Monday 15 February 2016

Travelling telegraph poles and being nice to drivers

I'd normally let this pass, but a new tweet and press release from West Midlands Ambulance Service relates neatly to my blog post yesterday.

By saying 'his vehicle collided' the inference is
a) the driver was a third party to the collision
b) the telegraph pole was moving at the time of the collision

A more accurate tweet would be
"a van driver was trapped for about an hour after crashing into a telegraph pole"

The inference, quite reasonably, is that the crash (not collision as the pole, typically inert, is not known to have been moving) happened to some extent due to the driver's actions.

It stops short though of saying that the driver "crashed his van into a telegraph pole" as there is a remote possibility that the crash was independent of the driver (e.g. part of the steering suddenly shearing).

If you read the press release the van comes across as being totally self-determining:
A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: “Crews were told that the white panel van was heading towards Warwick when it left the road and collided with a telegraph pole."
I sympathise with the Ambulance Service writer for wanting to soften the blow, avoid suggesting fault etc. but that's not what happened in the case of the child cycling by their school.

Sunday 14 February 2016

Pushmi-Pullyu Health Promotion

Pushing in one direction are public health professionals keen to promote the enormous health benefits of making everyday journeys by foot or cycle.

Well-meaning trauma health communicators risk pulling people away from active travel if they take too narrow a perspective. Poorly executed campaigns and opportunistic press releases, intended to make people behave in a safer way, can scare people right off cycling, or letting their children cycle.

Look at the recent West Midlands Ambulance Service press release about a collision and related tweets.

Which parent would read the press release, look at the images, and think, "If I make my child wear a helmet they'll be fine in a collision like this with a van, so I'd like my child to start cycling to school"? There is no sense of celebration that a 14 year old is actively travelling to school, and no advice on how to avoid a collision. Implicit, I think, is a recommendation not to let your child cycle to school.

A key challenge is how to communicate effective and reasonable ways to reduce the likelihood or severity of an incident without discouraging people from doing an activity beneficial to their health. Ideally of course, the messaging should positively encourage more people to take up the desirable activity!

How can this be done?
Trauma related stories are newsworthy due to our love of other people's gore and misfortune. I think that professional health communicators must ensure their story sits within the wider health objectives. Though visually compelling, the image of a tuft of hair in the windscreen is probably not an appropriate one to provide to the media in this case, in fact a press release and tweets may be inadvisable at all.

Taking the West Midlands incident, I imagine that it could play out as follows (NB I don't know the full story, the area, the local authority, the local press or the school at all, so please treat this purely as fiction not fact)
  • The collision happened between a child cyclist and a van being controlled by an adult driver outside a secondary school on this B road (a clearway with a 30 mph speed limit so far as I can tell). The pavement appears not to be designated for shared use by pedestrians and cyclists. 
  • The child was injured, though apparently not seriously. 
  • The ambulance service does not consider fault. Messages should however be devised in consideration of Highway Code rule 204  "The most vulnerable road users are pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders. It is particularly important to be aware of children, older and disabled people, and learner and inexperienced drivers and riders."
  • Is it known if the collision (regardless of fault) happened at a moderate speed? How significantly does speed affect the severity of impact, relative to other preventative measures?
  • The health service and council want more children to cycle to this school
  • The collision will result in a local concern about the safety of children cycling - some parents may stop their children cycling and others will not allow their children to start. Appropriate reassurance and remedial action is needed within that community as quickly as possible.
  • It is questionable whether there is positive value in publicising this collision in the wider community. Does the press need to be informed and are tweets beneficial here?
  • We need to identify and convey ways that the likelihood and/or severity of a cycling incident can be reduced while encouraging the uptake of cycling locally.
  • The authorities need to show they are acting in a joined up way to get people cycling in safety.
What could a press release say? (assuming one is needed)
I've doodled a few initial ideas here . I am sure that certain statements in this style could be 'stock' ones ready to be used without delay in the event of a collision where a vulnerable road user is hurt.


(Photo of the road outside school)

A van, being driven by a YY yr old man, has collided with a 14 year old who was cycling outside XYZ secondary school. The boy was treated in hospital for a cut to his head before returning home the same day.

The West Midlands Director of Public Health commented, "We want to see more children keeping fit and reducing air pollution by cycling to school instead of being driven. While collisions like this are rare, we are working with the council, police and schools to make cycling even safer. Obviously we would rather this collision had not happened, but we are thankful that serious injury was avoided, most likely because the collision happened at a moderate speed. We urge adults who are driving not to exceed 20mph in areas where children could be walking or cycling, and give these inexperienced road users plenty of time and space. "

The School's Head Teacher said, "We have asked the council to provide cycle training courses in school this term to encourage pupils to cycle and develop their skills. The training will include demonstrations of routes to school, where they exist, that avoid all or most traffic. Free bike marking, locks and helmets will be made available to all pupils. We would like the police to increase enforcement against careless road users on this road with immediate effect."

The Council's Head of Highways reported, "We have been moving towards 20mph speed limits on the city's roads since 2012 to reduce road danger. As this B road passes a school we will bring forwards plans for a 20mph limit here. We will also implement measures to improve off-road cycle routes and ensure they are well signed and convenient."

 West Midlands Ambulance Service wrote a blogpost reply to people's online criticisms of their tweets and press release. Do you think their reply encourages people in the area to cycle?
And finally, if the lad who was in the collision reads this - I think it's absolutely brilliant that you cycle to school.

UPDATE The subsequent three posts are within a few days of each other, all noting the approach taken in the West Midlands Ambulance Service. All are worth glancing at, but in particular the one involving the car occupants who suffered head injuries

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Inner London Primary School to Swimming Pool by cycle

While teaching Bikeability in primary schools I try to include local journeys to potential secondary schools or places of interest that the pupils can start to make with parental permission. In a perfect world schools would routinely make some local journeys by cycle, to inculcate an understanding of cycling as an everyday form of efficient transport.

Here's a journey that a teacher could make with a Year 4 or 5 class, supported by a couple of learning assistants. It's from a school just by Britain's busiest railway station in the centre of London to a new swimming pool on the Elephant and Castle unroundabout.

Leaving the school cul-de-sac, you turn left at the top of the alley into Lower Marsh market (one way for motor traffic, two way for cyclists)
You turn left into a one-way for motorists, two-way for cyclists, quiet road

At the bottom you wait for a good gap in the traffic on Baylis Road or walk across the zebra crossing (just in front of the AA van below)

Having crossed the road you continue down a one-way street (Frazier Street). Currently this is used as a rat-run, but hopefully as part of Quietway related measures motor traffic will be banned from turning right into it. It's one-way for all traffic currently, meaning pupils have to walk this section on the way back. Two-way for cycles will hopefully be allowed in Quietway related measures.

At the bottom, the class turns right into Morley Street
and goes to the left of the bollard to a cycle crossing over Westminster Bridge Road. This is tricky because you get a green for very few seconds, then there's a second set of lights in the guerilla garden in the centre of the road. It will take two or three light phases to get all the pupils across. This is largely due to the cycle lights being regulated to be at a different time from the yawningly long green light for pedestrians crossing (this is to avoid imaginary cyclist / pedestrian conflict, imaginary as no cyclist ever turns to go through the pedestrian crossing because it's a nonsense route). Achieving a long green light across one arm should be an easy fix by TfL - simply ban the turns across the pedestrian crossings as cyclists don't make them anyway.

You then continue down the quiet King Edward Walk

and across Lambeth Road, either with a gap in the traffic or using the Zebra crossing, and through the gate into the park

You turn left towards the front of the Imperial War Museum

Past the big guns

and exit the park

walking (or more likely cycling) across the Pelican crossing and turn right onto Cycling Superhighway 6

Straight down towards the Elephant and Castle

turning right at cycle only traffic lights just before the Elephant and Castle onto Cycle Superhighway 7 Elliots Row.

Left at the end onto Brook Drive (CS7)

Right (just behind the new pool)

left into the park

and you've arrived in front of the pool.

That's not too hard is it? Zone One, Congestion Zone, Inner London. No sweat.

Sunday 7 February 2016

I wanted this to be a good news story

There was anger a few months before Christmas when Waitrose opened their new store in Nine Elms without any convenient cycle parking. A key ambition of the Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea Development Opportunity Area is for it be very cycle friendly; according to the Mayor of London, more cycle friendly than Amsterdam.

Promises were made by Waitrose that stands for 10 bikes would be installed at the entrance by Christmas.
I thought it was time to pay the new store a visit, take some photos of the quality cycle stands near the entrance and put out a positive tweet or two. Unfortunately I can't.

Waitrose was clear at the time that it only leases the building from the developers, Ballymore, who own the alley outside

 The store front pavement along Nine Elms Lane is owned by Wandsworth Council.

To reach the nearest cycle parking you carry your weighty shopping panniers along the pavement the full length of the store to the corner, turn right, and carry your bags the full depth of the store, past the entrance to the car park, to the stands shown below
Alternatively you can carry your bags along the pavement away from the store in the other direction, turn left at the end of the block to reach some stands.

In comparison the Waitrose car park is convenient and well used. It has car parking bays for the disabled, bays for families, bays for recharging your electric car. It's covered, well lit, has promotional material, and has lifts so you can bring your shopping trolley straight into your car to unload. No walking with shopping involved.

There is no undercover cycle parking area or stands for customers (nor provision for daytime Waitrose staff). 

Of course, most customers arriving by bike want to park near to the entrance, as this person managed to do 

The friendly Operations Manager for the store apologised for the non-arrival of stands. She has been told they may be in place by the end of the month and said that Waitrose's Corporate and Social Responsibility team are applying pressure to the land owners so far as they can.

Ballymore, the site developers who own the alley, and Wandsworth Council, who own the pavement, should totally understand the planning intent for this area to be super cycle friendly. I can't believe it is beyond the capacity of one or other to install some racks within a few days given the vast expanse of empty pavement available. I would have expected them in place ready for the store opening. They weren't. Christmas has come and gone, as has January, and still nothing's been installed. Maybe cycle stands can be in place ready for Valentine's Day?

UPDATE I've had a tweet saying that the stands should be installed by the end of February. 

Thursday 4 February 2016

Cycling provision for a new student hall in Waterloo

Lambeth Council's Leader, Cllr. Lib Peck, spoke last week at the opening of Urbanest Waterloo, a 1,100 bed, 19-storey student accommodation block and private 6th form college at the corner of Westminster Bridge Road and Lambeth Palace Road.
This is how the back of the building looks. There's gated parking for hundreds of pool bikes alongside the students' own ones. It's not very pretty but a thousand or so bikes parked looks a lot less ugly than than a thousand cars, and there may be more landscaping to come.

The cycle parking is in clear sight of, and easily accessible from, the building, and it'll be quick to get to the main road.

CCTV is used and cycles can be locked to the stands

 There's plenty of room to access the majority of the bikes 

 At one end the stands are cramped, and these will clearly be used less that the others.

The pool bikes come in a variety of sizes - I think 510 to 610mm. 

There appear to be no step-through frames, and there are no chain guards or skirt guards, meaning that these cycles aren't going to appeal to every student. I'd like to see a wider range of cycles. I don't know if consideration has been given to parking tricycles, hand cycles and other types of cycle.

The stands are not currently covered, which doesn't bode well for the life of the uncovered chains (again, though, this may be a work in progress) UPDATE Urbanest have tweeted to say that the stands will be covered.

 What is strongly demonstrated here is Lambeth's commitment to ensuring that developers provide a large amount of parking, and where appropriate pool bikes, as part of its commitment to becoming London's most cycle friendly borough.

I envisage that every single student living in these halls will, at the very least, give some serious thought to using a cycle to get around town.