Archive | November, 2011

Where are the electric cars?

21 Nov

Where are all the electric cars? According to the latest RAC Foundation report, Keeping the nation moving, the government wants us to have 1.7 million of the things on the road by 2020 to be on track to meet our carbon reduction targets. Unfortunately only 106 people bought one in the last quarter even with a very generous £5,000 sweetener against each purchase – a total of 940 electric cars have been sold in 2011 (in and out of the scheme). At this rate it will take another 1,700 years until we meet the government’s 2020 target. Possibly that is why the RAC Foundation recommends that we should rely on petrol cars for a little longer (page 33) and should build more roads (because petrol cars are so inefficient when stuck in traffic). (page 34)

Unlike the RAC I am more interested in car clubs which had 161,000 members in the UK by January 2011, up from 112,298 members the year before. That is 161,000 people sharing only 3,055 cars between them, no wonder the motor industry isn’t that keen. Car club members tend to only use cars for the odd journey and are much more likely to walk, cycle and use public transport for everyday journeys reducing congestion and pollution for everyone and also the need to build roads. So, no wonder that the road builders aren’t keen.

The really interesting thing about car club membership however is the demographic profile. Here is a chart from the Carplus report shows that car club membership is strong amongst younger drivers which is always interesting. I wonder what the demographic profile of people buying electric cars is?

Car club membership by age

So… personally, if I was the new Transport Secretary I would not want to be sitting where Philip Hammond is sitting in the picture below taken in July 2011. I would pushing for money to be spent on supporting car clubs and would be resisting the road building and motoring lobby. If I was the RAC Foundation, or to give them their full title of ‘Royal Automobile Club Foundation for Motoring Limited’ I would be worrying that it was all going horribly wrong.

Hammond in electric car

Lobbying ahead (continued)

21 Nov

The RAC Foundation has published another doom-laden but impressive report (60 pages this time). This one published last week was promoted with the heading ‘Millions more cars, billions less investment, much greater delay’ and goes on to detail how bad transport in the UK is and that it is going to get worse. They claim that there will be far more cars coming onto the road, that motorists are ‘over taxed’ and that there is not enough investment in roads. Do also check out my post about their last report and road lobbying generally which puts out the same general message.

RAC fears over lack of roads spending as cars increase

Here is a key graph they reproduce in the document as evidence for their case. The DfT, who produced the figures, clearly believe that the leveling off is a minor disturbance in a graph that will soon start romping upwards again. Others believe that this graph shows a peak and the possible beginnings of a decline – this theory is called ‘peak car‘.

Traffic projections (DfT as reported by RAC Foundation)

So… is this a pause in an upward trend, is it a permanent leveling off or is it about to turn down (peak car)? This is clearly a very important question  for planners.  Peak car is mentioned briefly on page 20 before being dismissed with the comment “But, significantly, ‘peak car’ does not remove the impact of ten million more people – who between them will drive four million more cars30 – in the UK in little more than two decades’ time. Whichever way you look at it, the result will be: more congestion“. What they are failing to acknowledge is that ‘peak car’ is about decline not leveling off.

They mention car clubs briefly (car sharing the North America) before dismissing it with the comment: “the impact on car usage, however, is not yet fully understood. Car sharing, car clubs and car rental are all growth areas and are likely to make their mark, mainly in large urban areas“. Others, including the founders of Zip Car, are delighted with the explosive growth of car clubshaving created a business with a valuation of $1 billion in just 11 years.

They also fail the growth of the express coach network and the phenomenal success of Megabus both in the UK and in the USA (a £400 million turnover business created from scratch in under 10 years according to Brian Souter). Greyhound is also doing well in this country and usage of National Express services are also increasing.

And of course they certainly do not quote Professor John Urray from Lancaster University who has predicted that “petroleum car system will finally be seen as a dinosaur (a bit like the Soviet empire, early freestanding PCs or immobile phones). When it is so seen then it will be dispatched for good and no one will comprehend how such a large, wasteful and planet-destroying creature could have ruled the earth. Suddenly, the system of automobility will disappear and become like a dinosaur, housed in museums, and we will wonder what all the fuss was about… changes in existing firms, industries, practices and economies. Just as the Internet and the mobile phone came from ‘nowhere’, so the tipping point towards the ‘post-car’ will emerge unpredictably“.

On a positive note they do talk up ‘pay-as-you-go’ driving, saying “‘Pay As You Go’ is a concept we are all deeply familiar with and find wholly acceptable. Phone charges are based on how much we talk and when we do so. Electricity and gas bills are calculated on the amount of energy consumed and the time of day it is used. Increasingly, water usage is also metered. Even in the transport sphere – on trains and planes, buses and coaches – we are comfortable with, or at least understand, the idea of differential pricing related to when we travel, and where we travel to“. What I don’t understand is why ‘pay-as-you-go’ won’t reduce the amount of driving if it was applied across the board. If the amount is driving is reduced then why would new roads be needed?

 

The casualties of war

17 Nov

This is one of saddest maps I have ever studied. It is an online slippy map showing where people died in  traffic collisions – every single square represents someone who didn’t come home one day over the past 10 years. Here are some screen-grabs. The first image is for the West Midlands area; the blue square indicate where people were killed in traffic crashes while walking, the green ones for people cycling, the orange ones for people on motorbikes and the purple ones for vehicle occupants. The second image gives a more detailed view. Notice the 1 year old girl, the 12 year old boy, the 20 year old young woman and all the others. Do try it for yourself and see what the war likes around where you live. When is this civil war (between motorcars and people) going to be brought to a close and who will ensure that it happens? Possibly for starters we should take a moment to grieve on Sunday along with thousands of other people around the world on World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. See below for places where services are being held in memory in the UK.

Road fatalities in the West Midlands 2000-2010

Fatalities and injuries in the Birmingham area - detail

Services are being held in these places on Sunday 20th November 2011:

Aberdeen, Kings College Chapel, 3pm Contact: June Ross 07595 904360
Ashburton, St Andrew’s Church, 2.30pm Contact: Jeff Baker 01392 435627
Bath, Chapel Arts Centre, 3pm Contact: Sandra Green 01275 399025
Brecon, Brecon Cathedral, 3:30pm Contact: Cathedral: 01874 623857
Cambridge, St Luke’s Church, 3.30pm Contact: Rev Lance Stone 01223 351174
Carlisle, Carlisle Cathedral, 3pm Contact: Rev Mark Boyling 01228 523335
Chichester, Chichester Cathedral, 3:30pm Contact: Paul Foster 0781 069 7781
Gloucester, Gloucester Cathedral, 3pm Contact: Canon Celia Thomson 01452 415824
Hailsham, St Peter & St Pauls Church, 3pm Contact: Gill Powell 01323 847714
Halifax, Piece Hall, 3pm Contact: David Short 01422 392142
Hereford, Hereford Cathedral, 3:30pm Contact: Jackie Boys 01432 373311
Hull, St Mary’s The Virgin, Lowgate, 2pm Contact: Rev Michael Hills 01482 214551
Kidderminster, St Ambrose R.C. Church, 6.30pm Contact: Christine Sollom 01299 832581
Leeds, Leeds Parish Church, 3pm Contact: Carole Whittingham 0845 1235541
Lincoln, Central Methodist Church, 3pm Contact: Simon 01522 504 0711
Liverpool, St John’s Gardens, 1pm Contact: Pauline Fielding 01513 426381
Liverpool, Parish Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas, 3pm Contact: Pauline Fielding 01513 426381
London, St James’s Church, Piccadilly, 2:30pm Contact: RoadPeace Office 020 7733 1603
Northampton, Holy Sepulchre, 3pm Contact: Chris & Nicole Taylor 01604 705171
Norwich, R.C. Cathedral of St John the Baptist, 3.30pm Contact: Bridget Wall 01366 382433
Preston, Christ Church Precinct, 11am Contact: Maria Hodgson 01772 720279
Ripon, Ripon Cathedral, 3pm Contact: Rev Keith Jukes 01765 603462
Sheffield, Upper Chapel, Unitarian Church, 6.30pm Contact: Rev David Shaw 0114 272 5338
Thame, St Mary the Virgin Church, 3pm Contact: Elizabeth Richardson 01189 231802
Worksop, St John’s Church, 3pm Contact: Mrs A Moat 01909 472324

Credits

Casualties: Stats19 as deposited by the DfT. © Crown Copyright.

Maps by ITO World Ltd. Base mapping © MapQuest 2011. Map data © OpenStreetMap and contributors CC-BY-SA

‘It’s ridiculous’

16 Nov

In a piece on BBC news today various motorists were saying how fuel prices were ‘ridiculous’ and that the government should ‘do something’. After all, this is all the government’s fault and no one could have predicted that fuel prices were going to increase.

Here are a couple of images from the piece. Forgive me if I am wrong, but is the first car not just a tad larger and more fuel-hungry than the driver needs it to be? Is it also not a very dangerous car?

Ridiculous car?

And can’t I just about make out a cyclist fighting his way through a line of stationary vehicles?

A ridiculously busy cycle path?

What is disappointing is the choice of imagery that the BBC chose to feature without any critical comments or rebuttal form any non-motoring angle. Why didn’t they interview anyone who had adjusted their lives to avoid this totally predictable situation? Why did they not interview anyone who is building a business and benefiting from the shifts that are coming with changes as fuel prices rise? Why didn’t they interview the cyclist?

Of course this is not the first time the BBC has pretended that pedestrians did not exist. I wrote a blog post some time back about a BBC article on ‘ending road fatalities’ that failed to mention pedestrians once!

Update (and sort of retraction!)

I have be reminded by a comment below that the BBC also do some great news stories about cycling such as this one on Look East (starting at 20 minutes). Apologies to the BBC, but I was just so offended by the image of the first car that I was prompted to write this post.

20 mph proposals in Edinburgh and road safety

13 Nov

Edinburgh is proposing a significant increase in the number of streets covered by 20mph. This is being promoted as a way to encourage waking and cycling and to improve road safety. It has been reported that they also support the scheme because ‘lower speeds make people feel safer when they are walking and cycling and make streets better places to live’. I am very supportive of 20mph zones, I live in one myself, and they do indeed help make streets feel less intimidating. However.. it is also very clear that 30 mph speed limits are being retained on the roads where most people are getting injured.

Here are three maps to show the compromises being taken between road safety and ‘keeping traffic moving’. The first map shows the proposed streets to be 20 mph (green and yellow) and 30 mph (blue). The second map shows where people have been injured between 2000 and 2010 by mode (blue for pedestrian, red for cyclists, tan/green for vehicle occupant). The final map shows these two superimposed illustrating that very few crashes from the past 10 years have actually occurred on the roads included on the scheme. (Click on maps for full size versions)

Existing 20 mph zones (green) and proposed schemes (yellow)

Location of traffic casualties by mode in Edinburgh 2000-2010

Overlay, traffic casualties 2000-2010 on top of proposed speed limits

One realistic approach for now might be to welcome the introduction of these 20 mph limits in residential areas and also to also press for average speed camera checks on the remaining arterial roads enforcing the 30 mph limit as they have just installed in part of Plymouth.

Mapping pedestrian/cyclist road casualties by age

12 Nov

The Stats19 casualty data that the police have been patiently collecting for many years now is a mine of information. Here are some maps looking at where pedestrians and cyclists are injured and killed depending on their ages. I have taken three places which show up some patterns which deserve more analysis (London, Edinburgh and Northampton). There are some obvious patterns, in that children are hurt in the residential areas, 16-55 year olds tend to be injured in the commercial centres and along the main arterial roads whereas 55+ year olds have their own distinct patterns. However, it is also possible to see tell-tail clusters which deserve more investigation, including the apparent rat-runs along ‘residential’ roads that have much higher levels of injury than surrounding roads, and also the junctions and sections roads where higher numbers of casualties that surrounding ones. Click on the maps to make them bigger and see what you can find.

South London pedestrian and cyclist casualties by age 2000-2010

Edinburgh pedestrian and cyclist casualties by age 2000-2010

Northampton pedestrian and cyclist casualties by age 2000-2010

Lots more mapping coming up on the lead up to World Remembrance Day for Road Traffic Victims on the 20th Nov.

Rembering the dead on London’s roads

12 Nov

Thank you to the hundreds of cyclists who took part in the Tour du danger today to highlight a number of London’s most dangerous junctions and put pressure on the Mayor and on TfL to do some serious work on them.

Here are some maps showing where people are have been getting killed and injured in recent years. The first one shows deaths and injuries from traffic crashes between 2000 and 2010, the second for 2010 only and the next one for 2009 and the final one for 2000. Areas of blue indicate were pedestrians are getting injured and killed, red shows the high risk areas for cyclists. Purple is for motorcyclists and tan/green for vehicle occupants. Click on the images to see them full size.

Road casualties in Central London 2000-2010

Road casualties in Central London 2010

Road casualties in Central London 2009

Road Casualties in Central London 2000

These maps appear to show that fatalities amongst vehicle occupants has fallen from 17 in 2000 to one in 2009 and then zero in 2010. For cyclists the trend is apparently going the other way (up from four in 2000 to eight in 2009 and also in 2010). Motorcyclist fatalities are up from 0 in 2000 to 6 in 2010, pedestrians falling significantly. Do however be aware that this map only shows one fatality blob for crashes with multiple fatalities (which may include multiple modes). I will do some more work on this in the coming week and the figures may then need to be adjusted upwards.

Based on Stats19 road casualty data. See ‘Reported Road Casualties Great Britain‘ for more details.

Dropped kerbs and ‘Special enforcement areas’

9 Nov

It appears to be a requirement that all rules relating to parking and pavements should be confusing and ineffective and slow to come into force. By way of example, lets look at the relatively introduced legislation which bans parking across dropped kerbs.

This legislation received Royal Assent back in 2004 with the Traffic Management Act of that year. Royal Assent was followed by five years of consultation on these new rules during which time the AA, needless to say, objected saying that it would be entirely unreasonable to expect motorists to know that it was illegal to park on dropped kerbs unless the council installed white lines on every single one at their own cost. I am glad to say that the government ignored them and the legislation was finally ‘enabled’ in June 2009. We should of course be grateful that the legislation was enabled at all, given that legislation which would have banned pavement parking entirely which received Royal Assent in 1974 was never enabled at all!

Now comes the ‘confusing’ bit. As I have said, legislation needs to be confusing. Part of the small print of the 2004 Act says that these new powers will only be available in places that adopt new ‘Special Enforcement Area’ status. Every Council wishing to use these powers then had to apply for this  Special Enforcement Area status (as distinct from ‘Civil Enforcement Areas’ which many had already been granted). To make it more complex Special Enforcement Areas can be applied for covering either an entire area of, or only part of a Civil Enforcement Area.

So.. the next question of course is to find out if my town and which other places have been granted ‘special enforcement area’ status. Is there a national map of these areas? err… no; is there a published list of such areas? err… no. Is it clear from my local authorities website if my town has been granted these powers? err.. no. The only way I found out that they had was to email them. The good news is that it has been enabled in my areas and people do get fined from time to time I understand. The bad news (for pedestrians) is that my local police didn’t even know that it parking across dropped kerbs was actually illegal and apparently refuse to enforce it in some cases. Here is a local driver explaining to be that he finds that this particular dropped-kerb is a very convenient (and often available) parking spot when doing his local shopping.

Blocking a dropped kerb, no problem

Beware, lobbying ahead

7 Nov

A new lobbying group “The Road Ahead Group” is apparently being set up by various business with interests in freight, and in building and operating roads. They will be lobbying Whitehall but according to the press aim to maintain a low public PR profile. True to their word, they appear to currently have no web presence but we do know that it has been set up by Brian Wadsworth who moved to a lobbying firm after a stint as Director of Strategic Roads, Planning and National Networks’ at the Department for Transport. Other supporters include Midland Expressways (who operate the M6 Toll road), my friends May Gurney and other infrastructure companies. Rather quaintly, one of their lobbying aims is to protect part of the Vehicle Excise Duty revenue for road building. (err, didn’t Winston Churchill get rid of that in 1937?)

In an apparently unconnected announcement in the past 24 hours the RAC Foundation and ARUP have claimed that the UK needs to spend £12.8bn building new roads; they talk about an infrastructure ‘shortfall’, outline 100 ‘urgently needed’ projects and say that current situation is ‘worrying’ and ‘concerning’. One thing they are not concerned about it carbon emission and climate change – the word carbon does not appear and the word ‘climate’ only gets mention in relation to the financial climate. They do however like toll rolls and Public Private Partnerships and by way of good examples they draw attention to the fact that Canada, Spain and the USA have built a lot of roads recently.

Curiously, given that neither Arup nor the RAC Foundation are publicly connected with ‘The Road Ahead Group’, but their report does happen to recommend that road building should be supported by “giving the sector a dedicated revenue stream, based on retained user charges and/or hypothecation of some motoring taxes (e.g. VED).” Incidentally, the RAC Foundation/Arup report is written by a former civil servant at the DfT, where ‘he sponsored the Department’s roles in major projects and transactions’. The doors are clearly still revolving – you can read about bit about revolving doors and lobbying in the UK on Wikipedia.

To sign off, here is an image from the RAC Foundation/Arup report. They don’t mention it by name, but it is this monsterous interchange in Los Angeles – an impressive bit of engineering for sure, but possibly not something any of us will want in our back yard, and indeed LA is going off roads and getting pretty excited about public transit.

Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange (Los Angeles)

Car park this way!

7 Nov

Matthews parked their van fully across the pavement right next to their own (empty) off-street parking bay and by a sign pointing to their car park a few days ago. As a results pedestrians have to navigate through their parking bay avoiding both the ‘pavement sign’ and the bollards to get past or to take their chances in the road. To their credit the company did immediately move the vehicle but the driver did say ‘it has never been a problem before’. Possibly not for the company, but for blind people it is one of the reasons why most blind people never go out. This is not a new concern however, back in 2002 the issues for blind people were the same.

Car park this way!

Another view of the same vehicle.

Update

The van was back in exactly the same location today. The staff see absolutely no problem what they are doing, and believe that blind and disabled people and everyone else would be able to find their way around the vehicle with no problems at all.

They repeat that no one has ever complained. Odd when the police must go up that road every day. Not only are then 100% obstructing the pavement, they are also on a single yellow line during its period of operation (which of course covers the pavement as well as the road). However… the police have never been very keen about enforcing these regulations.

 

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