Yesterday (Tuesday 17th) I attended a public consultation meeting on CS9. This was the first time I have ever attended a TfL consultation, so thought I would write up my thoughts.
First up, thank you to ChiswickCalendar for organizing this. They did a good job – the Boston Room at George IV was a good venue and the recording was a nice touch. They also got together a good mix of contributors – on stage we had Will Norman the TfL champion for walking and cycling, a pro-scheme Chiswick resident, an anti-scheme Chiswick resident and a local business owner with concerns about the scheme. Off stage there were numerous technical people from TfL, council representatives and councillors, more local business people and someone from (I think) the Hounslow Cycling Campaign. The debate was chaired by Julian Worricker – a BBC News presenter and Chiswick resident. He made sure that a significant number of people across the floor got the chance to make points.
The debate was well-attended
I thought Will Norman and the TfL team did well. At the beginning Norman painted the Mayor’s big picture strategy and why we need more “active transport” (the usual reasons – population growth, inactivity crisis pollution) and in particular why the proposed route for CS9 is a good one (e.g. 3,000 daily cyclists along the Chiswick High Road already). NB someone else said the DfT figures are a mere 2,000 daily users. Norman delegated to the TfL for technical details at the right times – e.g. for issues about modelling, about loading bays, pavement widths etc. These women and men seemed on top of their brief and generally refuted some of the objections that some had to the room.
I estimate the balance of the room was roughly 75% “anti-scheme” and roughly 25% pro-scheme – estimated from clap volume when someone made a point!
The debate was almost entirely centred around the Chiswick High Road – there was virtually no discussion about the “downstream” end around Kew Bridge and Brentford or upstream around Hammersmith. One pro-cyclist did voice my primary concern about the scheme ending at Olympia and not Hyde Park. If the scheme goes ahead, there will be more cyclists mixing it with the traffic on the highly dangerous Kensington High Street.
Interestingly we heard very little objection to the scheme from a motoring perspective. If people were concerned that this scheme would actually =increase= pollution because of increased congestion, for example, this was not voiced. Those against were much more concerned about the loss of pavement than loss of road (both occur in the scheme but there is much more road loss than pavement). Early on someone did say “this scheme will fracture the community” – a close echo of the “loss of cafe culture” that we have heard about in social media and on the web. This objection was a bit annoying to me – it is almost meaningless (how =does= one fracture an abstract noun?) so it is hard to debate with. Much better to look at the facts – five of the six restaurants with seating outside will see NO reduction in pavement size. The remaining restaurant (Byron) will have room for exactly the same number of seats, as well as pavement wide enough for two wheelchairs to pass each other. There will also be a net gain in number of trees on the High Road. Side roads will become easier to cross and the existing crossings will all be retained and in some cases made wider. Ok, so some cars will be replaced by bikes – but as far as I can this only diminishes the community if you are fervently anti-cycling!
And, oh yes, there were numerous folk present who really just didn’t like cyclists. In naivety I previously thought this people existed only on the Daily Mail comment pages, so it was fascinating, in a way, to hear these thoughts made flesh: “Only a few months ago I had to jump out of the way of one on the pavement!”.. “They all jump red lights”… “They all wear lycra and will break a 20mph speed limit”. A number of times we heard cyclists being treated as a single homogeneous group – all to blame for each others ills. In fact I came away with the conclusion that some people don’t want a protected cycle lane as a form of spite or punishment – yes the roads are dangerous but they deserve it?! I am tempted to start treating all motorists as a block too.
Some of the comments about cyclists turned me to drink.
The Wellesley Road ratrun received some attention. This was criticised on two sides – a number of the pro-scheme people present pointed out that it means that the protected lane will not run to Chiswick Park, a significiant employment base in the area. Others pointed out that by closing the outlets on to the South Circular, journey times for people living in that area will increase when they are heading out of town to the south or west. That’s true, but unfortunately the obvious counterpoint – that removing all the rat-running will cut traffic by 80% and make the streets a much nicer place to live, was not made clear enough, in my opinion.
There was quite a lot of “well of course I support the idea of a cycle lane, just not here, oh no!”. In particular quite a few people thought the scheme should go along the A4. There wasn’t a precise proposal so I don’t know if they intended the flyover to be used, or how people would get up to it from Brentford or Kew Bridge. TfL and the council did point out that they had considered the idea as unworkable, but also people should be careful what they wish for as making the A4 less attractive for traffic would push more traffic down the High Road… how about that for “fracturing a community”?
Towards the end we heard from a member of the Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, which has infamously asked its parishoners to pray for CS9 to be moved elsewhere. It is undoubtedly unfortunate that due to tree positions that at this very western end of the cycle track’s route down the High Road, the track is set to take space from the pavement when it should be the road. Even removing a tree may be an option here – I am sure TfL will be looking at options around this when the consultation closes. BUT, when listing to the guy’s “health and safety” comments, I was really struck by how health and safety really has gone mad when considering the scheme. During the evening and in recent weeks we heard
- Concerns about the delivery drivers having to push their trollies a tiny bit further when making deliveries, causing “health and safety” issues.
- Concerns that if the church caught fire and had to be evacuated, then people would have to walk a little further down the pavement to escape it than they would today.
- Concerns that a bride might trip over in her wedding dress if the route to the altar was made more complex.
WHY is it that those anti the scheme are able to take these concerns so seriously, but don’t seem to take serious the massively more significant danger of 3,000 daily cyclists being passed close and fast by multi-ton cars, trucks and buses. There have been more than 80 accidents on this road in recent years – this is where our REAL concerns should lie. So yes, I am sure tweaks can be made, but CS9 surely MUST go ahead.
The consultation closes at the end of October and can be accessed at https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/cs9/?cid=cs9
On 21st September 2017, the government launched an “urgent review into cycle safety” following the tragic death of a pedestrian who had been ridden into by a cyclist riding a track bike with no front brake.
The first sentence of the review says “following a series of high profile incidents” and the Transport Minister Jesse Norman is quoted as saying “given recent cases, it is only right..”.
There has only been one recent high profile case.
The review will be in two phases. Phase one will “analyse the case for creating a new offence equivalent to causing death or serious injury by careless or dangerous driving to help protect both cyclists and pedestrians.” It is unclear how bringing in new laws against them will “protect cyclists”!
The second phase will “be a wider consultation on road safety issues relating to cycling […] and will consider different ways in which safety can be further improved between cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.”
Laura Laker response in The Guardian – “Minister’s call for cyclists to behave is more headline-grabbing hypocrisy”
Norman’s response to that article (also in The Guardian): We want to make our roads safer for everyone – especially cyclists
Of course Norman’s response ignores Laker’s central point, which is that the DfT continues to ignore the demands to carry out the promised review of 2014 of all road sentencing, but one cyclist case that generates tabloid headlines is enough to trigger an urgent review. Why is this hypocrisy?… because Norman himself urged us to avoid rushes to judgement when celebrating Edmund Burke in an FT OpEd.
It seems a given that a new cycling law will be brought in, even though the cyclist in the track bike case didn’t actually receive the maximum sentence for the “wanton and furious cycling” offence he was guilty of.
Where the real battle begins is “phase two”. Given that Norman wrote to all cycling organisations asking them to tell how cyclists how to behave, it is clear that he doesn’t treat them equally with motorists, however much of a “keen cyclist” he may be. Can you imagine a transport minister writing to the AA, RAC, Road Haulage Association etc, every time a car-related death occurred (which is about 5 times a day)?
So what might Norman have in mind.. well here are at least five times , a transport minister has been pressed in Parliament to introduce a mandatory cycle helmet (and the first link shows the pressure has been there for decades). Let’s hope they don’t propose both helmets and hi-viz and then water it down to just one of those (in the spirit of “compromise”). Such clear victim-blaming and piling on of the out-group will discourage cycling further, making it all the more dangerous for those left, despite the obvious pro-health and anti-pollution benefits that MORE cycling would bring.
As a side-project to my squares project, I’m also keeping track of which Thames crossings I’ve “done”.
I’ve chopped things up into the following categories:
- Road/bridges tunnels navigable by bike: I must’ve ridden across/ for them to “count”. Example: Waterloo Bridge.
- Foot bridges and tunnels: I must’ve ridden or wheeled my bike across/through these for them to count. Example: Greenwich Foot Tunnel.
- Railway bridges and tunnels: I’m counting these if I’ve been on the relevant train/tube/DLR line – the bike doesn’t have to have come with me. Example: Kingston Railway Bridge
- Ferries: If the ferry allows bikes to come on board (and most do) then the bike must come for it to count. Example: Hammerton’s Ferry.
- Roads inaccessible to bike: If the road has some custom arrangement for bikes (e.g. Dartford crossing), I must use that custom arrangement. Otherwise any type of crossing will count. Example: M3 Bridge at Chertsey.
- Other. One in this case – Emirates “Air Line” Cable car. I did not take the bike when I went on this, but I believe you can.
Within each category, crossings are listed in most-downstream order first. Links in the first column lead to a Wikipedia page or similar resource. Links in the third column lead to a Strava activity where I “ticked” the crossing.
Road bridges / tunnels navigable by bike (58/74 crossed)
Footbridges and tunnels
Railway bridges and tunnels
|Canary Wharf / Rotherhithe Ferry||Ferry||TODO|
|Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry||Ferry||TODO|
Roads inaccessible to bikes
|Dartford crossing southbound||No bikes road bridge||TODO|
|Dartford crossing northbound||No bikes road tunnel||TODO|
|Blackwall Tunnel southbound||No bikes road tunnel||TODO|
|Blackwall Tunnel northbound||No bikes road tunnel||TODO|
|M3 Chertsey Bridge||Road bridge (motorway)||DONE|
|M4 bridge at Maidenhead||Road bridge (motorway)||DONE|
|Emirates Air Line||Cable car||DONE|
After a very active discussion on the Ride Every Tile Strava club (first one I’ve seen with 100 comments actually), it is great to see we have a solution to the “impossible-to-visit squares” problem. And that solution is “max cluster”. The idea of a maximum cluster is very similar to the idea of “max clump” described earlier on this blog . In fact the algorithm is the same, it is just the name that has improved. Although I am biased because I played a role in their creation, I do think clumps are a reasonable solution to the impossible squares problem because
- No matter how many impossible squares you have, you can join the max clump game. In the worst case you pay a “fine” of 5 points for not visiting a square, and if there are a number of unvisitables next to each other, the cost per square works out less than 5.
- The cluster metric adapts to whatever topology is in your area. If there’s a coastline that does go north/south or east/west, you can make a pretty pattern by visiting everywhere along the coasts.
- The max square score is a very slow-growing score (like Eddington number it grows with the square root of effort) so it requires long-term patience to increase. The max cluster on the other hand brings more instant gratification.
- Even if max square is working out nicely for you, it is still another thing to look at VeloViewer.
- As a bonus, the map UI in VeloViewer has become much more sophisticated (details at Ben’s post here). Amongst other things, you can see cluster and visited-squares colour the same if you want to, recovering the old UI.
Using the new flexible UI to show the damage the Squarpocalypse has done!
A further bonus is that some of Ben’s legions of followers on Twitter/Facebook have been attracted Ride Every Tile, and we now have over 180 members (from about 40 two weeks ago). And with that influx, there’s been some great new ideas. In particular “Half-Fast” Mike who rides in and around Tokyo has shared a great idea for getting squares to be displayed on your Garmin Edge as you are out and about – increasing the chances that you will actually bag all the squares you hope to bag on a ride – full details here
Finally, the race to recover lost squares following the Squarpocalypse has heated up. I dragged myself out of bed (again) to do a very similar route to the last time I dragged myself out of bed (ride report here for that one ) except this time I would bag the four squares that I had missed. Despite leaving home 12 minutes later than target (4.42am) I reached work at 8.04am, four minutes later than target – traffic lights aren’t always more red than you think they ought to be. This got me back to 32×32. At the time of writing this actually third on the leaderboard, but the situation is very fluid.
As always, there was something unexpectedly pretty or interesting on a squares ride… I had to loop round the South Mimms services to bag a square just outside Potters Bar. Service stations are normally pretty awful places (Sartre wasn’t talking about services when he said “L’enfer, c’est les autres” but the phrase always comes to mind) and South Mimms, at the junction of the M1 and M25 is pretty typical so it was lovely to discover that the village of South Mymms has many centuries of history and a church that dates to 1136. As usual I regret not stopping to get photos – some at http://stgiles-stmargarets.co.uk/st-giles-history
Strava link for the ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/1045242141
[19th June 2017: Updated to add: Ben VeloViewer has now done a better proof-of-concept – check out your own VeloViewer map for an example! Also see Ben’s Facebook post for more details and for your chance to vote on the name for this new thing. At the moment it looks like “cluster” will win out over “clump”.]
The pictures below show some example “max clumps” for real data. The “max clumps” shown here are calculated using the following rules:
- A square is in a clump if
- You have visited it
- You have visited all four squares that are adjacent to that square.
- If two adjacent squares are both in a clump they are in the “same clump”
- Divide up all your visited squares into clumps. The clump with the most squares in it is called the max clump.
These rules are not set in stone or sent by God or anything else that. They are just some choices that seem to create some nice patterns.
(more commentary follows below the pictures)
My max clump
The max clump of the rider who was North American leader before “Squarepocalypse”
The max clump of the rider who was UK leader before “Squarepocalypse”
I quite like the middle map – it clearly shows that the cyclist in question has really been up and down everywhere on the New England coast.
All three maps feature lots of cross shapes. These are due to me generating the data in the days immediately after the squarepocalypse. If there is a missing square then not only is that square missing from your clump, but also the four squares adjacent to it aren’t included either This has the effect that a missing square has slightly multiplied effect on your “clump score” – meaning that you should still try hard to visit every square. But if there are truly unreachable squares, then you aren’t crippled from playing the squares game – you just get a 5 point penalty effectively.
Feedback welcome at the Ride Every Tile Strava club .
There has been a discussion about how to take account of “inaccessible squares” in the max square challenge ( https://www.strava.com/clubs/279168/posts/582450 ).
Here is what I wrote so far on this. Plan to expand this with more examples of the clump idea.
“I agree with Nils that it raises the prospect of endless debate about what counts as inaccessible. E.g. someone on Facebook already posed the question about dual carriageways – certainly many people don’t like riding on them for good reasons, but they are not inaccessible. It just adds extra motivation for a 4am Sunday ride.
“Similarly there are very-hard-to-visit places – power stations, large factories, some military areas. I have the germ of an idea that we could set up something like the Association of British Tile Cyclists (or something similar grand, or indeed for Belgium). This could be an “official” entity that can make access requests which may be more successful than individual requests. It would also be an way of setting up occasional group rides which have a stated goal of tiling a particular area (so frustrating when you do a sportive that misses a few out in the middle…. 🙂 )”
“Having said all that, there are going to be areas where even the most determined can’t get to – there are military areas where even the military don’t go – e.g. firing ranges of certain types have a build up of unexploded unordances. You’re not going there, even on an open day. So, the idea of some sort of different metric does have some appeal. But those proposed on Facebook, e.g. “98% of 40×40″, are also unsatisfying. It is difficult to have a leaderboard comparing 100% of 38×38 versus 98% of 40×40. And we all like a leaderboard :-)”
“So I’ve been fumbling around for an alternate metric. Of course one possibility is just “total tiles” as already reported by VeloViewer. Another possibility, is to define a “clump”. A square is in your clump if you been to that square and to three of the four adjacent squares. Then measure how many squares are in your clump. This clump measure rewards people like Phill and Eric who have been to huge swathes of their area, but which aren’t square-shaped. It is also quite robust against a single hole due to an inccessible. But it is doesn’t reward a single track of squares. E.g. if you just cycled from London to Paris you clump size would be near zero as all you have is a long streaky path – you haven’t been “everywhere” in that area.