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New Move to bring in Blanket Pavement Parking Ban

Twenty charities have jointly lobbied government for a nationwide blanket ban on pavement parking (maybe with exceptions). This is currently under review by government. Such a ban has been in place in London since 1974, where some councils have actually catered for part-pavement parking. Elsewhere councils have the power to ban in specific streets or areas via Road Traffic Orders.
A few have even adopted part-pavement parking – one in Bath has been hailed a success.
The issue is being led by claims, from the disabled in particular, that people are in danger from being forced to walk in roadway. That, of course, is unacceptable. Anyone who blocks a pavement to that extent is being selfish and deserves a penalty. What we at the ABD don’t want to see is councils getting blanket ban powers and then simply banning and wardens going on ticket issuing sprees. How much do you trust your council?
Many areas have pavements that are wider than necessary along with roads that are narrow. Blanket bans would give serious problems to the likes of delivery drivers, visiting carers, public services – and surely emergency services would be exempt? Not to mention disabled drivers.
Remember also that pavements get obstructed by many things: bus shelters, lampposts, signs – and wheelie bins which we are told to place there by those same councils who would enforce parking bans.
Where it can be done without causing obstruction pavement parking it can be sensible and considerate: cutting congestion by aiding traffic flow while increasing provision of precious parking spaces. Otherwise many residents of narrow streets might be unable to park anywhere near their homes.
The idea of marking out bays partly on pavement is widely used in many other countries – and it works, without obstructing anyone. We suggest that all that is needed on most residential streets is a minimum one-metre walkway. That’s equivalent to a double buggy or a mobility scooter. We don’t object to councils dealing with those who seriously obstruct. Therefore we oppose default blanket bans, but should it come about, urge the “middle ground” solution outlined above – with a statutory requirement for councils to provide pavement parking provision on any road where it is requested and/or achievable whilst still allowing that minimum one-metre width for pedestrian passage.

 

Parking bays marked partly on the pavement and partly on the road, in Riga, Latvia.
Parking bays marked partly on the pavement and partly on the road, in Riga, Latvia.
Parking bays marked partly on the pavement, in Passau, Germany.

Police in Scotland Abandon Plans for Speed Awareness Courses

According to a report in the Herald newspaper, police in Scotland have shelved plans to introduce speed awareness courses in the country like they operate in England.

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has of course campaigned against the misuse of police waivers and the perversion of justice involved in the police extracting cash by inducing the payment of a bribe to waive prosecution. See our AMPOW campaign here: https://www.speed-awareness.org/ . Only recently a Government commissioned study showed there was no benefit whatsoever in terms of casualty reduction from sending millions of people on speed awareness courses every year.

The Scottish Police Authority have suggested that they have “deprioritised” the introduction of such courses on financial grounds as they would require substantial investment in new IT facilities. But could it be that they have realised how legally dubious the operation of the system in England really is? The ABD has made representations on this subject to the senior legal authorities in Scotland who would have to give permission for the operation of such a scheme. Perhaps this is a case where the police in Scotland have simply been persuaded that it is a step too far?

All we need now is for the UK Government in Westminster to recognise the same reality.

See the Herald story here for more information: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16600735.police-put-brakes-on-plans-to-drop-fines-for-speed-awareness-courses/?action=success#comments-feedback-anchor

Roger Lawson

Public Consultation on Cycling Offences

The Government have announced a review of cycling offences and a public consultation on what they propose to change. This follows an increase in the apparent numbers of cyclists who ride “furiously” and cause harm to pedestrians or other cyclists.

The Department for Transport (DfT) have reported that in the last five years (to 2016) there were 2,491 accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists with no other vehicle involved which resulted in 20 fatal pedestrian casualties and 546 serious injuries (source:LTT). It is clearly not a trivial problem.

A particular concern was the recent case of Charlie Alliston who killed Mrs Kim Briggs on Old Street in London. He was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted of the Victorian offence of causing bodily harm by “wanton and furious driving” for which he received a sentence of 18 months in prison. The maximum sentence for that offence is 2 years. It was realised that there is no equivalent to the offence of “causing death by dangerous driving” that vehicle users face. There is effectively a gap in the law as regards cyclists.

The Government’s proposal is to introduce “parity” of sentencing options where the outcome is death or serious injury. They are also proposing other minor changes – for example to make cycling offences apply to any public area, not just roads. That might cover car parks and pedestrianised precincts.

Comment: In principle it would seem to make sense to introduce parity as a deterrent to bad behaviour by cyclists. This seems to be a particular problem in London where cyclists often travel at high speed on their commute to/from work and don’t like to slow down at all. They often seem to try to emulate their racing cycle heroes and record their journey times on the web. See the past articles on this topic in the links given below. It is becoming a serious problem in London which many people have commented upon in the media articles written on this subject.

Whether introducing parity in offences will actually improve the behaviour of cyclists seems questionable however. The immediate reaction of Cycling UK spokesperson Duncan Dollimore was to dismiss the proposals with the comment that “Adding one or two new offences specific to cyclists would be merely tinkering around the edges”. He called for a wider review of road traffic offences. Olympic medallist Chris Boardman said “That says it all really. Wow, just wow. I genuinely thought this was a bad joke, had to check it was a real account” and called for other cyclists to complain. Cyclists seem to hate being subject to regulation so it seems likely that cyclists will oppose the proposed changes.

As the consultation on this issue points out, cyclists are not subject to licensing and do not have to carry insurance. They are not subject to points totting up, nor of disqualification from cycling, although they can be disqualified from driving vehicles.

One concern is that cyclists are silent and are no longer required to have bells to warn of their approach (they were before 2011). When they persist in riding on pavements many people are concerned about them being hit from behind without warning. It is interesting to note that the DfT will soon be mandating noise generators for electric vehicles to protect pedestrians so why not introduce the same rule for cycles?

There may be other ways to improve cyclists’ behaviour such as cycle speed limits or controls on the type of cycles that can be used, but a change in attitude is really what is required. More consideration for others and less libido.

The ABD will probably respond to the formal consultation on this subject so please let us have your comments. Or of course you can submit your own comments directly. The consultation is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/new-cycling-offences-causing-death-or-serious-injury-when-cycling

Past articles from the ABD London blog:

More Pedestrian Deaths Caused by or to Cyclists: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/more-pedestrian-deaths-caused-by-or-to-cyclists/

Cyclist Convicted in Pedestrian Death Case: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/cyclist-convicted-in-pedestrian-death-case/

Cyclist Faces Manslaughter Charge: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/549/

Banker Fined for Dangerous Cycling: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/banker-fined-for-dangerous-cycling/

London Divided and Cycling Accident Rates: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/london-divided-and-cycling-accident-rates/

Are Cyclists Racing on London Streets: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/are-cyclists-racing-on-londons-streets/

 

 

Fighting For Air – Another Piece of Air Pollution Propaganda from the BBC

Last night the BBC broadcast a programme on air pollution entitled Fighting for Air (BBC2 on 19/8/2018). It was presented by Dr. Xand van Tulleken in a populist and dramatic style.

He first did a simple test by “cleansing” his system by donning a chemical weapons suit followed by 3 hours of deliberately breathing in traffic fumes. He did blood pressure tests, analysed blood composition and checked for brain function before and after. This unscientific and uncontrolled test apparently showed a slight increase in blood pressure and blood clotting and possibly a very small change in cognitive function. No actual data was given. Bearing in mind that such tests as blood pressure can vary significantly from hour to hour, and the other tests likewise, this proves nothing at all. Note that there have been a number of scientific studies of a possible link between blood coagulation and air pollution but no clear conclusions about which pollutants are relevant and no specific link to heart disease or stroke risk identified. That did not stop Dr van Tulleken alleging such a link.

He then moved to Kings Heath High Street near Birmingham. This road exceeds national legal limits for NOX apparently by a small amount at some times. It is used by a large number of diesel buses (no hybrids or electrics), and by significant numbers of HGVs. Traffic is stop/start with high congestion because of traffic lights that are not linked and road side parking as people move in and out of the parking spaces.

Dr van Tulleken persuaded the local council to suspend the parking bays for a day (filled with bay trees instead) and to synchronise the traffic flights to provide a “green wave” and he also persuaded the bus company to offer free tickets. The result was the volume of traffic remained the same, but NO2 fell by 10%. It is not clear to what extent any adjustment was made for other factors such as weather changes although mention was made that the changes were measured against wider area changes.

Local shopkeepers were not happy particularly a butcher who had traded in the road for 50 years.

Comment: In summary all this programme showed is that smoothing traffic flows may significantly reduce some emissions from vehicles. We already knew that, for example from studies of speed hump schemes. Replacing road side parking by off-street parking is clearly something that councils should look at. I only wish that removing such parking be done in my local High Street (Chislehurst in the London Borough of Bromley) which has been proposed in the past but never progressed (there is already plenty of off-street parking). It would both reduce the air pollution and reduce congestion by improving the flow of traffic.

What the programme did not demonstrate was that air pollution is a major health hazard or a public health emergency as the Doctor disclaimed. Indeed the High Street Butcher demonstrated how much cleaner his shop is than it used to be suggesting particulate emissions were lower than a few years ago.

In conclusion, another disappointing and hysterical programme on air pollution rather than a truly balanced study of the issues.

Roger Lawson

 

Do Low Levels of Air Pollution Damage Your Heart?

Following the publication of a scientific paper analysing heart condition and the impact of air pollution, the national media immediately jumped to headlines such as “Low Levels of Air Pollution Linked to Changes in the Heart” as published by the BBC. Stories were typically illustrated with pictures of traffic jams, car exhaust and visible London air pollution. Calls to reduce legal maximum air pollution figures were added.

What does this scientific paper actually show? You can read it here: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.034856 . It’s a paper by Nay Aung et al. But here are some comments on it:

  1. The paper was published in the journal “Circulation”, a small distribution specialist scientific journal, It is based on information from the UK Biobank which contains medical information on thousands of volunteers who have in this case had heart scans.
  2. The study correlated the information from 3,920 individuals to air pollution data (specifically NO2 and PM2.5) where they lived from 2005-2010.
  3. The study concluded that after adjusting for numerous other factors such as demographics (age, sex, ethnicity), anthropometrics (height, body mass), socioeconomic factors (income, employment, educational status), cardiac risk factors and physical activity there was a positive correlation between minor changes to left ventricle (LV) mass and other heart changes to air pollution levels where the volunteers were resident.
  4. Such changes to a heart are known to precede heart disease.
  5. The paper’s authors therefore concluded that “our findings add to the growing evidence of the damaging effects of ambient air pollution even in the setting of relatively low exposure levels”.

Are their conclusions justified beyond any doubt, and in particular are the popular media’s headlines justified? My conclusion is no. For example, like any epidemiological study it only provides a possible statistical association, not a direct cause. As Prof Kevin McConway commented on this paper (as reported by the BBC): “Heart disease is affected by a wide range of factors – smoking, drinking alcohol, diet, exercise, social position, and more. Suppose that people whose heart health is worse because of some of these factors are also more likely to live in places where air pollution is high. That could show up as a correlation between air pollution and heart disease, even if the pollution itself is having no direct effect on the heart”.

Another possible issue is that air pollution inside houses is known to often be many times worse than that in the most polluted streets. That pollution comes from cooking, new paint, fabrics, carpets, smoking by other residents, animal hair, etc. Lack of ventilation in houses and apartments can increase levels substantially so people who live close to noisy roads who never open their windows as a result may be particularly affected.

The report is open to attack on the detail of their statistical methods, and they also note that other similar studies did not provide the same evidence in all cases. In summary the overall evidence is quite weak. Neither does the report confirm that the minor changes noted to heart mass lead in this case to significant heart disease.

Their reference to “low exposure levels” may also be misleading because air pollution levels were not measured outside the volunteers’ houses or where they work. In addition the fact that the people studied were volunteers, i.e. were self-selected rather than being a randomised sample, could have biased the outcome even though lots of adjustments were made for possible confounding factors.

All the report really suggests is that more study should be undertaken of a possible effect. The conclusion drawn by some commentators that air pollution legal limits need to be reduced further is not substantiated by this report.

In the meantime, readers are advised not to live within a few metres of a busy road because it may be bad for your health. But that’s no surprise is it? Just living in a noisy environment is known to be very damaging to your health. High noise levels are correlated with cardiovascular disease according to the World Health Organisation. It seems it increases stress levels which has a negative impact on health.

What the Aung report does not do is justify even more aggressive attempts to reduce air pollution in cities such as London, where NOX and particulates are already falling after the mistaken support of more diesel vehicles by the Government. Road vehicles will soon no longer be a major contributor to air pollution in cities so more scaremongering of this ilk is not required.

The answer to the question posed in the headline of this article (“Do Low Levels of Air Pollution Damage Your Heart”) is simply that it is “Not proven”.

Press Release: The Police Need to Regain Trust of The Public By Changing Their Priorities

According to figures recently released, only 445,000 of the 4.6 million crimes committed in the last year in England and Wales resulted in prosecution.  Yet over 2 million motorists were pursued for exceeding a speed limit.  The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) suggests that the police really need to get their priorities right.  When the only contact most people have with the police is when they are pointing a speed gun at you, usually on a safe stretch of road with a speed limit that is set too low, is it any wonder respect is at an all-time low?  We are now seeing a generation of children brought up with this situation, hearing their parents cursing the police as they slam on the brakes.

The ABD has already highlighted the problem with the false targeting of speed enforcement, ignoring dangerous driving and favouring those sites than can generate mass prosecutions. (1)

We have also highlighted the fact that speed awareness courses are not making drivers safer.  Incredibly we are even told that isn’t their intent.  (2)

Despite the endless propaganda hardly any crashes are caused by sober, otherwise legal drivers traveling a few MPH over the speed limit. The vast majority of so called ‘speeding’ crashes are caused by drunk/drugged/stolen or very high reckless speeds/racing (3) The police need to finally admit the truth and start catching real criminals.

What has been happening is an enormous diversion of resources in both the police and criminal justice system from the pursuit and prosecution of real criminals to “crimes” that can generate money. Is it surprise that crime figures of all kinds are ballooning to record levels?

  1. http://www.abd.org.uk/setting-speed-limits/
  2. http://www.abd.org.uk/no-benefit-from-speed-awareness-courses/
  3. http://www.abd.org.uk/the-hidden-truth-behind-statistics-used-to-justify-speed-enforcement-priorities/

Ends

Stopping the School Run by Closing Roads

The “school run” is now a major cause of traffic congestion. It has got worse for three reasons: 1) more ownership of cars, 2) the ability of parents to apply to any school for admission of their children introduced a few years ago and 3) parents concern with the safety of their children if they walk or cycle to school.

Although schools do often have “catchment” areas that limit applications to a geographic area around the school if there are too many requests for places, in practice these are quite wide. For example, this map shows the catchment are for Coopers School in Chislehurst (London Borough of Bromley): https://www.schoolguide.co.uk/schools/coopers-school-chislehurst . For those who know the area, that means that children come from as far afield as Mottingham, Swanley and Orpington, i.e. several miles distant. Walking would be impractical, and even cycling would be difficult due to steep hills, so only buses or car use (if they don’t live near a bus route) would be an option for many children. The result is daily congestion around that school during school term times, particularly as there are several other schools in the same area including some private schools whose catchment areas could be even larger.

How to solve the school run problem? Some local councils are now looking at road closures during school opening/closing times to deter the use of cars and encourage the children to walk or cycle. Road safety benefits are also suggested. The Borough of Croydon have already experimented with such a scheme for six months at 3 schools. The access restrictions were enforced by ANPR cameras with £130 fines for infringement. Local residents within the boundary could obtain a permit. Croydon council has now decided to make the scheme permanent despite many objections from residents (some living within the boundary).

The justification for the scheme was that it would reduce air pollution and encourage more healthy life styles but there was no evidence of the air pollution being a problem (no measures were taken), and it is exceedingly unlikely that excluding vehicles from a very small area for very limited times of the day would have any impact on air quality. No evidence on road safety benefits was provided. Such schemes just cause vehicle users to park further away outside the boundary causing wider parking problems, or they turn-up and park earlier. It causes major problems for delivery drivers, or other visitors to homes within the boundary as drivers are often not aware of the scheme.

The London Borough of Greenwich is also considering such a scheme for eight schools according to an article in the Newsshopper local paper and it suggests the access restriction would even be imposed by rising bollards.

Such schemes are spreading across the country. Solihull is another example of an experimental scheme which was put in without consultation. One local councillor said they did not consult first because they thought people would object!

Another area considering using such a scheme is Cambridge County Council where one councillor has put it forward. Again this is was primarily on spurious environmental grounds. The writer of this article spoke on BBC Radio Cambridge on the subject on 17/7/2018 and I suggested that such policies emanate mainly from car haters and that no evidence is provided on the environmental or other benefits.

There is another motivation for such schemes which is money (just like the closure of Bank Junction in the City of London which is generating enormous sums in fines). In Croydon, some 2,000 fines were issued in six months, which is likely to generate hundreds of thousands of pounds per year of additional income to the council.

The school run and the congestion it causes is of major concern to many people but this writer does not support road closures of this nature. They just obstruct and corrupt the road network.

In Croydon local activist Peter Morgan claims the council have acted illegally by not taking notice of objections and failing to meet their obligations under the Traffic Management Act. He is asking the Secretary of State to block the councils move.

The Alliance of British Drivers opposes road closure schemes of all kinds on the grounds that they create major inconvenience for many people, rarely provide any claimed benefits and particularly so when they are used as money making schemes by councils to exploit unwary motorists.

But if you have other solutions to the congestion caused by school run drivers, that are more practical and less unreasonable, then please let us know.

Roger Lawson

Press Release: Targeting Cars to Solve ‘Pollution Problems’ Was Never the Answer

The ABD welcomes so called ‘weakening’ of the government’s stance against petrol and diesel engines (1).  Despite much media hype the vast majority of petrol and diesel cars that do significant mileages are clean modern vehicles. Car emissions are a tiny and fast diminishing part of overall pollution which comes from many sources in modern life including many that originate in our modern insulated homes.

Much of the recent hype has resulted from hysterical claims of ‘multiple premature deaths’ from pollution.  The clue is in the word ‘premature’ and actual number of hours or days that a life is supposedly shortened by are never stated.  The truth is that if we stopped all industry, all heating, all trade and all transport there would still be pollution from natural sources.  We may live a few extra hours from the cleaner air but would die from cold and malnutrition far earlier instead.  We need to remind ourselves that whilst there may be minimal negative trade-offs from modern living, the benefits outweigh these many fold. Some common sense needs to return to the table.

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/roads-update-the-zero-emission-road-transport-strategy

Who Are the Worst Councils?

Does your local council provide free or affordable parking, good road conditions rather than roads full of potholes, and do they reduce congestion as opposed to removing road space while imposing 20-mph speed limits? This video talks about how Bristol has negatively impacted motorists in recent years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upPBqNVIxrQ

Note that the prize competition mentioned in the video has now concluded but if you have any good examples of how your local council behaves either particularly badly or well, then please provide a note of same to the ABD so that we can publicise.

Setting Speed Limits

Get the Limits Right and Arguments About Speed Enforcement Could Vanish

It is very easy when we hear people complaining about speed limit enforcement, to assume that the person complaining is somehow irresponsible, liking to drive faster than is safe. We hear it a lot.  When we delve a little deeper however, whilst there are inevitably a tiny minority of this ilk, the vast majority including all of us here in the ABD fully support enforcement against anybody who drives faster than is safe.  The issues they have are invariably with the way enforcement is targeted, and many are very angry indeed that it appears all too often to be targeted at the safe, sober, responsible driver on the safer stretches of road where the limit appears unreasonably low to a significant number of drivers, and perhaps worse still, those speeding in dangerous places are not targeted at all.

What is the exact nature of the problem?  Well the problem with current enforcement is that it incentivises targeting at high revenue sites.  This isn’t just to make profit, it is also because empires that are self-financing and self-perpetuating have been encouraged by government policy, With no fine income, the empires die. When vehicles, equipment and staff have no income stream financing them, they simply die out.  Targeting areas where the majority of drivers sense danger and therefore slow down is not viable because although those caught would be the ones everybody wants them to catch, the numbers are lower so it is not financially viable.

And the solution?  Well it’s two-fold.  Firstly we could take the financial incentives away by sending fine revenue directly into the tax system and fund ‘safety partnerships’ directly from government, rewarding them for casualty reduction only.

Secondly, if limits were properly set then there would be no unreasonable limits for the ‘safety partnerships’ to target.  All the arguments about enforcement would simply go away and the authorities would return to being respected and supported by everybody, something nobody would argue was currently the case.

So, how do we get limits right?

Well we need to depoliticise limit setting.  Take it out of the hands of local politicians who, although often well meaning, are unqualified on the subject and are also often keen to go with whatever they think will win them votes.  There needs to be a national policy on the setting of limits and they need to be in the hands of qualified experts.  There is a system which we in the UK abandoned a few years ago which set limits using a method proven all over the world to maximise safety.  It is called the 85th percentile rule.  Put simply it measures the speed of free-flowing traffic on a particular road in the absence of a limit.  The limit is then set at a speed below which 85% of drivers naturally choose.  There are exceptions but as a broad principle this method creates limits which earn respect and are respected.  Using this method would raise some limits and lower others.  The ABD calls for an end to the current unsustainable fiasco and a reintroduction of the 85th percentile.  It saves lives, increases respect for the enforcement agencies and gives smoother traffic flow.  There really is nothing not to like.

And what else needs to be done on speed?

Limits are far from the only tool in the box.  Setting one’s speed safely to the conditions is probably the most vital skill a driver needs to master.  But it isn’t about numbers.  It is about looking ahead, well ahead, observing potential hazards and continually reappraising one’s speed.  Put simply, the main discipline is to ‘always drive at a speed where you can safely stop in the distance guaranteed to be clear’.  It is virtually all that matters and needs to head up all education campaigns.  When, however did you last hear these words?  Did you ever hear them from anybody in the speed management business or authorities?