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‘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.

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.

 

A bit of honesty from the government??

24 Oct

I was poking around some government websites over the weekend relating to ‘encroachment’ when I came across this delightful example of how discrimination against pedestrians (and indeed cyclists, motorcyclists and lorry drivers in this case) works. It comes from the ‘Homes and Communities’ section of DirectGov and expresses clearly attitudes which are common but normally unspoken:

An encroachment is where an activity unlawfully takes over a section of a public roadway; for example, a garage forecourt over-extending on to the public highway. If a person without lawful authority or excuse in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage of cars along a highway, they are guilty of an offence. In such cases the highway authority (your local council) has legal powers to enforce their removal. To report any obstructions, contact your local council.

OK, so that means that it is OK to willfully obstruct the free passage of pedestrians, wheelchair users, people with buggies and cyclists! Nice! Here is a screengrab of the webpage taken this morning.

DirectGov guidance on obstruction (screen grab from 24 October 2011)

I have already used the feedback box to suggest that they change this page and make it more inclusive. Others may wish to do the same.

Ipswich Borough Council blocking pavements with roadworks signage

17 Oct

Ipswich Borough Council staff are disrupting pedestrians near to road works by leaving signs on pavement with only 800mm clearance (which is about the width of an external door to a house and less than the legally required 1 meter for road works signs). Only when pressed did they confirm that they knew the law about 1 meter clearance. Their justification was that they were concerned about the risk to motorists if the signs were further into the road – no concern at all that I heard about the risk to pedestrians and old people from leaving them on the pavement. I have reported this on fixmystreet which the council monitors and responds to.

Here are some photos of the signs in question. The good news is that there is a 100% clear rule that they are breaking in this case. No excuses about it being a ‘necessary obstruction’ or a ‘willful obstruction’. It is however a very clear example of the contempt that pedestrians are treated with and is, I am sure, repeated across the country. Incidentally I am still waiting for May Gurney to ask for their signs backwhich they left blocking a pavement over a week ago!

Only 800mm for pedestrians

Only 800mm for pedestrians

Making the pavement even narrower (less than the legal 1 meter as well)

Making the pavement even narrower (less than the legal 1 meter as well)

Blocking the pavement illegally and useless due to parked car!

Blocking the pavement illegally and useless due to parked car!

Damaged sign, no sandbag, on pavment across dropped kerb by local shop

Vehicle sign blocks access to pedestrian walkway for disabled

Update

The following day all consideration of pedestrians had disappeared.

No consideration for pedestrians at all the next day

£50K fine and 5 years in prison for rubbish on the pavement – bins and cars are fine though

1 Sep

The council has recently put up signs in the area warning of penalties including fines of up to 50K fines and five years in prison for dumping rubbish on the pavement. Serious stuff! I assume there are referring to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (section 33). Unfortunately they then go and leave wheelie-bins all over the pavement every week after collection! The following two pictures are taken on the same street. The first shows signs warning that dog poo on the pavement costs up to £1,000 and the fines for fly-tipping. The second photo shows how the council leave bins all over the pavement after emptying them for no good reason that I can discover. Cars on the pavement are not being challenged of course.

No dumping of waste £50K fine

Bins all over the on the pavement again after collection by council

RIP school travel mode statistics – burying bad news?

1 Sep

Ministers have just announced that there will be no ‘travel mode’ question in the next school census. I find this curious because the school run is a hugely challenging and emotive subject for parents and for other car commuters. Here are a couple of charts showing who how things have changed over the past 15 years during which time this information has been collected. Notice that more primary age kids will be traveling to school by car than on foot soon if current trends continue, also that the car and local bus is gaining with secondary school age kids at the expense of waking. Cycling is lost in the noise at the bottom.  I wonder if the parents at these Brentwood schools parents will start chucking rocks at traffic wardens again? Was it relevant, per-chance that these statics were first collected in 1995 just after the previous conservative government abandoned the ‘great car economy’ following an epidemic of road protests in the 1990s? (walking is dark blue and is highest for both groups, cars are in yellow and are next highest for primary school kids and have similar percentage as for local buses for secondary school kids. Local buses are in dark purple).

Travel to school by mode of transport (1995-2010)

Local council must change its bin policy

25 Aug

The official bin-collection policy of Ipswich Borough Council policy is to leave bins after collection ‘at the very back of the pavement on the curtilage of the property … not obstructing residents’ driveways, preventing usage of drop kerbs etc‘. I have asked them why they don’t return the bins to where they found them (which is normally within the curtilage of the property on a driveway) and have also reminded them of their duties to the blind/wheelchair users and other groups under disability legislation. The response was: “We have discussed your interpretation of the Equalities Act with our resident equalities expert and we are of the opinion that we are taking the best possible action in this respect“. Umm… Strange, given that the work ‘pedestrian’, ‘wheelchair’ and ‘buggy’ don’t even appear in the text.

Here is my proposed replacement text: “a) Bins MUST NOT be left in a position where they create a safety hasard. b) Bins MUST NOT be left in a position where the available footway is reduced to less than 1m and should not left in a position where the width is reduced to less than 1.5m. Bins can often be returned to a position just inside the curtilage of the property. Where this is not possible they may be left on the footway or carriageway as long as the conditions in a) and b) are satisfied. Where no viable option exists then alternative provision for the collection of waste will need to be arranged. This policy is to ensure that all road users, including pedestrians, some whom may require additional width (wheel chair users, people with buggies and shopping and those with visual impairments) are able to use the highway safely“.

Here’s the reason why a change is needed. In these two following pictures there is no space for a wheelchair user of parent with a buggy to use the pavement when the current guidelines are following. In both cases it would however be trivial for the bins to be returned within the curtillage.

Bins left blocking the pavement after collection

Bin left on pavement with 400mm between bin and lamp-post.

The law is very clear on this. Lets start with Department for Transport guidance on the ‘Pedestrian environment and transport infrastructure’:

  • “Since October 1999 service providers have had to take reasonable steps to change practices, policies and procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service … These requirements apply to facilities and services in the pedestrian environment’.
  • “Those who are travelling with small children or are carrying luggage or heavy shopping will all benefit from an accessible environment, as will people with temporary mobility problems (e.g. a leg in plaster) and many older people. Thus, the overall objective of this guide is to provide inclusive design and through that achieve social inclusion
  • “Manual wheelchair users need sufficient space to be able to propel the chair without banging their elbows or knuckles on door frames or other obstacles. But someone who walks with sticks or crutches also needs more space than a non-disabled walker; so too does a long cane user or person carrying luggage, or a lot of shopping bags, or with small children. Thus providing adequate clear space on pavements, along passages in public buildings, through doorways etc, is of benefit to many people.

And also the DirectGov guidance re the Equalities Act 2010:

  • The Equality Act 2010 provides important rights not to be discriminated against or harassed in accessing everyday goods and services like shops, cafes, banks, cinemas and places of worship… The Equality Act 2010 gives disabled people rights not to 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.

And here is a helpful diagram published by the DfT showing the pavement width required by these different groups of pedestrians. Is it however unfortunate that the diagram is so hard to read which probably goes against their own guidance on legibility, but we can’t have everything!

Pavement widths required by different user groups (DfT guidance)

Finally, here are a set of photos illustrating the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that I am proposing to the council. The photos on the left show where the council leave bins currently and on the right you can see where I am suggesting they should be left to allow free passage (or as good as can be achieved with all the pavement parking!).

Bins after collection (as now on the left, and as proposed on the right)

I will be sending a copy of this post to the council and ask them to reconsider. If that doesn’t work then possibly the local paper would be interested in taking this on as a local issue.