Sunday 31 January 2016

Bristol's Parking Problem: 2016 style

There's an article up on the evening post saying for the first time in a generation, a majority of people are using either buses, bikes or walking to work instead.

This is fascinating. Too bad there is no coverage of the methodology of the survey other than it's "a survey of the commuting habits of thousands of city residents". How did they conduct this survey? A random call of Bristol numbers? Did it include s survey of the rural backwaters of S Gloucs and N Somerset? Did they look at the distances travelled to measure commute-miles, rather than just journeys? Did they ask firstbus and wessex bus lines for data, along with ANPR logs and phone company travel datasets? These are the things we need to know.

Anyway, in the list of people the paper called for an opinion, they reached for their Fax Machine contact list and got in touch with Hugh Bladon, Bristol's member of Association of British Drivers, who is always woken up from his sleep for a quote. Hugh Bladon actually lives in Weston Super Mare, a town which is still looking forward to 1974, so it's always surprising that they can contact Hugh for a quote. That's 20 miles away, a distance quoted by Google maps as 38 minutes drive from Stokes Croft on a Sunday evening. If Mr Bladon really does commute into Bristol every day, he'll be spending an hour each way, first on the A370, A38 or M5+ portway, then in stop-go mode through town to finally reach his destination. And for what? To live in Weston? That's the place where Banksy hosted his Dismaland Exhibition —and that's not a coincidence. Probably the main problem they had there was people walking round town laughing at stuff and taking selfies in front of the sea front, not realising they weren't actually at the exhibition yet. Why would anyone voluntary live there? If you have children, think of what it does to their minds? And, think what it does to your life, with 2+h a day sitting in a car.

Essentially, you can't trust the judgment of anyone who lives in WsM of their own volition. So the fact he is called on to be the ABD spokesman is a bit worrying for them: can't they find anyone else?

And what did he have to say? Rather than go for the survey methodology —always the first line of attack—, he accepted the findings and then blamed the council
I suppose people are getting fed up with travelling into the city. here is not enough provision for people to park, and I suppose more people are using the park and rides. I would also think George Ferguson and his 20mph scheme are frightening people who think they might get a ticket for doing maybe 23, or 24mph Those are the sort of things that drive away people.With the expanding economy, I would have thought more people would be in cars. It might also be there is not enough parking. Cycle lanes now take up a lot of tarmac where road parking used to be.
This is hilarious. We have never heard of anyone too scared to drive into the city in case they get a ticket(*).

Blaming the RPZ for removing a large amount of free-at-point-of-use commuter parking is something he should have gone for, but instead he imagines that people are scared of getting a ticket for driving at 24 mph. That's like saying people are scared of using the M4 in case they get a ticket for driving at 74 mph. They aren't, you don't.

As for the "Cycle lanes now take up a lot of tarmac where road parking used to be.". He must have a different cycle map than everyone else. The purpose of cycle lanes is to provide short stay parking. Even bus lanes are only closed to parking for 3 hours a day, 21 h a week.

But he does have a bit of a point: there isn't enough parking. Only what you want to park has changed.

Look at this video of a Bristol (not a WsM) resident cycling to the shops on a weekend.
  1. There are no cycle lanes.
  2. There are still people driving, not scared of getting a ticket for driving at 23 mph.
  3. A lot of the people driving don't seem to looking where they are going.
  4. None of the car parking space has been re-allocated to cycle lanes.
  5. There are lots of bike racks,  about 8 opposite where Havana Coffee used to be, two over the road by that, then more by costa coffee and sainsbury's.
  6. All of these bike racks are full.
There is nowhere to park a bicycle

Our reporter cycles down hill, avoids getting hit by the 4x4 turning from Aberdeen Road without looking, and the hatchback pulling out from the other side of the road without looking, carries on a bit, having to wait with a car in front for a driver taking their time to reverse park, then pulls over themselves to find somewhere to park. First rack: 12 bikes; no room for more. Visible across the road: two racks, four bikes, no space. They continue down to Whiteladies Road. On the far side of the road, there's space for about 30 bikes, looking fairly full. On this side of the road, 6 more racks, space for 12. Except, again, full.

One of the bikes there half of an abandoned frame, lying on its side. So the the tax dodger gets to do something nobody who drives in from WsM can get away with; they stick their own bike on top of it, lock up, and go to the shops. So we see approximately six cars worth of space allocated -all from the pavement, we note- for bicycles, which is a fraction of the space allocated to car parking. What we see in this video is, on Cotham Hill alone, 32 cars, two spaces free. For bikes, 48 spaces: all taken, albeit some with dissolving relics.

Is this an unusual event? Not really; the same situation was encountered on Gloucester road an hour earlier: one space outside Maplins, someone else queueing for it before the tax dodger had even unlocked. Because on that side of the road, there are about eight bike stands, from Zetland Road up. In contrast, if you wanted to drive there, there's more space.

Essentially, we are seeing a shift to cycling as a transport option in some parts of the city —and we aren't seeing the city adapting to that.  Hugh can complain about removal of parking, but there is significantly more space allocated to parking here than any other other form of transport.

This little stretch of Whiteladies Road is interesting, as it is what the ABD use in the videos calling the council "bonkers", showing how shops have suffered from a lack of parking and have had to shut down.

Well, our anecdata beats theirs, at least in terms of being up to date, and what it says is "Bristol does have a parking problem, but it's not just for cars".

(*) If you have —or know someone who has— stopped driving around out of fear of getting ticketed at 23 mph, please get in touch.

WN60HDC: Sign Language

If you look at any of the London cyclists videos, they normally involve shouting, swearing and recrimination. Well, a lot of Bristol coverage is like that —but it can be done less confrontationally.

Here is a silent movie showing the exchange of opinions on the merits of texting while driving between a tax dodger and WN60HDC WN60 HDC

After a point and a dismissal of he phone in use, the tax dodger points to their camera and then the number plate, the driver then responds with their own pointing action.

This is of course the site of our experiment where we see 1 car in 6 looking at their phone screen on a weekday morning. Here, on a saturday afternoon, Whiteladies Road is less congested, so it's surprising to see someone having time to check up on facebook. They don't check for very long, perhaps they don't have any friends.

Thursday 28 January 2016

Hints of a left hook

Nothing spells "left hook" like a van coming up alongside with its indicators on. However, this one did actually wait for the cyclist to get past.

For London viewers: note the stressful conditions of Bristol streets. This is actually Sustrans NC4, as marked by some fading paint.

For ABD members from Weston Super Mare and 1973: note the parking spaces stolen by the RPZ, the cyclists in one direction, and how a van was held from turning by another bicycle —costing the company and city money.

Saturday 9 January 2016

Prewar Bristol

A lot of newcomers ask us: "what was it like before the war began?", or "How was the city centre before it was ruined by the war?"

Well, the War on Motorists began over 25 years ago —and the city is still suffering under it. Before the war, you could drive from temple way over the rickety flyover, straight to the centre, then past the cathedral and out to the A4, with only a couple of traffic lights in your way. Not now.

Some of the history of pre-war Bristol is still there, if you know where to look. Redcliffe Way for example —have you noticed how wide it is? Or why the road from the Jacob's Wells Road roundabout to (what's left of) the Bristol library is wide, yet deserted. All distant memories of a city before the war.

Here, in our historical artifacts, we've found an A-Z map of Bristol from 1985, when the motorists were not yet under attack by a car-hating council.

Look at the subtle differences
  1.  Castle Park is as it once was: parking. A large amount of its surface area was dedicated to medium to long stay parking for "Broadmead Shopping Precinct" —one of Britain's premier shopping areas. Now: stolen by greenery. And of course, there's a bike path. And look what happened to Broadmead —its decline is not a coincidence.
  2. There's a road, "College Green", where now there is a park: "College Green". Newcomers just don't appreciate how wonderful it was to have a main road going past the cathedral entrance, between it and the council house —showing the council what mattered to Bristol: fast-moving cars. When Anchor Road was reworked in the early 1990s, it was designated the through road, and College Green taken from us; Dean Road becoming a cul-de-sac.  And of course, the park added a bike path. This was one of the first losses in the war —and possibly the greatest strategically. No longer did the council get to see a main road out their windows. And without that, they lost their way: they forgot what mattered.
  3. Redcliffe Way goes all the way through to The Centre, via what is now known as "Queen's Square". That got captured by the tree-huggers at the turn of the century —who went out to plant trees to commemorate their victory. And of course, a bike path.
  4. The infamous rickety flyover has gone. Nobody who has arrived in the last 15 years will ever appreciate the thrill of driving over that single lane flyover, wondering if today would be the day that it fell down. Stolen, replaced by a lights-controlled gyratory. And of course, a bike path.
  5. Templemeads had a motorail terminal. Actually, this was news to us. Apparently you could drive onto a sleeper train and get to Scotland overnight. Of course, being able to drive up the M5, get stuck at Spaghetti Junction, crawl over Wolverhampton on the M6 and then eventually get to the A74 replaced that. And even now, with the M74 and new motorways round Glasgow, the speed enforcement on those motorways have made the journey worse.
  6. The railway path doesn't exist. While they didn't steal our roads for that —they could have converted that old railway line into a new road, or at least extra parking. Instead: a route designed to encourage more law-breaking cyclists to come into the city.
  7. The M32 ends at the "Allied Carpet and sex shops" junction, rather than the more convoluted "queue for Cabot Circus Parking" junction. Again, the addition of vast amounts of parking has made congestion worse on the M32. And, with more lights, pedestrian and cycle crossings.
  8. Nine Tree hill is open to through traffic. This was the great partition of Kingsdown. Before then you could drive down Springfield road, cut through Ninetree Hill and make your way to Jamaica street —allowing you to get all the way from The Downs to the city centre without a traffic light. Not now —and by forcing everyone to drive down Whiteladies Road, St Michael's Hill or Arley Hill+ Cheltenham road, it only makes congestion worse. And again: there's a bike path on the roads they stole.
  9. Prince Street Bridge. Two way, Closed to cars —possibly indefinitely.
  10. Lots of the other little "P" areas have been taken away by offices and housing. And what have we got in exchange? Nothing but the multi-storey parking of The Galleries, the multi-storey parking of Cabot Circus, the underground parking at @Bristol and the vast amount of parking behind Temple meads. That's it.
You can see, then, the multipronged battles which we've been fighting —and losing— in the war on motorists. Those bits of red paint on the main roads aren't the real war, they are just the victory signs, the equivalent of unionist and nationalist kerb painting. No, the battles fought have been far more strategic
  • The closure of the inner ring road, the replacement of College Green and Queen's Square's main roads with parkland and bike paths. And in doing so —increasing congestion on the remaining roads.
  • The closure of important rat-runs, closures which partition whole parts of the city. And in doing so —increasing congestion on the remaining roads.
  • The replacement of surface parking with multi-storey parking facilities. And in doing so: encouraging congestion.
This is what we are up against. And while it's easy to point to the current mayor and say "20 mph zones! RPZ zones!" and accuse him of conducting a war on motorists, those aren't the real war. Those are details in a conflict going back decades.