Considerate Cycling 53: a short shared-use path in Bristol

The End

11

This blog was provoked by a request in the Bristol Cycling Campaign web forum for views on a shared-use path that crossed the large IKEA site in the Easton area of the city. Because two family members live near to it I have used it a few times as part of a route between their homes. So I thought I ought to chip in.

Rather than post my own confusion about the route I decided to go and make a more detailed assessment. This account of what I found starts on the north east end of the route and works its way south west. As we stop for photographs I mull over some of the continuing difficulties that such routes present for cyclists and walkers.

Picture 1 (see above) was taken on Easton Road, a dual carriageway that feeds and disgorges motor vehicle traffic to and from the large retail sites (mostly Tesco and IKEA) close to the M32. Easton Road  does have bus stops but there is only one bus stop (IKEA)  that gives access within the retail areas that is in any way comparable to the convenience enjoyed by car users.

Let’s move along to the roundabout visible in picture 1. I was on a bike. This is a shared journey, so just allow a bit longer to get to picture 2 if you are on foot.

22

In picture 2 we can just about see evidence of TESCO and a Pizza King (or is it a Burger Hut?). At this range my eyesight is more absorbed in watching for motor vehicles than direction signs but our target is somewhere off that second exit where the white van might be going. When did use of indicators become a widely recognised sign of weakness?

Let’s move on.

33

Having taken that second exit, we see that spending opportunities present themselves immediately. Walkers and cyclists might feel a bit overwhelmed by the scale. But at least there is a shady foot-way with a dropped kerb on the approach.

Cast your eyes on the shrubbery in the centre of the picture. Our next picture steps closer to it.

4
4

This is the first clue about that shared-use path. I think it’s odd that the signed announcement of a path is not accompanied by a direction sign to tell us where it goes. Glancing back at picture 3 you can also see that getting across to that opening is going to present problems. It is a very wide road.

I find myself wondering if all shared-use signs suggest a  riderless bike crowding a parent and child to the edge of the path? Is this negative subliminal advertising or just the unconscious assumptions of a graphic designer made real?

55

Crossing the road was awkward and would have been much worse in heavier traffic. Nevertheless, things look better now. The  path is only single file for each type of user but the indication of which side to use is clear enough. The surface is unbroken and (probably) slip resistant in wet weather if leaves are swept.

66

Setting off in the journey I’m still disconcerted about the lack of a direction sign. There is nothing in this aspect that tells me where I might be going. No landmarks at all. The word “legible” is sometimes used in this kind of situation. I should be able to read the path in some way and feel confident that I won’t be coming back again after fifteen minutes of following a misguided hunch. At a little after nine in the morning it is very quiet here so there is no one to ask.

77

The path travels for 2 or 3 hundred metres along the side of IKEA and at this point (see photograph 7) there is a slight incline with maybe some potential for those wet slippery leaves at some times of year. If I did slip the unyielding sides don’t look as comfortable as the hedge might have been. If I were walking up the slope with a baby buggy, I wonder how much escape room there would be if an over-enthusiastic cyclist came bowling along in the other direction?

88

A bit further along I notice this yellow intrusion. Our shared use path crosses a  long set of steps that connect IKEA with the car park for Eastgate Retail Centre (Halfords and Laura Ashley etc). The strong impression I get is that when these places were designed the assumption was that cars had to be hard-wired into the retail process. Anything on public transport, foot or cycle could sort itself out at the fringes and needed no special attention. If this specific path has any purpose the physical cues suggest, inaccurately as it turns out (see detailed layouts here: http://tinyurl.com/hmpo66f ) that it was made to keep walkers, bus passengers  and cyclists out of the way, not to help them do business with the retailers.

99

The visual clue  in photograph 9 is that there is no clue beyond the steps either. Another couple of hundred metres reach ahead, but we still can’t confirm where it goes. The sun is over  our left shoulder and it’s morning, so we are probably travelling westward.

One day everyone will have a device that guides them everywhere to anywhere they chose. I will choose to leave mine at home and enjoy the rich geography of travelling, unaided, on a bike. For the time being most people who would like to walk, get the bus or cycle are given a bit of  a rough time because so many concrete (sic) decisions have already been made that they should be in a car for most of every journey that matters.

1010

If this is starting to get a bit dull – point made I suppose. Here (picture 10) is the next section of the well made shared path. We have the IKEA car park to our left, having got to the end of the very large IKEA building. It’s worth reflecting on the fact that the IKEA floor layout is specially designed to prevent customers getting straight to what they have come to buy. Browsing and getting a bit lost is as good as compulsory. There are no signs to discrete departments or items. This reminds us that designers and architects are not oblivious to the significance of physical layouts and route design. It also tells us that those who, so far, have laid out our cycle and pedestrian paths did not attend the same courses as the retail planners even though, in this case, they have come up with surprisingly similar outcomes. Eagle-eyed readers might be able to discern a blue blur in the far distance of picture 10. It’s a direction sign that tells you where to go from there.

11
11

My bridge camera’s absurdly generous zoom feature (see above) can see that …ton Road lies ahead. All is good then.

12                                                                                        12

Zooming back to real life, a real cyclist appears. So far this has been the first I have seen on the path. Back on Eastgate Road and Muller Road I had seen a few more, some on the pavement, all looking a bit uncomfortable and reluctant.

1313

Moving on, I got to the end of this section and wondered why, at this particular point, a direction sign to a road which, until now, had never been mentioned, let alone have its own signpost, had been erected.

14                                                                                       14

At this time of day the car park is empty. The route in this section has useful indications that this is a route and that people will be moving along it and that vehicles should probably give way. Trees and advertising boards help to reinforce awareness of the presence of the path. The paving gives another big hint. This is my favourite part of the whole route. I can see it’s a path, everyone else can see it’s a path (and which side they should be on) and I have been encouraged with the well-signed knowledge that I am going somewhere specific.

1515

As I am crossing, a pedestrian and a cyclist show up at the same time. This path, like so many other local features, is known to a few but (I’m guessing here) used by only a fraction of those who might use it more frequently if they knew more about it.

16                                                                                       16

As we feared, the end of this section has no signs. A choice of ramp or steps is obvious but it’s not clear at this level whether they go to different places.

1717

A quick hop to the end of the ramp confirms that each option leads to the same place – New Exhibition Road.

19
18

From the ramp end another direction sign is visible – Stapleton Road is mentioned once again. I wonder if these hints were to appease Stapleton Road traders who saw a nearby threat being planned uncomfortably close to them?

20
19

The sign is a sign, but when viewed from the steps out of the IKEA car park, it looks like this.

2120

This concrete obsolescence is the M32. Pollution levels are high. We are leaving New Stadium Road and joining Napier Road. A row of houses  in the sunshine beyond the M32 mark our arrival at Stapleton Road. A huge sign on the motorway  above reminds us that people driving cars get lots of help with remembering where they are going and when they need to turn off. The cycle crossing is for the Frome Valley Greenway which follows the line of the Frome River right into the city centre. It’s a successful shared-use path that could do with a bit of refurbishment and improvement (especially where it uses narrow underpasses beyond Junction 3). My journey takes me south, so I shall be turning right at the crossing. I shall be turning right because I know the way. There is no obvious signpost to help the uncertain despite this being a pretty major junction.

22
21

Photograph 21 gives a better view of the raised table and road markings that enable users of the Frome Valley Greenway to take their right of way against motor vehicle traffic. It works well.

23
22

As we follow the gap between Stapleton Road and the Frome Valley Greenway we finally see a useful signpost just before the railway line that marks the edge of Fox Park. Unsurprisingly the shops are signed but the nearby railway station isn’t. “Commerce trumps sustainable transport”seems to be a major theme of this exploration.

In conclusion, we have travelled no more than a kilometre and seen a lot of failings in what is still one of the best off-road short-cuts in the city. My personal hobbyhorse in such things is the failure to make such routes as visible and legible as possible. Here’s a picture of a good sign. The same sign featured in photograph 22.

24
23

There need to be a lot more like it, they need to be regularly maintained and more destinations (schools for example) should be mentioned. Cyclists are not racing past, they have time to read what the signs say. Every journey can be an encouragement to use the bike for new destinations and to explore more of the city. Signage costs a lot less than rocket science and is far more worthwhile.

Cycling in Bristol24

The Beginning

Considerate Cycling 52: A letter to my MP about Space for Cycling

Cycling in Bristol

I have just sent off an email to my MP, the Labour Member for Clifton West in Bristol. I used the template from a CTC mailout to make my own case:

To: Ms Thangam Debbonaire, MP Bristol West
Subject: Please back Funding for Cycling

Dear Thangam,

I am a member of Bristol Cycling Campaign and of the CTC, whose members are being asked to send you an email about funds for cycling that will fall to local authorities to provide out of steadily diminishing resources.

I have used the CTC’s campaign letter as a basis for what I would like to say, but I have tried to add some things that reflect the situation I am in and leave out lots of things that I’m sure you will already  be seeing in other emails.

Firstly,  I would urge you to back a call from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) for annual funding of at least £10 per person for cycling, rising as quickly as possible to £20 or more. Adrian Davis, who has done a lot of work for public health in Bristol has published summaries of the work that has been done to show how the cost benefits of spending on shifts towards more cycling have disproportionate benefits in other spending areas – reducing the costs of ill-health and casualties (for example) by more than the amounts spent on cycling. (http://travelwest.info/project/ee-30-cost-benefit-analysis-of-walking-and-cycle-track-network)

Prime Minister David Cameron and cycling minister Robert Goodwill MP both backed spending of at least £10 per person during this year’s general election campaign.  Yet the media reports that even this minimal investment may still not be forthcoming. This really should be challenged.

As a retired person, living in a block of retirement flats in Clifton I have the advantage of a bicycle and plenty of places within easy reach so I don’t need a car. I can visit family in Easton and Lockleaze, 3 miles away, without difficulty.

But I am an experienced cyclist who is still in good health.

I would like my granddaughter to be able to cycle over to see me and her Granny as soon as she is old enough (at about 10)  – perhaps bringing her Mum, Dad or Uncle with her. As I will be into my 70s by then I would still like to cycle the journey myself sometimes. The hills are no problem (I will go more slowly or possibly add electric assistance) but the way the roads are laid out and managed at present give so much privilege to the rapid movement of motor vehicles and so little support to cycling that I can see a time not far off when the conflict will seem too much of a hazard.

Children and older people really should be able to cycle across our compact city without competing so much with motor vehicles. Even on quiet 20mph streets motor traffic can still  be very hostile (as Bristol’s casualty data make clear) .The cost of rearranging things will not be anywhere near as high as past expenditures on road building so I would see it as not a “luxury we can’t afford” but a “necessity that can help us survive better in the future”

As your constituent I would therefore urge you to support the APPCG’s letter and call for a proper degree of funding for cycling (and, indeed for walking).

Your support will help ensure we have safer streets, cleaner air, a healthier population and more funds in the public coffers. I hope I can count on your support for cycling, a means of transport which is one of the biggest and most worthwhile projects of all.

Yours sincerely,

Sam Saunders

Considerate Cycling 51: Bristol Cyclists, Pedestrians, Police Data and Emergency Admissions to Hospital

 Cycles-To-A&E

This blog was co-authored by Rob Harding (who did all the real work)

 In Bristol, as in the UK as a whole, there are two main sources of information on road traffic incidents causing injury and involving cyclists. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

Police incident records, known as STATS19 reports, give a specific location for the incident, a series of context details and a brief account of what happened. The reporting Officer also ticks one or more “contributory factors” from a long list to give some sense of “why” things had gone wrong. In some cases, from reading these reports, it’s possible to form a view on who was most at fault. We know, however, that there is a degree of under- or even mis-reporting and that police themselves have some concerns as to the accuracy and consistency of the reports. Some are completed at the scene, others might be done some time later and it is not hard to imagine that on busy days some might not be reported at all.

Bristol Council’s Highway and Transport Management Department use the STATS19 data to analyse trends and to rank contributory factors within the city (“failed to look properly” is far and away the most commonly cited factor). They also add the location and summary details of each incident to the map displayed on the Bristol – Pinpoint Local Information page. National data can be explored here on the UK Government data website or here on the excellent CycleStreets collision map, one incident at a time, with lots of detail.

Augmenting the Police data, Bristol City Council’s Directorate of Public Health produce figures for Bristol emergency admissions to hospital due to transport related accidents. These are records of Bristolian residents who arrive at hospital A&E Departments following transport related “accidents” (their choice of word). These figures comprise allBristol residents’ admissions whereever in the country the traffic-related injuries were incurred. They are thought to be more comprehensive than the Police reports but incidents are not identifiable by street location and, while they identify the types of road user, they don’t identify the more detailed factors that might lie behind the road traffic injuries.

So what does the Bristol Emergency Admissions data tell us about cyclists and road traffic incidents in Bristol?

In 2014 44 Bristol cyclists were admitted to hospital as a result of collisions with motorised vehicles. Separate studies, by BCyC members of incidents in Gloucester Road and Cabot Ward, suggest that a majority of these are associated with motor vehicle drivers “failing to look properly” or some other factor that relates to motor vehicle driver behaviour. As well as these casualties, 113 more cyclists were admitted to hospital as a result of non-collision transport incidents. Given the lack of narrative or the identity of specific locations, it is difficult to pin down causes and propose remedial actions for these non collision accidents but road surfaces (that could be remedied with prompt action) are associated with a significant proportion.

Plotting them against time of year shows peaks in December and June. A 2010 survey, biased towards commuters, suggested that 25% of incidents were the result of ice but that still leaves a large number unaccounted for.

As far as trends are concerned, in the last five years an average of just under 40 Bristol cyclists were hospitalised each year as a result of collisions with motorised vehicles. This compares with an average of just over 27 per year between 2003 and 2007 (the earliest years for which we have figures). While it is difficult to accurately adjust these figures to allow for the increased level (perhaps a doubling) of cycling in the city, they would not seem to suggest that cycling has got more dangerous. On the other hand it cannot be said that they demonstrate a clear “safety in numbers” effect either.

With regard to pedestrians, in 2014 73 Bristol people were injured as a result of collisions with motorised vehicles compared with 5 injured in collisions with cyclists. Put another way, 93.5% of pedestrians admitted to hospital were injured in collisions with motorists compared to 6.5% injured in collisions with cyclists. The latter figure includes those injured when stepping off the pavement and into the path of cyclists as well as those injured by pavement cyclists (it is not possible to break the figures down any further). The figures do show that the overwhelming number of pedestrian casualties are caused by collisions with motorised vehicles and, because lower collision speeds cause lesser injuries, provide clear evidence of the need for 20 mph enforcement, even if there was no reduction in the number of collisions. Injury increases with mass and with velocity and every day in Bristol there are, on average, 5 Police reports of road traffic casualty incidents of one sort or another.

Considerate Cycling 50: A Tale of a Cycling Excursion and a Police Officer

Bristol's Cycle Sunday  Cycle Sunday

On the morning of Sunday 19th April a section of Circular Road on the Bristol Downs was opened for people and bicycles. For a few hours hundreds and hundreds of people of all ages had a whale of a time on bikes – learning, practicing, coaching, watching, being serious, having fun and having more fun. It was a very sociable and good natured event with plenty of professional support. When I asked a medic for the casualty count as I left she said, with a big smile, that it stood at “none”.  I went home and put loads of photographs into a Flickr set. (click it to see it!)

This afternoon I was out and about again enjoying the good weather. This time I was in the City noticing lots of people out on their bikes. As I looked across College Green a familiar cycling figure turned up, bowling along one of Bristol’s more decorative cycle tracks. We both agreed what a fine event the first Cycle Sunday had been and hoped there would be plenty more to follow it up. However, he did tell me another story that didn’t have the same positive feel to it. He and some fellow cyclists had met on the Downs that morning to see how things were going before setting off on a longer journey of their own.

The story jolted me a bit. I asked if he would write it down so I could share it. Like the story of the damaged knee it is likely to raise all sorts of reactions. My purpose in this blog in general is to consider, to be considerate and to encourage consideration (in the very widest sense of that useful word). So please feel free to offer a response that considers the issues considerately. My own memory of the day is best summed up in this photograph – a small step to a whole future of adventures, self-confidence and good health, perhaps for thousands of people in Bristol.

First_Step A First Step

The Tale Itself

The “Cycling on the Downs” event was tremendous. The road was full of adults and children cycling, all over the place, in all directions. With so much more space than on a typical cycle path. Exhilarating. A large part of Circular Road was closed to motorists. From 8am to 11am. Ladies Mile was not closed to motorists. Nor was Stoke Road, the fast road across the Downs.

A group of a dozen of us cycled to Portishead from The Downs. We cycled down Ladies Mile, surprisingly not closed to motorists, two-abreast. Legally (there is room to overtake to the right of the centre line), safely (is in a 20mph zone) and considerately (we were cycling at 13mph in a 20 mph zone). After less than a minute (the road is only about half a mile or a couple of minutes long) a couple of motorists behind sounded their horns. A car overtook, shouting abuse through the open passenger window. Further down I saw him cut in aggressively on one of my companions.

Then a police car pulled alongside and asked me not to ride two-abreast. I declined, pointing out that it was the correct thing to do. Instead of following after the abusive motorist ahead, he dropped back, and then pulled past me too closely. It would be misleading to say that the police car was forcing me into the kerb. A companion later described it as “shepherding” – the police car appeared to try to shepherd me towards the gutter. I caught up the police car and asked the driver to pull over so that I could have a word. And he asked me to pull over so that he could have a word.

I complained that he had passed me unreasonably closely. He told me that I should not be riding two-abreast, and was causing an obstruction. I objected that the highway code endorses riding two-abreast, as do national cycling bodies such as British Cycling, and that I was riding at a reasonable speed in a 20mph zone with space to overtake. The police officer responded that “obviously” some motorists will want to go faster than 20mph. He said that the police receive complaints from motorists that cyclists cause obstructions and that they have to respond to complaints from the public.

Congratulations to the organisers, and thanks to the Downs Committee for permitting this event on part of one road on part of one Sunday morning.

Considerate Cycling 49: Some Casualty Data

This month another batch of road casualty data was published by the Department for Transport. Grouped by Police Force Area, it comprises the most recent twelve months figures for each area up to January 2015. I have extracted the following graph, comparing the area surrounding Bristol (the Avon and Somerset Police Force Area) with Gloucestershire (because we are neighbours) and with eight other (mostly urban) areas where the largest cities can be found. Have a look first and see what sense you can make of it and what questions it raises.

Selected-Casualities-to-Jan

The per capita columns, in red, warn us that London had the worst odds for anyone wanting to avoid injury in 2014 while the green columns suggest they also have the best odds for avoiding death.

Gloucestershire stands out as having by far the worst record for road deaths per one thousand people and being one of only three areas (along with Avon and Somerset and Nottinghamshire) where fatalities are disproportionately high when set against figures for all casualties. The contrast between Gloucestershire and London (The Metropolitan and The City of London Police Force Areas together) is striking. In Gloucestershire fatalities make up a much bigger share of the road carnage than is the case in London.

Beyond these simple generalisations there are only questions and guesses. I think I would be going to Gloucester and to Bristol (and Nottingham) and asking to see data on every fatality for that 12 months and asking what design suggestions emerge from the forensic evidence.  Are any related to road layouts? To speed?  To surfaces, signage or  sight-lines?  If carelessness is involved could the road or its immediate environment have reduced the danger of someone being careless another occasion?

I have one other thought arising form this graph and that is that however unreliable the data for injuries are, we can probably treat data on fatalities as highly reliable. We know that a lot of casualties go unrecorded, even when injuries are sustained but deaths are different. Areas that have what appear to be relatively (rather than absolutely) high on fatality rates might simply be under-reporting slight (and even serious) casualties.

Mostly, I wonder if anyone knows of research that analyses the lessons learned from road fatalities or the effectiveness of actions that have been taken as a result?

Considerate Cycling 48: Primrose Paint and Good Intentions

My email box this week included a message about tonight’s Neighbourhood Forum meeting for Cabot, Clifton and Clifton East in Bristol. The text of the email read: “a late statement- lots of cross residents”. Attached was a one page document with text and three pictures, as follows:

Yellow Lines in Clifton Village

At the last Partnership meeting, I mad a statement asking that care should be made when marking out RPZ and had a meeting with John Toy (but no further replies when I asked questions again that had not been answered

Last week I tackled the men when I saw them painting broad yellow lines and told them they should be putting down primrose yellow narrow lines since it is a conservation area. They said they that if there were broad lines before they would be replaced by broad lines since they would have to burn off the lines and start again.

This is simply not true, there are many places where you can see narrow lines on older yellow lines (eg Princes Buildings). You also get the stupidity of Royal York Crescent and the Paragon where you have narrow lines on one side and broad lines down the other.

You get joins of broad lines to narrow lines eg top of Princess Victoria St, and Royal York Crescent.

Do not spoil our conservation area for the sake of a ha’porth of tar. You must be consistent with narrow lines”

1

CCCENP-2

CCCENP-3

   There are also all sorts of stupidities down Princess Victoria Street. They have put yellow lines outside a shop (about number 69) which has no off street parking and outside other houses further down the street (89).

I can see that a lack of primrose coloured paint on narrowed double yellow lines might make some people slightly agitated and I can visualise a perfect world in which it would really matter (Staithes in North Yorkshire comes to mind). However, this is a note about Clifton in Bristol. Clifton has its attractions, but the elegance and aesthetic appeal of its roads, streets and paths are not among them. Even if they were beautiful it would be hard to see them on some days for the numbers of cars, buses, vans and lorries parked on or moving slowly along them. Here are a couple of my own snaps.

a bit messy in Clifton

bigger problems

choked with cars

So what’s my point? I’m not sure really. Firstly, I think that motor vehicles are becoming the ruin of our pleasant city and secondly I think that some individuals are starting to use the policy vacuum of artificial “neighbourhood” structures as a ventilation for trivia that drive out consideration of things that have wider and greater importance.

I have attended a few meetings of the Cabot, Clifton and Clifton East Neighbourhood Forums but I don’t think I shall be there tonight.

Considerate Cycling 47: Thinking About Walking, Helping Cycling

lQueens-Road-and-Park-Street

This section of a CycleStreets map focuses on one lively part of Bristol. It’s where I go shopping sometimes. It also includes my favourite uphill ride in the city, a gradient that suits my 65 year old sense of fun. The best known section is called Park Street. Lots of people ride up and down Park Street despite the well-rehearsed myth that Bristol is “too hilly”.

Park Stret Bristol

But never mind the gradient. Look at the RTC data from CycleStreets brilliant search tool. In the map reproduced above  I used a mouse to click round the blobs of shame that mark all the failures of gravity, attention span, entropy and other abstractions that ended up with someone in A&E. Towards the north west end of the marked area is a mess of ill-made streets called “The Triangle” On its hypotenuse is Queens Road.

Once the area has been drawn, click on the submit button and CycleStreets delivers a more or less instant comma separated file for inspection in your browser. Downloading is recommended – it can be opened with Excel or SPSS  or whatever other gimlet you use  for data mangling.This is what I did with mine in Excel:

Graph-2005-to-2013-casualty

So there you have it. Pedestrians have a rough time of it on Bristol’s liveliest streets. What do we make of it? What do A&E make of it? What could we do about it? Here are some bullet points to start an argument:

  • Reducing speeds to 20 mph would be good.
  • Stop casual street parking (there’s a massive empty car park very close by – make the first hour free)
  • Re-balance traffic lights to favour pedestrians
  • Widen footpaths
  • De-clutter the footpaths
  • Add more crossing places
  • Persuade shops to use more “last mile” cycle deliveries
  • Make a two-way cycle track up one side of Park Street where the parking used to be
  • Pedestrianise the rest of Park Street
  • Improve lighting at night
  • Talk to taxi drivers about what they see at night and what ideas they have
  • Look at the two major junctions off Park Street
  • Narrow the very wide exit from Queens Avenue onto Queens Road
  • Ask the Government for some proper money

It seems to me that most of these could make a difference to the casualty stats for people on foot. As a big bonus they would also make life gentler for anyone riding a bike. I looked for pedestrian casualties where a bicycle had been involved. The data run from 2005 to 2013. There was just one. It was a slight injury collision in 2012. It was at quarter to three on a Sunday morning and both parties needed treatment..

Considerate Cycling 46: How Not to Do Survey Research

etc

BBC Bristol News have recently published two surprisingly uncritical reports arising from an on-line survey of attitudes to street parking policy in Bristol.

After a (not-returned) telephone call from me and a bit of Twitter activity by the Mayor, BBC Bristol News made some changes to the text of the most recent article but some dubious statistics given by the research author are still reported. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-30512827 (As of the afternoon of 18/12/2014)

Behind the BBC Bristol News item is a long-running story of Bristol’s attempts to tidy up conflict between resident and commuter parking. A previous Council Administration and now the elected City Mayor have pursued the idea of setting up Residential Parking Zones. It’s a very boring topic for everyone else, but for interested parties it seems to arouse strong feelings.

The immediate story is that former Ford employee, now Bristol businessman, Mark Moran wrote and published a web questionnaire on the subject of Bristol’s parking scheme. I have not been able to find a data set or a report of Mark Moran’s findings so the following comments are based on the questionnaire alone. My own interest in the topic is as a postgraduate degree holder in research methodology, as a resident of Clifton with specific problems related to parking in Bristol, and as an advocate of cycling within cycle campaign associations.

I have annotated the full text of the questionnaire with the sorts of observations that I would have been able to share had the BBC News Editor called me back as promised.

Bristol Residential Parking Zones – Does the city want them?

Have your say.

Asking the real questions about RPZ

There has been no full survey done of the whole of Bristol and its surrounding areas with regards to RPZ. Feelings are running very high on this issue and it is the one most often in the news

The intention of this survey is to reach the entire ‘Greater Bristol’ area to establish once and for all the true feelings about these schemes

[a survey about the “Greater Bristol Area” would need to collect information about where respondents lived and worked so that the representativeness of the sample could be established. A publicised web survey will clearly recruit only a self-selecting sample whose general characteristics (age, residential area, car ownership, employment and so on) would need to be tested against the known characteristics of the population of the area as a whole.]

1. Do you agree with the blanket introduction of Residential Parking Zones across Bristol? Yes no

[The unexplained adjective “blanket” makes a clear answer more difficult. Is this a question about the scheme per se, or is it about the scale and pace of the scheme’s implementation? As a type of question it comes under the heading of “portmanteau question” – a question that could be construed as being two or more questions in one. Such questions can be difficult to answer and their later analysis cannot be done with confidence]

2. Do you think the Mayor and Bristol City Council have listened to the concerns of residents and businesses over RPZ? Yes no

[Again, this is two (or more) questions in one]

3. Do you think an efficient cheap and reliable public transport system should be in place before RPZ’s [sic] are introduced? Yes no

[This question contains so many ideas that answers to it could mean almost anything. It’s hard to see how it asks for any kind of answer that would not already have been given to Question 1.]

4. Do you think these schemes will discourage people from travelling to work in Bristol?

Yes no

[A simple categorical question with a yes/no answer? On the face of it yes. In practical terms it is more helpful to respondents and to later analysis to offer a range of options when opinions are sought. However this is an opinion question about other people’s likely behaviour. Why not just ask the respondents about their own behaviour? Even that sort of question is hypothetical, but the answers to it might be more well-grounded and reliable]

5. Do you think these schemes will cause businesses to close? Yes no

[The same problems arise here as we see in Question 4. As with 4 it is a hypothetical question of a type generally used only to test general attitudes or opinions and very rarely with just a yes/no response. My own reading of this question (and some others) is that the author is simply marshalling the beliefs he already holds and is looking for people who agree with him]

6. Do you live in Bristol, Work in Bristol or Visit Bristol? Live Work or Visit

[This one is a mess. Three different questions are rolled into one and a number of interesting or relevant others are omitted, such as “do you work at home?” “are you retired?” “do you have a condition that affects mobility?” or “are you a student?”]

7. Should the residents of the affected areas be forced to pay for the RPZ? Yes no

[The word “forced” is an emotionally charged word that indicates that the questioner does not agree with the idea of resident parking schemes however they are financed. It also seems to rest on confused ideas about how the various elements of consultation, implementation and future running costs have been and will be financed. Offering one rather stark and unlikely option “residents … be forced to pay” makes it hard to imagine anyone ticking Yes .]

8. Would you support raising funds for a judicial review into the RPZ programme? Yes no

[This question suggests that the author is planning to or would like to attempt such a legal challenge and that he is asking for financial support. The possibility of gathering a representative set of responses from the questionnaire when his own views are so close to the surface must be thrown into doubt.]

9. Would you support the cancellation of all planned RPZ’s [sic] and the reversal of those already in place?
Yes
no

[as Q8]

10. Please use this box to add any further comments


[This question is potentially the one that will generate some interesting responses. It will also be the hardest one to analyse.]

Considerate Cycling 45: Normal People

Inconsiderate behaviour in public (however we construe inconsiderate behaviour) is a normal background noise in all our lives. We exhibit some and we experience some. Sometimes it feels worse, sometimes better. My point in this blog is that righteous indignation at bad behaviour on the roads has no practical value and might be a barrier to the improvement of public happiness. I am suggesting that we need a better common sense understanding of “normal” and we need to think about better ways to reduce road conflict and the anxiety and the damage that arise from it.

Let’s suppose, for the sake of analysis, that an unwanted level of inconsiderate behaviour is a normally distributed feature of human nature. 68% of our population, let’s guess, will shelter in the normal zone of doing their imperfect best. Some will show us a way of being better than expected and some will disappoint us. Let’s guess at 13.5% in each of those categories. Beyond them perhaps, a tiny fraction of the population are saints or criminals who will contribute exceptional altruism or unacceptable danger. A wide range of naturally occurring attributes (like height and weight for example) seem to be distributed in this predictably symmetrical sort of way. We call it the “normal distribution”.

Here is a picture of the normal distribution of the propensity towards considerate road behaviour in the adult population. The labels might be unexpected, but the shape of the normal distribution is a familiar sight:

The coloured space under the curve represents a whole set of people (let’s say the adult population of Bristol). The horizontal axis represents the extent to which people deviate, in one direction or the other, from the considerate mean.

For the purposes of this blog I am assuming that you (the reader) and I (the writer) are normal people. The odds are with me on that assumption. More than two thirds of the population are close to the norm, so you and I probably are too.

Let’s focus on the other people. More specifically let’s think about the 27 or 28 in every 200 (the 13.65%) who are the “bad people” and the “criminals”. Let’s focus on their road behaviour. Let’s be more precise and think about them on their way to work in the morning.

Here are some of them:

That looks a bit jumbled and inconclusive but we do have a more precise image of one Spring day in 2011 because every householder in the city was asked, as part of the decennial census, how each person in the house got to work on that day. 192,154
adults made such a journey, with 99,695 driving, 38,832 walking and 15,768 cycling. Others traveled by bus, train, motorbike, bus or other means. I shall assume all of those groups are normal in their shares of considerate and inconsiderate people. It’s a reasonable assumption. Here is a picture of the bad people and the criminals who were driving, walking or cycling around Bristol last Tuesday. They are same people (mostly) who were doing the same sorts of things on the day of the 2011 Census.

Normal Bad Behviour on Census Day 2011 In Bristol By selceted Modes Of Travel To Workdata taken from Table CT0015: 2011 Census: Method of travel to work (alternative), local authorities in England and Wales

The criminally inconsiderate people who were driving, walking or cycling are hard to see. In the flow of 67,793 cars and vans there will only be 249 with extreme tendencies, and the chances are that things go smoothly enough an any given day and none of them do any harm. But let’s not be complacent. There were 97 criminally inconsiderate people walking to work and 39 dangerously inclined people on bikes. There were also quite large numbers of people whose tendencies we had already agreed are likely to be “bad”. Over 20,000.

Let’s remember that Bristol is a small place and that in the light of the numbers of inconsiderate people we think might be travelling through the city it’s not surprising that there were 2,075 reports of road traffic accidents in the the 12 months between August 2011 and September 2012. On average, there were 5 reports per day over those 12 months, with a peak of 6.5 each Thursday and a calmer 2.9 on Sundays.

What this all means is that nervous people are right to be nervous. On any given working day there are likely to be 5 incidents actually recorded by the Police on Bristol roads where someone gets hurt. Occasionally it’s even worse.

So what do we do? Shout at the bad people? Make them take tests? Tell them to use air bags in their vehicles? Close the crossings, traffic lights and pavements?

No, these are silly rhetorical questions. What we do is consider the situation intelligently and then spend a lot of money on reducing the number and the severity of conflicts between dangerous vehicles and vulnerable people. We ask law makers and law enforcement officers to intervene wherever and in whatever circumstances the conflicts are known to lead to casualties. We ask them to stop treating collisions as normal and therefore acceptable. We ask them to start seeing collisions as common but unacceptable and legislating then prosecuting wherever is necessary. We reduce speed limits, we reduce access to some streets, we take cases to court. We set up instruction and refresher training courses for road users who ask for it or who show by their convictions that they need it.

More importantly we build roads and pathways and reorganise streets so that the total volume of conflicts is dramatically reduced. If there are a lot of motor vehicles that might reasonably expect to move quickly, we make sure that walking, cycling and other vulnerable modes of travel can complete journeys without coming into direct contact with them.

If we did such bold things systematically, and with a measured plan (as a lot of similar countries already have) the five a day rule could be a thing of the past. Even the bad and criminal people would a) have less to be angry or anxious about as they travel and b) only be likely to have collisions with their equals in momentum. (some further reading)

In every other modern endeavour we notice where things go wrong, we work out ways of reducing the risks, the hazards and the severity of the outcomes and we spend some resources on dealing with them. We also recognise that this process has to be sustained – renewed and refreshed at each level as time brings improvement.

So why not take one of the last bold steps for a post-industrial city and catch up with fellow cities in Europe and accept the normal distribution of human failings. Let’s remake our roads, pathways and streets to reduce the conflicts. Let’s enforce the rules we have set for sensible behaviour and not let the agents of the law accept that collisions are inevitable simply because they are so common. Let’s arrange for children to be able to cycle to school and to have cycling and road craft as part of their curriculum. Let’s make some new rules (a universal 20mph in towns and cities for example). Let’s also make it compulsory or easy for people who need to learn better ways to do so, whatever mode they chose.

To put all that another way, we can’t stop people being normally inclined, but if we act wisely in relation to urban travel we can reduce the harm done by the normally occurring lack of consideration and the violence that follows from it.

Considerate Cycling 44: 20mph Feels Good, So Do It

 


Sometimes I hire a motor vehicle. They are really useful for some journeys. Depending on the load, the number of passengers and the distances involved hiring can be cheaper and simpler than the alternatives.

So far this year I have hired two cars and two vans. The best part is being able to take them back and hand over the responsibility but this year I have had the extra pleasure of being able to drive around Bristol at 20mph. It’s such a civilised speed in a busy city. On a journey of three or four miles within the city the time involved in not racing up to 30 where the rare opportunity arises makes so little difference that it’s irrelevant. Rushing is a waste of adrenaline.

The pleasure of driving more slowly is being able to consider each section of the journey as an experience in its own right, paying attention to junctions, side roads, other roads users and the unexpected things that always crop up. Hard acceleration and sharp braking become unnecessary. All manoeuvres become stress-free events. Smiling becomes common. Other drivers seem to be mellower and less likely to get too close behind.

The general idea seems to be that the whole of Bristol will soon be a 20 mph city and the very thought of it is a source of pleasure. My usual cycling and walking will be much improved.

You can imagine my shock and unhappiness when I saw a recent set of proposals to make a whole list of exceptions to the 20 mph rule in a chunk of Bristol near to my home. Inexplicably, some of the residential and linking streets are going to be left as 30 mph routes for pointlessly short sections wherein quicker driving can be indulged in for no more than minutes at a time. I wrote my objections (ruefully noting that I was a day late in doing so.) I wrote:

Dear Bristol City Council

 I note that I have missed yesterday’s deadline for submission of the following comments. I hope, nonetheless, that you will be able to take them into account.

 Although I live just outside the inner north area, I travel into or through it on a regular basis – usually on a bicycle and sometimes on foot.

 I have one clear objection to one aspect of the plans for the Inner North Area and that is that too many exceptions have been made to the principle of a blanket 20 mph limit.

 As I understand it, the designation of a few roads as 30 mph was to allow some arterial or through routes to be treated as different enough in character and capacity to distinguish them from the residential, local and shopping streets that made up a lot of Bristol’s road network.

 When I look at Upper Belgrave Road, Clifton Down, Bridge Valley Drive, Church Avenue, Bishops Close, Stoke Park Road South, Downleaze, Stoke Hill, Stoke Road, Roman Road, Downside Road, Pembroke Road (especially near its junction with Clifton Down) and The Avenue. I see roads that are either residential streets (not motor vehicle routes at all) or roads that are immediately adjacent to and part of a wide area of residential and recreational use. Allowing short sections of them to be 30 mph will save tiny amounts of time and serve mainly to introduce uncertainty and anxiety for those large numbers who are not in motor vehicles.

The Downs area in particular has very large numbers of runners, walkers, football teams, zoo visitors, cyclists and sight-seers crossing and re-crossing the roads between the grassy areas. Ball games, dog walking, fitness training and other activities are frequently in play.

 All these things suggest to me that all the roads that service and pass through the area should be treated in the same way, and for the same reasons, as all the roads that will be improved by the 20 mph limit. If the case for 20 mph makes sense (and I firmly believe it does) then it makes the same good sense on these roads as well.

 I would also agree with many other commentators that the more unusual or contentious exceptions there are, the less likely it will be for other areas to get the full benefit of calmer and less dangerous motor vehicle traffic.

 I would also argue that Kellaway Avenue would benefit greatly from a 20 mph limit. I see that, as with Stoke Road and the junction of Clifton Down and Pembroke Road, Kellaway Avenue has been a site of notified road traffic accidents. Lower speeds would (as evidence available to the Council shows) reduce the number and the severity of casualties.

 Yours sincerely

 Sam Saunders

 

The officer responsible was quick to reply, as follows:

Dear Mr Saunders,

 As your comments have been received outside the consultation period we regret to inform you that they will not be included in the objection report for the proposed Inner North 20mph speed limit scheme.

 For future consultations please ensure any comments or objections for consideration in an objection report are submitted within the advertised period.

 Yours Sincerely,

 TRO Officer

Place Directorate

Traffic Orders Team -Highways Delivery

Bristol City Council

 I hope there is a sensible outcome. Fingers crossed.