Sunday, 31 July 2011

A cyclist and his ‘improvement works’

Photo: Martin Dalton

Surfing the interweb I came across this delightful photograph of Councillor Clyde Loakes, the local 'environment' supremo and the man who more than anyone is responsible for inspiring this blog. It’s the only photograph of Clyde on a bike I’ve ever come across. To be honest it looks a bit small for Clyde and suspiciously like one of those made-in-China bikes you can pick up in Halfords for £90. But a mountain bike is a sensible choice for the terrain of Waltham Forest, and those chunky tyres are just the thing for the local glass-strewn cycle lanes.

Many of the improvement works mentioned in this article have already been covered by this blog. Clyde’s idea of improving things for cycling is putting in parking bays alongside cycle lanes and moving the lane closer to overtaking motor vehicles. The Forest Road ‘improvements’ included putting in a pinch point while simultaneously raising the speed limit to 40 mph. But then that was a collaboration with TfL, which explains it.

I recognise the location of the photo. It’s close to Leytonstone tube. Well done Clyde for being able to pose in the cycle lane, as normally it’s blocked by a line of minicabs!

In the background can be seen that marvellous farcility known as Leytonstone bike shed.

Ironically, the spot where Clyde is posing is now also due for Olympic refurbishment. The road closure with cycle access is going to be opened up to motor traffic and the area outside the tube station is going to become ‘shared space’. The local minicab drivers will undoubtedly assist in making this a great success!.

Stella Creasy update

There was a controversial march from Leyton to Walthamstow yesterday. This was preceded by a spot of flyposting asserting that Waltham Forest is ‘a Shariah Controlled Zone’. Apparently there’s a name change in the offing. No longer will this slice of north-east London be known as the London Borough of Waltham Forest: The radical - an electrician called Trevor Brooks before converting to Islam - said last night: "It would be changed to the Islamic Emirate of Waltham Forest.

The Shariah poster strikes me as car-centric. There is nothing about misuse of blue badges in Waltham Forest, which is currently at epidemic proportions thanks to the total indifference of the crap police and the crap council. This is where Shariah law could prove very useful. Anyone found mis-using a blue badge would be sentenced to having their arm chopped off. This, I believe, would end such mis-use at a stroke (literally!).

What has this got to do with Walthamstow’s MP Stella Creasy, you ask. Well, while the march was going on this blog went instead to the Saturday afternoon craft fair at the social club on Orford Road. And who should be there, shopping, but Dr Creasy. This was a bit of a surprise, since you’d think an anti-fascist campaigner would be down there in the town centre rallying people against the EDL’s counter-demo.

This blog was able to witness this episode.

Dr Creasy approaches a stall selling cushions.

Woman behind stall: ‘Are you Stella?’

Dr Creasy. ‘Yes! Yes, I am!’

Woman behind stall: ‘You don’t look like you do on your website.’

Very droll.

Personally I’ve always thought Stella looks exactly like her photographs.

I am pleased to report that Stella ordered a cushion (she wanted a grey one and that colour wasn’t available on the stall. As I am not a psychologist I am not going to speculate what a liking for the colour grey signifies.) It’s good to see an MP ploughing money back into the local economy.

I have one other piece of news about Stella. I am sorry to say that she now totally denies this scandalous episode. It never happened, she insists. Don’t trust bloggers.

It’s enough to make me want to buy a helmet cam!

It now occurs to me that the woman I saw at the craft fair cannot possibly have been Dr Creasy. My sincerest apologies. Don’t whatever you do trust a blogger. We are mad and we fib.

Blackfriars Bridge protest

Spot the speeding driver caught on camera before the protest started.

A full report on the demo from Road cc here and I Bike London here. More footage here:

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Blackfriars Bridge: the battle against TfL's anti-cycling, anti-walking agenda commences

It's been rumbling on for months... letters have been written, petitions signed, rallies held and motions tabled. Despite all our protestations and the unanimous backing by all the parties at the London Assembly of a motion calling for an urgent review of the plans for Blackfriars, Transport for London intend to go ahead with their treacherous and terrifying junction plans anyway this Friday night.

Transport for London - the undemocratic, unelected, unaccountable kings of spin and of moving the goal posts - are going ahead with their plans all the same. The speed limit will be increased from 20mph to 30mph, cycle lanes will be squeezed and shoved to one side, carriageways for cars will increase from two lanes to three. In all effect, they are hell-bent on creating a 1960s-style urban motorway, completely to the detriment of all other road users.

The first of many protests begins tomorrow. Remember that even TfL’s car-centric rationale is risibly threadbare. If you feel like attaching a slogan to your bike how about TfL will kill again. There’s more from Cyclists in the City here and some important reflections on protest from The Bike Show.

Blackfriars Bridge, incidentally, is named after the adjacent site of the old Dominican priory:

The name Blackfriars was first used in 1317 (as Black Freres from the French 'frère' meaning 'brother') and derives from the black cappa worn by the Dominican Friars who moved their priory from Holborn to the area between the River Thames and Ludgate Hill in 1276. Edward I gave permission to rebuild London's city wall, which lay between the river and Ludgate Hill, around their area. The site was used for great occasions of state, including meetings of Parliament and the Privy Council, as well as the location for a divorce hearing in 1529 of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII.

But a once all-powerful institution did not survive the tide of history. Today, all that’s left of Blackfriars Priory is this solitary, insignificant scrap of stonework. Perhaps there’s a lesson here for Transport for London…

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

it’s the new Olympic cycling signs!

I pedalled off to the Olympic site on Sunday to see how the Olympic Greenway from Waltham Forest was getting along. Among many impressive developments were these new signs. One year to go!

Yes, the wraps will soon be coming off this sign (above) on the main ‘Olympic Greenway’ which runs past the stadium and Boris Johnson’s Olympian erection. If you are not sure what the sign says, I’ll give you a clue.

British Cycling has said the true measure of success of the London 2012 Olympic Games will be in inspiring people to ditch the sofa in favour of saddling up.

Partnering with Sky, British Cycling has pledged to get one million people cycling regularly by 2013. The organisation said excellent progress has already been made

Let me assure you, dear reader, that no one in their right mind will be taking up cycling in the Olympic borough of Newham, with its terrifying motorway-style gyratory, its virtual absence of cycling infrastructure, and its traffic-choked streets crammed with drivers who overtake you with inches to spare. Yes, Newham is so incredibly unpleasant for cycling in that I always sob with gratitude when I cross the border back into crap Waltham Forest.

Meanwhile back at the Olympic site and the Lea Valley, the new cycling signs complement the more traditional ‘cycling heritage’ signing which has always existed on this popular off-road route:

(Below) Sadly, not all cyclists are getting into the Olympic spirit. They persist in cycling even when the Olympic authorities tell them not to. Where's the respect?

TfL’s Leon Daniels is indignant about delays to motor vehicles

TfL said closure of two lanes in Marylebone Road this weekend had led to "long queues" and was "unacceptable".

Thames Water said the work to identify the cause of seepage at Baker Street station was brought forward by two weeks at the request of TfL. Pin-pointing an underground leak was "easier said than done", it added.

Leon Daniels, TfL's managing director for Surface Transport, said: "We have had another busy summer Sunday with long delays whilst the problem with the leaking water main remains unsolved. "I contacted Thames Water on Sunday to draw their attention to this unacceptable failure and to demand an explanation.

Sounds like Mr Daniels got stuck in the jam himself, he sounds so peeved…

When ‘traffic’ is ‘flowing smoothly’ along Marylebone Road it is one of the most polluted locations in London. Cyclists are advised to minimise the risk from to their health from air pollution in this way:

"The best way to protect yourself against pollution is to avoid hotspots such as Marylebone Road, Euston Road and Upper Thames Street rather than adopt a sticking plaster solution like masks."

Leon Daniels, like TfL as an institution, is obsessed with motor vehicle flow, irrespective of its consequences for health, cycling or walking. TfL is a cancer at the heart of London, relentlessly pushing for faster, easier driving.

Congestion for cyclists and pedestrians troubles Mr Daniels not one jot. In fact he is one of the people who is making it worse.

At his Street Talk in June Andy Cameron from WSP argued for an additional green man phase at Oxford Circus, on the basis that it’s used by 40,000 pedestrians an hour and only 2,000 vehicles an hour at peak times.

An additional green person phase? We don’t need that. We need Oxford Street and Regent Street closed to ALL motor vehicles during the day and access strictly restricted to service vehicles at night.

mad cycle lanes of Birmingham

'I don't see the point of these cycle lanes, it's like a Tour de France for leprechauns

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

‘Shared space’ in Covent Garden

Long Acre at the junction with James Street, looking east, on a weekday last week, early afternoon. This is just across the road from Covent Garden tube station.

This is ‘naked street/shared space’ in action, i.e. a condition in which a tiny number of motor vehicles (most of them black cabs) dominate an urban space where supposedly all users are equal. In reality at this location pedestrians vastly outnumber drivers but remain subordinate to vehicle flow which takes precedence by virtue of brute force and laws designed to protect pedestrians which are not even minimally enforced.

This is the sickness which car-supremacist Transport for London and London’s car-centric councils have bequeathed the capital city. (The air pollution at this site, needless to say, is invisible.)

The car shown above is moving. This is not the case with those vehicles shown in the photographs below, which are all stationary on the zebra crossing. The law states that no vehicle should stop on a zebra crossing, an offence which can result in a fine up to £1,000, 3 penalty points and discretionary disqualification from driving. Needless to say, London’s under-performing and car supremacist police force has absolutely no interest in enforcing this legislation. But then the Metropolitan Police is run by a clique of middle-aged men who, as Commanders, enjoy the perk of a chauffeur-driven car.

There is nothing to add about the inherent design failure of ‘shared space’ which I haven’t already broached here and which has been much more substantially critiqued here and here.

Not mentioned on BBC news

The former chairman of the BBC Trust ran up expenses totalling more than £11,500 in six months, according to figures released today.

Sir Michael Lyons, who left the job on April 30 when he was replaced by former cabinet minister Lord Patten, spent £1,335.04 on cars despite having part-time access to a driver and car when working in London on BBC business.

Court decides driving is a basic human necessity

An unlicensed driver who was jailed for nearly two years for hitting and killing a cyclist on Yorke Peninsula has had his sentence reduced by the South Australian Supreme Court.

The court found the ban was too long, given the limited public transport options where Bennett lives on the Yorke Peninsula.

Well we wouldn’t want killer drivers having to endure all the inconvenience of travelling by bus, would we?

And obviously cycling is totally out of the question.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Cycling on the pavement in Chingford

The A112 is the central north-south transport spine for motor vehicles in the London Borough of Waltham Forest. It runs from Chingford Green in the north through Walthamstow and Leyton all the way to the northern perimeter of the Olympic site and Stratford.

This road is deeply hostile to cycling, in a variety of ways at a variety of locations. The deterrents to cycling include proximity of overtaking motor vehicles, sub-standard poorly-maintained cycle lanes, speeding drivers, pinch points, a mini-gyratory, cycle lanes placed immediately adjacent to parking bays, motor vehicle congestion which also delays cyclists, obstruction of cycle lanes, both permissive and transgressive, and issues of personal security at the Crooked Billet underpass.

On the border between Chingford and Walthamstow cyclists using the A112 are diverted through the Crooked Billet underpass system, where the cycle monitoring figures tell their own story: for the successive years 2006-2010 the counts over a twelve hour period in July were 309, 324, 294, 223, 228. Back in 1998, when the counts were taken in October, the figure was 335.

The council used to record counts for the A112 but stopped doing so several years ago (the 2005 LIP promised extra cycle counts at new locations; with characteristic cynicism the council then subsequently reduced the small number of monitored routes by two).

No one involved in ‘encouraging cycling’ in the London Borough of Waltham Forest seems at all interested in even acknowledging the spectacular failure of cycling in the borough (where the modal share is less than one per cent), let alone addressing it, diagnosing it, and seeking a solution.

This is a preamble to a sight I saw recently on the A112 in Chingford. A woman cycling on the pavement:

Why was she cycling on the footway? Probably because it felt safer. If that was her motive, it was not unreasonable. The A112 is nominally a 30 mph road but there are no restraints on speeding other than traffic congestion and signalled junctions. Lawless speeding is a particular problem on this section of the A112

Another reason why some cyclists might feel safer cycling on the footway rather than the road is the existence of pinch points. The London Borough of Waltham Forest specialises in putting in murderous pinch points on roads across the borough, including those which are laughably identified as cycling routes. This is what I’d stopped to photograph when I saw her ride past.

A pinch point like this simply engineers conflict with cyclists. There isn’t space for a driver to safely overtake a cyclist, but if you take the primary position you may experience someone blowing their horn and screaming abuse. Note the way drivers veer over towards the kerb when they pass the pinch point (below).
As a major cross-borough route, the A112 needs a segregated Dutch-style cycle track along its entire length. Instead, the council is currently re-engineering lengths of it in Leyton to make it even more attractive for car use and car parking. And no one seems remotely interested in understanding why cycling is a deeply unpopular travel mode in what is a very compact but profoundly car-sick borough.

Dangerous Britain

I remember once reading somewhere that everyone born in Britain stands a one in seventeen chance of being killed or seriously injured in a road crash during the course of their lifetime. I wish I could remember the source of that statistic but I can’t. I remembered it when I read this sad story:

Dad-of-two Karl Austin, of Biddulph, died on June 30 in a collision with a lorry near Derby on the A50. Today his wife, Linda, and his parents Keith and Joyce paid tribute to the race-winning cyclist.

His parents also lost Karl's sister, Kim, in a car accident in 1986 when she was 19.

Dad Keith, of Semper Close, in Congleton, said: "Having lost Kim it was the last thing we could ever have imagined was to lose both children. It's almost unbelievable but it's happened."

Bedroom collides with car

A silver Vauxhall Astra is believed to have travelled down Manor Grove towards the junction with Meadstead Drive around 11.50am today, Saturday 23 July. It's thought the car went across the junction, through fencing, a garden and then through the front bedroom window of a bungalow.

A 13-year-old disabled boy was in the bedroom, sitting at a computer in his wheelchair. He became trapped underneath the car for at least an hour and had to be freed by firefighters.

The car driver, an 82-year-old local man, and his male passenger, also suffered minor injuries.

I suspect the significant factor in this crash is the driver’s age. In ‘drive until you drop’ Britain the system encourages the half-blind, stroke-stricken, heart-attack-battered geriatric to continue driving until such time as they crash, often with fatal consequences to others. And none of the three main political parties would have it any other way.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Selling cycling

Charing Cross Road. It's a shame about the cycling environment, but not to worry - sect members can find all the necessary gear here.

the latest exciting ‘Green Olympics’ news

One moment it’s fabulous cycling infrastructure, the next it’s sustainable fine cuisine.


Conservative Party links to fossil fuel lobbyists exposed (or: how decision-making happens in Europe)

Chris Huhne has ordered a private inquiry into which fossil fuel lobbyists "got to" the Conservative MEPs who defied David Cameron and voted down an ambitious carbon emissions target in the European parliament on 5 July.

New research by the Guardian and Greenpeace into lobby groups and businesses seen by Tory MEPs in 2010 reveals there were more than four times as many meetings with fossil fuel companies, carmakers and others against stronger action on global warming than with green businesses and those pushing for deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The research by the Guardian and Greenpeace shows that the 25 Tory MEPs met at least 300 representatives from fossil fuel businesses and their lobbyists in 2010 at more than 200 meetings, compared with about 70 representatives from green industries or lobby groups. The research also found the Tory MEPs attended at least 100 meetings with gas and oil companies and 75 meetings with car manufacturers last year.

Ford was one of the most hospitable companies, enjoying meetings with at least nine of the MEPs, most of them more than once.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders was also popular, alongside Jaguar Land Rover.

The UK's Association of Electricity Producers, which has strongly opposed any increase in carbon emissions cuts, was well-represented among the numerous fossil fuel energy lobbyists, along with oil industry groups such as the UK Petroleum Industry Association.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Conditions for cyclists on Vernon Place

If you are travelling in an eastward direction, Oxford Street (A40) in central London turns into New Oxford Street, which turns into Bloomsbury Way, which turns into Vernon Place. On Vernon Place there is a major junction where it meets the north-south A4200 (i.e. Southampton Row and Kingsway).

Two cyclists have died at this junction in recent years. In 2008 a woman cyclist was hit and killed by a lorry whose driver turned left at the junction and a little over a year later a woman cyclist was killed by a bus driver who turned right at the junction and did not notice her.

These are the conditions for cyclists just before that fatal junction is reached.

London’s so-called cycling revolution is largely made up of cyclists like this: confident, fast cyclists who are usually male, usually white, and usually in the age range 25-45. They are also usually professionals. Often they will be riding road bikes with skinny tyres and dropped handlebars.

The problem is, this kind of demographic restricts cycling to a fringe minority. And even assertive cyclists who take the primary position can end up experiencing problems.

The answer, as we know from extensive international experience, is the provision of facilities that separate cyclists from fast and aggressively-driven motor traffic. Training cyclists to pretend to be motorcyclists is not the answer.

476 bikes stolen in the London Borough of Waltham Forest in one year

Bikes reported stolen in London over a one year period, listed by London borough:

Waltham Forest 476

See the figures for the other boroughs here.

Cycle Superficialhighway news

This gleaming new Cycle Superhighway does look super, does it not?

These lanes cost about £10m each and if you haven't seen them they involve blue smoother surfaces and more branding and signage.

Funding is also aimed at businesses on the routes to encourage cycling.

Cop this:

Ten minutes later the pair came ambling back, one carrying a shopping bag from Tesco Express and appearing to check his receipt. The other appeared to be on hand to guard their dinner provisions. The footage was taken on Tuesday at 6.40pm on the northbound lane of Kennington Park Road, showing the patrol car in breach of signed rules stating drivers must not stop between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Saturday.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

spot the cyclist

I took these pics of the Russell Square ‘improvements’ today, on the north side. On both sides the footway has been built out, narrowing the carriageway. On the side nearest the square the footway build-out incorporates parking bays (below) – exactly the principle which is being rolled out across Waltham Forest, to the detriment of safe cycling. The scope for segregated cycle tracks at this location is blindingly obvious. London remains one of the most backward, car-sick cities in Europe, still relentlessly promoting the parking of motor vehicles across the city centre.

Child pedestrian knocked down in Chingford

RESIDENTS say a road bend close to where a 12-year-old boy was hit by a van yesterday is dangerous due to a lack of warning signs and traffic calming measures.

The collision which took place in Larkshall Road in Highams Park, near the junction with Coolgardie Avenue, left the boy with head and leg injuries. Witnesses said the boy got off a bus just after a bend in the road and as he crossed in front of it, he was hit by the van.

Carmel King, 63, who lives close to the scene of the accident, said: "This road is a nightmare. "Years ago there was a petition to get a crossing put in but it was put in further up the road.

"The speed that drivers come round at that corner makes the road very dangerous and they may not get to stop in time if something is blocking the road.

"When I get of the bus sometimes I have to stand on the side of the road for about ten minutes before crossing.

"They should have cameras here and signs because it might make people slow down."

it’s an Olympic rip-off!

Eastway Users Group spent two years with the Olympic Delivery Authority drawing up the current approved plans for the high speed competitive cycle circuit, which crosses the River Lea to the east of the velodrome. But the body which was created in 2009 to oversee the park’s longterm development - the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) - submitted revised plans in March.

[So much for the consultation process.]

They want to move the cycle track eastwards, keeping it on the north side of the river, creating a park in Hackney’s northwest parklands on the other side of the river with unrestricted views across to the velodrome and access to the river.

Housing intended for Newham will then be squeezed out, but the ODLC wants to submit a planning application within 15 years to build mock-Georgian housing in the Hackney parkland, in the style of central London’s Regent’s and Hyde Parks.

Because after all mock-Georgian houses in the style of luxury residences in Hyde Park are so very Hackney, are they not?

And you can bet that these houses will require an access road and car parking for all the Audis, Mercs and 4X4s…

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Cycling injuries rise in East London – and there’s been another London cycling fatality

The number of cyclists being injured on Tower Hamlets roads has gone up by 12 per cent in the last three years.

Tower Hamlets fared better than other east London boroughs, as in Barking and Dagenham road accidents involving cyclists shot up by more than half and those involving pedestrians by almost a fifth.

Labour London Assembly member for the area, John Biggs, said the re-phasing of hundreds of traffic signals in the capital may be leading to increased traffic speeds which put cyclists and pedestrians at higher risk.

No surprise, really, since

What TfL have managed to do since 2004 is to preside over a road network so dangerous that it actually cancels out any safety benefit of the 170% increase in people riding bikes on the TLRN.

If TfL really want people to “catch up with the bicycle”, they have got to stop prioritising motor vehicle convenience at the expense of cycle safety.

Meanwhile last week, with almost no publicity at all (car-centric BBC London News characteristically ignored it) another London cyclist was killed:

A cyclist has died following a collision with a motor vehicle (Thursday 14th July) on Kew Bridge.

Eye-witnesses report that the cyclist was knocked off his bike whilst crossing the bridge.

Note the Comment of a local cyclist here.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

‘serious disruption to the life of the community’

Limo dependency in local government - latest

Lord Hanningfield (alias Paul White), for ten years leader of Essex County Council, was a crook.

It was revealed earlier this week that internal audits in 2007 showed a lack of receipts for purchases on White’s corporate credit card. It also emerged he was spending about £5,200 a month on it and could sign off his own expenses.

With a record like that there’ll always be a place for him in the London Borough of Waltham Forest!

His Lordship was also fond of car travel.

His use of a chauffeur-driven car to ferry him from the council to the House of Lords focused attention on the authority's chauffeur service.

A Freedom of Information request by BBC Look East revealed the council paid £677,733 to run chauffeur-driven cars over the past five years. Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester Bob Russell said: "Frankly, I think it was an abuse. Essex did not need three chauffeur-driven cars. We know that because they've now cut it down to one."

Mike Mackrory, Liberal Democrat deputy opposition leader, said: "I find it quite extraordinary and one really wonders what on earth the journeys were and how that could be justified?"

The council now has one chauffeur-driven car, a Jaguar, used mainly by chairman Rodney Bass.

He told the BBC that if the prime minister could have a car, so should he, because of the number of functions he attends.

But it’s not just Conservatives who get up to this kind of thing:

The mayor of Tower Hamlets is spending about £1,500 a month on a chauffeur-driven car, it was revealed today.

Lutfur Rahman, who was thrown out of the Labour Party last year over alleged links with the Islamic Forum of Europe and alleged vote-rigging, was criticised today after it emerged he spends £72 of public money every day on leasing a Mercedes.

A spokesman for Labour-run Tower Hamlets said: "The sheer number of appointments he has to attend in any one day and the need to work while on the move means using public transport does not allow the mayor to perform his role in the most effective way."

Oxford Street collides with driver

The driver was an employee of the famous Working Together For A Safer London organisation.

Road rage van driver chased emergency ambulance

A furious van driver trapped a dying heart attack patient inside an ambulance after it clipped his wing mirror because he'd refused to move to let it through.

Dale Barker, 46, had pursued the emergency vehicle for more than a mile to Bradford Royal Infirmary and pulled up so close to the rear doors that paramedics could not open them to get the patient out.

Bradford Crown Court heard that the patient, a 42-year-old man, later died. Electrician Barker, of Bradford, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving last September. During the pursuit, which went on for 1.6 miles, Barker was also said to have followed the ambulance through a red light.

The Honorary Recorder of Bradford, Judge James Stewart QC, told Barker that he had made a stupid mistake. 'I accept that what you did was a momentary lapse,' the judge told him. 'You reacted angrily to the ambulance having struck your wing mirror.'

Barker was made the subject of a 12-month community order, including a requirement to do 150 hours' unpaid work. He was also banned from driving for a year.

cycling in Dorset

It's the fastest way to get from one side of town to the other, it's cheaper than driving, better for the planet, healthier, more fun and it reduces congestion. Hurrah for the bicycle!

However, apart from not reading the Comments box (crammed with the usual hysterical cyclophobia – add murdering dogs to the inventory of cycling sin) you may wish to avoid busy roads, since

MOST of Dorset’s fixed speed cameras have been switched off, leaving just 15 to snap offenders.

The majority of the yellow boxes alongside the county’s roads are now empty.

But the casing will remain as a deterrent and cameras could be re-installed if a risk to public safety becomes apparent.

[Doncha just love that ‘if’.]

The news comes as figures reveal just £851,000 has been committed to Dorset Road Safe by Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset councils compared with £2 million two years ago.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The car-centric legacy of the ‘Green’ Olympics

Millions of pounds have poured into the five Olympic boroughs of Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Greenwich and Waltham Forest. New transport links have been built; old ones have been upgraded.

For many local people, the park is a cause for rejoicing. "Everyone's excited," said Samira, 15. "It's kind of bringing communities together."

That is one view. It is not Iain Sinclair's. The writer and present-day Cassandra from Hackney has declared war on the Olympics and all it – in its modern incarnation – stands for.

Dismayed by the temporary removal of beloved parts of the community – allotments, for instance, and football pitches – and repelled by the vision of a Westfield shopping centre springing up next to the stadium, he feels nothing but despair. "The Olympics have just been a huge engine for pushing through the corporate developments and the remaking, the rebranding of the whole area; it's been the thing that's made that happen faster," he says, adding: "Basically it's a conjuring trick to generate financing for a perpetual state of building and enclosure and an alphabet soup of crazy quangos that are telling you how wonderful everything is and talking up a spurious legacy which is in reality just a huge Australian shopping mall."

A disgruntled Waltham Forest resident adds in the Comments (it’s worth quoting in full):

Millions of pounds have poured into the five Olympic boroughs of Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Greenwich and Waltham Forest.

Well, maybe the first four, but certainly not Waltham Forest, one of London's worst-run and sleaziest boroughs. The area of Hackney Marsh football pitches in the borough has been taken for a coach park, a much-used recreation ground has been handed over to the Olympics for portacabins, leaving schools without play space, and will probably be built on afterwards. The already-congested Leyton High rd is to be narrowed, to offer wider pavements to Olympic visitors, but nothing is being said about restitution afterwards. Leyton is a dangerously congested station, but nothing will be done to remedy this, and locals fear an Ibrox event. Whatever the outcome of the shenanigans over the stadium, we will almost certainly lose our local football team, to whose requirements the Council has been strangely generous in allowing residential development at the ground. The pitch will probably be housing in a few years time. £1 million is being spent to tidy a Potemkin walkway from the tube to the stadium, and we have just been given a list of the roads we shall not be able to use during the games. The Olympics feels more like an occupying army than an exciting cultural event, plundering what little we have here, and sending us the bill into the bargain. Its only merit is to make it absolutely clear that our rulers do not have our interests at heart.
It's depressing but not surprising to see the Guardian recycling Olympic PR as journalism, when consultation of our local paper could give the real picture.

Or indeed a local blogger. Because this is one of the car-sick gateways to the Green Olympics, an event which is doing nothing for conditions for cycling in Stratford. But then who would really want to cycle to the Olympics on fantasy Greenway cycle paths. Stratford's soon-to-be-opened Westfield shopping centre will have parking for 5,000 cars.

Meanwhile Charlie Holland brings exciting news of the Jubilee Greenway south of the river.

By the way, at the base of that stylish Olympic Greenway sign at the start of this post can be found graffiti, an empty cider can, and lots of little green bags containing shit. Which seems symbolic.

Traffic jam on Pall Mall: just fancy that!

I noticed this on Friday’s London traffic news:

A4 London - Traffic congestion on A4 Pall Mall westbound in Westminster between the A4 Trafalgar Square junction and the St James's Street junction, because of new road layout.

Or to put it another way:

An ignorant cynic might suggest that relieving congestion by putting the streets back to how they were before they were reconfigured to relieve congestion... might not actually relieve congestion.

That’s because

The streets of the whole of Westminster, virtually without exception, are laid out with motor traffic the absolute and sole priority.

This latest futile exercise in attempting to evade the consequences of making car dependency more attractive than walking, cycling or using public transport has cost an amazing £14 million.

That cynic might further suggest that £14M would build a lot of cycle paths, which might encourage a few people to cycle rather than take a car or a taxi, and thus relieve congestion rather more effectively.

Bad Language

The BBC ignores complaints and just continues in the old, old way:

A woman died when her bicycle collided with a car in west Lancashire.

Christine Favager, 69, from Ormskirk, was riding on Asmall Lane in Scarisbrick when the crash happened at about 1940 BST on Monday.

Lancashire Police said a 19-year old man was questioned on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and bailed pending further inquiries.

The local paper is no better:

THE community in Scarisbrick is reeling after the tragic death of a cyclist on one of its busiest country roads.

Christine Favager, 69, was killed instantly when her bicycle collided with a Vauxhall Vectra on Asmall Lane in Scarisbrick at around 7.40pm on Monday night.

Mrs Favager was known to cycle regularly from her home in Ormskirk along Asmall Lane daily, which residents say is a dangerous stretch of road.

I think when the facts are in it will turn out that the victim was simply pedalling along in her own quiet way when the driver who killed her slammed into her at speed, with such force that she was killed on the spot. In other words, the driver collided with her, not the other way round.

Henly’s Corner: Transport for London continues to lie

Garrett Emmerson, chief operating officer for TfL London Streets, said: “'The works at Henlys Corner will bring huge benefits to all road users along the A406 North Circular Road


The reality is that no one who can avoid it is going to walk down this 8-lane turbohighway which requires pedestrians wishing to cross the road to do so in four separate stages.

So who is to blame for spending twice the entire budget of the Biking Boroughs entrenching infrastructure so deeply hostile to anyone not in a car?

In 2002, then mayor Ken Livingstone was pushing plans for this junction to be redesigned, with bus lanes and cycle lanes. However, Barnet’s then Cabinet member for the environment, Brian Coleman, led the council’s effort to block these plans under the premise that they were “inadequate to deal with the issue of endemic congestion.”

As we know, Ken was ousted by the Conservative contender in 2008 and true-blue Mr Coleman went on to become the mayor of Barnet in 2009. The bus and cycle lanes were subsequently removed from TfL’s plans, which were then agreed with Barnet, and as you can see the work is now underway.

Whether it’s at Blackfriars or Brixton, Fulham or Finchley, Marylebone or Mitcham, TfL’s current priority remains the same: make travelling in cars easier and quicker at the expense of all other transport.

It suits TfL and the outer London boroughs to pay lip-service to cycling and walking while continuing to build motorways in the middle of residential areas (while closing bus lanes, cycle lanes and footpaths).

Sunday, 17 July 2011

British policing: car-centric and unaccountable


A COUNCIL call for police to enforce Oxford’s 20mph speed limits has been rejected. A senior officer spoke out after Oxford City Council passed a motion urging Thames Valley Police to crack down on speeding drivers.

Liberal Democrat Alan Armitage, who put the motion, said: “It doesn’t say much for the police that they don’t give a damn what the people think.

“It is a high priority for people in Oxford who are worried about protecting themselves and their children.”

Labour leader Bob Price said Beaumont Street and Park End Street were among roads which would benefit from enforcement.

He said: “We don’t expect police to focus all their attention on the enforcement of speed limits but, where you have places where it happens, there is a strong case for them using a short, sharp period of enforcement.”

In April, a police check outside St John Fisher Primary School in Sandy Lane West, found 44 of 110 cars over the limit.

This echoes what happened in York back in March:

City of York Council agreed to introduce a 20mph limit on a section of Fishergate which passes two primary schools,

The Fishergate scheme was opposed by North Yorkshire Police, who said it could make the area less safe and warned its officers would not enforce the limit.

Meanwhile in London, apart from episodes like this, which tell you everything you need to know about how far the rot has gone inside the Metropolitan Police, there’s this:

Dutch towns don’t have tens of thousands of uninsured drivers on their streets and unlike Newham, they don’t have to cope with a quarter of road casualties involving a hit and run driver.

In the nineteen eighties and nineties, the number of traffic police in London was halved. Some senior people within the Met even discussed closing the unit altogether.

The Met’s traffic unit has become very effective as a result of this close scrutiny of their work. One estimate shows they make seven times the number of arrests as the borough police. Given the historic decline in their numbers and the proven efficiency of the section, it is one of the last places the Met should be looking to find savings, yet Traffic is now dealing with a 10% budget cut compared to most sections of the Met who have a 5% cut.

At the last meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority the Commissioner defended his decision to cut traffic police as the right one, as all sections of the Met were being asked to make savings. This simply isn’t true. The public affairs section, for example, has been given around a £1m of extra funding this year.

Ah, so! The money was needed to pay the sort of guy who earned

more than £1,000 a day to work two days a month as a public relations adviser to Sir Paul.

Sir Paul is a hero of the self-styled Association of British Drivers and Safe Speed (sic). The ABD identifies him as one of the ‘good guys’ (gals naturally don’t come into this masculine topic). Both cite his reluctance to take speeding seriously.

“There is a perception that people who commit criminal offences and who, quite properly and according to guidelines, get a caution, get an easier ride than those who speed at the lower end. Whilst clearly the comparison is not a helpful one, I do nevertheless have some very real sympathy for this perception. Any criminal justice system to be effective has to be seen to be fair. It just cannot be right when people feel that our response within that system is disproportionate.”
Paul Stephenson
Chief Constable
Lancashire Constabulary

And ‘Safe Speed’ (sic) gloated:

Lancashire's chief constable Paul Stephenson has announced plans for a review of the way motorists are punished. The moves follow a lengthy campaign by the Lancashire Evening Post against the excessive use of speed cameras which won the backing of hundreds of readers.
Authorities in the county, which has more fixed speed cameras than any other in the North of England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, will now operate a "three strikes" rule, where instead of being hit with a £60 fine and three penalty points, motorists who breach the limit only slightly will be cautioned.
A second minor breach would lead to another caution and the offender being asked to attend a speed awareness course.
Only on the third occasion would a fine and points be handed out.
Drivers caught excessively flouting the law would still be subject to the normal punishment.
Mr Stephenson made the announcement yesterday at a meeting of Lancashire Police Authority. He said this system would allow more "discretion" and added: "My post bag is filled and lots of other post bags are filled. Many motorists who have committed offences at the bottom end of the spectrum do feel they have been punished too harshly."

Where does the Met Bus stop, apart from the Town Square Walthamstow yesterday?

Sometimes it's The Dot Stop and sometimes it's here!

Evening all.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Russell Square and Redbridge blues

A fairly typical opinion to be found on cycling discussion threads and in comments boxes:

Segregated cycling (especially in somewhere like London) is little more than 'pie in the sky,' there is little enough room as it is for cars and pedestrians, to divide that space up further will be far too costly and cause far too much disruption. Shout all you like but no government will ever go for it.

And while the argument that there isn’t room on British streets for safe, convenient cycling infrastructure continues to be asserted (no matter how often it is disproved), these streets are being carved up in ways which make cycling worse, not better.

This is what’s currently happening in Russell Square (north side). A new segregated cycle track? I’m afraid not.

The footway is being widened and cyclists are being forced closer to motor vehicles.

The works are part of the Bloomsbury Corridor project that also covers Woburn Place, Tavistock Square and Russell Square. It’s an area that has become dominated by motorized road traffic and the idea is to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as drivers.

Just round the corner is Woburn Place. A street which is five lanes wide. One lane is dedicated to free parking for just a tiny handful of black cabs. Woburn Place turns into Southampton Row, where earlier this week a massive articulated lorry ran over a cyclist in circumstances which are currently unclear. The Bloomsbury Corridor project does nothing at all to keep cyclists apart from huge lorries or other motor vehicles, it does nothing to stop rat-running through Russell Square, and it does nothing to deter or reduce the huge volume of motor traffic using these streets.

Meanwhile in the London Borough of Redbridge

NEW proposals to bring about a ‘step change’ in cycle use in Redbridge are to be discussed at council meeting on July 18. Redbridge Council recently received a grant of £385,000 from Transport for London to promote cycling in the borough.

And as part of plans to put the money to use, councillors will consider proposals for new cycle routes on many of the borough’s roads.

The Council has set a target to increase the number of journeys made by bike in the Borough from the current 1 percent level to 1.5 percent by 2013, in line with the Mayor of London's strategic goal to get more people cycling throughout London.

This ‘step change’ for cycling is a self-evident fantasy, since the capital sum involved is derisory, some of it will probably be creamed off for promotion (‘encouraging’ and ‘celebrating’ cycling) and the rest will go on infrastructure. The question is: what sort of infrastructure? The answer is cycle lanes painted on roads. In other words, a strategy which accommodates cycling to the presence and convenience of motor vehicles, not the other way round. And while many cycling activists continue to insist that there just isn’t the space for Dutch infrastructure, in Redbridge they are managing to find it – for extra free car parking, on the Woburn Place model. This is Baron Gardens, Redbridge. A street where residents enjoy private off-street car parking and the council obligingly supplies even more, in the middle of a very wide street.

Next door in Waltham Forest they have an even better idea. Converting footways and cycle lanes for free car parking bays. Wood Street E17. A model which is being rolled out across the borough.

Things are getting WORSE, not better.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Blackfriars Bridge: it’s war

Boris Johnson and TfL are not going to budge an inch:

"My information is that the general speed [on Blackfriars Bridge] is nearer 12 miles an hour, therefore a speed limit of 20 mph isn't necessary and could be a serious impediment to smooth traffic flow," said the Mayor.

Ms Jones pressed the Mayor on why he was ignoring the findings of the report prepared by TfL in 2008. The Mayor replied: "I am told that it does not represent the best advice and therefore I am not pursuing it".

Let’s be clear that this is London cycling’s Tahrir Square moment. And its ramifications are much greater than simply cycling.

Blackfriars is about fighting the dirty, noisy, unpleasant and dangerous car-culture entrenched in our streets and in the minds of our city’s transport policy-makers.

If we win at Blackfriars, it can affect a lot more than just one bridge.

This is a test for London’s cycling community in all its manifestations, because whatever all the other differences are I doubt if there is a single cyclist in London who thinks that raising the speed limit here from 20 mph to 30 mph is a good idea.

I hope the CTC will get involved in this struggle and not just leave it up to the LCC. And also Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. And Living Streets and Climate Rush and all the other campaign groups.

In the meantime, don’t neglect the conventional channels.

The deadline for responses to Transport for London’s consultation Draft Network Operating Strategy is Friday. This is the document which sets out London Streets’ overall approach to the management and operation of the road network in London… as well as providing a framework through which to prioritise capital investment and ‘business as usual’ operational expenditure decision-making across the road network.

At the moment the strategy is all about cars, vans and HGVs, so it really is important that we get as many responses as possible from people interested in making London’s streets cleaner, more sustainable, more pleasant and less dangerous.

Met Commissioner Stephenson announces new lorry/cyclist initiative

(A112. Yesterday)

In an exciting new Metropolitan Police road safety initiative, cyclists will be invited to sit in the cab of an HGV parked on double-yellow lines at a road junction in order to see how much more convenient it is for lorry drivers to flout parking restrictions and also what a really great view you get of the cycle lane you are parked on.

Having announced the new scheme, Commissioner Stephenson then left in his chauffeur-driven limo, explaining he had an important meeting in a bar where the editor of The Sun was buying him drinks.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Green Olympics reach Walthamstow!

This delightful advert for 'advanced fuels' has just appeared above the cycling-suppressing substandard advisory cycle lane on the lorry-sodden A503. It features a champion cyclist whizzing round an underground car park filled with BMWs. All in aid of fossil fuel dependency on behalf of a criminal corporation which is desperately trying to rebrand itself as Green.

And no one could deny that the arrival of the Olympics in this part of North East London is being keenly anticipated.

Bad Language

Police are appealing for witnesses to a crash in Queensbury. A cyclist and a white van collided at 10.15am yesterday on the A644 Brighouse and Denholme Road close to Perseverance Road. The cyclist was with a group of eight other cyclists. He was towards the back of the group. He collided with the white van which was overtaking the group at the time. The driver then continued on without stopping.

This kind of language is commonplace in the British media, and the BBC is a prime offender

Monday, 11 July 2011

Another serious lorry/cyclist crash in central London

This sounds bad.

A4200 Southampton Row Bloomsbury, both ways between A40 Bloomsbury Way and B502 Russell Square
A4200 London - A4200 Southampton Row in Bloomsbury closed and queueing traffic in both directions between the A40 Bloomsbury Way junction and the B502 Russell Square junction, because of a serious accident involving lorry and a cyclist

According to ‘Dooks’

Just passed what looked to be a very nasty accident southbound on southampton row. articulated lorry stopped in the road at an angle, a battered green ladies mountain bike by the side of the road a crowd of horrified onlookers and paramedics peering under the wheels of the trailer. ambulances were just arriving on the scene as i passed. Did not look good.

John Lew has posted this photo on Twitter (which I have cropped - the original is here).

The London Cycling Design Standards manual and the context of ‘a seamless transition’

I was alerted to the existence of the London Cycling Design Standards manual by this comment

I wonder if the blueprint for Go Dutch should be for each borough to improve its A roads to the standards laid down in the London Cycling Design Standards manual - neither TfL nor the boroughs should be able to wriggle out of that, surely? But is it good enough for us?

No (in a word). Cycle tracks with ‘a desirable minimum width 2 metres one way and 3 metres two way’ would end up becoming the norm, not the exception.

Browsing through the manual I came across an example of ‘a seamless transition’ between two types of cycle facility, i.e. a cycle lane which turns into a cycle track. It was illustrated with a photograph of a location I instantly recognised. You can find it on page 73 of the manual (manual pagination), in section 4.2.44 (the fifteenth page of this chapter).

Annoyingly but typically the manual doesn’t identify the locations of any of its photographs. That’s unfortunate because cycling infrastructure often has a wider transport context (as I have suggested in connection with the photograph used by the CTC to illustrate its idea of Cycle-Friendly Infrastructure) or a revealing historical context (as David Arditti has shown in connection with Camden’s cycle tracks).

In this instance the example of a ‘seamless transition’ from a cycle lane to a cycle track is located in the London Borough of Waltham Forest. It is such a marvellous piece of infrastructure that it is even promoted by Waltham Forest Council in one of its cycling leaflets:

The location of this cycling infrastructure is Forest Road (A503) eastbound, just after the junction with South Countess Road. What are conditions like for cyclists before they make the seamless transition from a cycle lane to a cycle track? The first photograph here will show you (and all the pics in that blog post show locations on this road). Another scene from the eastbound A503 in Walthamstow is shown here.

But leaving aside the topic of subjective safety and narrow advisory cycle lanes on major roads with high volumes of motor vehicles including lorries, there’s something else to be considered here.

The cycle track shown is very badly designed. This infrastructure appears in the design manual to make the rather obvious point that inter-connecting cycling infrastructure ought to have a smooth surface. To focus on that aspect to the exclusion of all others is to prioritise something fairly rudimentary and to ignore all the much greater design failings enshrined in this infrastructure.

For a start the cycle track here is only one metre wide, which raises the question of what it is doing being used to illustrate best practice in a design standards manual which recommends a two metre width as the ‘desirable’ minimum for a one-way cycle track.

Worse, it is located far too close to the adjacent parked cars. The safety zone designed to prevent ‘dooring’ is far too narrow. There is also no physical segregation to prevent cars entering the safety zone or the cycle track. If you look carefully at the council leaflet you’ll see it shows a car which has strayed into the safety zone.

There’s one other thing to mention. This cycle track no longer exists. Yes, this iconic ‘seamless transition’ which TfL is still using in its manual turned out to be a catastrophic failure. Its design was substandard and the council got rid of it. This is what this site has looked like now for several years:

What failed? The design was intrinsically substandard compared to a Dutch cycle track because it was only one metre wide. Worse, the two key reasons why this cycle track turned out to be useless was because it failed to prevent ‘dooring’ on the passenger side and because there was nothing to stop drivers entering the cycle track and totally obstructing it. This is indeed what happened when parking was tight. Drivers who couldn’t find space to park parallel to the cycle track simply parked at an angle, with their bonnets across the cycle track.

The council could have deterred this by the use of parking restrictions, protecting the integrity of the cycle track with a double yellow line ‘no parking at any time’ restriction. It chose not to introduce this rudimentary measure. More effective would have been a physical barrier in the form of bollards. It chose not to use this option either. Instead, it simply threw in the towel, moved the free car parking bays into the cycle track, and diverted cyclists around the re-located parking bays. The re-routed cycle lane has a safety zone supposed to prevent ‘dooring’ on the driver’s side but  (i) it isn't wide enough (ii) it is only advisory (iii) the re-routed cycle lane is not protected by parking restrictions and double-parking across the cycle lane is commonplace, and indeed was occurring two days ago when I took these photographs:

The fact that a spectacularly failed cycle track which falls well below Dutch standards can find its way into Transport for London’s London Cycling Design Standards manual and still be touted as best practice years after it failed and was abolished is oddly revealing, is it not?

The failure of Waltham Forest Council to design an effective cycle track or to respond intelligently to those design failures when they were subsequently exposed is also very revealing of the low value which is attached to cycling infrastructure by local authorities.

A certain sort of cycling campaigner would doubtless argue that this episode proves that cycle tracks don’t work. The reality is that sub-standard cycling infrastructure doesn’t work, whether off-road or on-road. The replacement cycle lane is every bit as mediocre as the original cycle track.

By the way, if you look closely you'll see an advisory flashing speed sign has been installed at this site since it was converted from a cycle track to a cycle lane. It acknowledges the problem with speeding vehicles at this 30 mph location, which makes you wonder who thought it was a good idea to divert cyclists out into the face of speeding drivers. The sign appears to be broken and my impression is that it has not worked for many months.