Saturday, 18 August 2012

Innovation in cycle parking

All this talk about bike parking, makes me yawn. I am sick of it to the eyeballs, as I want a safe route first. I personally don't worry about bike parking. I find railings or a lamp post. Too much of that clutter about in any case.

So what about the quality of bike parking? It's easy, right? Nowt complicated, no big engineering job like building cycle routes would be. Here is a quick cycle parking impression at Newcastle's prestigious Haymarket.

Newcastle Haymarket
Park your bike? Why not at Haymarket, Newcastle?

On close inspection it's the bolts fault. It's the bolt's fault that it is made of that material and that it's too short. Or maybe the acid rain or air quality problems are more severe than previously thought?

Newcastle Haymarket
Corroding bolts

But there is some hope, as innovation can be spotted also.

New-fangled bike stand
Bike parking innovation No.1 - settled utility repair provides opportunity

Paving slabs and cycling
Bike parking innovation No.2 - parallel paving slabs provide opportunity (actually rather dangerous!!)

Friday, 17 August 2012

Cycling to school? You must sign here.

The Dark Ages have arrived. Tyneside's stoop is much lower than I had previously imagined. I knew we are obese, but we can't even see our own toes it appears. Even harder to understand how we manage to stoop at all, or manage to bury our heads in the sand.

Fallen flat on the face, into soft sand?

Road safety at its useless best
Road safety at its useless best - absconding responsibility
A recent situation report (June 2012) showed that some Tyneside schools are banning pupils from cycling and at another folks are made to sign a piece of paper (a contractual agreement)... meaningless as it is... to work hard at making cycling even harder than it already is. It can't be easy. Making something difficult that should be easy and pleasant.

Looks like heady head teachers sticking their heads in the sand. Ostrich approach to solving the problem: finding an answer which doesn't address the real problem.

Here's the contract. Take a deep breath before reading.

 = = = = = THE START = = = = =

Parents must sign and agree to the following:
  • Check on a regular basis their child’s bike is in the correct working order.
  • Check to ensure that the child is wearing their helmet whilst riding their bike.
  • Support the school with their views on cycling.
  • Ensure that their child has an appropriate lock which can be fastened to the cycle shelter structure.
  • Agree a route to school which is recorded on the contract.

Pupils must also agree to abide by the following:
  • Always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
  • Agree to carry out an "M" check on their bike as taught on the bikeability course and report or repair before riding. The M check is a bike maintenance check.
  • Always cycle in a safe manner and use the skills they have learnt on the Bikeability course.
  • Cycle their route to school that has been agreed by their parent/guardian.
  • Lock their bike in a position which allows other users to access their bikes.

Whilst the school agrees to:
  • Provide a cycle shelter where pupils may lock their bikes at their own risk.
  • Report back to parents on pupils not tiding [sic, should read riding I'd think] safely and causing concern.
  • Reserve the right to withdraw permission for any child breaking the contract to ride to and from school.

= = = = =  THE END (literally) = = = = =

School heads are in the sand. You know, there might be ostriches at the DfmmT too. As at no-head HQ (DfmmT) - or is it a multiple head HQ (scary Hydra style) -  it's not so much about finding answers, it's more about asking the wrong questions to obscure the right answer. Or do they still believe - really - that they can convince everyone that they should walk or cycle? Or do they...? It's all just silly tactics, isn't it? Time wasting. Frantically action for inactivity.

Find the full (but mostly meaningless) report here:

As for the school report, nice to have it, but can someone give the head teachers detention please? They deserve it. They should have contacted the Cllrs and MPs and kicked up a fuss about children's right to cycle. There's an isolation cell at Gosforth HiHi an informant tells me. Send them there.

And make sure there are concrete floors. It's great how far LSTF money gets you.
Newcastle, Tankerville Terrace - crawling school run. Awful streetscape, everyone's "rushing" around, trying to get away...
Video No. 2 of how not to do it. Same sad location.
And here's how you do it. Assen, Netherlands. Contains people on bicycles. People are easy and relaxed, chatty and engaged.

PS the Tyneside school report can be supplied upon request. It's 8mb and pdf. DM me your email address on @katsdekker

Sunday, 12 August 2012

User hierarchy vs priority

The user hierarchy (MfS) is a vulnerability scale, it means that more dainty subjects possibly require more thought in the design process and better physical protection. It does not however mean that pedestrians (as the most dainty road users) will always have priority over others.

To allow a good balanced flow of traffic (walk, bike, drive) on sensibly defined designated routes, road user priorities are adjusted accordingly.

And it's that balance that's ostentatiously out of balance in the UK.

Here are a few food-for-thought examples. Please note, that I won't bore you with 'walk over cycle' (that's UK norm) or 'drive over cycle' (that's UK norm) - so for some rather more 'deviant' priority variances here it goes.

Cycle over walk:

Brühlstraße, Hannover, Germany, By @rustybonkers

Cycle over drive:

Jägerstraße, Hannover, Germany, By @rustybonkers (yes, the bike bloke does look rather silly for German standards)

Meanwhile in the UK...

Friday, 10 August 2012

Holy cow!

British sustainable transport policy is in tatters. It relies solely on behavioural change and nudge, nudge, eh, nudge you know what I mean, eh!

Let's go to the zoo and talk to the animals.

We immediately notice when walking in, the zoo that is transport is made up of one big enclosure it appears. There seems to be plenty of big study animals running around, freely, unrestrained. Smaller shier ones are seen less frequently. Are they hiding?

We can observe a bull in a china shop. It's intimidating the others. Maybe we have to let the cat out of the bag to avoid this silly rat race in the future? I'll suggest to call in the vet, and get some transquiliser, or else we'd be complicit to ignoring the bully elephant in the room.

Here's another thing: the bigger animals also seem to get the lion's share. The smaller ones apparently are going hungry, possibly starving even. It requires to be investigated further. There's this insatiable beast, it's pacing up and down. It wants more, and more, and where do we go from here?

We've now run out of food for the other animals.

Providing for the bull is clearly a white elephant!

Cycling animal
Operation successful - patient dead
There's certainly an atmosphere of monkey see, monkey do in this zoo and that raging bull of a holy cow being in overall control, albeit out-of-control itself.

Maybe the zoo officials need to learn more about birds and bees? They sure seem to have ants in their pants when it comes to appeasing the bull, and providing for its free passage through the zoo. They may have cat napped for too long? And have now clammed up? Or are they just horsing around?

It smells fishy, to say the least.

Woah. Hold these horses! The smaller animals are now dropping like flies. Let's not chicken out of this. We have to make a bee line and speak to the people responsible for running this zoo. Maybe they have a little nest egg they can give us so we can import some animals and copy cat from other best practice zoos?

We are smelling a rat here, the zoo keepers seem very committed to the holy bull and not too interested in zoo diversity.

Straight from the horse's mouth:

If we don't take the bull (in a china shop) by its horns to address the (white) elephant in the room, we are doomed to wait for an inclusive zoo until the cows come home.

We can not continue to blame the stunned deer in the headlights for getting itself killed by not wearing the proper attire. Animals don't dress. I'd like to live in a world where no animal is questioned for its motif to cross the road, and the smaller more fragile animals are well cared for and protected from their hunters and predators.

The verdict is: these animals require separate enclosures.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

It's An Ass(essment of risk)

That's me:

Dipl-Ing (TU) Katja Leyendecker EurIng CEng CWEM MCIWEM MSc

Try to find my name in that jungle! Believe it or not, letters do count in my world. I am an engineer and of course the letters that really count are the reports, studies and assessments you carry out, read, comment on, check and approve. Day-in, day-out. As engineers we are risk managers. And here's the simple methodology we use.

Once we've identify the significant hazards for an activity, and evaluated their ranking by using the matrix of severity/harm/consequence and likelihood/frequency, we use the hierarchy of addressing these hazards and their risks in this strict order
  1. Eliminate (ACoP paragraph 127)
  2. Reduce (ACoP paragraphs 128–130) 
  3. Inform (ACoP paragraphs 131–134) 
  4. Control is the very last resort and is only to applied if the above has been considered within the "reasonable practicable" envelope.
Control is seen as the poor solution that pushes risk down the system. As a risk assessor, you feel you haven't done your job when it results in sole reliance or over-reliance on control measures.You may have guessed that control methods are things like these: use of personal protective equipment, hiviz, gloves, safety boots and hard hats.

So, that's the basics.

Let's carry out a  risk assessment.

Appropriate cycle safety gear
My cycle safety gear - orange rucksack and orange shoes

Project goal: creating an urban road environment fit for all people.

The urban road environment (as opposed to our motorways) is where we've got a mixed usership: pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, drivers to mention the most prominent. Each user group holding a certain stake in the general urban environment incl living, working, shopping, playing. Some user groups' activities may be more (socially, environmentally, economically) harmful than others, other user groups should be encouraged as they improve place.

Significant hazard: driver / driving / vehicles

Consequence: life-changing injury / death / multiple deaths
Frequency: daily

Risk assessment
  1. Eliminate: make it local, planning policy, spatial/ landuse planning, provide viable alternatives to driving
  2. Reduce: disincentivise driving activity (by cost, time, space), incentivise other modes of travel, re-purpose road space
  3. Inform: national public debate on urban road safety and effect on public health, inequality and fairness, travel choice and public responsibility
  4. Control: make sure that an adequate enforcement and legal system is in place 
Whilst the project goal and hazard identification remains the same, here's the risk assessment as it's currently carried out by road safety / traffic engineer professionals to dream up their promotion campaigns and road schemes.

"Risk" assessment
Road Arms Race

  1. Eliminate: this hazard can not be eliminated as people need to drive, and we don't fancy working with the people in the planning department just down the corridor
  2. Reduce: pedestrians and cyclists to be taken out of the way of drivers for their own safety, though admittedly there are problems with separating out cyclists but as there are so few of them anyways we deem it ok, so: reduce the number of pedestrians and cyclists as that reduces KSIs and gives us a better KPI
  3. Inform: let's put up signs, signs, signs! Everywhere. And go to town on this and spread confusion: tell everyone how dangerous cars are and combine it with positive messages of walking and cycling promotion and provide (free) training to cyclists, by sending mixed messages we'll hopefully keep in the spirit of "reduce" ie we should be able to reduce the numbers of people walking and cycling
  4. Control: promote vehemently the use of PPE by cyclists (we wish they were driving), provide guardrails in abundance and some crossings for pedestrians (we wish they were driving), don't make them too usable though: two-stage crossings are our favs and we have a start-stop approach to our cycle lanes. Ooops, we totally forgot about the environment fit for people part of the project! Ah, well, let's just say people are most happy in cars, after all that's what they want - driving - isn't it? Oh, congestion, well, we solve that by having a local policy on managing effectively our existing road space. Pollution: smoothing traffic flow. Anything else? No? Ok, fine thanks. We submit the assessment to society for approval. Rubberstamped!
Go figure. One thing is clear. It's going to be fat and round, due to lack of exercise. That's what happens when you take your eye of the ball, or the road for that matter.

Dipl-Ing (TU) Katja Leyendecker EurIng CEng CWEM MCIWEM MSc