bollards on the build out, it would be much easier to squeeze a second car in.

Whose Side Are You On?

Remember the Thali Corner 'Easi-turn' scheme, installed by a lone fanatic van driver fed up with residents parking their hippy cars on the corner ? He is very modest, and tried hard to keep a low profile - even allowing people to think Living Streets had something to do with it.

The power hungry will always fill a media vacuum, of course so no surprise Living Streets Bristol invited local residents to what they laughingly called
'an official re-opening of the footpath linking the Thali Cafe to Herbert's Bakery, popular in the last century. This path fell out of use in the 21st Century as the path became blocked by cars and then bins'.
They prattle on
'since the Easi-turn Scheme, not only is the corner free of cars, but we are delighted to see that those parking on Wellington Ave, along the side of the Thali Cafe, are aligning themselves with the planters and bins in the gutter, and not blocking the pavement.'

As you can see, more people attended this than a Living Streets meeting, but interestingly, the van driver actually attended the opening! We aren't going to tell you which one he is as it would blow his cover - but it has set us wondering whether he is, in fact, a double agent...he seems a bit too pally with certain well known local subversives like Dr Rogers.

The group even held a ceremony to officially bless the new bike racks outside the Thali Cafe,not realising they are actually there just to ease traffic flow. Or are we the ones being fooled? Is this a double bluff - an alliance of the forces of darkness, pretending to be pro-tax paying drivers pretending to be a pro-cycling and -walking alliance? I'm getting confused as to who is on which side.

Anyway, there are clear benefits for us drivers. This is the pavement right opposite the Easi-turn feature above: now there are no cars there opposite, there is no longer any need for us to park close to the houses on this side! Like sands shifting with the tide, within ten days, the 'accepted' line for vehicles has shifted back south into the roadspace. This means drivers and passengers can now open their doors fully on both sides without houses getting in the way.

Attempts last year by our friend Bob Bull to get the houses moved back a bit failed, but now we have clear door space both sides. Result! This will help win over dubious residents - there might be 2 fewer parking spaces but the quality of those remaining just got better.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

N Somerset school parking

This is Northleaze primary school, long ashton. There is a road between this school use only car park and the school, but there is a zebra crossing. This gives the kids the walking to school experience without the parents schedule being too badly disrupted by having to walk the kids to school and then run home to drive to work.

Why doesn't anywhere in Bristol have decent parent parking like this?

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Whose side are they on?

Remember the Thali Corner 'Easi-turn' scheme, installed by a lone fanatic van driver fed up with residents parking their hippy cars on the corner ? He is very modest, and tried hard to keep a low profile - even allowing people to think Living Streets had something to do with it.
The power hungry will always fill a media vacuum, of course so no surprise Living Streets Bristol invited local residents to what they laughingly called
'an official re-opening of the footpath linking the Thali Cafe to Herbert's Bakery, popular in the last century. This path fell out of use in the 21st Century as the path became blocked by cars and then bins'.
They prattle on
'since the Easi-turn Scheme, not only is the corner free of cars, but we are delighted to see that those parking on Wellington Ave, along the side of the Thali Cafe, are aligning themselves with the planters and bins in the gutter, and not blocking the pavement.'

As you can see, more people attended this than a Living Streets meeting, but interestingly, the van driver actually attended the opening! We aren't going to tell you which one he is as it would blow his cover - but it has set us wondering whether he is, in fact, a double agent...he seems a bit too pally with certain well known local subversives like Dr Rogers.

The group even held a ceremony to offically bless the new bike racks outside the Thali Cafe,not realising they are actually there just to ease traffic flow. Or are we the ones being fooled? Is this a double bluff - an alliance of the forces of darkness, pretending to be pro-tax paying drivers pretending to be a pro cycling and walking alliance? I'm getting confused as to who is on which side.

Anyway there are clear benefits for us drivers. This is the pavement right opposite the Easi-turn feature above: now there are no cars opposite, there is no longer any need for us to park close to the houses on this side! Like sands shifting with the tide, within ten days, the 'accepted' line for vehicles has shifted back south into the roadspace. This means drivers and passengers can now open their doors fully on both sides without houses getting in the way.
Attempts last year by our friend Bob Bull to get the houses moved back a bit failed, but now we have clear door space both sides. Result! This will help win over dubious residents - there might be 2 fewer parking spaces but the quality of those remaining just got better.

20mph zone: an affront to car drivers

It was bad enough when some of our road tax was diverted to bicycles, but at least bike lanes are meant to keep bicycles out of our way. Then some troublemaker came up with the idea of 20mph roads, so every road would be a bike lane. Excuse us? "road", "street". Not bike lane.

Portsmouth was a challenge but after a bit of behind-the-scenes work with the council we got all the main roads, all the through roads, all the important ones kept at 30. That offered a number of benefits:
  • We could still sound our horn at bikes in the way, so discouraging bicycles. People in a hurry can sprint through the town on the main roads
  • We get more reward for spending so much money on big-engined 4x4s. Well, you need to if you want something that big to accelerate well.
  • Its easier to get out of speeding tickets if the town is all broken up into 20 and 30 mph zones, as you can claim confusion.
  • The extra cost of signage reduces the size of the area that gets rolled out,
We were pretty chuffed when the Portsmouth review came out, pointing out that adding 20mph signs to back roads had had no tangible benefit. That was the whole point! That was why we put them there!

Unfortunately, some people in the council -and that Jon Rogers has to get a lot of the blame here- read it completely differently, concluding that for 20 mph zones to work, it has to cover the entire area. Yes, he is correct, but that assumes that you want 20 mph zones to work.

We, the important people, don't live in inner Bristol because its dirty, noisy and full of traffic and poor people walking and cycling around. We live in nice parts of S. Gloucestershire or North Somerset and drive in precisely because we can do that instead. Of course the people who live in the inner city want these 20 mph zones, but that's their fault for living there. Our little 21st century suburban enclave has a 20 mph limit too, so that people can drive into their garages carefully. If the people in Southville, Easton and St Andrews want to live in streets like that, they can come out and join us!

Instead in Bristol, this main thoroughfare, Ashley Road will be given a 20 mph limit. That will increase the transit time from Stokes Croft to the M32; it will add an extra two minutes on the commute time to and from the North Fringe from residents of Clifton, Cotham and Redland.

This is not a residential road, it is a direct link between the M32 and other parts of the city. It is so that we important people who don't live in the city can drive to our important jobs, so that delivery vans essential to the UK economy can do their routes.

Here's Ashley Hill. No houses alongside here, a nice road to put your foot down when you get past those ridiculous traffic lights at the bottom. But not now, oh no. Now we will have to pootle.

The worse part is that it knifes the Portsmouth scheme in the back. The amount of under-the-table funding we in the motor industry had to pass on to the relevant people of power was justified given it set a precedent for the rest of Britain - a scheme that let us talk about road safety but without doing anything to force us to slow down.

Now this. A precedent for the rest of the city. How can main roads like Gloucester and Whiteladies stay at 30 mph now? How can useful school/commute rat-runs like Pembroke and Cotham Roads not get their 20 mph limits. Which, if enforced to 30mph, is still 10 mph lower than today.

Worse than the city though: the country. Instead of traffic engineers going to Portsmouth to see what to do, they will come here, and take the same approach home with them. This is a chilling precedent.

We are shocked.

We are equally shocked that not one so-called mainstream media outlet has asked us for our opinion on the matter. Why do campaigns like Speed Safe, run as a hobby by one person and a web site that has barely mastered the <blink> tag get all the quotes in the national papers? Why does Bob Bull from the local Association of British Drivers get his letters in the Evening Post despite the fact their web site looks like something badly designed in 1996 and they only have eight members in the city? The press should be coming to us as the mouthpiece of the motorist, instead of these amateur organisations that cannot be taken seriously. The fact that they have not offends us almost as much as the 20 mph zones themselves.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Campaign against red lights

We've decided to copy the other local media outlets and MPs hoping to be reelected, by starting to campaign against red lights. As the evening post rightfully points out, cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians just need to get on better. That means you, pedestrians -stop blocking our way.

Rather than go through various committees, we are going to advocate ignoring red lights completely. Here's a start on Stokes Croft, as viewed from Ashley Road. You can see from the cars in the sprint-finish when the lights on the croft change, and then it all goes quiet as pedestrians get their 20 seconds.

You can hear an ambulance coming, which forces drivers to give way. What to do? Pull forwards into the junction? You could be blocking it. So S57HBW solves the problem by turning off the road, going over the green man.

Notice how some of the pedestrians were not looking around while they crossed on the green man; many had hoods on, others umbrellas. After the car has crossed, someone runs across -talking on a phone. That's dangerous; if she'd been hit she'd have been another "pedestrian on the phone" statistic. If troublemakers like Crap Cycling in Waltham Forest can go on about car drivers on the phone, we should be able to denounce pedestrians walking dangerously.

That's the kind of give and take we need: they give us the right to turn while they have the green man, and we take it.

Friday 13 November 2009

Students: they think they own the road

One interesting aspect of our secret-instrumentation of unsuspecting cyclists is that we see how differently people behave in situations we would not normally encounter. Normally, when heading up Cotham Hill as a last minute Redland-Mum sprint we'd sound the horn and expect people to get out the way. But here, as the cyclist crawls up, you can see the students out and about uninterrupted.

And very interesting it is too.

You can see that they are quite happy to step out without looking round, without turning their head to see if there is any risk. Yet Cotham Hill is your first option to sprint on the school run after the crawl down Whiteladies Road; your first chance to put your foot down. These pedestrians think that shared-space means they get some of our taxpayer space, when really it means we get to park on the pavement we pay for.

As for the other roads -plenty of room for double parking. Yet not with all these students just wandering around. There should be a law against them.

Drive round here, run one of them over -you get the blame. They should not be allowed to walk round without passing some "walking in the city" test and getting third-party insurance. And as winter comes in, they need to get with the hi-viz clothing.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Rock'n'Rolling along

Ever since Elvis first went on stage wearing underpants a size too small causing a lack of blood flow to his knees, resulting in what was to become his trademark dance moves, music has always aligned itself with forces of evil and sin. You'd think that with modern technology and advances in manmade fabrics times would have changed, but no.

If you need proof then you need look no further than popular music act "30 Seconds To Mars" and their latest insult to our ears, eyes and sense of moral decency.

Not only do they underestimate our intelligence by providing us with a music video that is almost 9 minutes in length when their proposed trip to Mars is only thirty seconds, the video appears to be promoting cycling on public tax funded roads. Not just any cycling either. At numerous points in the video the bicyclists can be seen blatantly riding more than two abreast, lacking any sort of helmets or high viz attire, and I'm sure at one point someone can be seen riding backwards without using the appropriate hand signal. They then have the nerve to use an altercation with a car as the crux and dramatic turning point for the video when it's obvious that the only reason the altercation occured is because the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet rendering him very difficult to see.

Well, "30 Seconds to Mars", I hope you're pleased with yourselves. I have just one thing to point out to you. When you do start making your journeys to Mars, you might find it actually takes a little bit longer than 30 seconds on a bicycle. Think on.


(Image internet scavenged)

Although Bristol Traffic likes to break the news, especially in Bristol, there are occasions when the conventional Medja beat us to it.

Take a look at this round-up of recent stories.

Tax payers funding The Police to waste their own time. Luckily it appears only to be a London phenomenon.

I really have to object, though. After all, The Police on bicycles - that's just unnatural isn't it? Especially when they need a manual to tell them how to balance.

Apparently, though, The Police can pass a test to ride bicycles without being able to ride bicycles. Details here:

I reckon the The Police should stay in their cars. Or on their horses.

Or take notice of this brave soul, unfortunately now in the clink, who managed to put a tax-dodger in his place:

We think 33 months (make that 16.5 with good behaviour) is excessive for trying kill a cyclist, but that is British Justice for you.

Becoming a Redland Mum

Everyone was pretty shocked when that Panorama expose of Bristol racism came out. In most of the city, when somebody new moves in, the concern isn't their race, nationality or sexual orientation. It's: how many cars have they brought? Will they bring in enough vehicles to tip this street over the edge? Will one of them start to park in Our Space? That's all that matters.

In this Bristol, egalitarian Bristol, anyone can be a Redland Mum. You don't have to live in Redland, you don't have to be a mum. All it takes is quite simple:

To be a Redland Mum, getting to or from school in your car, on time, is more important than the safety and wellbeing of anyone else in Bristol.
That's all: drive aggressively to school and you too are a Redland Mum.

A video comes anonymously to our inbox proving that a dad driving a Malik's Hair and Beauty van can be as much a Redland Mum as any mother driving her 4x4. Notice how the vehicle comes out the side road without even a hint of attention to the give way sign, to come screaming to a halt at the last bit of build-out before Cotham Grammar, so ensuring their child will make it to school on time. The man driving this -he is proud to be a Redland Mum.

The road he came from at speed is interesting as it's part of the area where residents have been complaining about cycling and skateboarding on the pavement. It's simply not safe to have kids on the pavement, on wheeled toys that could suddenly skid out in front of a parent in a rush to get to school. The sheer presence of children walking, cycling or skateboarding to school will force other parents to drive more cautiously -and so be late for school!

Even if the pedestrians, skateboarders and cyclists are not in front of the car, slowing them down, their very presence in our streets slows us down on the school run and makes us late. We are glad that the police are doing something about the skateboarders and cyclists, and hope that the school can do something about the pedestrians.

Finally, for whichever cyclist took this video, all we can say is: if you felt that this van pulled out in front of you from a side road dangerously, then you were clearly cycling too fast! You should be grateful that we do not report you for cycling fast near a school!

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Cycling too fast!

We have another complaint about bicycles, not the usual pavement, tax avoidance or clothing issues -one that is not taken up by the mainstream press yet.

Some of the cyclists in our city are simply cycling too fast!

They sprint along our streets, down the hills, and eventually, into our cars. At which point we, the drivers, get the blame for pulling out without looking -whereas its clearly these tax-dodging underpeople's fault for sprinting round the city creating accidents.

Take this view of Nine Tree Hill, secretly recorded. The tax-dodging lycra-lout is going down the hill so fast they barely have time to brake for the car that pulls out of the side road without warning

The driver was lucky that they managed to accelerate away -only their reflexes prevented a major accident. And you know who would get the blame don't you? The driver -always us. There's even some EU legislation which would make such blame assignment automatic, which is another reason to oppose the EU.

Fortunately, we still have the police on our side. Here is a photo of Dru Marland's collision where a car turning right from Worcester Road onto College Road, turned into Dru, who was going along College Road with the right of way, turning right.

We were worried that after this incident, it would be the car that got the blame -when if the bicycle had not been there, there would not have been any accident!

The police have finished their investiation, and here we are pleased to announce that they will not be citing the driver, paritally because Dru "was riding too fast", according to a witness.

We now hope that since the police have reached this conclusion, Dru will be compensating the driver for the damage done to their bumper, with additional compensation for the damage to their reputation.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

'Thali Corner' turning difficulties solved

What's this we see in Montpelier? A large unwieldy bike rack in the road, outside the Thali Cafe, with wooden planters full of edible plants! This must be the work of Living Streets, trying to get bikes off the railings and bins off the pavement.... or maybe disgruntled cyclists, trying to get something for nothing again by building a bike rack out of old railway sleepers and pretending it is a garden feature. Actually it is the work of neither...we can reveal that a lone fanatic DRIVER is the brains behind it.

Look closely - there is only two bike racks, hardly enough to deal with the evening influx of two-wheeled non-taxpayers. How would cyclists have transported all the wood anyway? A pedestrian group like Living Streets would have held endless badly attended meetings first, so it can't be them.

Who benefits the most? That's right, the drivers of larger vehicles - like vans and lorries. We can confirm that this is the work of a van driver, not a cyclist. Although some locals are saying they have lost a 'valuable parking space' the fact is this corner used to be a nightmare for lorries and vans as residents would park on the corner, making turning difficult if not impossible.

Also, we find on closer inspection, the bike rack is actually a bike trap... as the rack is so narrow, bike wheels tend to stick out into the road, making an inviting target for passing tax payers.

Van drivers now whizz round the corner without needing to put the phone down, and in the unlikely event of a very large lorry negotiating the corner,the sort that used to get stuck, strong delivery drivers can easily nudge them over a bit due to their clever mountings. It happened today apparently.

Look at the view above, he also has made it easier for bin men, who no longer have to climb the kerb to reach and return the trade bins to the pavement: now they have a home in the gutter (the bins, not the men).
This will speed up emptying and reduce delays to motorists. Perfect. A double early christmas present. We applaud this van driver for his initiative and cunning - making life easier for drivers but ensuring cyclists get the blame from car owning residents.

Monday 9 November 2009


 Berlin is the pivot-point of 20th century Europe.

This week, the 20th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall; the end of the cold war.

Not one Bristol Traffic contributor has been asked for a "where were you when it fell?" quote, which is a shame as one intermittent contributor's answer "in East Berlin doing my military service for the DDR, wondering if the order to start shooting would come in" is more interesting than most journalist's memories.
Now, all is peaceful, quiet. They have even taken down the Palace of the Republic, the centre of government of the DDR, so this photo of that building is now a rarity; the sight of BMWs and Mercedes parked in the car park outside it something to treasure, even if our eyes didn't always light up at the sight of low-cost car parking in an inner city.
And we do treasure it -it was a key event in the 20th century. In a reunited Deutschland, Merkel and Gorbachev celebrated the end of an undemocratic political system that got involved in a futile war against insurgents in Afghanistan, and imposed state industries like nuclear reactors without any community discussion by walking from old East Berlin to old West Berlin.

In the UK, the government celebrated the anniversary by announcing a plan to put up nuclear reactors without any community discussion except the colour of the paint, and announced yet more losses in a futile war against insurgents in Afghanistan.
Nov 9 is also the anniversary of the end of the 1923 Bierhall Putsch, when National Socialism first became a name to fear; another city in Germany -Munich, and another beautiful square, Odeonsplatz, tainted. Then in 1938, Kristallnacht 

November 9, 1989 may mark the end of the cold war, but all that led up to that event is so very dark.

Trouble in Monty

Our campaign to ban bicycles from the main rat-runs of Montpelier has not been that successful in its first week.

As this undercover video shows, not only are there five oncoming bicycles for every tax-paying car on Picton street, outside the Thali cafe,there is now a bike park with plant pots. Not the usual make-it-worse for pedestrians bike parking -but something actually in the road. Our road. The tax-payers road. Not only does this take some of our parking away, it reinforces the lie that bicycles are meant to be used on and around the roads of Bristol.

We shall write a letter to the Evening Post forthwith.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Plans for Stokes Croft

While looking for an empty bit of bike lane to pull in and get a snack from Ritas, Slix or other nearby establishment, we saw this group of cyclists loitering on the junction of Stokes Croft and Ashley Road.

Should we praise them for their Bristol Traffic Approved hi-viz tops, condemn them for their lack of helmets, or merely report them to the police for loitering suspiciously, possibly planning to cross when the pedestrian light went green?

Time for a closer look. And there we we were shocked. Jon Rogers, local councillor and cabinet member for transport, Ed Plowden, transport department minion, Steve Kinsella -lead of the Bristol Cycling Campaign, and his bouncer Martin Tweddell, looking for any potential assassins from the Association of British Drivers.

We've been feeling fairly upbeat about Jon this week, since our post on the anti-cycling measures in St Philips, was graced with a comment by him, one in which he promised that future signs would be protected from cyclists by cyclist-dismount signs:
I will check out why "cyclist dismount" signs weren't included. I can only apologise.

I am also not sure why cars couldn't have been allowed to use the pedestrian/cycle lane themselves when there is a loss of a main carriageway lane. It does look wide enough, but I don't know what the access is like.

I have asked officers to clarify the situation.
This looked like "a man we could do business with", to quote M. Thatcher on Gorbachev. Yet what do we now see? The same man promising to make this junction safer for cyclists.

We were very demoralised until we set our lipreader to work out what Ed Plowden is saying to a glum-looking Steve Kinsella. He's telling Steve that the junction works fine and nothing needs to be done.  "There has been one recorded cycle incident in 3 years on that southbound stretch. During that time approximately 1,100 cyclists a day cross the junction southbound, either to go down Stokes Croft or turn left into Ashley Road." Accordingly, the risk is not as great as these subversives claim.

Reassured, we got back into our range rover and when over to Montpelier, where the breaking news is that the locals have stuck in their own in-street bike parking by the Thali Cafe.

Friday 6 November 2009

Bristol: safe passing of bicycles

Some postings of this blog are sponsored by the EPSRC as a form of community outreach, primarily to popularise mathematics. Like Bang Goes The Theory on the BBC (also sponsored by EPSRC) only without the bang. Or the bouncy presenters. Or the coke budget needed to make kids tv presenters so bouncy.

Given the current politicians-versus-science disasters, from cannabis risk assessment to the technically unworkable three-strikes-and-out downloading proposals, the need to cover such topics is stronger than ever. Otherwise the politicians get their beliefs from the daily mail, and that can't be considered "rational" by post-enlightenment standards. Indeed,  most of our mathematics outreach budget is spent in whitehall, trying to explain to ministers how negative numbers work.

For Bristol, Game Theory, again. Not the Nash Equilibrium, this time, but minimax game algorithms and alpha-beta pruning, and the consequence, the Horizon Effect.

This coverage was triggered by someone commenting on our Save Double Parking posting, asking why cars always overtake bicycles just before they do some other operation, such as stop suddenly:
"When you're on a bicycle, many drivers think they have a right, nay a prerogative, nay a DUTY, to overtake you, no matter how dangerous, or pointless it may be."
Well, yes they do have a right, but the question is, is it a duty? And if not, why, as these tax-dodgers claim, do we overtake them so often?

One hypothesis is that it is because the tax dodgers are effectively stationary objects, of course you have to swing past them. But that isn't enough, as we have data which implies it happens regardless of bicycles speeds. No, a better explanation is needed: game theory.

The first point to consider: what is the game. The bicyclist is trying to reach their destination alive, their "moves" are decisions about pedalling and braking, routes to take, what to do at lights.

Motor vehicle drivers are trying to reach their destination in a timely manner.

Both groups of players have a key feature: the happiness of other road users is not a concern. Most car drivers in the city would gladly overtake anyone not doing the speed limit, anyone pootling along radiating hints that it wants to pull over -it's just harder to to pass a car. When there is a bike on the road, it is easy to pass, but as a price, it slows you down more until you get that moment to pass.

Returning to the game that is "Traversing the City". Cars, vans, buses have moves too: the steering wheel, the accelerator, the brake pedal, the gears, the indicators. These can be used to implement the decisions to make: where to go, when to pass,when to stop, whether to indicate your plans in advance.

Consider also the fact there is effectively a conflict in the city between competing road users: pedestrians, cyclists, motor vehicles. Bicycles get in the way of cars rather than staying in the gutter to punish cars, so cars and vans pass bicycles punish bicycles by braking or turning after overtaking. It's not that they have to, but that they can. By making the journey by bicycle more miserable, it will discourage them.

This is the essence of the minimax strategy (wikipedia entry, Manchester CS Dept slides). Minimax is the foundation of computer gaming, whether the games is something the kids are playing on their DS in the back of your SUV, or a US Department of Defence mainframe plotting the warplan between Nato and the Warsaw Pact back in the 1980s, when the  moves involved tanks and strategic armaments whose deployment took cities off the game board called Europe.

The Minimax Strategy: applying a scoring assessment to the game, the minimax strategy says:
pick the moves that deliver the best score to your player, and the worst score to the opponent.

That is profound, and kills the whole concept of "let's just coexist", because if you are driving, that's a losing strategy. The very presence of bicycles inconveniences you -and encourages more cyclists. So yes, you do overtake them, you give them a bad experience -otherwise they come back. That is not malicious, that is minimax.

Some issues with minimax:
  1. Scoring -how do you score the game? Arrival time isn't enough, you need to include discomfort. Now the rainy season is returning, splashing bicycles and pedestrians by driving through puddles helps
  2. The Horizon Effect. How many moves ahead do you look? There is always going to be a horizon, beyond which you stop looking, and there's a risk that you end up choosing the wrong moves, because you didn't look far enough ahead.
The reason, therefore, that cars stop immediately after passing a bicycle is for two reaons. One: it helps produce a worse outcome for the bicycle. Two: they only had a lookahead of one move, and the next operation was not planned for.

That's Minimax then; a good strategy for games where the scoring is possible. Bluff games are trickier; it was always one of the issues of the Cold War: the USSR played Chess; the US played Poker.

Now, let's look at this in the context of Bristol, along Shaldon Road, Lockleaze. This is a good road for our experiment as it is a continuous straight road, and there are lots of left turns off it, so we can see how different vehicles behave with a bicycle slowly pootling up a hill.

Lorry passes bicycle, gives 20-50cm of clearance. The URL on the side of the vehicle,, is close enough for the cyclist to remember and comes out well in the video. 
Lorry #2 passes bicycle, unusually gives more clearance. The logo says "Welsh Pantry"; presumably they are visitors to the city from overseas. We shall complain to their firm about failing to blend in.
Vehicles are held up briefly by the bicycle and oncoming traffic, but do manage to get past.
A red polo passes, indicating right.
A silver Vauxhall Vectra KF04FBE passes. This car has been held up by all bicycle-initiated delays, and applies minimax to punish the bicycle; refusing to pull out much and swerving in early. However, it brakes at the same time. This a sign of the horizon effect -it has been so busy planning the minimised score of the bicycle that it failed consider what its next move would be  -and whether that red car was indicating its intent to turn right.
The red polo turns, so KF04FBE can go ahead and do its left turn. The delays caused by the bicycle here have cost it time, that has to be regained by a bit of speed before slowing and turning left. This waste of fuel is caused entirely by the so-called green transport.
0:38 -1:28
Dull bits that remind us why cycling is so boring that we hate it.
Kellaway Building Supplies. In our discreet post-mortem with our unsuspecting cyclist, apparently having a lorry overtake you near here with its left turn indicators on is very disconcerting. Well, they can always drive can't they?
Van somewhat inconvienced by bicycle positioning -too far out-comes past and speeds up.
Ford Ka comes past, indicating left, then starts turning over the bicycle. Then it decides that in fact it does not want any bicycle marks on its paintwork, and comes to a complete halt, leaving the bicycle to continue on straight. Again, a mixture of minimax and horizon effect. If the car had driven faster it could have cleared the corner.
Notice how nearly all of these vehicles give the bicycle room. including the Vauxhall Vectra that has to do a hard brake after pulling in, and the Ford Ka, which gives the bicycle incredible amounts of clearance before starting to turn over it.

While some of the drivers may resent the bicycles, may want to discourage them from cycling, nobody wants a collision. It's not just the injuries you cause, it's the fact that bicycles rarely have insurance and the damage they can do to your vehicle can be quite serious. The short term gain of running over one bicycle is lost by the delays and the insurance. 

There you have it then, minimax. The cyclist's goal was to position themselves where tyey felt safe (their Max) -not merely regardless of inconvenience to tax payers, but precisely because it slowed the cars down (the car's Min). The cars and lorries mostly reacted by passing the bicycle as soon as they could (their Max), and, for some of the players, trying to reduce the cyclist's experience -be it pulling in and braking, or simply turning while partially past the bicycle.

This concludes this week's Game Theory session. For further details, please consult this MIT coursework. As we said before, bluff is the other game aspect, which comes up in "wing-mirror bluff" and negotiation over who gains ownership of a single lane road.

This research was supported by the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Development Command, and by the EPSRC.

Thursday 5 November 2009

One for all

Chaos on Barrow Road leading to St Philips Causeway yesterday. One lane was closed on the cycle path due to a sign on the cycle path informing everyone that one lane was closed on the cycle path.

This in turn, caused mayhem on the road as motorists slowed to "rubberneck", each doing their duty as fine upstanding (or in this case reclining) citizens checking that cyclists didn't stray on to the adjacent pedestrian designated side of the shared pavement as those mischevious villains are so often inclined to do. Pictured above is one such cyclist. We won't tell you if she actually encroached on the pedestrian area. I think you can judge for yourself by the look in her cycling induced rage crazed eyes and the flare of her nostrils as she snorts the air for pedestrians to plow down, what happened next. Excuse the blur in the photo, but as is typcal of lunatic cyclists in these situations, she was travelling at speeds well in excess of five miles per hour at the time.

EDIT: Word just in from our man in the Bristol Traffic helicopter that the sign was in fact to inform drivers that the road was down to one lane and not there for cyclists at all.

We have to say that we breathed a sigh of relief when we heard this news. After all the sign pictured looks very much like one intended for use on the roads, paid for by road using drivers. Why should cyclists benefit from it? At the same time we welcome the well chosen placement of the sign giving drivers and cyclists a level playing field. If the road is reduced by a lane then so should the cycle path. It's only fair and just desserts for those cyclists who are always banging on about being equal to motorists.

Extra EDIT: More news just in from our man on the Bristol Traffic Segway that similar signs were placed on numerous surrounding pavements throughout the Barton Hill and St Philips area, giving pedestrians their fair share of obstacles too, some covering nearly the whole width of the pavement.

All in all a good day spent sending out exactly the right message to those misguided tax dodgers who choose to walk and cycle. If anything's going to undermine their disillusioned beliefs that they're doing the right thing then it's schemes such as this. We believe it will be also be of great effect deterring those who are considering getting involved in the seedy underworld of treachery and hooliganism that is cycling. Well done to all involved.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Down by the bus station

Whenever you monitor humans, you have to worry about The Hawthorn Effect; the fact that people behave differently when being watched. This is notorious for skewing the results of many experiments, and you should always ask experimenters how they compensated for it, to make sure they knew what they were doing.

We solve this problem by not telling the cyclists that it's a camera. They think its a light. Of course, having the bicycle with lights on would effect the experiment too, so to avoid that it doesn't actually work as a light.

By monitoring without them knowing, we get to see the world from their point of view, hear their complaints, then dismiss them.

Today's video: Dove Street Kingsdown to Broadmead, by way of the Marlborough Street Bus station.

  1. Notice that in Dove Street, those vans parking 3/4 on the pavement ensure that passing bicycles do not get hit by open doors, and make it easier for passing vehicles to get by them.
  2. The Honda LG57XPV that appears to pull out without indicating before veering across the road is not victimising the cyclist, it would behave the same regardless of whoever was behind it. While driving along, had its brake lights on, "tourist lights" as we call them, which warn the vehicles behind that it is planning something.
  3. Pulling in to Dighton Street at 1:00 we see a line of bicycles using this road to avoid the St James Barton Roundabout/Bearpit options, or to head over to Clifton without cycling over the big hills. [Incidentally, we hear a rumour that the Bristol Cycling Campaign, as well as promising free drinks at their EGM on Thursday, are planning a Bastard-Hills-of-North-Bristol ride that will not avoid those climbs].
  4. At 1:20 the instrumented cyclist and another cyclist both slide past a taxi to occupy the remaining half of the ASL. This does not leave room for the two other cyclists following. What will they do?
  5. At 1:28, the cycling-chic woman passed earlier appears to be having braking problems, as her bike only stops after she has shot halfway over the junction. Notice how she stops by putting both feet on the ground. That means fixed-speed or broken brakes. Given that cars are still heading across this road from the right hand side, only three sets of lights/two junctions from the M32, everyone anticipating a bit of speed, this is a brave things to do, she has earned her ghostrider label.
  6. At 1:35 we see that the vehicle waiting to turn right is in fact a police car. Presumably our little ghostrider was too busy looking for cars from the right to worry about what cars were waiting to turn.
  7. At 1:41, the police car pulls forward, and by 1:45 is parallel with the rider. Is she going to get told off?
  8. No, it turns right, as do the vehicles behind. Even the lorry at 1:57 doesn't clip her, despite her being positioned on the inside of the bend
  9. At 2:02 the high speed sprint of a van through the lights tells us that they have just gone red for that lane, and that the bicycles will now get a green light, which kicks in a couple of seconds later.
  10. At 2:06 our camera enhanced cyclist sets off and never sees the ghost rider again. She had not only tried to cycle across the red light and the lanes of traffic, she had positioned herself so she could not see the lights, and so missed them changing.
  11. Our cyclist uses the bike lane until it ends, and is then forced to turn off the road, to go down Whitson Street to the bus station. There then follows 30 seconds of dullness.
Where things get entertaining again is 2:44, where the bicycle is in the bus and bike only lane heading towards Broadmead. They have a red light. Will they wait? Or has the previous junction given them ideas?

They wait for three seconds, then veer over to what appears to be a pedestrian crossing -but actually has a bicycle on it. Therefore we must sadly conclude that this bit of crossing on bike is legal, and we can not report it to the police.

We are not so sure, however, about the pavement riding they do afterwards. They do not go straight on, where they would encounter the car, but instead veer left past some phone boxes, over the bus lane and then on some more pavement. We were beginning to get hopeful again, but then saw that they were actually riding up to some bicycle specific traffic lights -which were going green- and then they set off again, into Horsefair and hence Cabot Circus.

As you can imagine, we are unimpressed by the cyclist who ran the first red light. Not only was it dangerous, it didn't gain anything. At least when we speed in a car we get something in exchange -the feeling of speed, reduced journey time. She got nothing, and forgot to keep an eye out for police cars. The second junction though, leaves us confused. The bicycle clearly went up on the pavement, over a pedestrian crossing, on some more pavement and then up to some lights. We do not whether to be
  • Upset about the behaviour of the cyclist
  • Upset that an anti-car council added these features
  • Confused by the fact that these features seem to not be at all rational. Surely to make it easier to get from the bus station to broadmead, the crossing lights would be on the left of the junction, so the bicycle would not have to zig-zag everywhere? We suspect the lights were put in on a budget to help tax-dodgers head the other way.
We have decided to go for all three options. Bristol Traffic: confused and upset.