Sunday, 29 November 2009

Global Warming - The Solution (Part 1).

Firstly apologies for the long gap since my least blog. Unfortunately the real world occasionally intervenes and drags me away. There have been so many things to blog about too, what with Bristol City Council's capitulation to 'business-as-usual-only-more-so-and-stuff-the-environment' with their decision to pursue the football World Cup bid. That I will hopefully come back to anon, but with Copenhagen fast approaching it seems timely to launch my own modestly titled 'Solution to Global Warming'.

Obligatory smoking chimney pic

Let me say at the outset that I'm not the only person proposing this kind of approach and I'm not claiming it as some great leap in thinking. It is merely the simple application of free market principles (no, that's not an oxymoron) to the problem, an application of the 'polluter pays' principle and an example of an ecotax. It's simple in essence so easily understood by the consumer but would allow for the evolution of sophistication, entreprise and diversity in it's implementation (which I'll describe in Part 2). What's most important, in contrast to Cap-and-Trade, it would actually work.

The essence of the system is that the consumer of goods or services should pay for the environmental costs arising from the supply of those goods or services, including of course the cost of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In the case of carbon dioxide the cost would be what it actually costs to neutralise or fully mitigate the environmental impact. So far so familiar. But then the final element is where it gets interesting. The environmental costs paid by the consumer must be used to pay for (and will be determined by) the environmental neutralisation or mitigation so that the impact really is neutralised/mitigated.

I'll describe the mechanism for doing this in some detail in Part 2 in due course but let's first consider how such a system would work in principle. Say Mr Consumer wants to travel to exotic climes. He looks at air fares, but finds that the incorporation of the environmental costs makes air travel much more expensive. He then has three choices.
  1. Pay the higher air fare and fly (in which case his environmental impact will be neutralised/mitigated so no problem).
  2. Travel by some other means and/or a shorter distance with a lower environmental impact and pay the lower environmental costs (in which case no problem)
  3. Not travel (in which case no problem).
Freedom of choice but with responsibility. The same would apply to every single item of consumption because every good or service would incorporate its environmental costs. Even a cup of coffee or a hamburger would be more expensive precisely in proportion to its total environmental impact. So we would all inevitably adjust our spending to favour options with low environmental impacts and eschew options with high environmental impacts. We would find all energy costs much higher so we would need to travel less and invest in much better home insulation, meat and dairy products would be more expensive and vegetarian options less so and so on through the whole gamut of modern consumption.

Nobody would be denied the theoretical choice of flying, or driving an inefficient car, or whatever, but since such options would become so much more expensive only the relatively wealthy will have the practical means to choose (which is already true for most of the world's population anyway). The consequence would be a big shift in consumption patterns and the demise of many contemporary business models, notably those predicated on cheap air travel like, er, the World Cup (good choice Bristol City Council). Businesses would have to adapt and quickly to survive and prosper.

So problem solved? All the world's nations have to do in Copenhagen is agree to adopt such a system in good time and we can all forget about the worst of the Global Warming scenarios (unless it's already too late, in which case we can worry about our future survival instead on how to avoid Climate Change)? But of course they won't for the very simple reason that it would actually work. That is the last thing that powerful business interests want. Better for them to carry on with failing policies like Cap-and-Trade than adopt a policy that will actually work.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

It's Total Twenty (well almost).

Bristol City Council have just issued a Press Release on their 20 mph proposals for south and east Bristol. The number of roads excluded from the 20 mph coverage has been pared right down. The south Bristol is now 'Total Twenty' with no exclusions except the fragments on Clarence Road and York Road along the Cut which are effectively outside the scheme area. The whole of the A38 (West St - Malago Road - Bedminster Parade) is now included as 20 mph.

In east Bristol the exclusions (shown red below) are the M32 - Newfoundland Way - Newfoundland St, Easton Way -Lawrence Hill Roundabout - Barrow Road, Lawrence Hill - Church Road,
Old Market - West Street - Lawford Street/Lamb Street/Lawfords Gate/Trinity Road - Clarence Road (the A420). No one ever expected the M32 and Easton Way to be included so effectively it's just the A420 that has been excluded. That will still disappoint some but the gains compared to the officers' original proposals are enormous.

The proposals will have to be the subject of Traffic Regulation Orders before they can be implemented and it is possible that there might be objections, but it looks as though the overwhelming degree of public support for 20 mph proposals has carried the day. Credit to all those who have contributed to the consultations and debate, especially to 20splenty4Bristol, Bristol Living Streets, Bristol Cycling Campaign and above all to Jon Rogers for pushing so hard for the minimum of exclusions. We must also recognise the willingness of the officers themselves to listen to the public and to reconsider their initial position

The Arena - Disconnected Thinking?

It seems that there is now a serious push on to site an Arena (circle below) at Ashton Vale near the site now allocated for a new football stadium (rectangle below), with the Bristol Evening Post once again acting as cheerleader. Bristol's current political leaders all seem to be in favour of an Ashton Vale Arena, partly on the grounds that there is a 'synergy' between the Football Stadium and an Arena in terms of their transport infrastructure requirements, which is true up to a point.

View Arenas and Stadiums in a larger map

But an Arena isn't quite the same as a football stadium, mainly because it is likely to be staging events far more frequently and so having a much more significant impact in transport terms. The inescapable reality is that an Ashton Vale Arena will be accessed overwhelmingly by car even if the Ashton Vale BRT is developed, whereas the site previously envisaged for an Arena near Temple Meads could really make good use of our rail infrastructure and would be much more accessible by walking, cycling and bus due to its central location.

Land at Ashton Vale as it is now, following wanton destruction of trees earlier this year.

George Ferguson has been quick to speak out against the Ashton Vale proposal for this reason. This blog has had its differences with George in the past but once again he is saying clearly and loudly what desperately needs to be said. If we are even half serious about becoming a Green Capital or even just a Sustainable City then we need to think seriously about the transport implications of such iconic new developments as the Arena. Quite apart from the number of trips generated the character of the accessibiltiy of the Arena will send out signals about the future character of Bristol as a whole.

One only has to visit Cardiff Millenium Stadium to see the extent to which its proximity to Cardiff Central Station and its generally central location in the city is the key to its accessibility. Think of the 'synergy' between an Arena at Temple Meads and our rail services, which would receive a big boost during otherwise off-peak periods. The infrastructure and the capacity is there already and has the potential to be increased. Admittedly there is the posibility of some limited rail access being developed near Ashton Vale but this would be out on a limb rather than at the heart of the region's rail network and simply wouldn't have the capacity to replace more than a token amount of car journeys.

So once again those of us who care about the future direction must add our voices to that of George Ferguson and try to point out the contradictions between an Arena at Ashton Vale and a sustainable future for Bristol. Having the Football Stadium at Ashton Vale, just 750 metres further out than the existing football stadium, is one thing but an Arena that will draw crowds from the whole of Greater Bristol and well beyond is something else.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Time Running Out for Hourbikes?

A comment by Tim on the previous post dealing with Hourbikes drew attention to the declining number of bikes listed as available from the 4 'hubs' in central Bristol, according to Hourbike's own map. At the time of writing only 10 bikes are shown compared to 18 at the launch of Hourbikes in July. Numbers also appeared low at the 4 UWE/Parkway hubs with just 13 shown as available.

I've been keeping an eye on some of the Hourbike stands (yes CCTV people, that shifty looking character hanging around the hubs is me) and there's little evidence of any use. From time to time there's one more bike at one and one less bike at another, but I've never actually seen anybody using the system. Has anyone? Back in the summer we were told use would pick up when the students returned, which may or may not be true out at UWE but hasn't happened in central Bristol.

On the plus side I've been surprised at how little vandalism there's been. A couple of the wire baskets have been crushed but otherwise the bikes seem to have remained unscathed. Theft might explain the diminishing numbers of bikes, but I suspect they are being quietly withdrawn for use elsewhere. Ten bikes is still more than enough to cope with the minimal demand.

So is there any future for Hourbikes in Bristol? Certainly not on the basis of the current minimal coverage, as many people said at the outset. There doesn't seem to be any effort to secure more hubs either, even at Temple Meads station which is the most obvious location. And I can't see Cycling City throwing any more money at Hourbikes on the basis of current performance.

The failure of the Hourbike venture should be an object lesson for us all in the need for these things to be based on sound market economics and not just wishful thinking. The waste of resources on the Hourbike scheme has been as modest as the network coverage but there was, as possibly still is, pressure for a massive public subsidy which would have been at the expense of potentially much more productive infrastructure investment.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

20 mph - Jon Rogers says No to Officers

Councillor Jon Rogers, Executive Member for Transport and Sustainability, has sent in a comment (below) on his council's 20 mph proposals which we've been covering extensively on this blog.

The most contentious issue is the number of streets to be excluded from the 20 mph coverage within the pilot areas, with the officers taking a predictably cautious approach with the exclusion of all streets which already have an average speed above 24 mph (so excluding the ones that most need calming).

Jon Roger's rejection of his officers' report and insistence on fewer exclusions represents a major showdown on a matter that Jon Rogers clearly feels very strongly about. Jon's comment -
Morning all

I would appreciate some help.

I have this week rejected the officer report on 20mph areas.

To be fair, they had added the following previously excluded roads to the list of 20mph roads...

Inner East Bristol:
Mina Road
Ashley Rd
Stapleton Rd (part) – between its junctions with Easton Way & Robertson Rd.

Inner South Bristol:
North St (part) – between its junctions with Dean Lane/Cannon St & Luckwell Rd
Dean Lane
Cannon Street
West Street
East St/Bedminster Parade.

I hope we all would agree to those.

However, officers had recommended that I reject residents calls for the following streets to be included as 20mph.

Inner East Bristol:
Whitehall Road
Easton Road
Church Road (western end)
Ashley Hill
Sussex Place
Sevier Street
James Street
York Street
Fishponds Rd (between junctions with Robertson Rd & Muller Rd)
Old Market
Pennywell Rd
Lamb Street/Lawfords Gate

Inner South Bristol:
St Luke’s Road
Greenway Bush Lane
North Street (between junctions with Luckwell Rd & Ashton Rd)
Ashton Road
Duckmoor Road
Luckwell Road
Smyth Road
Malago Road

I know very well and use regularly only the five in Ashley Ward...

Ashley Hill
Sussex Place
Sevier Street
James Street
York Street

I had previously emphasised (as Ashley ward councillor) to officers, that in my opinion, they should include all these 5 roads in the pilot (as well as Mina Road and Ashley Road, which they have supported).

This would mean that on entering Ashley ward, there would be a 20mph speed on ALL our residential roads. This could reduce the need for 20mph signs, limiting them to the entry roads, and perhaps reminders along the main routes.

I therefore, on the basis of what I know about Ashley ward, rejected the report.

However I can see that some of these roads should be kept at 30 mph, for example major bus routes or where the police have major concerns over enforcement.

What I need help on is the other roads. Does the same apply to them, or are officers right to recommend exclusion.



View 20 mph in Bristol in a larger map

I've marked up the roads listed on my 20 mph map which you can get a better view of by clicking on it. The streets now accepted for inclusion are marked boldly in green (of course). Those remaining excluded (at 30 mph) are in red. The 20 mph pilot area boundaries are marked in blue.

So let's have your comments and freedback, particlularly for those areas in south Bristol and east Bristol that you know best.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Yet Another Cyclist Killed on the Streets of Cycling City.

The Evening Post have just reported the death of the third cyclist to be killed on the streets of Bristol this year. A collision occurred on October 24th near the junction of Batten Road and Hillside Road in St George which resulted in critical injuries to the cyclist who subsequently died as a result of the injuries. This represents another blow for Cycling City which aims to encourage more people to cycle while doing little to make our streets safer.

View Larger Map

As yet little is publically known about the circumstances other than that the cyclist had emerged from the side road before being hit by a car, although the Police are already using prejudicial language like "the cyclist emerged without warning..." which rather begs the question of what 'warning' should be given. Nothing that I know of in the Highway Code that says you should give a warning before emerging from a side road. We look forward to an explanation for this bizarre language from the Police.

As always it is tempting but dangerous to speculate about the exact circumstances, but we do know that in the vast majority of instances of cyclists being killed a motor vehicle driving at excessive speed is involved. We also know that Hillside Road is one of those radial rat runs where speeding is endemic and where cyclists have been killed before. So it would be surprising if speed was not the crucial factor.

Quite simply it is the speed and weight (mass) of motor vehicles that creates the danger on our roads. A one tonne motor vehicle being driven at 32 mph has 100,000 Joules of kinetic energy compared to just 1,000 Joules of kinetic energy for a 100 kg cyclist riding at 10 mph. In most cases it is the massive force brought to bear by the motor vehicle that causes such life threatening injuries. Which is why it is so important that speed limits are bought down and effectively enforced, not just on side roads but on main roads like Hillside Road.

Later edit (6/11/09) -  Police website report here.