Saturday, October 23, 2010

Victoria Gyratory - London's Worst Cycling?

There is no shortage of contenders for London's worst cycling roads, but Victoria gyratory is a particularly strong play.

The approach to Victoria along Ebury St is not bad - contraflow cycle lanes and relatively quiet. As you get to the end of Ebury St, this is what awaits you:

The logical thing to do would be to go straight on into Beeston Place, but no, TfL don't want you to do that. They've made Beeston Place no-entry. They'd rather you had fun riding round the busy multi-lane gyratory, which is both longer and a lot more dangerous.
The first leg of your detour takes you up Grosvenor Place:

Notice it's plenty wide enough to squeeze in a cycle lane, but TfL don't want to do that. They've avoided all unsightly lane markings so it's a total free-for-all.

As you approach the junction with Lower Grosvenor Place (above), notice how wide the right-turn lane is. Tons of room for a cycle lane there.
But not a sausage - not even an advance stop line. Never mind, maybe it'll get better round the corner in Lower Grosvenor Place, so we'll turn right:

Nothing. Roadspace in spades, but nothing for cyclists. That's what TfL refer to as 'balancing transport modes'.

Above, we approach the Buckingham Palace Road junction,

It's 2-way now. As you can see, there's acres of space. You could get a wide mandatory cycle lane in and still get an oil tanker in the remaining tarmac. At least there's no parking though.
Duh, spoke too soon. (above).
Above: no approach lane and no ASL at the junction of Buckingham Gate and Birdcage Walk.

Above: what an embarrassment to London. This is the sovereign's residence on the left, and there's a motorway running past it, like she lived on a Birmingham council estate. No wonder Her Majesty doesn't ride a bike.What must the tourists think?

Victoria sums up what's wrong with cycling in London. Just when you need decent cycle facilities, there's nothing. You cannot easily avoid Victoria without a considerable detour. Yet there is plenty of roadspace here: TfL don't even have that excuse. In addition, they've turned Beeston Place into a one-way rat-run for no apparent reason.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Speed Camera Removal - the Backlash

The Coalition have guaged the public reaction very, very wrong if they think that removing speed cameras will be popular.

People in residential areas are sick of speeding and dangerous driving, like this guy who made his own DIY deterrent after a mobile speed camera was removed from his road. I've previously posted about signs of a public backlash against the camera-removal policy. Where cameras are removed, speeds go up, and deaths and injuries will follow as sure as night follows day. When the papers fill up with stories about crashes where there used to be a speed camera, it doesn't take Einstein to figure out what the public reaction will be. I wonder if Philip Hammond would like to apologize to the mother of the first victim?

People don't like getting speeding tickets, but they like speeding even less when they're the victims of the danger it creates.

There are alternatives to speed cameras. Unfortunately, physical measures to reduce speeding are very expensive. A single speed hump costs around £2000 installed, for example. Speed-activated signs are not cheap (£5000 a pop) and bring in no revenue. In addition, they may be less effective once people get used to the fact that there's no speed enforcement going on. With 20% manpower cuts, there won't be enough police to crack down on motoring offences and in any cases the penalties are not much of a deterrent.
Given that there's precious little money in the highways budgets for more engineering measures, and there'll be less revenue in fines coming in, it's rather difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Coalition's road safety strategy is looking dangerously threadbare, and dangerously irresponsible.

Stamp Duty

There are a lot of people who change jobs, and end up with a long commute by car. Stamp Duty on house purchase is a massive expense for anyone moving home, so a lot of people may delay or avoid moving to live nearer their employment so they don't have to pay this tax. In other words, stamp duty acts as a perverse incentive to commute further.

It would be 'greener' to abolish or at least reduce stamp duty and raise motoring taxes in order to incentivise people to be more 'mobile'. This is an example of 'alternatives to travel' that the Government should be exploring, which would also include videoconferencing, teleworking, and so on. Stamp duty is a volatile revenue-raiser, as it is dependent on house prices and transaction volumes. In 2002-03, it received £3.59bn; in 2007-8 it raised £6.5bn. Compare that with about £30bn from fuel duties and VED ('road tax') combined. So to raise £6.5bn from existing road taxes would mean an average rise of about 20%. The amount required is likely lower in 2010 due to the quiet housing market.

Clearly, the structure and timing of tax changes needs to be managed carefully so it's fair: the objective should be to reduce long commutes rather than penalise drivers in general. However, the current system is clearly in nobody's interest. Many people don't want a long commute, but the stamp duty on even a relatively modest house in London being £20,000+ is a powerful incentive not to move.

Bedbugs: Another reason to cycle?

I'm literally itching to write this post. Should people be more scared of bedbugs than traffic?

Bedbugs are back, but apparently it's not just beds they hang out in. Scroll down this article to calvinx's comment...

"The experts recommend that you never sit down on public transport and that there are patterns of infestations in neighbourhoods along certain underground lines."

There's some corroboration here, although from someone with a vested interest.

I'm not sure the evidence is that compelling. An old article in the Standard quoted ratcatchers Rentokil as attesting to investations (unsurprising; pests are their bread and butter after all). The same article quotes TfL as saying “Rentokil has provided us with no evidence to support these claims and have not been in touch with us." (unsurprising; pests are not good for their business).
Update: Thanks to waronthemotorist who drew my attention to Retokil's retraction of their initial press release.

It would be irresponsible to go around spreading fear without good reason, but on the other hand it's nice to have another reason to feel smug about cycling.

I wonder if you could get them from a Boris Bike saddle?

Nadine Dorries' 70% Fiction Blog

In various news sources today, Tory MP Nadine Dorries is quoted as saying that her blog is “70 per cent fiction” and relied heavily on “poetic licence”.

Here at Cycalogical, we are proud to say that this blog contains 110% of your recommended daily intake of facts.

Also contains:
10% opinion
2% fantasy
1% lies
1% damned lies
1% statistics
10% bile
2% plagiarism
2% jokes
5% comments
Stabiliser: guar gum
Colour: blue paint
No artificial sweeteners; may leave a bitter aftertaste.

Best before: Jan 2020

Suitable for Vegetarians.
Can only aid weight loss as part of a calorie controlled diet.
Contents may have settled during transit depending which route I took in this morning.
If you are less than 100% satisfied with your cycle route, blame TfL. This does not affect your statutory rights, because you don't have any.

WARNING: May contain nuts (Christopher Booker, Philip Hammond)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

CSH#8 First Peek

The first signs of CSH#8 have started appearing in Ram St, Wandsworth.

Below you see the blue sign on the carriageway, and the freshly touched-up bus lane markings:

Below on the right of the photo you see a freshly painted cycle lane:

You'll notice that it conforms to the CSH concept - "wide, continuous cycle lanes (new or improved), typically 1.5 metres to 2.5 metres in width". Or maybe not. It looks completely useless to me. It's not even 1.5M wide. It's certainly not continuous. To get onto it you have to turn off the pavement, at which point you're in danger of getting rear-ended by vehicles turning from Armoury Way. The cycle lane is advisory only, so any vehicle can drive in it.

The Wandsworth Gyratory is one of the worst areas in London for cycling. If TfL are serious about the CSHs, they must sort it out. They really need to use the full range of available measures to ensure cyclists feel safe. Can they pull it off? Watch this space...

Airbags for bikes

The final answer to the scourge of helmet hair.

Another Morden Road car smash

Two people were injured when a car hit a lamp post on the Morden Road at the junction of Lower Morden Lane in the wee hours.
For those of you that don't know, Morden Road is a wide, major road with a 30MPH speed limit. It also happens to be perfectly straight at that point. It's almost impossible to crash a car on this stretch of road, unless you're doing something really stupid. But people do, like this incident where a car ended up on its roof. Apparently "Police are investigating what caused the crash". I think I can hazard a guess - the same sort of dangerous driving I see on the Morden Road all too frequently. Won't it be great when they remove all the speed cameras from this road? According to SafeSpeed, all the drivers will suddenly become careful and all the crashes will go away.
Or perhaps not.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Useless white paint

No, it's not another pointless Merton cycle lane - some chav has been tagging the Wandle Trail.

At least it's not coming out of our council tax.

Partially-sighted Drivers

I don't like to post too many stories about crashes because I don't think it's constructive to make cycling look more dangerous than it is.

But stories like this one, involving a driver who was being treated for cataracts and glaucoma, coming hot on the heels of the news that the killer of Eilidh Cairns was driving with defective eyesight, represent an issue that needs action.

It seems obvious that anyone with defective eyesight should not be driving. But there is no system to ensure that such people are prevented from getting behind the wheel. There must be thousands of people knowingly driving with substandard eyesight every day, simply because it is so easy for them to do so undetected, and if like many people they are car-dependent, they don't want to give up driving. It's very easy for such people to go into denial and tell themselves "It'll be OK if I only drive in daylight; I'm probably safer than a boy-racer."

At the very least, professional drivers (cab drivers, HGV and van drivers) should have to take an eye test regularly and submit the results to the DVLA and to their employer.

With private individuals it is less simple because there are issues of doctor-patient confidentiality. However, it is possible to give people a strong nudge towards notifying the DVLA. Eye specialists and opticians should be required to make clear to the patient that they are breaking the law by failing to notify the DVLA of their condition, and present them with a simple form to sign on the spot, which the practitioner can then mail to the DVLA.
You could call this preventative medicine.

Car-centric Transport for London

Freewheeler hits the target with a broadside at TfL.


A pleasant if chilly ride in this morning. Too chilly for my new Trek winter gloves - how can you call a glove "a winter glove" if it doesn't keep your hands warm in winter? My old TrekMates gloves were toasting even in sub-zero temperatures, but of course they've stopped making them now. Any recommendations, anyone?

They're resurfacing Horseferry Road today, so that was closed to motor traffic, although a lot of the schools are on half-term this week so congestion is fairly light.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Exhibition Road

Kensington and Chelsea are spending a king's ransom turning Exhibition Road into "an elegant kerb-free surface across the length and width of the road. Pedestrians will have more space and vehicles will be limited to 20mph." They're paving it with granite, which will cost a fortune. Granite also tends to be slippery when wet, so dangerous for cyclists.

"We’re changing Exhibition Road from an area dominated by cars to one that puts people first," claim the Royal Borough. Designers have predicted a significant reduction in the number of accidents.
It's a shame this is the only street in the area where people are put first.  If you're actually putting people first, why not close the road to through motor traffic? That would reduce the number of accidents to zero. It's not like there's any shortage of parallel roads.

While the transformation work is going on, people are being put firmly last. Through traffic is being accomodated along a narrow section, making cycling more dangerous.  The east side of the road is largely fenced off, making crossing the road very difficult.

Having a kerb-free surface is not good news if you're blind. The Borough have fought off a legal challenge from Guide Dogs for the Blind, who say "They want to spend £42m on a street design that discriminates against large sections of the community. We want the plans altered immediately so that no-one is excluded and there are safe footways for all pedestrians. If people can’t tell where the road begins and the pavement ends, how can you feel safe?"

How exactly will "vehicles be limited to 20MPH" ? Where I live, the 20MPH limit is unenforced and routinely ignored. When I cycle along it at 20MPH on my road bike, I often get dangerously and illegally overtaken, usually by a white van that's unaffected by the speed cushions. Maybe the usual congestion will limit speeds during the day, but when traffic is lighter, it'll be a different story. And given the Tories aversion to speed limit enforcement, drivers will be able to speed with impunity.

"Motorists will drive more cautiously and slowly," claims the blurb. It should read: "Some motorists will drive more cautiously and slowly". Others will drive with the same lack of consideration they show on the rest of London's roads. Bear in mind London is so car-centric it will be an unexpected surprise to encounter a road where they don't have priority.

And here's the cherry on the cake: "We will...make it clear to drivers that pedestrians have priority". I hope that the Kensington and Chelsea councillors will be monitoring the effectiveness of this by regularly wandering out in front of cars. (It sounds like this function will be performed by blind people instead.)

Housing Benefit Cuts

Housing benefit has nothing to do with cycling or transport, so what are we at Cycalogical doing talking about it?

Well, the Governments plans to cut the cost of housing benefit by £1.8bn a year are likely to mean that some people can no longer afford to live where they do now. It may not have escaped your notice that the cost of housing depends in part on the distance from central London and the distance from the nearest tube or train station.

So the effect of reducing housing benefit may be that people have to live in locations far from their workplace, and there are three consequences of this. First, it will increase substantially the amount of money some of the lowest-paid need to spend on transport. That's especially true given the planned increases in public transport fares. Second, it will increase the amount of time those people spend travelling. Given that a substantial number of people on low incomes work long and/or antisocial hours, additional travel-time may play havoc with their domestic and work arrangements. Third, more people travelling will increase the stress on a transport system that is already beyond capacity.

Westminster Cycle Parking

If you hang around the West End, you'll notice that during the daytime every bit of street furniture has at least one bike locked to it.

Westminster Council's cycling policy has failed. They've tried hard to discourage it, by having no roadspace given over to cycling and maintaining 30MPH limits throughout the borough. They've deliberately tried to keep the number of cycle stands to a minimum, but those pesky cyclists keep on coming. Don't these people own cars? Then they'd be pouring money into Westminsters coffers with parking fees and fines, instead of cluttering up the street scene.
And what do the police do? Create a cycle theft unit. That's only going to make things worse. They should be targeting the cyclists, not the law-abiding thieves!
Thank goodness TfL have come to their senses and are not taking the Bike Grid idea any further. This kind of lawlessness must be discouraged at every opportunity.

If you think I'm joking about this, take a look at this post on Cyclists in the City.

Autumn in Merton

In the leafy suburb of Merton Park, it'll not be long before the trees shed their leaves and the cycle routes will be covered by a golden carpet. That'll turn to a slippery slurry with the rain. There's an upside though - you will be able to see these cycle route signs:

You'll need to look very carefully indeed to see them. They're above the white sign and they're coloured blue. Its representative of Merton's whole attitude to cycling. They're happy for no-one to do it and for no-one to know about it. They don't want local residents to have their driving pleasure impaired by the sight of anything cycling-related, much less have their ability to park or drive where they like interfered with.

Morden: Who on earth would want to shop in a place like this?

Morden town centre has long been an embarrassment to Merton. It's been impossible to attract major retailers  to the shop units. It must have the highest concentration of charity shops in the world.

It's not difficult to figure out why.Below you see part of the one-way system, which is 4 lanes wide at the traffic lights:
Below you see one of the dozens of crossings, accompanied by the clutter of signs that comes with a major road junction:

Below, the view looking towards the Aberconway Road junction:
Next, looking across the Aberconway Road junction. You have to cross six crossings (yes six!) to get to the shops by the bus station.

Next, the jewel in the crown: the Sainsbury's car park. There's no footway and this road is very intimidating at night. Also, it's one way, so you are not allowed to cycle down here to get to Merton Park.

Morden has been killed by bad planning. A major dual-carriageway road has been routed right through the middle of the shopping area. It's noisy, unpleasant, inconvenient and dangerous. Merton Council know this: in their words, "current traffic flow system and the location of the bus standing area dominates the town and has a negative impact on the look, feel and functionality of Morden as a centre...For pedestrians and cyclists, parts of Morden are cut off by barriers such as railway lines, poor quality pedestrian alleyways and the  Underground depot." Retailers know it as well: that's why they don't come here. Merton argue that the shop units are too small to attract national retailers, but the reality is that retailers know that shopping and traffic don't mix.

The Council have even got some ideas of how to fix Morden:
"Making London Road a bus / taxi only route (between the Civic Centre and Sainsbury’s) "
"Joining up walking and cycle routes between the parks and the town centre"

There's just two problems with this:
  1. "The road network in the town centre is owned and managed by Transport for London (TfL) Any changes to the roads will be agreed in partnership with TfL."
  2. The Council officials who have allowed Morden to decline are still in charge.
It's ridiculous to talk about "joining up cycle routes" when almost nobody cycles in Merton. People don't cycle because the cycle routes either are lousy or simply don't exist. You not allowed to cycle through Morden Park, even though it would make an ideal cycle route. The paths are already there and little-used by pedestrians. Meanwhile, the residential roads of Merton Park are cursed by rat-running traffic. It's hypocrisy for Merton Council to complain about Morden roads when it's largely their fault. They've pursued uniformly car-centric policies for decades. If they'd made a meaningful attempt to encourage people to cycle - perhaps with safe routes to school, reducing traffic levels on residential roads - nothing too radical - they could blame it on TfL. Instead they've been ignoring the wishes of cyclists, installing metal barriers on cycle routes, taking down railings that are used for cycle parking, and wasting money on useless comedy cycling projects.

The saddest thing about Morden is it is blessed with Morden Hall Park and Morden Park right next door. It should be an attractive place to live and shop. But it's cursed by the road network and by Merton's car-centric policies. Until Merton Council figure this out, it will remain a blighted backwater.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Two Boosts for Cycling

At last the Government are encouraging cycling - not, of course, by making conditions for cyclists any better, but by making the alternatives worse.

The Tube suffered huge delays as an overtime ban by maintenance staff as part of an ongoing job cuts dispute.

Meanwhile, the Government is set to remove for 2 years the mainline rail fare price cap which may lead to a 20% fare increase. The DfT is also expected to confirm on Wednesday that subsidies to the train companies, currently running at more than £800 million a year, will be cut by a third over the next four years.


A new London Cycling Campaign CEO has been appointed . He is Ashok Sinha, formerly director of Stop Climate Chaos.
He appears to have a reasonable track record in campaigning. I hope he can shake LCC out of its complacency and get it punching its weight again.

Merton Pavement Parking

Merton have an unofficial policy of tolerating pavement parking in certain roads. I have that on good authority, but it's also obvious to anyone who walks along Lower Downs Road (below) or Arterberry Road, to give two examples.

This practice tends to start if you have a lot of traffic along a narrow road where parking is allowed. Vehicles come from opposite directions and try to sequeeze past each other. Inevitably, you get minor scrapes  and collisions with parked vehicles. Word gets around the neighborhood and one or two people start parking with one tyre on the kerb, to give their pride and joy a little extra protection. Everyone else who parks in the road has to follow suit, or their vehicle will stick out into the traffic flow and be more vulnerable. But this widens the road, which increases vehicles speeds. If it becomes clear the council aren't enforcing against pavement parking, rather than park with one tyre on the pavement, vehicles will then start to occupy more and more of the pavement in their retreat from the 'danger zone'. So you have the situation you see above, where an 8-foot pavement has become a 4-foot pavement.

Now imagine you're a mum with a baby in a buggy and another young child walking. If the vehicle above has to reverse to get out of its parking space, they won't see a child that is close to the rear of the vehicle. Think if you're sending your little sweetheart to school at the nearby Dundonald Primary. If your child is walking on their own to school, they will face the twin hazards of vehicles manoeuvring on and off the pavement, and because children are forced to walk in a narrow corridor close to the garden walls with the parked cars on the other side, it will be difficult for cars in driveways to see them.

Now if Lower Downs Road were a major route, the current situation might be understandable. But the bottleneck is the tunnel under the railway, which is strictly single-lane. So having a nice wide road simply enables vehicles to get to the bottleneck quicker, where everyone gets very cross because it's a single lane where no-one has priority. What also happens on a regular basis is an overheight idiot get stuck in the tunnel causing chaos. Lower Downs Road was never designed for high volumes of traffic.Merton Council have allowed it to become a rat-run between Kingston Road and Worple Road to the detriment of the local community.

So what are they going to do about it? Merton Council are investigating punching a hole through the railway embankment, making a new tunnel to improve conditions for pedestrians 'and cyclists'. This would cost a fortune, and while it would improve conditions for pedestrians for about 10 yards, they will still have to walk along a busy rat-run with a footway unpleasantly narrowed by parked cars. It certainly won't do anything for cycling as cyclists will have to leave and rejoin the main carriageway at either end of the tunnel. I swear to you - Merton Council don't live in the real world. Thank goodness they'll have less of our money to waste in the coming years.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: London Assembly Transport Committee - Cycle Superhighways

For some reason the second half of the London Assembly Transport Committee meeting on 12 Oct 2010 hasn't been widely reported, so I'm claiming an 'exclusive'. The first half of the meeting dealt with the Cycle Hire scheme. The second half, which I will cover here, deals with the Cycle Superhighways.

The meeting allowed various groups interested in the Cycle Superhighways to give feedback to the Committee. I'll give you highlights of what happened, then some analysis.


Cyclists were given some things to look forward to: 25% of CSH#8 will be mandatory cycle lanes, and Southwark are "looking at a 20mph zone" along CSH#7.

Gina Harkell, who is the cycling officer for Waltham Forest and representing the Borough Cycling Officers' Group, landed some telling blows. She said that routing of the CSHs is a big issue: boroughs are very concerned about the routes and feel local knowledge is not being used. She continued, saying that the CSHs are not giving that much more space to cyclists. Cycists are not given priority at junctions, or special signals; there are parking and loading problems. Some of the opportunities to make the routes really safe are not being taken.

TfL gave a couple of examples of where they had given roadspace over to cyclists or improved the existing route (Kennington, Stockwell, Cable St). Oliver Schick of LCC countered, saying "Cable St is not by any stretch of the imagination a high-quality cycle route. It is a one-way rat-run". Jenny Jones (Green Party) also weighed in saying Stockwell is still an extremely frightening junction especially if you’re not in the ASL – you have to cross 2 lanes of traffic to get to the cycle lane.

Jenny Jones pointed out that to get to 5% share (the Mayor's target), 1.5M journeys/day are needed, and based on TfL's figures, we won’t get there with CSH and cycle hire. Outer boroughs are no longer getting ring-fenced money. Gina pointed out that the boroughs had been getting 500K/year for a long, long time, but "that [investment] will stop now – the ring-fenced money was absolutely crucial to it...When it comes to the crunch, a lot of boroughs will not prioritize cycling.”

TfL said they didn’t bring the CSHs into central London because there is a huge dispersal of journeys in the centre. The are not taking the bike grid idea any further at this stage.Gina said “If we want to get up to 20% cycling trips as in Holland, we need to think in a much more open, different and radical way. It would be really nice if one of these routes could offer a serious alternative to the motor car."

Post-Match Analysis

Listening to the meeting, you get the distinct impression that TfL think they've done a great job, and really gone out of their way to accomodate cyclists. What is really telling is that the three examples they gave of their largesse (Cable St, Stockwell, Kennington) were attacked by other speakers as being not nearly good enough.

TfL used the words "where possible" repeatedly, and talked about the need to 'balance' transport modes. At that word - balance - I'd heard enough. The word 'balance' implies a compromise between two conflicting priotities. Cycling gets fitted in if there's space left after the other modes have been accomodated. As soon as there are tough decisions to be made, cycle facilities disappear. That's why at junctions you'll find a small, very narrow advisory cycle lane which is too short and usually blocked, and an ASL that is often blocked. I struggle to think of anywhere in London where the safety or convenience of cyclists has ever taken priority over motor traffic, except at the Stockwell Gyratory where they removed one general traffic lane. Yet despite this being the jewel in TfL's crown, Jenny Jones pointed out they've not even solved the problem, which is that the junction is still dangerous and intimidating in both directions, although slighly less so northbound.

My view is the route of CSH7 is the about worst you could pick. It is one of the busiest and most polluted roads in London. Motor traffic can't be routed off it and there is no chance of widening it. Fixing this road to be safe for cyclists is impossible without reallocating roadspace. Why not pick quieter roads? Even where TfL could have benefitted cyclists without major changes, by extending parking, loading and bus lane restrictions, they've failed to do so. They've failed to put in mandatory cycle lanes, they've mostly failed to put in junction treatments. Yet the CSHs are supposed to be spearheading a cycling revolution. CSH7 is better than it used to be, but it's not good enough and it's certainly not £10M better.

For me, LCC's contribution was disappointing. I was expecting Oliver Schick to come armed with a bandolier of "what's wrong with the CSHs" and give TfL both barrels. Thankfully Gina Harkell had a bit more ammunition.

It is pretty clear that TfL don't accept they have a problem. They are institutionally car-centric. Listening to them protest about what good they've done for cycling is like listening to an alcoholic say they don't have a drink problem. They don't know what they're doing. They don't understand that a cycle route is only as safe as its most dangerous part. If you fix one part of the Stockwell Gyratory, that doesn't make CSH7 safe any more than putting on lipstick makes me Miss World.

Listening to this meeting was rather like watching England play football at the world cup. A bunch of players with not enough commitment just about scraping through the first round, only to get soundly beaten (in terms of modal share) by the Germans. We can't even aspire to compete against the Dutch.

Which brings me on to my 'Player Ratings'.

Gina Harkell (Steven Gerrard). Committed and enthusiatic, ignored the boss's orders. Not afraid of a tackle.
TfL (Wayne Rooney). Poor attitude. No end result. Too many other interests. Can't understand why the fans are moaning.
Jenny Jones (Ashley Cole): At times threatening on the attack.
LCC (Frank Lampard): Occasional attacking spark, but overall, much too quiet. Disappointing.
(Not much of a contribution from the other players.)

Here is the link to the video of proceedings.

Friday, October 15, 2010

RIP Cycling England

It's official - Cycling England will be killed off. While I've blogged before about the problems that can be caused by the number of different organizations involved in funding UK cycling and the lack of clear responsibility for outcomes, things can always get worse.

Norman Baker, minister responsible for cycling, said "This new Coaltion Government is firmly committed to cycling. That is why it is expressly referred to in the Coalition Agreement...We want to give more power and more flexibility to local authorities as we strongly believe that they know best what is right for their communities."

The trouble is, Cycling England funds are being transferred into a Local Sustainable Transport fund. This could all get spent on modes other than cycling, and in any case, we don't know what the funding level will be. While claiming to be 'committed to cycling', the Coalition is abdicating its responsibility. Local authorities like Merton are arguably the worst people to put in charge of cycling. They are inefficient, they lack the vision and specialist expertise, their highways departments have a car-centric culture and their dismal past record on cycling speaks for itself: lots of money spent and precious little to show for it. Also, cycle journeys don't stop at local authority borders. If Merton were to be suddenly transformed into a cycling-friendly area, conditions in surrounding boroughs would still deter people from cycling.

It is very difficult to see how cycling can be improved without strong leadership at a national level. The incentives are all wrong at the local level. Local authorities have little control over, or responsibility for, NHS costs that arise from poor road safety,  sedentary lifestyles, CO2 emissions or pollution. Local politics is dominated by the level of council tax, by schools, by how often the bins are emptied and how much it costs people to park their cars. Cycling doesn't even register on the electoral radar of most councillors, and some are openly hostile to it. Therefore, why should they spend even a penny on it, especially when other budgets are being squeezed? The Local Sustainable Transport fund may provide an opportunity for creative accounting. What's to stop councillors to use such funds for items that are currently under the highways budget?

Compare and contrast with High Speed Rail or electric car infrastructure. Neither could possibly succeed if they were left to local politicians, because they cross local borders, affect a large area and the costs outweigh the perceived benefits at the local level. They would clearly fall victim to NIMBYism. Can you imagine local high-speed rail, or an electric car scheme where the only charging points are in one borough? That's why there are strong national policies (and plenty of money) for them. So how exactly is cycling different?

London Air Pollution

Boris Johnson has long had a very relaxed attitude towards air pollution in London, which could prove both expensive and embarrassing, if London's lousy air quality attracts EU fines or causes action to be necessary at the 2012 Olympics.

The worst single type of vehicle for air pollution is the black cab. The cab is a London icon, but it's a vehicle that was designed in the last century when air pollution was less well-understood. Johnson has made a bad situation worse by cancelling the 6-monthly emissions check for black cabs.

However, he's now considering a new 'very low emission zone', which may apply to all vehicles, including black cabs. There wouldn't seem much point in it not applying to black cabs, given that they account for 35% of tailpipe emissions. But because the taxi fleet is rather old, many vehicles would need to be retrofitted with emissions control equipment to comply. According to London Taxi Drivers Association general secretary Bob Oddy "this would simply force cabs off the road." It won't, of course. Drivers of older cabs will need to get a newer vehicle or get the retrofit, but not many will be quitting their career.

However, if London is to 'green' its transport system, it does need fewer cabs. The fact is that the London taxi is the least 'green' transport mode. Each cab weighs around 2 tonnes, yet the typical load factor (number of passengers being carried) is around one passenger per cab. Consequently, emissions of all types (CO2, NOx, particulates) per passenger are an order of magnitude greater than other transport types except for private cars. In central London, black cabs account for around 70% of traffic. Because of the congestion they cause by their sheer numbers, and by their presence in bus lanes, they damage the efficiency of  'greener' types of surface transport (buses and cycles). Buses are slowed by congestion, which makes them less attractive and increases their emissions. Traffic levels, and the fact that there are virtually no low-traffic routes in central London, means many people are too scared to cycle. It's time the balance of priorities changed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Boris Bike Review

I've been meaning to post my thoughts on the Cycle Hire bikes but not got round to it until now. So here goes:

Undocking the bike is simple enough. Stick the key in the slot, wait for the green light and then give the bike a good hard pull. If it seems stuck, chances are you're not pulling hard enough. Docking is the reverse operation: a good hard push and the bike clunks into place, and you get the green light.

The saddle adjusts easily enough via the quick-release lever. No other adjustments are possible though.

There's a luggage carrier on the front that works well and I rather like. My 25-litre rucksack fitted in just fine, and seemed secure with the bungee cord attached.

The controls are simple enough. Front and rear brake levers on the bars, and a twist-grip for the 3-speed hub gear. There's also a bell underneath the left grip, operated by a thumb-wheel. It's a bit fiddly and on one bike didn't work at all. Front and rear lights come on automatically courtesy of a dynamo hub. The rear lights are rather too low down and the front light twinkles but I suspect doesn't make the bike very conspicuous to drivers. There's a helpful notice on the middle of the bars: "Watch for left-turning vehicles".

The brakes are drums inside the hubs. This makes them difficult to damage. However, they cannot be adjusted by the user, and seem to have a tendency to bind. One bike had a very weak front brake. That's a serious safety issue. On other bikes, the brakes worked with a heavy squeeze of the lever, but had no real 'bite'. However, you're rarely going fast enough for braking to be an issue. The drivetrain and tyres are all well-enclosed, so there's little chance of arriving mud-spattered or oily.

The gearing is low. I found little use for the bottom two gears, and top is only good for maybe 12-13MPH before you're wasting energy spinning the pedals too fast. Even downhill, the bike seems determined to resist anything more than a sedate pace. Getting your tie to blow over your shoulder like the cartoon Boris would require a significant headwind. A bit of a change of mindset is needed if you're used to riding a normal bike: you have to relax and take it slow. Until I figured this out, I found myself using a surprising amount of energy to no good effect and getting quite sweaty even on a cold day. I think there is a safety issue in the lack of speed. When I ride, I like to get ahead of the traffic and 'take the lane'. That style of riding is not really possible on this bike. On one occasion I found myself wanting to make a right-turn, but found I couldn't accelerate fast enough to get into the right-hand lane.

The bike rides more like a Rolls-Royce than a Ferrari. It's unfazed by rough surfaces, potholes or kerbs, and rides serenely over pretty much anything, although it's rather unsteady on loose gravel. The bike is very heavy at 23kg. For comparison, your average road bike tips the scales at 9 or 10kg, and even a steel-framed full touring bike like the Dawes Galaxy is 14kg or so. So this is like riding two bikes at once. I've seen some reviews claim you don't notice the weight. This is rubbish. It's not immediately apparent because the gearing is so low, but in top gear you're aware of the mass on even the slightest incline. The weight seems low down, so the handling is quite stable.

For me, an average-height rider, it was difficult to find a comfortable riding position. The bars are too close, so you either have to lean back or adopt an 'elbows out' position. The saddle I found fine, although on some bikes it seemed softer than others.

Because of the charging structure, you need to keep your journeys below half an hour to avoid usage charges. This means that if you don't know your end-point, you have to start worrying about finding a docking station 20-25 minutes into your ride. It's possible to undock another bike five minutes after docking your previous one, if you want to dodge the usage charges on a longer ride.

There seems to be no real cameraderie among Boris Bikers. My salutes were met with stony-faced stares. That's Londoners for you. Boris Bikers are a diverse bunch - suited business people, casually-dressed folk, some have helmets and high-viz gear, some are young and some old, and both genders are represented although I think more men than women.

In summary, if you don't have your own bike in town, this is the next best way to get around. Yes, the bike is a big blue barge. Yes, the weight and the riding position would be annoying on a longer ride, but it's fine for short journeys, which is what it's intended for. The lack of acceleration and top-end speed is annoying and could get you into trouble, but you can take this into account when you ride. It's a great alternative to tube or bus travel, being usually faster than both and more fun. A normal bike offers a much better riding experience, but for one-way journeys or where you don't have your bike in town, it's fine, and you don't have to worry about lights or locks, or the Friday-night-out dilemma of whether to risk overnight bike theft or ride home a teeny bit the worse for wear.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yet Another Cycle Hire Update

The 1,000,000 mark has been reached, and the lucky millionth rider is showered with goodies. Disappointingly, it's not a gold-plated Boris Bike; instead a "free five-year subscription to the scheme for himself or herself plus three friends. The rider will also receive £1,000 to spend on cycle accessories at the Bobbin Bicycles boutique". That's a lot of accessories. I wonder if they're allowed to buy a bike?

Meanwhile, the London Assembly Transport Committee (which the BBC can't spell) have been grilling TfL's cycling supremos. Apparently they believe the hire scheme will break even in 3 years. Which would make it not only the greenest, cheapest and quickest way of getting around London, but also the least subsidized. Which in turn begs some rather awkward questions about why cycling is permanently relegated to last place in TfL's road user hierarchy.

The Committee were also due to quiz TfL about the Cycle Superhighways, and I'll blog about that as soon as I get details. And, as you'd expect, I'll give it both barrels.

Cycle Infrastructure: The Wrong Path

A planned cycle path in Gloucestershire looks like the paradigm of what is wrong with cycle infrastructure management in the UK.

1. It sounds like a fantastic path, following a disused railway line, and will accomodate all non-motorized users.

2. It is funded, at least in part, by the National Lottery charitable funds.

3. A Parish Council has voted against the scheme due to "increased parking issues and maintenance costs".

Why is cycling infrastructure funded by charity? Road building isn't funded by charity, neither are the railways or the buses. They're all subsidized through taxes.

Parking issues? This is a bike path! Ironic, isn't it, that an attempt to provide sustainable alternatives to the car is being opposed because of problems caused by...the car. Isn't it strange how virtually anything that will attract the public is a problem because of "parking issues". This attitude is transference. The cycle path isn't the problem; the problem is cars. We cannot allow "parking issues" to be a blanket veto on doing anything worthwhile. We either need to allow that people are free to drive their cars anywhere they like and accept the consequences, or we need to restrict that freedom, or we need to provide alternatives. Right now, we're doing none of these things at a national policy level; as a result, people at a local level are left to clear up the resulting mess.
People don't see a safe and economically-viable alternative to using their cars. That in turn would be partly because cycle infrastructure is so laughably inadequate. There are a large number of people who regard cycling as loading their family's bikes onto the back of their 4x4 and driving to somewhere that has a safe, off-road bike path. They wouldn't dream of cycling anywhere on a road, because it's not safe. But if someone builds a bike path where they live, they'll have other people's 4x4s clogging up their street and they surely to goodness don't want that.
If there were more decent bike paths, people might not feel the need to drive 50 miles in their 4x4 with the bike rack on the back. Then we wouldn't need to spend a fortune sorting out the parking and congestion problems that result.
The London bike hire scheme has proved that people want to cycle. Yet successive goverments have succeeded in squashing this desire through chronic underinvestment. And what they've saved on not providing cycle facilities, they've spent on the health consequences of the nation's sedentary lifestyle: England is now the 4th most obese country in the world with Scotland at No. 2.

And why is path maintenance cost an issue? No-one is protesting about the humungous cost of maintaining roads. Why is this path not maintained out of the same budget as roads maintenance? Simple. Because cycling is the Cinderella of transport, relying on charity. The ugly sisters have rolled up at the ball in their stretch limos, leaving the engines running while they eat all the canapes. And the fairy godmother has turned into Philip Hammond, so there's no happy ending.

Christopher Booker goes to the doctor...

Well-known climate-change-denier Christopher Booker goes to the doctor.

Doctor: I'm sorry to have to tell you this Mr Booker, but you have cancer.

Booker: Really?

Doctor: Yes. You'll need surgery and chemotherapy.

Booker: Sounds painful. And expensive. I really haven't got the time or the money for it. I'm saving for a new car...

Doctor: You won't live to drive a new car if you don't have treatment. If you don't have treatment, you'll die.

Booker: Are you sure?

Doctor: Yes. Almost certainly.

Booker: I read somewhere that chemotherapy doesn't work.

Doctor: I assure you it does.

Booker: In any case, I'm feeling fine today. I don't think I have cancer. I think you've got it wrong.

Doctor: The tests are conclusive. Anyway, when you last came in, you were complaining about feeling exhausted.

Booker: The tests have been falsified. In any case I've felt exhaused before. Many times before. Just because I feel exhausted doesn't mean I have cancer. I had a large spot on my nose when I felt exhausted. That's probably why.

Doctor: I really don't think so. It's imperative you get treatment -

Booker: Oh, I get it. You own shares in the drug companies, don't you? You're going to make money if I have treatment!

Doctor: No. You need treatment. Otherwise you'll die.

Booker: I'll die anyway. Dying is a natural process. It's got nothing to do with cancer. Cancer is natural - a cancer is just a growth. You're just scaremongering. People have been dying throughout history.

Doctor: (pointing to bookshelf) I have lots of books written by experts that explain the science behind cancer - how it's caused, what its effects are, how it can be treated. You're welcome to read them.

Booker: All those people are in on the conspiracy? This has to be the biggest hoax ever perpetrated!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Speed Cameras: A Study of Studies

Reported in, Research by the University of Queensland in Brisbane looked at 35 separate studies into the effectiveness of speed cameras in countries including the UK, US, Norway and Holland has come to an unequivocal conclusion.
"While there is variation in the results, the overall finding is clear – speed cameras do reduce injuries and deaths," said lead researcher Cecilia Wilson.

Got that? Philip Hammond doesn't.

Meanwhile, in again, the AA has written to the aforementioned Transport Secretary Hammond about his decision [not to fund fixed speed cameras] and is due to meet ministers. The organisation said: "The AA is concerned that the views of motorists are not being reflected accurately in this debate and that ultimately lives are at risk."

The AA refers to a public backlash against the switch-off, including in Oxfordshire where all 72 fixed and 89 mobile-site cameras were switched off on August 1. There, Carla Bramble, a 45-year-old housewife and lifelong resident on the A44 Woodstock Road said: “Cars used to slow down when they saw the camera and, because there is another one along the road, they would maintain that speed. But now they belt along the road as fast as they like. People have read the papers and they know that all the cameras are off. They know they can go as fast as they want on this road now, and that is what they seem to be doing."

What Hammond doesn't seem to realise, is that motorists are also pedestrians and cyclists. Motorists live in communities that are blighted by antisocial driving. Motorists are the fathers and mothers of children killed and injured in crashes.  Motorists are doctors and nurses, paramedics and police who deal with the consequences of crashes. Motorists in the main support speed cameras, and they do not like one bit the idea that political point-scoring and penny-pinching is being put above safety.

Anti Speed Camera Arguments #6: Does Speed Kill ?

Safespeed believe that there has been a trend for speed limits to be lowered without evidence that lowering them will reduce crashes. They believe that speed limits "should never be used to attempt to modify the speed of traffic" and that the claim that "accident risk simply increases with false". However, they do "welcome properly set speed limits, and welcome speed limit enforcement when speed limits are exceeded in a way that causes danger". (source) Those statements don't sit well together. If you say "you should never attempt to modify the speed of traffic using speed limits", then how would you slow traffic if it is fast enough to cause danger? Their Road Safety Manifesto should give us a clue: it concentrates on "driver training", "road safety culture", and "road safety information should be regularly aired on TV at peak viewing times". Their Manifesto doesn't cite any evidence that any of this will work. It's all supposition and wishful thinking.

Meanwhile, back in the real world:

There is some interesting Dutch research here. It studies the effect of reducing motorway speed limits from 120kph or 100kph to 80kph, accompanied by strict enforcement. The reason it is interesting is that speed limits were reduced not to reduce crashes, but to comply with air quality legislation. So the 'regression-to-mean' effect that Safespeed usually use to cast doubt on the correlation between lower speeds and lower crash rates does not apply. The study says "The effects at A13 Overschie were spectacular (empirical results): the number of accidents decreased by 60% and the number of victims by 90%. Besides, no indications were found of compensatory behaviour (drivers who speed up downstream). The increased safety was caused by lower speeds and lower speed differences."

Futher research: Nilsson (1982) researched speed limit changes from 110 to 90 km/h on Swedish roads. He compared changes in accident risks with roads where the speed limits had remained unchanged, and reported the statistical relations (the regression model) of speed (limits) and accidents. This model is now well-known as the Nilsson formulas. You can read about it here.

But is speed in itself correlated with increased crash risk? According to the EU's road safety experts, "A higher speed increases the likelihood of an accident. Very strong relationships have been established between speed and accident risk: The general relationship holds for all speeds and all roads, but the rate of increase in accident risk varies with initial speed level and road type. Large speed differences at a road also increase the likelihood of an accident. In addition, drivers driving much faster than the average driver have a higher accident risk; it is not yet evident that this is also the case for the slower driver."

Battersea Cycle Route

If you are a resident of, or traveller through, this fine neighborhood, you may have noticed an agitated-looking cyclist riding around in a large circle and swearing a lot. That was me. I've been trying to follow the official quiet route through Battersea, and frankly, the London Cycle Network signing leaves a lot to be desired, at least if your objective travelling through rather than taking up residence in Battersea. Sometimes the signs are there and point you in the right direction. Sometimes the signs are there, but point you in the wrong direction. Sometimes they are there, but hidden. And sometimes they are missing.

Come with me, dear reader, on a quick tour and I'll show you what I mean (sorry about the quality of some of the photos):

We've just crossed Trinity Road, we're in Nantes Close. Where now?
Yes: we need to go left where those bollards are. No sign to give the game away though. If you don't know it's there you can quite easily cycle straight past the turn.

OK, we're back on track, over Plough Road and in John Baines Road (see above). We need to go left onto the pavement, just where that black car is in centre-shot. Again, no sign. If you look very carefully, just to the left of the tree, you'll see the blue direction sign in Winstanley Road. Onward to Clapham Junction, and across Falcon Road into Este Road. Suddenly, a dead-end sign (below)! Where did I go wrong?
Never mind, keep going, and the blue signs appear again:
Left onto a path and into Wayford Street. At the end we have this:

There's only one sign, saying (I think) "Battersea, The City, Greenwich". But it seems to be pointing back where we came from. Or is it left? It so happens we want to go right into Cabul Road. Aptly named - the infrastructure here is rather like you'd find in Afghanistan.

And another dead-end sign (above). But we'll persevere:

...and we're rewarded with a blue sign.On along the path to Latchmere Road.

Across Latchmere Road and along the footway. A blue sign, I think saying End of Route. But anyway, nothing to indicate we need to go right into Burns Road.

But it's OK, once you're in Burns Road the blue signs are back with a vengeance (above), sending you right when you should be going straight on.
And if you do go straight on, you're rewarded (above) with a blue cycle route sign. That's nice. Right at Reform Street (no pubs here, which is a shame as I could use a drink), left into the sylvan paradise of Sheepcote Lane, then Culvert Road. We should be going immediately right into Rowditch Road but there's no sign (below).

Then finally, we need to go left by Rollo Court, but again, no direction sign (below).

Now it could be I'm following the wrong route, but because the numbering is not consistent, it's impossible to tell. The blue cycle route signs just have a cycle on, and no number. There's no colour coding either - everything is blue. I got lost three or four times before I managed to figure the route out, and I've lived in southwest London most of my life. What chance does a newcomer to London have of following these signs? Part of the problem is the route itself. It's a mixture of quiet and busy roads, footways and paths. It's not been designed as a cycle route - it's just a mishmash of whatever happened to be there already. You never know what to expect, which is why you rely so heavily on signs, which - er - can't be relied on.

The Poor Old Dangerous Driver

Another unbelievably car-centric story from the BBC, about rising insurance premiums for young drivers.

The BBC uncritically parrot the AA's line. "The AA has recorded the biggest jump in the cost of car insurance since it started tracking the market, with young people bearing the brunt of the rise...Young male drivers are paying the most, with the average of the three cheapest quotes they get being £2,457.That is nearly double the premiums offered to young women."

That's because young males cause a lot of crashes, duh. I wonder why? An obsession with driving too fast, fed by the BBC's very own Top Gear, perhaps?

"If you have an accident which leaves someone disabled, the claim can be up to £15m."

That's because, duh, if someone's life is ruined by a speeding idiot, the speeding idiot should pay, rather than the taxpayer.

"It is daylight robbery," fumes one young driver. Unfortunately, nobody who has beed killed by a young driver was available for comment.

So whose fault is it all?

"no-win, no-fee lawyers. Their numbers have doubled in the last two years."

Not dangerous drivers then. They're completely innocent, and the oppressed victims of insurance companies, lawers and a judicial system who quite unfairly insist on them paying for the consequences of their actions, while the victims get off scot free.

So here's an idea the BBC and the AA might like to get hold of. We could try making the roads safer! Cheaper insurance premiums, fewer crash victims, fewer no-win no-fee lawyers: everyone's a winner! But wait - that could mean lower speed limits, more law enforcement, less traffic even. Bad idea.

CSH/Cycle Hire Survey

Let TfL know what you think here .

David Beckham cycling

David Beckham out cycling with his lads, which means cycling's cool.

Where was Victoria? "Working on upcoming projects for Range Rover." Oh well.

Road and Aircraft Noise Bad for the Heart

A Swiss study reported by Reuters establishes a link between high levels of noise and increased risk of a heart attack. Whilst previous studies had linked proximity to a major road with heath risks, it was not clear whether noise or air pollution or a combination of the two were responsible.

It's interesting that the Daily Mail report the story but only mention aircraft noise. Their report keeps very quiet about road noise, because roads are A Good Thing.

The authorities will also want to keep this quiet. The report points the finger of responsibility for further large numbers of premature deaths caused by road and aircraft noise to the annual 50,000 caused by air pollution and the annual 30,000 deaths and serious injuries caused by road crashes. It reveals huge hidden costs to the NHS, disability benefits and lost taxes - not to mention the human costs.

But in fact all this is just propaganda in the War on the Motorist. The real danger is cyclists. There must be a crack down on dangerous pavement cycling and red-light jumping. Cycling is the real menace to society.

Hal Lewis Resignation

The climate change deniosphere is abuzz with the news that Hal Lewis, who is an American professor of physics, has resigned from the American Physical Society in protest at the APS's stance on climate change, and his resignation letter has been hailed by self-appointed denier-in-chief Anthony Watts as " important moment in science history...a letter on the scale of Martin Luther."

This is pure hyperbole. The fact that Lewis is any kind of scientist makes it newsworthy in the eyes of the deniers, which is a measure of their desperation for evidence to support their case. However, Lewis is not a climate scientist, does not appear to know much about climate science, and the APS is not directly a climate science institution. There is no new science in Lewis's resignation letter, and no new malpractice or conflict of interest has been uncovered or even alleged. There is no new critique of the science, no new falsification of data, no new conspiracy, nothing new. All that has happened is someone who denies anthropogenic climate change has resigned from a body that supports the science behind it. Big deal. But the deniers, like the drowning man, will clutch at any straw no matter how flimsy.

More here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

He doesn't mean me, does he?

*Gulp*. Andrew Marr says bloggers are "inadequate, pimpled and single", and "slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting".

Busted. Well, nearly. I like to think of myself as 'slightly seedy', but I don't have a basement and I have no idea what a 'cauliflower nose' is. By the way, Andrew, you're no oil painting yourself mate. Maybe Marr is getting his impressions of bloggers from the Google ads for hair regrowth formula and plastic surgery that get served up with a lot of blogs?

Marr protests: "But the so-called citizen journalism is the spewings and rantings of very drunk people late at night." Like too much regular so-called journalism, then.

"Most citizen journalism strikes me as nothing to do with journalism at all..." Very true, but a lot of professional journalism has very little to do with journalism. Have you read the Daily Mail or the Sun recently? "Most of the blogging is..too abusive...people say things online that they wouldn't dream of saying in person." Ever heard of Jan Moir, Andrew? Or the series of libels against national treasure Sir Elton John? Marr could also look closer to home. My ideal of journalism is, contraversially, tied up with quality of factual research, balance and accuracy. I've pointed out as has the estimable (and angry) Freewheeler the BBC's tendency uncritically to regurgitate press releases by right-wing and motor-industry lobbyists. Good journalism? I think not. Maybe it's a reflection of the poor quality of 'pro' journalism that blogs have become such a popular alternative.

The mistake Marr makes is one of generalizing all of Web 2.0. There is a huge difference between the sort of garbage you often find on the Daily Mail comment threads and well-researched, well written blogs, of which there are plenty. To lump the two together is simply sloppy journalism and shows a lack of understanding of new media. Nick Robinson has a more intelligent take on it.
Bit of a no-news day, transport-wise, but the Daily Mail have picked up on serial offender Katie Price (otherwise known as Jordan), who may be familiar to viewers of the high-numbered channels, as she

"appeared to throw road safety out of the window by holding her large Gucci bag in front of her face as she sat behind the wheel of her pink horse box near her new Sussex home yesterday."

Clearly the Mail is missing the real issues here. Gucci is such an airport brand. And a PINK horsebox? Purleeease!

Sussex road users will be pleased to know she's up before the beak again tomorrow for speeding, and given she has a collection of 10 points already, should get banned. However, even Mr Loophole cannot help her wriggle out of her crimes against fashion. She should be made to shop at Primark for a year.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lupus Street - London's Worst Cycling?

Lupus Street, SW1 is a convenient cycle route that enables the cyclist (and the rat-running motorist) to avoid the busy 4-lane Grosvenor Road. It is part of the London Cycle Network, so it is an official cycle route.

It is also an exemplar of how not to do cycle infrstructure. It really is total cr@p. Come with me, dear reader, on a brief tour:

First, the good bit. It's only good because the western end of the street is currently closed to traffic due to roadworks:

After the roadworks, things get steadily worse.

There are three things wrong here. Parking is allowed in the cycle lane. The cycle lane is advisory only, and is narrower than it could be because Westminster Council have chosen to have a hatched area in the middle of the road to keep the two lanes of speeding traffic apart. This street could have a 20MPH limit, but Westminster Council hate speed limits as much as they hate cyclists. Lastly, you've got those railings right by the road, so if a speeding driver cuts you up, you'll be heading straight for them (and St Tommy's A&E).

Next, you see the cycle lane is right next to a junction and then right next to a line of parked cars. There is no door zone: if you are stupid enough to cycle in the cycle lane you're at risk of getting knocked off by someone opening a car door. In fact, the cycle lane marks exactly where you should never cycle. For safety and to be visible, you should be in the main traffic lane in this situation. Of course, what Westminster Council could have done is have a segregated cycle path - look how wide the road is. But that might just encourage cycling, which Westminster don't want.

Next, you see two vans, one half-parked in the cycle lane, one completely blocking it.

Another cycle lane. Parked vehicles are encroaching into it. Even if they weren't, you should under no circumstances cycle in it as it has no door zone. But because it's there, drivers will probably expect you to do so and get quite upset if you get in their bit of the road.

Why is this car in the cycle lane? Because there's a well-placed pedestrian refuge that forces them into it. This is truly lethal. But it gets worse...

The cycle lane here is on the left, but most cyclists will be going right. Yet traffic in the inside lane may turn left across a cyclist. It is absolute lunacy to put the cycle lane where it is: it encourages cyclists to be exactly where they shouldn't be. Either the left turn should be banned, or the left lane should be made left-turn-only and the cycle lane should be between the two traffic lanes.

What annoys me most is they've actually spent money ruining a perfectly good road. It would be safer for cyclists if they'd done nothing at all. Because they've spent money and bought a pot of paint, it looks like cyclists should be grateful for this consideration. Someone who doesn't cycle may think: what have cyclists got to whinge about? Look at all this marvellous infrastructure! Cyclists should really pay the congestion charge and road tax like the rest of us!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dissecting Hammond's Conference Speech

Philip Hammond's transport speech to the Tory Party Conference was a mixed bag. I'm going to concentrate on the 'sustainable transport' bits.

"But most journeys are short. And in local transport, some of the best investments that can be made are in smaller-scale projects addressing, at local level, congestion, air quality, environmental issues, road safety and public wellbeing in our urban areas."

OK, but how do you square road safety with switching off speed cameras? And why didn't you mention 'cycling' ?  This does not sound like a departure from Labour's policies which failed to address any of these issues.

"So how do we deliver these investments?
Well, what I have inherited at the Department for Transport is a system which is truly a monument to Gordon Brown's tenure at the Treasury. Something the Soviets would have been proud of.
A top-down system with The man in Whitehall deciding whats right for Bradford, for Bristol or for Birmingham.
The form-filling, the box-ticking, and the monitoring.
The we know best approach that underlies it all.
And I can tell you this today: we will sweep it all away.
We will scrap the multiple streams of transport resource funding for local government and replace them with just two a formula grant which will go to all authorities to allow them to set their own priorities.....
...... and a Local Sustainable Transport Fund which will consolidate the remaining money in a single pot for which local authorities can bid to support their plans for their areas."

Oh good. Well, perhaps. The DfT are hopelessly car-centric and haven't got a clue about sustainable transport, based on the outcomes of the past 10 years, and based on Jonathan Porritt's experience of them. However, local government's record is not exactly stellar either. But it has to be a good thing to have a separate fund for sustainable transport and have one authority in charge of it, as I've previously noted in this blog.

"And I do mean their plans for their areas.
And I want to go further still. Once the Local Enterprise Partnerships are formed, I want to see how far my Departments local capital funding can be devolved.
Improving local accountability.
Reducing bureaucracy.
Cutting costs.
This is a truly localist agenda. And, yes, sometimes it will mean local authorities making decisions that Whitehall may not agree with."

OK, but there is a difference between 'localism' and 'nimbyism'. In more enlightened areas, where councils understand sustainable transport, it could work. But you cannot have measurable progress toward sustainable transport without tough decisions being necessary - and that means making it more difficult and more expensive to drive in urban areas, while making other transport modes more attractive.. We know from experience that local resident interest groups tend to oppose cycling projects, in particular anything that reallocates roadspace from motor vehicles to cycles. Local councillors simply cave in, based on the assumption that there are no votes in cycling. Also, local councillors are often misguided, grey-haired, car-centric bigots like this one (credit to Freewheeler). So without a strong mandate from the centre, it is very difficult to see how cycling will progress through the impassable marshlands of local politics. Without any disincentives or alternatives to car use, it is very difficult to see car use declining, and hence difficult to see any solution to issues of congestion, road safety, environmental issues or public wellbeing. Buses? They're not an alternative to cars, because the worse the congestion gets, the worse the bus service becomes.

In summary, this is a speech that does not demostrate either the intent or the ability to deliver anything in terms of sustainable transport. And it doesn't mention 'cycling' once.

Philip Hammond defies the Laws of Physics

From Hammond's speech to the Tory Conference:

….. let’s not forget that over 80% of all journeys are undertaken by car ... Clearly, while motoring was synonymous with carbon production, it couldn’t be a major part of Britain’s future transport plans.
But the idea that the only solution is to force people out of their cars is pessimistic, outdated, Labour dogma. This Government is supporting the ultra-low emissions technologies that will see the carbon output of cars plummet over the next two decades.
Drawing fuel, not from petrol pumps, but from an electricity grid which Chris Huhne is determined to make one of the greenest in Europe. The Coalition has signaled its commitment to de-carbonising motoring by confirming, ahead of the spending review, grants for R&D and generous consumer incentives for every ultra-low emission car sold.
So motoring can again become part of our future transport planning, as the greening of the car saves it from extinction and that means we can end Labour’s indiscriminate war on the motorist as we focus on the real enemies – carbon and congestion.”

Let's look at the feasibility of replacing some or all fossil-fuelled cars with electric cars.

The electric Nissan Leaf has a 24KWh battery pack, which the manufacturers claim gives a 100-mile range. Let's say  the owner drives 12,000 miles a year, which in the UK is average. . Over a year the car will consume 2880KWh, that is, 2.88MWh. As Hammond says, we're not "forcing people out of their cars", which means we need to assume mileages stay as the are currently, if they don't actually increase.

So every million electric cars will consume 2.88TWh.

How many cars are there in the UK? Around about 30M.

So the power you would need to enable those cars to drive 12000 miles a year each would be 86TWh.

The annual electrical energy used in the UK is currently around 360 TWh. To produce 86TWh using renewables, you would need approximately 30,000 1MW turbines. Currently, the UK is aiming to increase the percentage of electricity generated from renewables from 2% to 15% by 2020. 86TWh is nearly twice as much additional renewable gneeration capacity. (I'm ignoring transmission losses here.)

So to power the existing UK car fleet based on current mileages would require an increase in generating capacity of 24%. However, I've not taken into account commercial vehicles, which would up the total considerably - cars only represent 55% of UK transport-related carbon emissions. I've also not taken into account the charge efficiency. Not all the energy you put into charging a battery ends up as stored electrical energy, so this puts the total up further still.

Bear in mind that this required increase in generating capacity is taking place against a backdrop of decarbonizing electricity generation. There's no point in replacing petrol cars with electric cars if the electricity is fossil-fuel-generated. Fossil-fuelled power stations must therefore close, and this capacity will need to be replaced by renewables or nuclear. It is also likely that oil and gas as heating fuels will be partly replaced by electricity. While this may be offset by better home insulation, it's unclear what the net effect on electricity demand will be. Higher summer temperatures may increase the use of air-conditioning, which will inflate electricity demand.

This really is desperate stuff from Hammond. He's already demonstrated that he doesn't understand transport, he also clearly doesn't understand the laws of physics. The idea that we can continue to drive the same amount of miles as we do today is somewhat beyond believable. To base a whole transport policy on such fantasy runs the risk of breaking the whole economy. If we don't start to give the signals now that both businesses and individuals must drive fewer miles - massively fewer miles - we'll have a country that is totally dependent on cheap energy just at the point when energy becomes expensive. We'll face an energy deficit. Unlike a fiscal deficit, you can't live beyond your energy means - you cannot 'borrow' energy and pay it back in the distant future.

See also this piece from the admirable Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club.

Cyclist Down - Battersea

I came through Battersea Park today. At Chelsea Bridge, the junction of Queenstown Road and Carriage Drive North, this is the scene that greeted me:

The cyclist appeared to be conscious. I didn't see the crash, and I don't know if either of the vehicles in the picture were involved. Get well soon whoever you are.

Here's the paramedic arriving:

Queenstown Road has a cycle lane on the footway at this point. At the Carriage Drive North junction,there is no treatment to indicate to drivers that cyclists may be approaching the junction on the pavement. A right turn from the southbound lane of Queenstown Road into Carriage Drive North is allowed. This is potentially very dangerous, as a right-turning vehicle has to turn across two lanes, one of which is busy and may impair visibility. Once a car has started to make the turn, they are unlikely to stop and give way to a cyclist crossing the road, even though the cyclist has right of way.