Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cycling in London: it's about time to do something!

With the congestion charge now at £8, Transport for London clearly signalled that only rich people can afford commuting by car to London. Shame if you happen to be working in a profession with night shifts, like for instance hospital nurses... (the charge operates from 0700 till 1830).

So, if you want to avoid both this new hidden tax and overcrowded and unreliable AND expensive public transport, cycling to work seems a good idea. Other options include buying a minibus (or a Land Rover Defender LWB) or an eletric car (I wonder what Sir Clive Sinclair has to say about this?).

The snag is that a cycling culture doesn't seem to be part of the British personality: "proficiency" levels are low and the network is terrible:

  • The network is small and presents a lot of discontinuities (the paths stops and starts again after each bus stop, etc...)
  • The segregation with motor vehicules and pedestrians is either poor (cycling path being just a terracotta-coloured path onto the street with no delimiters) or non-existent (shared tow paths with pedestrians for instance)
  • Road surface is often bumpy and abrasive/high-friction (meaning increased effort from the biker and more damage in case of fall), quite often the cycle path is on the pavement and snakes around lamp posts and other obstacles. I'd like to speak to some borough planning officers...
  • The cycle paths rarely have their own traffic lights for junctions, roundabouts are often just ignored
  • Schools do not have secure bike sheds (surely cycling to school reduces congestion and helps kids excercising, but for instance at Darrell, our local school, there's no option for leaving bikes while kids are in class).
  • Train stations do not either have secure locations where to store bikes, and taking bikes onto trains is restricted and badly signed (we came across one idiotic train SouthWest Trains conductor from Windsor to Richmond that forced us to move up the train into the so-called bike carriage where there was no space as two families with buggies were there). In contrast, every major train station in The Netherlands offers secure storage, bike rental and even a repair shop.
  • Little use is made of the vast expanse of green real estate that the Royal Parks offer us: again, paths are shared and the parks are not linked into a network.
  • There are little contraflows


Monday, December 12, 2005

Supermarkets 2: labeling

Haven't you noticed how sometimes supermarkets try to con you with labeling?

The other day I was in Tesco and they were selling goldens (apples) either by the bag (of 10) or by kg. Fruits and Vegetables aren't the only case, but the most common offender. Sainsbury does the same (and their fish counter is worse).

By doing this, they prevent consumers to compare, usually between their own brands and cheaper bulk products. This is not only dishonest but also contradicts, at least the intent of, the EU DIRECTIVE 98/6/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL
of 16 February 1998 on consumer protection in the indication of the prices of products offered to consumers

I wrote to both Tesco and Sainsbury (after complaining many times verbally about fist at Sainsbury and filling in forms about labeling at Tesco's). Let's see...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Campaing for suppressing level crossings

I was this morning at North Sheen's level crossing, waiting 12 minutes behind the barrier (missed my train as the entry from the station is on the other side) and pondering about the dangers of the level crossing: this week-end two 14-year-old girls got killed in Elsenham, Essex as they crossed to catch their train.

(see coverage on BBC and other sources)

And while I was raging against this level crossing, a schoolboy (probably going to Christ's School) jumped the barrier and crossed the tracks. He probably did not read the news...

Bob Crow from the RMTU (not my usual source but...) is quoted here saying that the cost of an underpass or a bridge is around £1m. Are two girls' lives not worth it?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Susan Kramer's progress on North Sheen Station footbridge

Susan Kramer's press officer finally came back to me with the statement below following my previous post (Time to remind Susan Kramer about the North Sheen Station footbridge).

Thank you for your recent email to Susan Kramer MP, regarding the above issue. During the last few months, Susan has been trying to arrange a meeting with senior representatives from Network Rail in order to discuss this issue.
I am happy to report that Susan has now had two separate such meetings with representatives from Network Rail, who have advised her that they have now launched a consultation as part of their South West London Route Utilisation Strategy - during which this issue will be given due consideration.
However, in an effort to make sure that this issue is given the level of consideration that it deserves, Susan has now written to the Chief Executive of Network Rail, Mr. John Armitt, to raise this matter directly with him.
Additionally, we soon hope to launch a petition to Network Rail, calling upon the company to provide proper footbridge access to North Sheen Station as part of the changes implemented in their South West London Utilisation Strategy mentioned above.

She deserves credit for raising the issue but how long is it going to take?
Do we need a tragic accident at North Sheen before anything changes?

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