Sunday 29 May 2011

Stokes Croft -it looks differently abnormal

As someone pointed out on our coverage of Picton Lane: The croft is never normal, not by the standards of the rest of society. On the streets fest day, it's just differently abnormal, in a way that didn't make the national press.

There are police outside the supermarket, but they are wearing flowers, not helmets and riot gear.

There are no minicabs in the ASL by the Canteen. Instead someone cycling with a trailer texts ahead.
In Kings Square, people play giant chess, while in the grass area, people drink red-stripe beer and consume ganga-weed. The police opt not to start another riot, and leave them alone. Lessons have been learned.
By the PRSC HQ, people in hi-viz tops, both commercial and home made, walk up and down the bike lane.
No, nobody could say Stokes Croft was normal. Differently abnormal.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Stokes Croft: the street fest

People say to us "did you nip over to the Stokes Croft streetfest on your day off from driving a van round the city"

We reply "Those of us who work in the Bristol sex-trade supply chain don't consider Saturdays a rest day -we were making deliveries on the Croft as usual." People who were there would have seen us. Question is, who were we?

The white van FG80741, outside the Polish Shop? Possibly.

The car KF03DXT in the bike lane near the now-famous Tesco express (not open at the time this photo was taken), and opposite the equally famous Telepathic Heights (more on that another day)?
The car LB57TXG in the bike path outside Slix? Perhaps.

Slix wasn't that busy, while Rita's was closed. While many of the bars and cafes were overflowing, the availability of low-cost, raw-in-the-middle yet burned on the outside BBQ-d beefburgers on sale on the street corners meant that the two main fast food establishments had competition -competition who won on cooking ability, cost and freshness.
Or were we the car X258CBR with the disabled sticker and the hazard lights on, the wingmirrors flipped back, on the double yellows?

The answer is: that's something we can't disclose. Once people recognise the official Bristol Traffic van, our coverage quality will degrade to even worse than it currently is.

Sunday 22 May 2011

The AA street watch

Apparently the AA were doing some study last week, trying get some statistics on what people in cities do that is technically "illegal", despite the war on motorists being over.

We think their crowd-sourced approach, while clearly based on our own world-leading experiment, is valid, we do like asking the machines for the data too. It scales better in space and time, generates more defensible data,  suffers from less self-selection bias, and is easier to go through in bulk.

This is why we think the best way for the AA to gain some statistics of where drivers bend the "so called law" would simply be to collect the satnav statistics of their own vehicles, correlating vehicle speeds and parking events with the "legacy" speed limits, double yellow line map, yellow-boxed junctions, etc. This would provide a year-round source of data, completely independent of any selection bias of the reporters.

We invite the AA to provide the Bristol Traffic team with an anonymised copy of such a dataset. Even if our multi-terabyte distributed filestore lacks the storage and compute capacity, we are sure that our strategic partners like Yahoo!, Google and Facebook,  do, and we will apply our world class datamining and Hidden Markov Modelling techniques to show the AA we are pretty good at guessing where their vans and driving school vehicles will park (hint: double yellow lines and pavements, such as here, the double yellow lines of St Michael's Hill).

A lot of people dismiss the AA for being lost in time, pining for the 1950s when cars only made it ten miles before a breakdown, and you'd send a telegram to let your family know you'd made it all the way from Bristol city centre to Filton without a catastrophe. We criticise them for something else: inability to grasp the opportunities that modern technologies bring. Never ask the people, when you can ask the machines.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Bristol's Balloon Problem

Sometimes the congestion in the city is so bad that people take to the air, but if you try that in a helicopter you soon discover that not only is the cost of fuel excessive, everyone on the ground assumes that there's trouble on the ground and comes out watch. You could create a riot just by hovering over Bedminster on a Saturday night.

What else then? Obviously: balloons.

But here there's still heating bills to run up, and the fact they tend to only go west to east.

This is why inbound commuters from the west of the city use them in the mornings -maybe even to Bath- but other mechanisms are needed to get home. We propose allowing ballonists to get towed by the trains from Bath to Bristol, but we think some of the bridges may cause problems. Experiments are required.

Incidentally, this post-RPZ photo of Cotham Road shows some consequences of the actions. The bus- only parking area is now only used by buses; school-run parents have many free parking spaces, and, interestingly, bike/car conflict is reduces, as now the bicycles can get to one side of the road. Admittedly, there are a couple of build outs and the odd car for them to swerve round, but it is actually easier to drive along -at least until you get to Cotham Brow. For everyone but the commuters who wanted to park here, it's better.

Which causes us to worry about these Clifton proposals to add more parking "For traffic calming". We don't want calmed traffic. We want to drive round fast without bicycles in our way. Yes, we'd like more parking, but it shouldn't be at the expense of slowing us down, or providing short-stay parking areas marked in yellow lines.

We'll be looking at "the Clifton proposals" more next week.

Friday 20 May 2011

It isn't enough -the freedom of freeways

Our main reason for a trip to the US was to learn from the road builders. Just as the cycling activists go to Denmark and the Netherlands, we, along with the West of England Partnership, head to America.

Look at this scene: flyovers and flyovers, heading into the distance. San Francisco

Up in the sky, from one freeway, another one above. So much choice, and that word, Freeway. Freedom. The American way.
From above, you can see wide city streets. What can you see from the M32? Eastville.
But it isn't enough. It's never enough. They built the roads, the people came, the economy grew. And the roads filled up.
What can be done to help the US -or UK economy. More roads. It's obvious really.

A roadbuilding program is never finished, never done. Yet in the UK we stick in a couple of flyovers and declare "Mission Accomplished". Only Glasgow recognises that the work is never done; that you need to keep planning motorways; more flyovers over the city; more bridges. We understand them.

We also see what the cycling troublemakers miss: the same thing applies to bicycle routes. Their adoption of "vehicular cycling", to cycle in our roads, means to surrender to our needs. Yes, they can get on our roads, while we sound our horn behind them, if we see them at all. But we drive the cars, going past them at 40 mph with six inches of clearance, saying "look how insane you'd have to be to cycle out there, it's really dangerous." They get out there, they have near-death experiences, they give up, drive, and the economy moves forward. It would only be by adopting a freeway-style program, one of cross-city routes, that they'd ever get anywhere. Yet in the big UK cities, nobody has noticed this. The only big in-city equivalent of a freeway for pedestrians and cyclists is of course the Bristol-Bath Railway Path, a flat, nearly uninterrupted route between the cities of the South West. Which is precisely why we and the WoEP want to put buses on it. Not only does it get buses off our roads, out of our way, it kills their dream: a walking and cycling version of a freeway.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Facebook Issues

The Bristol Traffic team met many of our strategic partners in California, too many to mention. One thing we will flag up is our concerns about the Facebook visit. The Non-Disclosure Agreement prevents any discussion about what went on indoors, what their offices look like, or whether or not the team met The Man. It's not important; what matters is that two of the world's best datamining organisations got together to discuss areas of mutual interest. And the Bristol Traffic logo (a stylised version of Southwell Street) is now on graffiti wall on the right past security.

What we will raise is this. The entrance, of 1601 California Avenue. HQ.

This in the head office, the developers all work here, with Mark in the private room in the middle. Someone worth many billions of dollars, hosting Obama shortly after our visit. But where is the fancy parking area? There is more prestigious parking are outside the UWE vice chancellor's office than here, where the vehicles that can get closest to the entrance are a shuttlebus and bicycles.

It is trends like this -giving bicycle parking pride of place in the foyer of the global web companies- that worry us.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

More News

Luckily, we were parked up on the pavement today, so we're in the clear, but we've just received this from the Police:

"Police are appealing for witnesses and information following a serious road traffic collision on the St James Barton roundabout in Bristol.

At around 12.50pm this afternoon (Wednesday May 18) a woman cyclist and a car were in collision on the Bond Street exit.

The driver failed to stop and the woman was taken to Frenchay hospital with extensive injuries. She remains in hospital.

Police would now like to speak to the driver of a car believed to be a dark coloured VW Passatt with partial registration X 471.

Anyone who may have witnessed this collision or who may know the vehicle involved is asked to call PC Richard Glanville on 0845 456 7000"

We've contacted the Association of British Drivers to see if they know the driver.

Monday 16 May 2011

At the junction of Google and Ampitheater

Over in Waltham Forest, Freewheeler has been expressing some concerns about google.

We too have issues, which, during the teams visit to our strategic partners in California, also cause us to question our long term relationship with them.

Ampitheater Parkway. Like the Bristol M32 Parkway except less congested, and there's a bike lane in the hard shoulder for pickups to sideswipe. All is well.

Ahead, the centre of Google-land, with a little "google maps" pin to show you where the Google maps team is based. All is well.
But what's this we see from our SUV?
That's right: it's a Google employee, on a Google staff bicycle, cycling between offices, while holding a phone.

This is Google, not just encouraging their employees to ride bicycles, but to check their email as they do it. And they aren't even wearing a helmet!

It is unacceptable, and concerns us deeply. Is Google really on our side. We know Microsoft are, because they gave the internet the Comic Sans font, the official font of the Association of British Drivers, Drivers Protest and the like. But Google? By encouraging such reckless behaviour by their staffers, we now have doubts.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Does extra parking calm traffic? Yes

We're going to be looking at the Clifton "calming traffic through more parking" plans, to show that this isn't really a self-centred proposal by the Clifton Parking Faction (our comrades, the Keep Parking Free team), but instead a dedicated attempt to reduce risk in a busy city.

Here is the Shaldon Road/Muller Road Junction. Our secretly camera-instrumented traffic dodger is not waiting the ASL we paid our tax money for, apparently because "you get run over by buses turning left on the left turn light, or buses turning right"

  • At 0:04 a car parked with its hazard lights on, some L-plate vehicle, we believe.
  • At 0:08 the tax-dodger pulls up to go straight on, even though there are no markings on the road to indicate that this is permitted.
  • At 1:23 in this dull video (and people wonder why we text in our cars at junctions. This is why), a bus turns right.
  • At 1:27, behind the camera, the bus comes to a halt, as it cannot get past the parked car, not with the queue of cars waiting to turn right.
  • At 1:31 someone sounds their horn. We are not sure who. Either its the silver car behind the bus, or a car behind the bicycle complaining that they are in the way.
  • At 1:40 there are now five cars behind the bus, the traffic speed has been reduced to 0 km/h. No pedestrians will get hit by cars now.
  • At 1:46 the green light reaches Shaldon Road, the tax-dodger pedals forward through a junction that is now blocked by stationary cars. Any cars behind them will not be moving, hence their speed is also 0 km/h: again, safety at work.
  • At 1:50 the known subversive weaves their way through the now traffic-calmed junction, so ensuring that if there were any pedestrians in Station Lane, they would not get run over by a speeding cyclist.
There we have it then. A single L-plated car can traffic calm a busy junction, reducing vehicle speeds by 15 km/h, that is, from 15 km/h to 0 km/h.

This shows how the addition of extra parking spaces can calm hazardous junctions, and is not merely an attempt by a group of self-centred Clifton residents to add extra parking for their extra vehicles. Although that is, of course, a side-benefit, one that other traffic calming ideas: bike parking, trees and build-outs don't over, which is why it is the only form of traffic calming that we, the Bristol Traffic team approve of.
Update: added the video

Saturday 14 May 2011

BRI parking issues on Southwell Street

Someone cornered a team member a few weeks back and said "where are the secret plans for Southwell Street?". We forwarded them on, but are still waiting back for the note the police stuck through their door advising them on the rules for parking on pavements in Montpelier.

We are also trying to get permission to reprint one email from Ben Hamilton Baillie, Kingsdown resident and shared-space advocate, sent to the Bristol council denouncing the proposals. We need his permission, plus a review from the legal team, before printing. Legal? Well, it is somewhat critical of the plans.

In the meantime, here's what's happening as a video

and a photo of V984DNA

Why the increased number of vans on the co-opted pavement and over the pedestrian-in-middle-of-road paintwork? BRI parking changes. With the closure of most of the Horfield Road car park for building works, there's a deficit of patient parking. 75 spaces in the St Michael's Hill car park area (through the tunnel to the right, perhaps?) being opened to patients and their visitors. Hence less parking for staff -who have no choice but to park on the pavements or pretend pavements.

There's a notice up on a lamppost on Marlborough Hill discussing this. It also lets slip that staff parking permits cost £4/day. Not bad for the city centre, not bad at all. Given that once the NHS gets privatised in the next 6-12 months, the annual "consultancy fee" with our GP for getting a disabled sticker will probably go up to £200/van, this rate starts to look appealing for city-centre commuters, although it's not quite as flexible as the magic blue sticker.

News update

The team is being too lazy to do some serious reporting right now, but here are some news updates.

1. Crap Walking And Cycling in Waltham Forest is offline, along with all its artwork. While some people discuss why this is the case, and consider whether any of its comments about the Waltham Forest NHS or local council have, in some way, been considered libellous, we are pleased to provide the true explanation.

Waltham Forest acted as a control group in the Cycling England project. Some cities were funded to add more facilities to their city to encourage poor people to cycle. How would it be possible to determine if any increase in cycle usage was related to this work, compared to other trends like the rising cost of fuel? The answer: a control group. Waltham Forest, then, was encouraged to spend no money at all on improving walking or cycling in the city. To see whether motivational newsletters alone would suffice, Waltham Forest was funded to produce joyful "wouldn't it be better on a bicycle" leaflets and such like, things that could be stuck up at NHS hospitals that the staff and all patients would drive to -to see if this alone was sufficient. As the crapwalthamforest blog showed: it was not. With the wrapping up of the Cycling England project, Crap Walking and Cycling in Waltham Forest has been terminated. Note also that Waltham Forest itself will be terminated -however the lessons from the Waltham Forest experiment have been learned, and councils all round Britain will be encouraged to Walthamize their neighbourhoods.

2. An M4-A4174 link route isn't going to get funded, as noted by the BBC, "Hopes for M4 link to Avon Ring Road dashed".

We have some bad news for whoever in the BBC wrote that last article, with phrases like  "Hopes for an M4 link to the Avon Ring Road near Bristol have been dashed for at least another four years" and "it could have an important impact on the Bristol and Bath Science Park".

Dear BBC provinical reporting team: there is an M4 link the Avon Ring Road; it is called "the M32". Please consult a map of Bristol before writing an article next time. There is also an option of getting to it from the M4/M5 junction and down the A38, and while a bit longer, it avoids the kingswood to M32 traffic jams caused by people trying to drive round the ring road from Bath to the North Fringe.

The article should in fact be titled: "Hopes for yet another  M4 link to the Avon Ring Road dashed". It could then raise the fact that Chris Skidmore, the Conservative MP for Kingswood, doesn't understand the theory of induced demand any more than the head of North Somerset council. Specifically it isn't enough to add a new link road for today's demand; the new link road will encourage more traffic, more driving in, more people living out of Bristol and commuting by car to the North Fringe area. It would have been better to admit this and rather than push for a single extra link road, push for a new link road to be added every five years, so as to keep up with planned demand.

Walthamize the planet -and have a nice day!

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Paying the Wingmirror and Bodywork taxes in one go.

Field Operative "TH" emails this photo of trouble on Bond Street South, outside the new Future Inns Hotel/Phoenix Court BCC Offices heading towards the Underpass in Temple Way at 5:00pm 10th May.

Delivery driver in the Mercedes Van ends up with a Peugot 207 cutting across him. The 207 lost his passenger mirror in the process.
Just to add to the situation, the Bus Driver thinks he can follow other cars by mounting the Central Reservation kerb to pass...

Not enough room - One sandwiched 207!

We express our sympathies to WN60ZXD, and welcome them to now owning a Montpelier-style vehicle. We must remind FirstBus drivers, especially that of WX05RVK that their vehicles are wider than cars, and when they go up on raised pavements and reservations, the vehicle tilts a bit too.

To stop this problem in future, we propose an awareness course for car drivers, teaching them that vans have a tendency to pull out without warning, and that buses not only have blind spots, they may not be fully aware of the width of their vehicle. Just as London has a "don't undertake lorries that come up behind you at ASLs" campaign for cyclists, we propose a "don't get stuck where a FirstBus bus tries to drive over a central reservation to get past your collision with a van". We believe that such an awareness program would be more cost-effective and beneficial than a "how wide your bus is" course to FirstBus drivers. 

Monday 9 May 2011

Cheltenham Road Parking issues

Now that the police have gone, the bikes and bus lanes have returned to their key role in the city: providing parking.

Here we see the outside of Uplands Mobile Multimedia, vendor of sound systems for cars.

Only customers and staff can park on its driveways, hence the large warning of 7x24 wheel clamping, £125 pound unclamping fee. If only we'd voted for the SNP, such things would be illegal, and we'd get free parking at the BRI. As it is, you can get clamped on private land. What to do.

Well, the shop provides a nice answere underneath:
Parking in the
`is permitted'
All day Saturday
Your co-operation
is appreciated

Technically that's wrong, as parking permitted all day sunday too, and after about 6:30pm weekdays. And if you are really important, you can park in it whenever you want.

What's interesting here is the "your co-operation is appreciated" phrase. Who do they want to co-operate? It's not the people parking -they don't need to co-operate. No, it must be the bus drivers, the cyclists, and the council, who must be kept an eye on in case they ever want to extend the bus lane hours to the whole day so as to help people on bicycles and public transport.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Technically, Stokes Croft is not Bohemian

As we get lots of new visitors asking about Stokes Croft, we have to provide some more details about Stokes Croft than locals need.

Stokes Croft is not Bohemian. Bohemia is a part of the Czech Republic. While there may be Czech speakers in the area -and there is a Polish supplies shop, it still isn't part of the Czech Republic. Bristol doesn't have a Welsh quarter either.

London, interestingly, does. It has a Welsh Language school, in "Brenddu", to give Brent its welsh name. Perhaps they too have police vans with "Heddlu" on the front too, as we have been seeing quite a lot of those recently.

What Stokes Croft does have is excellent artwork, and some good beverages at the cafes and pubs.

It also has that famous take-away, Slix, seen here from across the road. Behind it: ninetree hill, Thomas Street, Dove Street and the Kingsdown escarpment.
Speaking of Slix, last month we linked to a review of it, which, in the filtered reviews, included this portion of a one-star review:
Just after I had ordered a guy came in and ordered the same as me.  Quickly after ordering he shouting at the man behind the counter "yo! Make it a fresh one this time!"

I knew then that this wasn't the best choice of take away.  I was then handed a stale bun in a napkin.  The burger was dry and a bit crispy, closer to a biscuit than a burger.  The lettuce was off and the relish tasted like it had fermented.

Slix's lawyers have been in touch to make it clear that this review gives the misleading impression that it is possible to get meals cooked fresh if specifically requested. Such an accusation is without proof, and therefore must not be repeated.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Queries that Bring visitors

As part of our "watching you, watching us" series, here are some of the keywords that brought visitors to the site. Stokes croft was the main bringer of visitors, more about the riot than the wonders of Slix. Comments appear after the "-" symbols.
  • stokes croft riot -481 visits with the word stokes croft
  • stokes croft tesco
  • bristol stoke gifford riots -got some bad news for you there: nothing happens in S Gloucs.
  • coronation road cycle path bristol -we call it the farm pub path
  • bri parking -70 visits on this
  • dropped kerb kingsdown-yeah, they ticket you for parking there
  • vertical parking technique
  • "the aa" -we are coming up in the first page of results here!
  • cllr gollop cycling
  • parking near cabot circus -walk from the stokes croft bike lane. 50 hits for this last month.
  • parking near primark bristol -see above
  • brunel ford -ooh, top five there.
  • cabot circus free parking -not any more
  • cheap parking near cabot circus -for shoppers, the big multistorey car park
  • hack tachographs -always use a TOR proxy when planning to break the law
  • hiviz fetish - still?
  • aa driving school -top 5 there too
  • bristol massage parlour extras - get in touch, we have a special on Keith Chegwin accessories
  • british school of motoring how to park -if they knew, they'd tell us
  • bus lane fine in bristol if dropping someone off - possibly
  • can i turn right from zetland road to gloucester road -yes
  • eric pickles declares war - we are #1 on google on this now
  • free parking in bristol st michael's -yes, on evenings and weekends
  • free parking near college green -only for councillors
  • is it illegal to block a junction on a road in standing traffic -yes, but it doesn't stop the AA doing it, so it must be OK
  • is stokes croft a bad area? depends: good for drugs and paid sex, some of the bars are OK.
  • kingsdown parking permits for sale -yes, we found that out, didn't we?
  • mr ahmadou spiritual healer - but can he fix speeding tickets?
  • parking at abbeywood b&q - bills come in the post if you do this all day: the students learned this a while ago
  • stapleton road bristol sex for sell -apparently so
  • prostitutes and truck parking -see above
  • ubht staff parking -lots.
  • will my car get towed in st pauls bristol -try it and see
  • can you get done for 30 mph in a 20 zone -yes, and we hear they are issuing tickets now
Remember: if you are researching illegal acts, always use an anonymising proxy server. We do.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Kingsdown RPZ permits for sale!

The real issues in the city are surfacing now that Stokes Croft is calming down. Parking in Kingsdown -which is the place you want to be if you want to throw bricks down at the police, or have a quiet lunchtime beverage or two in the Hillgrove.

The good news is that someone is selling day passes on gumtree. 40 days for £50. Not bad, if these are the first fifty of a household -the ones you get free. If not, well, you can get 50 for £50, so you make £10 on each 40 you sell. We congratulate the vendor, Tom, for their entrepreneurial spirit.

update: the ad got deleted, so we've reproduced it except the phone number
40 x Bristol Kingsdown Visitor Parking Permits £50 kingsdown, Bristol

Reply to this ad or tom on (deleted)

Park in the kingsdown areaof bristol for roughly a pound a day.

Bargain. using a machine to payanddisplay would cost you a fortune

What we can't do is praise their information security tactics. Tom lists his phone number. Which, if you search for on google, brings up other references to someone called Tom Arkell, and their facebook page. We hope that he isn't the same Tom Arkell that's listed on the university law department rugby team, as one expectation of people studying law is reading and understanding things like the RPZ regulations which say that one-day passes "However, it cannot be transferred between households and must not be sold on."

Really, that's just incompetent. Tom: invest a couple of quid and get a disposable SIM card just for such transactions -or use a disposable email address. We would -if we had any permits to sell. As it is, we aren't interested, as with a disabled sticker on our van we don't need them.