Getting sued for Christmas

I ran into this chap in the shops today. He thanked me for the three points on his license. They’re the ones he got because he used his mobile to text while driving. Rather than accepting wrong doing he’s turned to blame, and it’s my fault that he got caught.

“Aw, having Christmas alone are we?” said his wife, peering into my trolley. She’s the one who, being some sort of legal type, is going to sue me at the behest of the guy who presumably thinks using one hand to text while driving is more important than the safety of others. Though of course not nearly as important as pursuing vengeance through frivolous court cases.

“Legal cases are very expensive” he said, looking pleased with himself, “Merry Christmas.”

So here comes the legal wrangling from a husband and wife team who are apparently more concerned with being petty than accepting a minor punishment doled out by the police for a dangerous and illegal activity.

They’re probably going to argue that texting while driving is a private act, and one which I invaded. But it’s a public highway, in full view by all, there’s no expectation of privacy. Oh, but what about that EU thing, human rights and all that, that’s surely something intended to be used by those who have been caught driving dangerously to take revenge. Except article 8 of Human Rights Act 1998 only applies to public bodies.

So what’s left? The Data Protection Act, 1998. Am I holding personally identifiable information? A license plate isn’t personal, and a blurry underexposed face isn’t either.

It’s quite indicative of his intentions and character that a legal battle is the first step he takes. If the YouTube video is a problem it’s very easy to contact me online and ask for it to be removed.

That’s all for now, as I’m off to sue the police (it’s their fault that it’s my fault). Though maybe I’ll wait a few days, I’ve got a whole Christmas dinner to eat by myself!


Pedestrianise Bristol!

Freedom To Ride, a manifesto by the Bristol Cycling Campaign, (sign the petition!) calls for a comprehensive cycling network across Bristol. As part of that, and to start a discussion, I’ve designed a plan that will pedestrianise Bristol’s Clifton Triangle.

Pedestrianise Bristol's Clifton Triangle

Currently there are many problems in the area when walking. It’s loud, unpleasant, with narrow crowded pavement and a wide road full of roaring traffic. When cycling it’s even worse, a junction only for the bold! Can you imagine a child cycling to school from Whiteladies Road all the way around to Jacob’s Well Road? A grandparent cycling from Park Row to the museum? There’s so many problems I made another map!

Existing problems with Bristol's Clifton Triangle

My aims were

  1. Pedestrianise the road from Victoria Rooms to Wills Memorial Building
  2. Modify the existing roads to necessitate a minimum of work so that it can be created and tested easily and cheaply, so if it doesn’t work it can be reversed.
  3. Improve overall traffic by creating decent cycling and pedestrian routes through a difficult and unpleasant part of Bristol.

I was inspired by a recent TED talk by Janette Sadik-Khan who describes how she pedestrianised Times Square in New York in a similar plan to mine. As you can see this was done cheaply and easily as a trial, using paint, bollards, and even folding garden chairs!

It’s motor vehicle junctions like the Triangle that cause congestion in Bristol. By bending over backwards to accommodate large volumes of vehicles through our living spaces it means alternatives are made unpleasant, inconvenient  and even unsafe, rather than real alternatives and part of an integrated solution. What does this mean? More cars. What causes traffic? Too many cars!

It’s been said that traffic in Bristol is on a knife edge, something I’ve witnessed when lorries block lanes in Queen’s avenue as the loading bays are full, and when recently Wessex Water undertook road works. These cause massive tailbacks, but what these road narrowings don’t do is allow for drivers to choose alternatives, instead the resulting traffic jams instead make it more unpleasant for cycling and walking, and the problems to public transport are evident. The primary cause of traffic still remains: too many cars!

So let’s tackle the problem, head on. Where a majority of space is given to motor traffic, share it out. Create places where people can walk and live, eat and shop. Meet the Bristol Cycling Manifesto’s demands and created a cycling network to a high standard, so all aged from 8 to 80 can cycle around the city.

We must stop making the flow of motor traffic Bristol’s the priority, but instead craft transport suit the needs of all it’s people, fairly.

If you agree, talk about it, tell your friends, ask the Bristol Cycle Campaign to fix a junction you know, and sign the petition. This post is the start of a new vision of a Bristol for people, your voice can make it happen. More plans will come, follow Bristol Cycling Campaign for news.

London has Space4Cycling, Bristol has CycleLanes4Cash

Bristol City Council have replaced a cycle lane with car parking, in order to earn the council £20,000

Colston Street, Bristol

Colston Street’s new car parking, wouldn’t Eric Pickles be proud?

Mr Terry Bullock, the Traffic Manager for Bristol City Council, admitted Thursday night at the Bristol Cycle Forum that a section of a cycle lane on Colston Street was removed in August so that five spaces for private car parking could earn the council £20,000 a year. Mr Bullock did not mention how much it had cost to remove the cycle lane or to create the parking spaces, or will cost to enforce and maintain the spaces.

Mr Bullock suggested that money raised in this manner could be good for cycling as it would pay for other schemes, while noting that the money could not be ring-fenced for cycling.

Colston Street, Bristol

Google Street View shows the old cycle lane

The five parking spaces that now replace the cycle lane, an official Sustrans route, are opposite a bus stop which has created a pinch-point for cyclists travelling uphill. This flies in the face of the council’s recently acknowledgement that cyclists are being overlooked in highway designs.

Colston Street, Bristol

A new pinch point at the base of the hill

In July Mr Alistair Cox, the City Transport Service Manager for Bristol City Council, responded to the Bristol Cycling Campaign’s successful ‘Stop Pinching Bikes!’ campaign, writing

“It is of course not council policy to narrow a road to the extent that it disadvantages cycling, neither to expect cycling to share roads with heavy and fast traffic nor to build facilities that are obstructed by parked vehicles.”

Colston Street is not the only example contradicting the words coming out from Bristol City Council. A a recent pedestrian crossing on Whiteladies Road has removed a cycle lane, meaning a new pinch point for an even steeper hill.

What makes these contradiction even more incredible are the planned schemes for Clarence Road and Baldwin Street, where parking for private vehicles is being removed to introduce a segregated cycle lanes. While short of meeting a proper Dutch standard, they could be the start of a new era of cycling provision in Bristol.

So why must such bold schemes fight against the tens of smaller junctions made worse by the council’s actions? Obviously some in the council are fighting the good fight, but it’s clear that the prevailing car-centric attitude has still not caught up with the Bristol’s supposed status as a cycling city.

Update 8/10/2013

Mark Bradshaw, the deputy mayor, has responded to this on Twitter.

“we got this wrong re Colston St & I’ve asked for the pay & display bays to be removed”

Replacement cycle lane, Quay street

Quay street is one way with a contraflow cycle lane. Building works have narrowed the road so there’s no more room on the road for both a road and the bike lane. Rather than remove the cycle lane it has instead been moved onto the pavement, which is quite narrow in places. The cycle lane also has to yield priority at junctions.

I’m in two minds as to whether this compromise is good or not.

On one hand it’s great that cycling has been considered and it’s still usable, albeit in a slightly unsatisfactory manner. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the cycle lane had simply been removed, so my low expectations have been surpassed!

As the road is a bus route it would be a huge hassle to close the road to motor vehicles. Other solutions like priority signs and or traffic lights are a step too far to solve the problem I think, probably introducing more issues.

When it comes down to it road works are temporary and inconvenience all road users in one way or another. It’s unfortunate that on Quay Street it’s introduced extra risk to pedestrians and inconvenience to cyclists.

Hello, world!

I’m a cyclist in Bristol. I use a bike because it’s cheap and convenient and it keeps me fit.

I use a helmet camera because Bristol Council don’t do enough for cyclists, and some drivers are not nice to cyclists. I want to make things better. A lot of the time this means highlighting the bad and challenging the norm.

This blog will be a base for my thoughts and letters to try and improve the situation in Bristol. I’ve got a lot of ideas of how things should be done to make a Bristol better city.