Monday 11 October 2010

Snuff Mills: benchmarking Bristol Traffic

Our coverage of cycling families endangering car paintwork created some feedback from one Tony John Cooke, who expressed some concern that some of our claims (helmetless cyclists are uninsured troublemakers) lacked proof. Tony, the fact that cyclists are threats to our city and its motors are Axioms; we don't need to prove it, it is self-evident. We -and the rest of the media- work forward on that axiom, just like most of mathematics works on Euclids set without worrying about whether or not parallel lines ever meet.

Our goal when we set up this project was simple:
  1. Timely coverage of the city's real transport issues.
  2. Project the motorist's point of view, not the watered down stuff that the Evening Post and Daily Mail pushes out.
To check we are meeting these goals we benchmark ourselves against the competitors and the cycling press. Tony -your very complaint re-inforces our conclusions that we are being strongly consistent with our  messaging, so it cheers us up no end.

But is a complaint from one person enough? No, of course not. Which is where benchmarking ourselves against the mainstream press comes in:
  1. We check that we are ahead of AA and RAC foundation thinking by looking for their press-releases reprinted unquestioningly by the BBC and other outlets. 
  2. We verify that we are consistent with the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.
  3. We verify that we are ahead of the local newspaper by reading it sometimes.
  4. We compare our coverage with comments in the on-line press, to make sure we represent the real opinions of readers.
In particular, we keep an eye on our competitor, the Bristol Evening Post. For those readers out of the city, know that it is the city's premier daily newspaper, although we find that the South West Big Issue does tend to have more in depth coverage of economic and political issues. What the B.E.P. does have is a local news remit, though the reduction in staffing means that it is generally reduced to reprinting press announcements or criticising the council. Those press releases from Tesco, Bristol City Football Club and other major revenue sources are always welcome, but they do support some local pressure groups where their campaigns don't conflict with the needs of the supermarkets or BCFC.

On Thursday Sept 9, the coverage was on Snuff Mills and the proposals to replace the dirt track with a cycle path. This would be the continuation of the one which runs through Eastville Park, one we are aware of but haven't bothered to denounce.

Here a path runs along that bit of the Frome river which is not under the M32 flyover, providing somewhere for pedestrians and cyclists.

It looks like it might be a nice place to walk or cycle. But it doesn't really go anywhere right now, not until a link to UWE has been sorted out.

Which is where the Snuff Mills connection comes into play. Now, as metric of how up to date we are - success metric #1 -, we covered this issue on 8 july 2009, when we expressed our concerned that the improvements may degrade from the wilderness experience of the park. That is a whole fourteen months before the Evening Post heard of it. This shows the advantage of our reporting tactic: getting out and about in the city, versus theirs: waiting for press releases from organisations like the Snuff Mills Action Group.

Now, this is where things get complicated. According to the Snuff Mills people:

we reached a compromise with Cycling City following a meeting on site a few weeks ago. They agreed a narrower path and other changes to the scheme, but then emailed us the following week to say this was no longer acceptable because of the needs of the 'disabled community'.
We don't know anything about that, but we do encourage readers to go to the Snuff Mills Group, look at the proposals, come to their own conclusion and contact the council. We suspect that even the cyclists may be despairing about the effort being put into creating bike/pedestrian conflict here, while inner city troublespots -like Stokes Croft- have been abandoned. There's an obvious reason for that, nobody wants to take on the motorist.

Anyway, returning to our benchmarking theme, we checked out the comments. Remember how we are campaining for a new dual carriageway to be built across purdown to provide a fast route from an expanded Lockleaze to the M32? Some of the green party people in the city think this is some kind of joke. Sorry, but if you look at the comments of the Snuff Mills article, you can see that we are merely slightly ahead of the mainstream press.

In particular, look at this comment from our favourite E.P, commenter, James Carmichael of Highridge, whom we have covered before, and who has even achieved national fame:

"I used to live in this part of town, and what that area really needs is a link road connecting Fishponds Road to Broom Hill, through Wickham Glen and Eastville Park. This would relieve the traffic around Blackberry Hill.

But will we, the law abiding, tax paying motorist get this perfectly reasonable request granted? No, of course not. We're not blathering cyclists.
James Carmichael, Highridge"
We see his point. The council is spending our tax money on paths, but no new roads have been added to our city for some time -despite the parkland being up for sale. We propose the DfT should buy the parkland and add the roads or city needs.

We have been saying this for some time -that the city needs a new route to Abbey Wood, a new road between Dovercourt and Muller Road, and Muller Road should get uprated to a motorway or a new Lockleaze junction added to the M32.

The fact that we came up with our vision, some weeks before the most vociferous of the Evening Post commentators proposed a new road through Eastville Park, shows that we really are setting the agenda in this city. We aren't just reporting on news months old, we aren't even following press releases or comments in news articles. No: we are laying out a vision for a new city, one with the ring-roads back.
There you have it. Our web site is upsetting cyclists and pedestrians enough for them to complain to us, we are years ahead of the B.E.P. in covering developments, and months ahead of their readers. The AA and RAC "think tanks" aren't even beginning to think at our rate, let alone on our agenda. We are in charge.
We close, then, with a video of what the completed bit of the Eastville Bike and pedestrian path is like. Look at it, and think how much lovelier it would be if you could use this as a ratrun alternative to Stapleton or Fishponds Roads?
Bristol Traffic: more than just a news site -creating the new city.

1 comment:

between-the-lines said...

You're absolutely right BT. It's good to see this useless scrub getting a lick of tarmac, but it should just be the start.

A proper road with decent lighting throwing up a nice glow into the stratosphere.

Some lovely new houses to provide what we in the know call 'natural surveillance'.

That sensible gentleman in Greenbank was so right when he said that these hopeless plant-worshippers need to get a grip. This is a city - if you want plants and animals and peace and quiet go live in the sticks!

I suppose it's too much to ask that the council send out some marksmen to rid the area of troublesome vermin as well, before they give us all diseases.