Friday, 23 February 2018

School runs, UK vs US

This is a 2003 photo of a 14 month child about to be towed four miles to kindergarten.

This is Corvallis, Oregon, a small US town where apart from a university there is ~fuck all. As a way of getting the child to school, the roads are quiet enough that it's much less stressful than in Bristol. Herel, you can never be sure someone has seen that trailer before they cut you up at a roundabout. Corvallis? It only has one roundabout and you can avoid it with ease.

You do not need to worry about the safety of your child when getting them to school by bike in a town like this.

Indeed, once they are a teenager you don't need to worry much about them on the back roads, unlike near Bristol, where outside town, "quiet" roads like Beggar's Bush Lane are viewed as opportunities of drivers to sprint. In Oregon, you can send your child ahead and not worry.

In contrast, in Bristol, you do worry about that school run.

You want to be in front of the child, to get the cars to stop at the roundabout. But also at the back, in case the threat comes from that direction. It's worse when they decide to cycle to school on their own, as worry about their journeys. It's a relief when they decide to start walking with their mates instead.

But journey to school and back is the only bit of their day you need to worry about.

In contrast, in the US, you worry about the safety of your child in the school. That town where nothing happened was 50 miles from Springfield, OR, where in 1998 one of the high school shootings now considered "small" took place. And its 110 miles north of Umpqua Community College where in 2015 someone killed ten staff and students.

In those sleepy middle-class US surburbs and towns, you cannot trust your children to be safe, because all it takes is one unstable person and a gun and their school ends up in the list of "US school killings"

Britain: we've had that tragedy in Dunblane: fix: no more handguns. Indeed, we have even allowed automatic rifles until an afternoon in Hungerford, thirty-one years ago.

Yet too many people in the US are unable to accept that such solutions "no guns" work, and all they are left with is trying to escalate it. Would you feel safer at school knowing all the teachers were armed? Not really.

Maybe, just maybe, this time, with the anger and voice of the children themselves, things may change.


Monday, 12 February 2018

I say we dust off and nuke them from orbit

The Alien series have gone from groundbreaking space-horror to a repetitive collection of cliches. They always start with the protagonist, Ripley —or a Ripley-substitute actress— innocently asleep in cryosleep, dreaming while the ships cross between the stars. A small blinking light by the frosted face is the sole sign of life.

And then something changes. A computer starts beeping. the light blinks a bit more, shadows cross the peaceful face of Ripley as she and her colleagues are awoken, once again, to defeat the Alien.

And it will be defeated: that much is a given.

The real variables are: what form does the final battle take? Whether technology, as represented by the android, is on the side of good or bad? Whether they've finally got around to redesigning space craft so as to have air vents too small for aliens to fit? And who will be the idiot who takes too close a look at "that funny egg thing".

With such a limited set of variables, the last few films in the series have been really, undeniably, repetitive. Everyone must wish that they put the series to bed, put Ripley in the cryochamber, shut down the android and walk away —because everyone is getting bored of it.

Which brings us to the council's latest plans for a metro line on the Bristol to Bath railway path.

Some people may be shocked by this, but others, we go "Again?" "Not again!". Not in fear, but in the tired despair of people who went through all of this a decade ago. Last time: thousands of people out celebrating victory over a council that had concluded that it was a stupid idea. This time, again, the council pays some consultants for some ideas on transport, and again, they say "oh look, there's a former railway line here", pointing to the BBRP, and again, it all kicks off.

Well, so be it. Right now the has been in its cryosleep, costing $13/year to keep alive —much less than a sustrans membership.

And now, the console is beeping, the light flashing a little faster, and it's time to turn things on again.

What next? The monster will die, that much is a given. What is unknown is what order do the victims die —which councillor ends with the facehugger and who goes looking for the missing cat and ends up never being seen again?

We shall see. For now, we are just at the opening scene

beep. beep. beep. beep.

tip for the wise: motion detectors need a warning sticker "aliens may be in the air-vents"

Friday, 19 January 2018

Fixie Riders: don't Slipstream Mountain Bikes

It's January, and you can see who is out and about on their new fixie bike. This rear view video show our (expendable, tax-dodging) reporter turning off St Pauls Road, Clifton, onto Pembroke Road,
at a double-mini-roundabout put in to break Satnav. And coming up from the triangle, along Queen's Road, here comes someone in a shiny clean fixie, who decides to slipstream our reporter (expendable, tax-dodging).

This is where they a number of mistakes
  1. Cycling behind someone on a bike without letting them know you are there. Risk: the rider in front might perform some manoeuvre without warning.
  2. Cycling directly behind the bike, rather than off to one side, generally further from the pavement. Risk: you have to be able to stop as fast as the bike in front.
  3. Cycling behind a mountain bike while you have a fixed wheel bike,
    albeit with a front brake.
We'll assume they were a bit drubbed from the climb and so didn't feel like passing, but they should have hung off to one side. At the very least, when they got behind our reporter (tax-dodging, expendable) they should have looked at the bike, and realised that it was a mountain bike.

In the video, you can see that the fixie rider (tax dodging, expendable, not so good at braking fast), gets to cycle behind the mountain bike until 00:30, when, in front of our reporter, someone on a phone steps out onto the zebra crossing. This puts our reporter into an aggressive-but-non-emergency brake. All well, until someone one a bike shoots up their left, almost into the aforementioned pedestrian. Which was a bit of a surprise.

It was only later, when the question "where did that rider come from", went through our reporters idle mind, that they went for the rear camera and had a look to see what happened. As you can see, they had their hands on the bars, drifted in right behind our camera, and, when the bike in front has to do that stop, nearly ride straight into the back of them, only avoiding it by swerving to the side.

Mountain bikers don't do chain gangs. They don't go along taking turns at the front, slipstreaming each other for performance, before hanging at the back to cycle no handed while you rummage in your back pocket for a gel with the same texture and flavour as baby food. Nor do they try and communicate with each other with little twitches of the hand, or pointing down and waving to say "there's something on the tarmac to avoid".

Instead they cycle along with enough of a gap between the rider in front so that they can see, enjoy and then learn from the mistakes the rider in front makes, rather than join in the crash. Food? Maybe, but they'll stop for that as they are generally lazy and view "cycling no hands" is one of the precursors to a trip to A&E. As for pointing out gravel, potholes or other surface hazards, those are not things to swerve around, they are there to jump over.

And, unlike fixie bikes with one front caliper brake, a modern MTB has hydraulic disk brakes, which, if the bubbles have been squeezed out of the cables, lets the rider bring the bike sliding to a halt with only the light touch of one finger on the brakes.

Because of that one-finger braking, mountain bikers are generally split into the "index finger faction": cycle with their index fingers on the brakes and the "middle finger faction", who use their middle finger. Whatever the choice, except on uphills, they're going to be cycling with their chosen finger on the brakes at all times. And when needed, they'll know to put that on, push their butt backwards to keep maximum weight on that rear wheel, with its 2.2+ inch surface on the ground, and so rather than skid, bring their bike to a halt faster than you could stop a British Leyland era Austin Mini (*).

When you come up behind a bike, see that its got wide tyres and disk brakes on the back, instead of cycling close enough to see whether the brakes are Shimano, SRAM or Hope, you need to think "this is a bike which can stop fast ridden by someone who may know how to use them", and not cycle right up their arse without even saying hello.

Do you know this rider? Are you that rider? Whoever it is: either hang off the side or stay back, especially to mountain bikes. Thanks

(*) MkI Minis had non-servo assisted drum brakes and to stop rear-wheel skid depended on that battery in the boot along with the WD-40, the hammer and the tow rope. As a safety feature, it was designed not to go very fast.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

A Death on Brook Road

There's almost no coverage of Brook Road on this site, not because its out of our normal coverage area, but because nothing ever happens there. Apart from one incident where a manic van driver on a phone forced our reporter to jump off their bike and onto the pavement, nothing.

Which is why its so awful to hear that someone died here: Nick Graydon, age 27, died December 9 2017, after injuries sustained from a collision with a cyclist on Brook Rood who had apparently turned into Brook Road from Lower Cheltenham Road.

It happened at 8pm, which is of course dark.

Articles say "he stepped out from behind a van". Which is something we want to highlight, "stepping out from behind a van" is not exactly uncommon in Montpelier: it is also known as "walking around Montpelier". Because key feaatures of the area are vans, people walking, and pavements narrow to nonexistent. As an example, here's a continuation of the previous video, crossing Monty during the primary school run: count how many times somebody steps out from behind a van.

Like we said, we don't know the details. but "stepped out from behind a van" is one of those statements which pushes the blame onto the deceased, like "the cyclist swerved to avoid..."

Anyway, let's see what happens next after this, a tragic death which shocked everyone nearby.

Friday, 22 December 2017

No Elon, Serial Killers Drive

Elon Musk has been denouncing public transport. Clearly he too has tried in vain to get a FirstBus on a showcase bus route at Templemeads after the 22:09 Paddington train has come in at 00:30 on account of the electrification works diverting it south to warminster.

What's surprising is that his argument against public transport is "you could be sitting next to a serial killer"

We must disagree.

Key features of killing someone
  • You are covered in blood and/or wearing some kind of butchers apron.
  • You have instruments of death, like axes, swords and maces.
  • You may have some firearm, which, even if you hide it in a ski tube, is still unwieldy.
  • You have a body to dispose of. Maybe in a Deer Body Bag, but a body nonetheless.
Nobody will sit next to you like that, you will end up in a tube compartment or a bus to yourself, and before long someone in a uniform will sidle up saying "what's in the body bag, sir?". 

And that even excludes the problem of getting a bus in Bristol, which is always a bit sketchy, especially outside office hours. 

Serial Killers drive

In Bristol, a small hatchback is the vehicle of choice.

You've got a covered boot big enough to get a body in, low enough hatch that you don't have to lift the body with relative ease, especially if there are two of you. If they're big, you can fold down one of the seats.

Weapons, be they medieval maces or chainsaws, back seats. If they are covered in blood, again, a bin bag or two is handy, but on the way out you can just throw them in, maybe cover in a blanket for a bit of discretion.

That just leaves clothing which wipes down nicely, where some medieval-reproduction apron fills all the requirements of a butchers apron, but seems to get fewer looks when you queue for a flat white with an extra shot in the Leigh Woods cafe, before dragging the corpse off somewhere to bury.

Would we recommend a Tesla? It's got the luggage room, but it's too wide for inner bristol, too expensive for inner bristol and not discreet enough. A ten year old ford fiesta? Utterly unmemorable.

Could you imagine having to deal with a witness report saying "it was an old battered hatchback", and the police having to consider every owner of "an old battered hatchback" as a suspect? That's most car owners in the inner city. A Tesla, on the other hand, well, there's about four bold enough to leave Clifton, and when they do, they'll be on the Clifton Suspension Bridge camera, because if you can afford a Tesla, you can afford to pay £1 to use that bridge, rather than head through Cliftonwood to Hotwells and then over the Cumberland Basin Flyover. (though given the width of Granby Hill, you don't have much of a choice anyway).

There you have it. Serial Killers: battered hatchbacks, weapons on the back seats, body in the boot.

Public Transport. By inference. Not serial killers.

(These people were spotted getting together with similarly dressed and weaponed people in Leigh Woods late one Sunday Afternoon. Either they were going to re-enact bits of Game of Thrones, "It's my turn to be a White Walker!", or Highander. You'd have to wait and see if they started playing Queen's "It's a kind of magic" on some USB loudspeakers. to know which.)

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Breaking: cyclists using bridge intended to be cycled over

Here is a video of someone trying to cycle from one side of the Avon to the other.

You can see at the beginning of the video that they have to  is another bridge, the cheesegrater bridge, which, since they replaced its artistic metal surface with one which works in the wet and ice, can be used year round. Or at least could be, if a lorry hadn't been driven over it, destroyed the surface and still, two months later, not been repaired.

Here's a video of someone cycling over it again

Nothing unusual there, given it has been since its inception a walking/cycling bridge

Why our coverage then? Because on December 5, 2017, Alex Ballinger, Bristol Post journalist, published an article Cyclists ignore signs asking them to dismount on a Bristol bridge but warning isn’t mandatory. Where, shockingly,

Pictures show cyclists riding over a city centre bridge and passing pedestrians

That is the most undercompelling subtitle you can imagine, but it gets filled up with
Cyclists have been photographed riding over a pedestrian bridge near Bristol city centre despite the ‘health and safety’ warning signs, but there is no way of enforcing the rule.
That's because its a cycling and walking bridge. There is no rule to enforce. The fact that the owners don't want to people to cycle over is their problem. The fact that the "cyclists cycle over the bridge" story is a recurrent on in the Post is, however, the newspaper's problem.

Here's an article from April 3, 2017, How many cyclists do you think we caught riding over a pedestrian bridge in Bristol in just five minutes?, by one Tim MacFarlan.

This is the Bridge in question. Notice how the recurrent videos of cycling over this bridge is, well, repetitive. Not a coincidence.

From the article
when it comes to a pedestrian bridge, with signs at either end ordering cyclists to dismount when crossing, you'd have thought you could relax a bit if you're on foot. 
Not so with the Valentine Bridge in Temple Quay if our experience is anything to go by.
This is despite the fact blue and white signs are clearly visible at both ends of the bridge saying in block capitals, 'CYCLISTS MUST DISMOUNT WHEN USING THE BRIDGE'. 
we filmed 22 cyclists crossing the bridge in both directions - and just SIX got off their bikes and walked across.
Well, it is a cycling bridge after all.

Except, guess what:
Not a single pedestrian complained to any of the cyclists, despite the fact they should only have been sharing the bridge with people on foot - wheeling their bikes if they had them.
The writer almost sounds disappointed "everyone on a walking/cycling bridge coexisted happily."

And here, May 10 2017, by Alex Ballinger, Sign urges cyclists to dismount on Bristol city centre bridge - but is it against the law to ignore it? This covers the Prince Street Bridge, but it quite clearly covers the fact that no, you can cycle where there's a "cyclists dismount" sign.

Now, that's a bit far back for some group memory, but there's search engines to find this history. And the article from October 23, 2017, These are the rules for cyclists. The clothes to wear, can you ride on pavements, and must you adhere to dismount signs?, by journalist Emma Flanagan.
Q. Do you have to adhere to dismount signs?
A. No. However, not dismounting can cause tension with pedestrians who may not be aware it is advisory.
And the article has a photo of guess, what? Valentine's Bridge.

That's the one in this video with the dismount sign next to a barrier installed without council permission. We think the barrier is designed to force people off their bike, but really its like chicanes are to Astra drivers showing off to their mates: entertainment. The challenge is "can you get round without putting a foot down". (tip: put the brakes on lightly but pedal all the way through; gives you a bit of oversteer and stops you having enter too fast).

There we go then: four articles this year on cycling over bridges with dismount signs, three covering this bridge, with the most overblown the "we counted 22 people cycling over a walking & cycling bridge and nobody minded".

The issue is no longer "why are these cyclists ignoring the signs", but "why does the local newspaper regurgitate same variants on the same story 4 times/year", especially when the story is "why do cyclists cycle over bridges designed to be cycled over?".

Some theories

  1. Journalists are hard pressed to think up content, walking round Templemeads they see some people cycling over a bridge, see the dismount sign and think "that'd be something I could write up!", pushing out a story without bothering to search the archives or talk to colleagues.
  2. Someone looks at the hit counts for previous articles and yells out, taps into the team whatsapp group, Slack channel or whatever "whose turn is it to do the cyclists on Valentine Bridge story this month?"
  3. The bridge owners hate cyclists and every so often get in touch with the paper to say "we have a story!" And whoever writes it up doesn't bother to look through the archives. Or doesn't care.

We propose a sweepstake: when will the first 2018 article denouncing cyclists cycling over Valentine's Bridge appear in the Bristol Post?

Prize: a free cycle ride over the bridge

Rules: this competition is not open to Bristol Post staff or immediate family.

What's painful here, is not just the uninspired repetition of the same old story, a repetition which only increases prejudice and polarisation, but because we assume that the authors do have some ambition to really write compelling stories.

Yet there is an interesting one right in front of their eyes: the story about why a bridge built in the 21st century as a walking/cycling bridge has its owners trying to suppress cycling over it?

Here then, are our recommendations for the next Bristol Post journalist tasked with covering this story in April/May 2018.
  1. Ask the bridge owners whether or not this was commissioned as a walking/cycling bridge?
  2. Ask them why they unilaterally decided to add "cyclists dismount" signs?
  3. Ask them why they unilaterally installed barriers without council permission?
  4. Ask them why they get so worked up about cyclists exercising their legal right to cycle over the bridge?
  5. Given the stance on cycling, do you consider that as a walking and cycling bridge, the bridge is a failure?
If the answers to Q2-4 is "because the bridge is too narrow", then ask them: what traffic modelling did they do? Was it wrong?  If so; why? If not: why was the bridge inadequate for the predicted numbers. And, if they didn't do any modelling, that's interesting too.

If the answers to Q2-4 are "because the surface is slippery when wet", ask them "was the weather of Bristol taken into account when the bridge was designed and materials specified"

Follow this with: given the surface of the first bridge was failure, why was the second crossing also designed with a surface which doesn't work in rain and ice?

A cycling bridge you cannot cycle over is not a cycling bridge: it is a failed project.

As, for Alex Ballinger and colleagues: why are you recycling this?

If you look at the comments, articles like this are clearly reinforcing the opinion of the commenters that "cyclists are lawbreakers". Maybe, but not here. This article has the defensibility of a "shocking expose, people driving on the M32 flyover". You should have been embarrassed to put your name to it

Please: write a new story on the failure of the bridge, not how Bristolians are using it as originally intended.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

How does a big project fail? A day at a time

Bristol now has a new museum, Aerospace Bristol, which contains a documentary of the growth of the North Fringe Military-Industrial Complex, from WWI fighters to Polaris missile warheads.

It also has a monument to a classic project failure: Concorde.

Because, yes, Concorde is Bristol's most famous transport disaster. People admire the beauty of the plane, it's elegance, its unrivalled speed, but from a project perspective it failed.
  1. It came in years late.
  2. By the time it was ready, its economics had changed: the 1973 oil crisis had happened.
  3. And it turned out that mass travel was more profitable than premium travel for the elite, and that 747s fulfilled the role.
It was a disaster, but now there is a museum for it, rather than rows of Concordes at every airport. Off the new urban sprawl area of North Filton, east of the empty life wasteland that the Cribbs Causeway consumption complex. Not even on the Waze maps —whose postcode lookup directs you into the parking area of a Ford dealer. And in the museum, a plane, along with the other great innovations of the city.

The question we have to ask is: will metrobus join it? While it's not internationally renowed as beautiful failure, it has the "Came in years late" item checked off. Leaving only relevance.

Big projects go wrong. More specifically, they go wrong more significantly, more dramatically and much more expensively than smaller projects. And, of course, the cost of the failure is bigger: the time wasted, the money wasted, the lives frittered away.

So how do big projects fail? A day at a time.

Often its early up-front time which gets wasted the most. That is, with a two year project, the first 6-12 months are the most frittered away. Why so?

Unclear goals/Nobody knows what the fuck they are doing.

When they do start focusing on a plan, and make progress, management usually change plans, not realising the cost. "You've not built anything yet". Software gets this all the time, because there's nothing tangible, but you look at civl engineering projects and you get the politicans deciding to reroute buses and trains "its not been built yet", not realising the penalty of such a decision. Its political whims like that which make public projects worse than private ones. You get whims, but spreadsheets can usually steer them back on course.

People are over-ambitious about what can be done and how it can be achieved.

People just don't realise how rapidly that time gets frittered away. One of the worst troublespots is when the engineers give management a time estimate "it will take 24-30 months if we start today", the managers only hear the "24" , then immediately apply it to the current time "March 2017" + 24 months = March 2019. Then they fuck about talking and finally give the go-ahead after six months, but still expect that "March 2019" deadline to be met.

In a project with a deadline 2+ years out, nobody worries up front about making efficient use of their time. It's extended "what do we do" meetings, people feel freedom to think up "creative and imaginative solutions" to satisfy themselves: personal aggrandisement of their great idea, fashion over a exciting new technology not yet been shown to work, but which suits the project so well. six months to ship and all that stuff has been junked as unworkable and the surviving team members are scrabbling for proven technology with low risk, while cutting back on all the extraneous features "bike paths", "Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic"

At the same time on trying to crank back on the deliverables, the team is cutting corners, usually on quality. Deliverables may be "done", but that's an "unreliable piece of junk done". Which amplifies the problem, as instead of focusing on future deliverables, everyone is pulled into firefighting the short term problems.

The "little details" put off turn out to be big problems

On a really large project, you also suffer from a postponement of examining the "little implementation details" of the project, which turn out not to be so little. The only reason you didn't know they weren't little is that you didn't look in enough detail.

Examples: Discovery you need more of a bridge over a railway line, that you need more tunnels through politically sensitive regions, that you failed to survey the soil your project will be built over, or that there's a border between the UK and EU country where closing it to through traffic will upset local people and cause them to potentially overreact.

There's also one project killer which can happen even if the goals were right and executed properly: by the time you release the goals are no longer relevant. Examples: Nokia's Symbian OS, Blackberry 10 OS.

What are the warning signs?

Failure to define goals, even as project progresses. If its 12 months in and nobody can clearly define the project, you aren't 12 months in. You have just wasted 12 months and your schedule is still going to be "24 months from today".

New requirements being added. This is often a consequence of the delay and attempting to keep up with a changing world. You announce you will be 12 months late and management say "OK, but here's a new change we'll expect to make up for it".

Missing checkpoints. You miss an early checkpoint and you don't catch up. It's gone. When the goals are finally met, work out how much extra time it took above scheduled as a fraction of of the allocated time. and then multiply the deadlines for the rest. Example: if an 8 week milestone is met in 10 weeks, that's a 25% overrun: multiply the entire schedule by 1.25.

Low quality of intermediate deliverables, What does get delivered sucks. This shows a focus on timelines over quality, and will come back to haunt you as quality will only get worse.

Departure of senior staff tasked with delivering it. Especially those with no emotional commitment to the project. Not the visionaries with their grand plans who came up with it, not the people at the bottom for which "it's just a job". It's the more senior people who see the impending trainwreck and think "I have better things to do".

"Unexpected" increases in cost estimates. One or more of: increasing of timeline, increasing staffing, discovery of details they handn't reallised would be so expensive. There's often been a bit of preallocated overrun for "contingency costs", but if that gets burned up early then there'll be need for more.

Rapid changes in the environment which the project is to be delivered. For Nokia and Blackberry, they were: Apple iPhone redefining what a handset was; Google Android saying "in exchange for us collecting personal data from all your users, here's a phone OS and software to compete with Apple"

Now, given these warning signs, the exercise for the readers is to pick one of the following list of projects and see if you can identify all those warning signs.
  • Metrobus
  • HS2
  • Universal Credit
  • HMRC customs software needed for brexit.
  • Edinburgh Trams
  • Brexit
Same fucking signs, every single one of them.

Now, how are such trainwrecks avoided?

In software projects, the general strategy is "don't do this". Big "ocean boiling" projects are very much things to steer absolutely clear of. One or two software consultancies do get involved in them, but they take lots of money and somehow always managed to avoid the blame. Of course, when you are the consultancy wing of one of the big four accounting firms and your colleagues are also the accountants for the company, they'll look out for you.

If you are doing something like this: never say "we're committed now". Just because you've spent lots doesn't mean that the project will work, whether spending more money and time is the correct action. Sometimes it's best to recognise that the world has changed, and the ongoing project isn't relevant. Stop it: focus on something tangible and relevant instead.

That''s just how to get out the hole. The best thing to do is: avoid getting into it.

In software, "agile" development means you do lots of smaller bits of work, with a release schedule of 2-6 weeks, with the goal being "every iteration is a release which puts something into people's hands". There's no more giant release any more, just lots of incremental ones, where features could be some new thing you can do with the code, or just "faster" and "more stable".

With everyone working to a short cycle, there's less of the "three years to go, let's design something grand over many meetings" work, instead pragmatic solutions to current problems. And with that solution in everyone's hands, you can see how it is used and adapt.

As the environment changes, you can adapt on the next iteration, rather than struggle to redefine the grand project -or worse, pretend that reality hasn't changed, and that your work remains relevant.

Ignoring Brexit "don't be so stupid", how does it apply to transport, especially in Bristol?

A key thing: say no to grand metrobus-scale projects. That's underground systems, tramlines, cable cars, etc. They may get everyone excited, but they're risky and not so likely to deliver the benefits promised. And until they ship: useless.

Bike paths, for all their controversy, can be rolled out fairly rapidly, and, if new ones are added adjacent to others, build up an incremental network. That doesn't hold if you just put random bits of paint down where it was least controversial. You do need to have some joined up thinking wth an overall goal "every minor release expands the connected bristol cycle network by 500 metres", and some longer term plans which can motivate people and help define what you are doing in the first place "a way to cycle from Templemeads to the Centre which doesn't abandon you just when it gets scary"

The same for things like footpaths, zebra crossings & c. Pick a mid-term goal "children can walk to school with safe crossings", and work on it by identifying the riskiest crossings, funding zebra crossings, making sure the light timings work, that everyone is stopping for them (i.e. have some police enforcing gloucester road red lights for cyclists on intermittent weekday mornings), that the actions of others aren't hindering things (i.e. have police & council enforcing keep clear and double yellow signs by schools on intermittent weekday mornings).

Roads? Well, what to do? You could present some grand vision of the harbour where the A370 Brunel Way crossing is replaced by something further west, but that will hit up against the pressure to preserve the suspension bridge area, the demand for some for more lanes, for others for fewer, etc. Really, it's not going to satisfy people, so why not look for smaller tactical benefits. At this point some people will be thinking "lets get rid of the bike lanes", but if you look hard, it's often people parked in bus lanes "just for a minute" which cause problems. Special callout: parents doing Colston School dropoff on Gloucester Road. London has embraced the red routes for the "really no parking" roads...yet we haven't. Is it time

Otherwise, well: is it time to consider, if not a congestion charge, a Nottingham-style office parking tax. You can drive through town for free, but you don't get free parking at work. That has the potential to be more transformational to our core than the RPZ has yet delivered. Best bit: you don't need any new bridges or motorway junctions.

To close then: Metrobus is checking the warning signs of classic big project fuckup. Which is obvious to all of us. And so is Brexit. As for the software it'll need, like that HMRC stuff. They have had their deadline pulled forward, the scale of their workload massively increased and still, a year from delivery, nobody know WTF its meant to be managing. Not a chance.