Friday, 20 March 2015

Stop the killing on our streets



Last autumn I stumbled on the group Stop Killing Cyclists, which thanks to enormous effort from a small group of people has been getting quite a bit of press of late. I attended a rally in London (first time ever), and was moved by the quality of the discourse, and the determination of people to persist in cycling in the busy capital, and to speak up for those who no longer can. I have long campaigned for improvements to infrastructure to make our streets safer, and here are a bunch of like minded folk.

But the carnage of both pedestrians and people on bikes continues, most especially crushed by lorries, with drivers perched so high up that they can't see those immediately around them, and often don't even know what they've hit.

Two particular shockers this week. One was an inquest into the death of a care worker cycling in Dudley, where the reporting seemed to blame her for 'racing' a lorry which from the account arrived at the junction after her, and turned left over her.

http://www.expressandstar.com/news/local-news/2015/03/18/cyclist-killed-trying-to-beat-lorry-across-junction/

But the police decided not to prosecute the driver. The Coronors verdict “I have heard from a number of eyewitnesses who have said it appears that Mrs Rowson was trying to beat the lorry. Sadly there was a collision and she was pulled underneath the vehicle and received extensive injuries,” Mr Saddique said.

This was not some lycra clad road warrior, but a 51 year old mother. The only racing she was likely to do was in rising terror as she realised what was unfolding. The Police, Press and even coroner seem to have turned to victim blaming this poor woman.

And the second was the treatment of the family of Michael Mason, a 70 year old killed on Regent Street in London a year ago, hit from behind by a woman who claimed not to have seen him, when all the witnesses around had. It was night, with plenty of streetlights, and he had working bike lights. But the police made much of the fact that he wasn't wearing hi-vis clothes, and had no helmet.  Neither of these are mandatory, and helmets are only actually effective for minor collisions anyhow. A pantomime of whether they referred the case to the Crown Prosecution Service ensued, and the family now plan to mount a civil prosecution since the police have entirely failed this man.

http://road.cc/content/news/146081-metropolitan-police-admit-they-didnt-refer-cyclist-michael-masons-death-dpp-five

But the bigger question that both these cases illustrate, is that in any other incident - whether transport related, work related, or an unexpected death, if I operate a machine and kill someone, the suspicion of guilt would fall upon me. Innocent until proven guilty yes, but properly investigated and due process undertaken. With Rail, Marine or Air Transport in particular, meticulous investigation would show and seek to learn from to eliminate any flaws in design of the vehicle or infrastructure.

This just doesn't happen on the killing fields of the highway. It is inexcusable for lorries with such enormous blind spots to be on our roads. Yet we know the many flaws with our road layouts, which over time could be reduced. Legislation for the redesign of lorries has been passed but deferred for years. Mixing traffic at different speeds and weights is avoided in Holland, and the variable quality and maintenance.

If I run down the road with a scaffold pole, clearly I am duty bound to avoid hitting anyone. If I do it with my car, or worse a big lorry, it seems is just treated by the police an accident, and especially if a cyclist, their lookout. This is outrageous. People should be accountable to be in control of motorised vehicles, and not be so readily excused for their actions or inattention.

In other news today, a number of main A roads are to be turned into mini-motorways, with slow traffic - cycles and tractors banned. Many of these A roads pass through towns, past houses, splitting communities.

The Stop the Killing alliance make 10 clear demands for change to protect those on foot and on bike. These are urgent. It is March 2015, and 14 families have lost loved ones to untimely deaths this year already.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Response to New Forest National Park antipathy to Cycling

In response to the New Forest Management Plan, http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/ManagementPlan  whose only provision for cycling was concerns about large groups, (deadline for submissions 19th Dec 2014), I submitted the following;

I was born on the edge of the New Forest, at Highcliffe, and spent many happy days in my childhood cycling into the New Forest (even at quite a young age). I am now 50, and living in Poole, so a rarer visitor, but far more likely to come with my bike than otherwise, and have occasionally cycled with my family.

I am shocked by the current negative attitude of the New Forest NPA to cycling. I know that a grant was revoked because of this, and that there are certain noisy interests who are anti-cycling, but surely it is the duty of a National Park Authority to balance all interests, and in particular to contribute to the really important work of reducing childhood and adult obesity by encouraging all sustainable activity through the area.

I understand the conflict that large scale events can cause, but the forest is big enough that it really should be possible to manage such things, and core to the values of a national park.

 DEFRA's guidance document English National Parks and the Broads: UK Government Vision and Circular 2010 says: "Parks are attractive locations for large-scale community, charitable or other events and festivals such as organised charity walks, cycling events, cultural and musical events and fairs."

Your management plan talks about supporting sustainable travel options, but then only developing the bus services, to reduce car arrivals by 5%. This ambition is very limited.

In particular, I do not see how the refusal of bike hire facilities or silence on any other enhancements ties to the concern about big events (which seems to be the only mention you make of cycling in section 4.20 and 4.21).

NFNPA should include proactive measures to enhance the leisure use of the Forest by bike for families and small groups (especially using the train stations as entry points, but also potentially encouraging bike racks on buses through the Forest), and rather than just look to "control" cycle events (do you do the same for walkers, riders, car rallies), aim to work out routes and potentially adding tracks to mitigate pinch-point locations.

In your 5 year plan I would like to see positive measures to encourage all sustainable travel options, in order to justify the designation "National" Park, your public funding, to balance the needs of all potential park users, and to contribute to mitigating the obesity pandemic.

Andy Hadley, Poole

Sunday, 28 September 2014

A better approach to transport through the heart of Poole

Text of a letter to the leaders of the Borough of Poole Transport Advisory Group
Cllr Ann Stribley, Cllr Tony Trent, Cllr Ian Potter (Portfolio holder), Cllr Mark Howell, Cllr Mike Brooke. cc Julian McLaughlin (Head of Transportation)

Dear Councillors.
At the last Transport Advisory Group that I was able to attend, Cllr Stribley challenged her colleagues to think strategically about the transport network in Poole. I very much welcome that.

In particular, if you look at other conurbations and cities in the UK and overseas, there is a groundswell of change which seems to have passed your officers by. In London, 24% of peak-time journeys are now undertaken by push-bike. Of course the congestion charge, the investment in Boris bikes, increased cycle-friendly infrastructure, growing traffic congestion, and the global recession will have all played their part. The Mayors office, and Transport for London have worked hard to achieve this modal shift away from car dependency, and it is now paying dividends.

And other communities and authorities in the UK have taken a very active part in striving to rebalance, and to reduce the over-dominance of motorised transport, in particular removing key barriers to easy, efficient and safe pedestrian and cycle movements. The Birmingham Bullring has gone. Several significant gyratory systems in London, including that at Aldwych have been unpicked. Cities and towns like Brighton, Southampton and others have thought systematically about how to improve the health of their citizens by cutting motor-traffic pollution, and encouraging the exercise and other health and economic benefits of lower impact travel.

In central Poole, we have the benefit of some of the best weather in the country, and mostly fairly flat terrain. Some of the away from road cycle routes, especially with water frontage are a joy to be on.
The Borough have taken steps when maintaining or redesigning to bring in some helpful measures, although maintaining minimum safe widths seems to be a struggle. But when not actively building cycle schemes, and where it gets difficult, more harm is being done to the actual and perceived safety of using the network, and this fails to persuade people of any age to walk or to get on their bikes.
We should learn much from the Scandanavians and the Dutch. Moving to the current position in Holland, where many people of all ages and abilities cycle regularly, was not painless. It arose in the 1970s via a campaign "Stop killing our children", which reclaimed public space from the dominance that has emerged with ever more cars on the road. A similar campaign has now started in London. We know that the majority of journeys are less than 5 miles, and that if you build, people will come. Just as roads like the Newbury Bypass have generated increased car trips, the nature of what we design around the West Quays will dictate what people choose to do. 

If the designs enable connectivity, convenience and safety for walking and cycling, then people in the new developments on both quays will be encouraged to make their short trips that way. If, as seems currently the priority, all traffic modelling is based on shaving seconds off car journey transit times, the car will continue to dominate the town and to sever the community, especially with the planned gyratory option.

But also, taking a strategic view, West Street, West Quay Road, and the crossing ways present the hub of the entire network for any means of getting about across the heart of Poole. The National Cycleroute crosses at Hunger Hill, the Heritage Cycleway crosses by the RNLI, and many staff working for the significant employers around the town and Hamworthy already walk and cycle through here, and have indicated that they would be more likely to if the links were improved. Allowing poor design in this area sets a constriction on many of the short journeys that could be undertaken on foot or bike across the town. Locals would be encouraged to forgoe the car for their shorter trips, which will be better for their personal health, and for the economy and vitality of the town. Achieving modal shift away from the car will free up the highway network for those trips which are essential to the economy and life of the town including the Port operations.

And it is not just about transport, but also place. What impression of Poole do we want visitors to leave with ? What environment do we want our kids to grow up in, what neighbourhoods to encourage people to move into ? Key employers in the town have expressed embarrasment about the appearance of the gateway for customers and potential investors.

I believe that if you want to think strategically about the future transport network throughout the town, the West Street/West Quay Road presents a key opportunity for a step-change. You urgently need to direct your transportation department to
a) go and take a very good look at some of the towns and cities I have mentioned, and how they are rebalancing space to achieve modal shift, and living space.
b) download and read the many good design documents that Transport for London have commissioned, in particular I'd recommend https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/cycling/draft-london-cycling-design-standards/user_uploads/ch3-cycle-lanes-and-tracks.pdf. These are a pale imitation of good Dutch design, but highlight what should be achieveable now in the UK.
c) re-read the independent review that you commissioned of the gyratory plans, and your own strategy documents that seem to lie ignored and buried.
and d) abandon the gyratory plans, and modify the two way proposals to take far greater recognition that journeys undertaken by foot and bicycle are likely to be far more economically beneficial to Poole, than encouraging racetrack mentality and transit by car to elsewhere.

Because there just is not enough space to keep building for cars, or pretending that this is good for individuals or the population of Poole.

Andy Hadley
Transition Town Poole

Saturday, 4 May 2013

bugs and bees

A great week for bees, with the 2 year EU moratorium on neonicotinoidal pesticides. I was mowing part of my lawn (I do it in stages to give frogs and wild flowers a chance), when I saw a couple of bees on the fruit trees. Only a couple mind.

Last year was poor for fruit trees, I think the blossom was rained and blown off before the pollinators had a chance to do their work. We've had some sunny weather, and my Pear tree seems to be blossoming late, the cherry is in full flower, and the apples are catching them up. I hope there are enough bees around to visit all the flowers.

With a small urban garden, though I am strictly organic, I am at the mercy of what my neighbours do when it comes to pesticide and other influence on bees etc, which is why I personally am pleased at the EU decision. (as well as the wider impacts on colony collapse and agriculture). Sadly in a domestic setting the stocks in a single bottle may outlast the short term ban, but hopefully the gap will create some scientific evidence as compared with countries outside the EU which carry on using neonicotinoids.

And so to bugs, or rather slugs. My lawn is full of Dandelions, which I try and fork out before mowing, and risking spreading the broken leaves to re-root (I am sure this is just because my mother dealt with them this way).  A week ago I pulled one dandelion out, and left it by mistake on the lawn. So when I came to clear the shrivelled remains today, two things struck me (that I have seen before). Firstly, all the flowers had turned to seeds - how does it do that ? clearly an advanced panic reaction to preserve the next generation, or at least give it a chance. And secondly, there were loads of small slugs gathered around. They really are good clearance agents for the lazy gardener, Whilst I hate them taking my seedlings (or as currently eating my coriander and parsley in the greenhouse), I mostly stick them on the compost heap to help create new soil or maybe provide birds with some food.

Pleased that there are coal tits in residence in one of the bird boxes on the back of the house. I wasn't sure whether it was too exposed to be useful, but it is certainly out of reach of the far too many cats around here. Sadly the robins that were obviously feeding in a different box have stopped, and I fear our cat took the fledgeling.  

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Pork and Apple

Pork and Apple


I feel I have failed my apple trees this year. Everyone it seems had a poor crop. We have a tree with three varieties on it, which the lady at the nursery didn't really want to sell "because they are troublesome", but that's not been an issue. The Cox branches didnt bear much this year, but despite the general dearth, the golden delicious seemed to be relatively quite a bumper crop.


And I did pick some. They were a bit scabby, and this is my least favourite variety, so I ate a few, but I am afraid they mostly sat in the conservatory, unloved, going wrinkled. Many more fell from the tree, and lay where I could see them from the house, challenging my ineptitude. Last year, we made cider, and chutney, and I took apples to work every day for months. What went wrong ?

I did console myself because quite a few showed signs of pecking, enjoyed by the birds through the harshest days of the winter. The blackbirds in particular seem to relish them, and they keep going on an individual apple until it is quite a hollowed out shell. The slugs enjoy them too, part of natural decomposition, though there is too great an abundance of them.

But now, with the first warmth of spring sunshine, and before the blossom starts to form, it is really time to clear the ground.

My friend Dominic keeps a pair of pigs in his garden, or rather he fattens up pigs over the winter, this being his third brood. On Christmas day, when we were round for drinks, admiring his 'boisterous boys' from the safety of the house, I mentioned my crop. The pigs go for slaughter in a couple of weeks, so today was the day to take them an apple treat. 

It feels more worthwhile than just composting, and maybe a late appley diet will enhance the flavour of the pork. Last year's tasted good, and they only got the cider pressings from me !

Monday, 7 January 2013

Shoreham powered by the sea

Well almost, its a ground sourced heatpump


I've been keeping an eye on exiting developments at both the National Trust and the RNLI, as part of my 'hobby' as a director of Poole Tidal Energy Partnership. Both these venerable institutions are canny with their funds, all raised from volunteers and public subscription. Both are actively looking to reduce their carbon footprint in innovative ways, and are investing in heatpump technology.

http://ntenvironmentalwork.net/ is a great blog. In particular Keith Jones, responsible for the whole of Wales plus Northern Ireland is looking at all forms of renewable power including a seawater powered heatpump for Plas Newydd on the Menai Straits. Keith has enlisted the help of several Welsh Universities (the Seacams project) to help map and plan the development.

And the RNLI, with its headquarters in Poole, has by nature of its work, water always close to their doorstep, and have tested and installed a number of heatpumps - ground and water sourced.
http://rnli.org/aboutus/aboutthernli/Pages/Environment.aspx summarises their approach, but we have been talking to them for a while.

So it was time this weekend to return my son to University in Brighton, and I thought I'd drop by the Shoreham Lifeboat station, which has a ground-sourced heatpump.

The volunteer in the shop initially looked a bit crestfallen when she offered to show us around and I told her my particular interest, but entirely through luck, she said the station manager (another Keith) was on site. We met him on the stairwell, he had just been entertaining crews from other stations. He was happy to show us down to “the cave”, not normally on the tourist trail, where the heatpump sits. The machine is the size of a small washing machine, and they said it heats the station very effectively (the white tank is a temperature stabalising device). We were taken into the crew room, and it felt very warm – he said without needing to use the top-up heating. Indeed (and I had spotted it on approach), although it was a cool January day, they had some of the windows open on the top floor.

This is a groundsource system, with 3 boreholes going straight down 90 metres. Robert from RNLI HQ kindly filled me in on the details, this was the second station that they installed. The basic design of boreholes is based on the idea that roughly 55watts of energy can be extracted per meter of borehole. Therefore 3x 90m boreholes gives 270m of collector which multiplied by 55watts equals 14.8kW. – Allowing for a little safety margin in the design this is the peak power output of the heatpump. Given subsequent experience, they might have taken a different shallower approach, taking benefit from the groundwater adjacent to the eastury.

Really grateful to both Keith at the station, and to Robert at HQ for their hospitality and insight. Tomorrow we're presenting our ideas to councillors, and it is really helpful to know of solid progress from trusted organisations.



Saturday, 29 September 2012

Feast or famine year

Where did the summer go ? What summmer...

This morning, almost the last day of September, I sat for a short while watching a spider carefully spinning her web. It is so easy on these autumn days to sweep aside their precision engineering, when hanging out the washing, or in search of an apple from the tree. Often I try to negotiate under, over or around the web, only to completely forget on my return trip, breaking their world.

Along with most people I talk to, the garden has really been unproductive this year. I popped down to the community allotment, having missed most of the fortnightly workdays since spring. The grapes in the greenhouse have once again been a bumper harvest, and there are late raspberries to pick, and a few squashes nestling on the beds.
   

A Red Admiral butterfly alighted on the bench, and fluttered off, too quick for me to photograph. This year, there seems to have been loads of them feeding on the plum tree at home. I guess they rely on the birds or slugs to break open the skin, but must then be attracted by the strong scent of ripe plums. I haven't seen this feeding frenzy before, but I think I heard that they have forsaken their customary migration southwards to Africa in recent years, presumably preferring to stay and gorge on our autumn abundance and then try and find a warm place to overwinter. Given this year has generally been bad for wildlife too, it was heartening to see.

But whilst vegetable gardening has gained great popularity, the effect of failed crops for us is just to resort more quickly to supermarkets. They will be quick to inflate their prices, both with real costs that they bear, and probably opportunism to boot.The impact for those who depend on either growing their own food from necessity, or growing to provide a modest income, is probably a different prospect, much as the feast or famine that our forefathers faced. Whilst we maybe should count our blessings for not relying on what we can personally grow, the planetary impact of our lack of self sufficiency is a perpetual worry.