Monday, November 14, 2016

Have you parked in Brighton recently?

For the first time in a while, a serious entry.

Have you parked at a pay and display machine using the Pay By Phone app, in Brighton since 1/11/16 ? If so, please read on and share. You MAY have been seriously over charged!

Before travelling to Brighton last week I looked up the parking fees, so I knew what to expect.
On Tuesday I parked on Madeira Drive for 4 hours, paying via the Pay By Phone app as recommended to make it swift and simple. I was charged £11 (plus 40p booking fee). And thought nothing more of it.

Parking again on Friday, and knowing the expected price was £7.20 (plus booking fee), but to my alarm I was charged £16.40 (inc booking fee), When my friend arrived I warned him that I had paid more than we were expecting. As he had not yet set the app up, he used the meter, and was charged, yup, £7.20.

So it turns out, the tariffs which changed for Brighton and Hove on the 1st Nov, have NOT been updated via the app. As a result of this, I have been over charged by £15.60. Have you been over charged too?

I am currently trying to get a response from B&H Parking re this. On Twitter I was informed that an error had been found and rectified on the system. This unfortunately does not mean I get an automatic refund.

So, I am writing this, and making it known, so anyone else who has parked in one of B&H's zones, and paid by app, or even maybe ANY parking area controlled by Pay By Phone , it is possible that you may have been over charged. So I would recommend you check your receipt against the online published parking tariff for where you parked, just in case.

I am £15 out of pocket, and that's just one car. How many more paid by app over the past 10 days, and how much has been taken? Does the money get passed on to B&H, or does Pay By Phone just pass on the correct charge? So many questions right now.



UPDATE

After being contacted by Pay By Phone via Twitter, I was initially told by them that there was no issue with the rates at the locations.
"The rates are correct at both Madeira Drive locations and have been correct since the seasonal change on 1st November."

However after an investigation, and a very detailed explaination of what had happened, they replied again with the following.

through my investigations, i have found that we have two locations that cover Madeira drive (85325 & 85327). It appears that 85325 was amended correctly ready for the change on 1st November. However, 85327 was incorrectly left on the summer rates until we were notified by B&H Council of this error on Friday morning (pre-9am) when it was then changed to the winter tariffs.

i have therefore arranged for both of your sessions to be partially refunded so £8.80 and £6.80 have been refunded back to you today. we have also pulled off a list of all transactions which went through at the Summer rate from 1/11-10/11 and are arranging for the over payments to be refunded via our finance team. we will ensure each customer affected receives an sms to advise them of this error.

Thank you to Pay By Phone for their openness and honesty on this matter. I hope this is a very isolated incident, and checks are made to ensure this has not occurred elsewhere.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Cyclists....Light up for winter!

Each year I am perplexed at the number of people who take to the roads of London, in the winter, in dark clothing and no lights. Expecting to stand out against the darkness of the evening. Cold, wet evenings, slippery roads, ignoring red lights, barreling through junctions. OK they are not all that bad, but surely it is worth being seen, whatever kind of cyclist you are?

With lights getting better and better, and much more affordable, as well as so many options of hi-vis clothing out there to be chosen from. Anything from lycra to casual / fashionable, there is no real reason not to at least make an effort to stand out from the darkness of the night.

This time last year I took up cycling in a more serious way than ever before. Choosing carefully, I have made sure I have the right gear to be seen, regardless of what environment and conditions I am riding in. Busy roads, to country lanes, I am aware of what I need to do to be seen and give myself a better chance.

Sadly, as the year has progressed, and my cycling has increased, so has my frustration. Firstly for having to share the road with such mindless imbeciles, refusing to stop at crossings, putting rear lights on the front of their bikes, and even riding with a helmet on.... the WRONG WAY AROUND! Yes, its true. They went to all that trouble to buy one, and can't work out which way it goes on!
Then of course there are helmet carriers. Bought a helmet, never leave home without it, but just carry it as an accessory on their handlebars. Go figure!

Then when I am driving, especially in the evening in traffic, there are the cyclists who just don't want to be seen. Checking mirrors like a paranoid freak won't help you spot one of these idiots. Weaving through traffic, no lights, dark clothing, then just swerving across your path to keep moving. I admire the fact that they are willing to ride in such conditions. I for one would not put myself there. There is no enjoyment in commuter cycling, especially in town. Buy some bloomin lights for heaven sakes!
Here, save yourself some money AND your life at the same time.

Amazing value from Chain Reaction Cycles Front and rear lights, Lezyne 400XL and the Lezyne Micro Rear light... Fantastic lights, huge saving, and maybe an early Xmas gift to yourselves Just £19.99

Take a moment to think how quickly you can change direction and speed on your bike. Now consider how quickly that picture with you in it, with no lights on, is changing for the motorists your are mixed in with. With lights, they can see you and will take a second look. Without, you are just part of the darkness, and pose no risk. Small lights give you a chance of being seen. Lights like this set make you far more noticable, and I say  that as a motorist who is constantly looking around me for fellow cyclists, not wanting to endanger them. But still they come, and surprise me with their ability to pop up like a duck at a fairground shooting range.

Even hi-vis clothing doesn't cost a fortune, certainly not an arm and a leg, the price you physically may pay if you get tangled in a car.

So please, as a cyclist, motorist, and street runner... Make yourself visible to everyone you share the road with . "It wasn't my fault" doesn't repair broken bones, bring you back to life, or change what happened. Give everyone a chance to get home safely this winter. Be seen!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Propositioned in the loo !

Yesterday me and some friends went for a ride in Richmond Park. After a good few miles, we took it easy for a bit, some leaving, others putting in a couple more laps. Apart from being a bit windy, the weather was good to us, until the last lap that is.
Suddenly out of nowhere, driving rain, quite cold too. Strong winds driving it into our eyes, making seeing where you were going almost impossible.

Finishing the lap ma and Jason took shelter under the trees in the car park, and Lee decided to ride home (nutter but respect!)

Contemplating how to get dry and changed, we decided to drive to the next car park and use the loos there. Driving in cleats was a first for me, but I took to it better than I did riding in them, that is for sure. Didn't fall off the car once!

Got to the car park, grabbed dry clothes and ran for the toilets. Main idea was just to dry off in a dignified fashion and get some dry clothes on where possible. Shoes off, socks off, and over shorts off, I used a dry t-shirt to dry off with. Whilst doing so, and talking to Jason, A guy walking away from the urinal behind me started to exclaim happiness, and verbalise his joy at seeing what he saw. Exclaiming how brilliant and amazing it was. I turned to look at him, and he pointed to the lower half of me, saying again it was amazing, and did I mind if he took a picture.

I smiled and laughed, looked at Jason and said sure. Leaning forwards onto the hand basin, with my back turned, he crouched right down, moved in close and got his phone out to take a or some pictures. Standing back up again, he smiled and thanked me for my willingness, again told me how amazing it looked, and apologised for the sudden and maybe shocking proposition.

As he left, I looked over at Jason, we laughed, and expressed surprise at the encounter, then I went off to the cubicle to get changed.

Just to clarify, the guy had seen my Candy Smashing Hulk tattoo, and was taking pictures of that. I don't know what you thought I meant, but hey, glad to have made someones day.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Feeling up tight.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you realise life is starting to get annoying. Suddenly see that you are not relaxed like you used to be?

That's me right now.
I am putting it down to lack of meaningful exercise recently, and the lack of endorphins surging through my body.

Things getting to me, that I would usually just brush off. I am certain (very hopeful at least) that is it not depression creeping up on me. This feels different, just frequently annoyed by things, and unable to shake them off as I usually would.

Feeling fat isn't helping, and it is something I need to get a grip of, my health, not the rolls of fat! I know my health has taken a real beating over the recent months, and it stresses me out. Hatred of myself some days for not making an effort when I know I could have.

Entering a ride in Nov has be back on the right road, and I am hoping more time spent training and getting my body working, will result in a clearer mind, and some direction back in my life. I seem to have forgotten the promise I made to myself back in March when I emerged from depression, that I would look after myself first.

Just writing this short, badly put together entry, just to mark my recognition of this moment, and try and make things more positive from here on in.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Public consultation on pedestrians.

Every time something catastrophic happens on the roads, rules and regulations are blamed, and a consultation takes place to see how they can improve things to make the situation safer. From layout changes, to change in infrastructure, there is no end to the changes which can take place once the reason for the incident is decided on.

A few years ago, cyclists took centre stage, with a rising number of cyclists using London's roads, the volume could not be safely handled, so we saw the introduction of cycle superhighways. A little strange at first, but eventually people warmed to them, and main routes started being used by the masses, giving them more space, priority in places, phased traffic signals etc.
All in all it was a win, but for some strange reason, in the following years injuries to cyclists were still as high, deaths were monitored, and it seemed all had failed.

But then when you take a step back, and look at what is going on, the cyclists, increasing in number still, were taking unnecessary risks, putting themselves in danger, inheriting a feeling of priority and self importance, and causing some to think "right of way" was another phrase for immortal. You have right of way when you are visible to all, if a vehicle fails to give you right of way, you WILL be injured when you still try to force your point.

OK, I am not going to go on about cyclists, being one, they get a bad enough name as it is, so lets not pick on them any more.

My point was of course, whenever bad things happen, things change. And with those changes, so peoples mindsets change.

But there is one group of users of the roads who never seem to be held accountable, or even considered in these consultations. In most models for road traffic flow, they are the well behaved little dots that wait at crossings, and cross when the light changes. However this is so far from the truth, it is ridiculous .

For decades now, if you watch London's road, you will see pedestrians diving into the road left right and centre. As both a cyclist and motorist, I have lost track of the number of times I have had to come to an abrupt halt, because some lazy halfwit has decided the crossing is too far away, they are too engrossed in their phone screen, or just don't appreciate that cars hurt when they hit people. As does my roadbike carrying my 220lbs at 20-30mph!

Now I am a realist, and know that people on foot are not going to change their ways any time soon, especially when all other groups around them have to abide. Stop at lights, crossings, informal crossings, chain of commuters pouring out of a station straight in to the road. Of the road user doesn't do this, they are to blame, plain and simple. A car pulls out in front of you, you hit it, they are to blame and pay for your car. A pedestrian walks in front of your car, you slam on the brakes, stop, they walk on just as the car behind rear ends you and is blamed for the accident.
Worst case, you hit them. They walked out 5ft in from of your car, no stopping distance will help them, BANG! they are down. It IS their fault, but legally you are the one who will go through the process with the police. Breathalised, questioned, report the accident to get your car repaired, and again get grilled by the insurance company, judged that you hit a poor human, lose your NCB.....

It is a bit unbalanced.

Introducing the new 20mph speed limit has changed all that though. No longer will any pedestrians be hit by cars in Lewisham or any other borough with such a limit. Even though it chops and changes depending what road you are on. Some main roads, not all, over the borough line and it increases.
All the while a message has been sent to pedestrians that they will all be safe from mean nasty cars forever more.
Truth be told, it is confusing as hell, and somewhat frustrating. Watch the road, watch out for cyclists, motorcyclists, emergency vehicles, road signs, road markings, oh and for humans throwing themselves in front of you in the split second you look up to check a road sign, and get done for driving without due care. Rather than the pedestrian being charged or held accountable for "irresponsible walking" maybe?

You can chew through statistics all you want, dream up the perfect scenario (no roads, obviously!) and change speed limits making them lower and lower. But there will still be accidents. Of course there is always the "if it saves just one life" campaign that we all love so much. The phrase used all the time to say (in most cases) I know it's a crap idea and really will make life awkward for all, but I bet we can get statistics next year to show that 1/3rd of a person was saved from an accident, and therefore it is a  success. And then start planning the 15mph limit.

Let us start with the basics. Pedestrian vs car, in most cases occurs in the road.... The road! Let the first question be, why was the pedestrian in the road?  It wasn't a crossing, it wasn't even a safe place to cross, and they were looking at their phone, wearing headphones and didn't look (had one of those today actually). But somehow the only person with any responsibility, is the motorist, who was doing everything they should.
I am not saying motorists are perfect, I am not saying pedestrians are always to blame, not by a long shot.

However what is really apparent from conversations with people, commuters etc, is that the main consensus of opinion is "they should let me cross" (wherever the hell I choose). There seems to be no common sense in the thought process, no understanding of how long it takes a car to stop, where is safe to cross, or what will happen if it all goes terribly wrong. Immortal minds conspire to produce a very stupid and dangerous way of thinking.
Going back to a forum thread which has raged on for years now, calling for a crossing outside a local station, many points have been made, most valid, but some truly scary. For example, the belief that if there is a crossing in place, this somehow makes the road completely safe to cross. A red light or a flashing belisha beacon somehow enforces the rule of immortality. Even though in the same thread, the same people state how poor the line of sight is.

So, we have the exit to a station, where sometimes 100+ people can emerge at a time, pouring onto the pavement, and some wishing to cross the road. Obviously the most logical place to cross is IMMEDIATELY outside the station, at one of the worst sight lines on the road. Boldly walking out with headphones in, staring at the screen of their phone texting or messaging to say they are almost home (or under a car as the case may be). Those who frequent this patch of road, and many others like it, will insist the road needs making safer, and not for one second question their own responsibility. Of course it is their right to cross wherever the hell they want, without risk of being held to account.

I am sure if new legislation was passed tomorrow, copying the USA and having jaywalking laws, there would be outrage, and cries about human rights, pedestrian cattling, freedom of movement and much more. God forbid pedestrians being responsible for their own safety.

The average person doesn't walk across rail lines, busy motorways, fast moving A roads etc. No, at this point somehow the common sense switch is firmly on. But come into a town or city, and watch the behaviour changes, it is truly stunning.

So that brings me to the point of the blog.
When was the last time pedestrian movement and behaviour was studied in depth. At various locations which are bad for people ignoring safe crossing spots, and opting to walk in front of cars with the "YOU WILL STOP FOR ME" mentality?
It is a hard one I know, but with software available these days, I am sure cameras capturing the junctions or hotspots could effectively count those crossing in dangerous places, throw up some statistics and see what can be done about the prime cause of a lot of these accidents.

It is all very well lowering speed limits, even on roads where there is no call for it, which rightly or wrongly causes frustration and stupid behaviour, and in fact probably raises the chances of an accident. Of course the motorist is at fault here, that goes without saying.  But the introduction of these badly thought out measures will be the cause.

I think it is about time that human traffic flow is taken into account when considering changes to the roads. Once it was a good idea to have railings to stop people crossing at hotspots, now the onus is on the motorist to be able to stop when someone makes a stupid decision. I wonder how long it will be before schools stop teaching the green cross code, and introduce the "right to cross" code!

With the schools going back this week, it has been a baptism of fire for some motorists. 6-7 weeks of lower road volumes, less people on the pavements. And now all of a sudden, parents, kids, mummies with buggies, all willing to throw themselves out in front of your car without a moment of thought.
Seriously the change is dramatic and worrying. Parents walking their toddlers up the main road, running free while mummy or daddy stares at the screen of their phone, or natters to another parent. I had one on Brockley Road yesterday, and saw it happening before it did, then out ran the kid, just getting into the road before daddy saw and reacted. It could have been horrific.

In short, peak times on the roads are hell, and it is not so much the wheeled road users to blame. A balance has almost been found amongst all. Bus drivers do as they please, black cabbies can stop and do a U turn on a dime at will, or just cut you up. PHV's mainly Prius's can roll down the road at 5mph while using their device to get a new fare, then just stop or accelerate away, cyclists won't stop for red lights, and will weave like nutters, coming up on both sides of you at lights, overloading your mind with spacial awareness. Motorcyclists, speed, weave, and rev up for no reason. We all know our places.

But pedestrians.. Well that is another matter. Ignore the tourists, and those who are no used to London roads, and just focus on the pretentious  little princesses who demand that they may cross a road, or just walk down the middle of it, at a moments notice, and in no way should be berated, held to account, or challenged for their stupidity. Phone in one hand, Starbucks in the other, headphones in, and out they go. Shortest route to work, or in some cases hospital.

In short, I am fed up of the main users of the roads being blamed for interactions which occur when pavement dwellers dare to venture into the world of roads, fast moving vehicles, and the consequences of a collision between themselves and the vehicle.

I say bring in legislation to hold pedestrians accountable more often, allow prosecution for times where a thoughtless pedestrian causes a collision between others, and start handing out some tickets to idiots who refuse to abide by the guidelines.

I have missed so many points I have thought up over the week that this post has been brewing in my head, so might return to the matter soon.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fatal accident in Penge 31/8/16

At some point recently a 23 year old male decided to take a car which didn't belong to him, for a drive.
In the time following this decision, the vehicle had been reported stolen, spotted by the police, and requested to stop by a marked police road traffic unit.
Subsequently the male decided today was not a good day to stop and be arrested, so failed to stop. With two marked Met Police road traffic units behind him, the man decided to lead them on a chase through the streets of South London, and eventually lost control on Lennard Road in Penge, SE London.

Tragically, he struck a number of pedestrians as he lost control, killing two instantly, and injuring a number more, who required hospitalisation. From a simple failing to stop and possible TWoC, to death by dangerous driving. Tonight family and friends of the victims of this event will be desperately looking for answers. Why their loved ones, how did this happen, who they should blame?

The majority of law abiding citizens will have it clear in their heads. A crime was committed, the police took action, it ended tragically. A car thief failed to stop, drove like an idiot, and killed their friends or family. Critically there is the point of the thief was only driving like this because he was being pursued. Or was he? Maybe his erratic driving is what drew their attention to him in the first place. Maybe he was fleeing an offence he had just committed. Whatever the case, it doesn't change the facts of what happened.

There are also others involved in this, and affected by it. The 23 year old male who now has this action playing over and over in his mind, and the guilt already eating away at him. The officers and other first responders, as well as the public who all assisted at the scene. A scene like this is not one you are about to forget quickly. One moment, dozens of lives affected for a long time.

So who do you blame, and how do you decide that?
If the guy didn't steal the car, it would not have happened.
If he stopped for the police, it would not have happened.
If he hadn't lost control, it would not have happened.
If they had not been standing there,it would not have happened.
If the police had not chased him, it would not have happened.
If they had aborted the chase, it would not have happened.

Lot's of if's there. But the fact of the matter is, it DID happen, and both parties must stand accountable for their roles in the events of today.
When you compare the sequence of events, one certainly looks worse than the other. The 23yr old male decided to take a car, uninsured, not belonging to him, and drive it around. No protocols, no rules. Just do as he pleases. When challenged by Met Police officers he made the decision not to stop, and began to flee. At this point a pursuit begins.
Over to the police.
On identifying and targeting the stolen vehicle, a stop would be put in. Lights and maybe sirens, directing the vehicle to stop. Meanwhile they would contact the control room and advise they have made contact with a stolen vehicle, and no failing to stop. As commentary begins, the inspector in the control room would observe and authorise or call off the pursuit. The officers would advise of the road conditions, speeds, driving manner. Conditions for the day, dry, clear, and average to low traffic volumes, this would usually dictate safe to pursue.
As it progressed a number of trained and experienced officers would continually make assessment, and decide to continue or abort. With 2 cars in pursuit, that is an extra opinion.

With all this in mind, it is quite mind boggling that in this day and age, so many people have taken to Twitter and other forms of social media to attack and blame the police. Stating it wasn't necessary, a car isn't worth a life, unjustified, excessive and many other ways of saying the police were wrong to chase a car, on what the media describe as a "quiet residential area" which is also a bus route (go figure)

Of course it is easy to look on in retrospect, with no responsibility in the matter and say coulda, shoulda, woulda. But the truth is, none of us were involved in those decisions. Very few people know the actual situation front to back. Had the car been involved in something else, was there a more pressing reason to get the vehicle stopped.

Now it is great to see that many people are aware of NPAS, and their ability to control a pursuit. But even based at the nearest location, their flight time is a few minutes from lifting, I have seen them in action, it's quick but not instantaneous. How long was the pursuit from start to finish, was there even time to request NPAS, if so, where was the nearest aircraft, was it even available. It is so easy to assume all resources are available at the drop of a hat, and look back with hindsight and say how a matter should have been handled. But the raw facts remain. A car was stolen, spotted, and requested to stop. It decided not to, and the police have a job to do.

Some of the responses on Twitter have ranged from making me angry at the ignorance or direct hatred of the police, to making me worry for the mental welfare of the people writing these things. I know some seeme as "pro police" or a mindwashed follower, but I have always tried to see both sides, especially when on the wrong side myself. On this occasion, to me at least, it is clear as day who is in the wrong.

So lets have a look at some of the tweets about the decision the police made today.

How it's still deemed sensible to chase stolen cars at incredibly high speeds through build up areas is beyond me

why do Police insist on chasing these low life scumbags, risking our lives they should use intell to find them we know who they r..

why are 2 police giving chase at them speeds at this time I'n the day on school holidays
I'm sure we wil find out but I'm sure there told not to give chase on school holidays full of pedestrian

police have a duty off care.. Even when in police pursuits! Bottom line is innocents have died! Unnacceptable

So as you can see, some people certainly think the police are in the wrong. Fair to have an opinion of course, and fair play for airing it. 

Whatever you think about the matter, whatever your opinion. Please take a minute to think of the friends and families of ALL of those involved in today's events in Penge. 

For me, its plain and simple. Tragic, heartbreaking, but the results of the decisions an unnamed 23 yr old male made today. The police carried out their job, which will be scrutinised, dash cam footage reviewed, witnesses sought and interviewed by the IPCC, and a full investigation carried out on anyone who made a decision on that side of the fence during the event. The 23yr old male, well, I am sure he will have a compelling story to the delight of those wanting to find blame in the police trying to do their jobs.  
I wonder if the media can bring race into this at some point.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New Lewisham 20mph limit, and the DSA Driving Test

I have been thinking recently, if I am honest, just during the drive to work this morning, and a question has popped into my head...
During a DSA Driving Test, you will be asked to perform an emergency stop (controlled stop). This as a rule is carried out on a quiet road during the test route, at 30mph. See the problem yet?

With Lewisham imposing a 20mph limit on just about ALL roads other than red routes across the borough, where exactly can these emergency stops be practised and carried out during tests?

Now I don't know for sure, but special rules may apply, and the stop might be allowed to be performed at 20mph, within the borough limits, although I doubt this, because as it stands, in the real world a lot of cars in other boroughs are still permitted to travel at 30mph on the majority of roads. 

Otherwise, if the test MUST be performed at 30mph, am I right in thinking that Lewisham are pushing inexperienced drivers into neighbouring boroughs to perform their stops? From Hither Green, the most likely winners of this postcode lottery are LB of Greenwich, and LB of Bromley. How lucky of them!

So what will it be? I will be interested to do some more digging on this, and see what the official plan is. Time to send some tweets!

Well, here is the answer straight from DVSA, now I know. So people tested in a 20mph area, will execute the stop at a lower (easier?) speed, and possibly never gain the experience of doing 30mph on normal roads?

We would ask it to be done at/just under 20mph, where appropriate to do so. Nobody would be asked to break speed limit ^HT

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Trouble switching off...

It's a common sign of the first stages of depression or stress,  but right now I have no reason to have either. That said,  I have noticed over the past week, I have struggled to switch off at night and stop thinking.

Anything and everything is game,  thoughts flying through my mind at a thousand miles an hour. From friends to current affairs. Flitting from one subject to the next in the beast of my heart.

I am hoping to resume training in the morning,  and hopefully that will serve as the energy draining mechanism I need. As will the yoga I have planned. Maybe that is best saved for the evening rather than mornings.

It is hard not to get caught in the momentum of this,  and start worrying about stress and depression again. I know I have to get money sorted,  but that isn't a huge pressure right now,  or doesn't feel that way anyway. It could be what's causing it.

Either way,  I will be keeping a close eye on myself over the coming weeks to see how things are. In a sense it is nice to have my complete free mind back,  on the other hand,  while still on meds it is a small concern that I am able to do so.

Before anyone suggests, yup I am familiar with relaxation techniques,  and practice them. It's not the end of the world,  when I do drop off,  I sleep well,  other than some strange dreams.

Another contributing factor is  physical well being. Hip is 90% better but still uncomfortable at night. Knee is almost totally fine now. But my body being the funny bastard that it is dealt me a bout of gout in my ankle this weekend. Thanks body,  you really do spoil me. Or is that ruin me?

Anyway,  wide awake so wrote this to pass some time. New week starts in an hour. Here's to next week and training again.

Friday, August 12, 2016

How to slow residential traffic....

First off, this isn't actually a "how to", the actual answers and solutions evade me, and many others it would seem. There is no quick fix, and no 100% effective way to do things. But that said, there are some really daft ideas tried out from time to time.
I can actually remember when speed humps first appeared round where I live in Forest Hill (South London).

I recall being out on my street with friends, and hearing a loud bang or thump from the top of the road, followed by a long screech of tyres skidding to a halt. We all ran up the road, turned into the next road, and there it was, a car stopped at an angle, people gathering on the pavement by a wall, and starting to take off jackets etc.
In short, a speeding car had hit a child, launching him into the air and throwing him onto the pavement. I never did know the outcome of the accident, but the moment stuck with me.

Having been hit by not one but two cars as a child (separate incidents, I'm not THAT unlucky!) I understand how silly kids can be, even with the right education on the matter, kinds by their nature do not rationalise things too well.

Now, I can't tell you the exact time line of events after that, but Sunderland Road was one of the first local to me to get speed humps (not cushions), and boy were they nasty ones, proper little car launchers.  So epic in fact that one actually near as damn it, saved my life in a completely unorthadoxed way. I shall digress quickly, its a good story...
One night while walking around to pass time, with my Walkman on, I stopped on the corner of Sunderland and Waldram Park, I had spotted a red Mercedes convertible speeding up towards the junction of Sunderland where the speed humps started. Knowing they were unpainted and hard to see at this time, I watched on as the Merc hit the first one. An almighty smashing sound as the car bottomed out, before being launched into the air.

Chucking to myself, I turned and started walking up Waldram Pk Rd towards my road. Seconds later, a car rounded the corner, mounted the pavement about 10ft in front of me, taking out a road sign, bus stop , fence and ending up in the bush. Running over to the car I quite quickly found the driver to be drunk as he staggered from the car and begun to walk off.

This is before mobile phones, so I walked with him for a moment, he turned into my road, so I ran ahead, called the police on my home phone, told them which way he was heading and that I would rejoin him walking and wave the unit down when I saw them. 5 mins later her was in cuffs, and I was being thanked.
Moral of the story is, if I hadn't stopped to watch the Merc launch over the speed hump, I most likely would have been under the car.

Anyway, that was around the time that the first road I recall was filled with speed humps, I would have been 18, so it would have been, errrrrr, 1991 or there abouts.
Since that time, Sunderland Road has remained fully covered in speed humps, while as time went on, other local roads would see this wonderful new inventions. Speed cushions, and road narrowings.

Now let me tell you a little story about speed cushions... They don't really work, unless you choose to drive a small car with a narrow track like my Smart. Anything normal just manages to straddle the cushion. Given the design is to allow safe and unhindered passage to emergency service vehicles, it wasn't really ever a great idea. Other than ripping the underside from low cars, or cars with anything hanging (serves them right for straddling it though eh!), they do very little, I would go so far as to say pointless. UNLESS.....

Unless that is, you live on a road where in their infinite wisdom they have decided to stagger the speed cushions, creating a slalom. So now, instead of driving down the middle of the road where possible to get a clear path straddling the humps, you now get cars, already speeding, with no intention of slowing from 40+ (in a 20) swerving violently from side to side as they zig zag down the road. At the point there are 3 humps, when no cars are parked, cars will swing in tight towards the kerb, as that one is lower. All in all, ineffective and dangerous.

Not sure if you can make it out in the picture but there is a set of 2, then a set of 3. 3's all the way would have made far more sense surely. Raised with Lewisham a number of times, my concerns have gone reply free. One day, just for a laugh I will film from the top at rush hour.


Right now, I know what you are thinking. I am against speed calming, and think people should be allowed to speed around. Well, no, you are wrong.
I do however think the approach is a bit gung-ho, and badly thought out and implemented.
First off, to put an almost blanket speed limit on the whole borough! What the hell was the thinking behind that. Now I know some roads will remain 30mph, A205 as far as I understand, and maybe some others. But here is the truth.
Sydenham Hill was made a 20mph a while back. The road has had a speed camera on it for a long time now, way before it was a 20mph. People would slow for the camera, then carry on speeding. So putting in the 20mph on this road has had the following effect.
For the most part, NOTHING! People still slow to 20mph, then speed off again. However, occasionally someone will do the whole road at 20mph, and experience people hurriedly overtaking where they can, and probably driving far more dangerously than they would in a 30.

Now, I know, I know, it is the idiots speeding that are in the wrong, and some are obeying the law... But it has still resulted in speeding, dangerous driving, and possible accidents. The same occurs in other 20mph zones around London, and there is no better example of how people behave after being frustrated by a lower speed limit for a given amount of time, than seeing how people drive immediately after leaving a temporary 50mph on the motorway governed by SPECS. I guarantee that 80% of cars travel at least 10mph more than they were before entering the temp speed limit.

The point being is quite simple, make people feel penned in and delayed, and they immediately become frustrated, irrational and driven to make up time. Even pedestrians do it, taking more chances to cross a road, catch a train or bus, etc. It is simple human nature.

The only thing that reigns this behaviour in, even a bit, is serious consequence. Injury, incident, or penalisation. For humans, barriers are put up to slow footfall to a controlled level, and manage its direction (still people ignore it and take chances) Give pedestrians a crossing, and most will consider it too long to wait, and just walk out, but that's another story for another day.
For car drivers, the threat of being caught, delayed further, or penalised with points on your driving licence, and a fine seems to work, hence they slow for a bit on Sydenham Hill. Not threat, no risk, no point in obeying those little signs. Simple.

Now, this is where my argument gets interesting. In rural areas, less so in suburbia, there are community groups who work with the local police to do speed checks. Armed with a speed gun, and a clipboard to record registrations on, these volunteers regularly visit traffic speed hot spots, and give up a few hours of their time to record and report people travelling at an excessive speed. Training is given by the police, and I would assume only trusted people can participate to avoid fraudulent reporting, but the result is a visible deterrent, and another part of the borough where speed will be tackled head on, and not just signposted and hoped that people will be good.

Sadly, although there are a number of schemes throughout London, I would dare to say there are more needed. When the police dare to do static speed checks with hand helds, people scream at them that they should be out there fighting real crime. OK, that's fine, hand it over to the public, allow those willing to play their part, and spread the catch net over a far wider area. There are people ready and waiting to do this. It just needs the funding of the equipment, which I am sure could be achieved by spacing the smaller 20mph signs out a bit further apart than 150-200 metres, and not spending thousands on planning and installing more and more and more physical traffic calming measures (which don't work too well as I already mentioned).

I guess what I am trying to say here is, it is not just the councils that are bothered about the speed some traffic moves at. Residents of the areas are concerned too about the increasing number of idiots on the roads, and are ready and waiting to do something about it. But the same residents also don't want to spend 30% longer getting around their area, because 5% of motorists can't behave or drive in a reasonable manner. The residents suffer with the speeding AND the consequences of the calming measures too. Allow the same residents to do their bit, and help get the idiots, who bring this blight upon them, dealt with officially.

There are targets to reach, as well as budgets to spend, but how about we think about this logically now. Take the money and tarmac being used to build up mounds in the road, which will disintegrate over time and become useless, let alone be ineffective from the word go. Take them and repair some of the most desperate roads in the boroughs. Not so people can speed, but so motorists can drive down them without damaging their cars, or damage other peoples cars spitting up bits of broken road surface.
Make them safer and smoother to encourage more cyclists (like myself) to get out there and ride instead of driving. Less traffic, less speeding cars.... See my logic?

Then, instead of utilising an already stretched police service, and allow them to carry out other roles. I avoid saying more important roles, as catching speeders IS important regardless of other peoples opinions. Take their time just the once, training members of the local communities to use the equipment themselves, have a visible presence on the roads, especially at key times of the day, and make people aware they ARE being watched, recorded and reported.

Simple human nature tells you the following. Put signs up that say DON'T, people become curious and do it just to see why they were told not to. Climbing on scaffolding, walking on railway lines, even drinking or eating household products. Say no, the brain says why not, and challenges the instruction.  Exactly the same with speeding. Set a limit, people will drive just outside that limit. Just to see what they can get away with.

Put a barrier in the way of someone, something physical to try and prevent an undesired action, and the human mind will tell some to overcome it. Fencing by scaffolding, razor wire near railways, etc, all things that people ignore daily. Knowledge of the injuries people sustain daily is still not enough to stop someone doing something.

However, place a human challenge in their way, and you see the best response towards prevention you are going to see. The risk of unwanted human interaction, and the possibility of a penalty, and the success rate goes through the roof. Watch how people approach blue lights in general, slowing from afar (albeit some to rubber neck), compared to how late people brake, and how fast they speed up again for a speed camera. It's very telling.

As you can probably tell, I am one of the people who advocates empowering the public, and allowing them to take pride in their residential areas, work together and make their community safer. Who knows, people might even get to know their neighbours too in the process. Hopefully not while reporting them for speeding!

Going back to the beginning of this blog, and the reasoning for it, the press release from Lewisham Council regarding their plans and implementation of the borough wide 20mph. Some of the wording in it worries me slightly.
The borough-wide limit is expected to bring about a culture change over time where it becomes ‘socially unacceptable’ to drive more than 20mph in Lewisham, in the same way as drink driving or not wearing a seat belt currently is.   
OK, so we are trying to make something socially unacceptable. Problem is, how many pedestrians have build in speed sensors, and can actually tell a car is exceeding the speed limit? Making something socially unacceptable is great, but you have to make people aware that it is being observed and dealt with, not just stick signs up and wash your hands of it. The way to do this is to work with others in the borough to enforce these limits. To get the message out there that speeding is NOT OK. But at the same time not be irrational and make certain roads 20mph, which actually serve no purpose at 20mph. Think about this, if a main road is a 20 and has a camera, and a side street is 20 with no camera, people will turn to rat running again. Neither route is quicker, but the residential one poses less risk of being caught. Hmm that isn't good!

Reducing traffic speed also helps people feel more confident about being on their local streets. This results in more children walking to school and elderly people feeling more able to travel independently and safely. 
So does having people visibly on random streets on different days of the week, checking speeds, and enforcing the slowing of the traffic on these roads. Although sadly, I get the impression that slowing traffic will have a negative experience to the pedestrian experience. Going back to SPECS, watch he traffic behaviour and you will see car after car, evenly spaced out, fed up and unwilling to let people join the convoy. Apply that to a road where everyone is bunched up, and pedestrians will find it harder to cross, especially at informal crossings, and traffic merging will find it a nightmare to get out, and take risks.

On the whole, calmer road speeds help to make walking and cycling more attractive leading to less traffic congestion, better health, less noise, more social interaction and stronger communities. 
As a whole, stating that walking is a better alternative than driving makes a mockery of the point of owning a car, and a pressure on those who need to commute to work. It emphasises that the priority is not to get the roads moving. All while saying it will cause less congestion, and better health. Although I am pretty sure that slowing a smooth running road, from 30 to 20 will cause vehicles to spend more time on said road, and possibly INCREASE the pollution. Suggesting that communities will grow stronger by reducing the speed limit by 10mph is a pipe dream, and serves no purpose in this matter, the same applies for social interaction. Lets fill the press release with the concerns focus groups highlight the most, and make it sound a lot more positive than it really is.

 Roads that are managed by Transport for London (red routes) will not be included at this time. These are primarily the South Circular (A205), New Cross Road (A202), Bromley Road leading to Lewisham High Street (A21) and Lewisham Way leading to Lee High Road (A20). Private roads or those on housing estates are not included in the borough-wide limit
Thank heavens for that, Yet ironically, it is most of these roads which play the biggest role in congestion, so in fact the whole scheme doesn't actually address the route cause of the issue, and leaves cars who have driven painfully slow for no reason (in some cases) will still arrive to join busy main roads, and sit in traffic. Hmm. Flawed logic?

At the entrance to all borough roads 20mph signs will be in place. On roads that border red routes there will again to be clear signs informing drivers of the speed change limit. Smaller '20' repeater signs are proposed to be placed at regular intervals on either side of the road. There may also be 20mph flashing Vehicle Activated Signs (VAS) to remind drivers to keep to the new lower speed limit on certain roads if required. 
Lots of signs, cluttering up the streets, to inform two groups of drivers. Those in the know who know what speed they should be driving at. And those who couldn't care less about what speed they are being told to drive at. If there is no management or enforcement of these limits, ignore them. As for the flashing signs... They have ignored all the signs they passed all the way down the road at intervals of 150-200 metres, but a flashing sign means business, and will really get the point across? How much do these 20mph signs and VAS cost?

The police have responsibility to enforce all speed limits. The police have said the 20mph speed restrictions will be treated in the same way as any other speed limit. We do not expect everyone to drive within the 20mph limit from the outset, but over time, we expect compliance to increase.
Of course, the council puts up signs, washes their hands, points at the police and say, done my bit, up to you now mate, you find the funding yourself.
I believe this part is called, passing the buck.
Taking a moment to digest this, the police are strapped for staffing and funding to perform enough speed checks on the roads as they are. They do a cracking job, but are at their limits. Allowing a fair threshold and prosecuting above a certain speed, their impact is minimal on the behaviour of drivers already. So, lower the speed limit, increase the number of potential people speeding, and remind me again of how exactly the police are expected to manage the exponential rise in potential offences?
If you can't serve customers fast enough in a shop, you don't try and increase your footfall do you?
Flawed logic again?
The closing statement of not expecting people to obey the limits is the deal maker for me, makes the whole thing worthwhile don't you think. OK it says they "hope" it will increase, well, that's nice.

The introduction of the speed limit is intended to make the roads safer for all road users.  Although at the moment there are no speed limits for cyclists alone, people on bikes are expected to ride in a safe manner especially in shared areas. A cyclist can be prosecuted for riding with undue care.  
Fantastic, so I can do whatever speed I want on my road bike, under or overtaking slow moving impatient cars. With the pedestrians with renewed confidence walking out into my path, and being hit by a 30mph 220lbs bowling ball. Well that's OK then, human vs human impacts don't hurt anyone. Oh unless you seat one unsecured human behind another, stop the car suddenly, and the rear passenger continues at 30mph, killing the front seat passenger. So I am clear, riding fast on a bike is NOT dangerous at all, and won't cause harm to anyone they strike. That's good then.

Larger signs (600mm diameter) are needed at the entrance points to the borough and smaller repeater signs (300mm diameter) are required at regular intervals, approximately every 150 to 200 metres. We will design the scheme to put signs on existing poles or lampposts where possible and to keep the number of signs to a minimum. Existing signs in affected areas will be reviewed and indications are that we can often remove many redundant signs. 
Removal of redundant signs, like 1 in 2 of the signs on roads every 150 metres maybe? More signs does NOT equate to more safety. Signs = distraction = increases potential of not seeing someone stepping out. Unclear signs, conflicting signs etc all play their role in making roads more dangerous, not safer as it is suggested.

Delivery stage
​Traffic order applications​Mar 2016July 2016​
​Implementation​Sep 2016
​Monitoring​Sep 2016​Mar 2018
​Design options for roads with low compliance​Oct 2016​Oct 2017
​Implementation of remedial measuresJan 2017​​Mar 2018

This is the bit I like the most.
With comments all the way through, suggesting it may take some time to get compliance to a decent level, awareness may take time etc, we have the above timescale.
Implementation, Sept 2016
Design options for low compliance, Oct 2016
30 days after implementation, people will start drawing up plans how to make changes to roads and layouts to enforce the new speed limits, while at the same time the planners admit it will take time to get things moving!

Is there some unspoken of plan somewhere, where someone wants to revolutionise the road layouts of the borough, almost pedestrianising them? Does someone have a fantastic deal with a contractor, promising a couple of years of work, based on a 30 day review of a new speed limit.
Think I am being irrational about this, well then consider this. The last time the data was gathered for review, and to see what needed to be done, it took a bit longer. This long in fact.

​Data collection and analysis​May 2014​June 2015
13 months of collection an analysis. This time around, after transforming the whole borough almost over night, 30 days will do the trick, before plans are laid out to throw what will probably be millions of pounds at highways contractors to make sweeping and lasting changes to out roads. With planning ending and work starting by January!

So I will say it one last time.
Please for goodness sakes, expand the community speed checks, empower the communities (that WILL bring them together, that WILL make them more social), take the pressure off the under funded, overworked police, and be sensible about the matter.
I am sure when this all goes ahead, in years to come, some amazing figures will be released saying how well it has all worked. Meanwhile the number of prosecutions for speeding or dangerous driving will remain, the culprits will remain unpunished, and full of confidence that the rules don't apply to them.

Good luck with the changes, you are going to need it!




Thursday, August 11, 2016

A simple existence.

Sometimes it is hard to realise the importance of some things in life. Too busy keeping up with the Jones's, having the latest gadgets, being up to date on the latest trends in clothing, music, TV and other social pressures. So it is good to take a step back at your life once in a while, and strip it back to the bare bones. Take a moment to realise what is actually important, and indispensable, compared to the material and emotional clutter most people seem to fill their lives with.

This is something I tend to do after a big shake up in life, maybe every few years, and am sure I have blogged about it in the past. Just like people have a Facebook cull for example, and delete all the randoms that they have added and accepted over the past year, and unfollow groups which have become tiresome.

Recently, as well as my own things going on, I have taken stock of what others go through too, and it is pretty humbling. Sure I have had my own battles in life, and have struggled to keep it together at times. Physical and mental pain sometimes making life feel unbearable, but I have never really paid much attention to those around me who go through similar.

Until now that is. Like I say recently I have become more and more aware that the trials and tribulations I have already dealt with in life await many of us at some point in life. Depression for some, illness for others, and of course the inevitable loss of loved ones. All things I can relate to very well having experienced them all a number of times.

This isn't a "been there, got the t-shirt" moment, I am not trying to belittle others in their times of need. Quite the opposite in fact. Well in my mind anyway. It is at times like these that I dearly want to offer my experiences with those going through the matters themselves. No two experiences are the same, but they bear the same hallmarks, and usually trigger a similar journey for a person to take. Just knowing someone has been down a similar path can sometimes be comfort enough.

Hearing "I know how you feel" and it sounding condescending is not just exclusive to depression, but to all other experiences in like which knock us from our axis.
Seeing others suffer in silence is almost painful. Do you approach and offer a hand, do you stand and watch them self destruct until it's too late or they finally beg for help? Interfere, or carefree?

Like I was saying, it is at times like this that everything else around you just seems to disappear, fading away into insignificance, leaving you only with the things you actually need to get by. The roof over your head, food and drink, and hopefully a network of good supportive friends who can steady you along the way, until you are stable again. Taking on tasks to assist, being there to talk to when you need to find reason.

If you ask most people what they could not live without, a lot would take love and friendship for granted, and move straight onto material objects, the internet, etc. But at a time of need, all that changes and quickly take stock of friends and acquaintances, and decide who you need around you to help.

When on an even keel, and taking stock, the results are more balanced. For me for example primarily I have a great group of friends who I know, even with their quirky ways, have my best interests at heart. Then I have my dogs, a sight and company I have grown used to, and some comfort when I am having a crappy day. The ability to get around comes next, being able to walk, cycle or drive somewhere is a huge bonus when the brain just says escape. Obviously the latter being the best when getting away with the dogs. Of course all this would be pretty pointless, so the roof over my head (and a very nice one thankfully) is right up there with the primaries in my life.

With just those things, dropping the car if necessary (but not out of preference) I could have a pretty happy existence really. Obviously I would miss the tech, given that it is one of the things that I find myself most engrossed in when not out and about, but I know I can get by without such things, and on trips to Spain I try and enforce that the best I can. Still turning to my tech devices, but no where near as much as usual. So if I were ever forced to choose things in life to let go of, or keep, I know where my loyalties lay. Friends, a roof, health just about sum up the priorities for me. How about yours?

In other aspects of life, like questioning how I fit into other peoples lives. For years I worried a lot about these things, but over time, experience and wisdom teaches you not to care too much about it. Real friends can deal with most things life throw at them, if someone decides to get all hateful towards you about petty things, like running up a phone bill in your name, then telling you it is YOUR problem, then calling you all the names under the sun (nope I don't forget pathetic acts like that), then they can simply go fuck themselves. I have no time for fakes, bullshitters and pisstakers in my life, but do keep a few around just for entertainment value.

On the grand scheme of things, how people feel about me is irrelevant. I can honestly say that 95% of the time I really don't care what others think of me. But in that delicate 5% time frame, it hurts me deeply, and that is my achillies heel in life. Suddenly becoming vulnerable to what others think of me, what is said about me, and how I am perceived. The last bout of depression is testament of this without doubt. Having my life torn apart by a few simple actions and comments.

It is so easy to reflect with hindsight and say how simple life can be if you just do this and that. But sometimes you are drawn in, trying to do the right thing, follow your heart, and it bites you in the arse, hard! How you recover from that is another matter. I have seen many friends over the year destroyed by their own actions. Actions which were carried out to make someone elses life richer, not for self gain. Taken for granted, used for their kindness and vulnerability, by selfish, greedy individuals only out for themselves.

When I look at friends who have gone off to do their own thing, follow their hearts, and enjoy life without the complications of the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, I am envious. To a degree at least. I like convenience, I like choice, and if I am totally honest I actually like a bit of the rush I live in being a Londoner. Sure I like to escape and recharge in remote places, but I also like the thrill of a 24 hour city. I am sure if push came to shove, and I could choose without cutting my nose off to spite my face, I could choose one, but right now, the balance is good.

As for fashion trends, the need to socialise in popular places, and being trendy, well that can pretty much sod off. I don't shun them as a whole, but have no ambition to become trendy and fit in places which I find to be so false. The more you pay to be somewhere, the less it becomes about who you are, and the more it is about what you have, money being the key. Money attracts money, and it also attracts fakers trying to get a step up. So that can stay where it is as far as I am concerned.

Clothing, I like nice clothes, but prefer to have the right clothes for the job, rather than clothes with the right labels. Same with other things in life, like tech for example. Once it was about branding, now more about ability for buck.

So to me, really, I think the older I get, the more simple a life I desire. My experiences keep me grounded, my desire to help others keeps me true to my goals.

To all my friends who support me, thank you so much. To those special people in my life who I am trying to reach out to (nope, you are not the only one) , hang in there, I am right here, as are many others who care about what you are going through. Together we will all get back up on our feet together and support each other. Have faith in yourself.