Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Bristol's 2015 Bike Survey. If its so wonderful, why do twats swear at you for cycling?

Sustrans have just published a 2015 survey on use and opinions on cycling in Bristol. This is available as a PDF for anyone who still prints things, and, on Page 2, comes with a sepia tinted photo of Our Glorious Leader for anyone who hasn't seen him recently.

Lots of people will be praising this, so we'll be ruthless and go the other way.

First issue: where do the numbers come from?

There is a full PDF of the methodology, which is what all surveys need: Something to back up the dataset. This shows that the Bristol survey was a phone survey of 1100 people, selected by random dialling, and quotas to match demographics in the area, then some 300 booster surveys to find cyclists who have real opinions on the cycling facilities.

One of our team members got a survey call, so we know two facts about it
  1. It was made to a landline. It therefore implicitly excludes all households without landlines. Ofcom's figures would imply that excludes 15% of the UK population from the survey; there's no data for Bristol itself.
  2. It was conducted mid-afternoon on a weekend. This may lead to selection bias towards boring people who don't have lives, parents stuck at home with children included.
What we don't know is how wide the survey went. Did it cover the bits of S Gloucs that is the part of Bristol full of people who hate speed limits and residents parking? Or did it only cover BRS and Avonmouth?

Second issue: why be so positive in the interpretation

Here's the negative view of Page 5
  1. 28% of people don't "like to see people out and about on bikes". Cyclists: these are the people shouting at you.
  2. 32% do not believe things would be better if people in general rode bikes more.
  3. 26% do not believe that more people riding bikes would make Bristol a better place to live and work.
  4. 46% do not believe that things would be better if friends and family road bikes more.
  5. 52% do not feel that they should ride a bike more.
  6. and from p10: 30% of residents would not like to see more investment in cycling in Bristol.
This may be excessively negative, as the PDF doesn't differentiate "no" from "don't know". All we know is that it is not positive. But lets go for the worst case here.

Over a quarter of the sample set in the survey don't like to see people cycling. More than half don't feel that they should ride a bike more. And, nearly half (46%) don't even want to see friends and family riding bikes more. Maybe because that would create an inconsistent view of cyclists as outgroup vs friends-and-family. We don't know —the data isn't there.

What we see then, is a divided city.

Now, what other bits of the survey are interesting?

P10: bike routes

Notice the popularity of traffic free cycle routes and protected bike lanes amongst all current and potential users.

Notice the complete disdain for shared pavements amongst non-cyclists and experienced cyclists alike. The fact that even the "don't ride a bike but want to" group don't like shared pavements shows how the two-track route policy in the UK, "magic paint on the roads and shared cycle pavements" doesn't even deliver for the people who would like to cycle. Time to knife the baby there.

Similarly: nobody likes bus lanes except for experienced/regular cyclists. Even there, ask them "do you like to be stuck behind a first bus in full early morning black smoke mode" or "do you like to have a bus right behind you?". These are details we'd like to know.

P11: demographics

Older people are under-represented. The pie chart doesn't actually show the number of respondents who cycle vs. the demographics of the city as a whole, so it' not that useful. Let's assume that yes, there are less elderly people. Look at the pie chart next to it. ~50% commute, some (2%?) to school and then 4% to college or university. We're going to take a guess here, but you won't see many of the 55+ going to school or college, or in the 65+ range commuting. You'd expect to see a reduction. More interesting, the smaller 45-54 range (14%) vs. 35-44 (23%). 

The 16% of of people riding bikes who identify themselves as black or minority ethnic —the same as for the city. This is interesting, as it implies the claim that cyclists are all white middle class men is not true in Bristol. But we still see 69% of cyclists identifying as male vs 31% female, showing significant gender disparities in a city where the percentage of sexes is approximately equal. And there is no income related data to look on that axis.

Between 2013 and 2014 the number of trips made by bike increased by 4%

What does that mean? That the percentage of all trips made in the city increased by 4% in one year? Or that in 2014 the number of bike journeys was 1.04 times that of 2013? And if so, how does that compare with the percentage increase in: car journeys, walking, train and bus? More? the same? Less? We need more context for that sentence to parse it correctly.

P13: Metrobus

"with the Metrobus giving hard-pressed commuters even more travel choice, our roads will become even less congested, and better for people on bikes and walking." Someone paid sustrans to write that. Because it should be "with the Metrobus making cycling harder in the city, our roads will stay a congested mess, and while it is being built the centre cycle-crossings and Create centre bridge have gone"


There is nobody in any of the 30-40 photos looking wet. This is an unrepresentative sample of Bristol days. We'd have expected waterproofs to be visible and needed in at least 25-30% of them.

p8: routes

There's 116 miles of "bike route", "79 miles traffic free", and "1 mile of protected bike lane". 27% of people live within 125 metres of a cycle lane, track or shared use path. Well the survey showed that everyone thinks shared use paths are worthless, and "bike route' is vaguely defined here. Presumably it includes anything painted on tarmac, which is effectively meaningless.

Page 12 follows this up with some assertions that 1/3 of morning rush hour traffic is bicycles, and that Gloucester Road has comparable numbers to the railway path. Here is Gloucester Road outbound at 16:30 on this very weekday. As such, it's not something we've been saving for a special occasion, simply a normal weekday, with here the passenger of WU56JKV swearing at the cyclist as they go past.

The driver appears to be concerned that the cyclist "was in the middle of the road" while cycling past the parked cars and the road junction where the traffic island means that the middle of the road is the place to be. They were clearly concerned enough to shout "get to the fucking side". The fact that they'd wound up the window when next passed shows that they hadn't expected to be passed again, as they had to go to the effort of winding it down to make more hand gestures later.

As for the reason for the abuse, "middle of road" was it, though they seemed unable to proceed even after the cyclist had expressed their apologies and invited them to go ahead. It's almost as if they were, to use a phrase, four fuckwits without a fuck or a wit between them.

  1. You can't see it in the photo, but the front tyre was pretty much smooth on the outer 1/4 of the tyre. Tapping the reg# and make (ford) into the MOT history site shows the MoT is due soon, and they have a history of bald tyres. We'll check back in a month to see if that tyre earned a failure. If not: they've had to suspend it.
  2. At 0:33 you can see that one of its brake lights is dead. This is a defective vehicle.
  3. Given that they stay in the same position from 0:33 to 1:33, a minute at a red light, perhaps it is their frustration at having to wait so long which is leading to their anger management issues.
  4. Note how everyone in the vehicle hates the cyclists being there. These are all from the 28% of people that don't like to see people out and about on bikes.
  5. As this is after 16:30, anyone parked in the bus lane is illegally parked and can earn tickets; its generally the buses that suffer the most from parked cars, but you can see a few times where the cyclists have to swing out.
  6. The GPS route map may be accurate, but the speedo is clearly confused, has some bad weighted-moving-average parameters, or at least one of the GPS satellites has just fallen out the sky while still broadcasting its position.
  7. The actual Strava numbers for this segment time that cyclist as 19.7 mph, top 100 of the 3500 riders logged, fastest of October to date. In a 20 mph zone, this is not someone you have to wait for.
  8. That intermittent bit of paint on the side of the road is probably 2 miles out of the 79 miles of bike route, and definitely part of the kind of cycle lane which 27% of people live with 125 metres of.
The last is interesting, as it says "is that all you can do?", "how does this stop cyclists being sworn at", and "what would the numbers be if the 75 cm path didn't keep disappearing under buses and vans at corners?"

Regarding the passenger of the car, we're going to try a new experiment today. Report them to the ASPoliceWest and ask for a caution for abusive behaviour or a section 59 ASBO. The ASBO strategy is to see what excuse they will make up for not issuing one, as they can't cite court costs, leaving only "we don't think swearing at cyclists is antisocial". Let's see, shall we?


We're seeing a polarised city here, one shown in both the survey results and today's field test of a ride up Gloucester Road, —a road the survey calls out as a success, but which we document as "par for the course".

It'd be interesting to know the postcode split of the like to see bicycles/hate to cycles answers, and their demographics. While there appears to be an ascendant movement to cycling in the city, the anti- forces are a significant number and do form a noisy minority — not just swearing away at passing cyclists.

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