Tag Archives: crap walking

The user experience

With our street designers discovering some new technical terms and with budgets to commit before the end of the financial year, spring 2015 is shaping up to be a period we’ll look back on as one of the great waves of Crap Facilities.

Bus stop bypasses seem to be a big favourite of the bollocks cargo-cult imitations of infrastructure right now, from the weirdly, needlessly difficult:

Through the plain bizarre:

To the just bafflingly, utterly unusable wastes of money:

And from a quick scroll through @AlternativeDfT‘s timeline, I see junction designs that coroners have judged to be deadly — and which we know from extensive experience render the infrastructure simply unusable — are still the in thing:

Obviously robust and relevant design guidance and standards would help avoid this rubbish. And obviously short-term and unstable funding regimes with inadequate oversight have contributed to the madness. And obviously political pressure can sometimes stand in the way. But those alone can’t excuse professionals from squandering their budgets on quite obviously unusable, and quite plainly unused, bollocks.

I used to think it was sloppiness. That underpaid, underresourced and underappreciated council officers had understandably given up caring that their work is a waste of time where the product will be so shit nobody will use it.

But then you find them defending the rubbish…

…even trying to argue that the users are wrong…

And you realise these street designers don’t know the process of design.

The examples above, and the designers’ responses even more so, indicate that our streets are being designed with barely any understanding of people or how people use streets. No attempt has been made to understand what users need, or the experience of using the infrastructure they’ve designed.

This field has a problem with its attitude to users. From an understandable exasperation with users’ green ink suggestions, and mixed experiences with the statutory consultation process, officers can develop a general disdain for the user. Proper designers, though, are fine with the fact that users don’t always come up with sensible solutions. But proper designers know that what matters is users know what the problem is. And the users know what the experience of using the product is. And proper designers try to understand the problem, and proper designers try to check what the experience of using their design will be.

Proper designers don’t blame the user when their products turn out to be unusable.

I don’t blame the individuals who are given no time, training or support to do a proper design job. This is just another failure of the system.

We need the right design guidance, and we need the right funding framework, and we need the right political will. But we also need a proper user-centric design and consultation process. Safety audits? How about usability audits?

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London’s next big blackspot

New Bridge Street, with traffic proceeding onto Blackfriars Bridge. As part of the reconstruction of the junction, sold as “improvements” for pedestrians using the new mainline station, the pedestrian crossing has been removed from New Bridge Street. But apparently a sign saying “crossing not in use” is not enough to make it so. Pedestrians don’t know that TfL have modelled a junction in which well-behaved pedestrians either take a 250 metre detour up New Bridge Street, or push four buttons, wait four times, and take an only slightly shorter detour to use the remaining marked crossings at this junction. Who could possibly have guessed that removing a pedestrian crossing would not stop the large number of pedestrians who are on one side of the road and who want to be on the other side of the road from trying to cross it? It’s not like we have sixty years of experience and research on the subject or anything.

People are going to die here, and  TfL will have to choose between pleas of incompetence, indifference, or malice.

The Rt Hon Lieut-Col JTC Moore-Brabazon MP, commenting on the 1934 bill which proposed speed limits, said:

“It is true that 7000 people are killed in motor accidents, but it is not always going on like that. People are getting used to the new conditions… No doubt many of the old Members of the House will recollect the number of chickens we killed in the old days. We used to come back with the radiator stuffed with feathers. It was the same with dogs. Dogs get out of the way of motor cars nowadays and you never kill one. There is education even in the lower animals. These things will right themselves.”

The principle of educating the lower animals by a process of natural selection seems to be a key ingredient in TfL’s smoothing the flow programme.

While hanging around filming things, I heard a couple of young women who had just run across the road commenting on the loss of the crossing. The word “Boris” was used, amongst a selection of Anglo-Saxon monosyllables, as one explained to the other that it was the Mayor’s policy to remove pedestrian crossings in favour of faster motor vehicles. Clearly the consequences of Boris’s policies are more widely understood than he would like.

Crap cycling and walking in car sick Glasgow

On Sunday I took a look at Glasgow, a town I have previously only passed through without stopping.  Here’s my commentary: a mix of cameraphone and proper camera photos; some of the commentary comes from the live tweets that accompanied the cameraphone pictures.

M8

M8The great overwhelming presence in Glasgow’s built environment is the M8, which crashes through the centre of the city, dividing the central business district from the inner suburbs, and filling them both with a tangle of concrete flyovers and junctions.  While several British cities have motorway arterial routes, a massive backlash prevented the planners of the 1960s implementing their dream of flattening our city centres and neighbourhoods to build networks of through motorways.  Instead, most cities stuck to bypasses and orbitals, with smaller and not quite so destructive inner-city ring roads.  In this through-motorway design with big city centre grade-separated junctions, Glasgow looks very North American. Continue reading

What’s wrong with this picture?

Crap cycling and walking in Zhengzhou

Crap cycling and walking in Zhengzhou

I can actually spot at least three things that are wrong.  Can you?  Answers in the comments.

See more great pedestrian facilities at China Hush.

Crap cycling and walking in Beijing

Beijing has some lovely wide avenues.  It’s not like London, where the streets are only wide enough for cars, and are too narrow for bicycles.  The boulevards that cross the grid-patterned city at half-km intervals are not only wide enough for three or four lanes of traffic each way and a generous pavement for the pedestrians, they can also comfortably accommodate spacious segregated cycle paths between the two.  Indeed, the pavements and cycle paths are so wastefully over-endowed that each can just about fit three motor-vehicles across their width: one parked on each side, and one carefully crawling between them looking for a space.   The Chinese have brilliantly invented a road design that gets eight parking places per car’s length of road, and the Motorist doesn’t even have to get in anybody’s way: all eight lanes of through traffic can remain clear and free flowing.  The best that London can manage is four parallel parking places — and the pavements are never wide enough to accommodate more than one of those each.  Once again, China demonstrate why they are the future and we are the past.

Beijing has five million cars already.  Just over twice as many as London, for a population three times the size.  The number of cars on the streets grows by 10% per year.  With each new morning, there are 1,500 more cars idling in the jams on the five ring-roads; 1,500 more freshly graduated drivers, free to roam, safe with the knowledge of what to do with the exposed intestines of the pedestrians and cyclists they drive over.  Every new day 1,500 more cars than yesterday need to be parked somewhere convenient in the central business districts of Beijing.

They compete for 940,000 official parking spaces.

Every week another ugly multi-storey car park opens; each new office block and shopping mall comes with several floors of underground parking.  But the city clearly isn’t keeping up.  The poor Motorist has to park somewhere.  The city has even considered waging war on the poor Motorist by raising the municipal car parking charge from the current 25 pence per half-hour.  But worst of all, in some places — such as here at the Yonghegong Lama Temple, they have now installed hard physical barriers separating pavement from road:

 

I like to think that these railings were made from the melted-down iron of London's own recently removed pedestrian cages.

 

The problem with walking around Beijing, though, is that for some reason people kept thinking that their bicycles (and tricycles) belonged on the pavement.  Even worse, on sections where the pavements are narrower and are therefore only wide enough to accommodate a single car parked perpendicular to the road, pedestrians must of course walk on the cycle path, being careful not to scratch the paintwork of any car that is driving down it in search of that elusive available space.  And yet, rather than recognising that the cycle path simply isn’t wide enough for bicycles, cyclists continue to try to push their way down them, ringing their bells intimidatingly at pedestrians and Motorists.  These are the sorts of selfish and anti-social behaviours that the city’s authorities need to crack down on if they are to complete their transition to a pleasant, modern, developed city.

 

Look at this selfishly parked tricycle.

–Joe

 

The war in pictures: Parliament Square

This post is part of a series by the Campaign For Cycling In London (CCL), the organisation which seeks policies to encourage cycling in the city.

City squares are a major battle ground in the War On The Motorist.  The notoriously anti-car Bristol City Council go so far in persecuting the Motorist that they have even closed major roads in city squares.  You might be thinking that this could never happen in sensible London, but just remember how Ken Livingstone ruined Trafalgar Square by closing a tiny fraction of the road space.  The biggest insult to the Motorist in the city though is not Trafalgar Square, but is in fact just down the road, symbolically placed right in the centre of democracy and government: Parliament Square.

Parliament Square sits at the intersection of a number of major roads; vital arteries of our city.  The Embankments, Victoria Street, Whitehall, Westminster Bridge.  Big roads that are required for Very Important People — like politicians and senior civil servants; commanders of the Metropolitan Police, execs at Channel 4, directors of the National Gallery, and senior management of Transport For London — to go about doing their Very Important Things.  Therefore, Parliament Square has to be one big signal-controlled roundabout, organising traffic.  Nothing else would do the job. Continue reading