Archive | June, 2011

Being treated with contempt and being ‘in contempt’

25 Jun

Back in 2001 a parliamentary transport committee concluded the pedestrians were treated with contempt. Contempt is an interesting word with two main meanings: The first meaning is given as the ‘an attitude of regarding someone or something as inferior, base, or worthless’ and ‘the state of being despised or dishonored; disgrace’. The second (legal) definition is more interesting which is the defined as ‘open disrespect or willful disobedience of the authority of a court of law or legislative body’. To be ‘in contempt’ there must be a lawful order, the person needs to have knowledge of the order, the ability to comply with the order and to fail to do so. Bill Clinton was found to be ‘in contempt’ when it was proven that he had deliberately given misleading answers to the investigators over the Monika Lewinsky affair.

As pedestrians we seem to have a choice: we can either accept that we are ‘despised or dishonored or in disgrace‘ and are ‘inferior, base, or worthless‘. If we accept this then we should just give up. Alternatively we can decide that the people who are making are lives difficult are ‘in contempt’ and act accordingly!

Here are a few local examples motorists and companies that I consider are ‘in comtempt’. All these photos have been taken in the past 24 hours near where I live. The first to are of vehicles owned by companies that are paid to maintain the highway!

The first vehicle is owned by Carilion plc, who’s moto is ‘making tomorrow a better place’. It is frequently parked across the footway overnight next to a new raised pedestrian crossing. Today there is about 500mm between its wing-mirror and the hedge.

Nice raised crossing, shame about the Carilion ‘highway maintenance’ van across the pavement

The next is a vehicle owned by Peek Traffic (or should that be ‘Peak Traffic’) which is parked on the pavement on double yellows with no-loading pips in such a way that pedestrians can’t use the pavement on the approach to a post office, a co-op and a bus stop. It has its official lights flashing and the driver is doing his paperwork. He says he had a right to park there (he doesn’t). I suggested that he moved off the pavement and onto the hard-standing but he wasn’t interested. Hopefully he will do so next time.

Peek Traffic, disruption for pedestrians

And here is a vehicle owned by Suffolk County Council which is fitted out to move disabled people around. There is no need to be parked up on the pavement at all at this point and it sends out all the wrong messages.

Suffolk County Council – should set a better example really

Of course there are all the other cars left on the pavement that the police refuse to deal with and consequently very narrow spaces left for pedestrians on the approach to schools. There are the maps that don’t including pedestrian routes (even the maps created specifically for pedestrians). When someone does dare to do something about it, as this blind man did in Wales, he got locked up. Another person who shoved a car out of the way that was blocking his garage ended up having to pay for the repair of the pavement parker’s car. There are the local councils that instruct their wheelie-bin collection staff to leave bins all over the pavement rather than back on private property and refuse to discuss the issue. I could go on but I won’t! What is clear is that pedestrians need to get out of victim mode and be a lot more assertive and start by using the right definition of contempt.


Someone, possibly from Peek Traffic but possibly not has corrected me in a comment below saying that highway maintenance vehicles are allowed to ignore waiting restrictions to “allow the maintenace of roads and services there in”.   I will check these regulations at some point to see if they cover this situation.

Re-deploying useless road signage

25 Jun

This morning I came across a couple of ‘pedestrians this way’ signs back to back that were performing no useful function and decided to move them to where they would at least warn pedestrians of cars obstructing the pavement.

‘Pedestrians this way’ signs getting in the way

Warning pedestrians of a car obstructing the pavement

A ‘pedestrians this way’ sign doing some good this time

I also came across and number of abandoned ‘no road markings’ signs. Given that there were a lot of very clear new road markings on the carriageway and that most of the signs had collapsed and were now lying flat across the pavement I moved them out of the way or put them somewhere sensible as appropriate.

This one is at least still standing

Ouch! imaging falling over that one.

Yes there are road markings!

On Nacton Road this time

On Ransomes Way

While re-deploying one of the ‘pedestrians this way’ signs I was challenged by a resident who said it was illegal to move signage and that he was going to phone the police. When I took out my camera to record the situation as evidence he said it was also illegal to take photos! Neither of these are illegal to my knowledge; he did however refuse to enter into a discussion about whether one of the cars beside which I had placed a sign had broken the law. It had: (Highway Code rule 145). I now need to wait to see if I get another visit from the police. If I do get a visit I will challenge as to what law I have broken and also about why they are no spending their time more usefully keeping the pavements safe for pedestrians. I will also remind them of their duty to act without ‘favour of malice’ and ask if they have even spoken to the person who still parks his Jaguar illegally obstructing local raised school crossing despite my regular reports of the problem.

Jaguar still parking on the raised crossing outside the school

I also moved a bunch of wheelie bins off the pavement any into people’s front gardens but that is another story.

Variations in speed limits in urban areas

22 Jun

Here are some maps highlighting a wide variation in the speed limits in force in urban areas in different towns and cities based on OpenStreetMap viewed using the Speed limit mapping view of ITO Map. Oxford and Berlin both make considerable use of 20 mph limits or the km/h equivalent (shown in green on these maps) with most of the other roads at 30 mph (shown in orange on the map). Norwich and my home town of Ipswich make some use of 20 mph but use 30 mph for most residential roads and have some core roads operating at 40 mph limits (shown in red). Stevenage has much higher roads with a core network operating at 40 mph and nearly all of the rest operating at 30 mph. This may be due to Stevenage being a ‘new town’ and having been built with separation of pedestrians and motorists in mind from the start. In Milton Keynes the core network operates at 60/70 mph and pedestrians only use these roads to access bus services. There is limited information in OpenStreetMap about the speed limits for most of the rest of the residential roads in the city.

Speed limits in Oxford, mainly 20 mph (green) with some 30 mph (orange)

Speed limits in Berlin, mainly under 40 km/h (green)

Speed limits in Norwich, some 20 mph, lots of 30 mph and some 40 mph (red)

Speed limits in Ipswich, mainly 30 mph with pockets of 20 mph and some 40 mph

Speed limits in Stevenage, core route at 40 mph with nearly all other roads at 30 mph

Speed limits in Milton Keynes, core routes at 60/70 mph (light blue and bark blue)

It is worth remembering that a child hit at 40 mph has a 90% chance of being killed, at 30 mph it is 50% and at 20 mph it is 10%. I will publish some maps in due course showing both speed limits and road casualties. In the mean time why not help improve the coverage of speed limits in OpenStreetMap?

More cars, but less motoring

6 Jun

There has been quite a lot of interest  in the idea of ‘peak car‘ recently which proposes that we may have already reached a point of ‘peak car’ and that from here on car use may decline rather than grow further or level off. Total vehicle mileage in the UK has indeed declined since 2005 and in London since the early 1990s. Read about this in The Independent and in the New Statesman. Significantly, the government predicted back in 2003 that traffic would grow by 25% by 2025 and that vehicle ownership would grow by 30%. Both of which now seem very unrealistic and should probably be reviewed!

By contrast the number of cars on UK roads has continued its relentless rise  (growing 27% during Labour’s term in office from 1997-2010). This should mean that each cars are each traveling less distance per year and this is indeed true. Mileage per car peaked at 10,600 in 1995, and is now down to 9,200 and heading down to levels last seen in the 1960s!

Mileage per car per year

Interestingly the percentage of 21-29 year olds with driving licenses has also fallen. It is now 65%, down from a peak of 74% in 1992-1994 and a percentage which was last seen back in 1985.

Chart sources:
Vehicle mileage: ‘TRA9908 Road traffic by type of vehicle, historic in kilometres
Vehicle stock: Various sources from Vehicle licensing statistics