Political leaders must commit fully to space4cycling

Update: Space for Cycling went ahead successfully last night, with various Labour politicians coming out to show their support. This morning, Mary Creagh MP, Labour Shadow Transport minister spoke at Labour Party conference at Labour Party conference. Depressingly, there was no real commitment to space4cycling, bar improving HGV safety:

Not the dedicated, segregated network that’s safe for ages 8-80 that we’d asked for. GMCC and CTC are now calling for a manifesto commitment – lobby your MP here.

Tonight, hundreds of people will gather at Manchester’s All Saints Park to participate in a Space4Cycling bike ride all round the city. Timed to coincide with Labour Party conference, the organisers say:

we’re riding to raise awareness of the need for Space for Cycling. We want the ride to be a fun, family friendly event where we ride as a group at a gentle pace for a short distance around the city centre.

This ride takes place about a year after the first Space4Cycling bike ride in Manchester, which was timed to coincide with the Conservative Party conference. Last year’s ride took place shortly after the announcement that Manchester had won £20m from the Cycle City Ambition Fund following a successful bid, titled “Velocity 2025“.

So what are we riding for? After all, we have the money – shouldn’t we be happy? Things can only get better, as I’m sure someone once said.

Happily, the Velocity proposals are now coming through. Unfortunately, having been filtered through the council’s town planning department, we’re beginning to see that the vision for a cycling city isn’t necessarily the same as reality.

I believe that dedicated, separate space for cycling is what we want. Not shared pedestrians paths alongside roads for cars, or an endless succession of toucan crossings.

And, honestly, money is not the only thing that’s needed to make this a reality. In fact, it’s probably not the first thing we need either.

What we need is commitment. Real commitment from our political leaders that cycling is a serious form of transport that will have does have real, tangible benefits: from reducing congestion, improving health and boosting our global competitiveness.

Without that, any new money will do little. And the Velocity schemes will continue to fall short of the vision with which they were funded.

Joe Anderson’s folly: why scrapping Liverpool’s bus lanes will lead to more congestion, not less

Followers on Twitter and transport geeks will be aware that Liverpool’s directly-elected mayor, Joe Anderson, recently decided to scrap bus lanes in the city.

Anderson claims that bus lanes “simply don’t work“, adding that “we have looked at it over six to seven months and we feel it makes no improvement to the traffic flow in the city.”

I assume he’s referring to the ‘royal’ we, as I’ve seen little to suggest there’s been a serious consultation. I can find no evidence of consultation with experts nor, in fact, the bus company Arriva who have written to all 90 councillors opposing the decision. Arriva carry 80 million passengers by bus in the region and in 2005, 82 per cent of public transport journeys were made by bus, so it’s safe to say they have some experience in the area.

There’s already been a fair bit of coverage around this controversial decision, many quoting the displeasure of a Green Councillor, Coyne who said “It goes against everything that is sensible about transport thinking“.

Unfortunately, no journalist goes into this in more detail. I did some searching and, while I’m not familiar with the specific problems in Liverpool during peak hours, but I did find some pretty basic theories of road transport applicable to this situation that support Coyne’s statement.

Bus lanes exist to allow buses priority because a single bus transports more people than cars for the same amount of road space. A double-decker can hold 64-90 people, whilst a single-decker can hold 48-80. Go browse Arriva’s fleet.

Remix of the 'Car, Bus, Bike' poster by Matt Wiebe, used under Creative Commons 2.0-BY-NC

Scrapping bus lanes might allow slightly more car traffic to flow, but it is inevitable that buses be slowed and the timetable disrupted. Remember, the timetable and frequency will all have been planned with the knowledge that bus lanes are in operation.

Furthemore, studies have shown that the more road space you supply, the more traffic uses it. This is called induced demand and was recognised by J.J. Leeming, a British road traffic engineer who described it in his 1969 book. More modern studies have also confirmed this, going so far as to suggest a “fundamental law of road congestion“:

“[That] the number vehicle-kilometers traveled (VKT) increases in direct proportion to the available lane-kilometers of roadways. The additional VKT traveled come from increased driving by current residents and businesses, and migration.”

So potentially, all Mayor Joe Quimby Anderson has achieved is:

    1. scrapped bus lanes to slow down bus user’s journeys
    2. increased the amount of road space for even more traffic to congest Liverpool city centre

..all because he believes bus lanes “don’t work”.

Range Rovers all round!

Road safety on Great Ancoats Street, Manchester – letter to Councillor Mick Loughman

Below is a letter I emailed to my local councillor, Mick Loughman, on 26 June 2013 (two weeks ago). As yet I’ve had no response.

I believe politics should be open, so I wrote this letter privately and hoped to receive a response before I published the correspondence and discussed it further

Dear Cllr Loughman,

I’m writing to raise my concerns with the dangerous state of Great Ancoats Street. Specifically the section including the junction with Newton St/Blossom St, all the way to and including the junction with Store Street. Continue reading

Social reporters at NUS Annual Conference 2009

Welcome to BlackpoolFor some years now, I have been frustrated at the lack of media reporting delivered from the National Union of Students‘ annual policy-making conference. This important event, which sees around 1,000 delegates from higher and further education convene in Blackpool, is free to delegates but attracts a ‘media’/observer charge in excess of £300.

While this is reasonable in the context of the overall cost of the conference – which is free to attend for student unions – it makes it difficult for poorly-funded unions and those with competing priorities for ‘student-involvement’ funds, to send dedicated reporters. This means the reporter often has to get involved in the student union election process and be part of the delegation that represents their union at the conference. Arguably, this can affect the quality of reporting by virtue of that person’s involvement.

Thankfully, blogging, mobile technology and now, of course, Twitter, means information is getting out from conference a lot quicker. Of course, there’s always been Educationet – probably the first, almost totally open online forum for student politics – but what useful information appeared here at conference was often drowned out by the muck that one had to wade through. Also, mobile Internet and WiFi hotspots were particularly lacking in Blackpool until the last couple of years.

Ed Drummond, delegate from KCLSU in 2007 speaks at ConferenceSince I first attended in 2004, the number of blogs about NUS conference has increased dramatically. And last year (2008), for the first time, @ednet tried to provide live Twitter updates from the conference to those receiving texts on their mobiles (including those on Conference floor) – but from a single person’s perspective, it’s not possible to get a feel for the whole event. Still, the feed was good enough to be picked up by CGCU Live! and placed on their front page.

Now, with the explosion in Twitter use, there are a number of people – staff and delegates – who updating from the event and I’m going to make an effort to list them all here. There’s a surprising number and hopefully they’ll all use the tag #nusconf to record their tweets!


@benjaminfgray Benjamin Gray – KCLSU – Block of 15 candidate
@wesstreeting Wes Streeting – NUS President – standing for re-election
@davelewistwit Dave Lewis – NUS National Treasurer – leaving this year
@fabulosity1 Ama Uzowuru – NUS Vice-President Welfare – leaving this year
@aaronporter Aaron Porter – NUS Vice-President Education – standing for re-election
@lincolnSU Lincoln Student Union, tweeting live for their students (++good – he’s also @danderricott)
@ray_sacks Ray Sacks – General Secretary St George’s Student  Union
@willonline Will Watson – Associate President Education at Leeds Metropolitan Students’ Union
@tomstubbs – NUS National Executive – leaving this year
@stephanielloyd1 – unknown!
@kazarhoosh – Kaveh Azarhoosh – chair of Hull University Labour Club
@deancarlin – Dean Carlin – from Edinburgh
@AndyButtons – Andy Button-Stephens – from Cardiff
@leemacaulay – Lee Macauley – journalism student from Cardiff
@SamKnight – Sam Knight – Cardiff student blogger
@BenBryant – Ben Bryant – ‘Head of Student Media’ at Cardiff
@danielgrabiner –  Daniel Grabiner – no idea though!
@rhysdart – Rhys Dart – Cardiff student
@worldofjr – Andy Hartley – VP Welfare at Manchester Metropolitan Students Union.
@pchiarella – Phillipe Giovanni Chiarella – London Metropolitan Students Union
@solomonsmfield – Clare Solomon – School of Oriental and African Studies
@rowleypolybird – Kate Rowley – University College London Union

Non-delegates but tweeting

@viclanger – NUS
@NUSHigherEdZone – NUS Higher Education debating zone
@edframe – NUS
@XChangeERS – unknown
@gemmatumelty – Gemma Tumelty – former NUS National President
@ednet – sort of unofficial Educationet.org feed – possibly the nearest thing to a crowd-sourced student media agency, but with minimal filtering.
@drewstearne – Drew J. Stearne ‘official NUS photographer’ (probably employed after I got annoyed with having my photos got ripped off one year)
@roryl – Rory Lawless – student political blogger
@parboo – Jaki Booth – Birmingham City SU staffer
@technicalfault – me – recovering student politician and digital communications producer.

Wow. That’s plenty for a Twitter caucus!

Any others?

Please leave a comment or tweet me @technicalfault.

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