For really large values of “week”. I was too busy to digest October’s news as it happened, so here’s a quick look at the stories that stood out since the last Bulletin. Normal service should be resumed from next week.
The big news during the outage was of course the spending review. Cycling England was killed off — whatever you think about their work, closing it was clearly an act of ideology rather than evidence-based economics, given its efficiency; and cutting any specialist jobs means a loss of expertise that won’t be easy to get back later. Same situation in Northern Ireland. Bikeability is safe, though. “Sustainable transport”, the government thinks, can be planned locally — no need for joined-up planning in bus and bicycle infrastructure. Other transport quangos are going too; and the £480m London Development Agency, much of whose funding goes to “the design and development of London’s physical environment“, will also go. But the anti-road-charging transport department has stumbled upon Gordon Brown’s trick for carrying on building expensive infrastructure while hiding it from the balance books: private finance — so expect new toll motorways. Also of note from the spending review is the “social cleansing” of inner London after welfare cuts, which could have big effects on London commuting patterns.
Jenny Jones makes some radical proposals for the Cycle Superhighways. Like, er, we shouldn’t have to share them with lorries, and the planners should consult the people they’re supposed to serve. But there’s trouble in Limehouse where the now aging one-time yuppies have observed that the ambiance of Narrow Street is spoiled by all those proles on bicycles passing through on the CS3 to their housing estates and bedsits in Barking, or wherever it is they go.
It occurred to TfL that their cunning plan to avoid having more hire bikes than they can handle turning up at mainline terminus stations by not providing many docking stations near them hadn’t quite worked out. So they’re putting in scores of new ones at Waterloo. And The Lords are getting one at the palace (expect the Met to invent some absurd anti-terrorism reason for carting them all away). Next they’ll be trying to put them through the whole East End. Though the scheme reached a million journey milestone, only one in five users are new to London cycling (for some reason, the Standard are impressed by that low figure). At least it’s profitable.
And yet more evidence that it’s not a lack of navigational skills that is putting people off riding to work: a total of one person turned up to the guided ride from Hammersmith into town.
Legal indifference towards those who kill people with motor vehicles is (anecdotally, at least) even worse in Scotland than the indifference in England and Wales.
A new campaign, BikeAware, seeks to add a cycling requirement to driver education, to tackle the problem of drivers who are unskilled-and-unaware-of-it when they encounter cyclists (like the woman who was so unskilled-and-unaware-of-it that she complained to the local newspaper about the person she drove into).
Met Police and CPS leave serious questions unanswered after attempting to prosecute the victim of a cabbie attack — no indication yet that anything is being done to protect the public from an apparently dangerously violent taxi driver who gave “non credible evidence” in court, or to correct serious failings by the police who handled the issue.
Crossrail survives the cuts, but with possible delays. Station designs went on display, along with a concept for a retail balcony at Waterloo, which looks like it would clear out the obstructive stationary and newsagent kiosks from the overcrowded main concourse. But the work to integrate the old Waterloo International into the station remains on hold, at considerable cost. Waterloo could be connected direct to Heathrow, though — Surrey had been objecting because of complicated issues of road traffic volume elasticity at level crossings.
While overcrowding on some commuter rail routes has improved, First Great Western is even worse — time for another fares strike? There are no spare carriages, and the CSR has canceled the orders for new ones. But it’s OK, the solution is here: raise the fares even further, so people won’t want to travel by train. And apparently passenger counters will help, somehow.
Philip Hammond wants simpler rail fares, after getting confused. It’s one of those brilliant ideas that just makes you think, how could nobody have had that idea before? Oh, wait…
Due to Highways Agency mismanagement, the cost of widening the M25 has gone up 25% — that’s £660 million over-budget, or to put it another way, eleven times the annual budget of Cycling England before it was abolished.
That absurd cable car proposal has actually made it to planning application stage. And people are already suggesting that it might actually be a success, and extended to Canary Wharf. And we got a mockup of another folly, the new bus.
An army of extra traffic wardens are on their way to fight the War On The Motorist™ in Westminster.
One evening last week I rode down the NCN4 and stopped at Greenland Dock. For the briefest moment, all I could hear was the water cascading through the locks and the wind blowing the crackling leaves in the willow trees. And then a siren blared on Lower Road, and the Clipper roaded the meander and a plane came in for Heathrow as a plane came out from City. I waited, expecting the calm to return. But the stream of takeoffs from City was continuous: it has overtaken Heathrow for disturbing residential areas with noise. Local residents are going to court over plans to expand flights at City Airport by 50%. And Boris is still fantasising about a Thames estuary airport, despite ministers recognising the absurdity…
The media announce that the Oxford Circus scramble crossing has been a massive success as it nears 100 million crossings. My headline would have been “nice new crossing fails to solve problem of street blighted by taxis and nearly empty buses.”
Councils are still switching off their speed cameras. But Oxfordshire are turning theirs back on. More studies: from Scotland. And the Cochrane Collaboration have a meta-analysis on camera studies — more on that later.
A trailblazing human rights lawyer was pushed under a train in a story that has got most newspapers more interested in the protagonists’ private lives than the events at King’s Cross. A pedestrian was killed by a bus in front of a crowd of Edmonton shoppers, and a kid hit by a Croydon tram.
Railway maintenance companies are going to court to take responsibility for their role in Potter’s Bar.
Turns out, in addition to not magically solving the problems of congestion, electric cars also fail to magically the solve the problem of people getting killed on the roads, as a G-Wiz demonstrates. In Cambridge, the expensive new charging points haven’t even been used yet (perhaps because the people of Cambridge already have a sensible emission-free method of making short within-town journeys?), but London has plans for thousands more.
Even in Cambridge, you have to fight for infrastructure. And in Merseyside, councilors are obsessed with big engineering projects, and have decided that people who walk and cycle can not contribute to the economy.
Bus drivers will get conflict resolution training.
There’s not much point reporting as “news” all the signal failures, industrial action, train breakdowns, flooding, and maintenance closures on the tube in the past month. Looks like the engineers’ work-to-rule is working. Doesn’t look the strikes will end anytime soon, either, given the admission that stations will go unstaffed after ticket-office staff are sacked — but Boris wants to change the rules on strike ballots to rules that would, if applied to his own election, have given a victory to “no suitable candidate”. Also to my amusement, government overuse of the terrorism card has led to it being played back at them.
Allegedly most Londoners approve of the Western Extension Zone of the congestion charge being removed. I assume that’s “most” in the same sense that “most” people voted Boris for mayor — i.e., that most people simply didn’t care enough to participate in the vote.
Hackney residents protest bad pedestrian environment with zebra graffiti.
Exasperated passenger stops Arriva Wales train Beijing-student-protests-style as train company fail to do anything to stop other passengers’ anti-social behaviour.
Swan mistakes Great George Street for a river. And the A24 in West Sussex was blocked while police attempted to “contain a cow“. In Wiltshire, we have the squirrels on side: they’re eating through brake cables.
Those poor hard done by Motorists are going to have to pay more for insurance (the ones who bother with insurance), just because they keep driving into things, and the selfish owners of those things expect to be compensated for the damage.
Bikers are still fighting Westmister’s parking “tax”. And TfL suggested parking charges on red routes as one of many schemes to make up for their cuts — but sush, parking fees aren’t supposed to be about raising revenue, only covering costs!
WiFi on the tube, again. Meh.
Wye Valley Sustrans path approved (the majority of the route, on the Gloucestershire side, anyway). Whatever you think of Sustrans, their rail trails tend to make great rides. The Wye Valley is a lovely place to cycle around, except that the only options currently are the fast and winding main road, or steep lanes over the hills. There are still problems in Monmouthshire, though, where the council are considering objections on the grounds of, erm, car parking problems.
A particulate pollution suppression trial has been announced for Euston Road and Embankment, in a desperate bid to avoid that £300m fine.
Baby steps to cutting absurd bottled water deliveries? New water fountain installed outside St Pauls.
Funded bike mechanic apprenticeship?
Obviously you can’t limit van and truck access to town centres, because there is no other way for tradesmen to get to work.
Motor races on city streets. My knee-jerk is to be anti, but, really, city streets should be places we can gather to enjoy events and festivals like this.
Oh, Christ, I can’t even be bothered.
The crazy American stories: four year old kids can be sued for fracturing an old woman’s hip when “racing” bicycles on a pavement; and a driver who killed a teenager at 83mph in a 45 zone is suing the parents for not forcing the kid to wear a helmet. Apparently a helmet will save you when hit at 85mph.
Finally, your moment of zen, a poster from the Tokyo subway, 1976, via vintage ads and Boing Boing, and translated as: “I look like Santa because you’ve had too much to drink. It’s only October. If you drink, be considerate of the other passengers.”