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Dad’s been saying this stuff for 40 years

Pinned – the BMJ in 1982:

https://www.bmj.com/content/285/6342/621

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Coventry City Council Sends Me To Coventry

It’s clearly not enough of a badge of honour to be called a militant, extremist, nutter and various other lame insults, just because you want something as absurd as safe streets for everyone.

Here in Carventry, we can always go one better. Never mind the previous cabinet member illegally blocking my emails (yes it’s water under the bridge, but elections are due), this time the present cabinet member has one better and simply blocked me from objecting full stop.

The context here is that I’ve made several objections to the charge points programme. At no point have I ever said that either charge points or electric cars are a bad thing. I don’t think that, and I never have done, even though I think there is a massive list of problems which electric cars can’t and won’t solve.

All I have objected to is the way the charge point scheme is being handled, namely that:

  1. The city has more pressing and urgent priorities, particularly in respect of the need to reduce speed limits.
  2. A policy for 20 mph limits was approved in 2014. The council has around 500km of roads, of which I understand around 400km are suitable for 20 mph limits. Current progress is less than 5km per year, which will taken until the end of this century to implement.
  3. Every main street needs to be considered first in terms of where cycle lanes will need to be installed, and whether or not it is on key bus routes. In either case, there is no need at all for charge points on main roads, and we need to prioritise safe movement of people first, and then consider where to charge cars whilst they are being stored.
  4. In the case of side streets, the council needs to consider how it would implement low traffic neighbourhoods, as per the Local Plan which was approved in 2017. This policy existed long before the pandemic, although so far, little action has been taken.
  5. Low traffic neighbhourhoods are very good for supporting charge points, because they can also include planters and other street furniture, into which the charge points can be integrated.
  6. Charge points are car infrastructure, so they need to go on the road, not on the pavement.
  7. The claim that charge points would only be installed where there is “1.8m clearance” is demonstrably false, based on actual installations so far.
  8. There is a huge deficiency in the provision of blue badge parking across the city. The council also needs to consider the provision of more blue badge spaces, including spaces with charge points.

There is a very clear and present failure to consider Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 in the way this scheme has been implement so far – both in terms of the way pavements have been encroached, but also because of the failure to consider the future safety of all vulnerable road users, includng those with protected characteristics.

So why have I been excluded from any further representations on the matter?

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Road Tax

I’ve just had a briefing from a local police officer, which is generally really useful. It shows the actions they have taken against a number of road criminals in Coventry over the weekend.

However, the term “road tax” was also used, and I’ve asked them nicely not to do so in future. This is why:


The briefing:

11 Cars Seized Nine Stop Searches and One Foot Chase In Busy Day of Proactive Roads Policing

We seized 11 cars, stopped and searched a further nine and chased a passenger down who fled their vehicle during a packed day policing the roads last weekend.

Officers across Coventry launched the proactive operation in a crackdown on crime on Saturday (10 April).

It followed complaints from residents in the local communities around vehicles being driven in an antisocial manner, driving at speed or simply ignoring the rules that everyone has to abide by.

To tackle the issues, local neighbourhood policing units joined with traffic and warrants officers for the intelligence-led day of action, which used Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) to identify and intercept vehicles potentially involved in criminality.

The vehicles were brought back to check sites on Napier Street and at the Moat House Leisure Centre, where we conducted checks. Traffic officers were also out and about looking for suspect vehicles.
Partner agencies including the DVLA assisted with the operation, identifying areas where vehicles were without road tax.

A total of 43 vehicles were stopped, including 11 which were seized for having no insurance and tickets were issued to two different drivers for not wearing seat belts.

Nine cars were searched on suspicion of drugs offences, resulting in four people being given community resolutions for possession of Class B drugs.

One passenger attempted to run after officers pulled the car over, however he was detained after a short foot chase and on being searched was found to have cannabis on him and given a community resolution.
PS Dave Moore, from Henley and Longford Neighbourhood Policing Unit, said: “This operation was in response to concerns voiced within the community. We will continue listening to our local communities and taking action against issues that affect them the most.

“We want to make Coventry feel a safe place to live and work. Our officers and partner agencies helped make this proactive operation a success and we will continue to look at ways we can crackdown on criminal activity.”


 

My reply

Many thanks for this important update.

Do you mind me asking how often this important work is done, because clearly a lot of road criminals have quite rightly been apprehended?

 

I witness road crime every few minutes whenever I am out on the roads in this city, ranging from tailgating and driving at speeds which are inappropriate to the conditions, through the ubiquitous attempts to drive a car whilst texting and then the more serious stuff like completely insane speeding and actual threats of violence made against vulnerable road users.

Do you mind me also asking that the term “road tax” is replaced with VED or car tax in future briefings? Road tax was abolished in 1937, and usage of the term implies that drivers are paying for the roads, which they do not. Roads are funded from general taxation, and everyone has an equal right to use them safely.

Best wishes,

James Avery

Their reply (less than 24 hours later)

Good morning James,

Thank you for getting in touch and for outlining the important issues raised in your email.

As a minimum the Road Harm Prevention Team are over in Coventry at least twice per month conducting ANPR and road safety operations.

Local area neighbourhood teams are also looking to do similar operations on a monthly basis in Coventry.

Our traffic officers support this type of work as and when they are requested, including the recent ANPR day of action on Saturday (10 April).

We have taken note of the term ‘road tax’ being replaced with VED or car tax for future reference.


I’d call that a result. For some, this might seem trivial, but the term should never be used, unless it is explaining why it’s a common myth.

Second Update

This has also just come through from the local team. The details about the planning which is needed for ANPR operations are also very useful:


Good Afternoon Mr Avery,

Apologises for the delay in replying I have been on rest days.

Thank you for taking the time to reply.  ANPR operations are unfortunately jobs that require some planning so there are not as many as we would like.  There are other operational needs that we have to take into consideration.  Having said that we do have regular Traffic Units in the City looking for those who are doing wrong.  We also try and run operations with our safer travel teams to target the phone use and this includes tactics such as officers sitting on buses and monitoring the traffic flow.

With regard to the term road tax, it is something that we will try to take on board and appreciate how the language can be therefore interpreted differently due to this.  There was definitely no intention to alienate any road users.

If I can help you with anything else please come back to me.

Kind Regards

 

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Legal procedures for removing Cycle Barriers

Every day, I usually see a number of posts about barriers which have been erected on cycle routes, and the problems they cause with the following:

  • Wheelchairs
  • Hand cycles
  • Tricycles
  • Longer bicycles
  • Tandems
  • Cargo bikes
  • Cycles with any form of carrier for kids
  • Cycles with trailersAND
  • Anyone using a conventional bicycle who has a problem with dismounting or just using these gates.
  • Mobility scooters (not currently legal to use “cycle lanes”, but they are allowed to use shared paths).

Firstly, there’s a general misconception that these barriers serve any kind of useful purpose – they don’t, and it’s been shown time and again that people who want to find a way round them will.

Even if there was reliable evidence to say that these barriers provided some element of benefit, it’s highly unlikely they would be deemed a “reasonable adjustment”, given the number of people they exclude.

Thank fully, many councils have stopped installing this kind of barrier. I’m not aware of any that have gone in here in Coventry since the early 2010s, and I know that the new fences on more recent paths have been very “forgiving”. They would certainly stop a car, but I’m not aware of any problems that users of any of the above would have.

However, there must be hundreds of these barriers that still remain in the city, and I’m not aware that the council has any plan to remove them – in fact, I did an FOI on this a few years ago, and they said they had no such plans, essentially using the tired “protect the vulnerable” line.

Resources

  • Sustrans – guide to their own policy on barriers with suggested links at the end.
  • Sustrans news article on their aim to remove 16,000 barriers.

Note that although Sustrans manage the NCN (National Cycle Network), they are rarely responsible for routes after they have been implemented.

  • Fix My Street – tool to report issues via their platform and log on their map.
  • Email your councillor and MP (yes, that tired old route that does sometimes get a result – what do they know?

Note – councillors will also get emails about anti-social behaviour and all the other “problems” that cycle barriers are meant to solve. Many local politicians are increasingly becoming aware of the equality case to make cycling open for everyone, but others aren’t quite there yet. Whilst it’s best to try any available route, don’t hold on to get councillors to do something when there’s a direct legal procedure that might be more effective.

  • Wheels for Wellbeing – charity with a focus on providing adapted cycles, and campaigning for all matters relating to disabled cycling.
  • Pushbikes Birmingham – an excellent article by Chris Lowe about the CRT’s own experience on removing motorcycle barriers, and why they aren’t considered to be very effective at reducing antisocial behaviour.
  • Heavy Metal Hand Cyclist (twitter account) – is always a mine of information on matters relating to obstructive barriers and gates.

Legal Procedures

If you have tried the above, and nothing is working, then there are legal proceedings which can be issued. This needs to be done by logging the number of times you have had problems, detailing the location(s) and why these problems occur.

This needs to be served in the small claims court against the authority responsible for the route. This is usually your local council, but it might not be, especially if the route is on an old railway.

Note that if you are in a two tier local authority area, highways and rights of way will be a county matter.

  • Sample FOI request. Note there are two purposes this can provide.
    • Firstly (and most obviously), it will confirm that the council is responsible for the barrier.
    • Secondly – it **may** result in instant removal. This is obviously the goal, and in some cases this does happen, but it’s not something that can be relied on!
  • DART – the Disability Attitude Re-adjustment Tool. This is your next step. See also extensive list of links below this article.

Old Railway Paths

These can be hugely problematic, due to complex problems regarding who might actually own the land. However – even if the ownership is in doubt, your local council might well still be required to act if they have adopted the route as a public right of way.

Canals

Canal towpaths are the responsibility of the Canals & Rivers Trust. They are also challenging to deal with, because they are not public rights of way, even if council money has been used to upgrade the route.

Irrespective of their status, the Equality Act 2010 would still apply, as they are open for usage by the general public.

There is no longer any requirement for any cyclist, using a conventional bicycle or otherwise, to have a “licence” or permit to cycle along the canal.

However, canal towpaths may fall foul of the “reasonable adjustment” criteria if access is needed over an historical bridge, and providing such access would be considered to “substantially harm” the character of that structure. This again is highly debateable, given that many canals are otherwise derelict. None of these concerns would apply to more recent barriers which have simply been installed to try and block access by motorbikes.

Examples

Barriers removed in Leighton Buzzard Morrisons – possibly because they were installed illegally in the first place (allegedly by Morrisons).

York Cycle Campaign – how to take action, including details on making FOI requests, a standard “letter before action” and follow up through the Small Claims Court.

 

Disclaimer

Traffic Anxiety is a blog about recording and dealing with road traffic danger. My focus is on the problems caused by aggressive driving, and the need to reduce both road danger and the noise that goes with it.

In order to give everyone the chance to cycle (remember that cycling doesn’t just mean riding a “bike”), I know the core focus needs to be on cycle paths and safe local filtering (aka LTNs or “low traffic neighbourhoods”). However, if these routes are then blocked by barriers, they can never be open to all.

However – barrier removal is not something I have much experience in.

I’ve written this post because every time someone else has brought it up, I’ve added in a few twitter accounts who do deal with this stuff, but I haven’t had a single point of reference which details these matters on one page.

So I hope this helps. If you need further assistance, please try any of the links mentioned above. Of course, I’m more than happy to reply to comments below, or via twitter.

#IANAL (I am not a lawyer)

 

 

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Coventry to become World First “Cycle Only” City

New leaked documents from Coventry City Council show that the city is trying to achieve something that no other city on earth has achieved before, and become the world’s first “bicycle only” city by 2030.

Coventry are looking to make 100% of journeys within the city centre by “cycle” within just 9 years, as part of its dramatic Covid recovery policy.

It is believed that the council will allow drivers to drive into a range of park-and-ride facilities around the edge of the city, and that visitors will still be able to use buses, trains and the new “very light rail” trams in order to travel from these park-and-ride facilities to other locations in the city, but the aim is simply that 100% of all journeys which start and end in Coventry will be taken by “cycle”.

“Cycle” will include not just regular bicycles and electric bicycles but any form of lightweight device, including skateboards, scooters, electric scooters, mobility scooters, tricycles, cargo bikes and any adapted device.

However, council leader George Dugout is understood to have revealed further details in a leaked zoo meeting, which showed that in order to encourage cycling, all forms of walking and other pedestrian movement will be banned.

Dugout said:

“We are City of Culture in 2021 and we’ve been widely criticised for doing absolutely nothing for cycling up until now, and we want to go forward with Coventry’s amazing historic cycling legacy

“As long as people use some sort of device in order to speed up their mobility, then this will be perfectly legal, so what we are advising neighbours who simply want to visit each other for a cup of post-covid coffee is just to grab a pogo stick and then just a hop around next door – this will still be legal, but walking will not be.”

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LTN debunking links

Do we need another page to debunk some of the more popular (or outrageous) LTN myths?

Well maybe, maybe not. All I know is that I find I’m often repeating the same things over and over again.

Imagine if we could move on from the more pointless stuff (ie why we need to make local streets safe, and why treating side roads needs a different approach to dealing with main roads) – and then maybe more time could be spent dealing with the details, which still needs to be done for each and every project?

Maybe, just maybe.

So here goes:

Links about LTNs in general

LTN myths debunked

Arguments against LTNs

I’m not saying I agree with any of these. But these are locations where you might be able to find a reasonable level of discussion about some of the problems which have been experienced with LTNs.

Can there be balance?

It might initially seem hard to find balanced opinions about LTNs. This isn’t because LTN advocates are so “extreme” in their support that they don’t accept that schemes can be flawed. It’s more because the sensible voices on either (or indeed any) side are often drowned out in the noise.

This doesn’t mean LTN critics shouldn’t be heard. Of course they should. But perhaps if we calm down and step back a bit from some of the more nonsensical rhetoric, we can then get back and look at some of the key questions which will indeed vary from one place to the next.

I’ve yet to encounter an LTN advocate who honestly thinks that if you install an LTN, traffic on the main road is just going to vanish. Nor have I had a sensible discussion with any serious LTN opponent who argues that 100% of all previous car trips will continue to be by car.

So if we can accept that traffic displacement (or indeed evaporation) is going to be somewhere between 0% and 100%, then can we find some view points which have been through this in a balanced fashion.

For now, I’m starting here, but I do hope to expand this:

On LTNs and Disability

If there’s one thing that has become more emotive than anything else, then it’s the argument about disability.

First things first – yes, I can talk about my disability but no, I can’t talk about yours.

Does this mean I have the “right” to lobby for my beliefs over anyone else’s? No, but we all benefit from safer, smoother and quieter roads. These are givens. The right to live and move safely is a fundamental right. So if people claim that blocking off rat runs impinges on this because traffic is “displaced”, then shouldn’t we consider that too?

I would still caution against this logic. Firstly, the links above already cover the displacement argument in many ways. Secondly, we need to consider whether objections to recent changes are because of the change itself, or because there is actually a serious long term problem that needs addressing.

The report below gives some detailed lived experiences which provide some very useful information on the impacts of LTNs on people with disabilities. I think the stories are very detailed and I think there is much in this report that is well worth noting.

However, I also think it needs to be taken with a very large caveat. If we accept claims about traffic congestion “due to LTNs” causing undue distress, then surely we must accept these for all congestion, and not just that which has allegedly been caused by LTNs?

If we do this, then the main focus of all cities needs to be to keep congestion to a minimum. In order to do this, we need to learn from the cities which have achieved this. Data tells us that these cities are most likely to be in the Denmark or the Netherlands, where LTNs are common place.

So if LTNs are the problem, why are they also part of the solution?

Pave the Way report (Transport for All)

A chance to comment

I’ve posted some links for further reference. Many of these links are posted by campaigning organisations. That means they probably don’t (or can’t) take comments. That’s not because they don’t want to engage, it’s just not something they can reasonably devote resources to.

I’m an individual blogger. I campaign on reducing the noise and danger of traffic, and I focus on mental health. I’m more than happy to take comments, and if they raise points I can respond to, then I will.

If you just want to rant against your local LTN, please try your local or national newspaper.

 

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Ideas With Beers and Traffic Anxiety

This is a link for the contribution I made to Ideas With Beers on the 2nd February.

At the moment, this is the best content I have in respect of generally explaining what I think is meant by “traffic anxiety”, and why it is a problem in its own right, in addition to the widely reported problems with traffic in general, or with road danger.

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Subjective or Statistical Safety?

Should we be treating actual road danger as the top priority, or is it more important to make people feel safe?

Is it more important to feel safe or to be safe?

You might say that these are the same thing, surely, but this isn’t always the case.

I know exactly what bothers me most when I go out. It’s not necessarily the thing that’s most likely to kill me. I get upset by bullying motorists, especially if the tailgate and beep and rev their engines behind me when I’m cycling.

But is this going to kill me? Probably not. However reckless and anti-social this behaviour is, the driver knows that I’m there. Most cycling fatalities (about 75% in fact) occur at junctions. The usual response of the driver is that they didn’t see the cyclist, or that they saw them too late. By “taking the lane” and being more assertive, there’s no question I’m exposed to more bullying. But I’m also a lot more visible at junctions.

There are numerous other situations where a road situation might feel safe (soft kerbs, gentle paving and so on), but give a false sense of security. It could also be argued that one of the safest places to cycle would be in the hard shoulder on a motorway. Of course, the sense of danger would be intolerable, and of course it is quite rightly illegal, but you would at least be cycling in your own “protected” lane.

 

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Fear of Flying v Traffic Anxiety

One of the more obvious ways to compare the anxieties I have when dealing with dangerous drivers would be to consider how our road networks make people fearful, when compared with getting on an aircraft and experiencing fear of flying.

However, there is always one fundamental difference between the two environments. Whilst fear of flying isn’t just about being worried that the plane will crash (this appears to be the dominant factor in about half of sufferers), nobody can question the fact that flying is inherently safe.

So fear of flying is a very real fear, but it’s not one that is matched by the actual risk. There’s also nothing that any airline or plane maker could do to mitigate this risk. In 2017, the entire global airline industry managed to enable billions of journeys, and nobody at all died on any jet service as a result of their plane crashing. Even if this happened for a decade or more, there would still be a fear of the plane crashing, because these plane crashes, or indeed movies featuring them, would still be in memory.

Hence, any attempt to treat fear of flying can only ever be about treating the patient. For those who suffer from flight fear, but who are more worried about being confined in tight spaces, or about similar matters which relate to their possible behaviour when on board, the treatment is the same.

It’s true – I react very badly to dangerous driving. It’s quite possible that my anxieties are treatable, but treating this anxiety would do nothing to reduce the danger at source. Even if nobody ever felt fearful when travelling on our city streets, we’d still need to deal with this danger, because cars do actually kill 5 people per day in the UK alone.

 

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Necessarily Negative

Necessarily Negative is going to be one of the recurring themes of this blog.

Do I have to keep talking about all the down sides of trying to walk cycle in this city?

Yes, of course I do. I am blogging about traffic anxiety and the problems this causes with getting around. I can’t talk up the positives of walking or cycling until such a time that I can go out and go places and have a reasonable expectation that I won’t encounter situations which cause aggrivation.

It is the actions of individual drivers which make getting around this city a nightmare. It is Coventry City council which has repeatedly made decisions which have inflamed this situation and made it worse.

Does that mean I have to be negative about everything? No, of course not. Within the scope of a longer conversation or a response to a consultation, there’s always space to talk up the positives. I will elaborate on all of this in future posts.

Why don’t I even bother with constructive criticism these days? This is largely because this is what I tried to do in the 40 or so times I have been to planning meetings to ask for improvements to development schemes. The final straw was when comments I made supporting a development “in principle” were taken as not objecting, when actually I was raising some very valid material concerns. In a city where the council is this cynical, there is little point wasting time dressing things up.

There are also other people in this city and elsewhere who are doing a great job to paint a positive picture. I fully support everything they are doing., but the council also still needs to be held to account.

That gives me even more reason to be Necessarily Negative here.