Monday, 10 October 2016

Predictions and Action

Tonight I was going through old draft posts. Anyone who writes an active blog will likely be in the same position as me. You have blogs you publish, you have blogs that you start and then delete, and you have blogs that you start, get a fair way though and....well, you move on and it sits there as a draft, usually never seeing the light of day. However, tonight I came across this blog.....

It was me being a bit daft. I was imagining a crazy situation where councils were ripping out cycle lanes and people were calling for roads to be widened. I actually wrote this about a year ago. A sort of Armageddon thought experiment.

Oh dear.

Yes, it would appear that my thought experiment is coming to pass. Cycle lanes are being ripped out and as you will know if you follow this blog, Bears Way is not being extended and who knows, might be ripped out too, as the local SNP don't think segregation is the way forward. 

Let's just give up then? Not a chance! Oh no. If we give up now, that's the end. But if we fight, and we fight hard, and we continue to challenge the misinformation and , let's face it, downright lies, then we will win in the end. Not sure?! Well, all you need to do is sign a wee petition. It only takes a minute (unless you want to add a comment, which is always welcome!). Despite what some of the locals tell you, you don't have to be local to have a say. What happens with Bears Way will have an effect on future schemes all around the country.

******-------So please, PLEASE... sign this petition here -------******

Anyway, here is the blog that was a draft. It looks like it is coming to pass, but only if you let it....

You know what? Let's forget it.

It's too much hassle, people just don't get it. The car is, and always remain king.

Let's just leave it there.

No. In fact that isn't enough. Let's get the cycle lanes that have been built and rip them out. Let's return the roads to their former glory. Nice and wide, nice and fast and free of cyclists and pedestrians.

We all need to get to where we are going fast. We need to get to work, we need to get to the gym (to ride a stationary bike), we need to visit friends, we need to pop a couple of hundred metres down the road to the local shop to get some milk. We need to take the kids to their sports clubs...we need to take the kids to school.

That all has to happen fast. Time is precious, time is short. It does not matter that when we get to where we are going that parking spaces are short, we will just ask the council for more. Congestion is a problem, though it isn't because there are too many cars on the road. Oh no, there just aren't enough roads and the roads that we have don't have enough lanes.

Build more roads, and widen the ones we have!

Sure, we'd loose a bit more green space, but that doesn't really matter, as we can all drive out to the countryside. Sure the countryside has a shortage of parking spaces, but once again our councils can sort that. Oh, and the roads might need widened to get there fast...

All this talk of obesity? Not a problem. With more people driving and more parking spaces outside gyms, we can get to the gym quicker and more often. None of those pesky cyclists holding us up! Parking will be free of course. Driving costs far too much already don't you know!

In fact, we need to make sure the price of motoring goes down. We need more oil. Yes! Fracking is the answer. Oh, yes the majority of UK fracking will only produce gas and not usable oil, but fear not, other countries can increase their fracking too! There is plenty of oil in he ground, we just need to innovate and we can draw out more and more.

Run out?! Ha! Not in our lifetime. That's someone else's problem....and as for climate change, well, we could do with it being a bit warmer in Scotland.

Pollution? Na. Cars are getting cleaner and cleaner all the time. Car manufacturers are honest decent folk who want a cleaner environment too! Anyway, electric cars are coming and there is absolutely no pollution from electric cars whatsoever. Yes, at least half a cars lifetime emissions come from the cars manufacture, and yes, electric cars need to get their electricity from somewhere, and that somewhere is often polluting, but hey, it's another chance for innovation!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Bearsway Council Meeting

As you will all be aware now, the Bears Way cycle lane which is a four phase project, is now a one phase project. That is, it will, for the forseable future not be extended. It will remain as it is, a cycle lane that starts pretty much no-where, and ends pretty much no-where.

I could accept the fact that it was incomplete, because I knew it was the start of something longer and better, but the council (at least one particular section of the council, decided against it). Why? Well, before we get to that I'll describe my experience attending the council meeting.

Apologies, this might be quite long, and as I write it I am likely to become a bit more agitated. There will be grammar and spelling mistakes. But this needs to come out of my head, and off the notes on the paper fresh and unadulterated. This will truly be the Mind of a Helmet Camera Cyclist. However, I think it will be worth the read. I don't plan to hold back. My mind has a habit of speaking its mind...

The meeting was set to start at 6pm. Unfortunately due to childcare commitments, and a wife that likes to see me occasionally I could not go along to the meeting. However, after chatting with a fellow concerned Twitter cyclist, he went along at 6pm and would have to leave early and I'd pop along later. Apparently these meetings could go on beyond 11pm...

So I drive to the council building (sorry!) and park outside. As I get out the car I notice some council employees leaving the building. It looked like they were locking up...

"The meeting started at 6pm...."
Anyway after a few minutes they decided to let me in, and told me where the meeting was. So off I went though the deserted council offices....

I found the door to the meeting and went in. The meeting was in full flow, although my entrance seemed to raise a few eyebrows. Perhaps that had something to do with the Pedal on Parliament t-shirt I was wearing. Who knows. I found my seat and the meeting continued.

I was sat next to about 4 or 5 other members of the public, one of which who appeared to have a booklet with all the meeting reports in it and one that was using a tablet. I got out my phone and started tweeting.

"Sorry, but you have to switch that off...."
Turns out, electronic equipment has to be switched off in the chamber. Thus, no way of sharing with the wider public, what is happening in a public meeting. Very democratic. Anyway, I complied and turned my phone off. At which point I gently pointed out the chap on his tablet.....

"Ah, but he's only using it to read the agenda..."

Hmm. anyway the tablet user decided to put it away at this point anyway.

A short while later after a few agenda points were dealt with the next point on the agenda came up, relating to a crossing point to the new Hub building in Bearsden. This agenda was led by Cllr Cummings (independent). He wanted a new crossing point, pretty much everyone else (a few exceptions) didn't see the need for it.

Cut a long story short, he wanted a crossing that you would have to cross two side roads to use to get anywhere useful, everyone else pointed this out, Cllr Cummings got asked a few questions about it, took offence and got grumpy that everyone was making it personal. They weren't. Cllr Cummings then asked that an amendment be tabled. It was pointed out that it would have made life easier if he had prepared this before the meeting (he hadn't) and it took a while for him to convey the exact wording of the amendment. At this point, someone pointed out that the amendment that he was tabling, had already been covered in the report before the council and thus, this was a whole waste of time, Cllr Cummings got even more cross at alleged personal attacks, and everyone got a bit grumpy.

In the end he agreed that he would table something at a later meeting.

That all took about 45 minutes.

There followed a 10 minute adjournment (I found out that 10 minutes in council chambers actually means 20 minutes). I got chatting to my Twitter friend, who would have to leave soon, and we both agreed that it had been a bit of a farce up until now. Things would improve, surely...

During the break I said hello to a few council members who I happened to know. One councillor who I didn't know came over to talk to me.

"Why don't you cycle on the canal?"
Off to a great start there! I explained my reasons. Turned out that this councillor (who was Cllr Gibbons of SNP) also cycled, had once lived in the area, but was now in Bearsden. He was definitely chatting as if he liked Bears Way and showed me the plans that had been submitted for the Sustrans competition previously (segregated lanes around the Burnbrae Roundabout). I susggested that they were very good, and he appeared to agree....well in hindsight I'm not 100% sure he did...but at the time he was coming across positively.

So I ask him, how does he think it will go...

"Depends. See that chap over there (Cllr MacKay), he's not feeling great. It all depends on if he manages to last to the vote or not. If he manages it will go against Bears Way".
This was interesting. It indicated that the vote was pretty much already known. They knew who would probably vote which way. I (wrongly) assumed that Gibbons would be voting for, and his fellow SNP Cllr was voting against. Was this a party split? If so, fair enough as it should be a free vote (and this was mentioned before the vote by Cllr Cummings where he specifically suggested that it would be. There were a few surprises that he mentioned it...)

Anyway the meeting soon started again.

This section consisted of technical questions related to the report which had been prepared by the council. This report was comprehensive. In fact there were a few comments on quite how comprehensive it was at 232 pages. I did not have a copy of the report at the meeting. although I do now. You can read it for yourself, here. 

The important section stated:

3.1.     It is recommended that the Council:-
a) Notes the report and the review of Phase 1 and approves proposed amendments to
 Phase 1
b) Notes the options available for the continuation of the Bears Way following the
modelling exercise and the feedback from the recent consultation exercise
c) Based on a) and b) above instructs officers to proceed to the detailed design stage of
Phase 2 in accordance with option 4 within this report and to continue with the
principle of the segregated cycle lane, ensuring that as part of this further detailed
stakeholder consultation will be carried out throughout the design, development and
implementation of Phase 2 of the project.

Before it could get further two amendments were placed on record. One by Cllr Small (SNP)

And one was from Cllr Cummings

When they 'shockingly' realise that there were two, the paused the meeting, got together for a couple of minutes and then agreed a new mish mash, wording. It was as follows.

The Council agreed as follows:-
a) To note the report and the review of Phase 1 approve proposed improvements bullet points 1 and 2 as detailed in 5.13, page 206, and instructs Officers to report back to Council on the full implications and costs of bullet points 3 and 4. The Report would include a full and meaningful public consultation with all Community Councils in Bearsden and Milngavie, all Residents? Associations, bus operators, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport and disability groups:
b) To note the options available for the continuation of the Bears Way following the modelling exercise and the feedback from the recent consultation exercise;
c) Not to proceed with any of the Phase 2 options;
d) To take note of all elements of public consultation, and all comments received from members of the community;
e) To note the recently organised and submitted petition by Mrs Aileen McIntyre on that contained 2600 signatures, and numerous comments regarding Bears Way; and
f) That any future works associated with Phase 1, or any subsequent works, must include the protection of residential, commercial and commuter parking.
Lots of things were striking about that, but two specifically - cycling groups will not be invited to consult  (see (a)). This was pointed out by the labour councillors, but Keith Small (who led the adjusted amendment declined to add them). Secondly the fact that future works on phase 1 must protect parking.

Cyclists were not mentioned at all.

So Keith Small stood up to support the amendment first.

First thing he said, was...

I am not anti cycling.....but....

He went on to say that all needed to be considered and stressed that cycling was not the ONLY way of promoting health in the community. He said that segregation had produced conflict. He stressed that the road width had been reduced and that phase 2 would reduce road width.

He then quoted a very strange quote that he said he heard from a business person:

Pure cars, pure parking, pure business.
I'm not sure what that was about!

He stressed that car ownership in the area was high and that many families had 2, 3 or more cars. "People work hard to buy a car". The suggestion being that having worked hard for that car, you had more right....

He then suggested that rail passenger numbers had recently increased significantly, and made the comment "practical people get the train". He then stressed that the current percentage of people ccling was small (yes 2% up from 0.8% before Bears Way, an incomplete lane...). He was concerned that parking displaced by the lane (which was apparently going to be very small) would result in people driving further, leading to more car use. Yes, that confused me to.

He then finished off by saying that 18,000 vehicle journeys a day occur along the road, and that they were frustrated by the 8% that are not using the lane.

"People need their car!"

The Cllr Moody (Lib Dem) stood up.

He  admitted  that they had agreed on phase 1 consultation, and was glad he did. He then waffled off a bit (I think I drifted off...) . He mentioned site visits to Asda and Boclair, and that some road engineers he spoke to said that the junctions were at capacity and any changes would make things worse (Hmmm). He stated quite clearly:

"No one had ever e-mailed him asking for segregated cycle lanes".
There is some dispute about at what stage in the process the first person did, as we know people did!

He then told us how he used to cycle, but recently has only cycled 10 times. He prefers cycling on wide roads. he also pointed out that we couldn't control cyclists. We couldn't force them to use the cycle path. He then pointed out that just because there is 'free money available' doesn't mean we need to accept it. Yes, he is saying he doesn't want the money.

"We've dug a hole, we should stop digging"
Cllr Moir  (Lab) stood up.

He supports the report, and points out that those now against the scheme were previously in favour. But there had been a big change in April. He wasn't sure why.... The lane was working, and had an added bonus of slowing traffic. Accident rates pre and post lane were exactly the same. Significant health benefits. He then quotes Derek Mackay and Humza Yousaf who were supportive of the scheme.

Anothe labour councillor stood up (didn't catch his name)
He was amazed at the political turnaround. He hoped those that vote against will be ready for the response after.

Cllr Henry (Lab) stood up. By far the best of the night. Well done to the council officers, especially in the face of abuse. The whole tone of the campaign had been horrible. She had spent time in London and though the segregated lanes there were wonderfu;. She was pleased when she heard they would come to East Dunbartonshire. They were giving people a choice, they were for the next generation, visionary, exciting. We needed to be brave and have vision.

Cllr Shergill (Lab) stood up. He pointed out that Derek Mackay said the scheme was exemplar, and it had been endorsed by Humza.

Cllr Cummings (Ind) stood up. He went on for a fair but telling us how long he had been a councillor, "17 years representing communities"...I drifted again.... Then he came back on focus, saying that this was the most controversial scheme he'd every been involved in. People were deeply upset (I still cannot fathom why!!) He then mentioned a blog that someone had written somewhere (I don't think it was me, but ....hello Cllr Cummings if you are reading....). the blog had called him 'anti cyclist'. He claimed he wasn't, as he cycled a bike sometimes in remote places (yes he did actually say that), so not anti and he'd never met anyone who is anti cycling....but.....he didn't actually say this, but it's pretty obvious he hates cycle infrastructure. He's not anti cycling, so long as you cycle far away from anywhere remotely populated....

At this point, everyone in the room was flagging, and no-one else could be bothered to talk, so Cllr Small got back up to sum up.

He didn't hold back and went straight for the juggular using all the misinformation at his disposal....

"Segregated lanes are not a good way to encourage cycling"

Who knew!?

Milngavie Road was apparently, in his words, 'shared space'.

"Motorists and cyclists co-existed happily."

Oh yes indeedy. We have entered cloud cuckoo land. I often had drivers giving me a friendly wave. In fact they would often stop and give me a cuddle. No diver ever shouted abuse at me, swerved at me, claimed I had no right to be on the road....oh no. It was all just a bad dream....

Sorry, I digress...

Segregation my dear friends (and this is pretty much what he said), was heading down the wrong road (ahem). The way to achieve 10% modal share of cycling was to get people cycling between where they live and schools. Where they live and shops.

He stressed it agian, just in case we hadn't beleived him the first two times...

"Segregation will not get to 10%"
Right! Haud the bus! Just stop what you are doing! Yes you, Amsterdam (and many cities and towns near by), Copenhagan, London, Seville, New York, Oslo, Minneapolis (yes really) Bogata, Stockholm, Malmo, Berlin.......etc etc. Yes you lot. You've got it all wrong. Listen to the SNP, Lib Dems and a couple of independent councillors in east Dunbartonshire. They know best! Rip it out. Build more roads. Cyclists and drivers get on just fine. Honest.

Oh and he said the lane was over engineered. It needed to be less intrusive. So I suspect that means, it needs to be out in the sticks (as Cllr Cummings seems to prefer), shared with pedestrians (oh yes that works) or a wee bit of paint on the road. Can't be holding up the car drivers who have been sold a dream of easy driving by the marketing departments of the car companies!

Oh no!!

Cllr Geekie (lab) stood up and surveyed the damage done by arguments you just can't argue against because you couldn't really do it in a council chamber without being really insulting....
She pointed out that you will never please drivers with cycle infrastructure (I don't actually agree with that, as a recent survey suggested that the happiest drivers were in the Netherlands...). She pointed out that improvements had already been made to phase 1, and that not having phase 2 would please no-one. The lane must be extended.

Tada! That my friends was the end of that. A short recess was called (to some mutterings and folk wanted to get home), and councillors checked that there would be no voting against local party policy. They came back....It was all a blur by this point....and the vote proceeded. It went quickly, and I couldn't keep up, but there were many voting for the amendment, including Cllr (I'm a friend of cyclists) Gibbons, and Cllr Anne (I was on the board of the local cycling coop) McNair (who incidentally hasn't replied to my e-mail...).

Long story short (well, it's already long).... 11 for Bearsway, 12 for amendment that effectively killed it.

I wasn't for staying a minute longer. I stood up, and everyone looked around (as there were only two of us in the very close public gallery) and I couldn't help myself. Looking at the SNP group I said...

I noted the slight smirk on Cllr Small's face, and I walked out.

And there you have it. East Dunbartonshire said yes to the driver, and no to anyone wanting to use a bike. There is not allowed to be a vote on this now for another 6 months, by which time we will be in the midst of a council election, which is likely to bring us more SNP councillors.

Don't forget folks the SNP and the Liberal Democrats are progressive parties. Yes they are. Well, they aren't where I live.

Friday, 30 September 2016

My Letter to Anne

I have sent the following letter to my local SNP councillors who voted against phase 2 of the Bears Way cycle lane.

Dear Anne McNair,

As a local constituent, as an organiser of Pedal on Parliament, and as a member of Friends of Bearsway, can I please ask,  what were your personal reasons for voting for the amendment to the Bears Way report at last nights meeting?

Previously you have suggested to me that you support cycling and investment of cycle infrastructure. Thus, I am confused, given the overwhelming evidence for the benefits of cycling, the overwhelming evidence that segregated infrastructure needs to play a large part in a functioning cycle network, and the overwhelming evidence that if you build such infrastructure that it encourages significant uptake of active travel, that you voted against this scheme.

The scheme certainly isn't perfect, however, it is, or should I say was, a big step in the right direction. I had never seen children cycling along that route until the introduction of the new cycle lane. I personally have never felt safer, than when I cycle in that cycle lane. I had hoped that when complete, and my children were at Boclair Acadamy, that they could, on occasion, cycle along with me from Torrance on their way to school. This will no longer be possible.

I am also extremely confused, because this local decision goes against your own parties national policy, with both Derek Mackay and Hamza Yousuf both recently commending the lane at an event where the lane won a national award. The assertions by your colleague Keith Small, that segregation infrastructure is not the way to reach your own parties 'aspiration' for a 10% modal share, flies in the face of international wisdom. I would be keen to see what references you or Keith have for this assertion.

How exactly will people cycle to Waitrose or Asda safely, as suggested by Keith, without segregation? Certainly not with paint on the roads. I can assure you, the previous layout of the road did NOT result in a happy co-existance of road users, as was asserted by Keith.

Also can you confirm for me if your decision to vote for the amendment was indeed a personal decision? I was surprised that your whole party voted in one block, against the extension of the lane. I am no expert in politics, but this looked very much like it was a local party decision to vote against the lane as one group. Was this in fact a personal decision, or a party decision?

I, and many others like me are aghast at this decision (as I stated as I left the meeting room last night). On the face of it you have voted in favour of party politics, and not in the best interests of your constituents, and the future of East Dunbartonshire. This decision will have implications far beyond the authorities boundary, and will as a result have ongoing implications in the areas of health, pollution, climate change, transport inequality, and congestion. Are you happy that you have made the right decision in that regard?

I look forward to your reply, and I ask that you also provide a seperate reply that I can give to my three children aged 11, 9 and 6, who were all very exited about being able to 'cycle through Bearsden and Milngavie' on a safe cycle path.

Yours sincerely,

Dr David Brennan

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Failed by the Police

As I'm sure most of my readers will know I occasionally report bad driving to the police. Not often, because the process is not nice, but I do do it where I feel the driving has been particularly bad. This was one such case.

Today I went to court and was told that the case was to be dropped. Why? Well, the police hadn't served the driver with a section 172, which requires the owner of the vehicle to tell the police who was driving at the time of an incident. Thus, there was no evidence that could be presented to court identifying who the driver was. I was informed all of this by the Procurator Fiscal. This is all despite the fact that, whoever the driver was, the driver had requested that the police counter charge me with careless driving as I had apparently 'forced the driver to brake sharply when I filtered in front'.

So.....and this is a little long winded...... an unidentified driver made a complaint about my cycling, that just so happened to be the driver I was complaining about, which means that driver would have had to give the police his details, and, unless he was lying, would have provided information on the incident in question, but....the court can't be sure who he (I can only assume he was a he....) was?

Here is video of the incident in question. As you'll see, the van is a Car Key Centre van. Feel free to make up your own mind.

What follows are not necessarily the facts of the case. What follows are my opinions of what may or may not happened. I'm going to be fair and provide a number of alternative explanations. Feel free to chose which one you think is accurate based on your own opinon. Perhaps you even have another alternative....

Option 1
I filter in front of the driver just as the queue starts to move. I filter in safely, as I do nearly every day on numerous occasions without incident. The driver did not like this for some reason and decided to drive close to me. I indicate that I don't like this with a palm back gesture. He pulls out and as he passes swerves his van towards me (whilst hitting his horn) in anger. I am forced to swerve into another, fortunately empty lane. The suggestion being that he used his vehicle as weapon.
Option 2
He accidentally dropped his mobile phone and accidentally hit the accelerator, bringing him closer to me. He decided the safest course of action was to try and overtake. As he was passing he went to grab the phone and accidentally hit his horn and swerved towards me. He looked back relieved to see that I had safely swerved into the filter lane. He picked up his phone and apologised to the caller for interrupting the call....
 Option 3
He spotted a friend in the distance, and wanted to get closer, so he accelerated. He noticed a cyclist ahead of him, so pulled out. He hit his horn to say hello and swerved closer to give them a wave, forgetting in that instance that the pesky cyclist was in the way. He met up with the friend later for drinks and had a laugh about the whole unfortunate incident.
Option 4
He carries a large electromagnet in the back of his van, which he accidentally activated as he approached me. This interacted with the aluminium of my bike (actually this does happen, look up Eddie Currents) and caused deviation in his course. He hit the horn to warn me of his big magnet.

Who knows?!

In my opinion justice was not served today. It wasn't allowed to. There are some great police, and I've been helped by them over the years, but this time police screwed up. Serving a section 172 is standard in these cases. So why wasn't it in this case?

Unfortunately this is not the first time that the police have messed up in incidents I have reported. These two failed due to the police not issuing a section 1, which warns the driver that their charges can be changed.

How can such simple, school boy errors be made? Would those type of errors be acceptable in any other type of job? How on earth, considering the evidence that the police had seen, was I charged with careless cycling? Why, if this section 172 had never been issued was the case allowed to progress to court?

So, all three drivers are still free to drive, free of prosecution, not guilty of any charges and probably happy as Larry. In my opinion, that is unacceptable. You may have an opinion too......

What is clear, is that we can't depend on the police to protect us. They might, and as I've said, ther are some great police officers out there, but they might not. It is unfortunately luck of the draw. We need to take the conflict away from our roads. We need to redesign them so drivers like this, can't endanger me, or anyone else any more. This is exactly why, we need investment in proper cycle infrastructure. This is why people asking for the Bears Way to get ripped up, must not succeed.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Chaos in Milngavie?!

It's a wet day in September (27th Sept 2016). It's morning rush hour. It's chaos in Milngavie....

Well, not quite....

About 5 or 6 cars (and their occupants!) are held up for about 21 seconds behind a coach picking up school kids.

That was it.

Chaos. Apparently. At least that is what I keep getting told at consultation meetings for the Bears Way.

In fact here is a video which I emplore you to watch that documents the chaos.

Not exactly chaos next to the cycle lane, was it? In fact, despite all the talk of chaos along the route, I haven't seen one video from a local resident demonstrating any chaos. Strange that, considering I keep hearing about it so much.  I'm sure those opposed to the cycle lane would be quick to post footage if it existed.

Mind you, if you are looking for chaos, just fast forward 1.5 miles down the road to the Switchback (second half of the video) Now that is chaos. Well, OK, not exactly chaos, more of a very long orderly queue of motor traffic. A queue that, if we encourage more people to drive in Milngavie and Bearsden, will only get longer.

Is the answer to rip out the Bears Way? Encourage more people to drive? No. The answer is to encourage the people, those who can, to travel in a different way. Active travel is one of those new choices that a fully completed Bears Way would provide. A choice that only a few take currently, but as has been demonstrated in many other places already, would, if it was made safer. The Bears Way can make it safer.

So, politicians of East Dunbartonshire, are you really going to vote car? Or are you going to vote for a better future?