Saturday 27 October 2012

Negotiators wanted (not arbitrators)


I believe that cycle campaigners have to learn some negotiation skills. That's even more important with the backdrop of the stifling affliction of Great British Politeness.

For both sides to get the best out of negotiation it involves this:

Step 1 - sides to describe their case
Step 2 - sides to state their upper limit (what they want)
Step 3 - sides to understand each other's constraints
Step 4 - negotiate
Step 5 - formulate an outcome / deal

The outcome can range from agreeing a deal (full acceptance of someone's upper limits or a compromise within the parties' limit envelopes) to walking away with no deal.

Or you may say "Let's meet again in x months time to re-examine our stance(s)." In any case, after a successful negotiation (deal or no deal), you walk away understanding the other side better.

Here's the important part.

Before every negotiation you know your lower limit but - in whatever you do - don't let the other side know. Why? As it might be within their limit envelope and you'd lose going for your lower limit straight away!

I have seen some awful campaigning for accepting their lower limits in the first go, not going through Steps 1-5. You walk away with N.O.T.H.I.N.G - you are the weakest link. Good-bye.

Maybe seeing campaigning (for more and safer space for cycling) as a negotiation helps us to be more ambitious.

So know your limits! And put your p-p-p-p-p-poker faces on next time!

If Gaga can do it, you can too!

Thursday 25 October 2012

Oh, and the motorbiker is the lynx

Meet the felines of the transport zoo!

Feline transport zoo

The kitten is playful, it skirts about, zips around and can be rather disobedient and cheeky!

Cats are a bit bigger, a bit faster and more purposeful in their approach. A hint of mischievousness can still be detected, but cats don't linger as much, don't scoot about as much - at least not compared to the kitten. There are many cat breeds, ranging from small and timid types to larger and more assertive ones.

Here's another one: the lion. When it comes to characterising the lion, he's rather strong, and he's fast too. He has a lot of power and might, especially in comparison with the cat and kitten.

But compare that to the sabre-toothed tiger! He's bigger still in stature, stronger still in muscle power and he has very long sharp teeth.

Feline transport zoo

What happens if you put them all in one enclosure? Well, the kitten is usually kept separately from the others in the UK Transport Zoo, and it is clear why. But the cat, lion and sabre-toothed tiger are often left to fight it out amongst themselves.

That's why there aren't so many cats about.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Just a road safety lecture

A Newcastle MP endured this lecture from a Road Safety minister. Yes, the new one, Stephen Hammond, not the old one. Date 5 October 2012 it reads like this.
Thank you for your letter of the 19 September, enclosing correspondence from your constituent [...], Newcastle upon Tyne, [...], concerning EDM 407, victims of road accidents. I am replying as Minister responsible for road safety.
Fatal collisions are treated seriously by the police with a thorough investigation which will sometimes include a reconstruction. All the circumstances including driving behaviour and vehicle condition, are carefully considered and, in association with the Crown Prosecution Service, action taken whenever appropriate.
It is for the courts to decide on the appropriate sentence for an offender and in doing so they will take into account all details of the offence, including any aggravating or mitigating circumstances and the sentencing guidelines. Sentencing guidelines are produces by the independent Sentencing Council.
No mention of forwarding this to the appropriate minister ie Justice.

Well that's British Cycling and Julian Huppert MP telt then.

Friday 19 October 2012

Stagecoach, yeehaa!

I'd say Stagecoach aren't quite aware of what's going on outside their Newcastle depots and offices, once their drivers are released onto the roads. At best, they don't know. I say that giving them the benefit of a doubt.

In a letter to me, Stagecoach say "All our driving staff are trained to have the highest regard for the safety of our customers, other road users and pedestrians. To make sure our staff are attaining this high standard we regularly undertake covert assessments of driving standards and act swiftly to investigate any allegation of driving standards or general conduct and performance, which will also involve a review of any on bus CCTV data.

"At Stagecoach our drivers are taught to drive with safety and courtesy at the top of their list of priorities, so therefore, given the large investment into the training of our staff, it is always disappointing to learn of an occasion where this high level of investment has not been repaid by a member of staff.

It was this event on 28 September 2012 13:50 that shook me badly:
  • the bus driver of No.1 (NK60 DNN I think) on John Dobson Street, travelling northwards, was overtaking me (on my bicycle at the time) with very little room to spare. I was able to touch the side of the bus. At any speed that distance is totally unacceptable and the driver requires some serious improvements in their driving style to make them safe for our roads
  • as if that wasn't enough, the driver then went on to run a red light (across Northumberland Road).
Stagecoach also say they cannot disclose information such as cctv footage, driver interviews etc. Their 'covert assessments' are most likely not shared too. They are in effect policing themselves. Which does not help to build trust. And trust is lacking. I have offered to meet the driver and explain the cyclist's position of vulnerability and dependency.

And here are Stagecoach trying - again - to convince everyone how super smashing they are, only to learn that others don't think so.

Here are some stats. My stats, collected by myself in a period of just a few days. A little experiment. It's worth noting, that I have not been out searching for these contraventions. I just happened to stumble across them on my commute, passing through Newcastle city centre.

  • 9 October at ca 16:20 - driver of No.11, number plate ending in KFO, who at the top end Pilgrim Street pulled entirely unnecessarily into the ASL
  • 9 October at ca 16:20 - (cont.) then overtook me (on my bike at the time) with rather little room to spare on John Dobson Street.
  • 10 October ca 08:05 - blocking the ASL for no reason whatsoever - No.15a, number plate ending in YUD, Market Street westbound (where it meets Pilgrim Street, at police station)
  • 10 October ca 16:15 - blocking the ASL for no reason whatsoever. No.12, didn't catch the number plate, Blackett Street, eastbound (where it intersects John Dobson Street) - driver was turning right, onto John Dobson Street
  • 15 October ca 17:20 - Stagecoach bus No. 40, number plate ending in DJY: Blackett Street (New Bridge Street West), travelling eastbound - driver preparing to turn right, onto John Dobson Street entirely blocking the ASL which was totally unnecessary 
  • 15 October ca 17:20 - (cont.) and then - still at red - the driver was pulling onto the crossing over the stop line into the pedestrian space
  • 18 October 2012 ca 09:08 - John Dobson Street, southbound, Stagecoach driver blocking ASLs seemingly unnecessarily No.1 number plate ending in DNN, at Northumberland Road crossing
  • 18 October 2012 ca 09:09 - Stagecoach driver blocking ASLs seemingly unnecessarily No.10 number plate ending in DJJ, at Market Street crossing
  • 18 October 2012 ca 09:10 - Stagecoach driver blocking ASLs seemingly unnecessarily No.12 didn’t catch the number plate, also at Market Street crossing
For a cyclist it's not just an ASL. It's designated space. Something for them. Specific infrastructure. It ain't great, but currently it's all we've got. So finding - after you've manage to wriggle onto one - that a driver is already occupying it, is a real disappointment, every time. It makes you feel sad and angry, all at once.

And sideswipes by heavy vehicles, well, I do not have to explain how that feels to a cyclist. It's terrifying.

1) Maybe a good-old walkabout by Stagecoach managers would do the trick and open their eyes to epidemic misconduct by their drivers. 

2) Or meeting the Newcastle Cycling Campaign for a bike ride round town as was offered, to learn about the hostility out there, learning by doing: here and here

3) Or letting me chat to individual bus drivers as offered with every letter I sent Stagecoach.

As cyclists we are asked to share the road. Being squishy objects we heavily depend on others' good driving skills, respect, courtesy and foresight too. I'd rather have some designated delineated space where this conflict and confrontation is removed. 

4) Maybe Stagecoach want to join the Newcastle Cycling Campaign in their call for better space clarity and delineation?

A Stagecoach employee says after telling me about a payslip flyer they were preparing for their staff "I am confident that you should see a marked improvement. I would like to add though, the majority of our drivers do adhere to the rule, but in certain circumstances, it is difficult to bring such a large vehicle to a safe and smooth stop when lights have a short change cycle." 

I do not mean this to be an attack on Stagecoach. In the end I, just like the Stagecoach employee, hope to see a "marked improvement". I just think that their belief and reality are too far apart. Unless anything of the above is happening I continue to believe they don't really care. 

It's also worth seeing these Newcastle videos corroborating the above.
nebikene youtube 1
nebikene youtube 2
nebikene youtube 3


Thursday 11 October 2012

Strike! Balance not struck

Here are some double yellow lines that were never completed, because someone parked their car there the day the lines were painted...

Contested space

Years later. And the lines never were completed. Mothered Motorist types still make good use of it now. I see the chap park there regularly. Their selfish parking narrows the road, creating a pinchpoint for cyclists. A job well done if you were keen to discourage cycling. The bully wins.

Contested space

Meanwhile at the university, we see this sign. Another "sign of our times". Let's ignore it. A balance ought to be struck somewhere. Maybe by striking.

Well done, Newcastle

Friday 5 October 2012


"Get off the road" and "get a car, pay your way" is what I keep hearing from 'advancing' motorists.

But what comes out of their foul mouths we all know too well by now. It's mostly uninformed crap, lobotomised filth from brain dead robots. Memed statements that society approves as society does not even recognise it's demonising, radicalising, mariginalising, victimising a minority group.

Discrimination against cyclists on UK roads is booming.

And all that when cycling meets the Future Test. It complies with the Categorical Imperative. If everyone were cycling... a lot of our urban problems would simply vanish.

In reply, and to close the conversational loop...

"It's not my problem" and "get a bike" is what I keep saying to sameselves motorists.


Why am I as a cyclist still asked to compensate for their bad driving? Bear their burden? It's not my problem, yet they are allowed to put my life and wellbeing at risk, with little repercussion for them. Little rebound in law and little consequence for their life.

Society allows them to get away with it.

The UK is an uncaring unfair society when it comes to looking after cyclists.

One thing the country surely isn't short of is "advice". Everyone seems to have "good" advice for me.  As someone who's cycling, I am constantly patronised to do this, that, or yet something else. All totally useless pieces of advice to me. One thing I can tell you. I am severely sick of catering and compensating for drivers' problems. Bad driving, exhaust fumes, jams.

Sick to the bottom of my little heart.

I haven't caused this.
  • why would I want to sit in a traffic jam? I haven't caused this. It's not my problem.
  • why would I want to sit behind a vehicle that's belching out exhaust fumes? It's not my problem.   
  • and why are they so angry? What's at stake?
Why are they burdening me with their problems?

It's my life versus thirty seconds of their time.

Yes, so I go on cycling, and make my own rules to avoid their problems and problems they cause. I want to stay healthy and sane and above all safe and alive, I hope you don't mind.

I am cocky, you say? Yes. I should be too. Because I am the solution, not the problem.

And now that we know that it is mostly their fault when we get hurt, I think an apology is due. Yes, by Boris J, but I want to hear it from the motoring masses, the road lobby, too. Am I asking for too much?

Pootling with Poodle in toon