Considerate Cycling 17: Too Many Compromises?

There is a newly amended junction on the Greater Bristol Bus Network that, I think, needs sorting out. Preferably by a sharper mind than the one I was born with. In trying to improve bus timings it has created some puzzles for other kinds of users. These include, as we shall see, schoolchildren walking to and from school.

Here is a scruffy plan of the junction. The north-south road is the main bus route, Whiteladies Road. Coming in from the west is Tyndall’s Park Avenue. Over on the east side is St Paul’s Road.

There are two user-controlled crossings, just two, shown with dotted lines. Each of the four corners has its standard traffic lights and each user controlled crossing has a button with lights for cyclists and  pedestrians. In addition a cycle lane has been painted on the north-south side of Whiteladies Road and there are Advanced Stop Lines on all four approaches. Clear?

Well, I’m not sure. For one thing there are several moves that must not be made. This left turn is puzzling a couple of pedestrians who are speculating on crossing where no crossing is provided but it is legal.

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On the same part of the junction these schoolboys are using their athleticism to get home. They seem to have been attracted by the empty ASL and the drop curbs that suggest “cross here”. But they are running, just in case.

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And so are these schoolchildren, with what looks like a more pressing reason to do so.

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The right turn there is legal, and the driver did slow down and use a horn. But still, I was only near the junction a couple of times for a few minutes (trying very hard to see a logic in the arrangements). And there was this cyclist too:

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He is travelling north to south on Whiteladies Road. He will have just passed this No Left Turn sign.

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I have no idea what happened next, but my second photograph from the same position as the first looks like this:

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Notice that he is over the edge of an ASL. He seems to have crossed the junction and then doubled back to cycle diagonally across Tyndall’s Park Road, possibly taking advantage of drop curbs on the two crossings. Look carefully and you will see the green cycle light showing. Notice, too, that another couple of schoolboys are waiting to cross Whiteladies Road where there is no light controlled crossing for them. Tyndall’s Park Road at this time of day has a steady stream of school pupils on this side of the road, because this is the side the school is on. Logically they will be making the same choices on the way to school in the morning. If they made the double crossing required to get over Whiteladies Road with lights, they might still have to cross back over St Paul’s Road again (with no lights to help)  to continue their journey.

I expect by now that you are now feeling as confused as I do. To help you get everything fixed in your mind, here are some more illustrations of what happens when a City Council tries to please everybody and ends up confusing an old duffer who just wants to know “What am I supposed to do here?”.

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There’s my cycle lane to The South.  Is it just “advisory”? Looks like it. I bet that camera saw me taking pictures at some point.

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It looks like a cyclist has accepted the invitation to mount the pavement here. Tyre tracks tell the story. Perhaps it was to avoid the “No Left Turn” and scare the pedestrians? On the other hand it could be one of Bristol’s many unsigned “Shared Space” areas.

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See that drop curb again? Just the thing for enticing school children onto the main bus route. Shame about the vehicles waiting in the cycle space. And heaven help anyone who used it in a self-propelled wheel chair.

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Considerate Cycling 16: Life sans Car

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I first got a driving licence in 1971. But in the last 30 years I have only owned a car for two short periods, each of them for very specific reasons and neither of them lasting more than 2 years.

In that time I must have explained hundreds of times how liberating it is to not own a car and how much richer life is without one. Here are some of the stories I have told:

  1. When it was time to move I have spent up to 18 months finding somewhere to live that was close to basic services (supermarket, GP, schools, bus stops and rail links etc)
  2. I ride a bicycle and regard 10 miles (with public transport back-up) as a comfortable commuting distance.
  3. Unusual journeys like student moves, remote self-catering holidays or furniture deliveries can be done with a cheap hire car.
  4. My children have learned to swim, ride bikes, catch buses, trains and aeroplanes independently from an early age. They all happily walked to school from age 5 to 18 in all weathers. They all did the sports, music, clubs, cubs and trips that school and community allowed.
  5. Their grandmother lived with us into her 90s, and never had to stay in for want of a lift somewhere, despite increasing immobility.
  6. The money saved on vehicle excise duty, fuel, maintenance, insurance and depreciation has left plenty of money to pay for occasional taxis, hire cars, megabus or rail tickets.
  7. Health and fitness are blessings. All of us enjoy both in good measure.
  8. If others have offered a lift, or if I have ever asked for a lift, a reciprocal favour has always been easy to find.
  9. Planning journeys in advance has taken time and effort sometimes. This has been a useful discipline. It makes sure the journey is worth while and that we get the most out of it while using the least possible resource to achieve it. “Lets go out for a drive” is not in our vocabulary.
  10. I have learned to see and feel places I visit in a much more direct and engaging way than when I drive. Never having to find (and pay for) a parking space is a significant freedom.
  11. I meet, or at least interact with, lots of good, interesting and strange people. I have adventures. Getting lost is actually fun when you’re not on the M25 or heading south at 70mph when you should be going north.
  12. Road works become interesting and all other sites and sounds can be given as much attention as you like.

I could go on and on. But the one thing I wold insist on is that if you react by thinking “it’s alright for him, but…” it would be that owning a car is a choice you make, and it’s a choice that you can unmake if you want to – dependent only on how serious you are about it. I suppose cigarettes and alcohol can be “impossible” to give up too.

So if you like cars, enjoy driving cars and see cars as a great contribution to national and global life, that’s fine by me. Carry on driving them and carry on encouraging the kids to be dependent too. But as it gets more difficult to park, as costs continue to climb, as regulations and routes get more and more restrictive, don’t claim a priority for your old-fashioned romantic mode of transport – make your move. I have some tips on how to do that painlessly. Coming up in the next blog.