Tuesday 9 October 2012

Car-centric Norwich Labour councillors witch-hunt cyclists

The rotting remains of a bicycle logo, inviting cyclists to ride on the pavement in Norwich (Earlham Road). All the photographs used in this post were taken in Norwich last week.

A city councillor has called for greater penalties for cyclists after spending an hour monitoring a notorious Norwich danger-spot. 

The Labour group spotted 18 cyclists riding on Magdalen Street illegally during a one-hour monitoring session. 

Julie Brociek-Coulton and others surveyed cycle safety at the one-way stretch off Magdalen Street during the morning rush-hour. They spotted 18 cyclists using the road illegally – either cycling the wrong way into the direction of traffic or by cycling on the pavement, past pedestrians and shop doors. Mrs Brociek-Coulton said more frequent fines were needed for cyclists, bringing punishments closer to those for drivers who flout the law. 

All I can say about this crap is that if you bother to take a look at any street in any urban centre in England you’re sure as hell to find more than 18 offences an hour being committed by drivers. Including car-sodden Norwich, which is a deeply car-sick city firmly under the thumb of a Labour administration which is poisonously hostile to walking and cycling.

Actually that’s very far from all that I have to say about this news item. This pathetic witch-hunting crap is a classic instance of how Britain suffers from having elected representatives at a local level who are ignorant, prejudiced, anti-cycling, anti-walking, and car-supremacist to the bone.

Norwich is run by the Labour Party and, like the London Boroughs of Waltham Forest and Newham, and the city of York, serves as a lurid reminder that the Labour Party can be every bit as pro-car as the Conservatives. Indeed, Norwich, Waltham Forest, Newham and York all should be twinned with Westminster Council for their commitment to putting motorists first and pedestrians and cyclists last. Norwich Labour Party is firmly on the side of the lawless driver and despises both pedestrians and cyclists, which makes the indignation of Norwich Labour councillors about naughty cyclists hypocrisy on a colossal scale. Norwich Council has no objection at all to cyclists using the footway – when it saves them bothering to build cycling infrastructure.

Like here, where cyclists are invited to ride on the footway leading from Johnson Place to Chapel Field Road, even though there is ample space for a proper segregated cycle path.

Or here on Earlham Road, where faded and barely visible markings command the ‘shared use’ cyclist to abruptly join a hellish three lane roundabout with high volume traffic. Building works block off the pedestrian side of this 'shared use' footway but naturally no one at Norwich Council gives a toss.

Or here, by the same roundabout, where cyclists are invited to take over the entire pavement, and a crap cycle path (complete with seriously faded markings and street furniture in the middle) leads to the junction with Chapel Field North.

Naturally there are no signals here to assist the cyclist to cross to the traffic island, where this crap piece of infrastructure fizzles out altogether (below), leaving the cyclist stranded amid fast moving motor vehicles. No wonder the elderly cyclist in the background has abandoned the carriageway and is pushing her bike along the footway.


The councillor who trembles with outrage and indignation at the behaviour of cyclists, Mrs Brociek-Coulton, lives on Angel Road, Norwich, a street lined with cars unlawfully parked on the footway, to the complete indifference of the moralising Mrs Brociek-Coulton. Norwich Council could be handing out fixed penalty notices to pavement parkers but prefers not to.

Angel Road, Norwich, is a classic long, straight anti-cycling road, with some perfunctory traffic calming in the form of crap speed cushions (the sort that drivers swerve to avoid, sometimes putting them on a collision course with oncoming cyclists). Angel Road is just the sort of road which suppresses cycling, but doubtless what Mrs Brociek-Coulton understands about cycling could be written on the back of a postage stamp and would still require an electron microscope to read it. To reiterate: you can obstruct the footway to your heart’s content in Norwich and the passions of Mrs Brociek-Coulton will remain as unstirred as those of her hypocritical fellow car-supremacist Labour councillors.
(Below) Cars parked on double yellow lines completely blocking the footway on both sides of Heigham Grove, as they do every day. This is a cul de sac but there is a public footpath at the end which connects with the next street.

(below) a sign on Warwick Street. Like cops everywhere, Norfolk Constabulary fret about crime against parked vehicles while blatantly ignoring crimes committed by drivers on an unending daily basis, including unlawful driving and parking on footways.

(below) Mill Hill Road, where Norwich Council is only interested in protecting parking spaces for local residents, and is indifferent to pavement parking.

(Below) Blatant obstruction of the footway on Trinity Street.

The locus of Mrs Brociek-Coulton’s moral fervour, Magdalen Street, is the perfect example of a street where cyclists should have a contraflow lane. Instead, car parking has priority. The reason that Magdalen Street is one-way is quite simple - to manage motor vehicle flow and to maximise car parking. The convenience of cyclists is entirely overlooked, and the reason why so many cyclists ignore the One Way is because it obstructs a natural desire line. Norwich Council should be taking steps to exploit this enthusiasm for cycling by reconfiguring the street to accommodate its existence. 
Although someone like Mrs Brociek-Coulton is probably incapable of understanding it, the empty shops on Magdalen Street may well be a consequence of the fact that car-sodden streets are places which can deter shoppers rather than encourage them. Who knows? if Magdalen Street was pedestrianised (with access for cyclists) it might actually thrive rather more so than it is doing at present. But of course that is out of the question, because - wait for it - it would cause congestion.

As for supposed bad behaviour by cyclists. It’s the old, old story – pretend to ‘encourage cycling’ but subordinate cycling to the motor car in every aspect of transport planning. If you won’t build cycling infrastructure and expect cyclists instead to obey the dictates of infrastructure designed to prioritise ‘smooth traffic flow’ you are living in cloud cuckoo land. Cyclists go down one-way streets the ‘wrong’ way and cycle on the pavement precisely because the streets they are using are designed for motor vehicles, without a moment’s thought for the safety or convenience of cyclists. Everyone who cycles down Magdalen Street the ‘wrong’ way belongs in the category of heroes.

Like councils everywhere, Norwich’s pretends to be committed to cycling but it’s the usual froth without substance. Norwich is a totally crap city for cycling in. I’ve briefly adverted to this before (I take back my former unkindness to the Green Party – in Norwich it behoves everyone to vote Green to get rid of this truly crap, cretinously car-centric Labour council). Cycling's modal share ought to be massive, since the city is compact, mostly flat and is home to both the University of East Anglia and City College.

There are plenty of ways in which the streets of Norwich could be improved, and a tub of rectitude like Mrs Brociek-Coulton is in a position to use her influence as a Labour councillor to get them changed. But somehow I don’t think she will. She plainly doesn’t see her local streets from any other perspective than through a car windscreen. Car-sick Norwich is a backward and barbarous city which doesn’t even provide dropped kerbs for wheelchair users.
(Below) ‘Think Pedestrian’ – a sign which is the kind of fatuous and worthless trash erected by councils which have no interest whatever in pedestrians. Ironically it is placed right by a pedestrian crossing point which lacks any dropped kerbs. Chapel Field North.

(Below) Here on Palace Street in central Norwich there are also no dropped kerbs for wheelchair users. Norwich Labour Council is contemptuously indifferent to the disabled and others with a mobility handicap.

(Below) Stuck in the middle with you… A man on a mobility scooter and two cyclists wait patiently on the central refuge to cross Chapel Field Road. This has to be crossed in two separate light phases, and the phasing is weighted heavily in favour of drivers.

(Below) While in Norwich, why not visit its attractive pedestrian zone? Like crap York it has an ‘access all areas’ policy to visiting motor vehicles. Bedford Street, at lunchtime on a weekday.

(Below) Norwich’s tiny cycling modal share depends on people like this – the young, the fit and the fearless, who are prepared to hurl themselves in front of three lanes of fast moving motor vehicles on streets designed to maximise the convenience and speed of drivers. The roundabout at the top of Grapes Hill.