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.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Cycling City - Critical Mess

Here's an amusing little quandary for Cllr Jon Rogers and Bristol's Cycling City leadership. They've just launched a new web site, called Better by Bike, as reported on on this blog back in September. Unlike previous Cycling City web sites this one is intended to allow a certain degree of public participation, at least in terms of posting details of forthcoming events and rides. No doubt this is in response to Jon Rogers' wish for the project to be more open and to embrace the wider cycling public.

But straightaway the principle of openness is put to the test. Someone has posted details of all the forthcoming Critical Mass bike rides on the Better by Bike events list. Now for those of you that don't know Critical Mass is pretty controversial since it involves a large group of cyclists completely taking over the section of roadway they are using, typically spreading out to occupy two or three traffic lanes to block any overtaking by motorists. To some extent this is a necessary tactic to keep the ride as one coherent body and not allow it to become fragmented.

Needless to say some of the motorists stuck behind a Critical Mass ride and reduced to a snail's pace for anything up to, what, a few minutes (shock, horror) don't appreciate this tactic and tend to express their frustration by illegal horn sounding and, given half a chance, aggressive overtaking. On occasion things can get nasty and violent confrontations have ensued, although that is certainly not the objective of Critical Mass. This facebook site gives more background to Bristol Critical Mass.

Like many cyclists I've always had mixed feelings about the event. It's good to get together with other cyclists once a month to enjoy that fabled 'safety in numbers' and to create a different kind of street culture for a couple of hours. But I've never been comfortable with the inevitable (?) confrontation with motorists. I know they bring the whole city to a standstill twice a day for 250 days of every year but even so I can't help wondering if aggravating them serves any useful purpose.

Anyway back to Jon Rogers and Cycling City. How are they going to react to discovering that they are using council resources to host details of such a controversial event as Critical Mass? Openness is all very well in theory but when it means advertising Critical Mass on a council web site even a liberal democrat like Jon Rogers might have second thoughts. My guess is that Critical Mass will be scrubbed from Better by Bike by noon on Monday.

Pics from Bristol Critical Mass summer 2009

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Cycling City - Those Unofficial Conference Minutes.

I wasn't able to attend yesterday's Cycling City conference - "Gaining Momentum" - due to a throat infection that I haven't shaken off yet. Uncontrolled violent coughing doesn't go down too well at such events. A pity really, judging from the rather critical Evening Post report. Normally one would expect any problems to be glossed over for such a public event but it seems that enough may have been said to substantiate a fairly negative article, even if the headline itself drifted off into speculation.

However a copy of the unofficial minutes have come my way (one of the few perks of being a blogger is the occasional and mysterious appearance of such things in one's inbox), apparently having been left behind on a table. Having read them I now suspect I got off likely. Whoever wrote these notes (and I genuinely have no idea who it was) is (a) brilliant (so all BCC's employees are in the clear) and (b) obviously had the conference scenario down to a tee so I suspect it wasn't his first, although it may be his last.
Cycling City conference  Gaining Momentum

Cllr Dr Jon Rogers (Executive Member,Transport): (Welcome): You're all lovely! 3 cheers for Cycling City! I love you all, even the bloggers (shows slide of Green Bristol blog)...I love your friendly criticism! Traffic lights are green - lets go! Evening Post loves me now too! 3 cheers for Cycling City!

Jan Ormondroyd (Chief Executive Officer): (Opening remarks): I've got a bike! I'm all wobbly! 3 cheers for Cycling City! I want it!

Philip Darnton, Chairman, Cycling England: (Keynote address): 3 cheers for Cycling City! Why is Bristol so important to Cycling England? Because there are only four of us and our jobs depend on it! Now's the time to pull together! Its easy! Just spend all the money, and then tell us how much cycling has improved!  You can do it! Oh yes you can! Oh YES you can! Pleaeeeese! I'm such as nice chap!

David Bishop (Strategic Director): 3 cheers for Cycling City! Yes we really want it. Oh yes we all do. We want a sustainable Bristol a congestion free Bristol and cycling so important  - we mean to succeed, errm (looks at notes and sits down)

Hugh Annett (Director of Public Health):  Cycling is healthy! 3 cheers for cycling!

Ed Plowden (Programme Manager): (breathlessly rushes on. we're doing this and this and this and this and this and this and we're going to do this and this and this and this and this (images flash by on screen). phew ! (mops brow); time for a cuppa!

Convenor: Now we'll have a pretend workshop. Talk to the people on your table about the things on the postcard for 45 minutes.

(45 mins later) - Convenor: Now wasn’t that fun. Next we have Silly Question Time. If you listened very carefully at the start you'll have heard me whisper that you should write your question on the card which is in your recyclable delegate bag with the free squeezy water bottle. I have 5 questions for the panel. First question is (reads card) ... ?????

Panel:David Bishop: 3 cheers for cycling city!

Convenor: Next question "Are you sure you've got the balance between hard and soft measures right???"  Now that's a hard one.

Panel - Ed Plowden: Absolutely yes. My balance is fine. They've taken my stabilisers off! Watch me go down Gloucester Road! Wheeeee….!

Convenor: Next question is "Are you listening to the voices of experience???."

Philip: It's SO important that people with experience think they're being listened to.And everyone one else too. Listening is so important.

Convenor: Question: "Will you maintain the cycle paths???

Panel (Ed):  That’s a good one - will we or won't we? The answer is we'll make them so they can be maintained. 3 cheers for cycling city!

Convenor: No more questions!

Philip Darnton: (winding up): This is such a great day! Now's the time to pull together! No more silly squabbling! Just do it! You'll be able to say to your grandchildren: Oh yes, I was there…...I was there when it all started at Gloucester County Cricket Club on Monday 26 October 2009...I heard the Chief Executive say "I want it!" 3 cheers for…………

(Here the notes end with mark of a broken pencil lead..)

Monday, 26 October 2009

It's Blame the Victims Time

When the clocks go back in late October and we all find ourselves setting off home in the dark it's traditional to mark the change with a flurry of press releases trying to place the blame for road collisions and casualties firmly on the shoulders of the victims.

Here is one example of this autumn's crop from an organisation calling itself Road Safety GB, which was formerly unknown as the Local Authority Road Safety Officers Association, a bunch of career bureaucrats who have taken the concept of ineffectuality to new depths. 

"Road Safety GB has launched a campaign to highlight the extent of the danger presented to children by the darker evenings that follow October’s clock change."

And that danger is? We're not exactly told, except that -

"The national campaign encourages children to wear bright, reflective clothing, especially for walks to and from school" 

So the danger, it seems, arises from children behaving irresponsibly by wearing school uniforms or, even worse, fashionable and practical clothes on their way to and from school. Do Road Safety GB tell us why this should be so dangerous? Er no, it appears to be assumed that everyone 'knows' why wearing normal clothes is irresponsible and dangerous. All we get is a reiteration of the blame mantra -

"Be Bright, Be Seen’ places the responsibility on people of all ages to ensure children wear bright, reflective clothing.."

"...twice the number of child pedestrians were killed on the nation’s roads in November compared with October and December, while there is a 10% increase in the overall number of pedestrian fatalities...During the week, nearly 40% of all pedestrian casualties occur between 3pm and 6pm."

No mention of how our children are getting killed. Do they spontaneously combust perhaps? Or get struck by lightning?  Or might it possibly have something to do with all those cars hurtling around, routinely breaking speed limits, jumping red lights, failing to stop at Zebras, driving on footways, chatting on mobiles, texting and generally fiddling with electronic devices rather than bothering to do anything as boring as actually looking where they're going?

No mention of cars or motor vehicles whatsoever in the Road Safety GB press release. No mention of speeding, no mention of the need to stop on red or at Zebra crossings, no mention of the dangers of driving on footways, chatting on mobiles, texting and all the rest. All we get is the subtlest hint, no more, of the possible involvement of motorists -

"...but Road Safety GB is also calling for adults and drivers to be more aware at this time of year....also on rush hour drivers to be especially watchful during their journeys, ensuring headlights are working correctly."

So what is it that 'adults and drivers' are supposed to be more aware of? Oh yes, that their headlights are working correctly. So it seems we 'adults and drivers' can carry on speeding, texting and chatting on mobiles to our hearts' content providing our headlights are working correctly. According to Road Safety GB these things are so insignificant as to be unworthy of even the slightest mention in a road safety press release and who are we to argue with these supine, self-serving pathetic parasites.

So motorists, when you're multi-tasking in your car, speeding along residential streets while chatting on your mobile, and some child gets in YOUR way and ends up a mangled, lifeless heap in the gutter, remember the Road Safety GB advice and be sure to check whether the child was wearing 'bright reflective clothing'. Unless your very unlucky the child won't be so you can rest assured that the blame is entirely theirs. As long as your headlights were working correctly of course.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Going Down

While public lifts perform a valuable role in the wider world, acting not only as an encouragement to pedestrians and cyclists but also as major tourist attractions, as we see in pictures here from Lisbon (45 metres high) and Oregon (40 metres), here in Bristol, with its proud tradition of technical innovation and now Cycling City, even a modest suggestion for a 30 metre high public lift for cyclists and pedestrians to be built on the side of the unprepossessing Trenchard Street multi-storey car park is met with contempt.

However to his credit the City Council's Executive Member for Transport, Cllr Jon Rogers, has not joined in the popular derision but is, he says, keeping an open mind about the possibility. In fact he made some enquiries about the status quo with the existing Trenchard Street lifts which have been used by cyclists for decades as a way of avoiding slogging up the Park Street escarpment. He helpfully posted the reply he had from officers as a comment on yesterday's Evening Post Traffic Lights piece (in response to an earlier enquiry about why the "NCP car park on Park Row now prevented people - primarily the elderly and disabled from using their lifts") and it's worth a read -
"Trenchard Street Multi-Storey Car Park is serviced by three lifts. The original lift cars were constructed with the car park and are approximately 40 years old. We commenced a major refurbishment programme of the lifts in April 2009. Two of the lifts have now been fully refurbished and the third one should be completed by the end of November 2009. The cost of the refurbishment project is £340,000.

"The refurbishment of the lifts has been undertaken for the following reasons:

"There were health & safety concerns regarding the reliability of the lifts. The age, general wear and tear and vandalism of the lifts had resulted in a significant number of lift failures resulting in poor customer service, and unfortunately, an increasing number of more serious incidents of customers being trapped within the lifts causing distress and inconvenience.

"The increasing difficulty in maintaining the lifts and sourcing spares because of the age of the installation.

"The lifts failed to comply with the DDA 1995.

"It has been found that approximately 60% of the users of the old lifts in the car park were not people who were parking there. Instead they were pedestrians and cyclists who were using the lifts as a short cut between Trenchard St and Park Row. This practice had resulted in fee-paying customers either being delayed or, in some cases, being excluded from the lifts because of the space taken up by the bikes and other users. There were also incidents of customers having their clothes marked by oil and dirt from bikes. Usage of the lifts by non-customers has added significantly to running costs (maintenance and energy), as well as reducing the life of the lifts.

"In view of the above, it was decided that when the lifts were replaced the car park tickets would operate them, as this would improve the environment and service to our customers by reducing waiting times. Limiting their use to fee-paying car park users will also reduce future wear and tear to the lifts, and hopefully also reduce the amount of vandalism occurring. We should also benefit from reduced energy and maintenance costs.

"If we were to allow non-customers to use the lifts again this would counter the above benefits of the refurbishment project for the management of this car park.

"Arguably if we were to introduce a charge for using the lifts the associated additional maintenance and energy costs could be recovered but customer wait time would increase making it a less attractive car park for users. It would also be difficult and expensive to introduce a charging regime for non-car users. If a scheme of charging none car-park users were to be introduced we would once again encounter problems of lift overcrowding and the potential for customers to damage their clothing. On balance therefore it is believed that the current limitation on lift usage is appropriate.

Jon Rogers goes on to note in the comment that "The interesting thing about this response is that it does show a demand for the lift in Trenchard Street by cyclists, pedestrians, parents with buggies and disabled people who don't have a car parked there. This was part of the suggestion from Chris Hutt for a bicycle lift up the outside of the car park."

Indeed the officer reply informs us that the majority use of the lifts was by pedestrians and cyclists rather than motorists! Clearly such an intolerable situation could not be allowed to continue in Cycling City and they have now spent a substantial sum on a mechanism (above) specifically to deny the opportunity of using the lifts to mere cyclists and pedestrians. Need I say more?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

It's Blog Wars

My would-be Nemesis 'Dapper Dan' has obviously been encouraged by the unprecendented viewing figures his blog would have gained since I linked to it yesterday. He's warmed to his theme and has posted again explaining how I am a threat to the Cycling City project and with it Bristol chances of ever being a "true cycling city".

Dapper Dan seems to have a rather muddled and simplistic world view. If only, he says, we'd all rally around Cycling City and give it a chance, then perhaps in 30 years time something worthwhile might be achieved. Yes, he's actually saying that "Success .. won't be evident during the lifetime of Cycling City" which is pretty much the point I've been labouring over here. So he condemns my blog as negative and pessimistic yet agrees with the main thrust of my argument, contrary to all the Cycling City hype.

Dapper Dan argues that the views expressed here are not "representative". He says -
"I simply am not willing to believe that the majority share the one sided argument that (Mr Hutt) represents. Yes the Council gets it wrong. Yes the time frame for the delivery of the project is far too short. Yes the stated targets will probably be missed"
- so contradicting himself by showing that he agrees with my 'unrepresentative' observations.

Actually I think the general thrust of my views are probably quite 'representative' of a substantial proportion of cyclists, otherwise why would this blog have any credibility? Why would politicians and the media bother to follow it and comment on it if they thought it was only an oddball, isolated viewpoint? As it happens my Google Alerts trawl this morning picked up yet another blog commenting on Cycling City here. While I don't agree with all the detail I think the main thrust of it is pretty much along the lines I've pursued here. It's by no means unusual to come across similar views quite independently expressed.

You can read more over on Dapper Dan's blog, but I'd like to reproduce my comment here. It's a kind of cri-de-coeur, which I think is good to let forth now and again.
Dan, I didn't set the time scale or the budget or the targets for Cycling City. They were set by Cycling England and Bristol City Council (and South Glos). They were the ones who said they would double cycling in Bristol in less than three years and that provision for cycling would be transformed. They were the ones who made false claims about the funding levels and the extent of new infrastructure.

All I've done is point out that the Emperor has no clothes. I wasn't the one who took him for a fool and told him his clothes were magic and would be seen by everyone else but himself.

As you yourself appear to be agreeing Cycling City was ill conceived. I tried to point that out from the outset but most people were blinded by the £ signs and started fantasising about some golden age for cycling. Now the dismal reality of a long hard slog over decades is sinking in.

You say give it a chance to succeed. Well I did, starting about 30 years ago as it happens. I dedicated a large chunk of the prime of my life to trying to make things happen on the cycling front, with some limited success. But for the most part my efforts were rebuffed and I was left broken and financially ruined by the experience. That is what happens in the real world to anyone who attempts to promote radical change against powerful vested interests.

So you see why I am cynical today. I've seen how opportunists exploit the Cycling City concept for their own career ends, milking it while it lasts and then moving on to the next cause to be showered with taxpayers' money. These people do us no favours. Their focus is on their careers and pensions, not on putting their jobs on the line to force through difficult changes.

The thing I most regret about my earlier work was helping to establish the Cycling Project Team on Avon County Council. We had high hopes for them because we assumed they would be motivated like we were, putting cycling before all else. But they turned out to be career bureaucrats who always compromised the interests of cyclists to save their jobs. That's why we have so many tokenistic and ill-functioning cycle 'farcilities' around Bristol.

Why should we expect any better from Cycling City? We've seen enough to know that the same bureaucratic mentality prevails. We've seen enough to know that the interests of cyclists will again be compromised to perpetuate the bureaucracy. Just watch how the 20 mph idea, which actually has great potential, is being watered down by bureaucrats anxious not to create controversy. These are the ways of the world and the sooner people wake up to it the better.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Blogger Gets Some Stick

I know my critical style isn't to everyone's liking but my critics rarely present anything resembling a rational argument against it, so it was interesting to find this in this morning's Google Alerts. 'Dapper Dan', who tells us little about his background or interests, obviously isn't a fan of Green Bristol Blog and doesn't hold back in making that clear.
There's a blogger out there that I don't think would be able to see anything in a positive light, who somehow manages to make even the sunshine seem gloomy. Yes I accept there may be a role of scrutiny in there somewhere, and yes, at times the Council can be crap but there must be better, or more constructive ways of criticism than this.
Somehow I knew he was talking about me even before I followed the links back to this site. I suppose it's gratifying to have confirmation that I'm making an impact, but I was a little disappointed that Dapper Dan's critique wasn't a bit more sophisticated.

Dapper Dan seems to think that we should be uncritically positive about whatever the council do without regard to the paucity of the reality on the ground, rather in the style of 'Pravda' in the former Soviet Union. It's hardly necessary to labour the point that this is not the British way of doing things, however much Dapper Dan (who with that attitude surely works for the council?) wishes it were.

I believe that there is a real danger of this country drifting towards 'statism', particularly under the impetus of the need to adapt to environmental concerns. Each step along such a path will consist of small, almost trivial steps but in time that's where it will lead.

Cycling City, as originally constituted, is one such step. From the outset it sought to exclude those of us who had years of practical experience of campaigning for cycling and place all the power with the apparatus and apparatchiks of the state, whether under the guise of Bristol City Council, Sustrans or Cycling England.

Such arrogance was bound to provoke a fierce reaction and I make no apologies for playing my part in that. Cycling has survived and even prospered not because of the actions of the state but despite the actions of the state. Even today we see the state at every level pouring massive subsidies into long distance motorised travel, so encouraging lifestyles which are increasingly unsustainable.

Against this we have pathetically tokenistic gestures like the £100 milion allocated to the Cycling Demonstration Towns. In terms of national expenditure on transport that is no more than the small change that one might toss to a beggar on the streets. And yet the Dapper Dans of this world think we should all be terrible grateful and positive. Who is the deluded one?

Monday, 12 October 2009

Another Council Cock-up

It's sometimes seems that no weekend walk or cycle ride is complete without coming across at least one example of civic incompetence and last week-end was no exception. Down at the Hotwells end of the Floating Harbour the Junction Lock swing bridge, aka Merchants Road (shown in red below), was closed to road traffic including pedestrians to allow upgrading of the operating mechanism and other renovations to take place. So the only means of crossing the docks was at the other end of the Cumberland Basin, either via the Plimsoll Bridge (in green below) or the Entrance Lock gates.

View Cumberland Basin crossings in a larger map

For walkers that represents quite a big detour, over 500 metres, so what about providing a more direct alternative? The most obvious alternative (orange above) would be to use the walkway across the top of the new Stop Gates just 85 metres to the east and easily accessible and viewable from both sides of the closed bridge. So what do Bristol City Council do? They erect security fencing either side of the stop gates to prevent people crossing! After all we can't have people resolving their own problems in a simple, straightforward and inexpensive way because then we might start asking ourselves what we actually need the Council for.

Instead the Council concoct a complicated, obscure and expensive 'solution', by funding (with our taxes) a 'free' ferry to connect across the east end of the Junction Lock (blue above). The designated ferry landing stages are at the Pumphouse and the Nova Scotia, each about 100 metres from the closed bridge. But of course it's not possible to view one landing stage from the other, so where does the ferry wait? It waits on the opposite bank at the Cottage landing stage because from there it is just possible, with good eyesight, to view both of the designated ferry landing stages.

So there we have our expensive and complicated 'solution', but how to make it obscure? Now this is where Bristol City Council come into their own. Most of us would take it for granted that such an arrangement would require very careful signing to ensure that people arriving at the bridge to find it closed were made aware of the alternative arrangements, in particular the location of the ferry landing stages and the procedure for attracting the ferry. But not Bristol City Council. What is blindingly obvious to the rest of us simply doesn't occur to them.

The end result is total confusion  - no official signing except a pathetically (and ungrammatically) improvised bit of wood jammed in the railings on one side of the bridge, "half of Bristol" scrambling around security fences to try to get across the stop gates, cyclists and pedestrians wandering around trying to find an alternative crossing, a ferry boat waiting forlornly at a remote location on the opposite bank trying to observe potential passengers at landing stages over 130 metres away and walkers looking at deserted ferry landing stages wondering if and when a ferry might arrive. Who but Bristol City Council could manage to oversee such a hopeless cock-up?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Where the real money goes #1

Bristol City Council, who make so much of their aspirations for improving public transport, walking and cycling, are pressing ahead with plans to spend £40 million on a new road linking the A370 at Long Ashton with the A38 and the A4174 Hengrove Way. This will form another element of the Avon Ring Road and will increase the pressure for a further link between Hengrove Way and Hick's Gate on the A4 Bath Road where the Avon Ring Road currently terminates.

View Avon Ring Road in a larger map

To put the money in context £40 million is around 4 times the extra investment allocated to cycling for the whole of greater Bristol through the Cycling City project, which gives you a pretty good idea where their real priorities lie. This £40 million investment in new road infrastructure (£10 million per kilometre!) is just one of many planned and ongoing projects to increase the capacity to accommodate car traffic, which together add up to hundreds of millions of pounds of public investment. Such largesse in favour of the car allows major engineering works to be undertaken (e.g. the viaduct below), the kind of thing that is simply out of the question as far as cycling and walking are concerned.

Of course development of this scale never occurs in isolation and in this case it will be an integral part of the proposed Ashton Park 'urban extension' between Dundry and Long Ashton, which includes the proposed football stadium which is in turn dependent on a major new Tesco at Ashton Gate, or so we are told by the developer. Extra traffic generated by these developments, which include around 10,000 new homes, will probably more than offset the extra road capacity created so congestion is likely to continue to get worse.

Building road infrastructure just locks us even more rigidly into car dependence and makes a transition to a sustainable transport system even more difficult. Ring roads in particular encourage travel around the fringes of a city in patterns that are too dispersed to serve with public transport, walking and cycling. Public transport really only works on radial routes focussed on traditional city centres. Ring Roads undermine those patterns of movement so weakening the viability of existing public transport.

So what are Bristol City Council playing at? Do they have a coherent and sustainable transport policy or is it just a question of making gestures to cycling and walking while continuing with 'business-as-usual' aimed at perpetuating the unsustainable, car orientated growth of Bristol, even though few of us actually want that growth?

Later edit - Stockwood Pete has kindly supplied a link to the West of England Partnership report which the decision was based on . Also worth following up a Pete's earlier blog posts on this.

Laer still edit - The Bristol Blogger is back and has covered this issue too, in his inimitable style.

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.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Cycling City - Another Failed Website?

Bristol's Cycling City project doesn't seem to have much luck with websites. For a start the Council's Cycling Portal rather ineptly lists the London Cycling Campaign as a 'related site' but makes no mention of the slightly more relevant Bristol Cycling Campaign. Geography fail I think. Then back in May a Cycling City blog was launched (facsimile) but was promptly pulled when they realised that readers were able to post public comments!

More recently we have been treated to a more elaborate (and no doubt expensive) effort called Cycle West which at least managed to list the local cycling groups rather than those in London. But we now hear that this too is to be pulled and replaced with a completely new site (yet more expense, but don't worry, it's only Cycling City money) under the Better by Bike banner. The new site is still under development but can be viewed in its present form here.

So what was wrong with Cycle West? We are told nothing of course but an educated guess would be that no one bothered to visit it because, basically, it's just a lot of them telling us what we should do and precious little of the vice versa. The overall approach is predictably patronising. Take for example the pictures used; almost every cyclist is shown wearing a helmet and a hi-viz jacket, conforming to the nanny-state's perception of cycling as a dangerous activity requiring their intervention to protect us.

Any blogger will tell you that what gets people engaged are interesting, provocative posts with the opportunity to respond publicly so setting in train debates that can roll on and on. Debate is vital since it allows ideas to emerge and be tested. Bristol we are told is a city of ideas, but despite the rhetoric the free expression of ideas is anathema to an overweening state as embodied in Bristol City Council.

Endless spending on new web sites in a futile attempt to find the magic bullet does seem to be endemic with government. If only they could understand that the magic bullet, as demonstrated by the success of the blogosphere, Twitter and Facebook,  is to provide a neutral forum to empower the people and enable them to take some control of their own destinies, but this of course is contrary to the basic instinct of government that nanny knows best.

Cycling is about individual freedom and risk taking, not something to be regimented and controlled by the state.

And what about this constant name changing? First we have Cycling City, but then Cycle West, now Better by Bike and who knows what next year. Is this good marketing? I'm no expert but I would have thought establishing a solid brand identity would be a high priority. The Council seem to be intent on endless confusion.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Green Bristol Blog on BBC Radio 4

This Monday morning at 11 am Radio 4 are broadcasting a 30 minute programme looking at Bristol’s Cycling City project, based on interviews with local cyclists, including this blogger. The BBC site actually refers to interviews with “a couple of cycling visionaries who sense that a better world is within our grasp” – I wonder if I’m one of them? The presenter and interviewer Miles Warde is a regular cyclist and asked some very pertinent questions so it should be informed and interesting.

I expect there will be positive and negative opinions expressed and, judging by this nicely written piece by producer Christine Hall, one of the more positive ones will relate to the subsidised cycle training being provided by LifeCycle.

This training is receiving hefty Cycling City subsidies, £25 for each first one hour session, leaving the trainee to pay just £5 for a session supposedly worth £30. However the existing subsidy budget (£25,000) allows for just 1,000 people (see * below) to receive the subsidised first training session. Not many in relation to the numbers who appear to need some educating about their cycling-in-traffic technique if my experience is anything to go by.

As is often the way with state subsidies this one tends to redistribute wealth in favour of the wealthy since the training sessions are disproportionately taken up by the relatively affluent middle classes. It’s also inefficient as most of the middle class beneficiaries are quite capable of getting much the same guidance on cycling techniques from books, magazines or the internet without the need for public subsidies. And as we see again and again with Cycling City the funds are channeled into schemes that just happen to create jobs for the boys and girls.

Later edits.

Radio 4 - Bristol: Cycling City - iplayer here and MP3 recording available here

Also this provocative blog post by Mike A, a former Bristol cycling campaigner, in response to the programme. He makes his points quite independently  of me in case anyone suspects collusion. 

And another blogger comments here.

* A comment made below corrects my figures. In fact £10,000 of Cycling City money provides £25 subsidies for the first training sessions of 400 people.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Why Solve it when you can Sign it?

With Cycling City money being diverted to fund such frivolities as the Bristol Do and other manifestations of the 'bread and circuses' approach to promoting political apathy, anything as mundane as an actual cycle route is likely to suffer from neglect.

Here we have what would, in a true Cycling City, be one of the most prestiguous cycle routes - the old River Avon towpath between Bristol and Bath. Some sections near Crew's Hole have been upgraded but from Conham to Hanham and beyond it remains largely unsurfaced, often overgrown and in places difficult even to walk.

For the most part the outstanding problems are quite minor like these potholes that collect water and untrimmed vegetation. Not beyond the wit of man to solve you might think, especially with the help of an alleged £23 million of Cycling City money. After all this riverside route has great potential as a strategic route linking Keynsham to Bristol and connecting on to the Railway Path at Bitton to provide an attractive alternative Bristol to Bath cycle route (see map below). Surely just the sort of thing that a Cycling City project should give high priority?

View River Avon - Netham to Keynsham and Bitton in a larger map

But in this case the 'wit of man' is the wit of one of those useless bureaucrats who much prefer to erect warning signs than actually fix problems. And what a thorough job he's done of it. Can there be any category of human activity or any class of risk not accounted for? Bristol City Council must be proud of such a comprehensive piece of arse covering. Whatever kind of accident you might contrive to have, it's your fault because you were warned. Job done.

Curiously our 'man' seems to have lost his wits when it came to the signs to discourage, if that is the word, cycling and horseriding. The red circle always signifies a prohition, so a red circle around a bicycle means no cycling. But the diagonal red bar could be taken as a negation of the message, so 'no no cycling'? So to be unambiguous our man spells it out underneath - no cycling. But then adds the word 'advisory'. So that's perfectly clear then, er, just ignore the signs.

If only the time and money that was spent on these ridiculous signs had been allocated to sorting out some of the actual problems. But that would require a bit of common sense and a willingness to get one's hands dirty, both of which appear to be in short supply in Bristol City Council. Perhaps if we organised some pothole filling as an 'international art work' or a 'multi-cultural celebration' they might be willing to allocate some resources. How about the Conham Caper, or Rider Broke? But should we apply for the Arts Council grant first or the Cycling City grant?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Spending the Cycling City Millions #2

While those of us doing serious work on identifying and promoting opportunities to enhance cycling remain very much out in the cold, it seems any project that touches on the more frivolous side of cycling will be showered with Cycling City money. Cycling City's 'Better by Bike' logo crops up attached to all sorts of events, including for example the New Cut celebrations in May and this weekend's Bristol Do, signifying yet another beneficiary of the funds that were supposed to be spent on 'cycling'.

One of the Cycling City funded elements of the Bristol Do is Rider Spoke, a work by Blast Theory, currently, er, happening down at the Arnolfini. It involves people actually going out on bicycle rides around the city, so really edgy stuff. Of course some of us have been doing that sort of thing for decades, but now, thanks to the munificence of Cycling City, we know that we have in fact been performing a work of art! Now where do I go for my Arts Council grant?

I'm told by people who have participated in Rider Spoke that it's 'great fun' and well worth the nominal £4 charge. I did wander into the Arnolfini yesterday to ask in my querulous way "What's the point of it?" and was told "It's a work of art" which I guess answers the question. Of course they had no idea what the whole thing was costing us (why should they care?) but judging by all the earnest young men with expensive looking laptops and the array of smart bikes for the use of participants I guess Rider Spoke doesn't come cheap.

I've nothing against 'art' per se but I don't see why it can't be funded by the consumers of it, where practical, in the same way as say 'housing' or 'transport' or 'food' is, not to mention most mainstream entertainment. In the case of Rider Spoke a nominal charge is payable anyway so why can't it be based on the real costs? Because people would baulk at paying that much? Perhaps then it doesn't actually represent value for money, in which case is it worth doing?

Another aspect one might ponder is the environmental impact of such 'works of art'. Rider Spoke is currently touring Europe and has recently completed 4 days in Copenhagen and a week in Linz. You can guess that such a tour generates plenty of air travel and the bicycles have to be trucked thousands of miles. Does anybody bother to do an environmental impact assessment for such things? And if they do, might we the paying public be allowed to know what it is?

Anyway here's a Blast Theory video to give their side of the story (although don't expect it to reveal anything as sordid as the public subsidy involved).

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Twenty's Plenty Needs You

I know I covered this just two weeks ago but this is IMPORTANT and needs action from all of us. As you may have noticed I'm generally pretty cynical about what Bristol City Council do in the name of sustainable transport and in this case too they are set to make a fundamental error. But this time it really matters because the 20 mph concept is our best chance, perhaps our only chance, of making a real change to the character of our streets so that ultimately they are no longer thought of as inherently dangerous places for people on foot or on bicycles.

The A420 Church Road, 20 mph in Redfield, Bristol.

As I explained before the main issue is the proposed exclusion of so many streets within the proposed 20 mph pilot areas. We know that the highway engineers are generally hostile to the idea of 20 mph areas and I suspect the proliferation of excluded streets is their way of undermining the scheme. We also know that some Councillors, notably Executive Member Jon Rogers, are very keen to get 20 mph implemented and he is on record as being unhappy with the number of excluded streets.

Now you may think 'why doesn't Jon Rogers, our elected representative, just tell the officers to cut the excluded streets?'. Well it seems that the levers of power aren't that simple or direct. He cannot do this alone and needs our support. We need to demonstrate the extent of popular support for the 20 mph concept and opposition to the excluded roads. And we need to do it by the end of this month when the formal consultation comes to an end.

One of our allies in this is George Ferguson, whose 'By George' column in today's Evening Post makes the case very well. I know I've had a pop at George on many occasions but that's just the iconoclast in me. In mostly makes a lot of sense and makes it very eloquently, especially in this case. To quote a few salient points from George's piece:-

"Having given the (20 mph) area a clear boundary, the document then complicates the issue by suggesting leaving certain routes through the area at the current 30mph limit. The fact is that these key routes are also key cycling and walking routes, and go past some of the seven primary schools within the area.

The trouble with traffic measures is that they are generally planned by highway engineers, who – however well-meaning – tend to think in terms of roads and traffic flow, and have very different criteria from those of us who occupy the streets for shopping and walking to school or to work and who regard them as social territory."

Great stuff. But we need more support and that means YOU. I know, we're all busy, etc. So I'm going to make it easy. Below is my own submission. Please use it as a template for your own comments. Delete anything you're uncomfortable with, add anything you think is missing, but PLEASE send something to (and copy it to Jon Rogers and your local councillors) and please do it now.

I strongly support the general principle of 20 mph as the general speed limit for all residential and shopping areas in Bristol.

The benefits are numerous, including of course less danger and intimidation of pedestrians and cyclists, easier and safer crossing of streets, less noise and pollution, less stress and even less traffic. The costs could be minimal if signing were kept to a minimum.

I would like to see the introduction of 20 mph over the whole of Bristol's residential areas, or at the very least the whole inner city where streets are generally narrower and/or heavily parked. I do not see the point in limiting it to two pilot areas since this increases the perimeter to area ratio so requiring more signing at more public expense for a given area.

However the major flaw in the current proposals is that the pilot areas have 'excluded' streets. In most cases these are the streets which most need lower speeds, where danger and intimidation is greatest, where most crossing movements take place, where people shop, walk and cycle, where schools are accessed and where noise, pollution and stress are greatest.

Excluding these streets will totally undermine the stated purpose of the 20 mph scheme. It will greatly increase the amount of signing required and hence the cost of the scheme and it will the create confusion by making it unclear whether a particular street is 20 mph or 30 mph without constant reference to signs which is impractical and a dangerous distraction in urban areas.

Apart from clearly non-residential roads like Easton Way there should be no exclusions within the 20 mph areas. In practice actual speeds will vary around the 20 mph mark according to local conditions, as they should, and on some streets the average may be significantly higher, but even speeds slightly above 20 mph will be a big improvement on speeds slightly above 30 mph.

Getting the 20 mph scheme right is of fundamental importance for the credibility of Cycling City, the Council's Walking Strategy and indeed the Council's overall 'Green' aspirations. The current proposals with the excluded streets have already been widely criticised and there can be little doubt that a 20 mph based on the current proposals will be seen as a failure of nerve on the part of the Council.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Belgrade 1, Bristol 0

It seems that Belgrade has already beaten Bristol to it on the Bike Lift front. As the picture below shows the Serbs, despite their reputation for intransigence, don't seem to be quite so hostile to new ideas as we Bristolians. This bicycle lift has been erected alongside the 'Brankova' crossing of the River Sava to allow cyclists to avoid a long detour on busy roads. Actually it took 8 years of campaigning by a dedicated individual, one Mirko Radovanac, to get it built, so perhaps if I persist we may have a bike lift in Bristol by 2017.

Not many details are available on the internet but it looks like the Belgrade lift rises about 15 metres to the bridge deck level, half the rise of the one proposed for Trenchard Street, so perhaps Bristol could still become the home of the highest dedicated bike lift in the World. The Belgrade lift gives some idea of how a Bristol lift could look and work, with entrance and exit doors on opposite sides so bicycles do not need to be turned in the lift. A 30 metre rise version could look quite spectacular.

Pedestrians as well as cyclists can benefit from such lifts, especially those with mobility problems, carrying shopping or with pushchairs. A lift is in effect just another element of a public transport system, providing a vertical rather than a horizontal displacement. Quite apart from the utility of such lifts they act as symbols of the seriousness with which non-motorised travel is taken and the value given to cyclists' and pedestrians' journeys. I wonder if Bristol is ready for such a culture shift?

The Brankova Bridge, Belgrade. Bike lift is just visible on extreme left.

Early indications are that our Cycling City still needs a few more decades to get used to the idea that serious investment in transport links for cyclists might be justified. Although Executive Member for Transport Jon Roger's has said the idea is "interesting" and that he is "prepared to consider all options, look at all ideas" there has been no further indication of interest from Bristol City Council.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Adios Josh Hart

Another valedictory, this time to Josh Hart who is about to leave our little island for his hometown of San Francisco, travelling entirely by surface public transport as a gesture against the hegemony of the plane and car. His arrival from San Francisco some three years ago by the same means made quite a splash with the media. But he had serious work to do at UWE and undertook valuable research replicating an earlier study (coincidentally carried out by an Englishman, Appleyard, in San Francisco 40 years ago) into the deleterious effect of high traffic levels on social contact between neighbours.

As well as undertaking the two year UWE course Josh has been very active in local and national environmental campaigns (as a google search will confirm), has maintained an excellent blog, On the Level, and has helped revitalise the Bristol Cycling Campaign. He has impressed us all with his typically American 'can do' attitude and has been inspirational as a public speaker, which he demonstrated again last Friday with his speakers' corner spot at the Arnolfini (above) and on many occasions when addressing politicians and local government officers, as in this video.

We hope to see him again in Bristol before too long, but who knows. It's not easy being committed to change and uncompromising in working for it. He has just completed a stint with Living Streets (formerly the Pedestrians Association) where he has done much to promote local groups but has clearly found it difficult to accept the 'don't bite the hand that feeds' culture of an organisation that seems to have been 'Sustrans-ised', abandoning cutting-edge campaigning for more lucrative work as in effect a government agency.

We can at least be confident that Josh will continue to make a big impact where ever he goes, an animated voice in defence of both the delicate environmental systems that underpin our survival and the weakest members of society. We all wish him well and will be following his exploits with interest via his blog which he has promised to continue.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Another Day - Another Victim

In a depressingly familiar pattern we find the aftermath of a conflict between car and bike, down where Prince Street joins Broad Quay, yesterday afternoon. Thankfully the cyclist appeared to suffer only slight injuries although his bicycle was mangled. The car involved is the white Citroen Xantia N881 WAN between the red and blue tee-shirts. Most of those standing around appear to be witnesses who were good enough to give statements to the police, who turned up promptly, shortly after the paramedic.

I didn't witness the actual incident and I'm not going to speculate about what might have happened beyond what is evidenced by these pictures. We see for example scrape marks on the road surface and some debris (where the bicycle was lying before being moved to the side), suggesting that the bicycle might have been pushed along under the front of the car, consistent with the observed bike and car damage. The police took details from witnesses and the parties involved (the cyclist in the dark tee-shirt and grey trousers; driver in red tee-shirt and blue baseball cap) and will, we must hope, take any appropriate action.

The scene was particularly poignant for me since I had been the victim of a road rage attack just two days earlier at Redland Grove when a motorist harassed me very aggressively, horn blaring just behind me and finally accelerating past at high speed, engine roaring, black smoke belching out, just inches away. I could easily have ended up as the cyclist above or much worse. My crime incidentally was getting in HIS way, the one he and his fellow motorists pay for and on which we cyclists apparently have no right to be.

Needless to say incidents like these are extremely damaging to the prospects for popularising cycling. Individual cyclists often give up cycling as a result of being the victims of such conflict and of course all those who observe such incidents will be dissuaded from considering cycling. So what is to be done? Some argue that increasing cycling numbers will change attitudes and lead to a more tolerant attitude on the part of motorists. But, catch 22, how can we expect to increase cycling in the face of such violence? Suggestions welcome below....