Thursday, 12 March 2009

Boxing Not Very Clever



Cyclists swerving to avoid a car being driven into the contra-flow cycle lane near the Centre yesterday evening when a traffic incident in Old Market caused gridlock of the whole central area. The Old Market "incident" was apparently an elderly couple being dragged under a bus, resulting in the man being killed and his partner being seriously injured. As usual we won't know the details of exactly what happened for many months, thanks to what sometimes seems like a conspiracy of silence to stifle any debate about road safety.




But we can observe and debate the scenes recorded by these pictures. What we clearly have is persistent encroachment onto the Yellow Box Junction, in contravention of the law, the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002, regs 10(1) & 29(2), which requires that you do not enter the box junction unless your exit road or lane is clear. It's eminently sensible stuff designed to keep the junction clear when the lights and priorities change. Who could argue with that?



But this being Bristol, there doesn't appear to be any enforcement, so rendering the whole thing ineffective. In the case of the junction of Anchor Road with College Green abuse of the Yellow Box Junction causes particular problems and real danger for pedestrians and cyclists due to the presence of a two-way cycle track passing through the junction, delineated by the large white square dots. A lot of buses pass through the junction and create the greatest problems by frequently blocking the pedestrian crossings as well.




So here's another challenge to our new Executive Member for Transport & Sustainability, Dr Jon Rogers. You want to get Bristol moving Jon, so how about enforcing the Yellow Box Junctions? We have the technology. All we need is the political will.

18 comments:

Jon Rogers said...

Morning Chris

Sounds like a good idea.

In fact it is already part of our plans to get Bristol moving and featured in one of our budget amendments.

In spirit of openness, I am not sure the Lib Dems have published the amendments in an easily accessible place.

They are obviously on the Council website in the agenda documentation for that "interesting" Budget meeting on 24th February.

I'll see what I can do.

Jon

Chris Hutt said...

Gosh, that was quick Jon. Still not used to an Executive Member who listens and responds positively, so forgive the culture shock!

Acesabe said...

I'm 39 so being pronounced old on top of dead would be insult to injury!
http://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/LocalPages/NewsDetails.aspx?nsid=15839&t=1&lid=1

Chris Hutt said...

Thanks for that link acebabe, giving the victim's age as 39. I should have known better than to repeat the description "elderly" reported by the Post. I guess when someone's been dragged along under a bus for 10 metres it gets tricky to say how old they look.

It's very frustrating not to know about the circumstances of such killings. It's natural to want to know who was at fault, to know what actions caused the collision, but of course these things need to be properly investigated before conclusions are published.

Then the whole thing gets bogged down in legal procedures, especially if a prosecution is being considered. An inquest may not occur for a year or more.

Perhaps the more widespread use of CCTV would help provide sound evidence which would speed up the resolution of these things. For a start buses could be equipped with it (like a black box) since they are involved in difficult and potentially dangerous traffic situations all day long. It might go a long way to improve the behaviour of bus drivers, not least when overtaking cyclists.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, that was quick Jon. Still not used to an Executive Member who listens and responds positively, so forgive the culture shock!

I see your love in with the lib dems continues, gosh, what a shocker! did mark bradshaw ever get back to you so fast - or did he have better things to do?
J

Chris Hutt said...

"J", I love everyone who comments on my blog, even you.

To answer your question, Mark Bradshaw never got back to me at all, so presumably always had better things to do, like planning more BRT routes along cycle paths.

I guess Jon Rogers wants people to know that he is willing to listen to their ideas. Isn't that what people want their councillors to do?

Perhaps you think he should only listen to properly informed people like council officers, partners, consultants, developers and business interests like Mark and Helen did.

Anonymous said...

"It's very frustrating not to know about the circumstances of such killings."

That's a bit harsh isn't it?! Needless deaths surely - killing implies the driver actually intended what eventually happened...

Having experience of being a bus driver, car driver, and now primarily a cyclist, I'm more aware than ever of the need to SHARE road space, and for people to act in a sensible manner towards each other, but accidents will still happen, it's impossible to engineer a solution to every situation.

Oh, and for your information - most modern busses are equipped with forward, rear and side facing cameras - largely to monitor the road for visual evidence against bogus insurance claims most companies face which eventually get passed onto you and I as passengers in the form of exorbitant fares. I'm sure the bus company will have passed over any video evidence to the police for consideration during their investigations.

Chris Hutt said...

I was not intending to imply that the driver was to blame.

According to the on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary "kill merely states the fact of death caused by an agency in any manner (killed in an accident, frost killed the plants)", whereas 'slay' for example implys "deliberateness and violence but not necessarily motive".

On that basis I think it's correct to refer to the event of someone being killed as a 'killing', but I stand to be corrected by anyone who knows better, of whom I expect there are many.

My view is that in general we should use more emotive language when talking about such incidents to bring home the pain and trauma experienced. Terms traditionally used like 'fatality' seem designed to neutralise emotive responses and therefore make the toll of deaths and injuries more acceptable to the public.

I agree with the rest of your comment and am grateful for the information about bus cameras. I think such evidence could be very useful in all sorts of circumstances, but I doubt whether First bus would be willing to make it available, even to the police.

You may recall that First demanded that the police pay £125,000 for such evidence in connection with investigations into an alleged act of terrorism recently. Charges of that scale render the evidence inaccessible for practical purposes. I think we need to establish that such evidence should be freely available to the police.

Anonymous said...

Not wanting to stick up for First as you have done recently yourself on TBB - the charge they handed over to the police was for replacement cameras. The police confiscated the cameras, and Fist were forced to fork out for new cameras to ensure the safety of their passengers, rather than leave their vehicles without any form of CCTV capture. I agree that emotive language should be used, and of course that it must be horrific for all involved, families, bystanders and the emergency services. What I do hate, and think is abhorrent is the way the media cover these stories reducing death and serious injury to a simple traffic jam.

Chris Hutt said...

Thanks for explaining about First's £125,000 charge. It still seems like a lot of money for a few CCTV cameras.

I don't recall that point coming across in the media reports of the time. I guess no one wanted to spoil a good story, especially one vilifying First, by reporting the boring facts.

First get a really bad press because they are the public's principal scapegoat on traffic issues. The public know in their hearts that they are creating the traffic problems themselves by excessive and inappropriate use of their cars. But why face up to such an inconvenient truth when you can blame First.... or cyclists ... or the City Council....

Bristol Dave said...

The public know in their hearts that they are creating the traffic problems themselves by excessive and inappropriate use of their cars.

Who decides at what point a car journey is excessive or inappropriate? You?

But why face up to such an inconvenient truth when you can blame First.... or cyclists ... or the City Council....

I can blame two out of the three quite easily. First for their insanely high ticket prices that aren't parallel to other cities, including their ticket policies that explicitly discourage commuting such as an inability to buy a return/dayrider before 9:30am. And the council for allowing First to get away with such high prices, giving people in Bristol such a horrendous deal with public transport, and poor road/traffic management.

We are perfectly entitled to vilify First and BCC, because they are responsible. Car usage is high because of the necessity, not due to selfishness. Other cities don't have anywhere near the public transport problems we have - they have far better public transport (e.g. Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, London) and much higher usage on this transport. Are you saying that only motorists in Bristol are selfish? It's not a problem with people being selfish, it's a problem with the alternatives to the car in Bristol being simply not viable.

You claim people vilify First/BCC because it's easy - well, that's precisely what you do with car drivers.

Chris Hutt said...

Hi Dave,

"Who decides at what point a car journey is excessive or inappropriate? You?"

No not me, but maybe the likes of Bradshaw! I believe it should be up to individuals to decide for themselves, but for that decision to be made in the context of costs which reflect the associated environmental, economic and social damage - road pricing in other words, which I know you won't like. Do you have a better idea?

First's fares (fairs? - a misnomer?)reflect the costs of operating a bus service in Bristol. Car ownership is high, cycling and walking are growing in popularity, so the residual 'captive market' of bus users is quite small yet spread over a large area (all those green spaces don't help). So you don't get much in the way of ridership outside peak times. So fares have to be high to cover the costs, even if they made no profit.

Chris Hutt said...

"You claim people vilify First/BCC because it's easy - well, that's precisely what you do with car drivers."

Fair point.

Bristol Dave said...

No not me, but maybe the likes of Bradshaw! I believe it should be up to individuals to decide for themselves, but for that decision to be made in the context of costs which reflect the associated environmental, economic and social damage

Already achieved through extortionate fuel duty - the more you use, the more you pay - or maybe you think drivers should be taxed more? (I believe it's currently around 80% if you take VAT into account). How about a little more carrot and a little less stick?

I agree about the bus fares conundrum given the large numbers of car ownership and cycling - but there can't be any justification for the current levels of fares combined with First's profits and probable shareholder payouts.

I don't have any answers, but then I don't claim to. All I know is that financially forcing people onto a woefully inadaquate public transport system is hardly fair. Maybe tender the transport contract to other companies rather than allowing the entire city to be f**ked up the arse by First?

Chris Hutt said...

I absolutely agree that there shouldn't be a monopoly of bus provision. Ideally different operators would be able to compete on the same routes so people had a choice, say between a better service or lower fares. For example if a particular route has a 10 minute service interval why should two different operators provide alternate services?

On fuel duty, that doesn't discriminate between driving on relatively empty roads or congested ones. There needs to be an additional deterrent to driving on congested roads at peak times, hence congestion charging.

Bristol Dave said...

Ideally different operators would be able to compete on the same routes so people had a choice, say between a better service or lower fares.

Big thumbs up to that.

There needs to be an additional deterrent to driving on congested roads at peak times, hence congestion charging.

But this will just force the congestion elsewhere, onto other roads that are similarly unable to cope. Some roads in the centre are congested simply because that's the route people need to take, it's not a choice people really have. You could claim that people should be using public transoprt but I worry the improvements to this would be minimal (and inadaquate) before the charge was introduced.

I've also been thinking about your comment earlier on bus usage. I'm not sure this is quite so true, when I drive/cycle home through the centre in rush hour (morning and evening), there are people queueing at bus stops with not enough space on the buses to carry everyone, so people sometimes have to wait for the 2nd or 3rd bus (so a colleague tells me). Hardly a sign of an under-used service.

Chris Hutt said...

I think there are two ways of looking at road pricing / congestion charging. How it might work in theory and how it would probably work in practice.

I believe it could prove a very effective tool in theory. I don't agree that people don't have choices, although it might take some a long time to adapt to changing conditions.

As driving becomes a less attractive option the numbers doing so will decline. Some of course will pay the price and continue driving, either because they can easily afford it or because the short-term alternatives aren't practical, but they will benefit from reduced congestion.

In practice it will always be a hot-potato, subject to political interference. Every aspect of it will be less than optimal because politicians will alter things like the charging rates to win popularity rather than optimise environmental benefits.

Because of this I would expect reductions in congestion to be fairly marginal in the short term, as they are in London. Perhaps in the longer term public opinion will change sufficiently to allow a more uncompromising use of the tool.

On buses, finding passengers during peak times isn't a problem, but that's what, 4 hours a day and it tends to be directional. So if the bus company buy extra buses and hire extra drivers to meet peak demand, what do they do with those resources for the rest of the day?

There's only so many pensioners willing to fill off-peak seats even when the cost to them (as opposed to the tax payer) is zero. Perhaps cutting back on their winter fuel payments might force more of them out onto the buses to keep warm, but that doesn't really make sense, does it?

realfoodlover said...

Great post, good point about enforcing rules round yellow boxes and fascinating, instructive comments leading to constructive debate. Thank you.