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 Not only that, they are so out of date, as we showed about their "shocking" discovery that some parking bays near the university were going to be turned into bike buildouts.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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