Thursday, 7 December 2017

Breaking: cyclists using bridge intended to be cycled over

Here is a video of someone trying to cycle from one side of the Avon to the other.

You can see at the beginning of the video that they have to  is another bridge, the cheesegrater bridge, which, since they replaced its artistic metal surface with one which works in the wet and ice, can be used year round. Or at least could be, if a lorry hadn't been driven over it, destroyed the surface and still, two months later, not been repaired.

Here's a video of someone cycling over it again


Nothing unusual there, given it has been since its inception a walking/cycling bridge

Why our coverage then? Because on December 5, 2017, Alex Ballinger, Bristol Post journalist, published an article Cyclists ignore signs asking them to dismount on a Bristol bridge but warning isn’t mandatory. Where, shockingly,

Pictures show cyclists riding over a city centre bridge and passing pedestrians

That is the most undercompelling subtitle you can imagine, but it gets filled up with
Cyclists have been photographed riding over a pedestrian bridge near Bristol city centre despite the ‘health and safety’ warning signs, but there is no way of enforcing the rule.
That's because its a cycling and walking bridge. There is no rule to enforce. The fact that the owners don't want to people to cycle over is their problem. The fact that the "cyclists cycle over the bridge" story is a recurrent on in the Post is, however, the newspaper's problem.

Here's an article from April 3, 2017, How many cyclists do you think we caught riding over a pedestrian bridge in Bristol in just five minutes?, by one Tim MacFarlan.

This is the Bridge in question. Notice how the recurrent videos of cycling over this bridge is, well, repetitive. Not a coincidence.



From the article
when it comes to a pedestrian bridge, with signs at either end ordering cyclists to dismount when crossing, you'd have thought you could relax a bit if you're on foot. 
Not so with the Valentine Bridge in Temple Quay if our experience is anything to go by.
...
This is despite the fact blue and white signs are clearly visible at both ends of the bridge saying in block capitals, 'CYCLISTS MUST DISMOUNT WHEN USING THE BRIDGE'. 
we filmed 22 cyclists crossing the bridge in both directions - and just SIX got off their bikes and walked across.
Well, it is a cycling bridge after all.

Except, guess what:
Not a single pedestrian complained to any of the cyclists, despite the fact they should only have been sharing the bridge with people on foot - wheeling their bikes if they had them.
The writer almost sounds disappointed "everyone on a walking/cycling bridge coexisted happily."

And here, May 10 2017, by Alex Ballinger, Sign urges cyclists to dismount on Bristol city centre bridge - but is it against the law to ignore it? This covers the Prince Street Bridge, but it quite clearly covers the fact that no, you can cycle where there's a "cyclists dismount" sign.

Now, that's a bit far back for some group memory, but there's search engines to find this history. And the article from October 23, 2017, These are the rules for cyclists. The clothes to wear, can you ride on pavements, and must you adhere to dismount signs?, by journalist Emma Flanagan.
Q. Do you have to adhere to dismount signs?
A. No. However, not dismounting can cause tension with pedestrians who may not be aware it is advisory.
And the article has a photo of guess, what? Valentine's Bridge.

That's the one in this video with the dismount sign next to a barrier installed without council permission. We think the barrier is designed to force people off their bike, but really its like chicanes are to Astra drivers showing off to their mates: entertainment. The challenge is "can you get round without putting a foot down". (tip: put the brakes on lightly but pedal all the way through; gives you a bit of oversteer and stops you having enter too fast).



There we go then: four articles this year on cycling over bridges with dismount signs, three covering this bridge, with the most overblown the "we counted 22 people cycling over a walking & cycling bridge and nobody minded".

The issue is no longer "why are these cyclists ignoring the signs", but "why does the local newspaper regurgitate same variants on the same story 4 times/year", especially when the story is "why do cyclists cycle over bridges designed to be cycled over?".

Some theories

  1. Journalists are hard pressed to think up content, walking round Templemeads they see some people cycling over a bridge, see the dismount sign and think "that'd be something I could write up!", pushing out a story without bothering to search the archives or talk to colleagues.
  2. Someone looks at the hit counts for previous articles and yells out, taps into the team whatsapp group, Slack channel or whatever "whose turn is it to do the cyclists on Valentine Bridge story this month?"
  3. The bridge owners hate cyclists and every so often get in touch with the paper to say "we have a story!" And whoever writes it up doesn't bother to look through the archives. Or doesn't care.

We propose a sweepstake: when will the first 2018 article denouncing cyclists cycling over Valentine's Bridge appear in the Bristol Post?

Prize: a free cycle ride over the bridge

Rules: this competition is not open to Bristol Post staff or immediate family.

What's painful here, is not just the uninspired repetition of the same old story, a repetition which only increases prejudice and polarisation, but because we assume that the authors do have some ambition to really write compelling stories.

Yet there is an interesting one right in front of their eyes: the story about why a bridge built in the 21st century as a walking/cycling bridge has its owners trying to suppress cycling over it?

Here then, are our recommendations for the next Bristol Post journalist tasked with covering this story in April/May 2018.
  1. Ask the bridge owners whether or not this was commissioned as a walking/cycling bridge?
  2. Ask them why they unilaterally decided to add "cyclists dismount" signs?
  3. Ask them why they unilaterally installed barriers without council permission?
  4. Ask them why they get so worked up about cyclists exercising their legal right to cycle over the bridge?
  5. Given the stance on cycling, do you consider that as a walking and cycling bridge, the bridge is a failure?
If the answers to Q2-4 is "because the bridge is too narrow", then ask them: what traffic modelling did they do? Was it wrong?  If so; why? If not: why was the bridge inadequate for the predicted numbers. And, if they didn't do any modelling, that's interesting too.

If the answers to Q2-4 are "because the surface is slippery when wet", ask them "was the weather of Bristol taken into account when the bridge was designed and materials specified"

Follow this with: given the surface of the first bridge was failure, why was the second crossing also designed with a surface which doesn't work in rain and ice?

A cycling bridge you cannot cycle over is not a cycling bridge: it is a failed project.

As, for Alex Ballinger and colleagues: why are you recycling this?

If you look at the comments, articles like this are clearly reinforcing the opinion of the commenters that "cyclists are lawbreakers". Maybe, but not here. This article has the defensibility of a "shocking expose, people driving on the M32 flyover". You should have been embarrassed to put your name to it

Please: write a new story on the failure of the bridge, not how Bristolians are using it as originally intended.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

How does a big project fail? A day at a time

Bristol now has a new museum, Aerospace Bristol, which contains a documentary of the growth of the North Fringe Military-Industrial Complex, from WWI fighters to Polaris missile warheads.

It also has a monument to a classic project failure: Concorde.



Because, yes, Concorde is Bristol's most famous transport disaster. People admire the beauty of the plane, it's elegance, its unrivalled speed, but from a project perspective it failed.
  1. It came in years late.
  2. By the time it was ready, its economics had changed: the 1973 oil crisis had happened.
  3. And it turned out that mass travel was more profitable than premium travel for the elite, and that 747s fulfilled the role.
It was a disaster, but now there is a museum for it, rather than rows of Concordes at every airport. Off the new urban sprawl area of North Filton, east of the empty life wasteland that the Cribbs Causeway consumption complex. Not even on the Waze maps —whose postcode lookup directs you into the parking area of a Ford dealer. And in the museum, a plane, along with the other great innovations of the city.

The question we have to ask is: will metrobus join it? While it's not internationally renowed as beautiful failure, it has the "Came in years late" item checked off. Leaving only relevance.

Big projects go wrong. More specifically, they go wrong more significantly, more dramatically and much more expensively than smaller projects. And, of course, the cost of the failure is bigger: the time wasted, the money wasted, the lives frittered away.

So how do big projects fail? A day at a time.

Often its early up-front time which gets wasted the most. That is, with a two year project, the first 6-12 months are the most frittered away. Why so?

Unclear goals/Nobody knows what the fuck they are doing.

When they do start focusing on a plan, and make progress, management usually change plans, not realising the cost. "You've not built anything yet". Software gets this all the time, because there's nothing tangible, but you look at civl engineering projects and you get the politicans deciding to reroute buses and trains "its not been built yet", not realising the penalty of such a decision. Its political whims like that which make public projects worse than private ones. You get whims, but spreadsheets can usually steer them back on course.

People are over-ambitious about what can be done and how it can be achieved.

People just don't realise how rapidly that time gets frittered away. One of the worst troublespots is when the engineers give management a time estimate "it will take 24-30 months if we start today", the managers only hear the "24" , then immediately apply it to the current time "March 2017" + 24 months = March 2019. Then they fuck about talking and finally give the go-ahead after six months, but still expect that "March 2019" deadline to be met.

In a project with a deadline 2+ years out, nobody worries up front about making efficient use of their time. It's extended "what do we do" meetings, people feel freedom to think up "creative and imaginative solutions" to satisfy themselves: personal aggrandisement of their great idea, fashion over a exciting new technology not yet been shown to work, but which suits the project so well. six months to ship and all that stuff has been junked as unworkable and the surviving team members are scrabbling for proven technology with low risk, while cutting back on all the extraneous features "bike paths", "Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic"

At the same time on trying to crank back on the deliverables, the team is cutting corners, usually on quality. Deliverables may be "done", but that's an "unreliable piece of junk done". Which amplifies the problem, as instead of focusing on future deliverables, everyone is pulled into firefighting the short term problems.

The "little details" put off turn out to be big problems

On a really large project, you also suffer from a postponement of examining the "little implementation details" of the project, which turn out not to be so little. The only reason you didn't know they weren't little is that you didn't look in enough detail.

Examples: Discovery you need more of a bridge over a railway line, that you need more tunnels through politically sensitive regions, that you failed to survey the soil your project will be built over, or that there's a border between the UK and EU country where closing it to through traffic will upset local people and cause them to potentially overreact.

There's also one project killer which can happen even if the goals were right and executed properly: by the time you release the goals are no longer relevant. Examples: Nokia's Symbian OS, Blackberry 10 OS.

What are the warning signs?

Failure to define goals, even as project progresses. If its 12 months in and nobody can clearly define the project, you aren't 12 months in. You have just wasted 12 months and your schedule is still going to be "24 months from today".

New requirements being added. This is often a consequence of the delay and attempting to keep up with a changing world. You announce you will be 12 months late and management say "OK, but here's a new change we'll expect to make up for it".

Missing checkpoints. You miss an early checkpoint and you don't catch up. It's gone. When the goals are finally met, work out how much extra time it took above scheduled as a fraction of of the allocated time. and then multiply the deadlines for the rest. Example: if an 8 week milestone is met in 10 weeks, that's a 25% overrun: multiply the entire schedule by 1.25.

Low quality of intermediate deliverables, What does get delivered sucks. This shows a focus on timelines over quality, and will come back to haunt you as quality will only get worse.

Departure of senior staff tasked with delivering it. Especially those with no emotional commitment to the project. Not the visionaries with their grand plans who came up with it, not the people at the bottom for which "it's just a job". It's the more senior people who see the impending trainwreck and think "I have better things to do".

"Unexpected" increases in cost estimates. One or more of: increasing of timeline, increasing staffing, discovery of details they handn't reallised would be so expensive. There's often been a bit of preallocated overrun for "contingency costs", but if that gets burned up early then there'll be need for more.

Rapid changes in the environment which the project is to be delivered. For Nokia and Blackberry, they were: Apple iPhone redefining what a handset was; Google Android saying "in exchange for us collecting personal data from all your users, here's a phone OS and software to compete with Apple"

Now, given these warning signs, the exercise for the readers is to pick one of the following list of projects and see if you can identify all those warning signs.
  • Metrobus
  • HS2
  • Universal Credit
  • HMRC customs software needed for brexit.
  • Edinburgh Trams
  • Brexit
Same fucking signs, every single one of them.

Now, how are such trainwrecks avoided?

In software projects, the general strategy is "don't do this". Big "ocean boiling" projects are very much things to steer absolutely clear of. One or two software consultancies do get involved in them, but they take lots of money and somehow always managed to avoid the blame. Of course, when you are the consultancy wing of one of the big four accounting firms and your colleagues are also the accountants for the company, they'll look out for you.

If you are doing something like this: never say "we're committed now". Just because you've spent lots doesn't mean that the project will work, whether spending more money and time is the correct action. Sometimes it's best to recognise that the world has changed, and the ongoing project isn't relevant. Stop it: focus on something tangible and relevant instead.

That''s just how to get out the hole. The best thing to do is: avoid getting into it.

In software, "agile" development means you do lots of smaller bits of work, with a release schedule of 2-6 weeks, with the goal being "every iteration is a release which puts something into people's hands". There's no more giant release any more, just lots of incremental ones, where features could be some new thing you can do with the code, or just "faster" and "more stable".

With everyone working to a short cycle, there's less of the "three years to go, let's design something grand over many meetings" work, instead pragmatic solutions to current problems. And with that solution in everyone's hands, you can see how it is used and adapt.

As the environment changes, you can adapt on the next iteration, rather than struggle to redefine the grand project -or worse, pretend that reality hasn't changed, and that your work remains relevant.

Ignoring Brexit "don't be so stupid", how does it apply to transport, especially in Bristol?

A key thing: say no to grand metrobus-scale projects. That's underground systems, tramlines, cable cars, etc. They may get everyone excited, but they're risky and not so likely to deliver the benefits promised. And until they ship: useless.

Bike paths, for all their controversy, can be rolled out fairly rapidly, and, if new ones are added adjacent to others, build up an incremental network. That doesn't hold if you just put random bits of paint down where it was least controversial. You do need to have some joined up thinking wth an overall goal "every minor release expands the connected bristol cycle network by 500 metres", and some longer term plans which can motivate people and help define what you are doing in the first place "a way to cycle from Templemeads to the Centre which doesn't abandon you just when it gets scary"

The same for things like footpaths, zebra crossings & c. Pick a mid-term goal "children can walk to school with safe crossings", and work on it by identifying the riskiest crossings, funding zebra crossings, making sure the light timings work, that everyone is stopping for them (i.e. have some police enforcing gloucester road red lights for cyclists on intermittent weekday mornings), that the actions of others aren't hindering things (i.e. have police & council enforcing keep clear and double yellow signs by schools on intermittent weekday mornings).

Roads? Well, what to do? You could present some grand vision of the harbour where the A370 Brunel Way crossing is replaced by something further west, but that will hit up against the pressure to preserve the suspension bridge area, the demand for some for more lanes, for others for fewer, etc. Really, it's not going to satisfy people, so why not look for smaller tactical benefits. At this point some people will be thinking "lets get rid of the bike lanes", but if you look hard, it's often people parked in bus lanes "just for a minute" which cause problems. Special callout: parents doing Colston School dropoff on Gloucester Road. London has embraced the red routes for the "really no parking" roads...yet we haven't. Is it time

Otherwise, well: is it time to consider, if not a congestion charge, a Nottingham-style office parking tax. You can drive through town for free, but you don't get free parking at work. That has the potential to be more transformational to our core than the RPZ has yet delivered. Best bit: you don't need any new bridges or motorway junctions.

To close then: Metrobus is checking the warning signs of classic big project fuckup. Which is obvious to all of us. And so is Brexit. As for the software it'll need, like that HMRC stuff. They have had their deadline pulled forward, the scale of their workload massively increased and still, a year from delivery, nobody know WTF its meant to be managing. Not a chance.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Volvo bug reports, issue #2; SMIDSY


"Sorry Mate I Didn't See You", as uttered by driver to person they nearly just killed due to failure to properly observe/assess the environment so making a decision based on incomplete and invalid data. Saying "sorry mate" is a way to imply that it was something minor like "sorry I didn't open the door, I didn't see you there", rather than "sorry I almost added you to this years KSI statistics, but I didn't look or comprehend the situation properly".

In this instance the driver did actually seem pretty horrified that she'd nearly done it, and she wasn't on her phone. What could be the cause then, on a clear and quiet afternoon with no other distractions in sight?

Tyndall's Park Road; Highbury Vaults is at the end of it. Before they blocked off Woodland Road on the left side of the climb, you could drive straight over. That kept the road a lot more hazardous, as there'd be cars trying to sprint across. Here though, Woodland Road provides an escape route to the side, with the raised section of road some mild traffic calming of the main university halls of residence to study route for students on foot & bike.  Coming downhill would have been a serious issue.

The vehicle is on camera for 4s of visibility before pulling out, but she doesn't actually stop at the give way, just slow down for <1s and then continue. You have to consider whether the fact that the roads were so quiet got her thinking "these roads are empty" and failed to properly stop & assess the situation. Or she was only looking the right, pulled out and didn't do a second check to the left as she came around.

Complacency?

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Volvo bug reports, issue #1: MGIF driver

Given some of the Volvo self driving car developers are ex colleagues of Bristol Traffic team members, we get to file bug reports. Not some directly accessible issue tracker where you get to file stuff like "XC90 driver nearly killed me" only for tech support to close as a "works as intended", but at least get to give them cues about how their land-barges get used and abused in the field. Here's one of this week's

As promised, some videos of this week's Volvos. Mid-afternoon, not rush hour but within range of school pickup times. Sunny days to treasure before the miserable season settles in.

First: "MGIF" , "Must Get In Front"

Definition: A driver who is focused on overtaking the bike without looking ahead to consider "What happens next?

In AI terminology a "planning horizon of 1", usually loses to any computerised chess/draughts player with a horizon >= 2 unless the latter is awful about assessing the value of all enumerated moves & countermoves.

In this instance,
  1. the speed limit of the bridge and the rest of the city for the subsequent 1-2+ miles in any direction is 20 mph. You can see one of the signs at 0:01 in the video
  2. the cyclist she chooses to pass is doing 19-20 mph, still accelerating in their underresponsive steel-framed MTB.
  3. The car a safe stopping distance in front is also doing 20 mph
  4. And it'll have to slow down once it gets to the end of the bridge due to the road there (i.e it's 100% predictable, irrespective of time of day & pedestrian/traffic numbers)
  5. the oncoming cyclist is going 15 + mph
Which means that

(a) there's no defensible reason to pass the cyclist "I need to break the law to overtake a bike cycling at the speed limit to get behind the other vehicle going at the same speed before I get into the city proper and really have to slow down".

(b) she's failed to anticipate how long it will take to overtake the bike, even as she speeds up to 25-30.

(c) the closure rate with the oncoming cyclist becomes about 40-45 mph. If the oncoming roadie hadn't been keeping to the far left of the lane, there'd have been a collision.

Looking back at the footage, she's hanging back at the split to two lanes at the tolls to make a late-binding choice of which one to go through -a slight sign of impatience.  She takes the left one; the right hand one is occupied by an SUV whose driver can barely see over the wheel, which is why the cyclist chose to hang back and wait: didn't seem safe to go ahead. As the Volvo comes through fairly rapidly, it's probable she has one of the contactless cards which you top up with prepaid bridge crossing tokens; sign of a regular user. Given time of day, perhaps a resident of N. Somerset doing a late pickup of a child from somewhere in Clifton, someone who cannot afford to be held up by any vehicle doing the speed limit.

Now, what is he dev team planning w.r.t. oncoming collision avoidance, where it assesses oncoming velocity of the approaching vehicle, adds with its own and estimates time-to-impact, so perhaps suggesting some alternate actions? And what to suggest? There's the "massively accelerate, swing in hard and then brake" strategy, which is an extension of this drivers decision (and essentially a reward), the alternative is: brake, swing behind the cyclist they tried to pass, put it off. Which is safer, but not generally that common amongst "legacy" manual-drivers. There's some psychological "we're committed now" decision which interferes with the more rational "braking to survive is a good idea" strategy.

enjoy

P.S. UK DVLA now gives MOT history over time: https://www.check-mot.service.gov.uk ...you can see that GP05RZE used to be a 3K/y child seat equipped barge of Hendon, NW London, then over to bristol to do 15K/y. Where you can see from the repeated warnings "pitted/scored disks, front headlamp deterioration" that the owner doesn't actually do any maintenance. Probably not a good sign. Almost as bad as a MkI Golf GTi with the wheels coming off..

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Don't expect any sympathy from the council

Maudlin Street, July 2017. In the background you can see some old bits of the BRI being knocked down and replaced with premium student accommodation.

In the foreground, you can see a car diagonally across a (contraflow) bike lane.

Tax-dodgers often complain that enforcement of the cycle lanes in the city is as observed as enforcement of anticorruption rules in the Trump cabinet; our dataset does imply this.

This is possibly the only vehicle we have ever seen in a bike lane to have actually earned a parking ticket. Indeed, there wasn't even an index category in the blog, "parking-ticket", until this moment.

What has brought radical change in enforcement about? Clearly, a full diagonal parking with your front sticking out in the car-lane-for-real-people qualifies for a yellow label on your windscreen. That's despite the fact that it's got a disabled parking permit and its only inconveniencing cyclists.

Except it's not parked is it? There's some disabled parking bays behind our photographer, and this car is backed up against the kerb exactly as you'd expect a car to end up if it slowly rolled down the hill and came to a halt without getting enough momentum to get up on the kerb and/or cause damage. Lucky for the owners there. Because instead of repairs they'll only have that parking ticket to argue over with the council.


Monday, 16 October 2017

No idea whatsoever

These are from mid sept, just some photos of some vehicles encountered on a traverse of the city, from Monty to the Triangle.

#1: Upper Cheltenham Place 16:02, September 9.


There's a car in the middle of the road; it's go belongings in the back including a childs seat. A PCSO is looking in it. Left hand side of the vehicle is pretty bashed up. No other vehicles "unusally" bashed. No skid/ABS marks. Other than the PCSO, nobody is paying any attention.

@2: Nugent Hill, 16:15, September 9.


A car is on the pavement/build-out on Nugent Hill. Both sides of the car are bashed, the gap between them suspiciously as wide as the gap between the two cast iron bollards just in front of the vehicle.

Again, nobody around. This one looks exactly what you'd get when you were parked on the hill, the handbrake wasn't on (+wheels not turned, engine not left in gear), and the car rolled down the hill. If that' the case, at least it didn't hut anyone or any other vehicle. Provided the engine hasn't been damaged/pushed into the passenger compartment, then the VW polo should already be up and running by now.

Overall then: the background hum of bodywork repairs which keeps the city alive.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Field repairs

Can we observe that this is least competent bit of wingmirror taping we have ever encountered in the city.



It's barely held on with sellotape, they haven't even bothered to rotate the mirror for better aerodynamics. This mirror doesn't stand a chance of surviving motorway speeds. Which means first trip up the M5 & they'll be in Michaelwood service station buying some emergency insulating tape and some scissors. Do you know how much insulating tape costs on service stations? Do you know how much insulating tape it needs to hold the driver side window up after a failure of the electric window mechanism? Too much. And yet its not easy to drive to Birmingham "gateway to the middle" while holding the window up with your hand. That's why you should always fix up your vehicle parts with insulating tape *before* you set off, and keep some spare in the back of the car as the long-journey kit, along with the WD-40 and the hammer.

This car and its field repairs? Not a chance. You'd be embarrassed to drive round the core inner city with mirror repairs that bad. It says "we care enough out our mirrors to want to preserve them" (weakness) and it says "we're not competent enough to tape them down". That is, unless the real issue was they got fed up with the noise it made swinging into the dorr, and did just enough to shut it up.

Ripping the thing off completely would have been the better option : "where we're going, we won't need wing-mirrors!". But no: the owner of this vehicle tried, just failed.

We should really have a ranking scheme for wing mirror repairs. We'll give this one; 1 out 5

Sunday, 24 September 2017

BMW: please don't drive like utter wankers

As the arrogant self entitled owners of an Important Car for Important People, we recently received a communication from the manufacturer. Here it is, unabridged


Dear BMW Owner

Due to the large number of people who have been killed recently by drivers —especially pedestrians and cyclists in hit-and-run incidents— the transport minister Jesse Norman has been in touch with us. He would like to pass on a message

"It’s great that driving has become so popular in recent years but we need to make sure that our road safety rules keep pace with this change.

"We have some laws that ensure that drivers who kill others are rarely punished, but, given recent cases, it is only right for us to look at whether dangerous drivers should face the consequences."

We at BMW would like to remind our drivers that all of us are representatives of the BMW family; whenever one of us drives like an utter wanker, we are all tarred in the brush of shame. We must strive to ensure that the badge of utter-wanker-driver continues to be held by Audi drivers alone.

Please, study the highway code, and remember that you should be prepared to stop at "Give Way" signs rather than slow down slightly. In particular, when joining a roundabout you are expected to yield to all users, including cyclists. The Highway code also covers other signs worth learning, what the orange light in traffic lightss, and the rules of zebra crossings.

The next time your BMW is due in for a scheduled service, please get in touch to attend one of our free "safe BMW driving" seminars, whose topics include:
  1. Speed limits: what, why and how.
  2. Indicators: the politer way to communicate.
  3. Overtaking: when you shouldn't.
We also offer to recalibrate the speed warning to 90 mph —just ask the service team to lower it.


Finally, when on a motorway, please leave at least two metres difference between you and vehicle in front —even when an owner of Ford Fiesta has mistakenly pulled into the fast lane while only doing 75 mph. It's safer for everyone.


There you have it. We'll try and drive better than others, and even explore the do-not-disturb option or our phones. We should be able to keep it up for a few weeks to see whether you can get used to it. Motorway speeds are probably going to be the tough one, given that even Corsa drivers will end up passing us —that's not what we paid for.

PS: Why are we getting email from Jaguar Land Rover Australia saying "Congratulations on the recent purchase of your Evoque, and welcome to Land Rover."? Some mistake surely.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Stopping distances experiment #2: The real world

Last week we discussed a (flawed) stopping distance experiment, where we argued that you cannot stop from 18 mph to 0 in 6.5 metres, no matter what the police claim. That's when you are prepared to halt and planning the exact moment to pull on the levers.

What does it a real emergency halt look like? It looks like this video. Taken about half an hour before the one of a BMW driving down a pavement to get past a traffic queue, for reference.

Here is what it looks like when someone runs out in front of you while you are freewheeling down a hill (Hampton Road, BS6). Speed? Let's assume 18-20 mph. You can hear from the noise of the (hope) hubs that there's no pedalling, so this is just a gentle 5-10 mph curve round the mini-roundabout-of-death, a few spins of a drivetrain in precisely the low gear you are always in when you come up the hill from the Arches, and then coasting, relying on gravity to do the work.




  • 0:26 small kid runs out from some cars, looks like 3 parked car spaces away. Assume: 12-16 metres.
  • No previous visibility, on account of the cars being bigger than him.
  • 0:27 cyclist sees this and shouts "wooah!"
  • 0:28 bike catches up with where kid was: he's run on to be with his friends. (Assuming 16 metres, that puts velocity at 29 km/h)
  • 0:29 cyclist has now slowed down to the kids running-along-the road pace. Asks child to look. Child doesn't appear to hear them.
The entire incident is over within five seconds. There wasn't enough time to slow down before any collison would have occurred. Shouting and swerving while you slow down is all you have.

The gradient of the hill will have made stopping hard, and this wasn't the "prepared for emergency brake" setup of our previous experiment. This is real world going round the town with your hands on the tops of the levers, with gravity fighting the decelleration. The combination of the time to see and actually slow down puts the total stopping distance at something like 20 metres.

Brakingdistances.com says you for a car @ 30kmh/20mph on a -12% gradient you shoud expect 6m of thinking, 14m of stopping. Which seems consistent.

Now imagine that incident happens once a "Kim Brigg's law" is passed: a pedestrian crosses the road, cyclist > 12m away, travelling at 18-20 mph. Cyclist sees pedestrian, shouts out. Tries to veer to the side, hits the child instead. That would appear to be enough to get the mini roundabout reinstated as Bristol's Public Gallows, and your eviscerated remains left to hang for days as school parents block the roundabout in their Volvo XC90s. "Look at that cyclist, he deserved it. Now, why is this anti-car council stopping me from driving at 30, can't they see I'm late for school?"

Who is to blame here?

It's not the kid's fault he wanted to be with his friends, it's not his fault all the parked cars made him invisible until he ran out.

He didn't look. Maybe he was enthusiastic about wanting to be with his friends. Maybe he listened for a car, but didn't hear any engine, so carried on out. Children are like that: Enthusiasm is not a crime.

What did the cyclist do wrong? Well, that's a question. Is freewheeling down a hill at 18-20 mph speed limit "reckless"? "careless"? Wilful endangerment of themselves and others? The Crown Prosecution would probably argue that, while everyone from the Daily Mail to the BBC would use verbs like "plowed" and "flew" as they covered the trial. In which case: driving round the area at 20 mph, especially in a low-engine-noise vehicle (hybrid, electric) is probably even more wilful.

The one thing you can point to the cyclist and say is: you knew term time had just started, and there were other kids on the pavement. Therefore it was likely there'd be more chidren ahead. So maybe you should have braked all the way down that hill. But: no matter what speed you go down that hill on a bike. if there is a car going the same way, it'll be right behind you or trying to get past.

Which moves to a more controversial question: is 20 mph too high a speed during school start/finish times? Should we drop from 20 mph to 15 in areas near schools? For everyone, drivers and cyclists alike?

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Stopping distance experiments part 1

The Charlie Allinston case has not only raised the issue that fixed wheel, chain-only-braking bikes seem unsuited for the urban environment, but that cyclists themselves are criminals.

This was shown by a Met office video demonstrating how a mountain bike could stop in three metres, while a fixed wheel bike took 12 metres. Which, from the public video, looks pretty dubious.

Ignoring the thinking distance aspect of the problem (to be covered another time), neither of those bikes appear to be doing 18 mph. Martin Porter asserts that with a maximum deceleration force of a bike of 0.3g before the rider goes over the front bars, any bike is slower to decelerate than a car (max force 0.5g). We don't know the exact values. What we do know from experience is
  • It's the front brake which does most of the conversion of kinetic energy into heat
  • As you brake, you go forwards
  • The back wheel, without weight, goes into a skid
  • And it always seems to happen faster on tyres with less contact area (narrow tyres, knobbly mountain bike tyres on tarmac, ...)
Mountain bikers will know that to avoid going over the bars on a hard brake or steep descent means sticking your bum out the back, which is partly why dropper posts are so popular: lower C of G, better control on the descent.
Returning to the Allinston case, the police stated that Charlie had 6.5m to stop, and that because a mountain bike could have stopped in 3, his removal of the front brake made him culpable. But: they haven't show the actual CCTV of of the collision, so we don't know exactly what happened
What we can do though, is do the experiment proposed by the People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire: try to stop from 18 mph in under two car lengths.

Here then is our summary:
  1. an experienced road and mountain biker cannot stop a road bike with touring tyres in the distance of two parked cars and a 1m gap between them. 
  2. You can bring the speed down to about 6.5-7.5 mph (update: see the bottom of the post)
Equipment: a team road bike, "roadkill", purchased for $800 in 2000 somewhere in Oregon, a US state which is now charging people a tax for doing so.



  • Tyres: Continental Top Contact 700x28 touring tyres, tyres which focus on all weather control and braking over rolling resistance and speed. That is: their braking should be as good as you can expect from any road tyre of a similar diameter.
  • brakes: front and rear Shimano 105 rim brakes (from 2000), cables redone 24 months ago, pads Shimano 105/Dura-ace/Ultegra inserts
  • Wheels: Mavic rims, hope hubs, again 24 months old and no rim wear.
  • Garmin bike computer to determine speed from the GPS constellation and display speed as part of preparation for braking
Overall then: the brakes and tyres aren't going to degrade performance compared to any other road bikes with rim brakes.

Experiment:
  1. Flat, traffic free road with enough visibility of the southern sky that GPS signal will work (Trivia: US Navstar satellites never orbit  > 54 degrees north or south, so above the lake district getting a signal is harder; for Galileo details ask one of our local engineers)
  2. Two family cars, a "normal" gap between them (nobody had problems fitting today).
  3. Turn on the Garmin to record speeds.
  4. From a distance down the road, bring bike up to 18 mph & then coast briefly.
  5. As you reach the front of the first car, brake as hard as you can safely, arse out the back and down as learned over the years on the MTB.
  6. At end of the two car lengths, see what your exit speed is.
  7. Repeat a few times.
Not the most rigorous, but with speed numbers coming from 31 orbiting atomic clocks it's as good on the flat as anything else.

Results



  1. Getting to 18 mph on the flat does actually require effort, if attempted over a short distance. (This may make cyclists reluctant to shed that speed)
  2. Even with warning and planning, you can't stop a bike in 2.5 car lengths from 18 mph
  3. You can get down to 6.5-7.5 mph
Conclusions
  1. If the met police video released to the media was the one used in court, then the qualify of the experiment has to be contested.
  2. As well as the choice of the reference "not a fixie bike" as a mountain/hybrid bike with what appears to be wide surface area road tyres, its not clear that they are doing 18 mph when they get to the marker points where deceleration is meant to commence.
  3. If someone else can stop from 18 mph to 0 mph in 3 metres, we'd love to see it.
  4. Given warning, you can get to 6-7 mph, which may lead to reduce risk/scope of injury.
  5. Given that cycle/pedestrian collisions at what for on road speeds are "low", we shouldn't be doing any cycle-paint-on-pavement bike paths, as they are engineering in danger
It'd be nice to see the logs of the police instrumentation data from their experiments. In fact, its something a defence lawyer should have been demanding: "show us the hard data"

Someone should run Bristol Bike Week event "can you stop in 6.5 metres with and without advance warning", to see what other people can do.

2017-09-11 Update : there's a flaw in the experiment: the measured exit speed is inevitably going to overestimate the actual one on any attempt to decellerate in a few metres.

Velocity (Speed) is distance/time: (d1 - d0) / t
But: what is the sampling interval of bike speedos (GPS and on-wheel?).
  1. Not clear from GPS (though looking at the GPX file would probably show it), but 
  2. on a 700x28 wheel the circumference is ~2.1 metres. 
  3. Therefore the magnet on the wheel will only send packet to the bike computer every 2.1m of travel. 
  4. Therefore the minimum distance which can be used to measure velocity is 2.1m. 
  5. 18 mph is ~29 kmh
  6. which is ~8 m/s
  7. If you are trying to come to a halt  from 8 m/s n 6-8 metres then that's only four revolutions of the wheel, so every revolution will have to include a lot of deceleration: 
  8. Assuming constant deceleration you are going have  to enter that final wheel rotation in travelling 1/4 of your entry velocity
  9. so: it's inevitable that the distance travelled in that final rotation is going to be "something" between the entry velocity and the exit one
  10. which is what the bike computer will end up displaying: it will overestimate the actual value
All we can really say is "the bike was still moving 10 m after attempting to decelerate from 8 m/s to 0 m/s"

How to do it better? Well:
  1. you could let go of the brakes after crossing your chosen endpoint, coast for a few wheel lengths and so give the computer a constant velocity to measure. 
  2. with the sub-cm resolution promised by Galileo's premium channels and a receiver set to sample many times a second, you could build a fully accurate model of decleration
  3. you do rigorously measure the total distance travelled, assume constant deceleration over the distance and then work backwards from there to infer your velocity at the 6.5 metre mark
Anyway, it's mostly moot due to the thinking time even before you reach for the brake levers. Followup on that in the week, this time with video data. Essentially: you don't react fast enough.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

WN15UKX beats the school run queues

It's term time in the city, a so the morning rush hour is worse, and we've seen the return of the mid-afternoon one, seen here.

In order to get anywhere, you need "flexible and imaginative solutions" as our Brexit negotiators say.


Here the driver of WN15UKX finds it impossible to make progress without risking their wing mirrors.

Residents of the inner city know that having wing mirrors is a sign of weakness, but here the driver of WN15 UKX isn't going to let the fact they value their bodywork slow them down. Instead, a neat little nip up onto the pavement, a quick sprint at 14 mph down the pavement and they are on their way. Maybe he was late for child pickup. Because you wouldn't want your child to walk home: it isn't safe, not even on the pavements.

Its drivers like this which give us selfish wanker BMW owners a bad reputation.

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.