Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Total Twenty for Bristol

Just a quick post to remind you all that today is the last day of the formal consultations on the proposed 20 mph pilot areas so please get your comments in if you haven't already (see here for details). But the campaign doesn't stop here so let's keep plugging away at local councillors and officers so that they know this issue isn't going to go away.

The big issue is not whether the pilots go ahead but whether they go ahead as Total Twenty areas where all residential streets are covered, or as timorous, tepid twenty/thirty areas where speed limits chop and change in a confusing way. The streets the officers want to keep as 30 mph  are the streets where cyclists and pedestrians are in the most danger, have the most difficulty crossing and are subject to the most harassment. Leaving these streets unchanged renders the whole exercise largely pointless since the streets currently proposed for 20 mph already have speeds of that order anyway.

Many of us have questioned the need for Pilot schemes in the first place. We already know 20 mph areas of the sort proposed bring some benefits so what is there to trial? But what we don't know in detail is how much more might be achieved by a Total Twenty approach including all residential streets without exception. That would be something worth trialling, giving some purpose to the Pilot schemes. In the unlikely event that a Total Twenty approach turned out to be counter productive then something useful will have been learned.

And if Total Twenty proves to be an altogether better approach then that would surely be something that Bristol could be very proud of having pioneered. Bristol likes to think of itself as innovative and entreprising. Well here's a chance to prove it. After all what's the worst that could happen with Total Twenty? It's hardly likely to deliver worse conditions that we have with the 30 mph limit. If the city council can't find the courage to seize this opportunity to make a step change then they will show themselves truly deserving of the odium heaped upon them by certain bloggers.


alexhighrise said...

Dear Chris

Thanks for your comments.

I was a cyclist until last year when I decided I’d had enough at least for the time being. This decision was a result of the general sense of danger to my life I experience as a cyclist on the roads of Bristol and two accidents I had when I was knocked off my bike the second time having to go to hospital to have my cuts and bruises checked and recorded for insurance purposes.
Let me outline the accidents:
1) at Eastville Tesco roundabout when riding towards the motorway and I was knocked off by a car the driver of which said when he got out to apologise and help me up, ‘Sorry, I was arguing with the wife.’
2) Coming down Park Street after work at 8pm it was dark I had lights on the bike and was pushed off the road by a taxi making a u-turn from up to down the street. I could see the passengers in the taxi shouting at the driver when they saw me. I was pushed into the kerb which I hit and was thrown over the handlebars narrowly missing a lamppost then skidding on the front of my body a good ten metres down the pavement. Fortunately a police patrol witnessed the accident and later I was informed that the taxi driver as part of his punishment had to attend a re-training course.

Now I am a pedestrian (and love walking around the city), a user of what I think is a very poor and expensive bus service, and occasional car user. I would like to get back on my bike but am hesitant to do so because of the lack of awareness of private and public transport drivers (bus and car) and the transport system that prioritises private car use at the expense of pedestrians and cyclists.


Chris Hutt said...

Thanks for that Alex (which relates to comments I left on Alex's blog). It's always sad to hear of people who have given up cycling as a result of what I would characterise as systematic intimidation and endangerment.

But this is of course what happens to so many people. They want to cycle and have often been cyclists for many years but reach a point where they cannot face the harassment, intimidation and endangerment any longer.

This haemorrhaging of existing cyclists may be offset by new cyclists even to the extent of showing overall growth in cycling numbers but surely this is nevertheless something that must be addressed if Cycling City is going to be more than spin.

Elizabeth said...

Dear Alex

Arguing with the wife or being distracted by the children are often trotted out as excuses for near manslaughter. As has been said before, the best way to get rid of someone legally is with a car.

But please don't give up: it is possible to avoid the lethal Park St by riding over Brandon Hill and behind the Council House. Likewise with many other routes where the direct one is just too dangerous.

Perhaps as a woman it is easier for me too, to chicken out altogether, and walk with my bike on the pavement a lot of the time. The most dangerous streets are often the ones which seem safe - like Cotham Hill, and Whiteladies Road. Whereas St James's Barton roundabout and the Triangle are paradoxically safer - because the motorists are less sure of their own safety, and therefore less bullying. However, I am finding bus drivers much less predictable than they used to be - another reason for avoiding the main arteries.

bikecat said...

Dear Alex
Perhaps a confidence-boosting session with a National Standards cycle trainer would help get you back on two wheels? We look at skills, road position ideas about traffic and how to do junctions more easily and safely. In short how to enjoy cycling while being more in control of what is around you. Contact Life Cycle UK. Currently sessions are only £5 at the mo!

Chris Hutt said...

Just to correct that, sessions are charged at £30 per hour but the first one is eligible for a £25 subsidy from the taxpayer, leaving the beneficiary to pay the balance of £5.

It's a bit like the taxpayer paying 83% of your food bill provided you choose those foods approved by the state, or the taxpayer paying 83% of your travel costs providing you travel by a means approved by the state.

Some of us think the state has no business interefering in people's lives in this way. It grossly distorts people's freedom of choice and gives the state power to favour one interest group over another. Inevitably the interest groups favoured will be those who lobby most effectively, typically big business interests.

A pertinent example is the massive subsidy receieved by road users who generally pay nothing for on-street parking or for road use, even at peak times when road capacity is very valuable. This distortion by subsidy promotes car ownership, causes congestion and undermines cycling and public transport.

If such state directed taxpayer subsidy is wrong in principle is it right that we should accept it on those rare occasions when it appears to favour us?

alexhighrise said...

Dear bikecat
thanks for your suggestion. It's not that i need a confidence boost it's more i'm tired of the aggression and the vulnerability of being a cyclist in Bristol.
I do think there needs be a different way of educating and policing car drivers.
Car use is seen as the norm from which all other modes of transport deviate. A cycle lane isn't so much seen as something for the cyclist but as something taken from the motorist and until there is some change in the this adherence to the hierarchy of road use with cars at the top i don't see how things will change.
Also i imagine, and to be sure i don't know this for a fact without more research, that most transport and road planners use cars more than any other mode of transport. This does seem born out by the way cycle paths appear and disappear at inconvenient times and places for the cyclist and the way in which the local bus service is operated by First in a way that is clearly not in the interests of the people of Bristol.