Commentary

Website by Andy Preece

This is an occasional commentary on cycling and unrelated issues - 'blog' if you must - and will be updated from time to time.


Posted 17 December 2011:
BBC wildlife programme "Frozen Planet" has been in the news for using footage of wild animals, but only mentioning on its website that it was filmed in a zoo. While the furore has been over the potential deception of the viewing public, it represents a further step down the path of having a two-tier system of selectively informing the public. For some time now the BBC has been reporting on elections, and in particular by-elections, giving broadcast coverage to one or two candidates, and then stating a full list of candidates is available on its website. Since TV and radio do not have a "click-through" ability, it is therefore up to the general public to go online and search for said list, and of course most won't bother. So most of the public ends up only hearing some sides of each argument. Think of it being like the "small print" on advertisements, or terms and conditions on websites, which may state the catches and get-out clauses but the publisher knows very few people will actually read. In other words, it allows them to comply with legal requirements for impartiality and transparency, but in such a way that it doesn't get in the way of presenting the facts in whatever selective way they want.


Posted 22 November 2011:
So let's go through this again. The union members will have to opt in to political donations, the tax payers are to be prevented from opting out of political donations, while those that can most afford to fund political parties are to be prevented from doing so. Is that it?


Posted 22 September 2011:
I was involved in part in the design of the Glasgow Green to Parkhead Forge cycle route, part of the
Smarter Choices Smarter Places project, specifically I suggested having a cycle route via Crownpoint Road instead of a proposed route along the footway of Gallowgate. In the discussions relating to this the route was always referred to as an on-road route, and savings were to be achieved over the Gallowgate route because there would be no need to widen the footway which would involve relocating gullies and the like.

So it was with great surprise to pass through that way at the weekend and find Shared Cycle Route (pedestrians and cyclists) signs all along Crownpoint Road, Stevenson Street and Claythorn Park. These streets are quiet (the last being a dead-end) and cyclists should be on the road, not the footway. But the signs direct cyclists to use the footway all the way along the route, including sections where the footway is extremely narrow. The footway has not been widened or converted in any way, does not comply with Cycling by Design on several counts, and no dropped kerbs have been provided at points where cyclists should be leaving the footway to join the carriageway.

Now, there could have been a misunderstanding and the contractor has put up the wrong signs. After all, I have not seen a redetermination order advertised to permit cycling on the footway here. But the lack of dropped kerbs where cyclists should be leaving the footway to join the carriageway, such as at the end of Claythorn Park, suggests otherwise. I am also not impressed at the lack of feedback concerning progression of the route and have not seen any final plans (or anything else on paper). If I had, I would have suggested taking the route to the western entrance to The Forge shopping centre, rather than continuing via the footway of Gallowgate (which is blocked over most of its width at one point by a bus shelter) to the southern entrance. There is at least some decent cycle parking stands at the western entrance, rather than the one rather forlorn wheeltwister at Gallowgate. This would be possible by integrating the route into the works for the East End Rat Run (a motorway link road currently being built through the East End of Glasgow) and linking to the western shopping centre car park. But no, cyclists are to use the Gallowgate footway and cross at a toucan crossing (converted pedestrian crossing) near to the shopping centre.

I do not know why there is such an obsession with urban shared footway cycle routes. This sort of route is suitable for high-speed interurban routes, where pedestrian volumes are usually low, and selected other locations such as short links between paths and road crossings. There is also meant to be a buffer zone between the shared footway and the carriageway, such as a grass verge or concrete strip, so cyclists aren't tempted to go dangerously close to the kerb and potentially fall off. Two miles of cycling along low quality footways, much of it on roads with low motor vehicle volumes, through the inner city does not count as proper cycle provision, and makes life harder for cyclists who do stick to the roads. It also encourages illegal footway cycling by getting new cyclists into the habit of using the footways, so they continue along the footway after reaching the end of the signed route. After all if it is OK on that section, then why not the next? The route as I envisaged would break cyclists into the routine of cycling on the road, and allow new cyclists to gain road skills gradually, without being thrown in at the deep end on busy city streets.


Posted 28 June 2011:
A survey by some publicity-whore website or other has found that 82% of motorists want a sign to warn of potholes. What? Wouldn't it be better to spend the money on filling the potholes? A sign would require a post and a hole and the hole back-filled and finished, so simply filling the pothole, maybe even cutting it out and filling it properly, would be cheaper. It really is time an intelligence test for motorists was introduced.


Posted 28 March 2011:
A little fuss has been made about cuts at BBC World Service recently. I'm not in the slightest bit surprised, because state broadcasters have been cutting their external services ever since the end of the Cold War, and especially since the rise of satellite television and the internet. With so much information available on the internet, who is going to track down a shortwave radio station to listen to news from a particular part of the world? And I read that the 648kHz World Service on Medium Wave transmitter, that covered the south of England and north of mainland Europe, has been shut down. Did the people complaining about it actually listen to that frequency? Do they listen to World Service at all? Including the ones referring to the switch-off in the future tense when it had already happened? The area that transmitter covered is well provided for on digital platforms, so why have so much duplication?

And why should the BBC be constantly expanding in every area? Surely new technology should be allowed to replace the old. And is there not a hint of superiority in the "BBC must do this" style reactions, as if the BBC is always to be trusted and everyone else in the media is a fraud? The BBC already broadcasts far more than most international broadcasters (who typically broadcast at most an hour a day in any language) and only propaganda-station China Radio International seems to broadcast more. I rather think that it is time that this bastion of British empire-building was trimmed down to size.


Posted 25 March 2011:
Someone once told me that cycle campaigners could stop campaigning because we'd won the war and councils were at last providing cycle facilities and starting to think about cycling in their overall planning processes. I wasn't so optimistic and disagreed. Leaving aside the quality of the facilities that were being provided, pressure was still needed to keep that progress from stalling. And it seems I was right. Back then we were getting closed off roads reopened to cycles, the first Advance Stop Lines were appearing, cycle parking stands were being installed, and information about cycle facilities was starting to become available on the internet.

Now, we see opportunities to reopen closed off roads being ignored, cycle lanes and Advance Stop Lines disappearing when roads get resurfaced, bus lanes being downgraded to peak hours only, lack of enforcement of existing parking restrictions, cycle parking stands that can be pulled out of the ground installed, and the increase of information about cycle facilities from official sources seems to have dropped off. (However, we do now have the excellent user-generated OpenCycleMap and CycleStreets.) As if that wasn't bad enough, we now have a CUT in fuel duty! (Don't mention the train fare escalator.)

At a time when cutbacks are meant to be happening across all areas, we see cycle spending cut but motorist spending continuing to boom, with more motorway extensions and upgrades (M74 northern extension, M80 extension, M8 extension, M74/A725 major junction upgrading, and the monsterously expensive second Forth Road Bridge) being persued and authorised, even when councils can't seem to repair the potholes in their existing road networks. Despite this, the number of people cycling continues to rise. If ever there was a time when more effort is needed in cycle campaigning it is now!


Posted 11 March 2011:
The Glasgow Underground "Subway" revamp project has been approved. So it appears the plan to make the system look down-trodden and uncared-for has paid off - lots of taxpayers' money is heading its way. What the system really needs is a good clean, plus fixing all of the minor faults, to get it back to the modern metro system that it should be with the equipment it already has. It doesn't really need new trains (driverless or not, and driverless trains elsewhere still need a conductor to open and close the doors so no jobs will be saved through that) and some of the trains date from only 1992, but cannot be sold on second-hand due to the unusual track and loading gauge so will only go for scrap. Fixing or replacing the faulty ticket machines would also help matters, but that does not cost millions of pounds. But most of all, scrubbing the walls, ceilings and floors, and doing that on a semi-regular basis, is what most needs done!


Website by Andy Preece