Monday, July 26, 2010

Cycle Hire docking station locations

Don't bother going to the TfL map, there's still nothing marked on it (at the time of writing).

Someone else has done the legwork however, here.

Disclaimer - Not all the docking stations have been built yet - this is just a map of planned locations. I know for a fact that a good number of these don't exist yet, and it's got to be odds-on they won't exist on July 30. But the docking station fairies might still work their magic!

Kew Road, Richmond

Richmond Council have kindly provided a mandatory cycle lane on Kew Road (well, some of it anyway). Picture below.



The northbound lane's hours of operation are 8-10AM Mon-Sun - that's why it's full of parked cars. It's well-known that no cyclist cycles north outside these hours (except for that idiot in my picture), and after all, no-one would be able to visit Kew Gardens if they couldn't park for free on Kew Road. We can't have cars cluttering up the side-streets, and there's no public transport nearby, you see. Kew Gardens tube and national rail station is fully 400m away, and as for the buses, well no-one travels by bus, do they? You could get mugged and everything! And buses are so slow because of all the congestion (it's buses that cause congestion of course, not cars). So you have to come by car (you certainly wouldn't want to cycle, not with all those parked cars in the cycle lane). There's really not enough parking in fact. Kew Gardens really need to clear away some of those plants and put down some proper tarmac.

The southbound cycle lane has hours of operation 8AM-6:30PM Mon-Sun. All cyclists are home and tucked up in bed by 6:30PM you see, it's way past their bedtime. It's also very important that local people can park their cars on the street after that time, otherwise all sorts of bad things could happen.

Speed cameras - more BBC misreporting

BBC TV news this morning wrongly said that Swindon had 'removed its speed cameras'. It didn't. They're still there, but not switched on (see picture here). The BBC couldn't be bothered to do even basic research. There's a big difference between removing cameras and switching them off - if they're still there with the tell-tale 'ruler markings' on the carriageway, they still act as a deterrent to speeding.

However, the BBC also reports that Oxfordshire is going to switch off its 72 speed cameras.

This will at least result in a more realistic trial than Swindon, which switched off 6 speed cameras. As Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: "This is another example of this government delivering on its pledge to end the war on the motorist." Quite right too. It's good to know that this policy is being led by such victims of the war as Swindon Borough Council's Rod Bluh, who said "As somebody who has been banned for speeding, I take speeding very seriously." (source) Speeding in Swindon went up during the trial, so we can look forward to motorists in Oxfordshire getting to their destinations much quicker. If a few people have to die, that's a price worth paying.

I think it's time we started a charity for the victims of the war against the motorist. These poor people, like victims of the Iraq and Afghan wars, deserve our sympathy. They probably suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after getting a £60 speeding ticket. I'm sick and tired of hearing about these moaning minnies complaining about being 'hit' by 'speeding' drivers who are merely asserting their basic human right of freedom of movement. We live in a compensation-culture nanny state where drivers are expected to pay for the fact that someone got injured by their own stupidity. They should've stayed indoors, or in a car, where it's much safer.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Barclays Cycle Hire - the Latest

In my last post on this subject, I was whingeing about the lack of information on TfL's website.
Well, you can indeed register for the scheme today, although I've not yet tried.
There's also a map of docking stations. However, there aren't any docking stations on it! Which rather indicates a lack of testing and a hasty roll-out. I know they exist because I've seen one on the corner of Whitehall Place and Northumberland Avenue, and another on the corner of The Strand and Craven Street.

There's also whingeing in the Standard about the cost: "£6 for two hours", it shrills, "the most expensive in Europe".(Maybe that's why it's sponsored by Barclays?) As I've pointed out before, this is rather missing the point. The first half-hour is free. You can ride from one side of the hire zone to the other in 30 minutes, and even if you can't, when you're near the time-limit you just dock your bike at the nearest docking station and take another one - the time-limit resets (apparently).
HOWEVER
I went for a walk up the Strand, to Covent Garden, to Shaftsbury Avenue, then Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square. All the kinds of places people visit, places I'd expect to see docking stations, but  I didn't see any. So I'm a little concerned that you could be riding around for a while racking up charges if you don't know London's streets or don't know where the docking stations are.

Swindon - the Death of Speed Cameras?

Speed cameras - do they work?

To be honest, I've not made my mind up yet on all the issues. I rather agree with James May when he says: "Speed cameras are obviously for making money and not for saving lives, but that's only because the fines aren't high enough. Obviously they're not, because people are still speeding. That's why they're getting nabbed."

But the only thing I learned from the BBC's news items on the subject was that the BBC are not worth the license fee.
The 'Taxpayers Alliance' (Tory right-wing in disguise) featured large, as did Swindon Coucillors, with little balancing opinion - no road safety organizations, just a police officer and someone from the Safety Camera Partnership (who stood to lose her job and looked a little upset). The assertion that 'only 5% of accidents are caused by speeding' went unchallenged (I'll get to that later). The BBC need to realise that this subject is not celebrity gossip. People ultimately live or die based on the quality of this debate. The BBC coverage gave the distinct impression that the death of the speed camera was a good thing.
That's why you need to read this blog.

I am not a particular fan of speed cameras. Their very ubiquity in London must have a moderating effect on speeds, but the one near my house certainly has a very localised effect. But the people who oppose speed cameras don't have a great story on what they're going to do instead.

The Swindon 'trial' reports that accident rates have not increased since speed cameras were turned off. However, it is a little premature to draw the conclusion that speed cameras have no effect on accident rates.

  • Only 6 speed cameras in Swindon were turned off (source), and the tell-tale road 'ruler markings', signs  and the cameras themselves remained, albeit with a yellow hood: at a distance you a speeding motorist would have trouble telling the difference between the 'out-of-action' cameras and the real thing.
  • Swindon is not a large area and the trial lasted just a year.
  • There's a possibility of bias: the trial data has been produced by people with a vested interest in its success.
Two more points about the Swindon trial. 
  1. Swindon, instead of investing in speed cameras, instead invested in engineering measures, signs and education. So, if it's true that cameras have no effect, you would expect the accident rate to have gone down, not stayed the same (assuming the other measures were successful)
  2. Swindon's engineering, signs and education were paid for out of speed camera revenue. That means, if we got rid of all speed cameras, there would be rather less money for such measures. Because speed cameras are pretty much self-financing, you get a certain amount of 'free' road safety ( paid for by speeding motorists). So, if we follow Swindon's example, we'll have no speed cameras and less other safety measures (assuming the funding shortfall isn't made up by extra government grants - hardly likely in these austere times). You don't have to be Isaac Newton to figure out that's hardly a recipe for safer roads.
So let's take a very quick look at both some empirical evidence and some theory.
Theory first.

Speed both makes crashes more likely and more severe. The faster you drive, the less time you have to observe the road ahead and behind for hazards, and the less time you have to react to them. If you have less time to react and your initial speed is faster, your speed at impact will be faster. As any schoolchild knows, by Isaac Newton's laws, a faster impact involves more energy and hence a greater chance of death or serious injury.

What effect do speed cameras have? Firstly, you have to be either very unobservant, very distracted or driving fast to get caught, the cameras are so visible. So anyone who gets caught three times should, one could argue not be on the road - if three times you failed to see a 10-foot pole with a large yellow box on it, how many 5-foot children are you failing to see? The prospect of losing their license with another offence must focus the minds of those people.

Empirical evidence next.
According to Devon and Cornwall Safety Camera Partnership, "In the first two years of operation the number of injury collisions in this area has fallen by 27% and the number of people killed or seriously injured has reduced by 7%. However on those roads where cameras are used there has been a 44% reduction in crashes and a 17% reduction in casualties. Also the average speed of vehicles on the roads has reduced by 12% and the percentage of drivers exceeding the speed limit has been reduced from 64% to 33%."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

London Underground: The Age of Steam

I was open-mouthed watching the BBC News last night when they were given a tour of the Edgware Road signal box. It's 85 years old, and spares have to be hand-made. There's still valve-based technology there. In fact, the word 'technology' probably hadn't been invented when it was designed by some bloke wearing a doublet and hose. No wonder the trains are never on time.

Of course, this was all propaganda by TfL, trying to give spending cuts the body-swerve. But short of showing little boys cleaning out the chimneys, it's hard to imagine a stronger case being made for capital investment.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

London Cycle Hire Scheme delays

The London Cycle Hire scheme has been delayed (again).

The original start-date was delayed by about 2 months (see my previous post on this topic).

According to The Independent and other sources, bikes "will be available only to pre-registered members when the scheme is launched a week on Friday [i.e. July 30th]". In other words, casual users won't be able to use the scheme on its launch date.
I like to do a bit more in-depth research than the mainstream media, so I thought I might register. However, a quick visit to TfL's website reveals no way to register. If registration requires them to post you a key-card, and the web channel isn't up and running yet, they've left it a bit late, haven't they? You would expect the registration channels to be available by now if significant numbers of people are actually going to be in possesion of a key card on the launch date.
Which rather begs the question: will they launch a cycle hire scheme where no-one can actually hire a cycle on day one?
[UPDATE] The BBC say you can register from Friday 23rd July, although there's nothing on TfL's website that I could see. You might think they'd be keen to make the most of the launch, in which case all the channels would be in place and there's be advance publicity on their website. There's not even a map of the docking stations there - the map of the cycle hire area looks like it's been lifted unmodified from a tourist brochure.
This all has the sniff of lack of planning and coordination - rather typical of the Boris Johnson administration.

Pay as you Drive

I'm convinced that road-pricing is inevitable, but politicians are as yet too scared to make the case to the public.

However, reported in the Standard, Tim Yeo, former environment minister in the Major government, is proposing it as chair of the all-party Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee. About time too.

If I go to Cumbria with my wife and kids, it can cost the wrong side of £400 if I go by train. Cheaper fares are available, but only if I book early and spend time scouring around the interweb looking for cheap tickets, which is a pain. It's so much easier to take the car, and I can do the round trip with about £60's worth of diesel. It really is a no-brainer.

Contrast that with the situation in France, where your fuel cost is doubled by the 'payage' road charges, and train tickets are sooo much cheaper. I once went first-class from Paris to Bordeaux for about £30. Plus the TGV trains are sooo much faster than our steam-era network.

There's not much point in building a high-speed rail network if it's going to be too expensive relative to driving to attract large numbers of people off the roads. Even with the oil price doubling or trebling, driving could still be cheaper if the price of rail travel stays the same or increases - and increases seem odds-on given recent warnings about transport budget cuts and fare rises.

At the moment, the costs of each mile driven in a car is massively front-loaded or externalized. The costs of the road system - including the cost of the land and infrastructure, the environmental costs, the cost of policing, of the consequences of road crashes, of the blight that a major road puts on all land around it within a half-mile corridor - is externalized and paid for by the taxpayer, by road crash victims, and by people whose house prices and land values are damaged by the presence of roads. Insurance, servicing and VED is paid for up-front by the vehicle owner, and depreciation on the vehicle only gets realised when it's sold.
When deciding how to travel, most people consider only what they could save by not making the journey by car - the marginal cost - which is only the cost of the  fuel (including fuel duty). If price is going to influence people's choice of transport mode, we need to make the marginal cost of driving a mile more reflective of the actual all-in cost. Road pricing helps us do that.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cycle Superhighway 7

I'd ridden the A24 before the CSH changes and written a blog post about it here.

For the before-and-after comparison, I rode it again, now most of the blue lanes are down, just before the grand opening.

Riding North, the first problem I had was on the approach to Colliers Wood, with extremely heavy traffic but no blue lane. The blue lane starts after Colliers Wood tube station. In general, I think the blue lanes have improved things in that vehicles tend to stay out of them. However, they are mainly quite narrow, and there's not enough room to overtake a slower cyclist and stay in the blue lane. When I rode on a weekday morning, there wasn't much of a problem with cars parking in the lane. The Stockwell gyratory was a problem. I didn't see any particularly worrying incidents going into town.

Coming back, it was a different, more dangerous story. There was more congestion and motorists seemed to be encroaching more into what should be cyclists' roadspace. Take a look at this video clip (below). You'll see a bunch of cyclists approaching the lights. They're waiting to go straight on, and coasting to the red light but the car overtakes them into the blue lane, and then turns left across them. This is potentially dangerous.
video


My second clip (below) is taken at Clapham North. You'll notice cars changing lanes while cyclists attempt to filter through, and one in particular doesn't seem to have much concern for the fact that cycles are coming through on the lane he is entering (he gets shouted at). This is a classic piece of car-centric road design with no consideration given to cyclists. There are two fairly narrow lanes going into Clapham High Street, but the road narrows into a single lane. This is done to improve traffic flow, but it doesn't work very well because the traffic is backed up. There's no advantage to be gained for motorists filtering up the left-hand lane because they then have to merge with the right-hand lane a few metres further on. If the CSH designers at TfL were serious about making life safer for cyclists, they would have made the left-hand lane a mandatory cycle lane, given there's enough space. But that would go against the principles of maximizing traffic flow at all costs, which are given higher priority than cycle safety.
video


Based on what I saw, I think an inexperienced cyclist would not be tempted to ride this. There's too much intimidation by motorists, which in the main is not deliberate, just careless, inattentive or inconsiderate, but the crucial point is, the CSH does little or nothing to prevent it. The blue lanes are advisory rather than mandatory, and there is no physical separation from motor traffic. Bear in mind that many of the cycle lanes and all the bus lanes were there before the CSH, so all the CSH has done is make the presence of cyclists a bit more apparent.

I don't think the route has got any faster. The main problem is traffic lights, of which there an awful lot. It's sad to report, but those cyclists who choose to jump the lights enjoy a faster journey, more roadspace and less intimidation from motorists.

So in summary, I think the blue lanes have improved the situation for cyclists on this route, but not by much:  not enough to attract new cyclists; not enough to reduce the number of accidents significantly, and certainly not enough to create a cycling 'revolution'. You would not want a child to cycle this route. They've done pretty much the bare minimum. There's very little in the way of new roadspace for cyclists, or safety measures, and nothing that prioritizes cycles at the expense of traffic flow. It's the same old story of the safety and convenience of cyclists coming last on the list of priorities.

This CSH cost around £10M. I think that £10M could have been spent making LCN#3, which is in the same direction as CSH#7, faster, safer and more cycle-friendly. That option would have given us a route that although longer by distance would have been faster, because of fewer traffic lights. It would have been much more pleasant, because it follows quiet roads. It would have been safer because of much lower traffic levels, and because of the ability to give better segregation between the cycle route and motor traffic. It would have been more attractive to inexperienced cyclists. In other words, Boris backed the wrong horse.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Congestion Charge Changes - you read it here first.

The Guardian reports on how Bonis's changes to the congestion charge will exempt small diesels.

Those of you with long memories will remember I posted a very similar story back in May...here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Don't Cut Tube Investment say City Bosses

A bunch of City figures have voiced their concerns about cuts to Tube investment in the Standard today.

The cuts to investment will cost the economy £66bn, they claim.

Now, it's pretty easy to cook up figures like £66bn, but it's pretty easy to see that slow, unreliable public transport is going to cost businesses. What happens if you fancy going into town to see a show and have a meal but the Northern Line is not running? Maybe you stay at home, so the theatre and restaurant lose business. What happens when 10,000 people are delayed for half an hour in the morning because of signal failure? That's 5000 hours of work lost.

Part of the problem is that cutting capital investment is a lot easier for the Government than cutting current-account spending. With capital investment, the benefits aren't seen until some years hence, so cutting it doesn't make much difference to peoples' daily lives (except those employed on capital projects of course).

So here's an idea. Anyone who cycles regularly  in London knows that it's the most reliable way of getting around. Roadworks can often make your journey easier. About the worst delay that can happen is a puncture, which is fairly rare if you buy decent tyres and only takes 10 minutes to fix. Investing in cycling would be cheaper than other capital transport investments, and would relieve pressure on other transport modes, as well as cutting CO2 emissions and other forms of pollution. Of course, it would involve some brave and imaginative decisions, like allocating roadspace away from motor traffic and car parking. But the Government's current line when announcing unpopular decisions is 'there is no choice'. So why not take decisions that will have long-term benefits not only on transport, but on the environment, on dependency on foreign oil, and on public health? And who knows, they might actually prove popular in the long term, as people benefit from quieter roads, reduced road danger, and perhaps even think about cycling themselves?

Of course, this is very unlikely to happen, because Philip Hammond has a very weak grasp of the transport brief, and because the Department of Transport is stuffed full of car-centric beaurocrats who haven't got a clue about cycling, have never been to the Netherlands and can't think beyond the failed policies of the past.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Good news for London cycling

It's an ill wind that blows no-one any good.

The Standard today reports that London transport is in the firing line for cuts. And given the Government's commitment to keeping Council Tax rises down, and Boris's abolishing the congestion charge western extension zone, that can only mean one thing: fare rises. The other side-effect is investment in the Tube will likely be cut, so no air-conditioning and cuts to station, signalling, track or rolling stock upgrades.

All of which makes cycling relatively more attractive. A 7-day Zone 1-3 travelcard currently costs £30.20. Let's factor in a 20% rise, just for fun: that would make £36.24.
If you bought a £300 bike on a cycle-to-work scheme, after tax relief the cost would be about £150 - £200 (depending on tax rates). That would take only about 5-6 weeks to pay down from travelcard savings, if you cycled every day. Even if you only cycled once a week, the break-even period would be 6 months or so.

Maybe the government's cycling strategy is, rather than making cycling better, making the alternatives worse?

Community Speed Watch

There's an increasing number of areas of the country with a Community Speed Watch programme - Leicestershire, Surrey, Wiltshire, Avon and Somerset, Northamptonshire, Fife, and others. The clue's in the name folks - residents equipped with radar guns and vehicle-activated signs monitor speeds through their local area. Offenders are not prosecuted but receive a letter from the police instead.

Cynics might say this is policing on the cheap, but I think it is an idea that could have legs.
First, it gives people a sense of ownership over their roads, and it encourages people to view speeding as the dangerous and antisocial behaviour that it is.
Second, it challenges the following attitudes:
  • speed limits are only guidelines;
  • everybody speeds, it's a fact of life and there's nothing that can be done about it;
  • crackdowns on speeding are about raising revenue not improving safety.

If children get involved, it cements early in life the idea that speed is dangerous. People would be less likely to speed if they know their neighbours are watching disapprovingly. Lastly, the main problem with relying on the police to hand out speeding tickets is there are nowhere near enough traffic police to be a deterrent. We increasingly rely on fixed speed cameras for enforcement because  manned detection is so expensive. In London at least, the traffic cop with a radar gun is rarer than hen's teeth these days. But there are an awful lot of local residents, making mounting regular speed checks feasible, which could have a significant deterrent effect.


So the only remaining question is, why does the Metropolitan Police not run one of these schemes?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Richmond Park Car Parking Charges Scrapped

This story is from the proverbial horse's mouth i.e. Zac Goldsmith. The tousle-haired millionaire ex-non-dom environmentalist opposed the move to introduce car parking charges in his election campaign, and true to his word, has managed to get the charges scrapped. (I've blogged about the history here and here). I was never a big fan of the parking charges as they penalize Park visitors but drivers who use the Park as a rat-run got to do so for free. However, past attempts at restricting traffic have fallen victim to the pernicious orthodoxy of 'traffic flow' which means that the peace and tranquility of the Park and its status as a site of special scientific interest have to take second place to the desires and convenience of motorists.

There's an interesting comment he has added to his blog:

“Given the current economic climate, we will need to find alternative sources of income instead, but we will try to respect local residents’ views and preserve the environment of these wonderful and precious spaces too.”

If you're a regular visitor to the Park, you'll have noticed that the roads have been resurfaced, so it's no wonder the income is needed. Given the immediate need to cut public spending, Zac should be pressing for the expensive damage that motors cause to the Park's roads and its environment to be limited, by restricting motor traffic. Especially given his spotless environmental credentials. The Government are fond of saying they have 'no choice' but to cut the deficit. Let's see if they make the right choice here. Maybe by "alternative sources of income" Zac means a charge to drive through the Park? Or maybe he's going to develop a shopping centre there, or luxury flats?

7/7 bombings

Today we remember the victims of the 7/7 bombings. A shocking tragedy that killed 52 people.

One of the unexpected outcomes of that event was that people started to think differently about risk. My boss at the time started walking the 2 miles or so from the mainline station to the office instead of taking the tube. Statistically, this is a very dangerous thing to do. Even with the 7/7 deaths, taking the tube is one of the safest forms of travel and walking one of the most dangerous, although if you factor in the beneficial effects of excercise, the picture is different.

But we don't remember the victims of road crashes, even though there are vastly more of them. We also don't do much about them - nothing systemic at any rate. Most people are unaware that there are 2500+ deaths and 30,000-odd serious injuries on the roads every year. That's the equivalent of one 7/7 bombing every week! When it comes to terrorism, it seems the government has license to trample over civil liberties. Yet the rights of drivers are seemingly untouchable. We paint speed cameras yellow so that it's impossible for anyone who's alert and observant to get a speeding ticket. Walk down any busy street and you'll see drivers using mobile phones. Endorsable offences attract risible £60 penalties that deter no-one who can afford to put petrol in their car. The right to drive is not withheld for more than a year or two even from those who kill through dangerous driving. The sickening thing is many road deaths are preventable - if there were realistic deterrents to dangerous driving such as a significant fine or a driving ban, would drivers take the same kind of risks with their money and livelihoods as they do with other people's lives?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cycle to School ???

Total media firestorm about 2 parents letting their children cycle to school on their own. The Guardian's Simon Jenkins has it about right.
The Daily Mail are usually at the front of the queue with the 'elf and safety gorn mad' spin, but their response was a surprisingly balanced article, although they've made an unpardonable error - they have included a picture of two young children cycling on a road with a car apparently passing too close ("posed by models"), whereas the Schonrock children cycle on footpaths.
I wonder what Jeremy Clarkson has to say on the matter, but it's a long drive for him from the Isle of Man to Dulwich. In any case, on Sunday's Top Gear, he said "I don't believe what I write any more than you [Alistair Campbell] believe what you say".
.

UN climate panel vindicated?

The BBC's report of a Dutch investigation into the IPCC was that there were "no errors that would undermine the main conclusions". Similar Guardian report here.
Of course there are still deniers. The Times headlined "UN report on climate change was one-sided". The article is behind the paywall and I don't expect you want to pay for it. There will still be deniers in fifty and a hundred years time, it's just that with every passing year they look more and more stupid.

But what I want to know is why is John Redwood, the Daily Express and other assorted scientific illiterates, who complained that this year's cold winter cast doubt on climate science, not recanting now the weather is so hot and dry? They should either accept that 'the weather' is different to 'the climate', or stop cherry-picking weather evidence to suit their views.

Government Waste Strategy - Zero Waste?

Good to see the Coalition making the right noises about waste and recycling here. Caroline Spelman (environment secretary) wants to drive forward a zero-waste strategy. It'll be interesting whether the Daily Mail will shut up with their stories of bin taxes and wheelie-bin cameras now it's their political paymasters making the proposals.

Of course, it is very early days, and it's one thing talking about it and another thing actually making it happen. The main problem is there is no money to incentivise recycling, it looks like council tax will be frozen, and they've already rejected Labour's 'pay as you throw' strategy where households who can't be bothered to recycle or compost pay more for their rubbish collection. Spelman apparently prefers Windsor and Maidenhead's scheme which rewards people who recycle with vouchers for local shops. Of course, 'pay as you throw' and 'get paid not to throw' ultimately boil down to the same thing - a financial incentive - the only difference is whether it looks like a carrot or a stick.

What I continue to find frustrating is the lack of progress on packaging. The only stuff in my waste bin these days is unrecyclable plastic trays and film, but it's almost impossible to avoid picking up plastic packaging when you shop. There's all manner of packaging that could be re-used or eliminated altogether, but there clearly isn't the political or commercial will to do it. Labour could have given the industries a strong signal that packaging was in the cross-hairs but they chose not to do so, and the result is we're still pretty much where we were five or ten years ago in terms of excessive packaging.

But here's a sign of how confused the Coalition is about waste. Eric Pickles has ordered the Audit Commission to reverse its policy favouring fortnightly bin collections. Fortnightly bin collections should encourage people to be more disciplined about what they throw away. The correct way of managing waste would be to ensure that all compostable waste is separated from the main bin. If the main bin contained only non-recyclable material, there'd be no organic waste in the main bin and hence no need for regular collections of the non-organic waste. Of course there are problems with some ready-meal, meat and fish packaging, where the plastic or card packaging is contaminated with organic material, but I don't think they are problems that are beyond the wit of man to solve.

Why is there this obsession with 'freedom' issues around rubbish? It does not seem unreasonable that we have a civic duty to dispose of our waste in as careful a way as possible. If there are people too busy or too lazy to separate their waste, then they can pay someone to do it for them. I don't see why I should subsidize them, and I don't see why I should subsidize companies that can't be bothered to minimize packaging.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Eliminating Traffic Lights

An old story here about the current fashion in highway engineering circles for removing traffic lights, railings and other clutter, on the basis that the more you make motorists think, the more careful they will be, and the fewer accidents you get:

http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/london-seeks-to-reduce-congestion-by-eliminating-traffic-lights/

Let's see how well it works in China:

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=QESfEd180rQ

Of course, China is not the UK, and personally I have an open mind as to whether 'de-cluttering' works. However, I don't think you can judge the success of something like this on the basis of one controlled experiment. If you removed a substantial number of traffic lights, at first motorists would likely be more careful, but they would adjust their behaviour over time as they became familiar with the informal rules of behaviour. Roundabouts and gyratory systems give you a pretty good idea of what happens when traffic priorities are not clear (or at least, not as clear as at a light-controlled junction). Roundabouts are about the most dangerous places on the highway system.