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Bonkers Blog December 2009

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26 December - Prioritise spending to reduce our taxes? Don’t make me laugh!

It was 1:25 in the morning and the mean streets of Welling were deserted except for one car with a single occupant making its way along Wickham Lane to its destination a few streets away. However Bexley council in its wisdom had decided to spend the holiday tracking vehicles with its C.C.T.V. system. Every report on C.C.T.V. has shown that their constant intrusion into our lives has failed to cut crime and even street robberies are not being significantly countered by them. At best 3% are solved with the help of C.C.T.V. evidence. It is probable that Bexley council is prepared to waste our money in the early hours of Boxing Day solely to try to catch minor motoring transgressions and because too many of their officials are hateful jobsworths who can barely muster a brain-cell to share between them.

 

24 December - Speed indicators in Abbey Road

Mr. Filey is on the ball isn’t he? Just two days after he received my report about the non-working speed indicators in Abbey Road they were working again. A pity the email took two weeks to get through the council bureaucracy and that Andrew Bashford didn’t pass on my enquiry of last September. Mr. Filey says he relies on reports by council staff and members of the public. Dozy Davey passes the speed indicators fairly regularly (I’ve seen him) and one must wonder why a councillor can’t be bothered to mention them. Councillor Davey has quite a track record of standing idly by when things go wrong. Just what is the man for?

Traffic was being slowed by the water in ‘Bashford Bay’ just down the road but in the 15 minutes I spent watching the indicator the fastest I saw was 42 m.p.h. For some reason as each car passed the sign it consistently and instantly flicked over to a much lower speed without the vehicle appearing to have slowed. When the weather improves I shall look again. There are no photos of the speeding traffic because either the digital camera doesn’t register the flashing display or I was very unlucky with the timing of the 13 pictures I took. I’ll experiment to see if I can do better.

 

22 December - Skid Row - click image for photo gallery (2 images)

Bus stop missed by a footReports of minor prangs in Abbey Road continue to filter through but always too late for me to see the evidence, until this morning that is, when snow provided a clue. A car going towards Erith took to the pavement possibly in an effort to avoid an obstruction at the bus stop. The precise details are unknown. It probably didn’t help that councillor Craske’s “flexible” approach to road gritting means that there has been no sign of a gritter in this area.

Maybe it is better news that yesterday I had an email from Bexley council. In it Mr. Filey (Senior Engineer, Traffic and Road Safety Group) says he was unaware that the speed indicators in Abbey Road weren’t working and promised to have someone attend to them. Strange he didn’t know, I asked that useless individual Bashford when they were to be restored to service months ago.

 

21 December - Belvedere’s very own skating rink - click image for photo gallery (1 image)

Ice from kerb to kerbA recent Tory leaflet said “Lesnes Abbey has been taken for granted by Labour”. Very probably but the Conservatives have been no better. Politicians spout words and line their pockets but actually do nothing useful. If they did we might not be at a virtual standstill due to the lack of road gritting. There have been no postal deliveries since 17 December and I’m not surprised; it was difficult enough to walk to Abbey Wood station this morning without having a load of mail to carry. There was barely half an inch of snow in the low lying parts of Belvedere but over three days it compacted to a kerb to kerb sheet of ice. The loons in charge of Bexley council have spent most of 2009 ruining the environment in this neglected part of the borough and now they are doing their best to ruin Christmas by halting the Christmas mail.

I was in the Socialist Republic of Newham yesterday and their roads were all clear and on my return saw Newham’s gritting lorries out in force. Even the pavements in minor roads were clear; I was told a little machine had been along and somehow rid the paths of snow before it turned to compacted ice as it has in Tory controlled Bexley. And to think I voted for that cretinous crew!

 

20 December - Bexley council. Dabbling with law breaking again?

A radio news item mentioned spam email the other day and for a moment I wondered what they were talking about because it is so long since I received any (at least two years) that I’d half forgotten what it is. I do take precautions to prevent it and one of those is that I use a different email address for each of my correspondents. If for example I buy something on-line from the ABC Gadget Company I make up an email address of abc@myname.co.uk and cancel it the moment I’ve finished with them. Only addresses I have specifically marked for use can be used to reach me.

That’s what I did when I was corresponding with councillor Davey, Andrew Bashford and Will Tuckley - if you can call a totally one-way communication with the C.E.O. a correspondence - about the Abbey Road farce. Apart from using it to report bin problems and gully thefts to the Deputy Director of Customer Relations no one else in the world knows bexley@myname.co.uk exists; so when I suddenly get deluged with salacious messages addressed to that address as I have been since last Friday I know that only one organisation can be responsible for signing me up to some sex site or whatever needs to be done to get on the spammers’ mailing lists.

When the correspondence with Andrew Bashford and co. ended I stopped using that address and switched to another but didn’t bother to cancel the older address. Low though my opinion of Bexley council is, it never occurred to me that they would resort to that sort of abuse. The current address remains spam free and bexley@myname.co.uk has been belatedly cancelled, ending some small minded criminal’s little game.

My Internet Service Provider treats me very generously; when they heard what this site was to be used for they provided the facilities absolutely free of charge and they allow me full administrative control over their mail server. I cannot only set up or cancel email addresses instantly on-line I can direct the incoming traffic wherever I wish. I have resisted the temptation to have the bexley@myname.co.uk address pass email back to Bexley council but if spam recommences to any other bexley@address known only to me and Bexley council I shall know who is responsible and what to do.

 

19 December - A Merry Craske to you too

I took my annual trip to Bexleyheath this morning; went on the 229 bus from Lesnes Abbey, quick and easy. There wasn’t a hint that any gritting had been done for yesterday’s snow anywhere along the route or in and around the centre of town. Later in the day some friends and I went looking for grit remnants along local bus routes but could see nothing beyond the usual accumulation of dirt in the gutters. Now we know what Craske meant when he told the News Shopper he was “flexible” about road gritting. The slippery customer reserved the right to twiddle his thumbs doing nothing while contemplating his £22k a year expenses.

In the main shopping arcade at Bexleyheath the TV screens were showing an advert which said “Merry Christmas from Bexley Conservatives”. You can tell there is an election coming.

 

18 December - A catalogue of errors - click any image for photo gallery (4 images)

We have woken up to the snow that has been forecast since before last weekend and for which there were severe weather warnings all day yesterday. Surprise, surprise there is no sign (at 06.45 and 07.30) that Bexley council has gritted the B213 route between Abbey Wood and Erith. Yet more proof, if it were needed, that our useless council is always willing to gamble with peoples’ lives. On the News Shopper website Greenwich council is quoted as saying “Main roads, public transport routes… are the main salting routes”. Bromley said it is “focussed on main roads, bus routes” etc. In Dartford they have been gritting all week but Bexley’s roads supremo, councillor Peter Craske, can only waffle on about having to be “flexible”. Presumably because he hasn’t got a plan.

The following photographs were taken and prepared for publication yesterday afternoon.

pedestrian_dangerSeveral times while Abbey Road was being rearranged to benefit cyclists I asked what would be done to protect pedestrians and alighting bus passengers and apart from a vague indication that pedestrians would have priority Andrew Bashford (Team Leader Traffic Projects) obviously didn’t have a clue. The photographs show what happens when you allow clueless bureaucrats to run amok in unaccountable positions of authority. Sandwiched between two bicycles painted on the footpath (one at the bottom of the photograph another at the road junction) you have tactile paving at the pedestrian crossing point (next to the nearest car) put there to reassure pedestrians, especially poor sighted ones, they can wait there safely. Thanks to barmy Bashford they cannot.


parking anomalyIn his dishonest consultation leaflet barmy Bashford promised residents that they would not suffer any loss of parking spaces and somehow forgot to pass on the advice he claimed to have followed which warned of consequential damage to parked cars. However when it came to marking out the road it became apparent that it was not wide enough to allow as much parking as before. There has already been an accident at this point.

The result is as shown. The parking bay stops short of where it used to be and as no revised parking orders have been issued the repainted yellow lines stop at their original positions. This gives rise to an anomaly within the Abbey Wood Controlled Parking Zone. We have a piece of road not subject to any parking restrictions whatever. You’d be a fool to park there of course as my extreme wide-angle lens makes it look like there is more room than there is. But if you fancy having your car squashed by a 229 bus, then this is the place to be.


Bus stop idiocyFor another piece of idiocy (or is it malicious design?) we have this bus stop overlapping and obstructing a pedestrian refuge. The layout increases the possibility of a child making the time-honoured mistake of dodging behind the bus to cross the road and being unseen by motorists going in the opposite direction and it also brings traffic to a halt whenever a bus stops there. This is almost certainly why it is as it is; Bashford is nothing if not anti-motorist and given to being influenced by cycling pressure groups and with a nice side-line of pouring millions of pounds of our money down the drain in the process.


Unfinished bollardWe’ve seen this one before, but months after the road was in all but minor respects, finished off - in every sense of the word - we still have bare cables poking out of the ground and a rough surface leading to the possibility of pedestrians tripping within a foot or two of speeding traffic, not to mention an unlit obstacle placed in its path. No one at Bexley council seems to give a damn for residents’ lives. Certainly not councillors dozy Davey and cowardly Craske who are the masterminds who sanction Bexley’s road fiascos.

 

17 December - Let there be as little light as possible

The plans and reports to councillors concerning roads that were available on the council’s website have been removed, or possibly simply moved. The links from this site have had to be amended. It is no longer as easy to check on the full extent of Bexley council’s failures, dishonesty and willingness to put the population in greater danger. Fortunately I kept copies.

On 9 December I asked the council if they were going to reinstate the speed indicators in Abbey Road to see if their prediction of reduced speeds would come true. Early this morning in icy conditions I saw a small car go by at at least twice the legal limit. Fortunately that sort of speed isn’t all that common but it would be interesting to see how the speeds compare to the average 28·9 m.p.h. recorded before the work commenced. Today the contact centre told me that my enquiry would be forwarded to Rupert Cheeseman. Not exactly speedy in transferring enquiries to the man in charge are they? What happened to the promise to reply within two working days heralded in the latest issue of the Bexley Magazine?

P.S. On 18 December Mr. Cheeseman told me that the speed indicators weren’t his responsibility and my enquiry has been sent back to the Contact Centre to try their luck again.

 

16 December - Let there be light

It was only a little after 7 o’clock in the morning but a white van man council contractor was doing something to the keep left bollards in Abbey Road. When I returned no more than 15 minutes later it was lit up and he had moved on to the bollards near Elstree Gardens. Its closest neighbour however was still dark; how could it be otherwise when the supply cable is still poking out of the ground unconnected? One day Bexley council will get its act together, but not one suspects while it is run by the imbecile Tories who are in charge at the moment.

I was speaking yesterday with the Transport Research Laboratory man who helped me demolish Andrew Bashford’s juvenile arguments in favour of giving priority to a very small number of cyclists at the expense of pedestrian and vehicle safety in Abbey Road. I admitted with some trepidation that I had labelled him ‘a clown’ on this blog expecting to get some mild reprimand for over-stepping the mark. “Well they (council road planners) pretty much all are” came the reply and he told me about the 20 m.p.h. zone installed near to where he lives. Because only one side of the road is residential and the other side is rural, the council didn’t want the signs to be an eyesore. So they made all the 20 signs green and not the regulation red, thereby rendering the whole zone unenforceable. So when Bashford has wrecked Bexley and got the well deserved elbow, there are places where even he might be welcomed.

 

14 December - New train timetable

Our councillors occasionally pretend to have an influence over bus and train operators but in practice I suspect they are virtually impotent so I won’t dwell on the new train timetable which came into force yesterday. Commuters will have grappled with it for the first time today. My 1988 timetable was never thrown away and comparison is interesting. More than 22 years ago the fast weekday off-peak service from Charing Cross to Abbey Wood took 27 minutes and today a modern train with the benefit of faster acceleration and devoid of the hindrance of slam doors, running over the same route with the same stops takes 34 minutes. That’s a 26% increased time. The fastest train home from London Bridge took 19 minutes and the exact equivalent (almost the same departure time, same route, same single stop) takes 23. 21% longer. The new timetable offers intermediate stations an advantage in terms of service intervals but if you have the impression you might be quicker on a bike, then you are not far wrong.

 

13 December - The election looms

A couple of election leaflets have dropped through my letterbox. Boris Johnson tells me what a wonderful job he has done with a carefully worded sheet that probably omits more than it includes. He tells me something I didn’t know; that the Freedom Pass is now usable all day every day. So that’s goodbye to the ‘Twirlies’ then. Where was the publicity for that? As Boris says “it makes it easier for our seniors to travel to hospital appointments”. Well maybe not for those in the Lower Belvedere and Lesnes Abbey areas who need to get to The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich. They have the choice of the infrequent 469 bus which meanders around many backwaters and can take best part of an hour, or jump on a train which can sometimes get you all the way there (with the help of a five minute bus journey from Woolwich) in as little as 12 minutes but isn’t free before 09.30. But one cannot argue it’s not a move in the right direction and Boris so far seems to do more things right than the Jew-baiting amateur pugilist that preceded him.

The other leaflet was the local Conservatives’ Lesnes Abbey ward one. While Boris successfully hides his failures, like doing nothing to improve the Thames crossing situation (where’s the Blackwall contra-flow got to?), the local bunch produce far more dubious logic for re-electing them. I think it is bad enough to deserve an entry in the Politics section.

 

10 December - And some answers

The pavement in Abbey Road was marked out with a central dividing line today in the hope that cyclists will behave themselves. I doubt they all will, the first cycle I saw using it was in fact a motorcycle which sped along the path and turned into Carrill Way. Before all this unwanted work was done I asked Andrew Bashford (Team Leader Traffic Projects) how he planned to prevent alighting bus passengers stepping straight into the path of a cyclist. It was one of several things he couldn’t answer although buried somewhere in my files there is something about ‘pedestrian priority at bus stops’.

The ‘priority’ as far as one can tell from today’s white-lining activity, is to have no dividing line at all at bus stops and a general free for all. Very intelligent I’m sure, and well up to Bashford’s usual standards.

Rupert Cheeseman (Bexley Engineering Services) emailed me today about the traffic lights that spent the night guarding nothing two weeks ago. As became clear after my initial enquiry this didn’t seem likely to be due to anything other than contractor’s bad judgment and not something that Rupert could easily have prevented. He apologised in a friendly manner that my email had taken so long to reach him.

At 1.30 this afternoon I spotted the gestapo car getting ready to spy on Gayton Road (adjacent to Abbey Wood station) and I asked the young lady what she was going to do and was told the same story (blog 28 February) given to me by Graham Ward. She was spying on people stopping at the bus stop. She wasn’t interested in those stopping on ordinary yellow lines. I pointed out that occupying one of only six parking bays in Gayton Road was to some extent encouraging people to park outside the bays but I didn’t get an answer to that one. The gestapo car was still there (but blocking a different bay) when I returned just before 6 p.m. while cars were struggling to find a place to pick up commuters.

I think it would make more sense if the gestapo car parked on a yellow line or even on the wide pavements, but then I have seen application of what I might consider common sense, held up as being wrong. Does anyone know what benefit accrues from this activity other than it being a nice little earner? I can’t believe anyone would park at the bus stop under the eye of the council’s spy van but I did hear of someone who got ‘done’ there because traffic congestion caused him to stop in the wrong place. Probably that is what their game is.

So that’s two people associated with Bexley council I’ve ‘spoken’ to today who were open and friendly - even though one was being forced to follow the gestapo’s orders. Better than being ignored or fobbed off, or lied to as was in danger of becoming the norm.

 

9 December - Questions for the council

Today I received an acknowledgement to my two week old enquiry about unnecessary traffic lights in Abbey Road. As they were removed very soon after I sent the email it seems likely that the inconvenience was the result of poor judgement by the contractor, there were no restrictions at the next pedestrian refuge along the road where identical work was being done. In my reply I asked when the speed indicators were to be reinstated. According to Andrew Bashford in his submission to councillor Peter Craske the mess proposed for Abbey Road would make it…

1) Safer for cyclists. Walkers probably outnumber them 100:1 but their lives don’t matter apparently
2) Reduce traffic speeds. Bashford claimed that average traffic speed exceeded the 30 limit despite the indicator at Lesnes Abbey recording only 28·9.

Average speed is not a very good indicator; most drivers get close to the limit and a few ignore it totally. The latter are the biggest problem and deliberately making a road more dangerous is unlikely to turn them into law-abiding citizens. Observation suggests that nothing much has changed. Why is the council so reluctant to find out if peak and average speeds have been reduced after pouring so much money down this ill-conceived drain?

Incidentally, when I used to drive past the Abbey Road indicators at a steady 30 m.p.h. the sign always said 31 or occasionally 32. However when driving by other indicators at the same speed, e.g. the one that was in nearby McLeod Road (Borough of Greenwich) it would tell me I was doing 29. My Sat Nav tells me that at an indicated 30 my car is actually doing about 29.4. I think Bexley was fiddling the figures for their own ends. Their dishonesty in some things is proven, probably it is widespread.

 

6 December - Dozy Davey and Calamity Craske make a splash - click any image for photo gallery (2 images)

Puddles on Abbey Road Car makes a splashThe plans for Abbey Road carelessly cobbled together by Andrew Bashford and thoughtlessly approved by Conservative councillor Craske have made life far more exciting (**) for pedestrians especially on rainy days.

The overnight rain stopped before 8 a.m. but three hours later the puddle which at dawn nearly spanned the whole road was still reaching half way across each carriageway. Bashford told Craske that his scheme would slow the traffic but there’s been little sign of that, maybe more rain is the answer. I really must get around to asking when the roadside speed indicator will be restored to working order. They won’t be keen to have it prove that not one single aspect of this crazy scheme has been a success.

** Cyclists on pavement with conflicting guidance as to where they should ride.
** Unlit pedestrian refuges. Pedestrians on refuges forced to stand within a foot or two of passing traffic.

 

4 December - Will it or won’t it be emptied? Will they reply or not?

It is now 28 days since my dustbin was emptied; longer than the 24 days for which Labour councillor Francis managed to get a politically motivated story into the News Shopper. My guess is that because I had so little in the bin last time the Tesco bags at the bottom weren’t noticed. Or maybe a black sack got added overnight and removed by hand rather than the bin being taken to the van. I did email the council via their website and, ignoring the weekend, they replied 24 hours later with an offer to come and collect my two Tesco bags. I declined the offer and remain someone who finds the refuse services satisfactory - but not as good as they used to be.

The new issue of the Bexley Magazine (front cover slogan “Listening to you”. Ha!) says that the council aims to reply to emails within two days. Some departments have a long way to go. I emailed the council about the traffic lights that guarded nothing but a few cones and no road work whatever more than a week ago and have heard nothing at all. As is only too apparent, Bexley council never answers questions which may show them to have failed again. I followed up the email with another in which I accepted that the delays looked as though they were the result of the contractor’s ill-judgment, thus giving the council an easy let out. But Bexley council is firmly in ostrich mode as it so often is.

One thing that can be said about the Bexley Magazine since the Conservatives took over… it is no longer a blatantly political propaganda sheet and we don’t have to endure the mugshot of Councillor Balls (the ex-Labour leader) staring out from almost every page trying to emulate Stalin in Pravda.

P.S. The bin was emptied as I thought it would be. These guys do a difficult job pretty well. The nine day old email is still awaiting an answer.

 

1 December - As if it isn’t dangerous enough already - click image for photo gallery (2 images)

Unlit pedestrian refugeImagine you’ve been really stupid and turned a pleasant road into an ugly accident black spot which can only just accommodate a bus; what would you do next? Break the lighting system and don’t fix it for ages maybe? Probably not but then most people aren’t as stupid as Bexley councillors and their road planning staff. These four keep left bollards haven’t been lit for, oh let me be generous, about five months and are supposed to offer protection for pedestrians crossing the road. In that they largely fail because passing traffic has little option but to pass by within inches of anyone foolish enough to linger there. But at night they cannot be seen clearly. What sort of uncaring moron would leave them in that state since last summer?

My T.R.L. contact tells me he has been in court lots of times helping to prosecute councils who have failed to build or maintain their traffic infrastructure to an acceptable standard and that the councils invariable have to pay big damages for their neglect. But it’s only tax-payer’s money so they have no reason to care. If they did they might have marked the pavement to show which bit is now designated a cycle track. Probably they can’t make up what passes for their minds. The signs they have put in so far give conflicting information.

The larger images in the photo gallery show the next pedestrian refuge more clearly.

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