Tuesday, September 29, 2009

US Police sounds Orwellian

There's a weird sense of Orwell blended with Minority Report, a la Brazil in this clip:

(via Nothing To Do With Arbroath: G20 protesters blasted by sonic cannon)

A bit frightening if you ask me, that it takes so much armed force and sound canon to police a demonstration...


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reversing the burden of the proof would encourage cycling

Commuters cycle across Blackfriars BridgeI read today in The Times, an article sensationally titled Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes.

As usual, facts are quite different from the eye catching headline: it is only question to reverse the burden of the proof towards motorists for accidents involving cyclists. Which seems only fair as they don't have a metal body around them when travelling as opposed to those driving cosseted within two tonnes of metal

Such scheme would place the presumption of blame against whoever was driving the most powerful vehicle involved in an accident, so they or their insurers would be liable for costs or damages.

If a cyclist were hit by a car, the presumption of blame would fall on the driver, while a cyclist would automatically be blamed if he or she knocked down a pedestrian.
It's already the case in the Netherlands for instance, and it forces drivers to be more careful.

I already hear the voices saying that
...the risky behaviour of some cyclists — particularly those who jump red lights and ride the wrong way along one-way streets — that is to blame for a significant number of crashes.

This comment for me stems from people who never ride, as jumping a red light is often safer than risking being mowned by cars turning left or accelerating forward when the green light comes on. Some odd cyclist behaviours are also caused by the stupidity of those planning cycle lanes in the most bizarre fashion (read this great book for more: Crap Cycle Lanes)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cyclists to be given the right to ride the wrong way

An addition to the no-entry sign will sanction what many cyclists are already doing to avoid long diversionsRead in the Times of this morning:
Cyclists will be given green light to ignore one-way signs - Times Online

At long last, it seems that common sense is prevailing and that the DfT is recognising that road rules made for cars are not appropriate for the poor souls plodding the street with no armour and taking little space.

The main advantage is to allow cycles to use quieter roads, moving them off busy and dangerous main roads in many cases. It is also a good traffic calming measure for one way streets, where cars tend to go too fast.

It's a small step in the right direction towards better ways to share the space between users of the roads. We just have to get proper cycle lanes now (post series on the subjet coming soon on this blog!)

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Moonsoon halts London transport system

Says a lot on the state of our transport infrastructure...

I mean I understand (well not really but) that we can be un-prepared for meterological events that occur once every 5 years in average, like for instance snow. But rain, even when it's a lot?

But I can't comprehend how or why rain can still flood Richmond tube station (it's not underground!) or the M4 (elevated section).

The Department of Transport has a Dad's Army approach to infrastructure engineering: it's so bad it becomes farcical!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Restaurant review: Mar I Terra (Blackfriars)

Mar I Terra - Spanish Restaurant, LondonI ate at Mar I Terra on Saturday, en route to check the Thames Festival on the Southbank.
Both were quite pleasant. The fete was interesting because of the laid back village to watch this country becoming more continental as the years go by: the ambiance was laid back, with performers and food.

However, by that time we were quite full having made a detour via Blackfriars to have dinner at Mar I Terra for some proper Spanish tapas. All felt right in place, relax and good. We had the classics: boquerones, patatas bravas, some meat balls and some cervesa to wash it. All tapas are around a fiver except the jamon, which at thirteen and a half quid isn't cheap. It's very very good and probably worth it though.

It's my idea of casual food: simple, with good ingredients and no fuss. I would recommend this highly for a dinner with friends, around a good bottle -their wine list is well researched. No real downsides, apart the fact they don't take bookings -but they do have a bar. It's also a bit out of one's way, but worth the trek.

I haven't been to the Soho one, but the address is here as well.

Mar I Terra (www.mariterra.co.uk)
14 Gambia Street, London SE1 0XH - 020 7928 7628

Soho: 17 Air Street, London W1B 5AF - 020 7734 1992

While I'm on the subject of tapas, here's are some quick comments on two others I have in mind:
  • Don Fernando in Richmond: not very refined nor cheap, but okay for a casual dinner if you catch their offers. Just.
    27f The Quadrant, Richmond TW9 1DN -020 8948 6447
  • La Tasca in Covent Garden and elsewhere: avoid like plague unless you're really interested into finding out how tourists can be (badly) treated in London ; probably the worst paella I've ever had, we almost walked out as the service was agonisingly slow.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Heathrow is not safe: chilling crash map

Just found the web site of the Friends of the Earth on LHR T5 -a must read, there's also a chilling map by Hacan of possible crashes on Heathrow flight paths.

Stricken jumbo flew over West London (also there)
Campaigners against the expansion of Heathrow have long predicted that a disaster will eventually happen because more than 500 flights a day pass over Central London as they approach the airport.

The Government has proposed building a third runway at the airport, which would add 1,000 more flights a week over the capital. Most other big cities have positioned their airports in places that do not require planes to approach over the centre."

FOE comment. Heathrow is by far the most dangerous airport in the country for those on the ground. This is because there are far more planes flying over far more people than anywhere else. This fact is largely ignored by the government, which takes into account only 'individual risk' as opposed to 'societal risk'.
The AIB report is here (direct link to PDF).

See map of potential crash sites.
Update: Seems  Friends of the Earth moved to a proper website but did not migrate all files, this link doesn't work anymore. Fortunately,
Waybackmachine had an archived copy... Here's another link to the document, just in case.

Check also this post:Heathrow is just dangerous where it is

24/5/12 update: removed/changed dead hyperlinks.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Bring on High Speed Two, not more runways

rail planRegular readers will know I think high-speed rail is a necessity. Today, on BBC.com there was an interesting statistic in this news article: Cities urge high-speed rail lin

Over 60 years, it is estimated that the line could save 30 million tonnes (29.5m tons) of CO2 worth £3.2bn by diverting passengers from air travel to rail.

Although 60 years can seem a very long time, rail infrastructure is ammortised over long periods. The real saving could be that a proper high-speed rail (HSR) network could avoid building more runways around London. I'm sure BAA thinks differently, but it worked just like that in France where TGV has displaced air travel on routes such as Paris to Nantes, Lyons, and even Marseilles.

Will this happen in the UK? I'm sceptical it will happen quickly, mostly because of the lack of proper planning, decentralised decision making and short-term focus.

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