Wednesday 18 December 2013

Aberystwyth Road, Bishopston

Time to catch up with the Aberystwyth Faction's proposals for an improved Gloucester Road -one that makes the bus lane tidal and so adds short-stay parking in the opposite direction.

We have now heard from the councillor behind the petition:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: David Willingham <>
Date: 17 December 2013 13:48
Subject: RE: Gloucester Road Parking Changes

  The petition neither mentions nor proposes making any changes to bus or cycle lanes as that is not what it is asking the council to change. 

  If you visit Gloucester Road, then you will find that there are various parking bays that could be brought into use to allow the traders to benefit from more passing trade during the peaks, without having a detrimental effect on cyclist safety.

  As a local cyclist who uses the Gloucester Road, I have no intention of trying to make it more dangerous for cyclists, and if done carefully and in the right locations, I believe the proposed change would make it possible to share the limited road space a little more efficiently.

  If the council do decide to act on this petition, then they would be required to perform a highways safety audit of any locations they intend to change, as well as statutory consultation on any changes, so all road users, local residents or traders could have their say.


Cllr Dr David Willingham
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Bishopston ward

So there you go: it's about sharing the limited road space a little more efficiently.

If you look at the petition, it does call out the recessed parking bays outside  288 Gloucester Road -the original Maplins site -these changes are non-controversial and likely to be unopposed, except perhaps matched by some demands for bike parking alongside.

What is a flash point is going to be the sentence "Furthermore we call upon Bristol City Council to implement "tidal" parking on Gloucester Road,". Because its goals, "Parking on the inbound carriageway during the evening peak" means "no bus or bike lane inbound in the evening rush hour", while "Parking on the outbound carriageway during the morning peak." means the same in opposite direction.

This is where the controversy lies. What is being proposed here implies no bus lane to-and-from the North Fringe commute, which means
  1. No bike lane for anyone heading to the north fringe
  2. No bus lane for anyone trying to get the Wessex red busses. These are the ones used to get to and from UWE -and if the students can't go by bus or bike, that leaves car. We don't want that. They don't pay enough taxes to deserve any tarmac.
  3. Anyone commuting by car up the north fringe is now going to get held up by congestion on the A38. As that's something that wasn't covered in the C4 documentary: what it was like to drive down Gloucester Road before the showcase routes were launched. It was much, much, worse. The buses would have to stop in your lane to let passengers on and off, and if there was a bus heading north stuck behind a minicab with its hazards  on near the minicab office, your road would block as the two buses would never be able to pass each other. Gloucester Road was only viable as a driving commute option on those days that the council was actually enforcing parking. Which is something you wouldn't know on the commute until you were committed. 
See that? No matter how you get to the North Fringe, car, bus or even bicycle, the showcase bus route benefits. We don't expect the motoring advocate groups to realise that, as Bob Bull of portishead, official spokesman of the ABD in the evening post, is too busy complaining about his journey along the portway to appreciate how the bus lane helps commuting by car.

We do fear that the bus companies will pick up on this -as will UWE. And the cyclists, well they are the all-powerful-cycle-lobby.

Gloucester Road is going to be flash point there.
  • Statistics imply that Gloucester Road has the highest number of reporting cycling incidents. -if you add Cheltenham Road to the figures, the A38 stands out as either the busiest cycling route in the city, or one of the more hazardous. Notable is that the Railway Path, which has the highest use, doesn't appear on the list at all.
  • Bristol Cycling Campaign's followups on police involvement in any of these incidents imply the outcome is "not interested". This has the potential to be an issue in its own right.
  • Even the mountain bikers are getting involved in this. Because while they are happy doing things like the red bits on the Super Nova trail, they at least know if they do get it wrong, they won't have somebody on the phone drive straight over them.
  • A lot of the North Fringe employers have Bicycle User Groups with group mailing lists -easily organised, and capable of co-opting driving colleagues into the battle.
  • The cyclists have more influence in the national press.
Putting it together, the shops may think that a review of the bus lane and a tidal system may get wide support -after their success in ensuring they retain their commuter parking in the RPZ-, but they are potentially getting into trouble. How are they going to react if cycling campaigners start handing out leaflets saying "email your councillor" to cyclists waiting at junctions on gloucester road? Can they take the trade of cyclists for granted -or are they going to have to deal with people coming into the shops, creating queues at peak hours, then when they get to the counter announcing they won't shop there as the shopkeepers are endangering their lives.

This is going to one to watch.

As for now, at the time of writing (16:02, Wednesday December 18), the petitions stand at

That's gone in a week from about 62-63 each -the cycling petition doubling, the shopkeeper's going by ten. This should be a warning sign to the councillors: they run a risk of making more enemies than friends here.

Thursday 12 December 2013

The Aberystwyth Faction: short stay parking matters more than life

This is just a first post on what is going to brew up into the next story to keep the Evening Post readers suitably outraged. Remember: we covered it first.

Regular readers may recall our coverage of a recent channel4 documentary, one that showed how the council was enforcing the parking restrictions in the showcase bus route at peak hours -and worse than that, by doing it with CCTV, ensuring that people really really didn't stop there, rather than "stop for 10 minutes -no harm done" stopping.

Well, now it's got national coverage, it's going to blow up

The "more parking" campaigners did manage to hold off the rollout of resident parking zones nearby, so ensuring that the parking areas will be available for staff and other commuters -leaving a remaining problem: where do shoppers go?

The answer is obvious: the bus and bike lanes.

Hence a petition: Fairer parking on Gloucester Road.

This is The Aberystwyth Faction's petition
We call upon Bristol City Council to remove peak parking restrictions from all parking bays that do not cause obstruction to traffic lanes of Gloucester Road, 
Furthermore we call upon Bristol City Council to implement "tidal" parking on Gloucester Road, and to permit the following:
•Parking on the inbound carriageway during the evening peak.
•Parking on the outbound carriageway during the morning peak.

This is pretty significant as if they get their way, it means that the bike lanes will be dead, and the bus lanes will only work for people heading towards town in the morning, away in the evening.

Which means that anyone trying to cycle in the opposite direction, say to school, or even to work on the North Fringe -and get there alive, are stuffed.

The right to park outside a shop is more important than the rights of others to live

In the other corner, just warming up, are the people who mistakenly believe that their right to live is more important than allowing people to get a bag of chips without having to park round the corner and walk 100 paces.

Their petition: Petition: Uninterrupted Cycle Lane on both sides along entire Gloucester Road

This is going to go head to head -two pressure groups, seeing who can be the loudest. Those demanding that Gloucester Road becomes like Aberystwyth: free range parking, or those who don't want the cycling clock pushed backwards -but instead want the bike lane expanded and enforced.

It's going to get exciting!

Sunday 8 December 2013

Cyclists: documenting their own failings

A common complaint in the tier-two comments on the tier-three press outlets is "why don't helmet-cam cyclists ever put up pictures of themselves running red lights?"

Hypothesis 1: the cyclists with helmet cameras are not from that subset of cyclists who run red lights, therefore such footage does not exist.

Hypothesis 2: they're just embarrassed when they do things they shouldn't or just screw up.

For some balance then, here's a bit of footage we managed to pick up from one of our in-field tax-dodgers, doing Apsley Road to Hampton Road via the newly re-engineered Lower Redland Road. Regular readers of our site may recall that this is the road where Skansa proposed removing east-west cycling options as part of the Sustainable Travel plan: cyclists would have created conflict with parents driving their children to school sustainably along the one-way system.

0:07 : cycle past a line of stationary cars. While not illegal: still selfish, arrogant and wrong

0:50 : turn right into redland road with the SUV in front, taking advantage of them blocking whiteladies road -but curving over the contraflow in the opposite direction. Yes, the contraflow is new, but that is no-excuse.

0:51-1:50: heading down lower redland road at a speed which -had there been any vehicles behind- have held them up and so created more road rage. Note two cyclists heading the other way, showing that if Skanska's plans had been accepted, there would have been less of that menace on our streets. At 1:30 the new school annex is on the left.

1:50-51: after the vehicle in front pulls out, our tax dodger looks right before setting off.

1:52: as they set off at 5 mph they notice the vehicle in front has actually stopped and have to brake hard: you can see the camera drop, which may be due to the front suspension engaging and/or cyclist momentum carrying them forwards.

The cyclist did stop with over 1 metre to spare -but if they had gone into the back, they'd have left some rubber marks on the rear bumper. And who would have paid for that? Exactly. The unregistered, uninsured, unlicensed cyclist would have run off with what was left of their bike, leaving the owner of the car to pay for the was needed to clean the bumper of and rubber or blood.

While we are at, can we note how hard it is to sport black cars on a winter morning. They should all have hi-viz and some reflective markngs. Consider this: the police cars have hi-viz.

Saturday 7 December 2013

Spicing up the school run

Halfords are reporting a surge in sales of helmet cameras. While one motivator may be that it finally resolves the he-did-I-did and she-did-I-did arguments about positions in road, actions and numberplates, we know the real reason is to provide entertaining content for others to watch on youtube.

Of course, that  content needs to be entertaining, which implies "not dull boring journeys where nothing happens".

This is why we are grateful for FW13EKN spicing up the school run

As you can see, most of the journey down Cotham Hill is boring boring boring. Apart from the delivery van in the middle of the road, nothing worth mentioning. This is a boring journey for the parent, while the child has nothing to talk to their school friends about.

This is where the black golf FW13EKN comes into the picture. You can first see it waiting for the zebra crossing to clear, as it has just turned right of Whiteladies Road.

As soon as it gets round the corner, the driver sees that there is a spare bit of double yellow line for him to park his car into, and if he veers across the road aggressively enough he can take it before anyone else.

He also sees the oncoming parent and child, and decides to make their day entertaining by veering rapidly in front of them. It'd be easy to blame the cyclists for being unlit, did the father not have a Hope Vision LED lamp on the front of his bike, and the child a high power LED light of their own. No, this action wasn't done because they hadn't seen the bicycles, it was because they thought they could clear them in time.

Of course, tax dodgers being what they are, they did take up the space, and the way the parent blocked the car off he has been held up for thirty seconds -which is thirty seconds less of the credit-card base consumption that is essential for keeping the British economy afloat.

Eric "common sense" Pickles is proposing some changes to parking, including a 10 minute right to park on double yellows, and an end to the CCTV parking enforcement which stopped this driver parking in Whiteladies Road directly. We say: it doesn't go far enough.

  1. Bicycles hold up parking and should be banned.
  2. Bike racks take up valuable pavement parking space that should be removed.
  3. The consultation doesn't make any mention of giving us 10 minutes grace to park on white zig-zags by zebra crossings -of which there are so many in shopping areas.
Without such changes, the inner city will never be revitalised by people driving in from the suburbs to buy packs of cigarettes.

Returning to the video, you  can see the parent appreciating the extra frisson of excitement the driver added to an otherwise unmemorable school run -which is why he thanks the driver for their contribution. It's hard to see, but the driver waves their hand in acknowledgement of the appreciation.

Thursday 5 December 2013

The Grove Road Experiment

The local polis are out on the streets monitoring junctions and telling everyone off if they do something they shouldn't, which comes down to : Cyclists and red lights, cars and ASLs and one or two mobile phones.

Yet anyone who doesn't see people in hi-viz police wear at a junction is either too busy reading their facebook notifications or just dim -they should have noticed what what was happening, and behaved.

But no, people got caught by police wearing hi-viz, on a publicised operation. Which makes us wonder: would many more have been caught if the police hadn't been wearing hi-viz.

Being a data science organisation, we decided to see if people do actually change their behaviour and drive legally when they believe that they are being observed.

We chose Grove road for this, as the "no entry" sign has only been there five years and people still resist this unwanted war-on-motorists infrastructure by ignoring it completely.

Key features
  1. Contraflowing it can shave about 3 minutes off the journey time from Redland Hill to Whiteladies Road, so aid the school run or the commute
  2. You have to commit before you get stuck in the last twenty or so cars at the Redland Hill roundabout, so either plan to use the cut through always, or make a decision based on congestion.
  3. If you change your mind you have to reverse and cut up to Redland Hill again -losing you time, especially as you will now have to wait to cut back in: it will cost you more than if you had stayed in the queue.
Being game-theory enthusiasts too. we like this, as it means
  1. You have to decide whether to opt to break the law before you can see if the junction is monitored.
  2. The gain of breaking the law is 2-3 minutes saved.
  3. If the junction is monitored, you are left with the choice of retreat -costing you more than if you hadn't turned off, or you can continue
People aren't likely to just turn back because you point out its a no-entry sign: they know that, and they've made a conscious decision to ignore it because the gain "2-3" minutes matters to them more than the probability that they will get penalised for driving the wrong way down the road.

What then, does it take?

This experimented was conducted on a weekday between 08:28 and 08:38; this sequence shows all but one of the cars choosing to run the sign (that one was omitted as the camera team were in a conversation with a friend and not watching it properly -they shall be soundly beaten).  Only three cars came the other way, showing that that there are two cars driving illegally for every one legally. This gives all car drivers a bad name.

Experiments included:

  • Point and talk: no, driver calls cyclist a git
  • Wave at passing car for attention: no eye contact
  • Point at sign: car does not slow down
  • Stand in middle of road and act like you are texting: first car stops, but the mercedes  CLS 320 S22JBW doesn't.

What does appear to make a difference -and you can see from the final two events -is be blatantly holding a phone up as if you are about to take a photograph of the car. Once the driver decides that they are going to be photographed, then they change their minds and revert to the original route. We got a 100% success on that option.

This argues that it is not public attention that changes people's behaviour, nor is it the presence of registration numbers on the vehicle. It is the drivers' concluding that the risk of there being a penalty of of being photographed driving past the no-entry sign outweighs the cost of reversing back and continuing on the original route.

It doesn't matter if people see you, as long as the police don't.

The irony is, of course, that the entire experiment was being filmed on a helmet camera -yet somehow the sight of a phone being used as a camera changed driver behaviour in a way that a cyclist with a helmet with a camera attached did not.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Editorial: Bristol Traffic is not Anti-Bristol-Post

Another day, another batch of tweets and comments confidently claiming that Bristol Traffic is in fact anti Bristol Post.

In fact, some of our staff peruse the web site -and at least one person has actually bought a copy.

We too consider ourselves part of the local press.

So why are we accused of being anti-Evening Post?

We think it's partly because we we dare to acknowledge that in order to gain advertising revenue and retail sales, the Evening Post needs to generate local controversy stories. Anything against the local council -now the local mayor- is good, along with anything "anti-progress", such as campaigners against : Ashton Gate being turned into a supermarket, the Bristol Rovers ground becoming a supermarket, the South Link Road turning South Bristol into a traffic jam. But there aren't enough of those stories, and when there is a lull in the "Ferguson wants to make parking in bus lanes a crime" story, the post has to fall back to anti-cycling articles to generate interest.

We think it's partly because sometimes we use it as a source to identify "mad local campaigner of the week" stories which are printed unquestioningly in it, like the person campaigning against a traffic light that is the sole cause of traffic jams Whiteladies Road. Our defensible datasets do have the misfortune of showing up such people as ill-informed idiots without enough foundational knowledge of how queues work to be allowed near traffic planning.

There are two types of Bristol Post article. There are those written by human beings, which can be interesting and balanced.

Then there are those that are machine generated by taking a set of prewritten sentences, selecting a proper subset of this and then printing them in a random order. These are the articles we are against, because we can create them ourselves and gets boring after a while. And being so repetitive, they even destroy the value of our Evening Post Bingo Cards.

The problem with the human-written articles is that they are so petty they actually cause your brain cells to commit suicide, its like reading a Thomas the Tank Engine novel to a three year old for the seventeenth time. Not only that, they are so out of date, as we showed about their "shocking" discovery that some parking bays near the university were going to be turned into bike buildouts.

And as their number of editorial staff dwindle to a number that can be counted on one hand, they end up having to actually use stories from us and other sites leading to a lag where you can read about Arley Hill texting on our site, or wait a week and get the evening post stance. Why go to the BEP to read about Colston Hill's bike lane improvements, when Wheels On A Bike covered it three weeks earlier.

Frankly, we can't be bothered to read either kind of article these days:, be they machine generated, or human generated off borrowed online content. They are beyond salvation.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Bristol Parking on C4

Channel 4 did a documentary about Bristol's driving and parking issues -you can watch it until early december.

Being Bristol's premier "rational" commentary on parking -and the one with the best historical datset, it's a shame to see us being excluded from the program in exchange for a little old biddy who walks up and down Gloucester Road telling people to move if they don't want a ticket.

Some initial observations
  • That TomTom claim that Bristol is "the most congested city" is bogus -it is based on the definition of congestion as "the most significant difference between peak hour journey time and off-peak journey time". We've discredited this before. By their reasoning Bristol is "more congested" than London because driving round London takes forever at any time day or night.
  • The focus was on Gloucester Road, with some coverage of the M32 from cameras, and somebody "bold" trying to cross the end of it at Newfoundland Way.
  • Stokes Croft coverage was limited to making the assertion that the riot was about a supermarket, not about drunk people being help up by the police.
  • They treated one person on the streets of the croft shouting at a traffic warden as unusual, which shows the under-researched program didn't spend more than half an hour in the area -otherwise they'd know that shouting at complete strangers there is a common activity.
  • Anchor Road popped up with a mini blocking the bus lane -if the council had done the right thing in the 1970s and turned the harbour into a motorway exchange, there wouldn't be such a narrow approach to an unwidened Jacob's Wells Road. Nor did the closure of the A4 outside college green get covered -let alone queen's square. The way the council has systematically resisted road widening and even converted roads into parkland was not covered as a cause of congestion and parking problems
  • George Ferguson appeared to be cycling over the Cumberland Basin bridges, that mess of entrances and exits where nobody ever knows which is the right one to exit on, a road where the on-ramps heading north are angled perfectly to keep the small amount of visible tarmac hidden in your blind spot. Cycling there showed he is in fact a very "bold" mayor.
A key theme was that the council need to tow cars parked in bus lanes because at peak hours the road traffic collapses when this happens. Yet nobody considered it is only buses, cyclists, motorcyclists and taxis that are held up when someone pops into a fish and chip shop for a couple of minutes -AND THEY SHOULDN'T BE THERE!

By eliminating the bus lanes, gloucester road could have more parking for staff and customers to the shops. We'd have to eliminate the buses too, as it would otherwise be like before the clearway went in -when your lane would be held up by a bus that was hanging back to let an oncoming bus get past a minivan with the lights flashing.

You see -there was one key point missed: it is buses that cause congestion. Bus lanes simply eliminate essential parking spaces. And as you can see from elsewhere in the city, every busy high street needs its delivery vans.

One confusing aspect of the C4 programme is that the residents and shopkeepers of Gloucester Road seemed to be complaining the urban clearway preventing parking from 07:30-09:30 and 16:30-18:00,  one and half hours of an 09:00-17:30 shop's opening hours.

Yet they were generally protesting about the RPZ plans.

Which are completely independent of the showcase bus clearway restrictions

And which, by eliminating commuter parking, should actually increase side-street short stay parking

Yet they were protesting. Which makes no sense whatsoever, except that the word "parking enforcement" appears in both contexts. But the urban clearway zones are for traffic flow, so coming to the council house to complain that an RPZ will destroy Gloucester Road is utterly incoherent. They could complain that the showcase bus route is destroying it today, but that is a separate issue.

Why complain then?

  1. They have conflated the loss of commuter parking with the fall of civilisation.
  2. They are dependent on commuter drive-by customers who will not pop in to the shops if they have to drive round the corner to park.
  3. They fear that a reduction in commuter car traffic will impact revenue
  4. They will not be able to drive to work themselves.
  5. They believed what that Evening Post told them.
Other Gloucester Road issues which surface in the video
  • That chip-lady walking up the road telling people to move or they get a ticket? If the council's goal is traffic flow over revenue, then the fact that she is doing this without being paid is not some act of civil disobedience, it is being an unpaid traffic enforcement officer. Also: that chip shop is just up the road from her house. While we don't normally encourage walking. looking at her trying to 3-point turn, walking would actually be faster here -and she should warn people about the council while doing it.
  • The Prince of Wales pub did not get any coverage, even though it is a core institution -nor did Grecian Kebabs or Rocco's Pizzeria. None of the long-standing institutions got the coverage and respect they deserve.
  • If you want to get your hair cut on Gloucester Road, go to Franco's. Everybody knows that. If another hairdresser on the stretch is complaining they are losing customers who aren't stopping on the drive home -there may be other factors at play.
The RPZ issues for residents are independent of Gloucester Road -but something for coverage another time.

Monday 25 November 2013

Residents Parking: Bristol's Poll Tax?

According to the evening post, opposition in Montpelier and St Pauls is rising to the point where civil disobedience is contemplated. Already we have an unnamed pensioner pushing for active resistance: "We need to paint out the lines and pull down the signs."

Well, being able to park outside your house is a fundamental right -and when you consider that the troubles in Northern Ireland grew out of a failure of the civil rights movement there, it is better to accede to such demands before they get out of hand.

Even so, hopefully the area will go for rasta colours on the kerbstones, not royalty.

We'd like to highlight a particularly insightful solution to the problem from "Pogo_T_Clown :

Given the tendency of communities to descend into NIMBYism when they're tasked with self-policing, I think this is a flawed idea. However, I do believe that it would create quite a burden for the council to determine the needs of each street in the city. As such, I would suggest a "Street-twinning" system where, for example, a street in Clifton would be twinned with one from Bedminster. The residents of the Clifton street could drive over to Bedminster and provide an objective view on the level of parking required. The people from Bedminster could catch a series of buses to Clifton and return the favour. This would save the council money and improve ties between the communities in Bristol, which could only be a good thing.
This is an innovative approach which we hope the leaders of The Parking Rebellion embrace.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Clifton: premium knives out for the residents

As we said yesterday, the knives are out in Clifton. And when we say knives, we mean the  Messermiester Meridian Elite 9" Kullenschliff Chef’s Knife on a granite kitchen unit, freshly sharpened after its wash in a Miele dishwasher that actually texts your iPhone when the wash is done.

Why? Because the Clifton Business Improvement district's press release on the RPZ contains the phrase "99% of those surveyed feel there should be less residential permit parking in the Village with more pay and display and business permit parking"

The 99% surveyed are the businesses obviously, though they don't give full details about the population size for the survey, number of responses, whether the responses are a representative sample of the population -all the things that we, as a data science organisation, would expect. As the release also says "over 300 business" (sic),  then perhaps that was the population, and the response was over 100, with 1 person saying "no".

This may seem a small detail, but we like defensible data, which is why we like to back up our datasets with photographs, and are prepared to email councillors for the data behind their claims.

Similarly, we like data to justify conclusions, such as "Through BCC’s actions shoppers are more likely to migrate to Cribbs Causeway with free parking and to Cabot Circus where there is sufficient car parking and an efficient bus service."

Note how they avoid noting that Cabot Circus hasn't got any free parking. Because it doesn't -yet there's invariably a queue on the M32/Newfoundland Way approach on a weekend, showing that if people are prepared to drive a distance to the destination, they are prepared to park there for a while. And, if you look at the Cabot Circus pricing, you'll see that it is priced for shoppers not commuters. Because the Cabot Circus operators know that parking is too important to waste on commuters, not when you want revenue-earning shoppers in there. Cribbs Causeway don't have that problem: they have a separate one, namely it is in the middle of nowhere unless you have a car or take the bus.

Anyway, the key issue here is "less residential permit parking in the Village with more pay and display and business permit parking"

If they'd stopped at "less residential permit parking in the Village with more pay and display ". There would have been a nice argument "we need more space for visitors than residents", which could have been a negotiating point -how much for exclusive residents vs shared. Given the residents are (presumably) sacrificing their right to double park in the Mall, unless the Mall Garden Residents Association comes round to approving of echelon parking, instead of saying "please double park instead". they are already sacrificing a lot of the parking capacity of the area.

With a nice tangible "paying customers => money" equation, the BID team would have gone into meetings with the residents with a good negotiating point.

Except they go and spoil it with that final clause "and business permit parking".  That lets the cat out the bag. The reason the Clifton BID want resident parking capacity reduced is not for those customers who would otherwise drive to Cribb's Causeway or go to Cabot Circus. No, it's for commuters into Clifton: the shops and other businesses, such as the soon to be re-opened private hospital whose  management have just discovered that there is nowhere on site for their 100 staff to park and they'd better have a plan here.

This is why the BID is going to go head to head with the residents, and why they have to get the Astroturf out to make it look like the resistance to the RPZ is going to come from residents who will suddenly get hit with bills of "up to" 192 pounds for their car.  It's not about how much residents will have to pay for their #3 car. It's not even about the 0-48 pounds they will have to pay for the #1 car. It's about whether weekday parking space in Clifton should be allocated to residents or to the staff of the businesses in the area.

Which is why this is going to be so much fun to watch it would be worth attending and just asking completely off topic questions like "I only park on zebra crossings -will that still be legal" or "if Bristol Zoo is complaining about staff parking issues, is it because of their history of opposing park and ride to the zoo in favour of letting visitors pay to park on the downs?"

Yes, the wednesday evening event will be entertaining -please attend if you can. Being at Clifton High school there will be free parking for your 4X4 on the school keep clear area -and, as the commuters will have gone, other spaces further up college road if you find yourself forced to walk

Monday 11 November 2013

Keep Clifton Village Astroturfed!

The knives are out in Clifton, the only bit of the city that has successfully resisted the cycling movement

There's now a movement, Keep Clifton Special, meeting at Clifton High School, 7pm wednesday 13th.

Looks like an Astroturf movement by the Clifton Business Improvement District, who are serving up the full PDF.

The Council proposes to charge residents up to £192 per permit, businesses up to £240 per permit and visitors up to £1 per hour to park

Up to: meaning £192 for your third 4x4. We say 4x4 as there's a discount for the #1 car if it's class A.
We all enjoy and benefit from the thriving mixed community that is Clifton - homes, shops, schools, restaurants, hotels, places of worship and all manner of others from professional firms to the Zoo. But we may lose it forever...
"Mixed". Except poor people and cyclists -which is why we consider it special : the least diverse part of the inner city. It's also why its more boring to sit in a cafe there watching the passers by than it is to sit in the Canteen watching fights break out in Turbo Island.
High streets across Britain are under attack from supermarkets, out of town centres and the internet. Clifton Village is no different. Our shops cannot survive on local trade alone and charging shoppers up to £1 per hour to park would kill them off. There is no benefit to anyone in living close to empty shops!

This  is a fun one. See the "no benefit of living close to empty shops". What that means is the clifton BID are trying to win residents over by saying "all your shops will go away". Whereas the Clifton co-op mini-mart cannot survive on local trade alone.
A recent survey of all Clifton businesses found 100% thought the current proposals would damage their businesses and Clifton as a whole
Several businesses are already preparing to leave Clifton. These businesses currently provide local employment and support our shops. We want to keep Clifton as a special place for people to live, work and spend their leisure time

There's a big jump here from "shops that will go out of businesses if an RPZ comes in" to "businesses already preparing to leave clifton". It's a good attempt to conflate them, but falls down on the "support our shops".

What it means is this: keep Clifton free for shop staff and businesses to park in.
We have no public car park in Clifton and a very limited bus service.
In its favour: no cycle parking either. Not given the council has never rolled out its on-road cycle park. It does have the Clifton Down train station -but that is still a walk from the village, and the number 9 bus meanders there so slowly you would be faster going down Alma Road on a space hopper blindfolded. Yet there is nothing to stop the clifton BID providing a free/discount minibus for staff and shoppers.

Neither is likely to change in the foreseeable future and many people have no realistic transport options

Surely making the area an RPZ will actually free up parking spaces for shoppers that would otherwise be occupied by commuters? Isn't that perceived as a benefit? Of course not! What's being discussed here is staff and commuter parking, not residents or shop customers.
We all want to keep out commuters who use Clifton as a car park and then walk or take the bus to the city centre.
This is the issue. It's not "keep out commuters who use Clifton as a car park" it's "keep out commuters who aren't important enough to work in clifton.
But we can achieve this without spoiling this beautiful conservation area with obtrusive signs, pay and display machines and double yellow lines everywhere
No it is not cluttered by anything right now

All the cars in these photographs are an integral part of the historic landscape -and as they are commuters for the nearby workplaces, essential to the lifeblood of the village

This is where the whole yellow lines and clutter argument is a dangerous one to go near -and why we never do it ourselves. It's too hard to defend. Especially when there is double yellows in the core of the village, near where the bollards for the few tax-dodgers who enter the village go

Clifton is special and deserves a special parking solution. Without it, Clifton will become a shadow of its current self and we all – residents, businesses and visitors – will be the losers.

The knives are out here, and the Clifton BID is the one with the kitchen knife slowly pointing it at the residents. Because it is not after shopper space -not really, not given so little exists on a weekday-. It's after making sure that they get enough commuter space for their staff-and that's only going to happen if the space gets taken away from the residents.

Anyway: wednesday could be entertaining!

Saturday 2 November 2013

The cycling police state: first they came for themselves

Cycling is apparently, "the new golf" for the silicon valley people -the cyclists building the new surveillance state.

They can pop out on a weekend and climb the Santa Cruz Mountains

In the distance, the airship hangars of Moffet Field, which we covered earlier.

We pointed out that the NSA could easily run a fibre cable under the cycle path to the Googleplex. We broke that news two weeks before the "legacy" printed press. Nobody can accuse us of being a spoof now.

What do these police-staters talk about? Their plans for watching everybody. But who do they start with? The drivers? The pedestrians? No, they come for themselves, with the Strava application running on their phones, measuring their time up Old La Honda.

With their phones they can measure their speed, compare it with others, and give them their performance on a ride

Which is where we have some bad news for this particular tax-dodger. 2400 of 7500 puts them only just inside the top 1/3 of climbers, which isn’t very good, not for someone near the top of ninetree hill. And that heart-rate numbers makes it clear they were suffering all the way up, heart rate jittering between 170 and 184.Which tells us that they are under fit, getting old and losing peak heart rate, and possibly overfond of consuming beer at those establishments at the top of Ninetree Hill, such as the Hillgrove.

No, this person wasn’t up to having business deal conversations with anyone else, not in aerobic deficit for half an hour. If cycling is the new golf, this person isn’t a good golfer.

Which is information that Strava now knows. In fact, it will know

  • who they ride with.
  • what their fitness levels are.
  • whether they are Soft Southern Jessies who don’t cycle in the rain.
  • what their commuting schedule and route is
  • what their leisure hours are
  • what health issues they may have
This is valuable information -and yet they are giving it away for graphs of how fit they think they are.

For everyone worried about the cyclists building a surveillance state, know this: they will practise on themselves first until they have it right

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Thursday 31 October 2013

Ghost Bikes

You cannot be too careful on a dark All Hallows' Eve when you drive home. Ensure that you look all around you, especially at the industrial units on your right as you turn from Trinity Street onto St Philips Road, who knows what nasty creatures maybe lurking there. But just remember, you must shield your face from the baleful red glow of the video camera of a possible Ghost Bike rider. We say possible, as this driver of YCIIEUX did not actually pass though the apparition, so it's not proven yet that they exist...

View on YouTube
(video and text from Obsydian Bris)

Monday 14 October 2013


As more and more of the communist cycling brigade resort to personal CCTV to aid them in whining to the establishment, how can we protect our right to privacy?

Surprise. And if surprise isn't enough a bit more speed will help.

Here the britain-hating-communist is too dumbfounded to even turn around and follow the vehicle to record the number plate, they never expected the vehicle to be travelling "a la continent" to the right of the lane dividing barrier.

Sunday 13 October 2013

The cyclists are building a surveillance state: a real one

We have just discovered Richard Wellings, a comedian who pretends to be part of a think tank, IEA.

This is funny: he's running a spoof think tank, a bit like The Thick of It without the swearing. More like the coalition side of the series, where they all go on some off-site meeting and compete on daftest ideas: "lets bill poor people for having spare rooms!", or "let's make it legal to run over pensioners", going round this in circles until someone says something like "let's stop building a nuclear submarine fleet for ICBM delivery as the cold war ended in 1989" and then there's one of those silences round the table as the person who said it looks slighly embarrassed and someone else has to step in .

Anyway, This Richard -is he a new Ali G? The Borat of Politics? - is trying to pretend that there is a mass lobby of cyclists secretly trying to build a mass surveillance state?

Look at this tweet:
Massive increase in surveillance and regulation advocated by cycling lobby:

See? Imagining the cycling campaigners, who can't even stop their councils painting over bike lanes, building a police state? Clearly a spoof.

Because if he wasn't a spoof character, if he really wanted to show where the cyclists were building mass surveillance infrastructure, he'd look away from London and over to Silicon Valley, to Mountain view -a city that goes so far as to say "bicycle friendly" by the side of its wide and unblocked cycle lanes

Looking on the Stevens Creek cycle path, we can a small child pedalling on their own, helmetless.

That's bad enough, but it's not what we are talking about -we are looking at the buildings either side of it.

What is that set of buildings on the right?

It's The Googleplex, the mountain view site that hosts the core engineering teams.

What does the Googleplex offer its staff to get around? Hoverboards? Autonomous Cars? No: bicycles. Shared bicycles. Sharing capital items is clearly communism, sharing bicycles is an attempt to destroy society.

Now look in the other direction, to the eastern edge of mountain view. Strange looking buildings going off into the distance.

This is Moffett Field -a military, government science and private airfield, hosting, amongst other things
  1. NASA Ames research center: the buildings to the right are wind tunnels for testing rockets, be they designed to go into orbit or merely fly over the north pole to deliver their uranium payloads.
  2. The 7th Psychological Operations Group: a psychological warfare unit from the Vietnam War era to keep the country compliant.
  3. Larry and Sergey's Google jets: accessible via the bike path or a 20 minute drive.
  4. Until recently, the Sunnyvale Blue Cube, believed to be downlink and processing point for all the US government spy satellites.
  5. The California National Guard keep trucks and fly planes & helicopters in and out
  6. Until the mid 1990s: Orion planes used to hunt for nuclear submarines in the Pacific
This is the Military Industrial Complex viewed from a single path. One side: the engineers building the systems to store all our personal emails. The other: the NSA, the US army, NASA and its various "secret" space shuttle projects, plus psychological warfare groups.

A short distance away from each other: close enough that you could hook up direct fibre optical links from the NSA buildings to Google -the kind of thing you'd do if you wanted access to the emails.

And what is not so much dividing the area as uniting it, as joining the two together?

That's right: a bike path.

These are the cyclists building a mass surveillance state, and your spoof think-of-it think-tank minion is claiming that its the UK cycling campaigns, well, you're clearly out of your technical depth.

Come up with some that is vaguely realistic and so can entertain us, like, say, having Badgers move the Goalposts or something

Saturday 12 October 2013

cyclelanes4cash: has the traffic department "gone rogue"?

A subversive becoming known to us, Wheels on a bike, alerted us to this: cyclelanes4cash. A story he broke and which made the online cycling press. Well, with the Evening Post outing itself as nothing but an entertainment magazine, the online press, including bristol24x7 and the bristolian (also in print at various fine drinking establishments) are the news -news the post follows 2+ weeks later.

Anyway, Colston Street -from the centre to Park Row. The easiest cycle route up this hill, and so a popular alternative amongst the tax dodgers to "death by park row", which is not only steeper, it abandons you at the triangle with a forced left turn: precisely the wrong direction and option to reach the university alive.

It is also Sustrans route 4, London to Wales for the same reason. Due to its popularity, the council provides a cycle route up the hill.

Or to be precise: provided.

five car lengths worth of the bike lane were painted out and turned into paid parking spaces. why? So the council can raise money.

We don't support this. Why not?
1. We can already park for free in a bike lane
2. Paid parking spaces use up free bike lane parking
3. it forces cyclists into our way, be it the pavement or the road.

As it is a climb, keeping the marxists out of our way actually increased journey time, yet instead the council here is forcing them to get in front of us. And for what? £20K/year?
You can see where the paint has been melted over to create the spaces

Up the hill the red paint returns, showing that if the council were serious about revenue, they've got a lot left. This is a fact that must concern the cyclists, as now the traffic department has declared open season on every bike path in the city.
Specifically: if there is a bike lane along a road where there are some clear revenue opportunities, the bike lane is doomed.
The senior council management -Mayor George Fergus and Cllr Mark Bradshaw have claimed that they are reversing the change. Presumably it was that or face public ridicule and the need to update the 2014 bristol cycling maps by removing (more) of the bike lanes.

Maybe so, but it shows that the Traffic Planning department has gone completely rogue: looking after its revenue interests ahead of any other concern: not just the needs of those cycling tax-dodgers, but the needs of those of us driving up the hill who don't want to be held up by subversives who can't get above 6 mph on this hill.

Sunday 6 October 2013

Stokes Croft: the marxists are coming for our pavements

Britain is a capitalist country: it belongs to the people with money. We show that we in this group by driving cars.

People who cycle they are, well, marxist followers of Ralph Milliband. They hate Britain, and look to Europe for inspiration.

Here we see on the Croft, someone taking over the pavement to sell things other than sex or drugs, with customers an their bicycles up on the pavement too.

Across the road, the bike park area is overflowing -and discussions are now afoot to expand it.

This is not our stokes croft, where the pavements are like the bus lanes: short stay parking

All is not lost. Here on Moon Street the pavement provides excellent parking opportunities.
Resist the marxists! Stand up for Britain. Park on a pavement today!
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Friday 4 October 2013

Stokes Croft: gentrification in action

Stokes croft has always been built on a few key themes: driving, parking where you want, fast-food, paid sex and substance abuse.

Yet  those traditions are under threat.

Here a delivery cyclist traipses along the lower croft

At the other end, two cyclists are waiting to turn right. Not only are they both without helmets or hi-viz, there are two people on the bicycle in front.
Round the corner, more bicycles, more people looking -happy-, even though they cycled there

A few streets away, the traditions of the area continue
But notice this: as this person sleeps drunk on the pavement, he wears hi-viz.

Even here, the traditions of Stokes Croft -no, of Britain itself -are being eroded!

Thursday 3 October 2013

The Stokes Croft Shared Space

In one stretch of the croft, all lines have been painted out.

It is oddly calm, especially now you can park where you like for as long as you like.

There are a few people on foot and bicycle

And passing HGVs
We wonder if this "shared space" will see small children playing along stokes croft. We also hope that parking restrictions cannot be enforced while the yellow lines are absent.
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Stokes Croft: its own beer -and a shocking new pub

Today marks the start of the Bristol Beer Week, an event dedicated to showcasing some of the mind altering substances manufactured and sold in the city.

If there is one beer we need to highlight, it is Stokes Croft IPA, from the Ashley Down Brewery. This is the first time that Stokes Croft has its own beer. It has had its own Spirit - Methylated- for some time, so this beer marks another sign in the gentrification of the region.

We must also highlight a new drinking establishment on the street, taking over The Croft, is a new pub, the Crofter's Rights.

While normally a new pub is something to welcome, especially now that it is selling Stokes Croft IPA, this pub is unusual.

The sign at the bottom says "bikes welcome". And inside -can you see it: hangers for bicycles on the wall.

Cyclists are being encouraged to cycle to the pub, get drunk and go home. What do we get? There are no pubs between Bishopston and the Bearpit that offer parking spaces to their customers.

This shows how gentrification is changing the face of the area. Once people in the Bearpit start drinking single malt meths, it will be all over.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Van in disguise

An important piece of advice to van drivers who wish to demonstrate their rightful place on the road is that it is sometimes necessary to do this incognito if you do not have the time to enjoy a joke and pint with the friendly local constabulary.

If you do not have access to a plain white van (and you call yourself a van driver?), a hired vehicle is the perfect substitute, allowing you to perplex any cyclist who thinks they have the right to safe passage as they'll never be able to tell where you work.

Here in the video we see that the driver of the hired Thrifty van HX53JXR demonstrates the technique with perfection as they pull into the local DPD depot on St Philips Road.

Friday 20 September 2013

Peter Abraham: show us the 20 mph road rage data

One goal of Bristol Traffic is to create datasets on how people get round bristol. It had been to create a  ubiquitous mass surveillance police state -but it turns out Google have done that and then pass on the details to the NSA. So a focus on local issues for us.

While covering the Down's refusal to adopt 20 mph speed limits,we picked up on a statement by Cllr Peter Abraham:
A 20 mph limit might be appropriate for some streets, but I think it will cause road rage incidents and a lot of frustration for motorists on The Downs."

This assertion, road rage causes frustration is news to us. We've been against 20mph for a long time, not because it increases the likelihood of us getting out a cricket bat and bashing in the windows of the Citron Dyane doing 19 mph in front of us, but because it means it will take longer for us to get round the city.

Now  presumably road-range incidents need >1 vehicle, so driving at 20 mph when it is quiet isn't going to cause you to jump out the car, get out the old cricket bat and bash in your own windscreen. The probability of a road rage incident must not only be a function of the driver, the road and the effective limit, but of the speed of the vehicle in front:

For any driver, Dn the probability equation becomes one of:

P(road-rage(Dn, road)) = fn(driver, road, limit, velocity(Dn), velocity(Dn-1))

For an entire road over a day, with K drivers, the probability of a road-rage event is

Sum(Dn=1..K) P(road-rage(Dn))

To predict that road-rage frequency, we need to know the value of the function fn(driver, road, limit, velocity(Dn); we can derive the rest from there.

It is critical we get the numbers to derive this, as well as understand where it is a discrete function such that it returns 0 for all speed limits >20, or if some drivers are capable of going over the edge at 30 mph, 40 mph, etc.

Nobody appears to have this data other thal Cllr Abraham, who is shaping city speed limits based on his private dataset.

It's more important than the downs too. If the road-rage probability gets higher whenever the speed of the vehicle in front is less than 20 mph,  velocity(Dn-1)<20), then anything in our city which forces people to drive below 20 mph is going to create incidents.

That means we have to ban bicycles from all city streets where a car could be held up behind them.

For example, Hampton Road, redland. There would be a nice fast 30 mph stretch between two traffic jams, yet WV06WML is trapped in traffic between two bicycles. He only just manages to clear one and so sprint up the hill to the St Michael's Hill roundabout traffic jam by aggressively overtaking it and swinging in before hitting the oncoming cyclist.

if there were no cyclists here this incident would not have arisen. Admittedly, the journey time of the car would be the same -it's a different function, one that depends on the congestion of junctions, so is a function of all road users in the city at a specific time, not just the velocity of the vehicle in front.  But we aren't worried about that: we are worried about road rage.

Peter Abraham appears to be the only person in a position of authority in Bristol with the confidence to assert that 20 mph limits increase road rage. He needs to publish this data, not just so that we can resist the rollout of the 20 mph zones, but to back our campaign to ban bicycles from the streets.

But will he provide it? We asked last week for that data:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bristol  Traffic <bristol.traffic at>
Date: 13 September 2013 09:17
Subject: Press Query about speed limits in the downs


The Bristol Traffic Project is -as you may know -one of Bristol's premier online reporting sites, focusing purely on transport.

While we are often regarded as some form of shallow spoof, we consider ourselves an evidence-driven organisation: we use photographs and videos to defend our statements, while our coverages of game theory as applied to Bristol's streets include articles that have been cited by such luminaries as Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book, Traffic.

Accordingly, we'd like to follow up our coverage on the proposals for 20 mph limits in the downs, with a query for some data to back up the decision of the committee to retain a 30 mph limit.

One statement you have apparently made to the evening post was that a 20mph limit is inappropriate for the downs: I think it will cause road rage incidents and a lot of frustration for motorists on The Downs."

Here are our questions

1. Do you have any defensible data that demonstrates that 20 mph limits lead to road rage?

2.  London's Royal Parks all have 20 mph limits. What is unique to Bristol's parks, or its residents, that mean that having a 20 mph limit in an urban park is something which they are unable to cope with?

3. Did the downs committee consider how the retention of a 30 mph limit will continue to make cycling on these roads intimidating, especially for families -and that either this would be at odds with the management plan's stated goal of encouraging cycling -and likely to push the cyclists, especially family groups, onto cycling on the footpaths instead?

We await your responses


Chief Data Scientist,
Bristol Traffic Project

---------- Forwarded message ----------

To date we have heard nothing, even though a week has passed. Presumably Cllr Abraham is a busy man, but even so we are concerned that this data -which would be invaluable to the debate about cycling as well as 20 mph limits is being held back.

We shall have to follow this up with another request.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Anything Clifton can do, Stokes Croft can do better

Our Whiteladies road texting coverage shows that 1 car per traffic light cycle is on the phone. Well, if that's clifton and the commuters from the ""20 mph means road rage" suburbs over the downs, Stokes Croft will have to do better -won't it.

Here then is a video at about 16:50 on a weekday evening. The tax dodger is cycling up Nugent Hill, while some children are returning home in the other direction. Given the 15% gradient, that family is earning its school dinners.

Then, down to Arley Hill to count the no. of vehicles phoning or texting in the traffic jam. Arley Hill cuts through from Cotham to Cheltenham Road, where, if you tuck into the bus lane and then go up to turn left towards Ashley Road, gets you to the M32 at the St Pauls Roundabout -without having to go to the bearpit roundabout or nearby. This makes it a nice little route from Redland and Clifton to the M32 at peak hours -too nice, and too widely known.

If you look, there are a set of different actions taking place in the vehicles
  1. despair. driver holding onto the handle above the door, disbelieving that it can take so long. Tourist?
  2. phone: talk, text or facebook.
  3. eat.  Not just junk food either -a couple of people are eating prepared meals from plastic containers. These are locals who know it takes 10-15 minutes to traverse Arley hill at peak hours.
  4. enjoy the music. Only a couple of people are doing this -but they seem happy.

It comes out to seven vehicles: P217UWS, HG10AKP, KM59KML, FA04VZL, G869UAM, KF54EHH, BF08DJP.

Fluke! the Cliftonians cry! Pure Chance!

Possibly. Lets try that again, shall we?

Heres the next video, from the bottom and back up again.

There's been enough of an interval that the cars at the tail of the previous survey are now at the front: KF54EHH, texting at the end of the last video, is now the second car in line, still texting happily. Now the car behind, MF56VJC, has joined in.

Carrying on up, we encounter the van BF05VZT,, a large grey van WV13YHA on the phone, and then the white BMW WN13CCE with the driver texting.

The driver in the "don't cook just eat" car is hand-rolling a cigarette -false alarm.

After the speed bump comes the renault megane HV03WNR, then, after a small gap, the Honda Civic WJ06ZBN with its driver speaking on his phone. Finally, just after the RAC van comes white van W9MWM. At this point the vehicles are moving, so the driver here is left with a problem: how to text while driving over a speed bump.

The solution is obvious, put the phone onto the steering wheel and hold the wheel while you text with your thumbs.

After that: no more. Note that the normal scapegoats -taxis and minicabs- are not joining in. They work in the car, there's no need for them to text ahead saying "I am stuck in the traffic jam that stretches from Arley Hill to M32 and which appears here every evening".

Looking at the numbers from that last video and comparing with Clifton, in that initial stretch from Nugent Hill to the lights, there are 13 cars, of which five are on the phone: one speaking, four texting.

Thats 38% of our sample set. Discount the speaking and focus on texting: 30%.

Those are numbers clifton doesn't even come close to. Here we have a line of traffic and over one driver in three is on the phone.

Clifton? DNC: Did Not Compete.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Does car parking encourage local shopping?

One of the "Pickles war on the war on motorists" issues is that the lack of free parking is destroying the high street. An interesting assertion, but is it backed with real data? Well, we like our data over opinions, especially when the opinions come from politicians, national or local, which aren't backed up by any evidence.

Here is whiteladies road on a weekday, from Clifton Down shopping centre  up to Blackboy Hill, or more precisely the Port of Call pub.

Some things to observe.

  1. 0:00 starts at clifton down, where a mid-size Sainsbury's provides groceries and beers.
  2. The first 1:15 of the 2:30 video contains a stretch with vast amounts of short stay parking for shoppers. With the roll out of the bus lanes, the commuter parking here is now gone.
  3. The first 1:15 of the 2:30 video contains many vacant shops. Two camera shops -killed by digital cameras eliminating the printing business, and Amazon. One bookshop: killed by Amazon. A bottoms-up off license. Some clubs which went away when "the strip" fell out of fashion.
  4. The upper half of the video contains lots of shops -even though the parking spaces there are all full. It includes esoteric shops: kitchens, ellis brigham, artists supplies premium things: a fish shops, a cheese-vendor, and everyday things. 
The implication here is not that a lack of parking kills shopping, but that online trading and digital devices has destroyed the business models of some shops, trends in nightlife (and the cash to party) others. The 2008 banker-created recession has probably been more destructive than anti-car policies in this road.

Another issue may be that the Sainsbury's sucks up all the daily shopping cash, leaving only outdoor coffee shops nearby and a post office/chemist. The upper section of the hill keeps going due to a large local resident population with enough money to buy things, and the fact it contains the last off licenses, pubs and chip shops before the downs, or more precisely the student halls of residence on the other side of the downs.

(footnote: one of main camera of this project, a panasonic TZ27, came from Jacob's cameras which was at 0:54. London Camera Exchange in central Bristol is still surviving, showing that some of the more specialist camera shops are surviving -even though parking there is worse)