Friday, 24 April 2015

The eternal roadworks of the BBRP

Rejoice! The Stapleton Staple Hill Tunnel Railway Path closure "6-10 weeks" is due to be complete next month. That's five seven months after it began.

This is good news for cyclists as it means they don't have to suffer cycling through parts of the city that are so unused to cyclists they have to have warning signs up, parts of the city where locals put tacks out in their way. As for the locals —the S Gloucs Electorate— they can stop being held up by cyclists, park their crossover SUV on the pavement outside their house, sit in front of the TV and go read Bristol Evening Post about how an anti-car city is at war with them.

With this tunnel re-opening, those cyclists now only have to deal with

  1. The Lawrence Hill widening: 10 wee
  2. The Bitton-Saltford Resurfacing
  3. The Destructor Bridge dismantling.
These things actually make the Tunnel closure seem like well thought out. It was scheduled over winter, there were signs from the outset, and eventually the council came up with a route that worked: no main roads, no mad residents, low stress.

Lawrence Hill: 

Ten Weeks, goal being to widen the path on one of the busiest stretches of the route. This will be good for walkers and cyclists, though there's one question: why wait for spring, so closing this stretch until June?


Four weeks.

As the BCyC note, the cyclists actually had to push to S Gloucs council to postpone the roadworks until after the whitsun bank holiday. That's the most popular cycle route in the country, and a council proposing to close it over the first weekend of the school half term. Even closing it for the rest of the week is bad enough. 

Apparently S Gloucs council say "Alternative routes will be posted whilst maintenance work is carried out between Bitton & Saltford"

The fact that they have to promise this shows how little thought goes into the work. Imagine the M4 was being shut for repairs. Would they come up with a plan to deal with the traffic volume, or would they have a couple of arrows pointing you to somewhere (The A4? A431? Something that beanders through the back roads which will takes ages but will ensure you rejoin the path alive unless some S Gloucs chav who likes doing country roads at speeds comes round the corner too fast and "loses control". Then, after killing the family, they'll try the "there was nothing I could do gambit" and get off with a light tut-tut from a jury.

Because we can be confident of this

No attempt will be made to provide a safe alternative route, if that route impact the traffic flow of motor vehicles in the area.

you can see that even in Bristol centre: you can get across via staggered toucans —but have they increased the cycle times of the lights to let the cycle traffic through? If they have, it's not working.


This is a "temporary" closure of six months of the river path joining up the railway path with the centre of bath.

Which a pretty lose definition of "temporary". 

And where do they take you on this closure?

they take you from a quiet path

Onto the A4

via a gravel strip
BANES council can't even be arsed to lay down a strip of gravel to ensure that any cyclist diverted to the Bristol Road doesn't get a puncture en-route to fighting for space with buses and tipper trucks. Furthermore: why hasn't it had tarmac already? Does someone want to preserve the "rural"nature of a link to a river from a main road which oozes diesel pollution? 

Were it not for the fact that it'd close the exit for twelve weeks for resurfacing, it'd be worthwhile complaining about this.

What do all these roadworks have in common.

  1. They shut down the railway path -the sole pleasant route between the two cities
  2. They abandon you on alternative routes.
  3. No attempt is made to make these alternative routes safe to cycle on. At best you get yellow signs showing you where to cycle. At worse (Bath), you are left with some random diversion signs on the way in to town -and nothing on the way back.
  4. All but the tunnel have been scheduled over the summer.
If there is a fundamental problem here it is: the BBRP is the only way to get between Bristol and Bath that people on bicycles actually enjoy. It's family friendly, its flat, and nobody fears for their lives. Whenever its closed, then, the councils dump you on the mediocre unpleasantness that lurks alongside the path. 

The presence of the path has allowed the councils to avoid making any infrastructure improvements in parallel. The growing popularity of the path is forcing them to take action, but it's signs and PCSOs telling cyclists to slow down, rather than providing alternative routes.

Why doesn't the A4 Upper Bristol Road into Bath have cycle facilities? Because it's been possible to push the cyclists out the way into a slow-motion conflict with pedestrians. Why will the Bitton-Saltford detour —inevitably— involve one or more of : random back roads with inadequate signage, cyclists-dismount signs, points where you have to pedal for your life across the A4 or along the A431?

It's because the councils don't care. IF S Gloucs council cared about cycling as transport, they'd have more to spend their money on than resurfacing the one path in the region people use, and if they were to do the resurfacing (to be fair, the surface is bad), they'd do it over winter, and/or make sure the path was open on weekends.

As for BANES, they almost make S Gloucs look good. They still look better than North Somerset, but N Somerset are the rural equivalent of Westminster City Council, so that's not saying much. Their sole contribution to cycling is the fact that most one-way streets in the core have formal cyclist contraflows -not that van drivers on phones recognise or accept that. There's nothing to stop them painting bicycle signs on their road for the six months, or to put signs up on the A4 warning drivers of lots of bicycles ahead. But they don't, because they don't care or caren't be arsed.

Welcome to bath: don't cycle

(update: errors in first paragraph corrected from commenters)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Westminster Council killed a cyclist today

North Yorks County Council have just settled in a lawsuit where an unmaintained pothole killed a cyclist. Martyn Uzzell, from North Somerset, may have died from injuries sustained from a collision with a car, but it was the council who was ultimately at fault.

Which is something in common with Westminster Council, who killed a cyclist today.

TfL's decision to not go ahead with their (somewhat inadequate) proposal clearly stated that it was Westminster Council that was against the proposal:
"Having considered responses to consultation, and following concerns voiced by Westminster City Council, we have decided not to proceed with these planned initial improvements at Lambeth Bridge northern roundabout.
"Instead, we will concentrate our resources on developing more substantial improvements that meet the expectations of Westminster City Council and other stakeholders."
"Meet the expectations of Westminster City Council and other stakeholders? This is bollocks that shows up how much power WCC have —and are using it to Keep London Lethal.  Cyclists who cross that junction are the biggest stakeholders: their lives are the ones at stake. Yet WCC "voicing concerns" was enough to stop the proposal.

And as a result, a woman, a Londoner, has died. It's important to use those terms, not "a cyclist', as that puts her in the box of "a cyclist", right next to the belief "cyclists break the laws, it's their own fault". It's not. It sounds like it is directly the fault of the lorry driver -that's something that may surface in court. Though given the Met Police's history, that will only happen because of the witnesses, and even then, it'll be some "careless driving" offence, probably downgraded to 200h community service, without even a driving ban, because the lorry driver would lose their job.

What is predictable is that WCC isn't going to be in the lawsuit, fielding damages. Because opposing change is a more subtle form of wilful neglect than not filling in a pothole. Yet it is just as deadly.

WCC killed a cyclist. They now have no justification for any new proposals for making this junction safe for Londoners to cycle over. Any attempt to do so will highlight just how much more they care about through traffic than safety of Londoners.

TfL need to go back to their CAD tools and come up with a design that is tangibly safe. Then they need to go back to WCC and say "shut the fuck up" when the WCC transport team mutters on about traffic flow. Will TfL do this? It's up in the air. If Boris becomes just the MP for Uxbridge: maybe. If he goes on to become Leader of the Opposition in a parliament where the government is Labour in some form or other, he may be distracted. And without him doing nearly-fuck-all for cycling, unless he still backs Andrew Gillingham, TfL will back down, Westminster will carry on as usual, and more Londoners will die.