Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Cyclists please dimount

We don't know what dimounting is, but given the incident near Bristol where a woman crashed her car while playing with an entertainment device, we have our suspicions

This is Temple Back East from Temple Back bridge heading for Temple Meads station from Old Market roundabout.

It could be a mis-spelled "cyclists dismount" sign, except there's no reason to dismount, not when there's the hatching to the left.

Dimounting, then, must mean something else. Our theory: riding a saddle designed to entertain your entertainable bits while on a ride.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Daylight running lights: the helmets of cars

It's been mandatory since 2011 for cars to have daylight running lights ("DRLs"). Is this a good thing? Or just it just up the arms race between motorcyclists, cars, pedestrians and cyclists?

For a change, there's actually some research on this topic, in the form of a 2008 study from the US government, "The Effectiveness of Daytime Running Lights For Passenger Vehicles". Bear in mind that the sample set of this study is of course US drivers, who are a lot more common than US ones to drive round at night without lights on. DRLs partially mitigate for this inattentiveness —or it may amplify it if drivers don't notice they have their lights off, on account of the DRLs illuminating in front of them.

The analysis evaluates the effects of daytime running lights (DRLs) against three types of target crashes: (1) two-passenger- vehicle crashes excluding rear-end crashes, (2) single-passenger-vehicle to pedestrians/cyclists crashes, and (3) single- passenger-vehicle to motorcycle crashes. Each crash type was examined at three crash severity levels – fatal, injury, and all severity. The basic approach is a control-comparison analysis of real-world crash involvements for DRL-equipped vehicles and non-DRL vehicles. Ratio of odds ratios were used to derive the DRL effects. A 95-percent confidence interval was used to infer statistically significant conclusions. The Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the State Data System were the crash data sources used for this analysis.
The analysis found that DRLs have no statistically significant overall effects on the three target crashes. When combining these three target crashes into one target crash, the DRL effects were also not statistically significant. When examined separately for passenger cars and light trucks/vans (LTVs), DRLs in LTVs significantly reduced LTVs’ involvements in the target two-vehicle crashes by 5.7 percent. However, the remaining DRL effects on these three target crashes were not statistically significant. Although not statistically significant, DRLs might have unintended consequences for pedestrians and motorcyclists. Particularly, the estimated negative effects for LTVs were relatively large and cannot be completely ignored.
The final two sentences are the highlight: from the survey done 8 years ago, it appears that daylight running lights may make it more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. And what are LTVs? That's pickups and SUVs.

The study was conducted by looking at crash statistics and seeing if those vehicles with DRLs were in crashes more or less. It wasn't a randomized sample (give people cars with DRLs on or off), which could skew the numbers (drivers of volvos are safer than drivers of ford mustangs, etc, older cars have worse brakes, etc.). Furthermore, as whether full lights were on or off wasn't recorded, the impact of DRLs at dawn or dusk can't be established.

Going in to the details, skip the maths unless you want to learn more about statistics., go to P4.10

based on the combined PC (Passenger Car) and LTV (Pickups and SUVs) results, DRLs seemed to have no overall effect on daytime target crashes.
See that? No statistically significant affects whatsoever. They are the helmets of cars: useless, yet designed to make you feel bad for not having them.

Now, P 4-14
For all crashes, again the estimates were not statistically significant. However, based on the combined State data, DRL effects for both PCs and LTVs were negative. Overall, DRLs seemed to increase Single-PV-to-PED/CYC crashes by 5.6 percent.

There you have it then. A feature which does nothing for overall safety rates, but which actually appears to increase risk for pedestrians and cyclists.

And on P 4-16, motorbikes
DRLs seemed to increase daytime Single-PV- to-Motorcycle crashes by 1.2 and 17.3 percent for PCs and LTVs, respectively. Overall, DRLs seemed to increase daytime Single-PV-to-Motorcycle crashes by 5.0 percent. None of these effects were statistically significant.
There you go then: daylight running lights appear to slightly increase the risk to vulnerable road users, while delivering no benefit whatsoever for the occupants of the car themselves.

Given this data: they do nothing for cars and endanger others, why offer it, and then why mandate it?

Offering it in cars could be assigned to a belief that it does make a difference (possibly even some unpublished data that it does).  Or, more cynically, because if possible purchasers ares somehow convinced that DRLs improve their safety, then they would buy that particular model of cars, possibly paying a premium. If you are a car manufacturer who discovered that spending £1 to ensure your car lights stayed on all the time could earn you £100 —you'd do it.

But why mandate it? That would remove all differentiation between vendors?

Some hypotheses(*)

  1. Politicians also mistakenly believe there is a safety benefit, and that by mandating it they can improve safety.
  2. Politicians don't care where it is beneficial or not, they just want to be seen to be doing something that they can take credit for and doesn't cost much.
  3. It is used as an excuse to avoid fundamental changes in road safety. Here the car manufacturers would be lobbying politicians. Unlike other features (ABS, Airbags) which actually cost money, DRLs are cheap to roll out. You'd push for them if the alternatives cost money.
Whatever the reason, its motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists who appear to lose out.

(*) There is also the theory that there is some other work that through some controlled A/B test shows that it does make a difference, and furthermore politicians have read and understood the details. This hypothesis is considered significantly unlikely.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

RPZ comes to Monty: Oh the Inhumanity!

  • First they came to Kingsdown, and everyone celebrated.
  • Then they came to Cotham, and nobody complained
  • Then they came to Redland, and the main complaints were from people just outside the zone.
  • They they came to St Pauls, and people were upset about the cost, rather than the parking
  • Then they came to Clifton and the shopkeepers who wanted to drive to work were more focused on their convenience than the revenue gains on having customer parking, they paid for tanks to make their point, still lost —and now have signs up everywhere saying "30 minute parking is free, please come and shop despite all the horror stories we put out"

And now: Monty

It's fascinating to see how the Evening Post has finally managed finda an agenda they can get people even in the inner city to care about. Up till now, what the BEP wrote about was irrelevant. Like who cares about congestion in Westbury on Trym or what's happening in Stapleton.

No more. Instead they've managed to stir up horror stories and build a whole agenda which everyone wanting to be elected as a mayor is using as their core election theme.

It's almost as if the paper has found a way to stay relevant in an era of free news over the internet.

Well, unlike the Evening Post we've spent time in Montpelier and have a dataset going back years. On a road-by-road basis, such as Richmond Road.

This is what it used to look like

A road where the pavement was exclusively used for parking, yet still so tight that only the bold drove down it.

If you were, say, trying to walk your kids to school, you'd be in the same roadway, keeping a tight rein on your four year old in case they ran ahead and ended up under an oncoming van or a car pulling out from their parking space on that pavement.

It was essentially a "shared space"

Yet look now? Someone has painted double yellow lines up one entire side of it! You can now drive up this road without fearing for your paintwork!

Incredibly, you don't have to commit to that journey hoping you wont meet anyone coming the other way —as if that did happen, one of you would be reversing up a road so tight that you had to get it spot on or hear a scraping sound.
  1. It is now possible to drive up and down Richmond road safely.
  2. It is now possible to walk up richmond road on the pavement, and even send a small child to run ahead of you without worrying about it being run over.
  3. It is now trivial to for a car and a bicycle to pass.
That is what the RPZ has brought to Montpelier: not just white lines, not just yellow lines —but pavements people can use.

Anyone who says "its destroying Montpelier" clearly has a vision of the area where nobody walked, where scenes of two drivers out their car shouting at each other as to who was going to reverse were viewed as quaint traditions.

And what does the Evening Post do? Rather than highlight how it has now become safer to walk or cycle, how it has become more convenient to drive through, they've pointed to the yellow paint that someone has thrown onto the ticket machine at (00:48). That's the machine on the pavement which was never visible before.

And while the BEP condemn the vandalism, they don' t really, they are proud to report it —and blame the mayor for making the protesters do it.

So for all this "evening post represents the people" fuss they are really fighting to preserve a time when pavements were for parking and children couldn't walk round Montpelier safely.

Why should we, the residents of the inner city care? We are just being mislead by a paper that is happy to manufacture controversy, and happy to find it in the lives of people who are unable to adapt to change. Tough.

At this point the RPZ-haters will be going "So where did the cars go, eh?" The answer there is: the council added extra parking spaces round the corner by marking St Andrews Road for echelon parking.

In this photo you can just about make out a car coming up behind the parked van blocking the view. Which highlights the issue with echelon parking: its got a higher collision rate, and is particularly bad for cyclists.

In order to make the RPZ rollout less controversial, the council chose to make cycling on St Andrews Road more hazardous.

That's something for the haters to consider.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

HD06NZY texting school runner

You can spot a car when the driver is texting. Rather than pootle along with the car in front, they leave a gap, then, when they look up and see it, finally jerk forwards, before repeating the manoeuvre one SMS interval later.

Here you can see HD06NZY doing precisely this in the oncoming lane, a queue on Cotham Road to get to the roundabout which is blocked by school parents.

It being school run time, our expendable reporter opted to turn round and ask them to stop it. As you can see, they're a school running parent themselves. Presumably one of those parents who thinks it is too dangerous for their kid to ever walk or cycle to school -so instead they drive. And as anyone who ever has to do that school run by car in Bristol will know: its not fun. It's slow and boring. Hence the need to do something other than talk to a small child in the back.

The mum doesn't seem too happy about the other school parent telling her off. It's bad enough having to sit in a traffic jam without having some sanctimonious tax-dodger complaining that they are endangering all children trying to walk or cycle to school. People like that should,

If those parents who let their children walk or cycle to school really loved their children, they'd drive them to school. It's too dangerous to do anything else!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Leigh Woods: nicer cars, more polite twats

One of our Bristol Traffic expendable tax-dodging reports was tasked to head over to Leigh Woods on a weekday morning, to see what all the fuss about the Clifton RPZ destroying the prestigous mock-rural suburb. It doesn't appear to be.

Watch this video and consider that all inboud traffic is paying £1/vehicle to drive into Bristol. The Clifton RPZ rollout does not seem to have discouraged this flow of traffic from the "nice but dull" parts of N. somerset, and the "simply dull" parts like Portishead. All the vehicles here will have come down the A369 from Portishead/Gordano M5 junction, or from Clevedon via Beggars Bush Lane. Yet despite the inner city waging a war on the hard-working motorist of the mock-rural suburbs, there's still a line of cars heading in.

What is notable, compared to inner Bristol, and even more so the Glasgow of Magnatom's videos, is

  1. All the cars are nice, shiny and relatively new, with a bias towards the overweight SUV.
  2. They all have their wingmirrors. This shows that they neither drive nor park in much of the city. These vehicles do not cross Whiteladies Road to points east.
  3. There's nobody texting except P277FAL. This implies the flow rate of the traffic is higher than Gloucester and Whiteladies Roads.
  4. When the self-important twat driving Mercedes EH03DHJcomplains to a cyclist that they are holding them when there is a bike lane, it's done in a genteel, polite, "could you use the cycle lane", rather than the stream of Glaswegian abuse or a screaming fit of the kind you'd see in Richmond.

That said. EX03DHJ is still a self-entitled wanker. He's just pulled out from the residential side road and is immediately on the horn because the cyclist is in the middle of the road in the line of slow moving cars, then comes up with the "I'm a cyclist myself, you see" cliche, while politely asking the tax-dodger to please use the cycle lane. It being nice sunny morning in Leigh Woods, the cyclist politely says no, rather than telling them to fuck off, the way you'd be expected to do in inner Bristol.

For those residents of the inner city, we have provided a translation

Monday, 25 May 2015

101 uses for a nearly dead Ginkgo tree

We've noticed 4X4 drivers often have to deal with the problem of street trees when they park off-road in Bristol. Even in RPZs. Even in 20 MPH zones. Even near schools.

Fortunately many of these trees are now stumps and some of the stumps have been there so long that they are rotting into the ground and the removal can be accelerated by a little nudge. In time they will be tarmaced over but in the meantime the tree pits provide a little offroading experience.
Unfortunately some of the street trees that are planted, such as London Plane trees, grow quite quickly and rapidly provide the amenity and canopy cover that "environmentalists" love to promote at the expense of proper off-road pavement parking.  
However... Not the humble Ginkgo tree. It's a relic of the age of the Dinosaurs (and a conifer to boot - don't let those weird leaves and the fact it sheds them in winter fool you). 
This particular specimen has hung between life and death and remained the size it was planted for about a decade. 

The question as to whether urban trees have any purpose is maybe too philosophical for this blog. But in a very practical sense this particular tree has finally found its purpose and meaning in life in modern day 20 MPH Bristol.  
It is providing security for a traffic counting and speed measuring device.

Speeds on 20 MPH Redland Road are, of course, consistently well above 20MPH, so this tree may finally contribute in some small way to the urban fabric by helping Bristol City Council to calm the traffic down this very steep hill where even cyclists regularly exceed 20MPH whilst car, van and lorry drivers overtake them with gay abandon, because they Must Get In Front.
We are struggling to come up with a single other use for this or any other Ginkgo so finding a further 100 uses may be a tall order.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Who to vote for? Some of the above

As Bristol's premier data science organisation —and one of the few press outlets people trust— people ask us: who should we vote for?

Our answer: anyone you like —but.

Which is where our game theory work comes into play.

First though, consider all the members of Clifton Tank Command who kept on saying "but the nurses!" and "but the schoolteachers!", when arguing against the RPZ.

  1. It's probably the hospital porters who have the worst job. Ask them how little they get paid for a 10-12 hour shift? It's just that "but the hospital porters!" doesn't conjure up those Florence Nightingale scenes of the selfless nurse —so doesn't get used when seeking sympathy.
  2. Ask the nurses, hospital porters or other staff what is the worse thing to happen to them in the last five years. The Clifton RPZ or Jeremy Hunt's "reforms"? Because it won't be parking (probably).
  3. Similarly, ask the school teachers: "what is worse, the Clifton RPZ or Michael Gove's 4+ years in charge of education"? Because it won't be parking (probably).
All those people who were citing teachers and nurses in opposition to the RPZ now have a choice: do they vote for the parties that made things worse at a national level, or do they not. Because if they do vote Tory or LibDem, they abdicate the right to pretend to care about the wellbeing of all public sector employees.

What about the rest of us? This is where it gets interesting, especially in Bristol West.

  1. In 2010, the fact that the Conservative Party could gain an outright majority by working with the LibDems meant that they needed them, either in a coalition or on a vote-by-vote basis. 
  2. The LD team went for coalition. This gave them a seat at the table —but in exchange, they gave the Cameron government the majority they desired. 
  3. In exchange for that majority, the LDs got support for two referendums: electoral reform and house of lords reform. They got promised them, but then had the Tory party actively opposing them, and plans fell through. If electoral reform had gone through, all the smaller parties would be happy this election, and the LD would stand a chance of counting MPs in double digits next week. As it is: they lost. And in doing so, lost all that they could have gained from the coalition.  They've made their play —and lost.
  4. Theymade the mistake of promising support for five years. Once they'd done that: all negotiating power was lost.
  5. This week, they are arguing that they can be good for either a Labour or Tory government -but to negotiate hard with either party, they need to be absolutely prepared to work with the other party. Which means if you vote for them, you, the voter, don't get any say in who is the government. Only, possibly, the identity of some of the members of that government, and one or two of their actions.
If the LD are to have power next time round, they need to play differently. First: don't trust Cameron to deliver on any promise. You want agreements -get a lawyer to spell out all the T&Cs, not some handshake over tea. Better yet: supply votes on a case-by-case basis, and demand concessions on every single vote. That way lies power.

They're slowly exiting the Blair era, but following the press too much -making promises about "never forming a government with the SNP" which actually hampers their negotiating options. It would have been better to be vague. 

Just move to North Somerset now. We don't need your folk in the city.  

It was only the early 1990s when Bristol West was conservative, but nowadays that's viewed as utterly unrealistic —which is why they can stand up candidates that are quite happy to denounce the Cycling City work as a waste of money, whilst not denouncing the Managed M4 as equally useless for the majority of Bristol W commuters. She's also stopped updating her web site some time in February, showing her commitment to getting elected or an understanding of computers on a par with UKIP candidates.

One thing that is notable is that their agenda has moved from anything forward looking, even from anything about preserving their accomplishments (where is that Michael Gove person? Or Jeremy Hunt?). Instead they've actually focused on being anti-scottish. And while they say "no, anti-SNP": that's not how it comes across. It comes across as saying Scotland isn't welcome in shaping what kind of nation Britain will be in the 21st century. Which a fair Scots find somewhat offensive. A majority of the country did vote to stay in the UK, so why push them away?

They've moved on from banners saying "Bannockburn, 1314 -we remember". Glasgow has embraced them —and in doing so, they've embraced Glasgow; Scotland's city of the workers, with the history of Red Clydeside and the closest Britain has ever come to a communist uprising. They promise to give Labour the heritage they've forgotten.

Here's some fun.  The Green party appear to be in second place in Bristol West, not that far off from Labour. And they do seem to have some more posters up than the others —though given the general lack of posters, that's fairly meaningless.

Bristol W. is the Green's targeted second seat? Does that mean they will win it? They presumably hope that by repeating it often enough people will believe them and they'll get that majority. At the same time, there's that risk that the anti-coalition vote will be split, Stephen Williams will get in, so giving the LDs more negotiating power, and so the likelihood that Cameron stays in his office.

Independents for Bristol

They exist, apparently. Maybe as local councillors they'll have a role.

Plaid Cymru

They never come over to Bristol to campaign. And there's us with a River Avon. Someone should stand on their behalf. Over in Wales, it'll be interesting to see what happens, and if they can gain that same momentum that the SNP have got.

Emigrate to Spain and spend the rest of your miserable life whining about immigration. For reference, the people in Edinburgh didn't attack Farage out of racist hate of the English: they did it because he's a pillock.

Friday AM will have Labour and Tory short of a majority, 2+ smaller parties trying to have power and influence over them by promising support. The LD experience of 2010 has shown the danger of a coalition with the conservative; Scotland learned about the worthlessness of Cameron's promises the day after the referendum, so won't be sitting down with him.

Tory will be able to talk to: DUP, LD and perhaps UKIP. Hopefully UKIP will be irrelevant. DUP aren't too different from the conservative party, and won't make things better or worse. The LDs? Will they have learned their lessons from last time and negotiate better, or again, give up their ideals for an office with a phone?

Labour is going to have to talk to the SNP, which is why Milliband's absolute refusals to work with them are shortsighted.

Meanwhile, the majority of the press will be saying a government with the SNP in it —or supported by the SNP— is not legit. Well, here's some bad news, since the mid 1980s Scotland has been almost entirely unrepresented by any conservative government (thank the "campaign for a tory-free Scotland" there). That's led to a pretty abusive relationship coming up from the south, the Poll Tax (seen above) being the key example. Having a government with the SNP involved would actually be fairer than those conservative governments from 1988 to 1997: Thatcher and Major.

Anyway, your call. Just bear in mind that if you are voting LD in the general election, there is a high chance you are actually voting for a conservative government. Voting Green you may be making Bristol West stand out as a green city, or losing your choice to have a say in the country. 

Us? A joint SNP+Labour government with a couple of green MPs would be an interesting government to have.

PS: what about their actual manifestos? Meaningless. Why analyse things made up for press releases. Interesting that only the SNP think Trident is an utter waste of money; only the LibDems have raised the fact that our government's monitoring of everyone's emails may be something to question. That topic didn't even make the press. But then neither has the environment. Arguing about whether Scottish MPs could form part of a government take priority over policy, apparently.