Wednesday, 31 March 2010

BRI pedestrian access issues

Following on the St Michael's Hospital anti-pedestrian improvements, we drive round to Alfred Road and the BRI. See that sign?
No Access
to Hospital

This is odd, as there is quite clearly pedestrian access. Why would the hospital have a sign telling pedestrians they have no access -or alternatively, spend all that money on some steps they don't want used?
ahh, now it becomes clear. It's not just a dead end, there's a turning at the bottom of the road to the left into a car park, room for about eight staff cars. (update: seen a site map, 72 cars once you include the access from Marlborough Hill)
The steps were built as part of the Bristol Heart Institute development to provide staff access to their car park. If pedestrians were allowed to walk down here they'd get in the way of the cars and make turning round harder. There is also a risk that pedestrians could get hit by passing cars, which would increase the operational costs of the BRI. Discouraging people from walking to the hospital is better all round.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Coronation Road Improvements

We have a new contributor, "flytopia", who has some good news about the Coronation Road bike path. It's been made more dangerous. In their own excellent words:
On this blog you've often mentioned the excellent Coronation Road cycle path. The path does a fantastic job of bringing cyclists and pedestrians into conflict, as cyclists swerve round the many large trees and streetlamps into the paths of angry oncoming walkers.

If the cyclist chooses instead to ride in the road they will face abuse from drivers, who rightly point out they should be using the cycle path provided. This sends a clear message to cyclists in Bristol - you're not welcome.

However, the immobile nature of the trees leads to a problem - people get used to them. The cyclists know when to slow down, and the pedestrians know when to expect cyclists to try to squeeze past them. What we really need is a few extra obstacles to shake things up a bit.
Now these signs may look a bit obvious - after all they're designed to be seen from a long way off, so the cyclist has time to react, slow down and avoid swerving into old ladies. But the fun comes in the evening when the cyclists are returning from town.

The backs of these signs are invisible in the failing light, especially for those cyclists that are not using lights (which is pretty much all of them, right?)

I've stuck a brief video on YouTube. Unfortunately I didn't catch anyone crashing into the signs and it was raining so I didn't stick around. I got a cyclist sticking to the road and a sensible hi-viz runner
We thank flytopia for their contribution -both photographs and commentary! We hope for more in the future!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Muller Road Bike Path: official council opening

The Muller Road bike lane is almost ready for use, here on March 22. It's empty

There is a bicycle, pointedly getting in the way of important commuters -and now with this path, there is no way to get past them without slowing down. Why isn't this tax-dodger using the cycling-city funded development? Probably because it is not officially open.
The next day, March 23, the path has a white van RJ04HZT at the end of the dropoff, just where any subversive cyclist using the bike path to get towards Horfield would encounter it.
But not just any white van: it is a Bristol City Council rapid clean up team van!
We are so excited to see the council declare this new feature: a safe parking area on Muller Road, ready for use! Finally some of our road-tax money diverted to cycling-city, coming to benefit us!

Note in the background the "We are warming up for 2012" poster, related to the olympics. The logos of BMW, BP and British Airways appear there too, so perhaps "warming up" is not the right phrase to use.

Cliftonwood RPZ news

Victory for the keep-our-pavements-free-to-park on campaign, Cliftonwood's resident parking zone plans are killed.

Vehicles like V305ROC will not have to pay a tax of potentially hundreds of pounds to park on the pavement in this part of the city. (credit to "Concerned of Cliftonwood") for the photo

Incidentally, we hear that the Bastard Hills of North Bristol bike ride is now scheduled for Sunday May 23. One troublemaker has already ridden it. We shall have to avoid the area on that date.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Datamining the taxis on Union Street

There's an NYT article on analysing GPS data feeds from taxis to build up a model of traffic flow and congestion.It's interesting but flawed. It only measures the routing options taxis take, which can be constrained by anti-taxi signage, such as as the "buses and bicycles only" bit of Nelson Street, leading to Union Street.

The continued presence of traffic lights here not only holds up buses and bicycles, it holds up taxis too.

Such as Taxi 107, SD06HSC photographed on Saturday March 18 2010 at 14:57.

Or taxi #686,  WV57FRU, seen on Saturday March 18 2010 at 14:57.
Or indeed,  taxi # 711, R329YON , seen on Saturday March 18 2010 at 14:57.
Because the taxis also need to make use of this road, the traffic lights should be adjusted to increase the scheduling time on this lane rather than just assuming one bus every minute. With this taxi flow rate, three vehicles every minute, the entire fleet of Bristol's taxicabs (at least 711, we would guess), would pass through this junction every four hours. The traffic lights do nothing but hold up taxis driving down the buses-only lane.

There: congestion analysis, no need for city wide GPS-instrumented taxis. Which is good for the taxi drivers, as it may log them doing things they aren't meant to.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Progress by St Michaels Hospital

Contributor "A" pointed us at Southwell Street, said we should check it out to see what had changed since our last visit.

Oh yes. To reduce the risk of pedestrians being hit by cars pulling out of the hospital's underground car park, the pavement is now blocked off, with a sign:
beware of
exiting traffic
car park
Ideally, that would be enough to discourage pedestrians from attempting to use this road, especially given the removal of the pavement on the other side and the placement of a large yellow barrier across the road. This pavement was the only place they could walk, so removing that option should stop pedestrians getting in the way.

For some reason -perhaps the fear that the Kingsdown Conservation Group includes lawyers, they haven't come out with some no entry to pedestrian signs -though we are pleased to soon have some footage of such signs nearby. Instead they have painted a path on the road, showing pedestrians where to walk.

One concern we had -would pedestrians have the right of way over cars, even though they were now walking on a road. Because on a pavement, after all, one of those pesky little laws says you aren't actually allowed to run over pedestrians -even if they are in the way.
Testing the system was fairly straightforward -wait 30s for a car to come out, see if it does anything resembling looking or giving way to pedestrians. No, it's a road, pedestrians should not be there, its OK for W99AER to cut them up.

Only one question remains: how to get access to the car park? If this area goes residents only, those spaces will become invaluable.

Incidentally, this marks our first nomination for the 2010 Bristol Traffic Anti-Pedestrian awards.  More welcomed.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Dropped Kerb Parking Persecution

Since March 1, the council has been promising it will make life harder for us, the city's tax payers, by ticketing our cars on dropped kerbs. And its true, they really are!

Here by Hampton Road and Cotham Vale, HD53UHB has received two tickets.

It's crime? Being parked across the knobbly bit of the pavement -that's all.

That's despite the fact there is clearly enough room for a student to walk up the hill and out onto the road -while talking on their phone- we note. Why don't mobile phones detect when someone is using them at walking pace and stop working? Because the telcos make so much money from students strolling around, chatting to their mates, that they don't want any ban on walking+mobile phones.

Over in Beaufort Road, Clifton. Another corner. another car, A3FXX, ticketed.
A week later we can see how the locals have learned and adapted. WP52EFH shows the trick.
If you park far enough away from the dropped kerb, you are no longer blocking pedestrian access. That's OK then.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Bicycles in the Bearpit

We still pine for the days when the bearpit was the premier tourist and family destination in the city.

That was why we were torn when we heard that someone was trying to do a photo documentary of cyclists in the bearpit. On the one hand, a reason to go the bearpit and enjoy it. On the other, it is celebrating bicycles. And we don't want that.

We drove down to see what was happening -can't say where we parked as someone will only steal that place. Suffice to say, it's handy, just not quite legal.

And in the bearpit? A photographer, looking cheerful despite the rain and apparently, the slightly inebriated audience. Some cyclists did turn up, we have taken their details and will report them to the relevant authorities.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Impressions Count

Want to really impress the girls?

Probably best done at 23:30, wearing this:

Yes. The owner of YH58YHU is apparently able to seriously impress these 'girls' by arriving at speed, in Redland Road, late at night, by using his 'horn'. Loudly.

Of course, the girls rose to the bait, rushing outside in their equally fetching attire (note the footwear), only to find a Bristol Traffic reporter questioning the need for such speed and such noise so late in a residential area.

On questioning, the driver of the fantastically impressive Audi A3 stated his speed was merely "33mph, and within the law". Bristol Traffic wonders what subject this young man is studying.

After being told it's illegal to take photographs of people (by the girls), and shouts of 'My dad's a Lawyer', your intrepid reporter fled the scene, worried that one of the women had shouted "I'm nearly 16", and was told by another to "Get a life". A suggestion regarding his haircut was also mentioned.

The owners of P111CHX and R3HCW may or may not have featured in this encounter, but share the same drive.

Hopefully they will set a better example.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Chris Hutt: died, march 2010

Down at Zetland Road Last Month, we were comparing illnesses. Jon Rogers, has to nip down to the BRI with chest pains, one of our B.T reporters awakes to discover a paramedic in the room on account of an "incident" in their sleep, and Chris Hutt was considering an electric bicycle because of his newly developed Angina.
Sadly, it turns out that Chris's problem wasn't going to cause that much inconvenience. Jon Rogers sent an email out this morning breaking the news that Chris was found dead:
Terrible news

Chris Hutt was found dead yesterday.

Friday 26th February was the last time I saw him, when we were all together at Zetland Road.

John Grimshaw sent me this,

"Cycling has lost a doughty champion. He was also the best plumber in the west!

"I have lost a colleague of so many years, the best of route devisers and cycling companion, and a friend indeed.

"I know he was seen as a thorn in your side, but without his support I doubt that key cycle routes we now take for granted would have been built so well, or even at all.

"His last two messages concerned the ongoing threat to the railway path and the beautiful River Avon route to Hanham. Might you consider as a fitting tribute to this so dedicated Bristol Citizen, declaring the railway path inviolate and rebuilding the riverside path to a standard he would have enjoyed?"

As John says, there is already so much around Bristol that is the better for Chris's work and energy, and those two suggestions would add to his legacy. As far as I am concerned, the railway path is already inviolate, and the riverside path would be brilliant.

My last email to him said, "Aware that not heard from you for a week or so. Trust you are well and taking a well earned break!"

We will miss him.

Here are some of our photos from the Zetland Road visit; Chris is pointedly refusing to wear hi-viz or a helmet; his bike is the pink tourer chained to the railings.
Chris was not only prepared to argue the technical details of bike/pedestrian paths and crossings, he understood that a junction or stretch of bike lane is meaningless on his own -and that for Bristol to be a city you could live in without needing to drive, everything needed to join up, so you could walk or pedal around the city.
He helped found the Bristol Traffic site, as discussed in an email in May 2008:
I carry around a cheapo digital camera and use it to similar effect, although sometimes you've got to be quick. I've posted a few on my blog , but it would be good to have a site where we could all post such pics, something like "Bad driving in Bristol". It would be a public record which could be referred to the police and authorities
Obviously Chris missed the point, our site exists to praise our fellow drivers rather than criticise them, but we happily accepted his photos, and even have a couple in the pipeline. Chris did eventually come to see things our way, and so embrace our anti-cycling award process which he was unable to give to Jon Rogers:
While most known in recent years for his Green Bristol Blog and regular appearances on the Evening Post, where his role as Agent Provocateur to the E.P.'s usual stance was there to upset the readers, his key contribution to the city was -and will continue to be- the Bristol-Bath Railway Path. With John Grimshaw and others in the Cyclebag group, they built the Railway Path while nobody was looking. It was the West of England Partnership's plans to run BRT down this route that brought him back into the cycling activists world again, and ensured that the current generation of traffic planners came to fear his name. The R.P. not only gave East Bristol a better pedestrian/cyclist route than any other part of the city, it showed the country what a city could become.
He also organised some other rides, last year his Discover Bristol route took in the M32 underpasses, the Frome Valley and led to a lovely showdown between John Grimshaw and Chris regarding routing options.
We shall miss Chris, but we shall also remember him. Everyone who walks or cycles the Railway Path is benefiting from the work he and others put in to building that path, and it exists as a wonderful memorial to everyone who wanted to change our city, to make it a better place.
The Bristol Traffic Team.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

A Failed Experiment?

The editor of Bristol's favourite anti-cycling Daily Mail owned tabloid must be dismayed. An experimental attempt at increasing the length of the traffic jams in Union St seems to have failed. A week after these lights were turned off, they're back on. Frankly, here at Bristol traffic blog, we're also dismayed. What about the rights of drivers over those lazy pedestrians and cyclists who aren't economically successful enough to own and run a car?. They aren't contributing anything to our economy, lazy spongers. We'd like to see all traffic lights in Bristol turned off permanently, so we can all drive to our favourite jams a bit quicker!.

We should all complain to the Association of British Nutters (see Links) who stand up for the rights of poor harassed drivers.

A4 flood chaos

Here is a short video of what the portway looks like when it's underwater. As you can see, it merited live broadcast coverage from, and blocking the bike path for such coverage. It is not often that outbound traffic is forced to swerve slightly to stay dry.

Further in to the city, signs of problems

This is one of those situations you don't want when you are doing work in your own bathroom: everything filling up with water. It's generally considered the kind of process failure where you start wondering whether or not the builders have liability insurance and who you know to call to fix things.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Monty's pavements

If every vehicle length of Montpelier pavement has a 10% chance of being free, then the probability of a four vehicle length space being entirely free of vehicles is .1*.1*.1*.1 or 0.0001. Not zero, likely to happen eventually, but so unusual that when it does happen, here on Fairfield Road, it merits a note. [Incidentally, there is no field by Fairfield Road. The place name is all that remains].

Note also the abandoned sofa. These facilities aid walking around a hilly part of the city.
Elsewhere, on Picton Street, A&M Driving School car G55MAT is practising the problem of getting up onto the pavement, with only two vehicle lengths of free space to work with. This is quite tricky for a new driver -we congratulate this learner for their skill. Not so close to the houses that the doors get bashed, not so far out that passing vehicles are blocked. Nicely done!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Muller Road disaster

While some of the cycling troublemakers complain that the Cycling City money isn't having any effect, our complaint is that in the parts of the city where we drive -clearly not places the troublemakers go- it is impacting our commute.

Take Muller road, the high-speed, high-traffic-volume route from Horfield to the M32. It is for this road alone, that the M32 includes signs for Horfield. Yet what is happening?

At the end of the Farm Pub Path, they really are putting in a wide, separate, bike lane. We had hoped that the money would be frittered on a bike lane with trees in the middle of it, as with Coronation Road. One that is no use to bicycles, but justifies us beeping our horns when there are cyclists on the road.
Fortunately, it seems to run out after a short distance, forcing the bicycles to do some kind of crossing thing, or run into whatever vehicle will be parked on the road where it widens.

As well as this long-term disaster, we are pretty unhappy with the traffic chaos. Yet this roadworks didn't get a mention in the EP's "city under siege from roadworks" article. Look at this -the M32 traffic jam is beginning about 500 metres before it normally does.
One car has broken down and only just managed to get to the pavement, where the AA Van EU58LYW has come out to rescue it.

What we fail to understand is why the Farm Pub should merit such a path, if it will only encourage people to go there, drink Doom Bar Bitter, and cycle home drunk afterwards. How will that improve road safety?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

It's too late for bike parking or walking here -so add more car space

hDown at the BRI, again. Nowhere to park the car. Again.

First thought: the pavement at the entrance. But no, even the dropped kerb by the crossing was already occupied by DN08JYX. Pity: that's the last £0 parking area to the hospital.

Down into the A&E ambulances only section, again, all the parking spaces full, and the pavements occupied -this time by hospital vehicles..
Here at the newly built Bristol Heart Institute, there is no official motorbike or bicycle parking, so those troublemakers who motorbike or cycle in are appropriately penalised for their choices.
There is disabled parking, so this car WV03YKP, whose driver nearly knocked someone in crutches off as they turned in over the zebra crossing, does have somewhere to park. But even there, there is a no motorbikes sign. Presumably you cannot ride a motorbike if you are disabled, or if you can, you can still park somewhere else.
You see, by its very nature, the Bristol Heart Institute is going to get unhealthy, unwell, unfit people. People who drive and smoke, not people who cycle. There is no point providing any bicycle parking in this new building, because they are not the customers. No, what we need is affordable car parking for the patients.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Dangerous and inconsiderate

Some denunciations of random cyclists who got in the way of our drive across the city on a foggy day where they should have recognised the safety issues and stayed at home.

First, this one on Kingsdown Parade. It's too narrow to pass, and if I were to knock my wing mirror off, do you think he'd pay up? Unlikely.

Incidentally, up on Fremantle Square the PRSC had stuck some art, fortunately it's gone now.
Now down to Upper Cheltenham Place, Monty. We won't cover how to get from Kingsdown to Monty in a car, except to note that neither of the good options - Nugent Hill or Marlborough Hill- are technically legal. We remember the old days, when you could drive from Fremantle Square down Ninetree Hill, then tuck into Stokes Croft. Now you are forced to break the law.
At least these people have realised it is better to walk than cycle. But where do they walk? In our roads. And they smirk as they do it.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Lives and Cost/benefit analysis

Bristol lost three schoolkids last year in crashes. The anniversaries of the deaths of two will be next month, deaths that should not have happened.

The one we haven't covered yet was an 11 year old, Alexander Bjoroy, flying to Clifton College from Brazil. Here's the school with a US flag at half mast. Why the US flag? At half mast? The Omaha Beach landings of D-Day were planned here by the US army. Decisions were made there that impacted the lives of people all round the world. After the war, the US army presented their flag -this one is apparently a replacement which formerly flew above the US Congress.

US flag over Clifton College

In 2009, Alexander Bjoroy died because of other decisions made. Der Spiegel has put up a fairly bleak an analysis of what happened on AF-447.
  1. With the passenger and freight loads of the flight from Rio to Paris, the only way the Airbus 330  had the fuel capacity for flight + minimum emergency fuel was by pretending the destination was Bordeaux, and then, if when they get close to there and they "happen" to have enough fuel, continuing to Paris. Yet the landing costs and delays aren't included in the schedule, so it's not something the pilots are actually encouraged to do.
  2. There was a storm, and without the surplus fuel, the pilots chose to fly through it, rather than round.
  3. All three pitot tubes, which measure airspeed, froze. The online computer didn't know what to do.
  4. The airplane stalled and fell out the sky. Attempts to restart the flight computer were recorded by messages sent from the airplane's computer to Air France, but they clearly had no effect.
  5. The plane crashed into the sea with a force of 36G; so hard the tailfin sheared off. The oxygen marks didn't deploy, nobody had life jackets out and the stewardesses weren't in their emergency seats.
  6. Everybody died. 
The coverate of the airspeed sensors, the pitot tubes is poignant. 
  • Military airplanes heat their pitot tubes to prevent freezing
  • The civilian FAA test requirements predate jet planes and only test for temperatures expected at or below 9km, yet this plane (and all other planes for which pitot tube freezes have been recorde) was at 10km.
  • Air France has opted not to spend the €300K per plane needed to add some software that Airbus sells to help pilots angle the plane correctly after airspeed indicator failure.
Given the size of the AF fleet,  €300K per plane probably adds up. But for anyone who lost a friend or relative on the flight, the money would have been justifed. Some questions may need to be asked of Airbus itself, however, and this brings us back to Bristol, where parts of the planes come from. If the pitot tubes are known to fail, and are used at heights/temperatures outside their test space, why doesn't Airbus provide this software for free. Surely it exists to correct a design defect in the plane itself?

[some coverage in the software engineering community. The A320 was the first civilian fly-by-wire plane, and there's still debate about whether it was a wise decision for it, its successors, and recent Boeing planes.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Better to ban the cyclists

Down in the van to pick up some post from Monty. Since the DVLA provided a prepaid envelope with a note "place your no longer valid driving license in here" it's a lot trickier to drive round the city. Lots of the cycling activists complain about unlicensed, uninsured drivers, but they miss the point: once your license is taken away, your insurance becomes invalid, yet still you have to get around.

What is nice to see is that the Montpelier post office has a big sign: No Cycles in the Office. North Delivery office has a duty of care and safety to all customers.

There is one of those "front wheel mounts" over there in the distance, by the hedge, just past the three car parking spaces.
Anyone complaining about bias and unfairness has nothing to complain about. If we had our way the sign would say "No cyclists in the office"

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Technical build-out work

There's a van, SM51FVK, on a build out on York Gardens, Clifton, where the gardens join Royal York Crescent.

Nothing unusual there. Except, well, look at the bollards and posts. How exactly do you get a vehicle onto such a well defended buildout?
Ahh, there's the secret. Come in from this angle, use the lowered pedestrian crossing. Tricky option. Not one for your average driving test, even here in Bristol.

Which raises the question: why not? Why doesn't the Bristol Driving test include a section on the best way to get an entire vehicle onto a build-out covered in bollards -and off again- safely? It's a skill people need, yet the driving tests are still stuck in this world of "don't park near corners" and "don't park opposite junctions". Time they moved on.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Stokes Croft Tesco: finally a use for the bus lane

This web site is in favour of the new Tescos, our biggest complaint is that without an easy way to drive from Kingsdown to Arley or Ninetree Hills, many of the customers will be forced to walk.

Why do we support it? Because otherwise the bike lanes of Cheltenham Road, and the showcase bus lane is wasted. Further down, in Stokes Croft, the bike lane is used as a staff and customer parking area, and everyone is happy. Once something better than a bike shop opens further up the A38, the same uses will apply.

Even before the event, it happens. Here we see the bailiffs coming to evict the protesters with their van CP59PFV, accompanied by the police. And you can already see -finally the outbound lane is benefiting the city.

On the inbound side there is one car, but someone else has been forced onto the pavement by the troublemakers. Once Tesco put in their HGV loading process, that pavement space will go, but with the HGV discouraging bicycles, you will be able to park along here without fear of damage to your wingmirrors.
All across the city, the sole use of these red lanes is for short stay delivery, be it by target express delivery WP03OWV
Or citylink van VA57YNT
This is the city we want, and those squatters are standing in the way! That and the no-entry signs on Nugent and Marlborough Hills. And the blocked off bits at the end of Ninetree Hill and Springfield Lane.