Friday 25 August 2017

Richard Madeley, Cyclist Hater? AHA!

Alarmed to discover that one of the key proponents of Alan Partridgism, Richard Madeley, is still a thing. I seem to recall he was on some telly thing when I was a student, but whatever it was seemed so banal that even then I couldn't watch it. I used to occasionally catch it in one of the telly rooms on campus between lectures, and hope that Madeley would shut up and let his wife (Judy Finnegan was it?) talk, but that rarely ever seemed to happen. You know the show I mean, with the weather map with the disgusting child molester strutting around on it.

But anyway, this Madeley. He ought to understand that sometimes there's a delay on a line when you're interviewing, but he apparently doesn't. As you can see from this.

So, yeah. Madely, you just cannot be that much of an idiot. I don't accept that someone with as much experience in broadcasting as you can't understand how thats a guaranteed way to mess up an interview. You know how delays work and you know that if you keep yapping on and on rather than sticking to a question then anyone who hasn't got decades of experience on camera will struggle to answer you clearly. Because you're not being clear. You know that, and you knew it when you conducted this interview. You jumped about from one question to another - he was asked about accountability and he was answering about accountability. Your insistence that he's avoiding answering a question he's not been asked (about insurance) is facile and rude. What point were you trying to make other than throwing your weight around to denigrate cyclists?

But lets answer you anyway. Why is it cyclists aren't required to have insurance, (presumably from your stance that motorists are)? Because we're many, many orders of magnitude less harmful. We can analyze this in any way you like - we can look purely at kinetic energy if you want, where we can easily demonstrate you're comparing bullets (cars) with tennis balls (bikes). We license guns,we don't license tennis rackets. Because the former is orders of magnitude more hazardous than the latter.

Or we can look at fatalities due to road traffic if you prefer - drivers directly kill over three orders of magnitude more people than cyclists, and indirectly kill four to five orders of magnitude more. Not three times more, not four or five times more, but many thousands of times more. And, of course, proportionally the number of injuries caused is likewise huge in comparison.

Cycling harms so few people, in fact, that if you join a cycling club or campaign group you'll probably get insurance as a freebie. If you've got personal liability as part of your home insurance then that may well cover you too (all such policies I've inquired about have done so). Insurance for cyclists is so ridiculously low risk that it is effectively free. The case for compulsion for insuring low-risk groups is very weak indeed - tragedies happen but they're absurdly rare. And against any (marginal) benefit from that we've got to answer what the cost is. And the cost is to those who benefit from cheap, healthy, fast, easy, quiet, clean transport. Which is, incidentally, everyone. If you don't cycle but instead drive, you benefit from everyone else who does cycle (freeing up space, not polluting, and not endangering you). There is no compelling argument to dissuade cycling by demanding compulsory insurance. And never has been - rather like there isn't an argument for licensing.

What you've got to do Richard is step back from your identity as a motorist and ask whats best all round. The constraints put upon you due to your own choice to utilise a hazardous and polluting class of vehicle only reflect upon you, and not upon those of us who choose a less harmful, non-polluting transport option. That you resent having to do something to mitigate the (actually severe) hazard your decision imposes upon others does not mean that someone doing something colossally less hazardous should pay the same cost. 

Nobody defends dangerous cycling. But you are more likely to be hospitalised in a trouser donning accident than by a cyclist. Get a sense of perspective.

It. Is. Not. All. About. You. Richard.

So the cops response to yesterdays van driver...

Chatlog from their online reporting thing when telling Cambridgeshire Constabulary about this before it (mysteriously) went dead.

tl;dr version - the cops don't give a crap unless there's blood on the ground.

2017-08-24 11:21:16 Operator: Hello, you are now chatting with a Police Control Room Operator, how may we help you today?
2017-08-24 11:21:27 CAB_Daidson: Hello. This incident was at about half past nine this morning. Are you guys interested?
2017-08-24 11:22:04 CAB_Daidson: Wider context is here:
2017-08-24 11:23:19 CAB_Daidson: Scenario is - the red tarmac there is a cycle route. Van pulled out from a driveway and turned towards me - could have gone all the way on to the road but didn't, turned to drive at me.
2017-08-24 11:23:39 CAB_Daidson: I had nowhere really to go - on a heavy step through frame so had to dismount (can't 'straddle' such a bike and keep it upright).
2017-08-24 11:24:14 CAB_Daidson: When he moved aside sufficiently for me to go through, I went. I would contend his driving wa s unacceptable. What do you want to do?
2017-08-24 11:25:48 CAB_Daidson: Hello? Anyone actually there?
2017-08-24 11:26:24 Operator: Please excuse me for a few minutes I will come back to you shortly
2017-08-24 11:26:32 CAB_Daidson: OK.
2017-08-24 11:26:40 Operator: I need to look at the footage
2017-08-24 11:26:48 Operator: and I will be back with you
2017-08-24 11:26:54 CAB_Daidson: OK
2017-08-24 11:33:03 Operator: So I have seen the footage it doesn't appear that the van is driving at you 
2017-08-24 11:33:49 CAB_Daidson: Please look at the wider context -the link under the youtube one.
2017-08-24 11:34:19 CAB_Daidson: He's turned out of the driveway, reversed out and the van is pointing at me in that photo - I dismounted, took that image, then took the video.
2017-08-24 11:34:33 Operator: Yes I have also seen that 
2017-08-24 11:34:40 CAB_Daidson: He's clearly reversed o n to the bike route, he's started driving down it, he's stopped because I'm there.
2017-08-24 11:35:10 Operator: Unfortunately the evidence isn't strong enough to suggest he is doing anything wrong, I have also got my supervisor to look at this
2017-08-24 11:35:45 CAB_Daidson: Its wrong to drive on the segregated bike route. Thats illegal. He's reversed out and on to it, not over it (there's a drop kerb opposite the driveway to allow that)
2017-08-24 11:35:50 Operator: but if he is trying to get to a driveway that might be his only option?
2017-08-24 11:35:54 CAB_Daidson: Reversing round on to it is illegal.
2017-08-24 11:36:28 CAB_Daidson: There's a drop kerb that takes him through the cycle route and on to the road. He's chosen not to use it and to drive down the cycle lane.
2017-08-24 11:36:57 Operator: the van doesn't look like he is driving at you though 
2017-08-24 11:37:02 CAB_Daidson: I'm faced here with a van driving at me, on a route he's no business being on, with a clear and safe option allowing him to remain within the law and he's chosen not to.
2017-08-24 11:37:25 CAB_Daidson: Look at the picture of his van in the post. He's pointing his van straight at me on a cycle route he's got no legal basis to be in.
2017-08-24 11:39:13 CAB_Daidson: Road Traffic Act 1984 makes driving in a mandatory cycle lane illegal. Highway Code rule 140 makes it very clear too. He's pointing his van down a cycle lane he's driven into, on photo, and on video. What do you need?
2017-08-24 11:40:19 CAB_Daidson: It really, genuinely seems like you're looking for excuses for this driving.
2017-08-24 11:42:42 Operator: I have spoken to my supervisor about this it only looks like he is trying to get onto the driveway 
2017-08-24 11:42:55 Operator: maybe you should discuss this with the council?

Thursday 24 August 2017

How do you use a cycle lane with vans in it?

Water Lane in Cambridge should be a good little cycling route. Its well off the road and protected by kerbs, you can validly criticise the design for being way too short of course, but in itself it should be great. Decent width and fully segregated.

But it is always full of cars and vans. Every time I'm there.

Once in a while I've taken a photo of this, such as these ones this morning...

Now I was going to use those photos to highlight that I believe efforts by campaigners and local councillors to get parking enforcement there have backfired spectacularly - rather than block the cycle lane the van driver there is blocking the pavement almost entirely. Look at the top picture - you MIGHT get a wheelchair down the side of that but you probably wouldn't. You certainly shouldn't have to fear not being able to get where you're going because of parking like that.

Anyway, after I took the second picture I mounted back up and started to ride... for no distance at all before this happened: 

Yes, thats right, a van reversed out of a driveway in front of me and rather than going in to the road he the driver decided to drive at me. I stopped, dismounted to one side (old posties bike today so its a step through frame - you can't straddle it and support it you have to get off and hold) and got the phone back out. Thats when the driver temporarily stopped shouting obscenities at me. 

I video'd the next bit. 

So he wants to get off this guys driveway - by driving down the bike route. He doesn't want to go out on to the road he wants to exit by driving at me. I can't fit down the side of him, I'm on my monster old Posties bike and I can't hop up on the pavement on the left to get out of his way very easily (and that would be illegal). So what the hell does he want me to do? 

I stopped filming to go on, he pulled a little back on to the driveway and continued shouting obscenities at me. 

I'd report this to the Police but they routinely refuse to deal with far, far worse. Parking enforcement isn't working - clearly the mototists who park there don't give a damn. And if we try to use the bike lane we risk being driven at by motorists breaking the law. 

What the hell is the point?

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Full FOI re. Arbury Road.

Full responses to FOI request.

I don't really want to go through this in great depth because, well, its all there. But in summary - in Winter and Spring they cast a glance at the hedge and missed out a lot of varieties that were present - cherry plum, gean, greengage, elder, etc. They decided it was mostly hawthorn (which is true) so jumped up on that as a reason they could do more or less what they liked. 

They were advised that a shorter hedge with younger plants would establish better, more cheaply, faster. This is standard wisdom in such planting schemes, so shouldn't be surprising. 

Officers appear to have rejected that advice in favour of (presumably) much more expensive, larger trees. This wad done at the very end of the planting season, in it seems a considerable hurry (when, of course, options for buying are constrained). Because the smaller tree specimens offered by Elveden were rejected, a different species mix was obtained (one not discussed with the tree specialist at the City Council) at the eleventh hour from another company - upon receiving my advice that at least two of the species in this new mix were unsuitable the team sought advice from said tree person at the City Council and were told that yes, this was correct, they are poor trees to plant. Also because of the size of the trees planted, the advice was to water for years (not months). 

So as I said, the wrong trees were planted, at huge expense because they were really rather big, massively increasing the cost for maintenance during the first years of them being in, and planted at the wrong time of year (both ecologically and economically). This was done in great haste after a very poor survey that smacks of just having assumed what was on-site - they hadn't even looked at the trees in leaf to or closely enough for a full species survey. They cut it back without really knowing what was in it.

And then we get to the perplexing and infuriating winky smile at my list of species lost, and a reply to that was, thought not technically incorrect, entirely missing the point. No, it isn't a countryside hedge, and thats the problem - species can't re-establish when you've dug it up (twice!) in Spring, killing many seeds off, and then mulching over the top. There is no remaining seed bank to re-establish from when you kill whats underneath what you've planted and then pour tarmac either side of it. This was a remnant of an agricultural hedge with a species diversity resonant of that, which you've basically bland-scaped and made re-seeding very hard by mulching and allowing very dominant, spreading species to thrive (by wiping out all of their competitors by digging them up, twice, and mulching!). Yes, one can refer to many such wild plants as 'weeds' or 'scrub' - and such scrubby weeds of colossal importance to urban wildlife, they're the basis of why a hedge is of greater ecological worth than specimen trees. They are the whole point of why a hedge is so valuable. I just don't see any need for this skepticism when I'm not listing anything very odd here, nor do I see any reason why saying this is important should be contentious.

So, ultimately, I was (and am) right - the advice on trees I offered was correct (and confirmed by tree specialists) but ignored. And specific advice on hedge ecology seems not to have been sought at all - hence ecological concerns for the undergrowth of the hedge have been completely ignored. It was a battle royle to get them to cut holes in there to let hedgehogs through - they don't care for our ecology one iota. A tree specialist isn't a hedge specialist.

Any read through of these documents ought to give huge reason for concern at the way officers have acted - they spent a colossal sum (that isn't revealed here - but another quote that is is £20k+) on the wrong shrubs planted in an ecologically insensitive way, ignoring opportunities to plant more cheaply, effectively, ecologically sensitively and sustainably. This must surely be sufficient for anyone to doubt the competence of said officers.

I am now in discussions to get some native plants re-planted back in to the undergrowth - with the mulch as it is and bindweed/cow parsley having taken over, thats really the best approach now (rather than re-seeding) - although seeding select patches with some mulch pushed aside won't hurt in addition to that. But I'm left thinking that all of this could have been avoided - so very easily. And I'm left worrying that further schemes (to get cycle facilities we really, really need) are at risk - residents won't stand for this kind of nonsense in the more affluent, more involved parts of Cambridge.

Monday 7 August 2017

Response to Arbury Road FOI

Response to my request for any documentation re. ecological survey of Arbury Road has come. I won't (yet) upload the whole lot (wondering if its automatically posted somewhere, and haven't found it yet), but it is, if I'm honest, a little bit of a mess.

Its like I'm dealing with robots who are only concerned with an overall bigger picture, but just don't care for any local ecological concerns at all.

We need a good cycle facility on Arbury Road and the hedges along much of the road could easily have been retained while still delivering that. But even if the hedge was to be removed, it would have been better to do so in Autumn (and yes, that was the intent - as is still shown on the City Deal web site, and this is acknowledged in advice in the FOI response). Thats better both for removal and re-planting. And it also seems that my advice re. species selection for the hedge (cornus and buckthorn aren't suitable there) was checked with a professional and found to be correct. Didn't help, though.

But the problem here is shown in a single line:

"This isn’t a countryside hedge on Windsor Castle grounds."

No, its something far harder to replace than either. In Windsor Castle or out in most countryside areas there's a significant seed-stock around the site from which any disturbed ground can recover. It WAS an agricultural hedge, but it now has tarmac on either side of it, so any recovery of the site can only come from seed stock right beneath where its been replanted. And as that replanting was done very, very late, many seeds that were germinating already would have been killed twice if not three times (when the hedge was removed, when the site was dug, and when the site was re-planted). If you keep disturbing germinating seeds they die - thats why gardeners use a hoe regularly, to kill off the germinating seeds we don't want. If you kill most of them off in this way in a site that is now very isolated it can't recover very well. And that is especially true if you then mulch the site with wood chips - the whole point of that is to prevent anything growing.

So no, nationally, this isn't something of pristine worth - but in terms of our local ecology in Kings Hedges it really is a big deal to have done this, and the lack of any historical context or any in-depth review of what species were present in the hedge (its like they glanced at it and just said 'oh its hawthorn') really mean that they didn't give a toss about what they were doing there. And therefore the opportunity to get it right has been missed. No, we've lost nothing thats nationally scarce (although some of those species are locally unusual), but thats not the context for this - the context for this is whats present nearby, what the local ecology is. And locally we've lost something increasingly rare here.

I note a certain air of skepticism in the FOI response regarding my list of the species we lost from the site. Great. Thanks guys. Please, give me some credit - if I was going to make something up do you not think I'd go a bit more imaginative than this? Why would I lie, and if I did why the hell would that be the list I'd come up with? If I was going to make some shit up do you really think thats what I'd make up? See some sense. I made that list from memory, I'll vouch for each species listed there as having been present, and therefore any that are no longer present are on you. You did that. You may not care, but before dismissing this I invite you to show me where else in the neighbourhood we've got the same species mix - we haven't retained many sites like that and this loss is one that matters. I can list the fungal species I've found in and along the line of that hedge since moving in to the neighbourhood too, if you like, although again it will be from memory so probably incomplete (Marasmius oreades, Agaricis bitorquis, Agaricus silvicola, Agaricus xanthodermus, Agaricus campestris, Agaricus bernardiiMacrolepiota procera, Macrolepiota hortensis, Lepista saeva, Lepista nuda, Bovista plumbea, Hypholoma fasciulare, Pholiota squarrosa, Coprinus disseminatus, Boletus chrysenteron, Trametes versicolor, Polyporus squamosus) but I didn't list the fungi because I didn't think anyone would care, and its not like you can re-plant them anyway. You see, thats what happens when an amateur naturalist goes past the same hedge every day for years - they pick up a really good idea whats there. And look, that mushroom species list is made up of completely mundane species, there is nothing unusual or exciting there (except arguably Agaricus bernardii - you might think that Agaricus xanthodermus is an odd one but it is absurdly common locally) - but please try to get that local species diversity is not the same thing as national or even regional species diversity. I've found Pholiota squarrosa precisely twice in Cambridge - do you not think its a shame that we've just wrecked one of those locations? Were it feasible to reintroduce it (it isn't) wouldn't you say yeah, actually, that'd be nice?

There is now some agreement that maybe they'll re-plant some species we've lost, which is good. But that City Deal/County Council turned this in to a barney from the outset by moving the hedge removal forward by 6 months with no chance of response, and that isn't ok. We're still short of many woody species we lost from the hedge (dog rose, bramble, cherry, cherry plum, elder, privet, greengage) that in their own way harked back to how the land was used here before the housing estate was built. We've got a hedge that hasn't got the character of a North Cambridge hedge - half a kilometer of history has been messed with, and it could have been done better.

What I'm hoping now is that local species diversity becomes something City Deal, going forward, give a damn about. But if its the same County employees? Thats going to necessitate a massive cultural change. What are the chances?

I invite you, City Deal, to discuss -now- what species are present in hedges and verges on Milton and Histon Roads. Lets do this, and lets do it from now. Lets get the next schemes right while doing what little can be done to restore some of what we lost on Arbury Road. Are you up for it?

Arbury Road was poorly surveyed and no historical context was taken, nor was any consideration shown for how to preserve any species diversity on the site. Shall we do the next schemes better? Are you up for it?

Friday 4 August 2017

Webchat of Cambridge Police Not Policing.

 Info : This chat session is encrypted securely.
Connected to chat.. You are now connected to an agent...

 Operator : Hello, you are now chatting with a Police Control Room Operator, how may we help you today?
 Colin_Davidson : Hello, I'd like to report some dangerous parking - pavement and cycle lane blocked persistently by vans from same company, all week.
 Colin_Davidson : Images from yesterday: :link:
 Operator : Hello Colin, are the vehicles parked illegally ie on double yellow lines?
 Colin_Davidson : Image from today - this one was about half past nine :link:
 Colin_Davidson : To the right of the image (Water Street, just off the end of Fen Road) I think that yes, there's a double yellow line - this is missing the double yellow purely by parking on the pavement and cycle lane. Its -inside- the double yellow (I think)
 Colin_Davidson : Location is pretty close to directly opposite entrance to Liley Close
 Colin_Davidson : Hello? You still there?
 Operator : Hello Colin,
 Operator : I have looked at the images and it would appear that whilst the vehicle is partially on the cycle lane, there is enough room for cycles to get by.
 Operator : This would appear to be inconsiderate parking as opposed to illegal parking.
 Colin_Davidson : Not safely - advice in highway code is to avoid door zone. Its also on pavement next to (I believe) a double yellow line - you surely can't avoid a double yellow line by parking ENTIRELY on the pavement?
 Operator : I cannot see from the images a double yellow line?
 Colin_Davidson : I think the double yellow line is there on the road (which is to the right of the separator, to the right of the bike lane). I'd have to go and have a look - but clearly this parking isn't ok. Are you guys going to ignore it?
 Operator : It doesn't appear that the vehicle is parked on the part of the road that has double yellow lines? I agree, it isn't ok, but more inconsiderate parking as opposed to illegal parking.
 Colin_Davidson : Well, no, but you surely can't avoid a double yellow line by crossing the bike lane and pavement and blocking both instead of blocking the road? Is it ok to park on the pavement to avoid a double yellow line?
 Operator : Colin, this doesn't appear to be a road which has a high volume of traffic on it, which would cause problems in the flow of traffic.
 Colin_Davidson : So he could park on the road? Look, all I need to know is do you guys police dangerous and illegal parking like this or don't you? I won't waste your (or my) time if you're going to wash your hands of this illegal behaviour.
 Colin_Davidson : You seem to have gone. I'll take that as a 'no we don't police dangerous parking where both pavements and cycle lanes are regularly obstructed by motorists'.

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Almost approaching minor victory re. Arbury Road

You've either been following this or you haven't. You probably haven't. Either way, here's some of the most recent email I've had on the subject:

I met with County Officers and their landscape contractor on site last week.
We agreed that the priority was establishing the new hedge line, through retaining the existing mulch, continuing to water, and removing the bindweed from the base, plus any larger competing ruderal species such as Sow Thistle or Prickly Ox Tongue. No spraying will be undertaken along the hedge line to encourage reestablishment of species from the seed bank or retained roots. I could see some Hedge Woundwort returning, which is encouraging. Officers are willing to provide additional planting of native hedgerow ground flora plugs, which would be implemented during or post the construction of the new cycle way this autumn. I suggested that we continue to monitor which species come in naturally and assess what additional species would be best suited.
Holes have been cut at suitable interval at ground level along the temporary fence lines. These are  150mm x 150mm which will be adequate for hedgehogs, the wire is thick enough to retain this diameter if not tampered with.
OK so lets break that down...

City Deal removed massive old hedge to make room for a much needed new cycle lane, and re-planted too late in the season, with many of the wrong species for the site. This included planting toxic berry producing bushes right in front of a primary school and didn't respect local hedging culture or ecology. The result is that they're having to water (a lot) through the mulch they put down - said mulch in itself only allowed tough, ineradicable root stocks to come back through. Things like bindweed. They then put a fence up that had gaps smaller than hedgehogs - a genuinely inhumane thing to do, and pretended that was all tickety boo. They did this whole thing 6 months ahead of when they said they would, so there was no opportunity to get a better planting scheme and a decent local survey (my FOI regarding ecological survey of the site is still unanswered). The new hedge will now have concrete either side - so native undergrowth species can't re-establish themselves, and the haste to get this done means we've lost dozens of species from the site.

Or, in other words, they turned an easy win with solid ecological improvements into a complete pigs ear.

And every part of trying to lessen the damage has been a fight - like, a real battle. 

But after months of fannying on they're finally saying they'll do the minimum to stop the whole thing being a complete balls up.

The lesson here? City Deal need to show they've learned from this. And they need to do so really rather soon. I'd love to declare this a victory but lets be honest, this mitigates a tiny part of the damage done, when the whole scheme could have been so very much better.