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.