Archive | September, 2011

Ig nobel peace award to car crushing mayor!

30 Sep

Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania has been awarded an Ig Nobel peace prize for demonstrating how the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by destroying them with a military tank.

Ig Nobel Peace prize 2011

For those who missed it, here is the stunt that led to the award.

Is this just a bit of fun? Personally I think it is another signal that people all around the worlds are getting impatient with the private car. Attitudes are changing. I am reminded that Ken Livingston was given an award for ‘policy innovation’ by Scientific American in 2003 after he introduced the congestion charge to London.

Anyone who thinks the private car is secure in out cities should take notice of what William Clay Ford, great-grandson of Henry Ford and the current executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company is thinking. In 2000 at a Greenpeace business conference in London he said that “The day will come when the notion of car ownership becomes antiquated. If you live in a city, you don’t need to own a car” and went on to explain how Ford would reposition itself as a ‘purveyor of mobility’ and would own the vehicles and make them available to people when they need access to them. Ford, good to their word recently went into partnership with Zipcar offering cars on American university campuses for hire by the hour.

Where do people die on urban roads?

30 Sep

Caroline Russell from Islington Living Streets left a comment on my last post highlighting the fact that people get killed and seriously injured on artery roads, not on the residential roads where 20 mph speed limits are to be promoted by the government. Personally I think 20 mph limit area for residential roads are great and reduce the level of intimidation or pedestrians, I live in one. I am however also aware that people do indeed get killed and seriously injured on the arterial roads. Here is a map showing all killed and seriously injured in the period 2000-2008 inclusive for part of Islington/Hackney showing that injuries and deaths do indeed occur on arterial roads.

Killed and Seriously injured - Islington and Hackney. 2000-2008

Here is a map for a larger area – notice how the arterial road network is visible even at this scale solely from the location of traffic casualties. click to open the image at full resolution.

Killed and Seriously injured - North London. 2000-2008

And here is one for most of north London. Again the arterial road network can be identified very easily. Click to open the image at full resolution.

Killed and seriously injured - Greater London. 2000-2008

Mapping using Stats19 police data for casualties, OpenStreetMap for the rail and rail networks and OS Boundary-Line for boundaries. Maps created using ITO Map (pre-release version). All maps cc-by-sa 3.0.

Making urban roads safer for pedestrians

29 Sep

Philip Hammond has explained today that he wants us to drive faster on motorways in order to create a ‘healthy economy‘, ‘generate hundreds of millions of pounds of economic benefit‘ and ‘put Britain back in the fast lane of global economies‘. This proposal was evidently resisted by the Health Secretary and the Energy Secretary for obvious reasons and the RAC Foundation estimates that driving 10 mph faster increases fuel use and CO2 emissions by more than 20%; the AA have reported that we are actually driving more slowly now in response to increased fuel costs. Hammond says it won’t increase road casualties – others disagree. I think this whole proposal is rather unhelpful and may well back-fire on the government. However…

My main interest here is on the needs of the pedestrian and Philip Hammond also promised a big expansion of 20 mph speed limit zones in urban areas where nearly all of the 403 pedestrian road fatalities, 5,000 serious injuries and 20,000 slight pedestrian injuries occurred during 2010; 42% of all road fatalities also occurred in urban areas. We need to continually remind people of the scale of the road safety problem in our country and press for these 20 mph limits in residential areas which have proved to be very effective.

Here are a couple of maps showing the scale of our road safety problem. The first map shows the locations of all pedestrian deaths (red dots), serious injuries (purple dots) and slight injuries (blue dots) on GB roads between 2000 and 2008; other road deaths and serious injuries are shown using lighter grey dots. The boundaries are parliamentary constituencies. Click on the map to enlarge.

GB pedestrian casualties 2000-2008

This second map shows all road fatalities (red), serious injuries (purple) and slight injuries (blue) for 2008 when 2,500 people died and 26,000 were seriously injured.

GB road casualties 2008

Since 2005 the United Nations has supported the inspiring World Remembrance Day for Road Traffic Victims which is an opportunity to reflect and remember those killed on our roads. It takes place this year on 20th November with services across the UK and all round the world. Why not ensure that a suitable remembrance service is held near where you live this year?

Mapping uses Stats19 police data and Ordnance Survey Boundary-Line data. Mapping created using ITO Map (pre-release version). Both maps available cc-by-sa 3.0.

Motorists fight back – and win

21 Sep

In Richmond, London the council has been forced to repay £1 million in parking fines to 18,500 motorists who were caught parking on the pavement by an incorrectly licenced CCTV enforcement vehicle.

On the Isle of Man residents have persuaded the council to remove four steel posts that they had previously installed to protect the pavement from parked vehicles. They had been installed when a resident complained about the larger vehicles constantly blocking pavements on the corner.

In Barnet there is another petition from local motorists demanding that the council stops giving them tickets for parking on the pavements.

A disabled man in north London is up-in-arms about not being allowed to park on the pavement saying that the council ‘was only doing it to make money’. Shame that he can’t see what would be the result if they didn’t fine motorists for parking on the pavement.

On a lighter note. Some enterprising, but possibly foolish, individual in Manchester tried issuing their own very convincing parking tickets complete with information on how to pay the apparent £60 (35 if paid promptly) fine to the ficticious ‘Greater Manchester Highways Safety Monitoring Partnership’ via and PO box number. A 40-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of fraud and bailed pending further inquiries.

However possibly we are actually get away lightly in the UK. Here are a couple of stories from other places.

In Moscow they have an idea that creating a floating car park for 100 vehicles on the Moscow River by Vorobyovy Gory nature reserve with be the answer. The car park would be free to use and ‘be paid for by the cafe also included in the proposal’ which seems a little unlikely. The situation in Moscow seems terrible with motorists driving along the pavement as well as parking on it.

And then in USA a school is laying on buses because the car park for school pupils is closed for 3 weeks. the school says “If eligible for transportation, please encourage students to take the bus in order to avoid a back up in drop off and pick up lines. If you must drive your children to school, please allow extra time. The start of the school day will NOT be delayed because of traffic.”

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration from Park(ing) day 2011

17 Sep

Inspiration from around on world from Park(ing) day 2011 which took place yesterday when people all over the world reclaim parking meters for social and convivial purposes. Here are a few photos and a great piece of artwork from the people who created the event a few years ago. Great to see a neat little park hitting London’s streets with help from ibuyeco and the Woodland Trust.

Parking day hits London's streets (copyright image)

Parking day 2011 - barber's shop

Enjoy the day! (copyright image)

Save the day - Rebar

Above the law? The Royal Mail

16 Sep

I spotted this royal mail van holding up two busy double-decker buses (with a capacity of over 100 people between them) parking on double yellow lines/no waiting area in Ipswich town centre yesterday. I pointed this out to the driver who took pleasure in getting out of the vehicle again, pointing at the royal crest on the driver’s door saying that this was royal business and they could ignore these irritating little rules; it appears that he is right, along with drivers of diplomatic vehicles they appear to be able to do what they like. I asked him to go and explain that to all the people in the buses but he declined. You will notice from the picture that there is plenty of space to park on the other side of the road avoiding any hold-up. I subsequently spotted two more Royal Mail vans up on pavements in the town soon afterwards. This is not an isolated incident, these folk up in Darwen are also getting pretty upset about their local mail vans as well.

A common theme about this whole parking malarkey is that too many people seen to think that just because it isn’t actually illegal then it must be OK to do it. Here is why it matters in this case. The map below shows where the the van was parked against a background map highlighting bus intensity (yellow is the highest, blue is lowest). Here is the location on Google Streetview. The second photo shows the van in question. Buses cost about £1 per minute to run btw ignoring for now the disruption to the many passengers who uses these popular routes.

Ipswich town centre colour coded by bus intensity

Royal Mail van blocking busy bus route

Map produced using soon-to-be-released features on ITO Map using bus data from Traveline, base mapping from OpenStreetMap & contributors, and building outlines from Ordnance Survey Settlement Line from VectorMapDistrict.

Here is the other van parked up on the pavement in town the same day.

Another Royal Mail van up on the pavement the same day

Fighting like the flowers

13 Sep

Ipswich borough council has recruited flowers into their fight against inconsiderate verge parking along this new shared-use cycle footway. The first time I noticed it there were no vehicles on the verges and it looked like this:

Planting to discourage verge parking

Today when I went past there was this builder’s van tucked onto the side of the verge. I will keep an eye on this verge and see if it ends up with cars all the way along and with the planting crushed. “Fighting like the flowers” is the title of the autobiography by the wonderful Lawrence D Hills’, a pioneer of the organical gardening movement in this country.

But there is still room for one flat-bed truck on the remaining grass

The top obstacles for users of Guide dogs

12 Sep

The Guide Dogs association asked 100 users of guide-dogs to identify the worst obstacles they encountered. The percentages below are based on the number of times each item was mentioned by respondents.

  1. Overgrown hedges / low-hanging branches 87%
  2. Cars parked on the pavement 81%
  3. Wheelie bins / loose rubbish 58%
  4. Shop furniture, incl. A-boards, displays, canopies, etc. 42%
  5. Broken glass 34%
  6. Badly maintained pavements 33%
  7. Cyclists/scooters/skateboards on the pavement 28%
  8. Chewing gum 22%
  9. Discarded bikes outside shops 20%
  10. Lack of barriers around road-works 19%

Don’t mention the war!

11 Sep

Mike Penning, the roads minister recently claimed that there had never been a war against the motorist in a letter to Sir Peter Tapsell MP. This is very remarkable given that in July 2010 he said that ending central funding for speed cameras “is another example of this government delivering on its pledge to end the war on the motorist”. He mentioned the war again – this time in an article about the scrapping of the M4 bus lane titled “M4 bus lane to be scrapped as Penning ends Labour war on road users” (which clarifies that this is a war on the motorist actually). Some people will also remember Philip Hammond’s rousing speech at the Conservative Party Conference in 2010 – this version, which has been dubbed and subtitled is the only version of the relevant parts of the speech available on the web that I can find (I wish that the government would publish all speeches online for people to review later). A popular blog titled ‘At war with the motorist‘ was set up immediately after this speech to challenge some of the view expressed by the minister. This clip was created by the folk behind iPayRoadTax.

This recent announcement has prompted me to ensure that the past won’t be forgotten so easily in future. I am making a small start by uploading some key video clips from recent motoring history onto Vimeo. For starters, here are some clips relating to battles and skirmishes for control of our roads. Lets start with the conservatives and their ambitious Road for Prosperity white paper which was published in 1989. It outlined a massive increase in road building and then Margaret Thatcher explained that “nothing can stop the great car economy” (and certainly not “wishy washy environmentalists.”) This clip is from The Secret Life of the Motorway produced by the BBC.

This led to massive road protests during the 1990s, including the M11 link road, Twyford Down (M3) protest and the Newbury Bypass protests. This next clip starts with a short sequence from the Reclaim the Streets protest on the road outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square in 1997 (which has since been pedestrianised incidentally). This is followed by a retrospective piece about the road protests of the period – do notice how wealth rural conservative voters are pushing and shoving alongside younger activists with the support of elderly local residents. Nothing ‘wishy washy’ about this lot!

The conservative government had started backing off from their ambitious road building policy by 1994 when John Gummer denied that there ever been a ‘great car economy’ saying that it was “not one which has ever been put forward by the Conservatives“! He elaborated that “The car must become our servant rather than our master” and that we must not construct a society “which restricts freedom by not allowing people to choose a lifestyle that does not involve having a motor-car“. This new found interest in alternatives to the car didn’t however stop the  transport secretary at the time, Brian Mcwhinney, giving the go-ahead for the Newbury bypass the following year before resigning 30 minutes later!

When New Labour came to power in 1997 there was no question about the direction of transport policy. Here is John Prescott laying out their vision for transport.

In recent years cyclists and pedestrians have been getting more confident, not something that everyone in the motoring community has appreciated. Here is a clip from Road Rage, a documentary shown recently on TV highlighting the battle raging in the UK for control of the roads between motorists and pedestrians/cyclists etc.

Finally, as a bit of light relief, here is Jeremy Clarkson, announcing that this episode would be the ‘last ever Top Gear’ after the car came last in a race across London by various forms of transport (with Richard Hammond winning on a bicycle). There have however been many more episodes of Top Gear!

Clearly there is something very big going on about which lots of people have strong feelings. There are no easy ‘solutions’ to our transport challenges and the car most certainly isn’t it. It will be great if the currently government can avoid falling down the same hole that the last Conservative government fell down. Possibly denial is just part of the process of change in the political world?

HGV spotters guide

10 Sep

Heavy commercial vehicles (ie, goods vehicles with a gross weight of over 3.5 7.5 tonnes) are uniquely subject to a pretty comprehensive ban in respect to parking on the footway or verge thanks to the Road Traffic Act 1988 (Section 19 and 20, Highway Code rule 246). The only exceptions being when they are “unloading in situations where they are not creating a danger and are not causing an obstruction and are where the vehicle is at no time left unattended” or alternatively if they are stopping to save a life put out a fire!

Unfortunately… there appears to be no way to tell from the outside if an HGV is over or under 7.5 tonnes because all HGVs, including the smaller ones with gross vehicle weights of between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes have the letters HGV on their tax disks. The only way is to ask the driver who is probably not going to tell you if he is being naughty! Here is some basic information to tell the difference between them all.

Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) over 7.5 tonnes

These vehicles which are over 7.5 tonnes, also sometimes referred to as ‘large goods vehicles’ are not allowed to park on the pavement as detailed above. The driver of this vehicle (which I believe to be over 7.5 tonnes) is causing such an offense as he shares a cup of tea and a chat with the staff in ‘Motormania’ while blocking the pavement and delaying traffic and buses on a busy road because there is a place round the back to park and he has left the vehicle ‘unaccompanied’. The cement mixer, also over 7.5 tonnes is probably doing loads of damage to the pavement and there seems to be no good reason for it not to be on carriageway so that one is also causing an offence. All of these vehicles have the letters HGV on their tax disks, but unfortunately so do the smaller HGVs and there is no reliable way to tell if a particular vehicle is over 7.5 tonnes.

HGV with two wheels on the footway - an immediate offence

This is definitely an HGV!

Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) under 7.5 tonnes

These vehicles, known either as ‘medium goods vehicles’, ‘7.5 tonners’, ‘large goods vehicles’ or HGVs are unfortunately below the weight limit re the 1988 Act and can therefore can park all over the pavements to the same extent that cars can! In addition, there is no way to be sure if it is under over the 7.5 tonne limit or over. The vehicle in the picture below was parked completely legally btw and the driver was very helpful which is why I knew it was just below 7.5 tonnes.

This vehicle is just under 7.5 tonnes (and was parked in a proper parking bay)

Light goods vehicles (LGVs) under 3.5 tonnes

These lighter vehicles, known either as ‘light goods vehicles’ or more correctly as ‘light commercial vehicles’ are also subject to the same weak and ineffective rules as cars. They have ‘LGV’ on their tax disks. Clearly these guys are being pretty thoughtless and the police may consider that they are causing an obstruction, but there is no cut-and-dry offense as there is for the large HGVs. The first guys appeared to make the obstruction even worse by leaving the driver’s door open after I had unsuccessfully  tried to get them to move it off the pavement. The second vehicle (with trailer) often parks on the pavement  but doesn’t always have another car on the back – it must be doing a load of damage to the pavement.  The final vehicle is very tall and wide and leaves very little space for anyone to get by but is not quite an HGV. Why on earth do these companies think it is ok to leave vehicles like these on residential streets every night – I guess it is because it is much cheaper and easier for them and their staff than doing the considerate thing- nice!

Light commerical vehicle (LGV) on the pavement - not in itself an offence

Flatbed truck - also a 'light commercial vehicle' (LGV on tax disk)

Specialised fixings (again)

Confusing terminology

The terms in use at present are pretty confusing. Here is a quick primer. The new official harmonised EU term for an HGV is ‘Large goods vehicle’ which has abbreviation of LGV and was adopted in 2001; the EU also recommended the term ‘Light commercial vehicle’ for the goods vehicles of less than 3.5 tonnes at the same time. Unfortunately the UK previously used the abbreviation LGV for ‘Light goods vehicle’ and the DfT is still in a muddle over these terms some parts of the department using LGV for HGVs and other parts (including VOSA) using LGV for the smaller vehicles. To make it worse the DfT also uses the term ‘medium goods vehicle’ for the smaller end of ‘large goods vehicles’ (ones between 3.5 tonnes and  7.5 tonnes) meaning that a vehicle can both be a ‘medium goods vehicle’ and also a ‘large goods vehicles’ at the same time! They also sometimes use the term ‘larger goods vehicle’ which may be different from a large goods vehicle or possibly not – I have no idea. Anyway, all heavy goods vehicles (including the medium goods vehicles) have the letters HGV written clearly on their tax disk because VOSA does that bit and uses the older terms and also puts  LGV on the tax disks of smaller vehicles.

Update

I have updated this article following further investigation into how one can tell the different classes of HGV apart (one can’t it seems!).

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