Sunday 28 February 2010

Troublemakers and Zebra Crossings on Cotham Road

Spotted while parking the car up in the coaches-no-parking bit of Cotham Road during the school run, a group of people loitering around. By the entrance to two schools? Should we call the police?

No need, the headmaster of Cotham School has popped over, presumably to tell them the police are on their way.
But what's this? Smiling and happiness?

Turns out, these people are plotting together to get a zebra crossing put up here on Cotham Road, so that kids and parents can walk to school safely. One at the top, by the school entrances. This is so wrong. After you struggle on the commute up Cotham Brow, with its congestion and crossings, this road is somewhere to put your foot down and make up lost time. And now they want a crossing here?

What's worse, the councillors support it, and the councillor for the Cotham School side of the road, Neil Harrison, says he may have some money for the crossing. That our road-tax money, I bet.

The troublemakers -the Bristol Living Streets people, we believe - have a petition up for a zebra crossing and a build-out for bicycles! One that people are signing!

We are taking note of everyone who puts their name up there, we can assure you. A zebra crossing here, on top of St Michael's Hill, will not only make it possible for pedestrians to walk to any of the three schools nearby safely, they will encourage the students to walk, the residents to walk out to the shops and cafes, instead of driving. This will set back motoring in the area, just when the RPZ plans implied that the residents would get somewhere to park when they came back from the shops and cafes, while the school-run parents would have commuter-free parking areas.

Saturday 27 February 2010

Antibicycle Awards: Bristol Zoo wins, Bristol Council loses

The judges met on site and have decided to give the Bristol Traffic antibicycle award to Bristol Zoo and Bristol Downs together for their 600 car parking spaces on the Downs with 6 bike racks that don't work for towing children to the zoo.

To make this an unbiased process, what we did was invite some of the cycling activists in the city to see what feature they hated the most, and gave the prize to that feature. Here they are, Terry and Chris on the right, talking to Adam Crowther of Bristol Council, about the Zetland Road junction that got nominated for the award.

This is where Bristol Council lost the race. Because they are going to try and fix things by changing the signal times slightly. Not just for the cyclists, but pedestrians too. While the troublemakers were loitering, one of these pedestrian people came up and joined in. She saw the hi-viz people with clipboards and assumed they were professionals, so came up and joined in with her own problems.
Apparently vehicles turning right from Zetland Road have nearly run over pedestrians who have the green man to cross the bit of the A38 the cars are using. She wanted it fixed, yet the obvious solution: don't give pedestrians a cross phase, didn't get a mention. That was it, the final straw.

Here is Cllr Jon Rogers, still smiling, still thinking he is in with a chance at winning the prize a junction where the police ticket bicycles for cycling on a pavement that cars can park on, and a light sequence designed to kill tax dodgers. But if they plan to stop the tax dodgers dying, it's lost our vote.
Chris Hutt breaks the news. Apologies for the sound quality and wobbly camera, but we had to get out of our truck for the video, and we were shivering a bit in the bitterly cold wind. The key point: he promises to do better next year.

We must also say, gracious in defeat. Always handy in a politician that.

Friday 26 February 2010

At last, a reason to park on Cheltenham Road!

Tesco are offering to improve this part of the city, by giving passing traffic a reason to pull over and shop. This particular stretch of Cheltenham Road lacks such amenites at present, so it is underused.

Some people are resisting this, with a web site and a local government petition, which already has over 650 signatures. Yet look at this road. Wasted.

The road is actually two lanes wide here, and so it would be possible for HGVs to pull over and unload food supplies throughout the day. We know this as on this weekday there is a lorry doing just that further up the road. Nobody is inconvenienced.

The bike lane and bus lane would provide short stay parking for visitors. We know this, as on this weekday there is a van S89LHY doing just that. Nobody is inconvenienced.

As with the rest of Stokes Croft, the double-yellow lined bike and bus lanes will provide short stay parking for revenue-earning customers, instead of enabling through traffic on bicycles, who will not bring any money to Tesco at all.

We note that as this path is downstream of the newly enhanced Zetland Road junction, the changes made there to prevent bicycles riding inbound from Bishopston will reduce conflict in this stretch of the road, so ensure that a new mini-supermarket will not lead to an increase in accident statistics.

Thursday 25 February 2010

Wessex Connect

One of the reasons we are in favour of the Zetland road anti-bicycle facility is that it will discourage bicycles from using the A38 to and from town.

Yes, there may be a bike lane and bus lane most of whole way, but that just creates bus/bike conflict, as well as bike/parked car conflict.

Here on Stokes Croft, for example, this Wessex Connect Bus T875HGT has been forced to drive into the bike ASL and park here while the light is red. If bikes were encouraged to cycle here the inter-vehicle conflict could not only be dangerous, it could impact bus schedules.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Zoo transport

A late-breaking entry for the antibicycle awards, Bristol Zoo.
At first glance, you would think "what does the zoo do wrong, they have provided lots of bike racks". In fact we have a quote from Chris Hutt who thinks its excellent:
"There are two sets of 6 racks, so parking for 24 bicycles.
Can't complain about that."
Given that Mr Hutt is the official complainer for the Bristol Cycling Campaign, the fact he isn't complaining about it is so unusual that it makes us suspicious. Was it a bribe? If so, how much?

There are two things odd with this picture. The light controlled pelican crossing of an important commuter route, and the strange cobbles on the pavement, just at the back wheel of the tagalong. Their cobbles' role can be a bit clearer from the other side, especially if we move the sign.
The two marked out rectangles on the pavement are in fact two of the very few disabled parking spaces in the zoo, and as they are the ones closest to the main entrance, very popular and in constant use weekends, bank holidays and throughout the summer. With two motor vehicles parked in these spaces, it is therefore impossible to park a bike with a trailer or a tagalong at any of the bike stands during peak zoo visit hours. If one were actually trying to encourage cycling to the zoo, this would be unfortunate, because nobody in their right minds goes to the zoo except with small children.

Anyone cycling would have to have some means of getting the children there, and by preventing trailers or tagalongs from using the facilities, the zoo can discourage anyone from cycling. All without troublemakers like Chris Hutt even suspecting, which makes it particularly amusing. How can the evening post run a controversy article on the zoo without any good quotes?

Well, this is where it gets fun, and where the real award nomination kicks in. The zoo doesn't want cyclists. In fact, it doesn't want any visitors to the city who don't come and park in the zoo's revenue-earning parking spaces. We know this, as they have written it down in their sustainability report. You see, there are some small problems with the zoo's plan to earn parking revenue from visitors
  1. There isn't enough space in the zoo's parking space to make much money
  2. The area nearby isn't resident parking, so visitors can and do park for free once the paid parking area is full
These are problems, but not insurmountable. The secret is the large unused wasteland nearby, often known as Durdham Downs. Part managed by the council, part owned by the Merchant Venturers, and somewhere we like because of its strong anti bicycle policy. Every path where a child may cycle has a big sign warning them off.

This leads to large amounts of empty space. Space that can be used. And what better use of open city parkland in the height of summer than providing parking for the zoo? It is a long standing arrangement that  at weekends and summers, currently gets turned into paid parking for the zoo.

There's a small problem with that -it's not clear that this is what was meant when the downs were to be kept for the people of the city "in perpetuity". This is why a year ago the Zoo was told that instead of this right to park here being a permanent feature, they had one year to come up with a plan.

They have had a year, and they have a plan. It is: park on the downs, add some signs.

This has taken some effort to pull off, and we will have to see what happens this week when the planning committee reviews it. What we are impressed by, however, is how the Zoo managed to hire some traffic consultants to produce a transport report which makes the case that allowing people to park on the downs is the most sustainable form of transit, all other options (walking, cycling, public transport) can be dismissed, and that Park and Ride isn't economic.

That's a good report. Read it.

First, they look at visitor traffic on a bank holiday
2.6%Walked or Cycled
2.8%Train or Train and bus

When you consider how many visitors they have on a bank holiday (hint, the Downs parking area has room for 600 cars), the fact that 2.6% managed to walk or cycle is pretty impressive. Presumably after the 12 bicycles parked with the child carrier poking into the main road, everyone else walked.

What is more surprising for us that nearly 7% used public transport, despite the surveyors choosing a bank holiday, the day in which all forms of public transport are at their least functional. Yet even by choosing a day when you are most likely to get visitors from outside the city, 7% used "legacy" public transport,  nearly three times the number who walked or cycled. Wow.

The surveyors, Pinnacle Transportation, to give them their credit, used this as evidence that driving was the only viable option, but because most people drove with family, it was sustainable. That's good. That legitimises us driving to school to do the sprog dropoff. Yes, it may only be 500 metres, yes we park on the school keep lines and half the pavement -but it's sustainable! We shall use that to dispute the next tickets we receive.

So, what to do? Pinnacle Transportation, whom we presume were well paid for their troubles, looked at the option for Park and Ride, and decided that it would cost too much as £1750/day. Why? First, P&R doesn't run at weekends, external visitors to the city on weekends are expected to drive in, so the zoo pays all P&R costs. That's £1450 a day. Secondly, the consultants estimate that adding P&R would reduce zoo parking revenue -on the Downs- by £300/day. That is: people choosing not to park on the downs are an expense.

That is beautiful, and it reinforces our beliefs that tax-dodging pedestrians and cyclists should be banned from the city. We've long argued they don't benefit central government's coffers, but this zoo transport report is the first time someone has spelled out that people who don't drive and park their cars on one of the city's parks cost money. If there is one fault, the report doesn't come out and denounce the 2.6% who walked or cycled, those who came by bus or train, or those who -worst of all- parked somewhere where it is free to park.

By marking down all lost parking revenue as an expense on the P+R, the transport plans can then say "too expensive". What they do propose instead is
  1. Have a park and ride, but if it proves too expensive, stop it.
  2. Provide better (permanent) signage to the Downs parking area for visitors
Option #1 may look good, but because of that offset-expense trick, the zoo knows that it won't be hard to make it look uneconomic, so it will die a death "we tried that, it didn't work". Instead the Downs parking area will remain, and with the better signage get even more visitors, because they won't get lost and accidentally park somewhere like Pembroke Road or College Road where it won't cost them anything. Which will make residents of those roads happy too.

Now, how does the Downs committee react? Let us look at the Nov 2009 meeting minutes. There's a fairly brutal submission from the Ramblers who argue that turning the downs over to parking is a fundamental abuse of the city's parkland, but what do they know? They may think that somewhere they like to walk is denied them -but nobody is stopping them from parking in the zoo parking area either. That leaves the "Friends of the Downs", who come out in favour not just of giving the Zoo the parking area they deserve, but making a rolling five year lease, which effectively means "forever". We are curious as to what the membership of the Friends group is, as one would, if one actually cared about the green stuff, be a bit concerned that they were more "Enemies of the Downs".

This then, is why the zoo is up for an antibicycle award. Not for the bike racks that don't actually work once there are some disabled visitors. But for the way they've managed to get the Downs friends and committee -the same people who spend so much of their paint budget on ensuring there is no safe way to cycle across most of the Downs.- to support the zoo's plans for 600-650 parking spaces there in high summer weekends and bank holidays, the dates when park visitors would be highest. That is, they have got these people to sell out the entire notion of park and replace it with parking. When you then look at the transport report, where the consultants argue, with a completely straight face, that having 600 cars drive to the city and park on the Downs is sustainable, that these people cannot walk or cycle, and that all lost parking revenue must constitute an expense for a park and ride scheme, well, it just rounds it off!

Monday 22 February 2010

Consistent Priorities

A sign in the back garden of a block of flats managed by Bristol Council; the council in charge of the Cycling City program

Housing Services
Ball games and
cycling are strictly
prohibited in this area

Without such signs, the children would be out enjoying themselves, keeping fit, and harassing the people trying to enjoy the area themselves.  You can see how much better it is without the children.

We know that in privately owned housing children do often play games and ride bikes in their back garden -it is a shame that while Germany has laws against such things, Britain does not. Banning children from being noisy is one thing we should adopt from our European peers. At least the council does its best in the houses it looks after!

Dads, you can be Redland Mums too

A special callout to CV53EJX, here going down Cotham Brow. Moving too fast for a good photo taken one handed from a moving vehicle, low light conditions..

For some reason the school run went well on the way in. Yes, it was by bike, but since the DVLA sent a note asking for the license back in a pre-paid envelope, driving is not currently an option (*). But when you consider yourself a driver, not a cycling or walking under-person, you retain some of the old habits. You know, you occupy a lane, when an oncoming vehicle stops for you, you wave with your hand, they wave back. Sometimes you pull over for them, they wave at you. A friendly morning. Sprog delivered within a few minutes of the specified delivery time in a state of calmness. Perhaps the week off has left everyone in a good mood, no more Redland Mum "Death before a late dropoff" driving.

Then this, on the way home. Being still in motor-driver mode, after negotiating the buses parked in the downhill lane of Cotham Road, on account of the school parents parked in the coaches-keep-clear-zone, I slowed down to let a car coming off Hartfield Drive pull out. Mistake. Bicycles are not allowed to stop to let cars out, as it gave this CV53EJX a chance to overtake the bike and cut up the car pulling out.

Obviously, I caught up with the driver at the zebra crossing, where those bastard students hold up everyone. "I stopped to let a car out", I said. The driver look over with so much anger, his whole face torn up in rage and frustration "Oh Shut Up", I think mouthed, as he sprinted off to get caught behind the next car. 

Getting kids to school is pretty stressful. There's a hour or so of a parental attempt to impose schedule on small kids that would rather play with lego or read or watch Horrid Henry. But once you are out the door, there is no way to regain lost time. It's the rule of project management: time lost upfront cannot be regained. Trying to drive aggressively round Bristol on the school run doesn't do anything for your journey time, because that is a function of the number of the junctions (a constant) and the traffic load, while variable, is mostly a function of time, t, and whether it is a schoolday or not, also a function of (t). The equation becomes something like
T(journey) = congestion(t)*schoolday_factor(t)*junctions.
There is nothing you can do about this, you may as well mellow out unless you are out the door so early that t is earlier in the morning, and hence congestion lower. But not, clearly, this Redland Dad, who is suffering too stressful a life. We hope that it does not impact on their family life, that his kids and partner do not suffer. If they do, the news outlets inform us that there is a National Bullying Helpline which provides support, though you can't trust them to keep the calls confidential, not if the story is interesting enough.

(*) Details not to be discussed. All those people who pine for "real" police rather than speed cameras should note that they've never experienced being pulled over by armed traffic police on US Interstate 5 between Seattle and Tacoma. Cameras aren't as scary.

Trouble at the MOD Abbey Wood parking facility

We are busy documenting the theft of a parking option from South Gloucester. First the MOD ticket people they feel were interfering with bicycle crossings. Now someone else is putting a note into all the cars claiming the road is private.

We would kindly ask you NOT to park on this PRIVATE road
With effect from 22nd February 2010 any unauthorised vehicles will be
immobilised or removed at a cost to the owner
We thank you for your co-operation
0117 902 3339

Question is, why persecute the cars? This dual lane leads to the HP site which is nowhere near as busy as it was before, and to a housing project on the edge of survival -but one on which traffic problems on this slip road aren't going to be the cause of people opting not to buy a house here.
The only conflict here is bicycles and car owners walking to work on the bike/pedestrian pavement. We propose a speed limit on the bicycles or banning them from the area.

Anyway, Feb 22 is today, we shall watch what happens.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Dark times at Pompey

It is grim in Portsmouth. More than usual. Not only is their football team in a financial condition roughly on a par with the UK government, the fact that the UK government needs the income tax from the footballer's salaries to keep the country on a slightly more even keel may be enough to kill the team altogether. The council must be glad they didn't commit to joining in the world cup bid, unlike some others we could name.

Parking suspended. 
This is the echelon parking scheme which would let you pull up and park, watching the sea while you sipped lukewarm tea from your flask. The British Way to enjoy the seaside. But not now, not here, in a cycling town that sadly, finally, appears to have embraced cycling. Last time we visited we saw how some cyclists were ignoring the no cycling signs and enjoying their tax-dodging lifestyle on the wide pavement, but at least sometimes that was enforced, and the council had come down against legalising it.

But what they have done here is worse.
Rather than simply let the bicycles and pedestrians battle with each other, they are going to put in a segregated bike lane along the entire waterfront, and force cars to park parallel to the kerb. This will stop us parking our cars and looking out to see -which is the only reason we drive all the way down to Portsmouth in the first place.
Cycling along waterfronts in cold, biting weather may be a tradition in the Scandinavian countries, in the Netherlands, North Germany and Denmark, but not in Britain. We like our cars, we like our flasks of tea, and we need to park facing the water.

You can see the reaction to this in the local press. We draw particular attention to the NobodySpecial of quotes #15, 17 and 20, whose opinions match our own and draw out how much of a loss this will be to our seafront.
"I don't often get out of the car because either the weather's not suitable for it or I can see everything I want to with the radio on and in the comfort of my vehicle" .

"I am against making a change to the seafront which will remove scenic parking and also 150 spaces just so cyclists can cycle along an official route. It's significant detrimental to the enjoyment of the view by a significant number who drive there."
"If Portsmouth was rebuilt from scratch then it would be designed to take into account proper cycle lanes and a decent public transport system that didn't conflict with the roads. However Portsmouth cannot be demolished and therefore proper cycle lanes everywhere are not possibilities. " 
"Cycles pre-dated motor vehicles but the latter have been adopted because generally they are preferred and are more practical for obvious reasons I should have no need to explain"
We do agree with this poster, though the thought of demolishing Portsmouth does have some appeal.

To close then, a video pointed to us by Drusilla Marland: the closing scene of that 70s classic rock opera by The Who: Tommy. Filmed on the Southsea seafront, it will immortalise parallel parking there; remembering the freedoms we had until the council came took them away. It will serve a reminder of an innocent Southsea the way Our Man in Havana records pre-revolution Havana. Two great cities, two classic seafronts, both ruined by politicians with their dreams of benefiting the little people.
We were free then, but not any more.

(photographs contributed by "A", a resident of Portsmouth).

Saturday 20 February 2010

Filton Road Holdups

From a couple of weeks back, South Gloucestershire Council dared to close Filton Road, that well known short-cut so much loved by UWE students and Business Park users that avoids the lights and queues on the A4174 (the reason for those queues? mostly people using the short cut but never mind).

Anyway, the barriers and signs didn't deter many, convinced this was some clever ploy by Council Engineers into tricking them to take the long way round, a great drivers saw those pesky cyclists sneaking through and decided they'd follow, including the driver we see here in the Citroen Xsara X268GOV.

The only problem was the signs weren't a clever ploy after all, the Council really had dug the road up. And we see poor old X268GOV has been forced to execute a 5 point turn and come back the other way. Worse they've now got to go back down Filton Road, past all the 'Road Closed' ahead and Diversion signs they'd apparently missed earlier and re-join the back of the queue on the dreaded A4174: a dual carriageway whose opportunity for widening has been neglected at the expense of a bike lane that never gets used by bicycles, on account of them being on this rat-run instead.

And the reason for the road closure? Gas works? New sewers? No, to add insult to injury those lunatics at the Council had closed the road to build a new cycle path!

South Gloucestershire is the motor-centric part of Bristol, and such facilities and road closures go against the interests of the residents and commuters. Why do they think we moved to out of town villages and got jobs in a featureless sprawl of buildings, were it not to drive to work and home again, pausing only to nip in to Sainsbury's and B&Q's on the way home, eating a hamburger grabbed from the McDonald's drive through as we do so?

If we had wanted to live somewhere where we walked and cycled to shops and to work we would have chosen to live and work in the city centre. We don't and we didn't -so why is this anti-car council interfering with our lifestyle choices?

Friday 19 February 2010

MOD Persecution at Abbey Wood

The Ministry of Defence is cramming an extra four thousand people on its site at Abbey Wood (up from 6,000 to 10,000) by building a new office block and creating new 'Flexible Workspaces' (that's hot-desking to you and me), as a consequence of this and their policy of encouraging people to drive to work by paying them a handsome mileage allowance, the MoDs two huge car parks now don't have capacity to accomodate all those who want to drive. This means roads and car parks in the vicinity have now become full with MoD parking, including on the newly built access road to the Hewlett Packard site - since they flogged their entrance to UWE.

The owner of this Citroen Saxo, W797OJH thought they'd found a nice free car parking space for the day and parked across the dropped kerb blocking the shared use cycle and footpath, but what's this? The Ministry of Defence Police have issued them with a ticket! What are the roads for if they are not for parking on? Why can't cyclists get off and walk around cars parked in their way?
If there is one redeeming feature, the MOD parking tickets -which may not be legal on this bit of road- also have space for "cycle frame no". This makes up hope that if more than four people cycle into the MOD facility, and park somewhere other than their two sheffield stands, those cyclists will also be fined.

Thursday 18 February 2010

MOD Abbey Wood Alternative Transport

Someone draws our attention to the two sheffield racks for cyclists on the MOD Car Park, some distance away from the entrance to the offices themselves.

For some reason, these bike racks are never used. That is despite the excellent CCTV coverage of the area. This so called alternative-transport parking area is removing the option of secure car parking from one MOD staffer.

We are reliably informed by way of FOI requests, that whenever you are relocated by the MOD, if you choose not to move, you can receive a relocation allowance of up to £8000/year to cover the cost of driving in. You don't merit this allowance if you car share, or if you cycle. This means these two bike racks are not merely inconveniencing an important commuter, if they force them to not drive to the site, they are denying this person many thousands of pounds of well-deserved Money.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Not my council, guvnor

Here we have Cllr Jon Rogers with his bicycle. Normally we'd denounce him for not having a helmet, hi-viz top or any kind of body armour.

Not today though. Here we have him pointing at a cyclists dismount sign on a bike/pedestrian route in S. Gloucs.

He is smirking. We think instead of being bemused by such signs, he should recognise the valuable contribution they make to bicycle and pedestrian safety on bike paths, and roll them out across the cycling area, possibly using the aforementioned cycling city funding to do so.

Any path that encourages people to cycle where pedestrians also walk will give cyclists unrealistic expectations about where they can cycle, that will only cause problems in the inner city. 

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Monty: widen the pavements!

Here is a van already in our database, YA55VDY,  usually making full use of the build-out on whiteladies road by the pedestrian crossing, or up Cotham Hill.

Here they have tried to get as far up on the pavement as is possible on a day that the locals have put their bins out, yet the recycling lorry is held up by it.

We propose: widening the pavements of montpelier so that vans will be able to get more onto them. This will keep through traffic flowing.

The other possibility would be to ban the placement of even small recycling/rubbish bins on the pavement, as it forces vehicles to park 50cm further away from the buildings (taking into account roof overhangs).

Monday 15 February 2010

SCOOTing near Zetland Road

We are too lazy to go there ourselves, but Chris Hutt did our bidding and cycled (sorry, we will beat him soundly later!) to get some pictures of the Zetland Road/Gloucester Road nomination for our anti-bicycle awards. First look how this cyclist is riding without a helmet, and to the left of the designated cycling area.

That said, it is kind of ambiguous what bicycles are meant to do at this give way point? Ride, dismount, or get fined by the police. This is the junction where the police were doing exactly that way back in 2008, and it is still an issue at the local PACT meetings.

The cycling rules are clearer at the junction, where you can see the green light saying it is OK to go forwards and onto the A38, hoping the cars coming off Zetland Road aren't turning left towards Cromwell Road at the time.
Which today, at least one car is. Fortunately the cyclist was slow and did not get in the way, as they rarely have third party insurance, and it would be a complicated argument over liability at this junction. Normally if a car hits a bicycle running a light: the bike's fault. But here, the green light says go. So damage to your front bumper might be something you have to pay for yourself.
What say the council? As part of our anti-bicycle awards, we want to make sure the winning feature is not some transient accident which will shortly be fixed, but is in fact a deliberate design decision, implemented according to the plan. It looks good here.

Here is the answer from Adam Crowther, Head of Traffic Signals. 
"The sequence was changed recently to improve capacity thereby reducing the cycle time and reducing delay to pedestrians. We have also introduced SCOOT to better coordinate the signals.

A right turn filter was installed on Zetland Rd so that when the green man at the bottom of Elton Rd runs traffic from Zetland Rd is allowed to turn right - traffic cannot turn left. When the green man goes out traffic from Zetland Rd is allowed to turn right and left.

Cyclists will therefore only be in conflict with traffic from Zetland Rd that is turning right and they will not be in conflict with traffic turning left from Zetland Rd. Although this sounds a bit pedantic cyclists should remain between the studs - although this is not really a good idea as the opposite pavement is too narrow for shared use. Prior to the changes if cyclists turned right from Elton Rd into Zetland Rd they would have been in conflict with the green man. This indicates that the cycle crossing is essentially there to allow cyclists to go inbound on the Gloucester Rd not right into Zetland Rd.

This was a minor change to signal timings so we did not go to TAA as there seemed little point. I can understand that this is not perfect for cyclists but I do not feel it is particularly unsafe as cyclists have good visibility of right turning traffic and can merge in with it.

Signal priorities/sequence changed signs have been erected around the junction to inform people that the sequence has changed.

Whilst in hindsight it would have been beneficial to inform cycle stakeholders of the proposed changes I do not think we would have changed our proposals in any significant way. There are significant benefits to all users of the junction aside possibly from cyclists from Elton Rd. Buses have seen significant improvement in their reliability and after the changes all buses were running on time between the St James Barton roundabout and this junction. Similarly as the capacity has been improved the cycle time is lower and pedestrians experience less delay. It is also likely that rat running will be reduced over time due to the increased capacity. Cyclists have also benefited on most approaches due to the increased capacity and shorter cycle time. In particular the outbound Gloucester Rd movement receives significantly more green time, this is a movement heavily used by cyclists.

I apologise for not informing the cycle stakeholders but we did not consider this a significant change. The benefits to all road users including cyclists are clear. There are no similar signal phasing changes planned in the near future. Let me know if you need any more info.


This is wonderful, the best quote yet from one traffic planner who is clearly on our side.
  1. It manages to ignore the fact that of the destinations of bicycles coming off Elton Road, into-town is the main one, as anyone heading North would stay in Bishopston until later, on account of the bike lane being full of parked cars, and the pavement also being full of parked cars. 
  2. The second option would be up Zetland Road; this is no longer possible as you would cycle across traffic.
  3. It notes that prior to the sequence changes, bicycles on the shared bike/pedestrian light would have been in conflict "Prior to the changes if cyclists turned right from Elton Rd into Zetland Rd they would have been in conflict with the green man." -and uses this as justification for the feature. They really don't think anyone should be using this route except to get to the bike park across the road, or to turn left onto Gloucester Road northbound.
  4. It states that signing that priorities have changed is sufficient cues of the changes "Signal priorities/sequence changed signs have been erected around the junction to inform people that the sequence has changed.". This is subtle, as the signs don't tell bikes that they can now get run over by traffic coming from the right, yet it is enough of a disclaimer "we put signs up" that the council avoids liability.
  5. It argues that bicycles benefit, The benefits to all road users including cyclists are clear., because the cycle time at the junction has decreased. To be explicit, there used to be a longer delay between the period in which it was safe to cross the road, now there is a shorter delay between times you can get run over by passing cars.
  6. It reminds bicycle people that they aren't important "we did not consider this a significant change", while clearly implies that the bus companies are in-loop on these decisions.
  7. Because they didn't bother involving the bicycle people, it is unlikely that anyone bothered to count the volume of bicycle traffic leaving this junction, or their destinations. It is now too late to do so and make defensible accusations of the number of cyclists who are now at risk, because the feature has been rolled out. Nobody will try turning right into Zetland Road; less people will use the junction at all. 
  8. Discouraging people from cycling down the A38 will benefit bus times on a showcase bus route, so bring benefits to FirstBus.
Lovely. The best bits come when you think about cycling city. This contraflow, Elton Road, is the primary route for people from Bishopston, the target cycle city community. This change makes it clear that these people shouldn't think about cycling in, they should use a bus instead. FirstBus 1, bicycle troublemakers 0.

This is a showcase bus route remember? And the council's side of the cycle city funding was to come from dual-counted bus lane improvements as well as s106 building development funds. Which means any costs of this improvement may be something we can bill the bicycles for!
We are hoping to get some feedback from UWE about their feature, to round off the pre-award event. In the meantime, can we thank Redland People for their coverage of our site, but point out that we do not consider ourselves local cyclists. They are missing the point entirely. Yes, some local troublemakers like Chris Hutt may be complaining, but Bristol Traffic? We celebrate the irony of a junction where the police have been fining cyclists for cycling through red lights having the signals changed so that cyclists have to cycle through red lights. We relish even more the delicious thought that not only does this stop anyone from Bishopston, the cycling city target area, wanting to cycle into the city, costs related to this junction may be billable as part of the council's contributions to Cycling City.

If we were cyclists we'd be upset, miffed. Feeling neglected, abandoned and perhaps even disappointed. Maybe even angry. But no, we aren't. We are laughing at the profound difference a bit of signal tweaking can make between making a commute by bike if not pleasant, at least survivable, and making it something where only the brave or the stupid will try and cycle round. We are also over the moon about the implications this has for the council's traffic department, where the cycling officers clearly aren't even involved in these kind of day-to-day decisions, and nor are the councillors.

We shall return to "SCOOT" at some other time, it looks interesting, and have engaged in some discourse with the people at the Transport Research Laboratory on its details. They are not yet scared of us, and are answering politely.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Stokes Croft bike lane: wardens required

There is some rumour that the council is looking for "wardens" for some of the bike paths; people who keep an eye on the area and complain if there are problems.

The obvious candidate for a warden of the bike lane in Stokes Croft is the owner of Woodstock pine furniture, as their vehicle is one that is usually parked there, so they can keep an eye on the problems. Sadly, on this morning, it appears to be in need of an AA call-out.
Further down, the police WX07OSC keep an eye on things.
It looks like there are eight vehicles in a row on this bike lane, one with double yellow markings. This is not a bike lane. It is a short stay parking area. The question is: is that wrong, and what is the correct way to sign it as such? Anywhere marked with "1 hour parking" ends up being viewed as low cost all day parking, with the users upset when BPS actually audit your movements. But is something with both bike lanes and double yellow lines the correct way to signal "important people only".

We'd argue no, not because we don't think that cars have the right to park where they want, but because vehicles parking on double yellow lines here impede traffic flow far more than if they were parked round the corner on Nine Tree Hill. The owners of these vehicles have concluded that as the punishment for parking on a double yellow line is the same regardless of whether you block a main road or park on some back road, they may as well park right outside their destination. Either 9-tree hill gets downgraded to "park here if you have to" area, which it may get as part of the resident parking plans, or this stretch should become a "very short stay parking only" area. Every van parked here belonging to a furniture shop or post office is one less customer for Stix or Ritas.

If we had some kind of scale of no-parking area, then this stretch could be used only by really, really important people, and not just shop delivery staff too lazy to park round the corner.

Saturday 13 February 2010

Can buses park in bus lanes?

If you are one of those losers who actually buys a parking ticket for the city centre, you will see a warning on the back saying "people who park in bus lanes will get ticketed now", as the buses have CCTV and can photo cars for ticketing later. Whoever came up with the idea of these adverts must have thought "We want to communicate the news with people who park in the bus lanes, what better way than on council paper they get when they buy parking tickets?" Sadly, whoever thought that missed the point: one of the benefits of parking in bus lanes are that you don't have to buy parking tickets. It's cheaper, as well as more convenient.

Presumably they will have to come up with some alternate plan, such as issuing tickets. For now, warnings.

Question is, will it work? The first step would be for the council to collect a month's worth of parked car data (registration, timestamp, location), then try a month of adverts and no enforcement to look for changes, then try actual enforcement. We aren't going to help with the data collection, -not rigorously-, but having a suitably anonymised dataset would be interesting to play with, and we may help with the analysis.

For now though, a legal question. Here in Lewins Mead on a Saturday morning, the bus lane is blocked by a parked vehicle. Passing buses -you can see two here- are forced into the main traffic lane, and the bus picking up passengers behind the parked vehicle will be forced to wait for them to get past before it can pull out. This selflishly parked vehicle is impacting on bus timetables, as well as the flow rate of all motor traffic in the city: not only can the buses not use their lane, they take up space in the open lanes.

We have a question then. Is it legal for FirstBus to park buses in bus lanes? Because by doing so they are not only impacting their own schedule, they are impacting all other road user's schedules too?

Friday 12 February 2010

Persecution and voting in Kingsdown

Not just a threatening note by an angry a neighbour, but a genuine police ticket, here off Somerset Street, Kingsdown.

To the owner for L630 UVC
This is not a parking lot! you are blocking a public right of way. Please do NOT park here again
By Montpelier standards, it's hardly noticeable. Interesting how different parts of the city have different conventions.

This is Kingsdown, an area which may or may not have voted for a Resident Parking Zone.  Charlie Bolton says the vote came in at 200 against, 203 for,  though it appears to depend on where you put the boundary -presumably this area, "Darkest Kingsdown", is the bit that came in for it. Bristol 24x7 has some different numbers, ones that put the turnout at 18%.

For those people who didn't get invited to vote, it was by paper or online, every household got one vote with a specific login/password to prevent outsiders voting, or insiders voting more than once. An 18% turnout has to reflect pretty badly on both sides ability to get the voters out.

Cliftonwood: strongly against. Perhaps the parking problems there are due more to residents than commuters, and they felt that restricting their own vehicle ownership and use was unwise.

Thursday 11 February 2010

Pavement Blocking

The printed press has coverage on council plans to crack down on pavement parking.

As with many of the commentators, we think cars are forced to do this as it is the only way their owners can park right outside their house and still let emergency vehicles past. What the council should be cracking down on is bicycles on pavement, as they do have a choice, yet they choose not to.

As well as cracking down on pavement blocking by bikes, we probably have to go for all forms of exercise equipment.

This stationary cross-country ski machine on Cobourg Road, for example. Not just making it impossible for pushchairs to get past, it will make it hard for cars to get down this road. Unwanted Christmas-present exercise equipment abandoned on our streets is one of the great plagues of the inner city!

Do we hear the councillors cracking down on this? Not at all.

Incidentally, that E.P. article has a comment by our favourite commenter, James Carmichael of Highridge, who thinks bicycles should be banned from the city and was proposing a bit of aggressive driving to make that clear. Today he complains that it is the bicycles that force him to park on the pavements.
Once again, drivers get penalised while cyclists get away with riding on the pavements, harassing pedestrians, running red lights, being abusive, ... need I go on? It's one rule for the law abiding majority, but no laws for the selfish cycling few. Until the city council can guarantee that my car won't be damaged if I leave it on the road, I will continue to park on the pavement and will see them in court if they try ticketing me.
Oddly enough., bikes are not the vehicles that damage cars parked on roads in the inner city. It's usually other passing cars. The problem with bikes is that they clip the pavement-side wing mirror, and sometimes when you open your door they swear at you for hitting them.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Abbey Wood MOD site parking

10:00 on a weekday morning and the MOD Abbey Wood car parks are full. Really full not as in "I can create a space at the end of a row" but full as in "site security have blocked the entrance and are standing outside, possibly armed."

The non-motoring options to getting to the site are pretty limited

  • firstbus buses 
  • U1-U5 to UWE and then a walk
  • Train to parkway and then a walk
  • Train to abbey wood and then a walk
  • Cycle along segregated paths
These might seem a lot, but they all involve effort, and they don't substitute for the presence of the A4174 ring road, the A38, which is dualled from the M4/M5 interchange all the way down to the ring road, and the M32 a short distance away. S Gloucs commuting is optimised for cars. Except the haven't provided enough parking, not since the MOD expanded their staff here from January 2010.
Fortunately, there is a bit of space round the corner. Up until December, this was an empty dual lane road leading to the ill-fated "tailspin housing estate", housing for the 21st century, and what's left of HP. Now it has found a new use. Overflow MOD parking.
For those people cycling to HP, this is beneficial as it turns the slow lane into a bike-only lane. Well, until the end of course when the cars turning left are now in the lane to your right.
For people trying to use the bike paths between abbey wood and UWE, not quite so good. The kerb dropoff they used to use is an invaluable parking space that saves the first person to grab it five minutes of walking. It is a premium location, and not double yellowed or anything to imply its use  for parking is somehow forbidden.

We are disappointed, therefore, to hear news that the S Gloucs. Parking Team/MOD police were on this road the very day these photos were taken, ticketing this Saab S904SLK and vehicles further up the hill, the ones parked on the roundabout. Do the parking officers not realise that once these commuters have driven into the area, there is nowhere else for them to go! They had no choice but to park here! They would have liked to use the MOD Abbey Wood Car Park B, but the traffic cones and enforcement staff forced them up this back road, adding time to the journey and now the risk of being ticketed. This is persecution of commuters in the cars-come-first part of the city.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Bristol Living Streets stealing our photos

We are shocked that one of those pro-pedestrian, pro-bicycle, anti-driving-kids-to-school web site has stolen our photographs to push their agenda.

Look, their coverage of Cotham Road RTCs, includes three of our documented "incidents".
We don't really resent their use of our photos, as they do link back to us -except they are pushing their agenda of road safety by demanding a zebra crossing between Rowan House Nursery and Cotham School.

They say this is needed because the Bristol Traffic dataset shows how dangerous the road is. Yes, we agree it's dangerous! But that's why schoolkids should not walk across it! The only safe way to cross the road is by car, and our data backs that up!

A zebra crossing between these schools would not only endanger schoolkids, it would be another anti-car activity that would show everyone how little the council cares about the needs of us, the commuters. First, they block up our rat-runs. Now they want to slow us down on the main roads.

Muller Roadworks

Here are the some roadworks on Muller Road, a key M32 access route. We have proposed widening this road in the past, by using up the under-exploited pavement and bits of greenery on the side -here some allotments.

Is this happening? Has the council seen reason, realised that a wider road would help traffic to get to and from the motorway, and so even boost bus journey times? Not a chance

This is the current end of the Farm Pub Path route. They are narrowing the road, adding some raised bike lane leading up to some light-controlled crossing that will slow down us, the tax paying economic backbone of the city, while the cyclists and pedestrians, the underpeople, pootle over.

Yet look at this pavement. There is perfectly enough room to the right of the pedestrian to fit bicycles. True, there are trees in the way at regular intervals -yet this has not been a barrier to on-pavement bike paths elsewhere in the city, coronation road in particular!

If a bike path with trees along the middle of it kept bicycles out of the way of into-city commuter traffic in South Bristol, there's no reason why it wouldn't work here as well.

Saturday 6 February 2010

2010 Bristol Traffic Antibicycle Awards: Gloucester/Zetland Road

We hinted recently that the Gloucester/Zetland Road junction would get more coverage. It is time. This is Bristol council's entry our 2010 Anti-bike awards, the ones that one of our commenters, maliknant, said of UWE's entry: "UWE has put in a tremendous effort here. If they don't win, the vote has definitely been rigged." Perhaps. This last minute entry could be the rigging by a transport department reluctant to be forgotten.

Here is a view of Gloucester Road: at 0:09 you can see the new bike stands that the Cycling City funding just put in. But that is not why this junction merits a mention. What merits a mention here is the new sign "signal priorities changed" stuck up by the lights. Yes, they have changed.

They have changed the junction priority from "getting cyclists across alive" to "getting cars through and so helping firstbus schedules". This is a major change, and one that only took a bit of signal reprogramming -software, rather than expensive infrastructure. The best bit, being just a software change, no need to announce this change in advance to any of the cyclist complainer groups -the cycle forum, the cycling campaign, whatever. They just got to sneak it in and present those tax dodgers with fait accompli.

First, watch the video.

Note how the cars turning right get a green light, and off they go. Either into the city, or turning right-then-left onto Cromwell Road, and off to St Andrews or East Bristol, perhaps even the M32. That option is the best rat-run route from Redland to the M32 of a weekday morning, after all.

Note how a few seconds after the cars get their green light, some tax-dodging cyclist sets off cycling over a pedestrian crossing, then veers away from the pavement, turning into the paths of the cars. He is lucky that nobody is in a rush to get to the M32, or his hi-viz top and helmet would be no use whatsoever. Just another statistic to show that cycling is dangerous, more proof that red-light jumping cyclists are the great problem of the city, more evidence the local police need to crack down on dangerous A38 cyclists. See that: something goes wrong -the cyclists gets the blame and people stay scared of it. Which is how it should be.

Only here's the best bit. The cyclist, this reckless fool, actually thinks that they are doing the right thing. Because they've just come off the Elton Road contraflow, the "safe cycling" route out of Bishopston, and have sat there, patiently, waiting for the crossing light to give them a green bicycle, a "go" light. They don't know they are being reckless, they are just naive enough to believe that waiting for a green cycle light means that it is safe for a bicycle to be on Bristol's streets. Wrong. They are not welcome. We in Bristol Traffic know that. The city's drivers know that. The Bristol council traffic department knows it too -and have set out to show the cyclists how dangerous their activity is, and how unwelcome they are. The fact that Bishopston is the target more-bums-on-bikes area for cycling city, and this junction something everyone cycling into the city centre would encounter, only makes the change that much richer, the irony more delicious. With a quick change of the signal priorities that didn't even get mentioned to the bike/pedestrian groups, the engineering team managed to push back on all the pro-cycling initiatives coming down from the councillors, from central government. One team -fighting back!

With this entry we now close our entries for the antibicycle awards. Three entries: UWE, Rolls-Royce and now this one Bristol Council Traffic Department. Before voting begins, we are getting some comments from the candidates and some final snaps. Please take the opportunity to nip down to the candidate sites and see what you think. Remember: as well as excellent chocolate croissants, The Bread Store does really good pizza dough.

Friday 5 February 2010

We hope they avoid monty

Here in Cliftonwood, someone pins up notes telling off drivers for parking on the pavement. Someone who lives here must have an issue with it. We just hope they never go to Montpelier, as they'd explode in anger and resentment.

The first car looks like it's been here a couple of days, and sports a penalty ticket, presumably for the expired tax disk.
28-01-10 P286SFB
Please remove your car from the pavement and consider mothers with pushchairs
Facing this car is KN52WNT, which also has a couple of bits of paper. One listing the "traced" address of the vehicle, the other telling it off
Just because one moron blocks the footpath. Do you have to follow suit. What about mums with pushchairs wheelchair users and people with poor eyesight please think of someone else rather than just yourself. you selfish person
This is fascinating. What it tells us is that a bit of paveparking is so unusual in Cliftonwood that people are surprised by it -that they go to the effort of writing notes, of complaining. Wow.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Problems in the Village

As regular readers of this blog will know, we at Bristol Traffic campaign tirelessly for the travelling public.

A rival publication, the Bristol Evening Post, does the same. And today it has surpassed us by publishing a letter from a certain J W Hall of Stoke Bishop, who dares to point out the honest truth about parked cars in response to a proposal by SusWoT:

There, it's been said better than we ever could - parked cars save lives.

The letter also offers some comfort to cyclists as it goes on to state:

"It will also be worse for cyclists, since they will be confined into a narrower carriageway with the moving flow."

Bristol Traffic doubts that cyclists would care, as they usually use the pavement anyway, but it's nice to see BEP facilitating the debate when it comes to 'improving' our city.