Tuesday, 26 July 2011

And Frank?

From IMDb, web HQ in Bradley Stoke, comes the opening quote of Once Upon a Time in the West:
Harmonica: And Frank?
Snaky: Frank sent us.
Harmonica: Did you bring a horse for me?
Snaky: Well... looks like we're...
Snaky: ...looks like we're shy one horse.
Harmonica: You brought two too many
We've been wondering what happened to "Frank", who took our criticisms of a path with a 50cm drop in it personally.

Well, finally plans to fix it are in order. Or at least a plan to close off a big chunk of the path with the goal being to fix it: .
The work is being carried out to upgrade and realign the path. Construction is expected to take four to six weeks; the diversion should be lifted at the beginning of September.
We like that, "re-align the path". Presumably its less embarrassing to fix getting your height wrong by raising the entire path than it is to lower the other one, especially when you have large mounds of earth piled up nearby, earth you'd have to pay to get removed.

Will the work be done by September? No idea. In their favour there is a diversion, and the work is scheduled to be done out of term time. What we fear is that the result won't actually be rideable.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Incompetence or Institutionalised Motorism?

There's a sign up on one of the ring road roundabouts, asking for comments on the new cycle route seven proposals.

Some people may think "good, the council cares, they aren't as incompetent as the People's Cycling Front of S. Gloucestershire claim"

Except where is the sign: it's on the ring road, visible only to passing motor traffic.
The foot/cycle path is to the left of the road here, and you cannot see this consultation sign from the cycle path.

Think about that: the people who would care most about having the cycle paths in the area improved aren't actually being asked what their opinions are, because the signs asking for consultation are only visible from the dual carriageway road approaching the main dual carriageway ring-road -a route that only brave, fast, roadies would be doing.

That's either sheer incompetence, sheer indifference or Institutionalised Motorism?

We wonder if the cycling team even have a clue where the signs went up, they just handed it off to the bit of the council that deals with consultations, who stuck up the signs "in the usual place". Nobody thought about putting them up where people cycle, and nobody has bothered to go and look up where the signs are to see if they are in the right place for anyone cycling to see them.

S Gloucs Council: The No Cycling City.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Institutionalised Motorism near UWE

We have another "I" today, to go with the council's thinking: Indifference, Incomptence and Ignorance; it is Institutionalised Motorism

This means: to think about cars first, everything else as an afterthought.

You can see it here, in this two way walking and cycling path on Coldharbour Lane, heading north from the UWE entrance to either Old Filton Road or to the crossings to get to Bristol Parkway station, or, if you turn left, to the MoD roundabout. It is wide, no risk of conflict between pedestrians and bicycles. But what's that in the distance

Yes, it's a bus stop. The foot/bike way is cut in half width, just where people will be queueing for, getting on and getting off a bus.
There's no shelter either. While that may stop people cycling into the shelter -which would otherwise block the entire pavement- it means that people waiting for buses will get wet as well as potentially hit by people cycling along. Anyone waiting here on a dark and went winter evening will end up resenting anyone cycling past.

But why does the road narrow here? It's because the alternative would be to allow the bus to hold up motor traffic.

Given a choice of two options
  1. providing something safe and pleasant for public transport users, pedestrians and cyclists
  2. something that kept motor vehicle traffic flow at its highest,
the council went for the traffic flow option, rather than having a wide pavement, a wide bike lane and a covered shelter with seating.

This is why there's continuous conflict between people walking and cycling in S Gloucs and the city to the south: the cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users are left scrabbling for the leftovers while the majority of the road "investment" in the region goes into road widening.

That is Institutionalised Motorism all the way to the top of the council. There's no real pretence of supporting cycling in this city, other than the Boris Johnson "poor people can if they must" kind of viewpoint.

The worst part is this: the council planners are probably proud of such bollocks. They will drive home in their SUVs to their Bradley Stoke semi-detached suburbs with one car per adult and say "I did something really good for people who walk and cycle in the area. I helped provide a bus lay-by to encourage public transport use, and we painted a bicycle path on a widened pavement". Because to say "I fobbed off everyone who doesn't drive with some shit infrastructure" would be an admission of incompetence.
We wonder how long it will be before they want bollards or "cyclists look out for pedestrians" signs?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Institutionalised Indifference

On the approach to the M32, the A4174 ring road cycle path has an option to turn left and head to UWE via Old Filton Road. That's "the pleasant option".

There's a sign saying "cyclists, please give way to pedestrians"

It's as if the key fear of the council is that someone walking may get hit by a bicycle.

It isn't. The key danger for anyone walking or cycling is getting hit by a car. Yet down by the MoD roundabout, anyone on foot or pedal is left to fend for themselves on many of the crossings. No "motorists, please give way to cyclists and pedestrians" signs.

Some have a bit of green: meaningless. If you get run over using one of those, it'll be dismissed as "they chose to die"
Within the MoD premises, even the green lines go away, and you expected to run or cycle over two-lane wide roads to get to the narrow little traffic islands in the middle.
When the Bristol Rovers grounds opens, there will be two lanes of cars sprinting up this hill to get to the match; somehow we suspect cycle parking and safe cycling nearby will be "forgotten about", or pushed to one side the way each supermarket always has six bicycle stands looking forlorn in a far corner of the car park.

The presence of cycle-city funded roadsigns show that this a recommended route.  Not recommended by UWE, who are most pleased that the new football stadium will add an extra 1200+ parking spaces during the daytime. Who the fuck for? Students? Not the vice chancellor, he has his own space for his shiny jaguar. Staff? We have no idea, we just know that this seems to be what they wanted. Not better buildings. Not the building of a public transport hub with secure bike parking (compared with today's "where do you want your bike to get stolen from" facilities). No, 1200 parking spaces. A university that cares.

This isn't what you'd get the Netherlands. The only reason the crossing is survivable today is that stadium isn't open and the people who cycle over the crossing it are today's cyclists: adult men, going to work or university. It's not a "kids cycling to school with their parents" path -and at this rate it will never be.

If the number of people cycling increases, so will the risk of collisions. You can say what you want about drivers "expecting more cyclists" when there are more of them; S Gloucs council gives drivers the right of way at these roundabout junctions, and you can be 100% sure they will take it

Putting in zebra/cycle crossings now will keep expectations of people driving down, rather than having to wait for some deaths. Maybe, just maybe it could be made a requirement of the UWE/Rovers deal, but somehow we suspect that it's not something Cllr Bwian Allinson will be pushing for.

Friday, 1 July 2011

A reply from the ASA: fuck off.

The team has been exploring the issue of complaining to the ASA that the concept "road tax" is not only non-existent, it helps encourage the belief (as seen in evening post/daily mail comments, Top Gear and video harassment of cyclists), that people on bicycles have no right to be on the road

The complaint was about an advert for a hybrid lexus that was "exempt from Road Tax":
In the advertisement the phrase "road tax" is used to mean "zero-rated Vehicle Excise Duty". While using the term "road tax" may be viewed as a simplification of the truth, those of us who cycle round the UK are continually harassed -in the press and the streets, due to our failure "to pay road tax" -in the belief that we do not do so and hence have no rights to the road.
Car advertisements provide an opportunity to actually educate the customer, rather than re-inforce mistaken beliefs which many motorists -and perhaps the copywrighter- appears to hold, and so reduce conflict between people cycling and driving.
Given that your organisation recently forbade a car advertisement showing adults cycling without a helmet before 21:00 as it may give children a bad impression, it seems only fair that car advertisements that give drivers a bad impression -that we cyclists do not pay for the country's roads- get frowned upon.
The reply
Thank you for contacting the ASA.
We have assessed the ad and your complaint but consider that there are insufficient grounds for ASA intervention on this occasion. Our role as an organisation is to help ensure that advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful. We can intervene if an ad that has been broadcast appears likely to be in breach of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising by, for example, being likely to cause serious or widespread offence, being materially misleading or risking causing significant harm.
While I appreciate your point, the ASA has no influence over the creative decisions taken by advertisers (or the agencies that work on their behalf) to use a particular character, situation or theme in their ad campaigns. As long as the content of an ad does not breach our Code, it is really up to the advertisers what they want to put in them. In this case, although we acknowledge that the correct term is “Vehicle Excise Duty”, more commonly used phrases such as “Road Tax” are often used by advertisers to convey a message in a way that will be understood by the widest audience. We also note that this ad makes no direct or implied comments about cyclists or their right to use public roads. I further note that you have made reference to a previous scheduling restriction we required for an ad which showed potentially unsafe cycling practices which could result in harm to children. In that case, we were concerned about the potentially harmful effect of glamorising cycling without a helmet to children. We do not have similarly pressing concerns in relation to this particular ad. We consider that this ad is unlikely to mislead consumers to their detriment or promote a view that only motorists pay for road building and maintenance. For these reasons we will not be taking any further action on this occasion.
I realise this outcome may disappoint you, however we will continue to monitor the public response to this ad.

A shorter summary is: "fuck off"

There is one subtle extra point, that hint that  the more people who complain, the more likely they are to react. Yet the ASA blocked the showing before 21:00 of advert that included adults cycling without a helmet after only a single complaint.

Let's summarise then
  1. Single complaint about adults on bicycles: immediate reaction.
  2. Single complaint about use of "road tax" term: fuck off.
Perhaps if more people were to complain they may react better. Or equally importantly -the more people who complain, the harder it is for them to defend their hypocrisy.