Archive | March, 2011

Fooling around. A call to action

31 Mar

A few days ago I proposed that we should put up some spoof signage tomorrow morning for April Fools day. I have prepared some for us here in Ipswich and I believe that we are also going to have some displayed in Norwich. Any more takers? If it works then it could become a regular April 1 event.

Here is the proposal:

  • Print out some of the signs and get them laminated (cost about £1.5 each at Staples I seem to remember).
  • Choose one or more suitable streets. Do this today.
  • Alert the local paper as to what you will be doing, where and when and persuade them that it will be worth while turning up.
  • On the morning of April 1 attach signs to suitable telegraph poles or lamp posts in time for the school run.
  • Consider also leaving ‘tickets’ under the wipers of the worst offenders cars – see proposed form below.
  • Consider marking around the worst cars in chalk writing the number plate onto the pavement.
  • Hang around at the end of the street offering fake tickets to people who are passing and tell them what you are doing.
  • Talk to the journalist and ensure that they get to talk to pedestrians and get some photos.
  • At 12noon go back and collect up the signage as it is illegal to put signage onto the street.
  • Remember to be prepared to just leave it anyone getting angry and make sure you don’t get angry yourself!

Your job is now done, other than to buy an evening paper and see if the story made it and then admire all the views that will start flying around in the letters pages on both sides of the argument over the coming days

This form is also available in a 2 up pdf version. Print on yellow paper for best effect.

Clampdown ‘victims’ ‘vow’ to appeal

31 Mar

All too often the motorist parking across a pavement is placed in the role of being the victim by the local media as they were in this recent case in Aylesbury. To start with lets look that the language used in the article that appeared in the Bucks Herald yesterday. The title includes the words ‘victim’ and ‘vow’. As a reality check a victim is defined as being “an unfortunate person who suffers from some adverse circumstance” or “a person who is tricked or swindled“.  A vow is defined asA solemn promise to perform some act, or behave in a specified manner, especially a promise to live and act in accordance with the rules of a religious order“. Heavy stuff! Here are these unfortunate ‘victims’ as they appeared in the local paper.

The aylesbury ‘victims’

The article then goes on to talk about a ‘simmer parking dispute‘ and a ‘blitz‘ of penalty tickets and quotes one of the victims as saying that parking on the pavement is the ‘safest option‘ and that ‘obstructing a pavement is not as bad as obstructing the road‘.

Finally the article goes on to give the facts which were that every resident had already received a warning letter, that the police were acting after complaints from people who were unable to use the pavements with wheelchairs and pushchairs and that the police claimed that there was plenty of space in the neighborhood to park legally.

So, what is the truth? Here are a couple of Google Street View images. The first one shows car parked well across the pavement in the area where the fines were given, the second shows that there is plenty of space about 250 meters further along the same road (click on images to access the Google Street View image in question).

Pavement parking on Northern Road

A little further along Northern Road with lots of space

Then of course there are the costs of this operation. Lets assume that the police handed out 20 tickets at £30 each. That will raise £600 for the government. What is the cost of this operation and what will be the cost of the appeal? I think we can with confidence say that it is more than £600, so another victim in all this is general tax-payer, and then there are the victims of the other incidents that the police have not able to attend to because of this storm in a teacup. I rest my case!

Getting bin collections compliant with the Equality Act 2010?

30 Mar

Our blue and brown bins were emptied today and it occurred to me that the bin men have a choice about where they leave the empty bins. Their can leave them on the pavement close to the property (which is what they normally do), or in line with parked cars at the edge of the pavement close or on the carriageway as appropriate.

I note that the Equality Act 2000 says that disabled people “should not be discriminated against or harassed in relation to the use of transport services. This also covers access to travel infrastructure such as railway stations and bus stations. You also have a right to reasonable adjustments.”

Personally I think the current situation does constitute discrimination and that ‘reasonable adjustments’ are in order and that bins should be left in line with the parked cars rather than at the back of the pavement where this is required to maintain a usable pavement. I will email the council and ask them to comment on this suggestion and to review their guidance with regard to bin collections.

Bins left where they cause unnecessary inconvenience

Brown bins this time

Leave these ones on the carriageway please

Dog poo on the pavement leads to £1,000 fine, car storage is free!

30 Mar

Here is an interesting insight into our culture. Scene. A car parked in residential street in Ipswich well across the pavement next to a lamp post on which there is a sign warning of a £1,000 fine for letting your dog poo on the pavement. Ipswich Borough Council recently even pledged to ‘wage war against irresponsible dog owners‘. Clearly the council means business when it comes to dog poo!

Unfortunately this is not the case when it comes to ‘fly-parked’ cars littering the pavement. There is no effective legislation to stop it and the Borough Council doesn’t even mention that pavement and verge parking should be avoided on their website. Imagine how different things would be if there was also a £1,000 fine for leaving a car on the pavement! People would certainly stop doing and would also probably look back wistfully to a time when the maximum fine was £30 – £70.

£1,000 fine for dog poo but cars allowed

Dog poo on the pavement is taken very seriously

Paris chic and rectangular bananas

28 Mar

The EU has plans to ‘phase out conventionally fueled cars‘ in urban areas in Europe by 2050 and to be moving close to eliminating deaths by road accidents. Sounds interesting but it is realistic? Well, in Paris they have been getting on with it while in Britain the government has rejected these proposals while muttering about rectangular bananas and about not getting involved in individual cities’ transport choices.

In Paris they are in the final stages of implementing a very chic and well ‘French’ scheme that is making great strides in that direction. Having had huge success with their ‘velib’ scheme they are about to introduce a fleet of 3-4,000 ‘autolib’ electic ‘Bluecars’ which will be available on short term hire from 1,000 locations. These are not going to be any old electric cars either, they are being manufactured by Pininfarina (who also work for Ferrari, Maserati, Rolls-Royce and Jaguar). It will be possible to hire a vehicle from one station and leave it at another.

One of the justifications the French authorities give for the scheme is it will reduce parking pressure in the city where 95% of cars in Paris are parked at any one time and where some 16% of vehicles are used less than once a month. Reductions in traffic (which is down 25% in the last decade) will probably mean that the mayor will be able to remove 1.2 miles of left bank expressway in central Paris (from the Musée d’Orsay to  the Alma bridge) by 2012 thereby creating 35 acres of new recreational space and cafes.

Meanwhile in London the Government is saying that it won’t get involved involved in individual cities’ transport choices. Personally, can can’t see how any national government can avoid  getting involved in these choices and this current government is certainly doing so at one level; as well as providing much mood music about cheaper motoring, faster motoring, on ending ‘the war on the motorist’ and relaxing planning restrictions it also instigated the removal of the strategic and successful M4 bus lane on the western approach to London without even consulting with Transport for London. It is subsidising the purchase is 60,000 private electric vehicles with £300m of public money which will no nothing to alleviate parking pressures or congestion. The UK government needs to recognise that in the information age it is increasingly irrelevant what we own as long as we can access what we need when we need it.

Many of us need a car from time to time but most private urban cars spend a huge amount of time doing nothing except getting in other people’s way. Car sharing schemes eliminates parking grief but do need serious support from government and until the UK government starts paying serious attention to car clubs and other sharing schemes then we aren’t going to make much progress. The switch from petrol/diesel fuels to electric propulsion is a perfect time to also move from an ownership model to a rental one.

Drivers under instruction

28 Mar

Driving instructors are there to show people how to drive. For one driving instructor this unfortunately included a demonstration of how to drive up onto the pavement to avoid walking anywhere; for another it was a demonstration of how to take the police to task about their own illegal parking and winning a public apology!

Back to the first story. This is about a driving instructor for the Bill Plant Driving school who drove up onto the pavement outside his pupil’s house to avoid the inconvenience of parking further away legally and walking. He then demonstrated to his pupil how to tell a pedestrian (me) that it was OK because he ‘had only been there for a few minutes’. Here are a couple of pictures, the first is of the vehicle as the instructor dismounted the pavement with the pupil as a passenger. The second was taken after I have spoken with the driver.

The Bill Plant Driving School vehicle close up

The second story is more inspiring. It is about a determined driving instructor who challenged the police about their parking and eventually got an apology. The police had parked their van illegally on yellow lines alongside ‘police no parking’ bollards outside a patisserie thereby totally obscuring the view for anyone, including this instructor’s 17yo pupil, who was trying to exit from a narrow side street. Rather than accept that they were in the wrong the police unfortunately tried to turn the attention onto the instructor by saying that he had committed an offense by leaving a learner alone in charge of a vehicle! Not to be discouraged the instructor had his photo of the incident published in the local paper alongside an article about the incident and got a public apology from the police.

This is important stuff. Culture is passed on by example and in particular by teachers. These examples show the difference between good teaching and sloppy teaching. I am now going to email the Bill Plant Driving School.

Fooling around

28 Mar

April fools day is fast approaching (this Friday) and I have prepared some helpful signage which I hope will make people more aware as to how pedestrians are getting squeezed out by ever increasing numbers of cars. There are three variants, aimed at general pedestrians, wheel-chair users and for people with buggies.

If you do use them then consider where would be best for each type – on the approach to a primary school for the buggy version and close to sheltered housing or a bus stop for wheel-chair version. Ones on the approach to a school are likely to get a lot of attention. Laminate them to make them more robust and convincing. If you intend to leave them up longer-term then use a laser-printer rather than an inkjet printer given that laser colours fade less fast in UV. The local paper might even do a story on them if you let them know.

Feel free to mess about with the designs or make your own variants. If you do something using these resources or anything else on April Fools day then do take photos and add them to the Pedestrian Liberation Flickr pool.

Do vehicles damage pavements. Err… yes they do big time

26 Mar

Some time back I reported about the huge cost of repairing pavements around the country (some £234m per year across the country). Since then I have been spending some time paying attention to the patterns of damage to pavements to see where the damage is and if it can be attributed to vehicles. The answer is very clear, the damage is coming from vehicles, particularly from heavy vehicles. Strangely this is the only class of vehicles which is specifically allowed to park on the pavement to load/unload. Paved pavements are particularly vulnerable.

This first photo shows a totally destroyed pavement on a local industrial estate that I visited recently. Notice the new asphalt pavement on the other side of the road.

Totally destroyed pavement

Here is another view. There are only two intact paving slabs on the entire path and these are around the base of the lamp post. I suggest that vehicles are avoiding that section of pavement.

Another view. The paving slabs next to lamp post are in good condition

And then I spotted this entrance across a pavement that was generally in very good condition. Notice the broken slabs just where a vehicle’s wheels would be putting pressure.

The pavement is only damaged where vehicles cross it

On my way home I spotted this a cement mixer lorry up on a pavement. This is actually completely legal; the 1980 Road Traffic Act gave vehicles over 7.5 tonne dispensation to park on the pavement to load and unload if this ‘could not have been satisfactorily performed if it had not been parked on the footway or verge’. (Section 19 and 20)

A heavy cement lorry up on the pavement

Please find alternative parking…

25 Mar

It is amazing how far pavement parking has permeated British culture. I spotted this sign yesterday which put a smile on my face. Is it saying ‘please get off the pavement that you broke for long enough for us to fix it so that you can carry on parking there‘ or is it saying ‘please don’t park on the road next to the pavement because we need unimpeded access to the pavement‘? Clearly it isn’t doing much good whatever it means as there are still cars all over the pavement.

Please find alternative parking…

Needless to say, the sign is blocking most of the pavement leaving only 950mm for pedestrians so as not to impede the more important vehicular ‘traffic’. I moved it out into the road far enough for wheelchair users and buggies to get past more easily.

A curious passer-by asked what I was doing. When I explained she told me that she worked for highways at the borough council and confirmed that pavement parking was a big, expensive and messy problem for them.

Pedestrians get only 18% of the time at a busy pedestrian crossing

24 Mar

There is a major pedestrian crossing point opposite Suffolk College on the waterfront in Ipswich which has recently become very slow so I spent 15 minutes taking some measurements on what turned out to be a busy open day. I observed the waiting time after each the request was made, the time allowed for people to cross and then the delay until next request (all times in seconds).

  • 80, 17, 1
  • 80, 22, 60
  • 84, 18, 88
  • 76, 14

The average wait time was 80 seconds, the average crossing time was 18 second meaning that in a busy pedestrian town centre/tourist location pedestrians are getting only 18% of the time available. Curiously, I have previously established that pedestrians get only 18% of the road width outside a local primary school once cars have dominated both the carriageway and half of the pavement. Is this a example of the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) which proposes that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes?

Here is the crossing – click on it to go to Google Streetview. Notice that the Google Streetview car caught someone waiting and a bunch more people arriving. And on a similar note… a reader of this blog has just commented that there is also a car stopped with its hazard lights just beyond the zigzags on the right blocking the cycle lane and forcing a cyclist behind them into oncoming traffic.

A work colleague tells me that the crossing by his house in a busy town-centre location is also very slow. By contrast, when I used a pedestrian crossing in a less pedestrian-busy location yesterday I noticed that it responded very quickly; I tested the crossing a few times and each time I was free to cross within 9 seconds (compared to 80 seconds at the college)!

I am thinking that it might be interesting to do a more systematic survey of the response times of crossing across the town. Possibly council should publish this information systematically as a matter of course.

Update 2
I reported this on FixMyStreet on the day I made this post however I still haven’t had any response or acknowledgment of my report from the council after more than 5 weeks which I think is very poor.

Update 3

The council appears to be responding to FixMyStreet reports now and has also cut the delay on this crossing by about half it seems (it  is a little hard to determine because the timing is now quite variable, but has been as short as 20 seconds which is great).