Tag Archives: olympics

Cycling to the Olympics? It’s easy, and delightful, and all demographics are doing it.

DSC_6444

Almost a year ago I wrote about the opening of a new 5 mile cycle track, linking Dorchester and Weymouth, built alongside the busy main road that links Weymouth, and the Olympic sailing events, to Dorchester and the wider world. It was not bad — with the exception of rail trails like the Bristol to Bath Path, perhaps it’s the best inter-urban cycleway in the country. Not that this can be considered very great praise.

I thought I’d take a look and see how it’s working out for Weymouth, and I put a little of what I found in the couple of hours I spent in town in this flickr set. Continue reading

Rolling back shared space in the East End

Brick Lane

Brick Lane by stevecadman on flickr (cc by-nc-sa)

As the builders move out of the newly completed £30 million “shared space” on Exhibition Road, their next job might be the polar opposite project: rolling back shared space from Exhibition Road’s geographical opposite street. Tower Hamlets council, with £300,000 from TfL, have announced that in the next few weeks they will be replacing the bricks of Brick Lane with a standard issue asphalt carriageway.

I don’t know if Brick Lane has ever actually been claimed as “shared space”, but from my recollection of its construction (and it’s the best part of two years since I was last there, so recall is assisted by flickr and Streetview) it certainly falls within the spectrum of “shared space” that Stuart Reid described at last month’s Street Talks. Though it is not without signs and bollards, and even a bit of guardrail outside a school, it does have features that encourage mixing more than conventional road design. There is delineation between footway and carriageway but it’s blurred, with no kerb and with only a slight difference in the style and colour of the block paving. I don’t know the street well enough to know whether this really gives users the feeling that pedestrians own the street, but that did seem to be the case on those few occasions that I’ve been there (though I know that construction of the East London Line extension closed the top end to traffic for a while, and it might still have been benefiting from that effect last I was there).

It’s not clear whether the works will reintroduce the kerbs, but the council reveal a lot when they say that the reason for replacing the paving with a conventional surface, apart from the fact that the paving is looking “scruffy” (is it?), is to “help to distinguish space for pedestrians from traffic”. That is, this is an explicitly anti-shared space move, intended, perhaps, to put pedestrians back in their place.

I’ve written several pieces critical of shared space. In high-profile cases it has been applied in inappropriate places — to big and busy through routes like Exhibition Road, where traffic will dominate and drive everybody else out simply by weight of numbers. Its True Believers at the extreme “naked streets” end of the spectrum emphasise their discredited hypothesis that giving motorists a free reign will make them more cautious and courteous, and so shared space is often applied in a way that allows motorists to bully their way to dominance. And unrealistic claims are made about the benefits of shared space for pedestrians and cyclists, usually involving anecdotes about crossing the road while walking backwards with your eyes closed.

I can now redress the balance and defend the weaker form of shared space at Brick Lane. Brick Lane is a far more suitable candidate for shared space than most of the high-profile schemes. It is already a narrow single-lane one-way street with a high pedestrian to vehicle movement ratio — a high place status, in the jargon, and little importance as a transport route. And there is none of the “increasing motorist freedom is good for pedestrians” pseudoscience in Brick Lane’s current design, just a few features that help to slow drivers down and make things easier for pedestrians.

Caution infernal traffic
Brick Lane by duncan on flickr (cc by-nc)

(If traffic volume is a bigger problem than I remember then more can be done to discourage non-essential traffic from using the street. Reversing the direction of the one-way traffic south of Hanbury Street, perhaps, so that it can not be used as an inter-arterial rat-run all the way from Whitechapel Road to Bethnal Green Road. And of course, the while lot should be two-way for bicycles. It would also be nice if there weren’t quite such a vast amount of (often illegally) parked cars.)

Brick Lane is exactly the kind of narrow city street — important place for people but unsuitable for and unimportant as a transport route — where shared surfaces could be beneficial, and where, in my (very limited) experience, they’ve been working better than in most of the high-profile shared space schemes. Spending £300k rolling back shared space here while spending £30m installing it on the other side of town seems daft.

Tower Hamlets have been promised a lot of money for all sorts of public works and events, having completely missed out on the Olympics to neighbouring boroughs. You’d have thought that a scruffy inner-city borough like Tower Hamlets would have been able to come up with a long list of worthwhile public works. This one just looks like construction for the sake of construction, with some silly rationalisation.

Weekly War Bulletin, 27 Nov

The Evening Standard learn that only 1 in 3 hire bike users are women and then dictate that this is because women are scared and don’t want to get sweaty.  Of course.  Not because men are too scared to commit to buying a bicycle of their own, or because all the men’s own bicycles are broken and they’re too embarrassed to take them to the workshop and admit that they can’t fix them, or because men want to be able to ride sitting upright and with a basket without being called a girl, or because women with their frivolous romantic novels about wealthy gentlemen and swooning ladies enjoy taking the train while men with their very important spreadsheets and reports don’t.  In gender asymmetries there’s always something wrong with the women, and it’s just obvious that this has something to do with fear and sweat.  Right, Evening Standard?

The hire bikes will finally open to spontaneous unregistered users next week, months over schedule (but a few weeks earlier than the xmas prediction that we were last given from TfL).

The London Cycling Campaign step in to timidly ask the question we’ve all been asking: er, should the hardened criminal killer of Catriona Patel really have been free to drive his truck over the cyclist in the first place?

The big news this week, though, has been all the wonderful things that the coalition are doing for the railways!  (Nobody mention that these are merely the few Labour rail projects that the Tories are not cutting.)  Thameslink goes ahead in full (nobody mention that the Tories will make it eighteen years late rather than sixteen), the Paddington lines will be electrified to Dave, Gideon, and Phil’s old home, Oxford (nobody mention that the Tories will drop the electrification further down to Bristol, Cardiff, and Swansea), there will be hundreds of new carriages (nobody mention that the Tories will order fewer and later).  Thanks, Tories!  The amount of cash saved will probably almost pay for the overspend on the futile M25 congestion relief work.

ATOC didn’t do quite so well at disguising their bad news: despite their best efforts to cover up, the media spotted that there was going to be another massively above inflation rail fares hike this new year.

Meanwhile, Virgin Trains, they of the chronically overcrowded WCML, are apparently holding new carriages hostage, demanding a franchise extension as ransom before they will extend their trains.

And Network Rail have cut £200m costs.  The directors must deserve another £200m in bonuses for that.

Rural bus services might also suffer from fares fiddling.

It’s just too dangerous to ride a bicycle in London.  It is if you’re the deputy prime-minister, anyway: Nick has to take the ministerial car to protect himself from missiles and hit men.

But boo hoo, local authorities want to raise the penalties for illegal parking, you know, to be an actual disincentive.

I thought everyone had already arranged to be on holiday during the Olympics, but apparently some people still haven’t been frightened off — so All Newspapers have been roped in to spread the word of the apocalyptic traffic chaos that will hit London.

This weekend, Oxford Street will be how it should always have been: pedestrians only.  Incidentally, this morning the postman turned up with a tatty copy of the 1963 Traffic in Towns (aka, The Buchanan Report to the Minister of Transport on the long term problems of traffic in urban areas), one of the earliest government documents to acknowledge that British towns and cities might not be able to comfortably accommodate widespread motor vehicle use.  Its author even in 1963 said that Oxford Street, “the most uncivilised street in Europe”, “epitomizes the conflict between traffic and environment”.  (Their solution is given at the bottom of this post.)

The helmetcam doesn’t lie: 88% of accidents involving cyclists in Australia are caused by bad motor vehicle drivers.

Cutting Cycling England wasn’t about cutting cycling: it was just about bringing it in-house to DfT, where it will be transparent and get the attention it deserves.  So nobody mention that the first CE-funded projects are going under.

Imagine if workmen knocked off early leaving the Blackwall or Rotherhithe tunnels closed without warning — the Standard would howl and the mayor would seek to fine the contractors.  Seems nobody cares when it’s the Greenwich or Woolwich foot tunnels, though.  Bath don’t seem to think that pedestrians and cyclists need alternative river crossings when their bridges are closed, either.

There’s a good chance of Bristol getting a citywide 20mph limit.  It’s a shame individual cities have to introduce this one-by-one at £500k a time, though.  Surely it would save on printing signs and cluttering the streets with them if we simply made 20 the default for built up areas…

Probably we will never ever see a weekend of full tube service; certainly not until 2012, though.

Got an old rusty bicycle that’s of no use?  Want to do your bit for the War On The Motorist?  Chain it to the railings outside MI6.  You’ll have all the roads in Vauxhall closed while they blow it up.

This is no more “news” than “tubes go on stike” or “rail fares rise”, but: yet another study says speed cameras save lives.

Twat leaves injured blind pensioner on the side of the street.  But the twat happened to be on a bicycle and the street happened to be a shared use de-motorized street: therefore all cyclists are dangerously selfish lycra louts -or- all shared use paths are dangerous.  Delete as applicable.  Obviously, no such conclusions can be drawn from somebody driving their car into a woman and leaving her to freeze to death in a Somerset ditch.

MP upsets constituents with bad parking-fine advice.  Apparently the Motorists were upset because they were caught by cameras that were designed to tackle anti-social behaviour.  Because middle-class crimes like blocking pavements, taking disabled parking bays, or leaving your car in the way of buses and ambulances are perfectly acceptable and social behaviours.  At least drink-driving is no longer acceptable to the middle-classes — if it’s a Labour MP doing the drink-driving, that is.

Here are the numbers on kids and roads: how many are forbidden from walking and cycling by their parents, and how many have been hit by cars.

One single police force are putting up billboards reminding Motorists how to drive.  As the comments thread points out, that’s the War On The Motorist, that is.

Some councils fill in potholes, some don’t.  How well does yours do?

Double yellow lines will “deter” car users from parking in Cambridge bike lanes.

Your moment of zen: from Traffic in Towns, a plan for the modernisation of Fitzrovia, including the Euston and Totenham Court Motorways, and the widening of Oxford Street to approximately 7 times its current width, for parking purposes:

And Virgin Trains, they of the chronically overcrowded WCML, are apparently holding new carriages hostage, demanding a franchise extension as ransom before they will extend their trains.

Weekly War Bulletin, 7 Aug

The big news this week is that the government has put dogma ahead of practical economic policy by scrapping their support for speed cameras; Oxford were first to switch off their cameras, and now many more are following.  Everybody knows that the sole purpose of speed cameras was to rake in gazillions of pounds, which local police forces got to pocket.  Without central government financial support for the camera schemes, the local police will have no money to pay for them.  The logic is watertight.  I don’t know how the government experts have failed to follow it, when so many Motorists in the comment threads have.

Meanwhile, get out of a driving ban free, by blaming your nine points worth of speeding on your dead mother.

Hit and run driver leaves cyclist lying on Bracknell roundabout; Motorists following just drive on past.

Here’s a car that runs on shit.  This pretty much sums up Britain’s approach to solving transport problems: come up with ever more absurd but headline catching ideas that give a vague impression that people are thinking hard about the problem and working tirelessly on clever solutions.  Quietly step around the real causes of the problems.  Recycle the same solution and news stories every three to five years.

East London councils are queuing up to pave over their playing fields for, er, Olympic Games VIP car parks.  What a fabulous celebration of sport these Olympics will be.

Croydon chavs throw baby under bus.

Tut.  How dare a minority section of the London population go around believing that they are entitled to vast amounts of expensive dedicated infrastructure, on which they can speed around dangerously, imposing their smells upon the people around them.  These bloody joggers should know their place.

Where have all the bicycles gone?  To the Ukraine: gang of stolen bike exporters caught by GPS enabled decoys.

Sign language for “where’s the nearest tube?” mistaken for “I’m ganna push you on the tracks.”  Deaf man ends up in court.

Oh yeah, remember that epidemic of Toyota braking problems?  Just bad drivers blaming their tools.

Sustrans think that Bike Hire phase 2 money could be better spent “expanding potential” for cycling in the outer boroughs.

I’ll leave you with a page full of frickin awesome art deco trains:

Weekly War Bulletin, 31 July

Apparently some sort of new bicycle thing — a hire scheme of some sort — launched in London on Friday.  After things got heated with an organised anti-bank stickering campaign, a man was arrested for kicking one of the poor things.  And if we had known that usage on Friday would be free — and with hindsight, we probably should have expected it — we’d have taken one on the Mass.

The Olympic Road Network (the news have been misnaming it Route — all of the routes are in fact roads) has been confirmed: Park Lane, Embankment and Upper Thames Street are in.  25,000 “sponsors and their guests” will be able to use them, thus guaranteeing that the Olympics will not be ruined by the absence of “sponsors and their guests”.  Some are already expressing their shock at hearing that even taxis will not be allowed to use them.  We really have been expertly conditioned to believe that taxis have some sort of right push in and drive wherever they like.  With the fine for “improper use” at £100 (or, in newspeak, £200 with a 50% discount if paid on time), a nicely flowing Olympic lane will no doubt prove very tempting to the sort of idiot who already thinks it’s a good idea to drive in the congestion charging zone.

Ho ho.  Parking, eh?  Harrods owners’ luxuary cars clamped on Knightsbridge.  Kensington & Chelsea council have realised that a £70 fine means nothing to the sort of person who already thinks that it’s a good idea to drive into their borough, and so instead of a token fine that merely gives the fine payer the feeling of having paid for a service, K&C are taking away the children’s toys and making them stand in the corner.

Those new Victoria line trains that we’ve been expecting for three years turn out not to work perfectly first time.  They shut down if you stand too close to the doors, and are therefore described as “23 times less reliable” than the old ones.  Except, as London Reconnections points out, this won’t be a surprise to the engineers and project managers, who will know that this is how engineering projects work, and be ready with the fix right away.

Of a more long term concern to tube commuters should be the cuts to station staff, which this week are prompting strike ballots, and the Mayor’s great Air Con.

Meanwhile, talentless banjolele players accuse TfL of discrimination after being told they’re not good enough to play on the tube.

Bus firm repudiates last week’s racist abuse story.

Camera on world’s most blindingly obvious “Buses and taxis only” road rakes in £2 million from Motorists who get confused and think they’re a bus.  I for one welcome this tax on the stupid.

The New West End Company have an artists impression of St Giles’ Circus after the Crossrail works are completed at the station below: a scene delightfully free from street furniture clutter, where pedestrians and cyclists meander about in the junction, while buses, whose motion blur implies quite some speed, plough through them.  Most depressingly of all, they tell us that the Queen musical will still be playing a decade from now.

Finally, after Tom Hall suggested six uses for a hire bike, your moment of zen: the author demonstrates how a 20kg hire bike can be a complete replacement for a gym membership:

Weekly War Bulletin, 26 June

It was budget week, and the nation is up for sale bit by bit — before the bailiffs can get to it.  Starting with High Speed 1.

The government can’t even make money by bleeding the poor hard-done-by rule-breaking motorist dry.  The BBC reports that 1.5 million drivers could have been illegally fined for breaking no-right-turn signs.  This is an outrageous act of war on the motorist, and as the BBC article rightly intones, we should feel sorry for those who are innocent on a technicality.  There’s nothing more dignifying for a driver than being not-guilty of a crime on a technicality.

Olympics organisers are fretting about how they could hold cycling events without — horror — inconveniencing other people who might be trying to use London’s roads.  Olypics organisers have never before shown any sign of caring about the lives of those living in the cities that they descend upon.  We suspect that this spontaneous display of sympathy is actually cover for a more vexing problem: how to deal with all the athletes who would be desaddled by the potholes along the route chosen.

Stats say: cycling miles up 4.4%, driving miles down for the second year running — a historic first — cycling deaths down 10%, but injuries up.  So cyclists are no less likely to “collide” with vehicles, they’re just less likely to kill themselves in the process.

We were wrong: “Superhighways” will have specialised engineering features — mirrors for truck drivers to see people passing on the left at traffic lights.  This initiative assumes that truck drivers stop at traffic lights, rather than at an angle just beyond the advance stop line, where they will be unable to use the mirror.  Still, it’s not really about anybody being able to see anything: it’s to remind cyclists that “they should not be on the left-hand side of vehicles.”  And what could be a better reminder?  A one-metre wide green strip with a bicycle icon running to the left of the vehicles leading up to the lights, perhaps?

Hurrah!  Boris will run for another term.  We can only guess at what fabulous fantastical and revolutionary ideas for fixing London’s transport he would come up with in a further four years.  No need to guess his rival Ken’s policies, though.  He’d fix it with an iphone app for parking spaces — a sure solution to the problem that most people driving in central London are supposedly looking for one.

Meanwhile, in the regions…

In Buckinghamshire, Peter Silverman has become a local hero for restoring a great national beauty spot — the M40.  Fed up with the litter lining the once pleasant chocolate box motorway, he took none other than our old friend Phillip Hammond to court to force him to go and pick it all up.  The Guardian article even provides a helpful picture of the great piles of rubbish blotting the roadside — presumably taken by Mr Silverman stopping on the hard shoulder and exiting his vehicle for the shot.  Possibly while having one of his M40 picnics.

In Devon, killer has weapon confiscated for two years; sentenced to community service.  It was all just an accident that occurred in two seconds of distraction.  The Cycling Layer ponders on the law that says it’s fine for people to put themselves within two seconds of killing somebody.

Gunman on rampage in Kent.

Dog arrested for driving while intoxicated.

And finally, via els76uk on twitter, the traffic cam for the Strand near Charing Cross during last night’s Critical Mass: