Sunday, 23 February 2014

Southwell Street: new BRI signage

There’s some new signs up on Southwell Street, at St Michael’s Hospital

UH Bristol
Private Road
No parking
on double
yellow lines

No Parking at an any time
private property
(small print about how there’s a fine of £60 for doing so and if you don’t play up they will go to the DVLA for your details)
Any cycles chained or locked to these railings will be removed -contact security

There are some covered bike racks, about enough for ten bicycles. Why no more?
Even after taking away the pavements to provide parking, even after creating a parking basement for staff, there isn’t room for any bicycles.

As to the other signs -and interesting topic. It’s not clear that this is "a private road" -it is just a street in Kingsdown, albeit one whose pavement has been co-opted by the BRI.

Someone with a residents permit and time on their hands should test this

Friday, 21 February 2014

Markov Chains: letting the evening post write for itself

A quick grep of the internet thows up a Markov Chain generator in the Python programming language.

This program takes the name of a file, parses all the sentences to build a table of the words seen to immediately follow all the other words -and their probabilities of being chosen. For example, "lycra" is followed by "lout" 80% of the time, "clad" 20% of the time.

It then randomly generates sentences using these probabilities, so if it ends up at the word "lycra", it rolls a die and picks "lout" four times in five, "clad" one in 5. Then it does the same thing for "lout" and "clad", respectively, until you have a whole article.

Markov Chains are useful in more places than just evening post letter generation; Google's core page-rank algorithm simulates a markov-chain walk of the entire internet, clicking through one link at random on a page, measuring the probability of reaching the destination page. Those pages that you are more likely to end up on come out higher in the search terms. Readers will now know enough to pretend they understand google web page indexing to scare their friends.

Taking this code, and a set of past evening post articles and letters, we can now generate coherent -yet original- letters for the paper

Example 1
by their arrogance." Mr Drummond, who was struggling to get the message. GRIDLOCK in urban areas is costing households, throughout the winter months and more pedestrians, is it with some Bristol cyclists? The other night I was met with typical cyclist arrogance. It should be fines for cyclists just as much right as they belt along in their pockets, not holding onto the handlebars (no doubt they think this is cool) and adults on children's bikes. And cyclists on pavements or controlled crossings following a lorry along there, who was bombing down the centre with sets of traffic lights is the same as someone who uses their car for every journey (as Frank Woodman – February 11 – seems to confirm my prejudices. In just two hours, at just one junction, the police to take up these modes of transport. "Part of this is an example of a sudden and started mouthing off before jumping the red light. Maybe I was following a lorry along there, who was at fault for not wearing my night vision goggles. One morning on the pavement and they fear the city's pavements. The idea for the accidents they cause. The government has said that it is possible that he would organise a meeting where a chairman and other continental countries, and we can find the money being spent to turn a blind eye to cyclists and sent them to the cheaper alternatives? Because most people of working age live busy, stressful lives, so choose convenient transport over cheap transport. SO Mayor Ferguson and, hopefully, encourage him to move on to households. Traffic congestion, therefore, is reducing productivity, leaving commuters with higher bills and less time, as well as council tax which cyclists do very little room to pass. Then, as I reached my destination cyclist
Run 2

dressed in black are the main cause of road congestion. I regularly cycle to work using use the pub's toilet. "I waited outside for her, but I could not get up on the busy road. Between condolences, one resident says: "The hill is treated like a knife through butter. It is encouraging to see," he tells me. "Everyone is pleased with the rest of the stunt cyclists and they were to get any worse, not spending it on actively increasing congestion and pollution, and creating new problems? Another report from last month tells us that the report does not condone this activity. "But we do not adhere to the rules of the roundabout and pulled out straight in front of them and cyclists adhering to the radio. I don't want my young children killed or injured by motorists each year By The Bristol Post welcomed the crackdown and said I was a major issue for the pressure group designed to protect pedestrians against rogue cyclists. He said: "I am all in favour of it. "The problem is that there's a lot of money being frittered away on the pavement cyclists are as wide as cars! I also appreciate not all cyclists behave like this, just the vast majority, especially the Lycra ones who think they are faster. 20 billion pounds of damage to business is caused by buses and more importantly, improve the car drivers in Bristol have been visiting Bristol from their home in South Gloucestershire Council. 
Run 3 -which actually seems more coherent than "Frank Woodman".

sheer number of cyclists to have advised him to move on to the pavement, as I like to see a massive difference. "I don't think there are many others all over the years? There are more motorists than cyclists, it makes perfect sense to just ban them! Why not a cycle-free day for Bristol drivers? I HAVE just read an opinion in this area, but dangerous cycling is. "Cycling City is helping to address the challenges facing its road network and the reduction of average speeds for motorists. We also have, newer inadequate street lighting, I’d like to add, whizzed by in the city. The number of cyclists ignoring every red light whilst I and the abhorrent decision to allow dogs into council owned properties. I have seen pedestrians walking out in front of them were dressed in very dark and a better quality of life through reduced congestion. In Bogota they instigated a policy of putting even more people at risk in an attempt to raise more funds, through fines, for the accidents they cause. The government has said that it plans to spend millions on projects as part of the stunt cyclists and drivers. If you think I am sure each and every time someone turns up a bit shaky with a sense of self-righteousness, superiority and entitlement as they have. Then there are the young children killed or maimed by all the time we were disgusted by their arrogance." Mr Drummond, who was bombing down the pavement is really quite dangerous. There were lights on my car just once a week ago today. Last week police were out in force at Zetland Junction in Gloucester Road, which is not much done about their attitude and to make the roads are paid for by general taxation.

we  may do this regularly -just collect more articles and letters every week for a better dataset.

Frank Woodman: bristol post's premier fake letter writer

People accuse us of being spoof, some kind of satire designed to wind people up.

Not us. No, the spoofs are people like Frank Woodman, letter writer to the Evening Post.

Fantastic coverage here, going back months. Yet clearly fictional.

How can we be so sure? Because of his wonderful inconsistencies.

December 30, It's easier to list what our city hasn't got

We lack [...] an efficient, cheap and reliable bus/ commuter system, which would encourage many more people to use it;
Of course, councillors, mayor and politicians will claim that the public funds are not in place to afford such facilities.
They would, of course, prefer to spend our money on more bus lanes, cycle lanes, 
See? he's actually contradicting himself in the same letter. "we don't have a cheap and reliable bus service because the council would rather spend money on bus lanes". That's like saying we don't have a motorway from Bristol to London because the DfT keeps putting money into the M4. Whoever made up this letter completely forgot to proof-read it before emailing it to their colleagues saying "stick this in where there's some space, we need some more online traffic"

Xmas must have been quiet altogether, forcing a new one to be knocked up the following day

December 31,  Bikes and buses must not delay city's traffic
Cyclists and buses must not be allowed to cause further delays to car commuters and vehicles, servicing businesses.
And again, two weeks later, the business model of advert-funded pages depending on high web traffic calls to the letter team

January 16, Convenience of cars outweighs the costs.
why do motorists absorb these costs rather than switch to the cheaper alternatives? Because most people of working age live busy, stressful lives, so choose convenient transport over cheap transport.
January 15,  Figures on congestion are a wake-up call
Cyclists and buses must not be allowed to cause further delays to car commuters and vehicles, servicing businesses.
See that? On Jan 16 "Mr Woodman" is arguing that people don't use things like buses and bicycles because they are less convenient than driving. And the day before, that congestion is making driving worse.

This is a bubble of inconsistency which we must admire and praise. You cannot complain on one day that congestion is making it impossible to drive round town, and then the next that people don't use alternatives because driving round town is easier.

Its as if someone says "we don't have any controversial cycling stories right now", and someone else goes "let's make up a letter -who is going to be Frank Woodman today?" -before agreeing on "let's print an old Frank Woodman letter, nobody will notice"

Say what you like about Bristol Traffic, but

  1. we are at least consistent!
  2. we print new content every time

Friday, 14 February 2014

Evening Post Letters

A copy of a letter submitted to the evening post hits our inbox: we wonder if it will ever see the light of their letters page.

When the new Bristol Post was launched it was accompanied by bus adverts showing a smiling driver giving a surprised cyclist a bunch of flowers.

It has been some months and I'm yet to see any flowers.

What I have seen is Councillor Richard Eddy trying to shape the city's transport policy based on the secondhand anecdotes of a friend. Please could the councillor remind his friend that in Amsterdam, vehicles drive on the other side of the road --and he should look both ways when crossing the road and the adjacent cycle paths. Then try walking round Westminster and decide which city centre treats pedestrians worse.

I've now also seen a letter of complaint from Robert J Trott of Keynsham -a letter which includes the tired old anecdote that cyclists never pay for the roads. In fact Bristol's urban streets are funded by council tax -so I believe that the £2200 I pay annually on my band-F house I have the right to walk, cycle and drive around the city.

By his own reasoning, Robert,  a resident of South Gloucestershire, does not have such rights. However, I forgive him and will let him use our city streets. What I would like though is some respect for the policies which we, the people of the city have chosen.

Please can he recognise that we did not deliberately choose these policies to annoy him but as an attempt to make the city itself a better place to live, work and indeed, visit.
Still, awaiting my bunch of flowers,

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Wingmirror Tax payment issues

One of our vast fleet of vehicles has become eligible for paying the wingmirror tax

Which raises a question: when?

Not having a wingmirror
  1. gives you a tactical advantage in negotations with oncoming traffic when that oncoming vehicle still retains theirs.
  2. lets you drive through monty at least 3 mph faster.
  3. stops you having to worry about cars driving past when you are parked in those same montpelier streets.
  4. ensures that you aren't elegible to pay the tax a second time.
Any disadvantages?
  1. unless the mirror is blatantly hanging off, held on only by duct tape, oncoming vehicles may not realise that you don't care about your wingmirrors; you really need to communicate your status and intent to achieve the best outcome in the negotiation over who goes first.
  2. being passenger side, you have to park your car on the wrong side of the road to gain immunity to the passing-car problem.
  3. Pulling out from parked is slightly harder. You may even now want to consider indicating.
  4. it's not great changing lanes on the M4
  5. Bicycles coming up the inside of you on a bus lane have to look out for you switching into their lane before a junction -but they had to do that anyway.
  6. Kills that conversation starter in the evening post "a cyclist smashed my wing mirror and cycled off -and do you think they were insured". 
Apart from the motorway lane changing problem, all of these are manageable, and the key advantage "you know you won't break it again" gives tangible tax-payment reductions.

The only time you need a functional wingmirror is the day of the MoT.

Which raises an interesting idea for a new business: wingmirrors to rent by the day.

  1. Survey the streets of monty and the taxis of the city, build up some stats of vehicle brands & types in the target market. (example above; VW)
  2. Identify those mirrors in the market where the cost of replacement is significant: (example above; VW). 
  3. Build up a stock of the main mirror types from some of the discount online wingmirror retailers (yes, they exist).
  4. Discreetly let it be known that you can rent mirrors at a rate of £5/mirror/day.
  5. Rent them
The need for building up the portfolio of mirrors could be avoided if you start by requiring a weeks notice "to put you in the calendar". You can then buy the mirrors on demand online, building up the set of mirrors you need driven directly by customer demand.

Yes: this could work.

The main competition is actually going to be mirror theft: you need to price your daily rate low enough that it's not worth stealing mirrors off other vehicles

Other than that though: "wingmirrors to rent" could be the new business to transform the city.