Thursday, February 16, 2017

#LondonIsOpen (and toxic)

There is no secret that I find the Twitter feed of the current London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, very annoying. Constantly bleating on about things, then falling silent when questions are asked, or the tables turned.

One of the original things that really got on my nerves was the constant tweets stating how there would be less strikes and more negotiations under his watch, cutting the number of transport strikes drastically. Boris had called for them to be almost banned, Sadiq felt that negotiation was the way forward.
For days on end there were almost hourly tweets about his pledge and how there were less strikes. Until of course strike season hit, aka holiday season. Then the shit hit the fan and the strikes begun. On the odd occasion when agreement was reached, they would be cancelled or postponed, and Twitter would hear all about how HE had prevented travel chaos, and was so much better than Boris..

Then the tables turned, and strike after strike has hit various transport networks, and silence from the mayor. The occasional "we are disappointed" tweet, but nothing strong worded, demanding further talks or how out of order it was. Certainly no boasts about his involvement in the talks, in fact the opposite. Avoiding having any involvement at all.

Then there is the demand that TfL have control over Southern Rail. Again, another bandwagon jumped aboard before knowing the full story. Granted Southern is a joke, especially with their strikes also, but their services leave a lot to be desired too. Something needs to be done, but with the shambles that is under his control already, I am not sure that adding another pony to the stables is the right move. Again, we heard so much about "I want to take control" but no comments on the strikes that cripple London each time. Obviously the negotiating skills used with the tube unions don't work, so stay out of it. Wise move!
That said, when Southern rejected the idea of handing over to TfL, they DID say be part of our talks, and help us with your ideas on how it could be improved.
With London's best interests at heart, naturally Mr Khan said NO, I want nothing to do with it, and refuse to be a part of this. Nice one Sadiq!

Then my favourite bit of it all. As you can tell from the blog title.. #LondonIsOpen.
Put on most posts from the mayors office, this seems to be the favourite tag of the moment.
My only thought on it is summed up by this scene from Blades of Glory..

I don't even know what that means
No one knows what it means, but its provocative
No it's not!
Quite simple, words!
Ringing back to the Brexit referendum, when people started somehow saying that the UK was shutting the world out and didn't want to trade with them, the mayors office coined the phrase and tag #LondonIsOpen
Somehow suggesting that the world thought we were closed for some reason. Not once has it ever been suggested that London didn't want to trade with anyone, or that London was somehow closed for refurbishment. Windows painted out, so no one could see what was happening.
Nope, in fact London has never been closed, and in some ways, suggesting it is open creates an air of negativity towards it.

After that was all done with, the tag remained, and is now used on absolutely everything, from business to events etc. Which when promoting an event which has already been arranged is a bit pointless, as the organisers clearly know London Is Open, or they couldn't have booked it ! Duh!

Speaking of events, that is my next and final grip, mixed in with #LondonIsOpen

Recently, along with being open, the mayor has also identified that London is toxic. Very toxic in fact. To the point of issuing warnings suggesting people don't go outdoors unless really necessary at times, and saying how we are failing, and people are dying each year in London BECAUSE of the pollution.
Now I am no neigh sayer here, I know full well that we live in a very busy city, packed with vehicles and other things churning out toxins all day long. I certainly notice the difference when I visit Wales or the Spanish Mountains. But there seems to be some confusion from the mayors office about how bad it really is.

Day after day, Twitter is flooded with comments about how the government need to give people thousands of pounds towards replacing their diesel car. The same diesel car they were given money towards in the last scrappage scheme. The government needs to act on the pollution, taxes levied and increases to the tolls for the congestion zone. Advising how many people die annually because of the air etc.

And then, in the nest breath (a very toxic one of course) we get told about events being held, in Central London, in the open air, and how people should flock to them, because after all #LondonIsOpen.

I have posted a few examples of the contradictions below. And before you say anything, I am all for London hosting events, I love cycling in London, and spending time in town, so have nothing against it. But you can't be the champion of champions for London, aka the mayor, and scaremonger people into believing we are living in a city which has toxic smog daily, air quality warnings and sirens, and environmental wardens walking around in high vis uniforms so they can be seen through the smog.
THEN expect your same audience on Twitter to flock to events you are promoting. That's just dumb. Get a story and stick to it.

Smog and toxic
London’s dirty air is a public health crisis. I’m committed to tackling this. Read more about my plans here:
Older people & adults & children with lung or heart problems should avoid strenuous physical exercise, particularly outdoors.

Meanwhile... Positives
On 26 Feb we're turning Trafalgar Square into London's biggest cinema for a very special Oscar-night screening of << There it is!!

So... #LondonIsOpen AND #LondonIsToxic

In short, I guess what I am trying to put across in this entry is quite simple.

Stop talking shit Sadiq. Do what is right for London and its people, stop scaring people with over exaggerated stories, and then contradicting yourself by saying we need to bring people to London for events, tourism etc. Don't you see that by bleating on about air quality, you scare people away, not bring them here. Its the exact same media channel and audience that you speak through and to, but somehow you expect them to be positive.

London IS open, London is proud. It is a diverse yet united city who has been and still is respected globally by millions of potential tourists. Walk in the streets in town and you will see just how open London is, without having to use a damn hashtag and believe it spreads a message of positivity. It really doesn't. London is not a convenience store which has an Open/Closed sign. It is a city right up there on the world stage, historic, respected, and a magnet to people around the world. Stop pretending that YOU are single handedly  making the difference, you really aren't.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Preservation vs housing targets.

I head a lot these days about political pledges to build X amount of house by a certain date. How there is a housing crisis, we need more homes, more affordable homes etc. But at the same time I read everyday about the outrage over planned developments in preservation, conservation, and other sorts of land and properties.

There is a slight issue here, especially when in some cases it is the same people bleating on about needing more housing, who are chaining themselves to railings outside properties and pieces of land that they feel should be protected. Usually because 200 years ago a King stayed there overnight (apparently), or that the views are of outstanding beauty.

Now sure we all have different opinions on these things, and one mans beauty is another mans eyesore. However most will agree that falsely pushing up the prices of available housing, because everyone is bickering about if a piece of land should or should not have apartments built on it is not helping anyone.

Private money seems to speak loudest. You only have to take a drive along the now dark and overhung Nine Elms Lane in Battersea to realise that if the money is there, planning kinda goes out of the window, and the demand for expensive housing is met in a flash. Usually because people in these walks of life are willing to look the other way for the right sum of money.

Don't get me wrong, I think what is happening in Battersea is stunning, some amazing buildings going up. But the Thames has disappeared from view from the streets, and apartments in the new developments are going in droves for £8m , yes EIGHT MILLION POUNDS !
Just have a look on and search Nine Elms Lane, it is shocking.

Anyway, back to smaller stuff. Years ago a long strip of properties were bought up under a CPO by the Tories, to widen and free up the flow of the traffic along the Westway. Labour took power and scrapped it, but not before all the houses had been flattened.
Today, over a decade later, most of it just sits there, empty land, doing nothing. Why is it not being built on.
20+ years ago two houses on my street were demolished with the intention of rebuilding. It never happened. 20 years later, the empty, overgrown plot just sits there, doing nothing. I don't get it. Sure you can't demand someone builds on their empty land. But surely after X time some sort of compulsory purchase can be set in place, to at least encourage some movement by the owner. There are plots like this all over the place, some probably with no one sure who owns them anymore. I can't believe for one minute during the last housing booms we have had, that someone would not sell such a plot to a developer.

Then there is preservation and conservation. Something I don't get sometimes. Sure there are buildings of significance, and historic importance. There are pieces of groundbreaking architectural design, one of a kind or first of their kind that need preserving to maintain that chain of history and development.
But protecting something just because it was built by someone who was once locally relevant, and no one outside the tight knit world of historic architecture would know.... Is it really important we protect every piece of that persons work, especially when they fall into disrepair, or have changed so much that they are no longer period relevant?

Should such a property stand in the way of redevelopment, in which 3 times as many places to live could be created on the same footprint? Where somewhere that can be bought and demolished to provide affordable local housing, is protected because someone  locally relevant built the house?

Recently a small group of properties in W1 were demolished. On a little known road called Park Crescent. I am of course being sarcastic. The properties in mind were / are of huge significance, and have stood as a landmark in their own right for decades. Designed by the same architect as Buckingham Palace, the tall white facades, and columned exterior stood boldly in London's historic architecture. However after interest in knocking it all down was raised, it was decided that during the war the buildings had been damaged and not repaired to the correct period standard. Therefore the OK was given to sell them for £103m and flatten them. The plan is to build them to a more period correct standard.

So you can take a building which is 60% original, repair it not to quite the original standard, but to a standard to which no one will complain for 60+ years, but when the money shows up, it becomes substandard, and rebuilding the whole thing would be MORE period correct?

I guess what I am trying to say all along here is, there is a housing shortage, there are PC people who on one hand stand in the way of sensible, small local projects to increase housing on an incremental scale, opening opportunities slowly and steadily. But at the same time, other groups with apparently the same considerations will open up the flood gates for massive, unaffordable housing explosions.
I don't get it.

Sure open spaces are nice, clean air etc. Historic buildings need to be preserved. But HISTORIC buildings, not ones which have little bearing on the future, and teach us nothing about the past. I know I sound like a miserable old sod, but I am just sick of seeing things caught up in an over complicated, unnecessarily painful and time consuming process, only to be blocked sometimes by what I can only describe as people who have an air of self importance about them. I completely appreciate that some applications are blocked. God only knows what our streets would be full of if anyone could just build anything.

But when you take a look at the inconsistencies of things, and how modern regularly clashes with historic, but then other times something fitting is blocked because we have grown used to an open space, and the new plan is too high. Demands for certain more expensive materials to be used, making a plan prohibitively expensive, so the plan is cancelled. A certain roof tile,  window frames of set materials, even how a garden should appear. I don't get it. Why small groups of people get such a say.

Something has to give, something needs to get the land and property prices under control so developers can get on with making new homes which the average person in London can even dream of affording, because right now, just thinking about the repayments on a mortgage to buy a 2 bed flat on the 11th floor with no lift, is more a nightmare than a dream.

I don't have the answers, I'm not sure anyone does right now. But I am sick of hearing the line "affordable housing" when it is completely unrealistic. The Mayor of London blowing his own trumpet about achieving goals in all walks of life. But right now, none of them matter if people can't afford to live in the damn city in the first place.

Rant over.

Build some bloody houses, and stop whining about pointless shit!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Dear Deeply Offended....

I just thought I should put this little blog down on the internet (the battleground of real men and women), just to finish off a conversation which was cruelly struck short by the "block" button on Twitter.

Let's get straight in with how it all started.
As some might know, I have a dashcam on my cars, mainly in case I am involved in any sort of incident. However I openly admit, I do love catching stupidity on camera too.
A couple of months after getting my first, the novelty wore off posting stupid videos, so I don't do that as much these days.

Last night however, while driving through Brockley, SE4, in South London, I was fortunate enough to be hit from behind. Obviously all on camera.
At the time of the accident, the guy who hit me mentioned that a cyclist had startled him, causing him to hit me. Bit of a weak excuse for not stopping in time but hey ho. Shit happens.

All dealt with, I went home and retrieved the footage from the camera, just in case it was needed. On reviewing it, I noticed a cyclist, who had indeed caught my eye before the accident, but I had kinda put to the back of my mind.
I have posted a still image below..

OK, so first glance, I am betting you see a cyclist, with a red pannier bag on the back of the bike.
That's what I saw too, but then I noticed the feet. That is in face a child sitting over the back wheel of a bike, being ridden on a damp road, in rush hour, with very little effort to be seen. This part of the road is well lit, so not such an issue.

Like I say, this was never the issue I retrieved the footage or image for.
Moments after passing this cyclist (far too closely and over taking on a roundabout, so I am told) I came to a stop just on the other side of the roundabout. Sadly for me, the car behind me didn't stop in time, and ran into the back of me. He said when he stopped that the cyclist caused him to swerve, and he ended up hitting me.
Now I am not for one second saying this cyclist caused me to get hit in the car. Quite frankly, that's what insurance is for. No one was hurt, that's the way it goes.

However, at this point I put events together in my head and wonder what would have happened if the car had NOT swerved, or that it had come to a stop 2-3 ft over to the left, where the cyclist was passing me as I was hit.

This is not about who's fault it would have been (motorists without question) or who should have been where. But more me visualising the impact being made on the spine of the child being carried in this manner. Devastating is the word that comes to mind.

Now with the above in mind, I posted the image on social media, saying I felt the cyclist carrying a child in such a way was being irresponsible. I added that her unsteadiness on the bike also didn't help the situation. Simple, but I admit quite damning. I was careful of course to make sure the person was not identifiable, and to be fair, didn't have any images where they were, so all good there.

My point, nice and simple. Dangerous to carry a child like that, just increasing the danger of the trip unnecessarily . Cyclist are always vulnerable, but don't make yourself MORE vulnerable.

Some got it, others however like my friend "Deeply Offended" took dislike to it, and immediately suggested I was attacking and trying to belittle a woman, and a cyclist. Not sure the sex of the cyclist was ever a point of contention, but Deeply Offended seemed to think it was part of my point. Ignoring there was even a child in the image, the comments continued that I had nothing better to do than take pictures of strangers and post them on social media. Like arguing with a nameless and faceless person on Twitter is right up there too eh!

After a few tweets telling me about myself, and I guess trying to mock me as a person for posting such images, it all went quiet. So I prodded. My oh my, I must have prodded somewhere very sensitive, guess it is always going to be the case when you poke a delicate little arsehole on the internet.
What came next was a lovely stream of comments about myself, refusing to address the actual situation for a long time, before moving on to getting me to prove an accident followed the image (I am of course answerable to strangers on the internet). Once this was done, the focus turned to my driving, and how I had apparently forced the cyclist to the left, then over taken them, dangerously on a roundabout.

Not the case I might add, but all the same, IF it had been the case, and taking into account what happened next, did I inadvertently save a life, and prevent an accident. After all, if as accused, I forced the cyclist to the left, they were originally further over right. If this were the case, then the motorist who struck my car would without question have hit them.

Needless to say, after a little name calling, some biased facts being touted about, and some more name calling , I was blocked. Sorry to have offended you @edspindrift , I was really enjoying our conversation.

What I find frustrating about speaking to people like this, is whatever the case, they have an agenda, and are not willing to budge. Nothing is taken into consideration, and one tweet even suggested they had only read one tweet before boarding the bandwagon, so knew nothing else than the 140 characters they had read. Clearly well informed, they decided to go to town.

To be fair, social media would be a boring place without these people, and reminds me that as outspoken as I am, I try to make informed comments, rather than just trolling for key words, and unleashing my uneducated, misinformed rhetoric on strangers.  One comment that did tickle me was that if I cared about the safety of the child, I should give the rider some lights. So somehow it becomes my responsibility to buy lights for other road users who choose to put themselves and others in danger, to show I care?
Not the responsibility of the rider to make sure that they are clearly seen, especially when increasing their level of vulnerability? Wow, how things have changed.

As a keen cyclist myself, I make sure I am well lit, easy as possible to see, and present myself to other road users in the safest possible fashion possibly.
This is most likely one of the reasons I take such offence to other cyclists who don't give a crap. And take even more offence to keyboard warriors who take it upon themselves to defend stupid behaviour, automatically suggest the motorist could and should do more to make the roads safer, and refuse at all costs, that the cyclist can ever be either to blame or even increased the risks of the situation.

If today has taught me anything it is that there is no talking to some people. Some just have one thing in their head, and there is no point in trying to get your point across, either politely, or otherwise.
If you try the otherwise approach, they sulk, and block you from the platform they first found you on and started the whole debate. These people are usually habitual people, who spend a lot of their spare time pursuing the same narrow minded road of thinking.

I applaud some for their commitment to their causes. And in the course of the above interactions, I also engaged with another more open minded individual, who I genuinely enjoyed taking to.

So, make of it what you will. To me, the images I caught while retrieving the crash footage just alarmed me. I would hate to see someone I know and care about being carried on the public roads like that. If it's normal or acceptable to you, so be it. We have a different opinion, that's all. Makes neither of us an arsehole. The conversation which follows your opinion will define that.

More out takes from the conversation here... The full transcript is available on twitter on mine or @edspindrift

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.


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