The Health and Social Care Bill

As the Liberal Democrats meet in Gateshead today, I have emailed my Liberal Democrat MP Mr Stephen Williams (MP for Bristol West). I have never met him, but I believe that he is a decent fellow. My message to him was as follows:

Dear Stephen,

I’m writing to let you know that I am not reassured by the reassurances that you and Nick Clegg have offered over the NHS and Social Care Bill. The professional bodies, trade unions and a range of experts are far more convincing (I’m afraid) than politicians whose party interests are supported by mere commercial enterprises rather than by dedicated membership bodies with personal commitments to service.

I am hoping, of course, that you will be one of those Liberal Democrat MPs who vote with the hostile motion at Gateshead. I would be delighted to share my delight with everyone I met that “my MP voted to stop the Bill at conference.”

To put it another way, this weekend could definitely be the end of the credibility the Liberal Democrats have had in previous Parliaments. The chance that any LibDems would remain as Bristol MPs at the next election would have to be close to zero.

I hope you use the remaining time to oppose the Bill. Its “thousands” of changes guarantee that if passed it would still need another major Bill in three or four years time, and all the agony would start all over again. The waste of resources and good will is a shocking prospect. It’s a truly wretched piece of legislation, and I suspect that most Liberal Democrats are of the same mind,
Yours sincerely

Sam Saunders

Fingers crossed, eh?

Considerate Cycling 15: Finding The Bristol and Bath Railway Path

Looking east from Temple Meads Station exit

There is a side exit from Temple Meads Railway Station that leads out to car parking and a road called Friary. Looking to your right (east-ish) you will see a well-signed Car Park and lots of cars.

You might miss the yellow sign on the tall black post. It is well above head height.

The cylcle route diversion sign

On closer examination it will confirm the feeling that you can cycle that way in search of the Bristol and Bath Railway Path.The style has a hint of Sustrans about it.

Off he goes

Somone else is going that way, so you might as well follow him and see where you get to.

There is no sign to say where this goes

A very nice looking bridge. No obvious destination, but there is a sign of some kind. so you can stop and see what it says.

No cycling

This is not at all promising, is it? Let’s cross the bridge and see what’s on the other side.

A promising direction sign.

This sign is immediately after the bridge. It confirms that you areĀ  following the line of the Bristol and Bath Cycle Route (if not the Railway Path itself). One worrying aspect of this sign is that Temple Meads Station is shown as being ahead of you, even though you have just left it behind. But there is another cyclist ahead, so you might as well follow him.

A bit further

So you carry on like this.

Confirmation that this is a shared pedestrian and cycle path

And here is a confirmation that you are approaching a shared pedestrian and cycle path. Continuing is this tentative manner you will eventually reach the Raiway Path itself, sometimes with clear helpful signs, sometmes guessing. Take a look at this junction on the way:

No signs visible from here

But there is a cyclist approaching, so it’s worth exploring.

And there it is!
Look! The tiny little sign was there all the time. Hiding.

And just round the corner, hidden beside the building is another small sign. And up ahead there is an enticing entrance to something that might be what you’re looking for.

Compared to finding the Car Park at the beginning of this tale, this expedition might be described as bloody ridiculous. It is, however, the normal state of affairs when using cycle routes. If you want to be a cyclist you need to be a good map reader, you need to plan ahead and you need to be prepared to stop regularly on any new journey to decipher the runes. I have been told that signs are the responsibility of the Local Authority and that damaged or missing signs can be reported. I think to myself “where would I start?”

Footnote: August 2014

Two years later I am a bit dejected to note that finding the Bristol and Bath Railway Path from Temple Meads is just as difficult as it ever was. Personally, I know the best route now and I know where some new signs are but there are still people getting lost or giving up because of the route’s obscurity. It makes me cross to learn that private developers have been able to make private decisions about what to signpost and how to do it. It seems silly not to advertise cycling in the most effective manner available – telling everyone who passes through exactly where the goodies are.

I don’t think it is unreasonable to suggest that Bristol City Council could, with the new cyclist in mind, make an inventory of all the places where signs are missing, eroded, obscured or ambiguous, and put things right. Many people are now persuaded about cycling and are ready to use the many routes the city does have. It makes sense to put up durable signs that makes it possible for them to do so.

Sam Saunders August 7th 2014