Sunday, 18 June 2017

Summer driving tips: bends on country roads

Summer driving tips: bends on country roads

This is the time of year when leisure drivers go on leisure journeys on our roads, rather than restricting their hobby to motorways dedicated to it. These people are often unused to driving on country roads, and need to treated with caution. Often these people haven't yet learned their highway code -or worse, picked up third-hand misunderstanding of it from social media.

For leisure drivers, here is some advice to help them enjoy their hobby better, by driving safely with the users of the road who are trying to use it for work, important journeys such as to shops, and family duties.

"What do it I do if I come round a bend and find a cyclist in the middle of the lane?"

If you are asking this, you've already made the mistake. The question you should ask is: given there will be other road users on a British Road, how do I safely go round corners?

In a two lane road, you need to anticipate what could be behind the bend. Slow moving tractors, horses and cyclists heading the same direction and things to anticipate. You will implicitly be approaching them at a "closure speed" of the difference between their speed and yours. The faster you are going the, the more you endanger yourself -and, if it is a vulnerable road user, them. The secret here is to slow down for the bend, drop a gear to use the engine to help control yourself though the corner, and be prepared to break as soon as you see something in your lane. If, as you complete the turn, the road ahead is clear, you can accelerate out of it -as you will already be in a gear to do so. In a front wheel drive, this will straighten up the car's direction-so wait until the corner has been completed. Rear wheel drives will not straighten up this way, but you do still need to wait for visibility. The best cue here is actually the lines in the road centre: if the line on your side goes from solid to dashed, it means that visibility for a long distance is now considered adequate for overtaking, -time to speed up, if safe.

You also need to plan for something completely stationary in the road: a fallen tree, a crash, a broken down vehicle. Here the closure rate is even higher than for a horse or cyclist, so be prepared to brake fast.

The biggest risk in a two- lane road is coming round to find an oncoming vehicle heading towards you. Here the closure rate is your speed plus theirs, and any collision will be very destructive. This is a common problem when there are other leisure drivers on the roads, those without enough experience to have the judgment safe driving needs. These drivers may have overtaken a horse, tractor or car too late for safety. Motorbikes can be expected to do this too, especially on "classic" roads for their leisure rides, such as, near Bristol, the Wye Valley Road, and the Chepstow to Usk road followed by the A479 from Abergavenny to Mid Wales.

These overtaking cars and motorbikes are very dangerous because they are coming towards you so fast. Again, a controlled execution of the corner in a lower gear, holding onto the wheel (no texting here!) and being ready to switch from accelerator to brake pedal is the best way to prepare. Motorbikers will, if given a moment's chance, slide into the main traffic stream. Drivers who have misplanned an overtake are a different problem: there is often nowhere for them to go. These drivers often lack experience and react badly by trying to complete the overtake. Brake hard, don't be afraid to engage the ABS, and don't worry about the strange feeling you get though the brake pedal. This is the ABS at work. You can still steer the car at this point, so do try, while slowing down, to get the side of your lane. If the vehicle/bicycle/horse being overtaken brakes/slows down and move to the side, there may be room to avoid a head on collision. If such an incident happens, if you have a dashcam, send the video to the police. Someone else may have a video you could use as evidence too: search for your registration number on youtube to see.

If this all seems scary -don't panic! With practice and experience it will become easy. The key things are the "two-A's": attention and anticipation. If you look ahead, and anticipate the horse, the cyclist, the fallen tree -then every time you encounter this you are ready. And when you don't? Time to accelerate out the corner, getting to a safe speed for the next bit of road. Of course, if there is another bend, you should just stay at the current speed and plan the next corner.

Looking at other vehicles is often informative too: if there is a vehicle in front, as you enter the corner, give it room to manoeuvre and brake, and look at its lights as a cue for braking yourself. If it's brakes come on, brake hard yourself, ready for what is ahead. It may just be they underestimated the size of the bend, and didn't approach it at the right speed. Just as easily, they may lack the experience to anticipate what is round the bend, and are now reacting badly.

Evening/night driving.
Although these situations give you a good cue that a car is coming: headlights, the loss of visibility makes it harder to estimate how sharp a corner is. Assume it is tight and approach at a speed which you can sustain through a longer bend. If you are driving with headlights at full beam, drop the, before you enter the bend. This has multiple benefits

  • If there is an oncoming vehicle, they aren't blinded as you come round the corner
  • It can give you more warning of an oncoming vehicle, because their lights will now light up the bend better
  • Finding and using the dipper is one less thing to worry about if you do come round the bend and encounter an oncoming vehicle, so you can hold onto the wheel and complete the turn.
A key hazard is if an oncoming vehicle is driven by someone inexperienced, one who has not pre-emptively dipped their headlamps. As you come round the corner, there is a risk that their beams briefly interfere with your vision. Again, anticipating this avoids any surprise. If you see any vehicle lights after you dip your lights, unless you see any signs of them dipping their beams, be prepared. What to do? Don't t look at the lights: look to the dark bit to the left, where you need to go. You will automatically steer in that direction. At the same time, you need to anticipate other road problems, so slow down until you can see ahead. There may be someone on a bike: look for the red read right or reflector. It may also be a terrain feature, such as a continuation of the bend. Use the white lines by the sides of the lanes as as a guide. A big hazard here is the Z-bend: before accelerating out the bend look ahead for warning signs of a subsequent bend. And of course, any Z-bend warning signs before the first one -but remember there may be more than two!

Dusk and dawn need special call out as dangerous. Why? Animals, especially deer. Dusk is when they come out and start foraging. Be particularly cautious near woods, especially if there are deep woods on either side of the road: a deer can easily jump out without warning. Again, for corners, anticipate them. Important: unlike sheep, a deer by the side of the road may well jump out in front of you. If you see a deer by the road-side, brake hard immediately.

If you are following another vehicle at night, and you are in an area you recognise as hazardous, increase the distance between you and the car in front -this gives you more time to react. Otherwise: attention and anticipation will again, get you home.

You also need to consider low sun at these times. It is straightforward to predict this: if the sun is low, and you are turning in its direction, at some point in the turn the sun will be in your eyes. Anticipate it, so you aren't surprised, and plan for the risk that there is a slow moving vehicle/horse, bicycle, deer or pedestrian you will need to avoid. Braking as you turn, before the sun hits your retinas, prepares you for such events.

Driving on country roads, especially at night, is often one of the driving skills hard to learn. It's not just that it is never taught or tested when learning to drive, it is so unlike urban driving. Who sees a deer in town? Or comes round a bend to discover some pedestrians walking on your side of the road-as recommend in the Highway Code? Practice will help-but beware of overconfidence.

What to do if this is all too much?

If you find this intimidating, and don't think you can safely drive round bends on country roads, in day or night, stick to motorways. These provide a low risk driving experience where bends are gentle, and separated lanes means that you will not encounter oncoming vehicles; segregation will keep you safely away from pedestrians, cyclists and tractors. You do still need to worry about deer: take care at dusk.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Nobody should be buying a new diesel car

Apparently in January there was a 4% drop in the sales of new diesel cars.

This might seem a good thing, and while it's a start, it's not much of one. What you may be seeing is a change in purchasing decisions by those people who care about urban pollution —in a month when the NOx pollution in cities was at such a level that it got lots of press.

What that is not evidence of is something more significant: a decision by the majority of new car owners to opt for petrol cars. And why would they, when the cost of Diesel fuel is little different from that of petrol, you get better mileage, and there's no penalty for opting for diesel? Especially as all the manufacturers are saying "EURO6 diesel is clean", meaning "ignore dieselgate and the fact we have until 2021 until cars actually meet the real world EURO6 tests". While the term "conspiracy" is usually a bad sign, here we are seeing the car manufactures of key countries in Europe: Germany, the UK, France, Spain(?), pushing hard for diesel against hybrid/e-car alternatives, their governments setting the EU standards. There's a big reason that US diesel limits are so much tighter than EU ones: the car industry there hasn't embraced diesel, isn't committed to it, and so hasn't been pushing for relaxation.

Here though: the car manufacturers like diesel engines, customer sare happy to buy new diesel cars, and the governments have been going along with it. Take for example the UK being taken to court over NOx pollution. The entire policy of the government has been one of believing that EURO6 will fix things. They too fell for the lies, and we are suffering for it.

Last week, the 2016 used car sales figures were announced, showing a "healthy" market. Diesel cales increased 11.1% and petrol transactions grew 4.7% compared to 2015.

Does that mean that second hand car customers all decided that they wanted to buy diesel cars? No: it was documenting the harsh truth: you don't get a fucking choice. For many types of car, petrol models are rare on the ground. Estate cars, MPVs: mostly diesel. The choices of engine you get three year are really the choices made by others in 2013. EURO5 diesel it is. Sell your car threes later and in 2019, people down the food chain, again, diesel is what they get.

The longevity of modern cars means that diesel will continue to pollute our cities even if sales of new cars diesel engines were banned tomorrow.

That's what the "Scrap a diesel" program admits. It admits that the cars built 15 years ago are out there, and rather than have any form of restriction on their use, they "may" even reward drivers.

Except wasn't there a car scrap scheme a decade ago? Yes there was, in 2008. Wasn't it meant to reduce pollution by getting dirty cars off the road. Was is meant to reduce pollution, yes it was. At the time according to Paul Everitt,, SMMT CEO said:
CO2 isn't the only evil being scrubbed out. "There are other tailpipe emissions to take into account," Everitt says. "We're going to see the benefits of these extra new cars affect road accident statistics and the health of us all for years."

Well, times moved on. We aren't seeing those health improvements: urban NOx pollution has got worse. And now, in 2017, the SMMT are back cap-in-hand, saying "this time a scrappage scheme will work".

Another scheme may work for the SMMT, but it scrappage scheme won't deliver, any more than the first one did.
  1. It's voluntary. People with aged, dirty diesels who don't care to upgrade can carry on as before. Which means some of the worst polluting vehicles will do nothing.
  2. It's not focused on those vehicles which do the most miles in inner cities, so cause the most pollution: taxis, delivery vans.
  3. A 1:1 replacement scheme will mean the congestion situation will be no better, so continuing the cause of much of the pollution.
  4. It will take a long time for any possible benefit to surface.
  5. It will reward the people who keep the older diesels around —and in doing so punish those people who bought petrol cars.
  6. It takes away money which could actually do something, today.
#5 is key: if we are to have a "pollution cutting" scrapping scheme every ten years, then you may as well buy another diesel, expecting that another decade from now, the country will again give you a discount for getting a new one. Todays "clean" EURO6 diesel cars will be come 2028's "dirty" diesels.

And they buyers of second hard cars? Along with getting no choice, if you buy older cars, well, why not get a 2017 diesel in 2024, expecting a discount on replacing it you wouldn't get if you;;d bought the rarer 2017 petrol models?

There is a better way. Abandon the carrot, point out the stick on the horizon, and bring it out on emergencies today.

Imagine if the government worked with a set of cities to set a timetable, today, for a ban on EURO5 diesels by 2020, EURO6 by 2024, charges for petrol cars higher than those of electric and hybrids. It may seem a long way off, but what it says for today's purchasers of new cars, "petrol cars will be worth more when you sell them"

Because that does matter, today: the perceived depreciation of the cars you buy. If, after ten years, a diesel car is unusable in town, its going to depreciate far more than a petrol one. That changes the running costs, as unless you drive lots and lots of motorway miles a year, getting the most of the MPG difference, a diesel car will cost you more per year.

And before that scheduled ban is rolled out, the government can give cities the right to roll out emergency diesel bans, which will block all diesel cars on "critical days". The standard for those could be kept high —what matters is their very existence and intermittent use. Every day one happens, it highlights how big a problem NOx pollution is, how much traffic is to blame, and again, scares people off buying diesel cars —new and second hand.

Returning to those second hand diesel sales: the ratio of petrol:diesel is meaningless, all it reflects is new car sales 3+ year ago. What is informative will be selling price —whether or not diesel cars depreciate faster. As every sign that diesels depreciate faster is another sign to new car buyers that diesel isn't a cost saving —its a financial mistake.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Roadkill Grayling doors himself into a corner

The timeline appears to be as follows:
  1. Roadkill Grayling knocks someone off a bike by opening a door on his ministerial LR discovery, while it is stuck in stationary traffic.
  2. After telling off the injured Londoner, Roadkill Grayling continues on his way-unaware that the whole incident was videoed.
  3. Roadkill Grayling has an interview with the evening standard, is fairly critical of cyclists in London, still unaware his footing of him knocking someone down was videoed.
  4. The holder of the video, sees the interview, recognises the speaker, reads the patronising bollocks and hands the video to The Guardian.
  5. Roadkill Grayling's minions are left struggling for excuses, in what must have seemed like an episode of The Thick of It for those involved.
  6. BBC Radio 2 has a dial in debating who is to blame: the person on the bike or the person committing a criminal offence?
  7. Cycling UK has offered to fund a private prosecution, to compensate for the indifference the Metropolitan Police show for such incidents.
  8. Other politicians are saying "Guaranteed to backfire on cyclists in terms of public opinion"
No: it isn't bad for cyclists. It is a documentary of the failings of our streets and our elected representatives.
  1. It has shown precisely how today's streets don't work for vulnerable road users.
  2. It shows how those politicians who could make our cities safer don't give a fuck about safety.
  3. It shows how politicians are prepared to dismiss and ignore their own crimes, when blaming people on bikes for their injuries.
  4. It shows how free parking and chauffeured driving isolates senior politicians from the ways people get round cities: foot, tube, bus, bike and, when they can, Southern Rail.
  5. It shows how modern cities don't even suit people trying to drive, to the extent that the passengers just give up and walk to their destination.
  6. It shows that helmet cameras are so ubiquitous that "getting away with it" is over. The CMP prosecutions from helmet videos will only encourage this and shame those police forces who currently don't give a fuck into some form of action.
  7. It shows how rapidly even the BBC comes to the defence of a criminal caught on camera injuring someone. The DM? Predictable. But the BBC? They could have taken the opportunity and looked at how cities let vulnerable people down, how councils from Westminster to Coventry are doing nothing for pedestrians or cyclists —and link that up with our pollution crisis.
Roadkill Grayling's attitude to all cycling infrastructure proposals are now going to come in the spotlight, and be reviewed in the context of his own actions. The ES interview must be the last time where his response to questions about cycling safety is dismissed. Whenever he tries that, someone needs to go for the jugular: "how do we protect cyclists from people like you?"

It is certainly the last time he can say "we don't need safe space for cycling" -whenever he tries someone needs to point him at the video of of his own actions, which show how critical that need is.

Congratulations, to Roadkill Grayling, who, in one single action and a followup interview, has shown to all the failings of our cities and our politicians, and has implicitly committed him on a path of atonement. Because now he has no choice.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

When you call cyclists arrogant -look in the mirror

If you make a list of cliche terms to appear in articles and tweets, "arrogant cyclist" and "selfish cyclist" come up a lot as a way of defining why people hate cyclists —it's because they are "arrogant and selfish".

What does that actually mean?

Cambridge Dictionaryunpleasantly proud and behaving as if you are more important than, or know more than, other people:

OEDHaving or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities:

Now, what appears to constitute arrogant and selfish behaviour? Generally, holding up traffic.

Exercising your right to cycle between two destinations: arrogant.

Placing yourself in the position of the road recommended by the government to make it slightly more likely to reach your destination: arrogant

A parent cycling on the outside of the child so that passing cars will only endanger the parent, not their child: arrogant".

Whoever is using the term arrogant to describe cyclists should look in the mirror.

The very act of denouncing a cyclist for holding up your driving makes it clear that you are the ones with the over-inflated sense of self importance. The fact you consider it more important to arrive at your destination to your unrealistic timetable than it is for everyone to arrive alive is arrogant.

As for "selfish"? Surely wanting the roads for driving and being unable to share it with anyone on bicycle, horse or foot counts there.

Cyclist haters: the word you are looking for is : Insolentrude or impolite : having or showing a lack of respect for other people.

Because yes, we have no fucking respect for people who try to kill us as they squeeze past at pinch point, so will insolently get into the middle of the road to stop all but that 5% of drivers who seem criminal psychopaths on day release community tasks from school run to delivering parcels. Because yes, we have no fucking respect for anyone who beeps their horn repeatedly when we are on the school run and want to get their child there alive —and will insolently slow down just to piss you off. And because yes, if councils are going to build bicycle infrastructure that is utterly laughable, we aren't going to use it —and will continue to hold up your journeys.

Yours: the insolent cyclists

Friday, 26 February 2016

SMMT and the UK Government: Don't mention #dieselgate, buy a low tar car

SMMT and the UK Government: Don't mention #dieselgate

The SMMT has a new video up, claiming the EURO6 diesel is reducing pollution, and that new cars are cleaner.

What does this video ignore?

It ignores dieselgate, repeating the utterly discredited claim that EURO6 cars are better than before.

NOx Pollution in our cities is not getting any better. No doubt manufacturers will say "cities must address traffic flow" —but that's just a way of telling cities that congestion is their fault.

While it highlights the "real world" tests, it conveniently omits how the manufactures have pushed for "tolerances" on the test, so that they can keep driving cars that would otherwise fail the tests

It ignores that Paris is closing its roads to cars on alternate days, because pollution there is so bad *and their government recognising and acting on the problem*.

It highlights that "with Diesel, CO2 emissions are down", while failing to cover the consequence, "with Diesel, NOx emissions are now an unacknowledged public health crisis"

The reason for VW cheating was to save 300 Euros/car. That's all.

VW Audi Group chose to poison people across Europe and the US to save £200 per vehicle. That shows how little manufacturers value the lives of their customers and their families. Because if the claims that in-car NOx is worse than people away from the road, it's actually their own customers who are dying. If dieselgate spans more companies, car companies will have shown that same cynical willingness to kill their customers as the tobacco companies.

And what do they do? They produce videos claiming that their "low tar" cars are not poisonous, that their "filters" work, ignoring "passive diesel smoking". And they fill the press and TV with adverts implying that driving is a status symbol. This is of course, exactly like the tobacco adverts of fifty years ago.

For anyone reading a paper this weekend, look out for the car adverts,

Adverts highlighting how the new models are less polluting than the old ones

Adverts targeting women

Adverts associating cars with sports
Adverts associating SUVs with extreme outdoor activities
Adverts in front of national landmarks

Nowadays we'd look at those adverts and laugh at the naivety of the adverts and their audience, but we still expect and accept papers and magazines full of glossy adverts for products which are, en masse, killing thousands of people a year.

Accompanying the fantasies of the SMMT comes the silence from central government. Even if Cameron gave a fuck —which he doesn't— the EU negotiations would have forced him to do whatever was needed to keep Angela Merkel happy. Now that's done, is he going to suddenly roll out some emergency anti-NOx measures? Not a fucking chance. The environmental legislation that is forcing the government to act comes from Europe, its exactly the kind of "red tape from Brussels" that the Brexiters will be railing against.

Instead the SMMT, the UK government, the main London mayoral candidates are all quietly pretending Dieselgate was a minor US detail, that there is nothing to worry about.

If there's one thing which will break this calm its a pollution crisis which can't be blamed on the saharan desert or pollution from the EU. If that situation arises, pro-city activists need to be ready to draw awareness to the issue. Hold a protest outside a VW showroom, get hold of any form of mobile pollution sensor and start visibly testing cars in parliament square.

This summer: demand air fit to breathe

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Diesel drivers blaming cycling infrastructure for pollution: STFU

A regular theme with the "no cycling facilities" campaigners is the "causes congestion" claim, which they follow through to "creates pollution".

Here is the official response from the People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire:

Nobody who drives a diesel car has the right to accuse cyclists of causing pollution

People who voluntarily bought a diesel car, are the ones causing pollution. Now, it's not their fault: the car companies lied, and governments clearly covered it up. Why did people do it then?

  • Lower fuel cost
  • Car tax benefits, due to CO2
  • Combined message from car companies and governments that "diesel was good"
  • Claims in the early 2000's that EURO3+ was going to fix the PM particulate pollution, by burning the particles off, albeit giving off NOx in the process.
  • Claims that EURO6 was going to fix all pesky NOx problems that surfaced in the Mid 2000s.
The promise then, was clean diesel: fuel economy, fun cars, no pollution. This is what the EU car industry focused on, and what VW tried to sell to the US

It turns out that that this fairy tale had one small flaw: it was bollocks.

We know that now. Post-dieselgate, diesel car drivers can't point to the cyclists and say "it's your fault! you are to blame for pollution!".

They should be pointing at the car companies and said "you lying bastards, you told us these cars were suited to cities, when in fact they are killing them." Then they should turn to the UK and other EU governments and say "Why did it take the US government to find this out? What did you know —and why did you cover it up".

Then they should look at their beloved car, point at it and say "I'm sorry, you have to go"

Except for some special cases(*), there is no law in the UK that says cars and vans have to be diesel. We've always had a choice. Well, it turns out one choice, "clean diesel", was a lie —and that can only be corrected by the individual action of car owners.

Sell the diesel car! Buy a petrol one! If you have the money, go for a hybrid petrol one. And then start campaigning for something to be done about diesel in our cities. Because it's poisoning you too.

Yes, selling off your diesel car will pass the problem down the chain, it will probably get picked up by someone else. But at least now you can say "I've done my bit". And if you aren't prepared to even start with that —you can shut the fuck up when it comes to saying bike lanes cause pollution. Your decision to drive a diesel car in our cities causes pollution. Either get on a bike, a bus or get a petrol/hybrid/electric car.

Finally don't even think about buying a diesel car or van in 2016, new or second hand. Anyone who does that is either choosing to ignore all the press coverage of dieselgate and NOx pollution, or choosing not to give a fuck. Whatever choice, if you now buy a diesel vehicle, you have publicly surrendered your right to complain about: cyclists causing pollution, road tax changes which penalise diesel, fuel tax changes that increase cost/mile of diesel, and any future ULEZ zones across the UK which either ban you from driving your diesel car in —or may you pay for the privilege of causing pollution.

The car manufacturers and EU governments have shown that EURO6 won't deliver; that all those spreadsheets and timetables for NOx pollution going away are as fictional as WMD-in-Iraq dossiers. Which means that city-by-city, controls will have to go in on diesel car use. Don't wait for that to happen, get rid of diesel today. And if not: STFU.

[There's one notorious exception: london black cab drivers who really are made to drive diesel taxis. And TfL is dragging their heels about affordable replacements. That doesn't mean they can point to the cyclists and say "it's your fault"; they should point at the vans, at the commuters, at the cars and say "we don't have a choice —you do, and you still choose to drive diesel". In particular, cabbies should STFU about slagging of Uber drivers for driving Priuses. Smacks of jealousy there.]

Saturday, 12 December 2015

LHR: missing the fucking point

The entrance to Heathrow is three lanes of traffic. Motor traffic: cyclists are not allowed

That's because what was a cycle lane, got turned into a narrow, high-restricted traffic lane instead.

Notice how, along with the signs for the terminal there's one for "short stay parking"

That is: in order to cope with the number of cars entering the area, including private cars doing dropoff and parking in short stay parking bays. And of course the multi-storey staff parking in the central mess of what just another pedestrian and cycling hating 1970s gyratory.

They have added a "cycling hub"

That's not a hub: its a fucking spoke —and if Heathrow management are proud of it they haven't spoken to a single person who has ever tried to cycle to the airport.

The approach? That'll be on road on the A4

It's worth remembering at this point is that only a few years ago, LHR promised "No third runway".

They lied. They probably had it on a roadmap at the time. This shows that (a) LHR can't be trusted and (b) if you want a binding commitment from them, you need to include a penalty in the T&Cs. If they really had meant "no third runway", the government should have said "you wont mind signing this clause that says £5000 pounds to everyone in the flight path plus £5B to central government".

Because all of this is about profit. Why do LHR have short-stay parking? Because its so fucking profitable. Why do LHR expect government to fund the M25 tunnels, refuse to pony up for Crossrail: it would hurt their profits: "Heathrow has repeatedly said it is not willing to pay more than about £1 billion, though the costs are estimated by Transport for London to be £15 – 20 billion." (source airportwatch)

LHR's business is about flying passengers in and out the airport. They like the hub idea, as it gets more people through: on the planes, in the shops. The airlines and the business love it too.

Those are the business in the "Greater LHR", the sprawl of companies nearby. All notable by their vast car parks, roads of death and lack of cycle parking.

This street view, for example, is facing 180 degrees away from Hatton Cross tube station. There's a tube station right behind, yet a vast car park for staff to drive to.

This is the mindset of every company supporting the 3rd runway: we want more planes near the offices which we drive to.

It's why the airport and the roads around it stand out as the outer london pollution hub (source: war on the motorist)

Yet LHR think their proposal will not make things worse: things are already fucking awful.

What's their vision? NOx is Somebody Else's Problem which will magically go away
  1. Crossrail: this does nothing to discourage the "Greater LHR" staff/business traffic which forms the inner ring of pollution, nothing for the core, nothing for the new and expanded runways. And priced such that it will be a luxury option from the West Country.
  2. Euro6 and EVs on the M4. Euro6 has been shown to be a line. That part of the proposal needs to be taken out of the spreadsheet.
  3. The cycling hub
Which shows that they don't give a fuck, aren't prepared to do anything about it except pretend on spreadsheets that the actions of others will address it.

What's their problem? Failure to recognise that they are the central cause of the pollution, and should act on it.

A key point must be for them to recognise that they themselves are directly and indirectly responsible for all the pollution caused in Greater LHR, and they have to address it.

They need to understand something simple: every vehicle driving on heathrow related business is four less passengers. Make it that simple and they would start to think about what they should do.

Why are any private cars coming into the airport? Why not taxi only and dedicated disabled access (enforced) only, with special dropoff points for outside the central hub? Remove that traffic, converting one of each direction's tunnels into an electric tram the way other airports do, and you boost the capacity of the tunnels, and provide something for the commuters to get on their bikes with. Commuters —because every single staff parking bay needs to go. That's for the executive down: everyone who drives to work is costing the airport three passengers.

The airport could take baby steps immediately

  • impose a toll on all private vehicles driving through the tunnel. A pound would be a start.
  • remove that staff parking
  • fix the fucking cycle access
  • give all staff free bus and tube travel.
  • get rid of the magic paint on the A4 and provide cycle routes for the staff from hounslow that are on a par with what central london is rolling out. If there is room for it in Central London, there's room for it by the A4. Boris has shown that.

Then turn to every business nearby whose livelihood depends on the airport and say "every one of your vehicles costs us for passengers: act". Again: close the car parks, offer free public transport, cycle parking. There's a wrinkle there: company funded train or TfL transport is treated as a taxable benefit, employees pay for it. Staff parking is not. That's something that central government could address, but in the meantime, what few parking bays remain could be billed for at significantly more than the tax-per-day of staff commuting by public transport. That will get people to prioritise.

Those trade unions saying "we need this!" —go to them and say "if your employees need this, they're going to have to stop driving". Make it clear there's a fucking choice.

From the perspective of Bristol —which would benefit a lot more from LHR expansion than Gatwick— LHR need to come up with a story. If there is more than one passenger, renting a car to drive from the city to one of those vast airport rental dropoff points is cheaper than two coach tickets, and avoids sitting in that central bus station which is as awful as a Banksy's Dismaland. LHR hate bus passengers. That's in the central hub, its almost as bad at T4 and T5 where you sit in a little bench and are expected to feel grateful.

If there are three passengers from Bristol, a private hire vehicle is less than those coach tickets; a PHV whose driver will come in early, wait in that short-stay parking and so give you a journey home whose experience outshines anything else.

If you are on a company trip and going for less than five days, you can get from the Bristol/S Gloucs North Fringe in under two hours, drop your car off right in front of the airport for a driver of Purple Parking or similar for them to park off-airport, bring it back to you. Because if you can get a private car right up the terminal -you would, wouldn't you? And of course, in a world of autonomous cars, anyone can do this, reading emails to the airport, sleeping on the way back after a long-haul flight to a new BRIC destination

Today the train from Bristol to Paddington and out doesn't cut it. While the LPAD->LHR stage is fast, you go past the airport and back again, on a train which can stop just outside paddington for 15 minutes because "they weren't expecting a train". And on the return journey, miss your reservation and you'll be fighting with all the reading commuters for space. Currently, the Bristol-paddington-LHR route is a premium option which can go horribly wrong. Crossrail will help with the logistics —but do nothing for the pricing, which will still be more than driving to the airport in a diesel car. With an electric car, the cost per mile will be so low that you really won't bother. And while that may reduce your personal NOx, it will create the M4 congestion which boosts pollution of all the diesels on the road.

Now look at Frankfurt airport, one of the big competitors

  1. The Frankfurt AirRail terminal has its own baggage pickup: you can walk to the terminal and pick up your bags there.
  2. You can check in at Frankfurt central train station, getting issued with a train ticket and the flight boarding card.
  3. You can drop your bags at the station too. At heathrow: its trollies, queuing for elevators, pushing them up slopes, walking about half a mile underground.
  4. If you get a flight with Lufthansa, you can buy a return train ticket to anywhere in germany for 29 €.

Imagine if you could do the same in the UK? At Paddington, Reading, Bristol, and at Kings Cross/St Pancras you could check in while waiting for the next train, get on the fast electric train to the airport, arrive at the station, drop off your bag and walk straight to security. For less than today's cost of a Heathrow express return ticket.

That would transform airport access for passengers from places in driving distance to the airport —suddenly it would be both cheaper and easier to get the train.

Finally, it's notable that LHR cite Paris and Amsterdam as the other key competitors. That's paris which bans cars on polluting days, which is trying to go car free. And Amsterdam, which has so many people cycling that their NOx map doesn't resemble other European cities. LHR need to look at London at a whole and conclude that anything done to reduce NOx and CO2 pollution in the city itself benefits them. If flight is so essential, then they need to think about offsetting flight pollution through a reduction in road pollution throughout the city —and work towards it with TfL.

Do Heathrow see that? Do they look at mainland europe and think "we should copy Frankfurt"? Go to BA and FGW and say "copy Lufthansa or we won't give you extra runway slots". Do they go to the business round the airport and say "what are you doing?"

No they fucking don't. They produce PDF files with the usual "empty road" bollocks you always get, fingers pointing at EURO6 cars, which, when that fails, LHR can say "not our fault", and build a cycling hub in the bit of the airport the furthest from the centre of the airport as it is possible to build.