Monday, 15 May 2017

The Centre: East to West: From Mediocre to Dangerous

Following on from our trip across The Centre from West to East, here is the west to east experience.

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Heading up Queen Charlotte Street from Queens Square, we first get to see a near-collision between a deliveroo rider and a small child running out from the side. It's possible to conclude the rider doesn't have a small child, or they'd have known that trying to control one is futile: asking the parent to do so even more so. "Fuck off you wanker" is the correct response here.

Then it's left onto the half-of-Baldwin Street path. A lot of people accuse Ferguson of following some anti-car, pro bicycle policy. Well, this is the main legacy of his of his reign from a cycling perspective. London also had a mayor prepared to sacrifice the country in his ambition to become PM.

The Baldwin Street path starts of as a reference example of what modern thinking on segregated cycle routes should be: not just a safe separation from cars, but a clearly delineated separation from people on foot, the bikes not having to weave between people -better for all.

It then switches to being a reference example of what you expect to see in Bristol: the bike path suddenly gives up in order to have some car parking, before ending up at some lights. Here the other tax-dodger decides not to stop for the lights, so proving that we do show such events when they happen. Its notable that actually he had less to worry about across the junction than our reporter, what with the past-the-lights taxi and the van swerving over to pick up a mate.

On to Baldwin Street, and what do we see?

  • An explicitly cut out path to the lights +10
  • Some lights: 0
  • No clear indication of which bits of the lights your bike should go to: -10
  • Lights green when the road going straight on: +10
  • A central plaza where there is no indication whatsoever of where you are meant to go to cycle across to the other side; -10
  • Another set of lights with no clear cues as to which side a bike should be on: -10
  • The lights now red, so adding a delay of ten seconds: -5
  • Roadworks in the middle so not actually proving any way to cycle further: -20
  • Some pedestrian lights to wait for and use: +5
  • Signs of a bike path possibly appearing by the hippodrome: +10
  • The bike path not being ready to use:  -5
  • The need to execute (badly) a bunny-hop to get your bike up the kerb *where the road to Colston-the-Slaver-Hill used to be*-10
  • Another bit of utterly undelineated bike path: -10
  • The utterly undelinated bike path now abandoning you to a road where nobody expects bikes to come from: -20
Overall then: 35 points of good,  -25 points of work-in-progress points (the chaos, the bunny hop, the bike path. And -60 points of fundamental structural flaws. A mishmash of walk/cycle routes with artistic tiles providing now cues as to where a bike should go, so hard-coding conflict into the centre at the cost of some premium tiling.

This was done by someone who wants "an urban realm" design, despite the fact they've just added a new road and bus line through the heart of the area, someone who doesn't actually want bikes there and finds the idea of having a functional way to get across by bike unsightly. It is, to use a technical term, "bollocks".

the worst part is probably the approach to Colston Hill. Until recently, there was a road entrance there. All they had to add was a sign and some build out to narrow the entrance. Everything else was in place. Except they spent money on adding a new pavement and some tiles, and in doing so removed the option of a safe exit. Now all private vehicles on that road will be entering or exiting Pipe Lane: a road where the road signage has been changed so that Colston Street has lost the right of way it used to have. This is now dangerous.





Thursday, 4 May 2017

Don't worry Richard Eddy: there's still Colston Mini Mart

Cllr Richard Eddy is apparently refusing to visit Colston Hall, once it's no longer named after someone who'd be on trial for Crimes against Humanity were they to attempt the same business today.



Because yes, it's named after Bristol's most important slave trader, and it's something the city should recognise is an affront to the rest of the country. Naming a prestigious building after a slaver may have been considered socially acceptable in the Victorian era, but we've moved on: time for the city to. That includes the two Colston Schools, the various roads, an ugly 1970s tower block and other bloodstains round the city.

What the renaming has shown up is how controversial the topic still is: from polls in the evening post, to articles in the "foreign-interference in the UK election national press", condemning "political correctness" for this historical revisionism. Well, yes, celebrating slavery is considered "politically incorrect" these days.

It's interesting what it's thrown up through, not just the view of it as a left-wing/right-wing split, but it can also be seen as a Bristolian vs "newcomer" split, with "Bristolian, born and bred" being a code-phrase for "not from London". Well, it's easy for people to feel defensive, but really changing the name of the hall isn't an attack on Bristol, it's moving the city on. Or, as The Bristolian notes: nobody has ever cared about what happens to parts of the city that aren't associated with it rulers, be it schools across the city, the river the M32 was built over, or any bit of greenery that doesn't have the word "Clifton" in its title or address. For people who want to know a bit more about these topics, consider the Bristol Radical History group.

What about Richard Eddy? Is he going to suddenly discover that alongside the history of Bristol's elite, there's the history of Bristol's residents, from the miners of Bedminster to the striking bus drivers of 1960s St Pauls? Unlikely. Instead he's just chosen to be ever excluded from the building-formerly-known-as-Colston-Hall.

We have some good news here: Colston Mini Mart still stands strong against this wave of political correctness

People don't appreciate this, but Colston Mini Mart has an important role to play in the city. It is the nearest place to the Bristol Heart Institute where you can buy cigarettes. You don't appreciate this until you're stuck in there for a week, the same wrist band giving you a wifi password marking you out as someone the door staff won't let out. You're reduced to texting friends and family to visit, bringing up with them a double latte from Costa and a pack of silk cuts. Then you can sneak out after hours onto the balcony and have a quick cigarette while sharing anecdotes of heart bypasses. Nothing to smoke and the remains of your life may be longer, but it will be more painful.



That's what we all have to look forward too. All that we get to choose is: do we get anything from the Colston Mini Mark on the way out. Here then, Richard Eddy will be able to go out with the rest of the city.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Metrobus Enhanced Centre: west to east

Apparently the Metrobus project will bring wonderful cycling facilities to the city.

We await this with curiosity.

We do know that
  • right now there is nothing
  • there is nothing on the travelwest web site about how to get across alive on a bicycle
  • the travelwest web site can't even get their "out of baldwin street for cars" map right.
Overall not a good sign.

Historically, the crossing which is blocked was a walk/cycle crossing where you could cycle randomly around until you made it over. This never actually glued up very well with baldwin street, on account of the railings and the oncoming traffic; you'd have to head over to the bit of the centre which was bus lane only, cycle over the ped crossings there, or go down the bus & bike bit of road the bus drivers felt were theirs. Or you stay on the ped/cycle inner bit, zig zag through people and children, creating the impression that cyclists were tax dodging criminals who cycled where they shouldn't. Yes, the evening post did an article on that topic a very long time ago.


So, we sent our expendable tax dodger to go west-east across the centre to see how things are today


Pretty awful at the start, mediocre in the middle, and just as bad as before at the end.

Awful at the start: well, what do you do? No signs, just a closed off crossing. Our tax dodger eventually went for the coned off lane in the middle and made their way to the new bit of the centre.


Mediocre at the middle. The one thing the Baldwin Street path gets right is: clearly delineated as a bike path. Tax dodgers stay on it, people don't walk down the middle (Except on friday nights, obviously), and people on the pavement don't have to worry about cyclists weaving through them because there's a f-obvious bike lane to use instead.

The new design has some faint tiles on the ground which may mean its a bike lane. Hard to tell. They don't currently join up with anything.

There's some new lights, possibly split into bike & ped, but with no cues, everyone just spread out. Watch out for the person nearly being hit by the turning bus: bit of a design flaw there, even if that's where the cyclists are meant to be.

Finally, at the end, just as bad as before. It does look like there might be some link off to the left, but again, it's been made out of artisanal tiles rather than useful roadbuilding materials, so who knows. You can avoid worrying about this by getting onto the bus zone, coming off it to get towards the Arnolfini.


Once you've actually crossed the centre, you can get down to the prince st bridge (walking), then on to bedminster. Why? Motaman is having a closing down sale! Bedminster's main shopping destination is being shut down as the building is being turned into flats! Gentrification is coming to Bemmy and it's not good.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Pavements cause pollution.

Known saboteur Redvee has a video up showing the taxi WR54KZX forced to drive on the pavement to turn left into Bridewell Street.



We say forced, as this is clearly due to the Metrobus roadworks going on further ahead on the road. Before Metrobus there were never any queues on the roads leading to the Centre, and so no need for taxis to drive on pavements in order to stop this city grinding to a halt. And, as this is a 2004 EURO3 Diesel taxi, the pollution from its engine is awful, even by the standards of the VW test rigging team. By driving up on the pavement, the Taxi reduced the amount of pollution the city experiences. This is why pavements cause pollution. No pavements: more lanes. No pavements: fewer people walking, no need for zebra crossings or pedestrian phases in lights. We must do more in our city to discourage walking —even more than the Metrobus works team are already doing for us.

One thing to consider though: the taxi did go up the blind spot of that bus. If the bus had turned left the taxi and its passengers could have been crushed.


We propose that every bus and lorry in the city should have a sign warning taxis not to drive up the inside of them to prevent such a calamity happening in future

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Evening Post discovers the Bristol Traffic Photo Portfolio

We don't do much coverage of the Evening Post these days, primarily because we've given up reading it. Eventually you get tired of its whiningly repetitive stance against resident parking and 20 mph zones, portraying them as a war on motorists, the death of the cities, a tax on Bristolians, etc. etc. The one thing we never saw was anything praising how the yellow lines have made paveparking and "optimistic corner parking" illegal —and how this was making inner Bristol a nicer place to walk.

Because the bits of the city with RPZ markings have had their pavements restored, and are now easier to walk round with a pushchair those areas still saying "RPZ isn't needed here", such as, say, St Andrews, where the contrast between that and adjacent Montpelier is now significant.

But no, no coverage of that in Evening Post articles, something we criticised it for in the past in a post looking at the history of pavements, parking and "walking opportunities" along Richmond Road, notable for nowhere to walk but the road and being an awful road to drive up or down: cars almost touching on both sides, nowhere to pass an oncoming cyclist, let alone oncoming car. With the RPZ rollout it became not only better to walk and cycle, it became driveable.

From the sole printed press news source in the city: silence.

It's interesting to discover then, that the paper has now moved on from "20 mph will kill our city" to "pavement parking is epidemic" and "is pavement parking getting worse?" The latter is quite amusing as we've been covering this issue for coming on a decade, and the main reason we cut back on coverage was that the RPZ reduced it so much that life was boring. It was not "epidemic", it is "endemic": so widespread and ongoing it barely merits a mention.

The BEP hasn't picked up on that, instead it's filled the paper with various photos of what to us look like everyday parking scenes in the bits of the city that aren't RP-Zoned. If you find it shocking, you need to go for a walk. Anyway, they had the pics up, no doubt shocking those people who don't walk further than the car they've parked on the pavement outside their home. For us, all too familiar. Very much all too familiar. In fact, one which was so familiar we recognised it as one of our own photos




This photo originally appeard in a post denouncing the car S589JDG for being parked on the specific bit of pavement where Richmond Road narrows —and in doing so, stopping cars and vans getting down the hill. That was the reason it had earned a note criticising its parking: not for paveparking, but for paveparking in a way inconsiderate of other drivers.

That photo was published in 2013, republished in an article 2015, where we used it as one of the "before/after" articles on the RPZ changes, an article which explicitly called out the BEP for its failure to cover the benefits of RPZs for pedestrians.

The photo the Evening Post printed was taken from an article criticising the Evening Post's coverage of pavement parking and RPZs.

Amusing as it is, it is still a copyright infringement.

We have a non-normative policy towards reuse of our images and videos.

The Bristolian: unlimited rights, no permission needed.

Everyone else: ask first
  1. If the requester is one of: Daily Mail, Sun, Telegraph, tell them to fuck off.
  2. If the requester is any other press org, we'd check with the original submitter, probably give approval with credit due us and that original submitter. (if the original author refused, that'd be passed back too)
  3. Videos: Link/embed them without any restrictions (obviously), but no to use in some video remake unless its more than just some branding exercise. And again, the Daily Mail can fuck off.
Now what about publication without getting permission?
  1. If it was timely news, again, no problem.
  2. If it was some photo from the archives, well that's a different matter. Any failure to check there has to be be a due diligence failure or a wilful disregard of our property.
The last time this happened, we extracted a donation to the Bristol Cycling Campaign. Someone had clearly just googled for an image "car parked on zebra crossing", and copied the photo without bothering to question image licensing T&Cs.

What about now?

We see two ways forward without resorting to the legal system, DMCA copyright takedowns, etc.

Option One: a modest donation —say £250— to the Bristol Cycling Campaign. 

Easy all round, it'd make upfor publish an article denouncing cyclists for cycling over a shared use bridge designed for walking and cycling on. We'd get some good coverage of the fact that the BEP was now supporting cycling campaigners in the city.

Option two: an in depth review how the RPZ makes walking in Bristol better.

We to collaborate on an article looking at richmond road's pavement parking over time, where the van-passing incident was nearly one of the bad examples. Here we could not only provide photos from our archives, we could approach the Montpelier resident forced to walk her kids home from school down the middle of the road. She could not only cover the experience of a parent in the "before" period, but her experience now that the RPZ has been rolled out. Maybe she could even talk about the impact of the RPZ on driving round the area.

Seems a reasonable choice to us. Fund the cycling campaign after a week of denouncing cyclists for going on a bridge built for them, or get an opportunity to work on a fascinating article looking at how a inner city parental school dropoff experience has been transformed for the better by the RPZ rollout.

Personally, we'd like the article —it would be a good follow up to the previous ones, and we don't want the author of those articles to feel chastised for writing the first articles we've ever seen to criticise paveparking. We'd even help with the content.

Over to you, Team Evening Post

Friday, 10 March 2017

Proposed: tax vehicles based on their width

A quick trip through the capital of 4x4s that never see mud in our city, Clifton, makes it clear that even here we don't have space for such fat vehicles. Even the parked ones like that silver mercedes is wider than the parking bay -and that's with the bonus wide Clifton bays.



It really becomes clear following the BMW X5 across the suspension bridge. The thing is simply too wide. Why is it so fat? It's to compensate for the fact that it's centre of gravity is too high on account of the raised suspension: this is a land-barge which would topple over on bends otherwise, as Ford Explorers turned out to do. The X5 is so fat that when it meets and oncoming Landrover Discovery, they have to slow down to negotiate passing each other.

In other bits of the city, in everyday cars, drivers would go past each other without even looking up from their
phones. Yet all it takes is one or two selfish drivers thinking "hey! an SUV would be cool!" and our city is brought to its knees.

Hence our proposal: make the VED of a vehicle proportional to its weight and width. The weight: the maintenance cost of our roads. The width: how much they inconvenience everyone else.

Without this, there will be no way to stop this plague of overweight barges on our roads.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Bristol Post: cut and paste journalism? Share the data

There is one news outlet in the city whose coverage is insightful, cuts to the core of the city's problems and of whom every article is worth a read.

Yes, we refer to The Bristolian. Being ad-free there is no need for central-HQ agendas to be pushed; no need to try and generate click-bait content at the lowest cost per article, and so instead they can write independent content.

There is also another news outlet in the city, The Bristol Evening Post, which is part of The Trinity Group, as is the

We've been avoiding covering the Bristol Evening Post since it's "witty" Bikes and Lorries April 1 2015 article. Every link we make to a low-value web site devalues our own rating in google's PageRank algorithm, and since most of their coverage is bollocks there's no real point.

However, today it's time to link to an article, albeit through a nofollow marker: Revealed: The number of cyclists involved in crashes while undertaking other vehicles, covering the 5-6 cyclists hit a year by going to the left of cars in those little painted bits of bollocks on the road.

This turns out to be a seminal piece of work

  1. Because it appears in[Cox17], Tara Cox, Revealed: Hotspots in Cambridge for accidents where cyclists undertake other vehicles, Trinity Group Cambridge News , 2017, where 4-5 cyclists are injured/year.
  2. And in [Grant17] Rob Grant 2017, Dozens of cyclists have been involved in collisions while undertaking, new figures show, of the Manchester Evening news, where the collision rate is 11/year, no variance/stddev supplied
  3. and [Grant17a], Rob Grant, How many Birmingham cyclists are involved in accidents while undertakingBirmingham Mail,  2017. Here the collision rate is "an average of 8/year", again, without any variance.

As a news outlet that believe in weakly-defensible data to back up all our ill informed opinions, we are always pleased to see our press outlets following our strategy of "have an opinion, grab some meaningless statistic and then turn into an article defending our prejudices. Which as our detractors will point out, we do all too often.

But we do like to see that weakly-defensible data. Indeed, we're happy to critique the DfT's data gathering processes as a relic of the twentieth century, and suggest modern, big data alternatives.

Which is why, given the broad covering of this seminal piece of work, we'd really like to see the data.

Preferably

  1. The cleaned up DfT data, either in the painfully generic CSV format, or something more efficient and with tighter typing, like Apache Avro.
  2. The data science notebook used to take the data and produce the numbers which got published. A Jupyter Notebook pushed to github would be fine.
Reproducible analysis of the results of an experiment is something which is becoming a big issue in science: given the same data, can different scientists come up with the same answers. Publishing the data and the analysis code is the foundation to this.

At least this dataset is going to be small, it's not like the datasets lurking in CERN CASTOR , or worse, the feed expected to come off the Square Kilometre Array, a feed that has everyone fucking scared right now. 

So to the Evening Post, as one datascience organisation to another,: if you are going to write articles on traffic issues in the city,  even if they are copied and pasted from the same piece of tier-2 prose seen in Manchester, Birmingham and Cambridge: show us the data, or STFU.