Thursday 30 April 2009

Design discrimination against cyclists

The above photograph is taken at the junction of James Lane E10 and Essex Road, looking north east. Both roads are strategic cycle routes. James Lane is nominally a 20 mph road and features on the Sustrans 'Olympic Greenways' map. In reality it is a lethally dangerous road where drivers don't take a blind bit of notice of the speed limit, not least since St James Lane is mostly on a slope, and the only restraints on speed are those poxy rubber speed cushions, which fail dismally to slow speeding vehicles and which simply encourage erratic behaviour as drivers move out into the middle of the road to get their tyres to go through the gaps. And Essex Road is the natural choice if you are cycling west from the Leytonstone tube station area, by the most direct route, along nearby Fairlop Road.

Any cyclist heading south along James Lane and wishing to continue in a straight line, or wishing to turn off Essex Road into the short section of James Lane to the south, can't. There's a NO ENTRY sign and a chicane. It was presumably done to prevent rat-running. But whoever designed this - undoubtedly an able-bodied car driving highway engineer on an agreeable car allowance - completely failed to take into consideration cyclists. There is no reason at all why a cycle lane could not have been incorporated. This section of road is not one-way, except at this pinch point.

Cycling was ignored because cycling doesn't matter. The physical lay-out of the roads of the London Borough of Waltham Forest and the conditions to be experienced on them are comprehensively hostile to cycling, in innumerable ways. And they are plainly going to go on being so, long into the future.

Now tell me something that will surprise me…

It commissioned the Midhurst Area Cycling Strategy from the national sustainable transport charity SUSTRANS.

"Since this report was published in March 2005," said Mrs Hamilton, "virtually nothing has been implemented by West Sussex County Council in our rural area to make improvements for cyclists."

Road fatalities

160 deaths belong to unlicensed, untraced drivers, who also caused a staggering 23,000 injuries.

No terrorist or hoodie with a knife has caused that level of violent death and injury in the past twelve years, let alone twelve months. Which is why British policing is lethally deluded in its priorities.

Police driver charged with causing death by dangerous driving

A POLICE officer has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving after a pedestrian was struck and killed by a patrol car.

Pc John Wright, 39, a member of the North Surrey Targeted Patrol Team based at Esher, was charged at Slough police station on Wednesday afternoon.

Climate break-up

George Monbiot on the three kinds of climate change denier.

'No waiting at any time'

I didn't take any closer photographs because the driver popped out of a house and began screaming obscenities and threats of violence at me. As I retreated from the scene I declined to say a word, which seemed to enrage him all the more. It's a trick I've learned from watching parking attendants, maestros of the art of quiet detachment in the face of the quivering, bellicose, lawless yob.

86-year-old driver involved in cycle crash

A CYCLIST suffered serious injuries after colliding with a car south of Winchester. [Or did the car, driven by an octogenarian, collide with the cyclist? Ed.]

Legal news

Lawyers acting for a man accused of killing a pensioner cyclist in a hit and run have applied to have the case dismissed.


A failed asylum seeker who left a young girl dying under the wheels of his car after a horrific hit and run accident was freed today. Aso Mohammed Ibrahim was due to be deported after his applications for asylum and citizenship were kicked out.

But the 31-year-old Iraqi Kurd has been released from custody while he makes yet another bid to stay in the UK.
The family of Amy Houston, 12, who was mowed down by Ibrahim's Rover car as she went to the shops have spoken of their outrage.

Just weeks before killing Amy, Ibrahim had been banned for nine months for driving while disqualified, without insurance and without a licence.

The Iraqi Kurd, who has never held a driving licence, was jailed for four months for driving while disqualified and failing to stop after an accident.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

The quiet route to Chingford

The dedicated and signed recommended cycling 'quiet route to Chingford' (or to Walthamstow if you are heading south). This is the part which links Higham Station Avenue E4 and Coningsby Gardens. It's an unmade pathway which leads between the houses to a back entrance to garages and then on between more houses.

Personal security is an issue here, especially after dark. You can't see from one end to the other because of the zig-zag route, and the deserted out-of-the-way middle section is perfect from an attacker's point of view.

I trawled the net for tips. Here's a wonderfully practical suggestion, ideal for a place like Chingford.

Get to know strategic people along your cycling route such as staff in shops and security officers.

‘Eden Lake’ and cycling

Eden Lake is a horror movie about a nice young middle class couple who leave London in their 4X4 for an idyllic weekend camping in some remote woods beside a water-filled quarry. There they run into a gang of teenagers and things start to get nasty, and then much nastier still…

It’s a slick, well-made horror. I didn’t think it was a great film and it's not one I'm in any hurry to see again. Eden Lake is too derivative, both in content and technique. I’ve seen much of it before, in Straw Dogs, Deliverance and the Friday the 13th movies. I didn’t think there was any chemistry between the lead actor and actress, and they didn’t engage me as characters. Also, the script fudges such matters as sex and nudity (which are usually very important to horror in the woods). When the gang finally capture the heroine, who cavorts in her bikini and spends a lot of the film running around in a low cut dress, all those evil, nasty teenagers want to do with her is tie her up.

As various reviewers have noted, this is a middle class anxiety movie. Hence the absence of nudity and rape. This is a horror film which, for all its violence, stays on the side of decency.

The makers of Eden Lake have cannily latched on to the most troubling trauma of Middle England: the fear that gangs of violent, irrational hoodies are turning our public spaces into no-go areas for decent people. No wonder that the Daily Mail calls Eden Lake “all too real” and advises every MP to see it. If ever a film fitted a worldview of a whole society going rotten, this is it.

What intrigues me is that an essential component of the feral youth gang is that its members are all cyclists. Their first appearance in the movie is riding through a red light at a junction, causing the hero to slam on the brakes of his Jeep. Later they cycle down to the shoreline and disturb the tranquillity of the hero and heroine. Later still, they hunt down the heroine on their bikes. Expressing the fantasy life of every Mail reader, the heroine grabs a branch and knocks the lead cyclist off his bike. All the other cyclists then crash too. Later on, the heroine succeeds in killing a member of the gang by running them down, deliberately. And the film enlists your sympathy for this action. If Eden Lake is about 4X4 lifestyle anxiety, it is also about fantasies of 4X4 lifestyle revenge on those who disturb it. The good people drive 4X4s. The bad people cycle. And it's a war.

And so there it is. The identifying characteristics of feral youth, other than knives and a slavering Rottweiler, are bicycles and cycling. The road users most demonised by the mass media are, in this movie, literally evil. And the evil is signalled right from the start by their flouting of red lights at a junction.

Eden Lake is about terror, violence, risk and threat. But as Richard Morrison notes

If you are a middle-class adult, you are in more danger of being killed by a household appliance than by a knife-wielding or gun-toting teenage thug. Even for youths living in tough neighbourhoods, the chance of being stabbed or shot has been luridly exaggerated by the media. For teenagers (as for everyone else) the recklessly driven motor car is still the biggest danger on the streets.

I suppose the message of Eden Lake is this.

If you drive a Jeep, obey your Sat Nav and don't laugh at its advice to turn round and go back.

If you are a cyclist, don’t go through a red light. Do that on a regular basis and you'll soon find yourself casting all social restraints aside and freewheeling down a slippery slope that ends in horrifying assaults on 4X4 drivers and their passengers. And we wouldn't want that, would we?

Transport for London’s contempt for pedestrians


Councillor Dave Callaghan said: “This is yet another example of TfL failing to consult local residents and councillors. We could have told them the crossing was in the wrong place, but they refuse to talk to us.”

Crushed in Colchester

Another driver ‘loses control’:

A PEDESTRIAN was seriously injured after being hit by a car that left the road on North Hill in Colchester this morning.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

44 Wood Street E17, yesterday

Before leaving the underpass

Before leaving the subject of the underpass featured in yesterday's post, take a look at that noticeboard, visible as you descend into the tiled underworld. It reads SITE ACQUIRED FOR GENERAL MOTORS DEALERSHIP FROM KIER PROPERTY.

And that chimney in the background belongs to Britain’s biggest incinerator, currently greenwashed as ‘the London EcoPark’. One report implicates it in increased infant mortality.

So this picture has it all - air pollution, car dependency, the hellish multiple lane landscape of the North Circular, and pedestrians and cyclists sent into a gloomy, graffiti-spattered subway to keep them out of the way of those all-important motorists. Welcome to the borough that claims it intends to become the Greenest in London.

Global pandemic

It’s killing millions.

‘Losing control’

A man has died in hospital after his car overturned on the M4 in Berkshire.

Five people were seriously injured when their car hit a tree in Surrey. Police said the Ford Focus entered a right-hand bend but the driver "lost control and smashed head-on into a tree".

There was another tragedy on Norfolk's roads at the weekend after a teenager was killed and two people injured in a crash on the A140 near Norwich. Stacey Cutts, 18, from Harleston, died and two other people were being treated in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after the accident on the A140 Norwich to Ipswich main road at Tasburgh just before 10pm on Saturday. All three people were travelling in a black Toyota Celica car and police said no other vehicle was involved. The accident, which saw the car crash into trees and fencing near Marlpit Lane, comes just days after another crash on the road through the village which saw two people hospitalised.

Monday 27 April 2009

The Belam approach to science fiction

Former Walthamstow resident Martin Belam, now an IT whizz kid who works on the national Guardian newspaper’s website, asks – and authoritatively answers – the question How accurate was Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" about the future?

Me, I’ve always been more of a Tarkovsky buff than a Kubrick fan (I never really saw the point of Barry Lyndon). And Solaris is probably my favourite sci-fi movie (and I’m not talking about the remake with George Clooney).

Moreover Tarkovsky’s Stalker seems to be a parable about the London Borough of Waltham Forest. It is set in a wilderness area full of decay, where the normal laws of physics no longer apply.

Martin’s dad is Bob Belam, who is the council’s cabinet member for the environment, responsible for just about everything to do with the walking and cycling environment. So I suppose we must thank Belam Senior for this magnificent Tarkovsky installation (above), which truly captures the spirit both of the desolate space station in Solaris and the ruined landscapes of Stalker, where water trickles and drips amid the decay. Otherwise known as the underpass for pedestrians and cyclists under the North Circular, leading off the A1009. A place few people ever dare to go, and as remote and empty as any deserted installation in a galaxy far, far away.

(Below) Abandon hope all ye who enter here

Deep in the shadows lurked this. Every underpass round here seems to have one.

The London Velib

Plans for a cycle hire scheme in London that could mean an extra 40,000 cycle trips a day have moved a step closer. Transport for London (TfL) hopes to implement the scheme by May 2010 and intends to submit planning applications for 400 cycle docking stations. The idea will be key to achieving a 400% increase in cycle journeys in London by 2025, TfL said.

David Hembrow is sceptical:

This is not the sort of scheme which genuinely results in a large cycle culture. It can only ever be a small part of the picture.

It seems to me that public cycle hire is being picked on by many cities largely because it's the smallest thing can be done which will make it look as if something is being done. No longer do you need to do anything complicated and expensive like re-arranging the streets to make them more suited for cycling, or risk alienating motorists as you do it. Just allow a company to set up doing bike hire and the world's press will be amazed by your achievement.

The Geffrye Museum: brilliant, except for one small omission

En route to the Whitechapel Gallery I stopped off at The Geffrye Museum, in ‘orrible ‘ackney. And where else but Hackney would you expect to find a museum devoted to the changing styles of the middle class living room since the sixteenth century?

The museum’s ‘how to get here’ instructions are admirable, except, of course, for one means of transport which is missing. No prizes for spotting which one it is.

The museum is free, is architecturally unusual (go round the back), is packed with interesting material, including paintings, and has gardens at the back laid out according to historical periods. It has an exhibition area devoted to contemporary material, a shop and a swish cafĂ©. There’s an assistant who supplies fun material for small children. All in all it’s well worth a visit. They also don’t mind you taking photographs. And since the museum won’t tell you, I will. It has eight cycle stands, just inside the main entrance.

(Below) 1930s interior

(Below) 1960s chic

Guess who!

It is deeply unattractive to have somebody lecturing you on climate change when they are one of the greatest emitters of carbon themselves.

Drunk 4X4 driver

Chelsea star John Obi Mikel was banned from the roads for 15 months today for drink driving after rejecting a court offer to undertake a driving safety course. Mikel, 21, was found to be almost twice the limit when stopped by police in his black Range Rover in west London, on January 24.

Sunday 26 April 2009

proud of her bicycle

studio photograph, Southsea, 1910

(from the Hampshire County Council archive)

Another cycling pothole injury

A WOMAN left unconscious after falling off her bicycle trying to avoid a pothole in a Biggin Hill road has called for better road repairs. Mary Ireland, 61, was riding along Buckhurst Road with nine other cyclists from the Meridian Cycling Club on the way from High Elms to Oxted when the accident happened.

She said: "We always call out if there's a bit of bad road. Because it's a really bad road, it was 'hole; mind the hole'. I remember feeling very unsure about how bad it was. I'm an experienced cyclist. We weren't going fast."

Council spokesman Andrew Rogers said: "One of our highways inspectors has looked at the road and we will be making a repair at a particular location on the road." He added Buckhurst Road is provisionally on the list to be resurfaced in two years' time.

Cyclists run down


A cyclist has been rushed to hospital with serious head injuries after a road traffic collision. The man, believed to be 35-years-old, was taken to Charing Cross Hospital by road
after being involved in the collision near St Mary’s Terrace, Twickenham.


A CYCLIST is fighting for his live today after being struck by a car. The 30-year-old man collided with a car while riding his mountain bike in North Shields. [Or did the car collide with him? Ed.]

He suffered serious head injuries and his condition was described as critical.The cyclist’s yellow mountain bike was in a collision with a Ford Mondeo at the junction of Balkwell Avenue and Oswin Terrace yesterday.


A cyclist and car collided in London Road, Lynn. The road was closed after the collision outside The Two Wheel Centre, at 4.45pm yesterday (Thursday).


A young boy remains in a serious condition in hospital after being involved in a road traffic incident in the West Midlands yesterday. The 11-year-old was injured following a collision with a car in Wolverhampton. The boy was cycling close to a busy main road in Oldbury at the time.The car involved was a Ford Focus, it is believed the collision happened at around 4.50pm on Wednesday.

Driver who killed four was talking on mobile phone

A driver who killed four members of a family after he U-turned on a motorway and hit them head-on was talking on his hands-free phone at the time. Mariusz Adamski, 24, was driving in the wrong direction on the M1 near Luton when his car ploughed into a Jaguar driven by Lakhdip Nagra, 27, a consultant for top financial firm Deloitte.

Yesterday, his mother Krystina Adamska, who lives in Poland, said her son appeared to have become confused while using his satellite navigation system on Saturday night.Describing the moments before his death, Mrs Adamska said: 'He called me before midnight. He was driving home and talking on his hands-free.

Saturday 25 April 2009

Shocking new photographs

Photographers gathered at Walthamstow bus station this afternoon and wantonly took photographs of the bus station, buses and each other, as a follow-up to this and this.

And where were the Police Community Support Officers and the police? Nowhere to be seen. How will the war on terror ever be won if our crack Walthamstow bus station security teams only work Mondays-Fridays?

Photography protest, Walthamstow bus station, this afternoon, 4.30 pm

Photographers and supporters are meeting at Walthamstow Central bus station, opposite the tube, for a mass photoshoot at 4.30pm. on Saturday afternoon 25 April. Even if you haven’t got a camera, come and join in!

It’s a fun event to protest about a serious subject: the erosion of civil liberties under the pretext of combating terrorism.

That deadly junction in Clerkenwell

FURIOUS road safety campaigners have lashed out at Mayor of London Boris Johnson after another near-fatal accident involving a 14-year-old girl at a notorious blackspot junction at King’s Cross. The teenage cyclist was hit by a No 30 bus as she crossed Penton Rise junction with Pentonville Road, in Clerkenwell, on Tuesday morning.

There have been 23 accidents at the spot in the past four years. In 2007 cyclist Madeleine Wright, from Islington Green, died after being crushed under a lorry there.

Following the death of Ms Wright, Cllr Ray held an emergency meeting with officials from Transport for London (TfL) and her colleague, Lib Dem councillor George Allan. “While we talked we actually saw a cyclist being knocked off his bike by a car turning left when he wanted to go straight on,” she said.

Friday 24 April 2009

Enduring crap

The cycle stand by Bhs, yesterday.

There used to be five cycle stands here, but four of them came loose and disappeared. Naturally the crap council never bothered to replace them. So now there's just one, which is laughably inadequate for such a central location. And as you can see, in common with numerous other cycle stands in the High Street area, it is used for many purposes other than cycle parking. This blue trolley, which looks like it belongs to a DIY superstore, was locked to the stand.

But not to worry, round the corner on Westbury Road there is this fine quality provision.

crash in High Road Leyton

A MAN has been taken to hospital with head injuries following a collision between a motorcyclist and pedestrian. The man, in his forties, was involved in the accident in Leyton High Road.

And note the roadworks sign placed across the start of the cycle lane.

Susan Daly gives up cycling

There are two cycle routes that I have used regularly in the city. When I lived on the southside, I would take one through Rathmines, over Portobello Bridge, that was about as wide as a sparrow's wing span. It was a task in itself not to be culled by potholes or vans turning left onto the canal before dicing with death across three lanes of traffic to get into the correct spot for turning down Harcourt Street. At one point I considered attaching sparklers to my signalling arm to make my intentions that bit clearer.

My more recent cycle path -- or psycho-path as it would be more appropriately named -- has made me hang up my helmet for good.

Taxpayers’ money used to pay parking fines

An investigation has been ordered into multi-million pound bill run up by a university's staff on official credit cards. Around £5million was spent over a two-and-a-half year period on everything from tickets to the Olympic Games in China to payment for a professor's parking fines, it has been revealed.

Leeds Metropolitan University, which has around 30,000 staff, receives half its £160million annual budget from public funds.

Other spending by 190 university card holders between May 2006 and December last year included the payment of at least six parking fines.

Thursday 23 April 2009

Cycle lane

A cycle lane is provided on the left of this chicane on Boundary Road E17 to help cyclists avoid conflict with oncoming traffic and by-pass any delays which result from the direction priority system. (Tuesday)

‘he took his eyes off the road to look at his mobile phone’

A RECOVERY truck driver knocked down and killed a 91-year-old woman after he took his eyes off the road to look at his mobile phone, a court has heard. Geoffrey Royle is on trial for allegedly causing the death of Bessie ‘Eliza’ Blatchford by dangerous driving in Pinhoe Road, Exeter, on January 4 last year.

Royle admitted receiving a text message on his mobile phone from his wife and looking at it for around five seconds just before hitting Mrs Blatchford on a crossing.

This reminds me of somewhere else…

In Galway the purpose of cycling facilities is to benefit motorists rather than cyclists,” says Foran. “The cycle lanes that are being put in are dangerous, do make cycling inconvenient, and do make cycling unattractive.”

Questions, anyone?

One of the themes of this blog is that in every aspect of our society, it’s a car supremacist world (read the latest crazy example here). And two car supremacist institutions among many others are the Metropolitan Police and the BBC.

The Met has a long history of being reluctant to enforce road traffic law, hostility to speed cameras and indifference to the often atrocious driving standards of its own officers. The Met has comprehensively failed to protect the interests of vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, has massively cut its complement of road traffic officers, and makes the major form of violence, death and injury in London, i.e. road crashes, a very low policing priority. The Met has a blanket policy of not enforcing Advanced Stop Lines for cyclists, on the grounds that enforcement would slow down motor traffic. The Met devotes far fewer resources to the investigation of road deaths than it does to murders. It is blatantly failing to enforce the ban on driving with a handheld mobile phone. The Met also wasted a small fortune in public money in its futile and vindictive attempt to have Critical Mass made illegal (the fifteenth anniversary of the first London Critical Mass is tomorrow, incidentally).

The BBC, home to Top Gear, is entirely lacking in programmes about urban cycling and is no friend of cyclists. The BBC is a public funded corporation but it follows a road lobby news agenda, marginalises road violence and represents motorists primarily as a victim group. BBC London News ignores most cyclist and pedestrian deaths in London. Not a single one of the deaths of cyclists under the wheels of a lorry in London in 2008 or 2009 was mentioned on BBC London News. BBC News describes most crashes as ‘accidents’, even though virtually all are the result of wilful negligence or recklessness.

So you might be surprised (or in my case NOT surprised) to learn that

The London Cycling Campaign has a range of cycling-friendly corporate supporters including the Met Police and the BBC.

The Budget

The idea that I could go out and scrap an old car and receive £2,000 off the purchase of a Rolls Royce says it all. Last year's cut in VAT (to 15%) is already saving Rolls buyers £7,000. Surely this money would have been better spent on improving public transport or on more cycle lanes


There's nothing to stop you from using this hand-out to trade in a Fiat 500 for a Range Rover. The car scrappage scheme is not about jobs or the environment: it is not green and it's not a new deal. It's simply another installment in the 50-year history of government subsidies for the motor industry.


If we really want to be green, why are we supporting the car industry at all? Call me old-fashioned, but subsidising trains or bikes is still my idea of a green transport policy.The inconvenient truth is that if you are hell-bent on becoming a green-collar worker, your best chance is to join the car or the nuclear industry.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Pavement clutter

Every couple of years the Council announces a grand clutter strategy. This sort of pledge, which claims (PDF format) the borough will

Carry out a comprehensive anti-clutter exercise to rationalise and reposition street furniture and signage.

As you can see from the photo above, which shows the pavement on Hall Lane E4, the policy has been a triumphant success, with the footway reclaimed as a friendly environment for pedestrians.

Not that the council’s official anti-clutter strategy seems to be known to whoever wrote the Cycle Parking Standards planning policy document for Waltham Forest, which notes (PDF format) that

The anti-clutter policy becoming more popular with certain local authorities is also taking away the other time-honoured methods of securing bikes to guard-rails and waiting restriction poles.

Ironically the first great anti-clutter strategy back in 2004 seemed to result in little apart from the usual smiley-faces story in wfm and, er, the removal of various signs for cyclists. I’ve discussed this topic before.

And did you spot a mysterious object rising out of the pavement beyond the sign in the pic above? Yes, it’s the stump of another lamp post, demolished by a motorist who ‘lost control’. And if no one was injured then this crash will never appear in the 2009 statistics, and we will be told that our roads are safer than they have ever been before.

Paint this in capitals ten metres high

speed cameras don't catch motorists, they catch criminals!

In the comments box says ‘Sally Pearsehouse, Bethnal Green’.

Well said, Sally. Although you have to scroll down to the foot of the column, past scores of frothing petrolheads, to find it.


‘Crash’ author was unicyclist

a unicycle stood in his hallway.

But did he ever ride it? Apparently he did.

Fans of the great man make a Shanghai pilgrimage.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Chingford welcomes cycling acrobats

As part of its ongoing commitment to diversity, the council has created this safe environment for cycling acrobats on York Road E4. (Incidentally, note the innovative siting of the drain and also the bollard on the right, beautifully aligned with the dropped kerb.)

Below are some suggested techniques, as recommended by council leader Clyde Loakes, a top local expert in maintaining seemingly impossible positions over long periods of time.

springtime at the Crooked Billet

Less Ballardian than Beckettian.

Broken glass in Brighton (and everywhere else)

Uncleared glass in the road is causing punctures for cyclists across Brighton and Hove. One cyclist has suffered four flat tyres in a week because of the sharp objects. Steve Prince, 47, has branded himself as the unluckiest man in the city because of the punctures. Mr Prince, of Golf Drive, Brighton, said: “I’m sick of it, I’m absolutely sick of it.

Tony Green, of Bricycles, the Brighton, Hove and district cyclist group, said: “We have had two or three people coming to us about glass in the streets.
They say the recycling lorries are the cause.”

Car dependency

Britain is more dependent than ever on cars, according to a study published today. Even the poorest families are increasingly reliant on them, and when motoring costs rise they prefer to sacrifice other household spending rather than stop driving.

The number of cars has grown seven times faster than the population. There are 29.6 million cars, up 30 per cent from a decade ago. Over the same period the population has grown by 4 per cent to 60.6 million.
The RAC Foundation commissioned a team of academics from Oxford University, Imperial College and University College London to investigate how reliant Britons were on their cars.

They found that people opted for them even for journeys that could easily be walked or cycled and were used for 78 per cent of journeys of two to three miles.
Just over three quarters of homes had a car and ownership had grown fastest among the poorest fifth of households, up from 35 per cent in 2000 to 49 per cent in 2006.

As the study is funded by the RAC it naturally concludes with a bogus ‘Green’ message:

There is no question of getting rid of cars. Instead we must change the type of cars we use — smaller, lighter, more fuel-efficient models with less CO2 emissions.

Ghost bike in Chicago

‘You see them all over the city’ says the newsreader on the video accompanying this story.

Monday 20 April 2009

Hitchcock on Hoe Street

Bill Hodgson, leader of the campaigning McGuffin Film Society, said: "We have got no faith in the council's planning process. The council is desperately trying to rush this through. They are not listening to anyone's opinion."

On Saturday night About 600 protestors lined up along both sides of Hoe Street waving banners.

I knew that the Beatles and Rolling Stones had performed there but I didn’t know Buddy Holly had.

See how many Hitchcock films you can spot slyly mentioned in this piece.

Cycle parking at The Whitechapel Gallery

Yesterday I checked out two East London cultural institutions. Both were free. One of them was the newly refurbished and expanded Whitechapel Gallery. In common with numerous other London institutions, the Gallery finds it inconceivable that anyone would choose to arrive on a bicycle. In fact its instructions are equally unhelpful if you were arriving by bus. But the 'how to find us' map helpfully contains the location of the nearest car parks.

I didn't notice any cycle stands in the vicinity and the railings outside the Gallery were choked with locked bikes. This sort of crap once again underlines what a hopelessly backward and hostile city London is for cyclists.

Never having been to the Whitechapel Gallery before, I found it a disappointment. It's full of self-indulgent postmodern rubbish, which didn't engage me and didn't seem to be saying anything. It's lazily conservative third-rate art masquerading as the avant-garde. It would have been electrifying a hundred years ago but now it's the new orthodoxy. It was a merciful relief to encounter canvases by Lucien Freud and Peter Doig, who are authentic, original and gifted artists. I ended up being more interested in looking at the other visitors. The people wandering around the Gallery were far more striking than the exhibits. In short, last year's exhibition of graffitti art and installations in the tunnel behind Waterloo Station by Banksy and other artists was vastly more interesting and involving than the stale and tired crap on show at the Whitechapel.

The woven lifesize replica of 'Guernica' didn't do anything for me. A bit pointless. There was also an anti-imperialist carpet, underneath a slide show of what I assumed were wounded Iraqi children. Sorry, that didn't work for me either.

The cafe is reasonably priced and I have no complaints about the coffee or my chocolate brownie.

If the Gallery ever manages to fill its spaces with some original and engaging art I'll go back.

The other place I visited turned out to be much more interesting. I'll blog about that later in the week.

The mileage milker

His Glasgow North East constituency covers 10 square miles, making it one of Scotland's smallest, but a Sunday newspaper found he has claimed £5,766 over the past two years. Mr Martin's claim is the equivalent of him using his own car to drive 600 miles per month.

Matthew Sinclair, research director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "There is no reason why an MP for a small, urban constituency should be claiming so much in mileage allowance and this suggests many of the trips may have paper-thin justifications."

Sunday 19 April 2009

obstruction at the Town Hall gates

Could someone please ring the Town Hall and ask them to look out of the window. I suppose everyone who works there at weekends arrives by car, so no-one would notice that the pavement and the cycle lane are obstructed by this crap. Lovely daffodils, though. Yesterday.

Pothole injury

Warren Peters, 45, was cycling to Petersfield from work at Milland where he is a director at the Meon Survey Partnership when he was catapulted over his handlebars after hitting a 13cm deep pothole on Harting Combe. "Surface water or a puddle was across most of my side of the carriageway, I went through the puddle and hit a large pothole and went over the handlebars, landing on my face," he said.

"I suffered multiple fractures, a broken nose, broken upper jaw and about five or six other complicated fractures as well as a lot of stitches.
My upper jaw doesn't match my lower jaw and I won't know for another six months whether they are going to align. I have to be careful when I eat.

More on this story here.

Dangerous roads

“He was in the army for 22 years and he was very proud of that. He served two tours in the Gulf; he was in Bosnia two or three times, twice in the Falklands.

But he died in England

riding his bicycle home.

Saturday 18 April 2009

Quote of the Year

He said: "My intention was to knock him off. I thought he would get a few cuts and bruises, not have a broken pelvis and have to be in a wheelchair. I just thought, you know, he'd come off. He might have a grazed knee or something but I thought he would be able to brush himself down and carry on.

Southwark - a pedestrian paradise?

Southwark has been named the most pedestrian friendly authority in the country.

I can’t say I’ve noticed. But don’t worry, next time I’m in Southwark I shall make a special effort to take note of its walking wondrousness.

Southwark were chosen as the best local authority as a result of their pro-pedestrian and pro-road safety initiatives. In addition to a 20mph scheme being considered locally, one of the most successful projects in Southwark was the changes made at Walworth Road, which involved widening pavements, making crossings safer, removing guard railing and improving lighting.

Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of Living Streets said: "We were really impressed by some of the changes already made in Southwark and we are delighted by some of the plans for the future. Walworth Road is a fine example of a scheme which has transformed an area that was once just seen as a traffic corridor, into a people friendly public space.

It sounds mouthwatering.

Not that I’m entirely sure I believe it. Living Streets replaced The Pedestrians Association in 2001. The P.A. was set up in 1929 as a mass campaigning voluntary organisation. Its golden days seem to have been in the 1930s. It was a democratic organisation with a network of branches. I’m not sure what happened in 2001 but the Pedestrians Association imploded. Its elected governing body was terminated and its local branches were cast off (though some seem to have lived on as independent entities). It was replaced by Living Streets, a slick unelected self-perpetuating body. In short, the Pedestrians Association seems to have been Sustranned. Whereas the P.A. was an entirely voluntary organisation, with just one part-time secretary, Living Streets is run by paid staff, with annual staff costs of £756,606 (see the accounts [PDF format] here)

The problem with organisations like Living Streets – and the same applies to Sustrans, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth – is that they have no democratic accountability. A self-perpetuating clique determines the goals of the organisation, not a membership which elects a governing body and turns up for an annual general meeting. What happens, I would argue, is that campaigning loses its critical edge, and funding grows in importance to those who run the organisation and depend on it for their agreeable salaries. And if you are soliciting funding from government, local authorities, the Lottery or corporations, you want to talk about niceness not about crap. And while it’s right to support good practice, it’s important to keep a sense of perspective and see the wider and often crappier picture.

And as I’ve suggested before, Living Streets can, at times, be completely useless in promoting the interests of pedestrians.

Road safety initiative

A £150,000 Bentley is the latest expensive car to have its wheels stolen in London. Unfortunately for the owner of the Continental model, it is the second time thieves have targeted his black sapphire vehicle in three weeks.

The 200mph car — which does 11.2mpg about town —was parked outside a house in Chelsea

Walthamstow photography harassment update

The Daily Mail, which obviously lacks any photographs of a place as remote and wild as Walthamstow, catches up with the story.

Amateur Photographer magazine is also on to the case.

The magazine has previously noted

the increased evidence that police routinely use anti-terror powers to unfairly stop amateurs and professionals taking pictures in public.

And there’s more on this subject here.

Friday 17 April 2009

Austrian tourist harassed in Walthamstow for taking photographs of buses

A letter in yesterday’s national Guardian newspaper:

During a recent visit to London I had a nasty incident, which killed interest in any further trips to this city. As I was taking pictures of double-decker buses with my son, we were approached by two policemen. First, we were told that it is forbidden to take pictures of anything in conjunction with transport. Then our names, passport numbers and London hotel address were noted. After that we were forced to delete all pictures that included any transport - even pictures of the new underground station in Vauxhall, which is a modern sculpture! Klaus Matzka, Vienna, Austria

The paper tracked down Mr Matzka:

He said he would not return to London again after the incident, which took place last week in central Walthamstow, in north-east London.

My guess is that the two individuals who harassed him were not police officers but PCSOs, who seem to spend a lot of time hanging around the bus station.

Mr Matzka naturally did not know that neither a PCSO nor a police officer has the right to demand to see any photographs you have taken, has no right to demand the deletion of photographs, and cannot take your camera off you without a court order. Nor is it an offence to take a photograph in a public place. But this kind of bullying of harmless photographers is now commonplace across Britain. In another incident this week

A man was detained as a terrorist suspect for taking a photo of a police car being driven erratically across a public park. Malcolm Sleath, who is chairman of his local park society, was stopped by two officers and told he had breached Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.

Jenny Jones:

Whether it’s taking film from photographers’ cameras or kettling innocent and guilty together for hours without food, water or loos, the police are overreaching themselves and making the streets of London less pleasant and often less safe.

Local lawbreakers who are not harassed are, of course, drivers. The Advanced Stop Line for cyclists by the Walthamstow bus station exit is obstructed all day long by lawless drivers, to the complete indifference of Commander Mark Benbow and his force. And a couple of PCSOs standing on Hoe Street would have little difficulty in taking down the details of scores of drivers passing by chatting on handheld mobile phones. But that kind of crime is of little or no interest to the Met, which makes it all the more peculiar that its heavy-handed policing of demonstrations purports to be motivated by a concern for public safety. The Met certainly isn’t ‘working for a safer London.’ If it was, it would make enforcement of road traffic law one its top policing priorities.

The photo above is borrowed from this architecture blog.

Double standards

Time and time again killer drivers walk free and breeze out of court with a small fine. But maliciously damaging a Ferrari – that’s something the judiciary takes very seriously indeed.

A chef who admitted damaging a Ferrari Enzo supercar belonging to Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay was jailed for 20 weeks today.

Thursday 16 April 2009

It's criminal

This is a London Borough of Waltham Forest refuse truck, reg. HX53 WML.

The driver drove into the Advanced Stop Line for cyclists, on Willow Walk E17 at the junction with Selborne Road, yesterday, around 9.50 a.m. While waiting at red, the driver didn't bother to signal whether he was turning left or right. I stayed behind the vehicle, took out my camera and managed to get this shot, just as the lights started to change to green. As it happened, the driver turned right.

What bothered me more than the very poor standard of driving was to see that the largest of the two left wing mirrors was broken, shattered into fragments. That is not only unlawful but criminally irrresponsible in a month when two London cyclists have died under the wheels of left-turning lorries.

Someone in this council has the responsibility of seeing that its vehicle fleet goes out on the roads in a safe and lawful condition. Whoever that person is, they are not doing their job properly. And drivers should refuse to operate vehicles in this condition. But plainly no one cares.

Electric car crap

I was in the West End yesterday afternoon and I saw this. An electric car, being charged on Wellington Street WC2.

This was a topical sighting, since one of today's big news stories is that

Consumers are to be offered incentives of up to £5,000 to purchase an electric car under government plans to be unveiled today that will also see the creation of electric car cities across the UK and the launch of large-scale experiments with ultra-green vehicles. The proposals are part of a £250m strategy, seen by the Guardian, spelling out a revolution in Britain's road transport network based on ultra-low carbon vehicles.

Last week Boris Johnson, the London mayor, announced his intention to make the capital a showcase for electric car technology by putting 100,000 electric cars on the roads.

Electric cars at present are bought by the most affluent members of society. All that will happen with this scheme is that families with 4X4s will be given a subsidy not to replace their car but to get another one, more suitable for zipping around London. This scheme is likely to put MORE cars on the road, not less.

'Green' cars are a contradiction in terms. As today's Guardian says

Green cars are not so green if their electricity comes from a Kingsnorth, or some other smoke-belching power station.

Electric cars simply promote car dependency under a green smokescreen. The billions wasted subsidising the ailing car industry would be better spent on trams, light rail and cycling.

Electric cars are being manufactured to exceed the national maximum speed limit and to go faster and faster. The government is in a powerful position to demand a speed no greater than 70 mph - in reality a maximum speed of 50 mph for ALL cars would have spectacular results in terms of cutting road deaths - but it naturally won't bother.

The car industry wants the government to give customers £2,000 cash for swapping cars that are at least nine years old for newer models. The problem is, it provides dubious economic benefit, probable environmental harm and, crucially, will only heighten Britons' dependence on cars when we ought to be weaning ourselves off them. The economics are simple: all taxpayers - princes and paupers alike - will be paying for a few lucky souls to treat themselves to a new car.

These photographs indicate not a solution but a problem. Why does anyone need a car to get around the West End? Why are cars permitted in a crowded urban environment well served by public transport? Note in the background the choked cycle stand. While electric cars are touted as the future, something as basic as cycle parking remains marginalised and inadequate.

Woman run down by police van in Tottenham

A WOMAN suffered serious head injuries after being hit by a police van answering an emergency call.The crash between the van and the 22-year-old pedestrian happened in Lansdowne Road, at the junction with the High Road, in Tottenham, at 3.10pm on Tuesday.

Two more cyclists killed on Tuesday

Nicholas Moore, 43, of Hawthornden Avenue, Uttoxeter, is believed to have been in an accident with a flat bed lorry, in Stone Road, Uttoxeter, at 4.05pm yesterday (Tuesday, April 14) and was pronounced dead at the scene by ambulance crews.

A few minutes earlier another cyclist was killed

in a road crash with a van. The accident happened just before 4pm Tuesday at Bilby Corner in Mersham, near Ashford.

Record crap

A member of the Scottish gutter press froths at the policing of a speed limit, making a major story out of nothing at all.

Locals say the cops often set speed traps at the spot because it provides "easy pickings".

In which case, why don’t these wise and experienced “locals” just obey the speed limit?

Alongside this empty story which once again plays the 'flat earth news' trick of representing reckless and lawless drivers as victims, are these adverts:

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It’s a reminder that the toothless ‘Advertising Standards Authority’ is funded and run by… advertisers!