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Bonkers Blog September 2009

Index: 2009201020112012201320142015201620172018

30 September - Google is our friend

It took four days for Google and Yahoo to find this new site and two more days before the first disgruntled Bexley resident made contact. It’s another case of ask an awkward question and suffer in stony silence. Repeat ad infinitum. I think I shall have to recommend this one is referred to the L.G.O. The repeatedly unanswered question if acted on might save a lot of money and by implication council jobs. The problem with all forms of government and quangos is that they have a vested interest in making work for idle hands to do to protect their salaries and final salary pension schemes which few, if any, others have any more.

Today ten working days have elapsed since my enquiry to Andrew Bashford about the accident two weeks ago. I said if he didn’t reply I was going back to the L.G.O. with another complaint about him. I got a quick reply.

Getting back to Google for a moment, I find it a little amusing that a search for ‘Bexley Politics’ currently takes you straight to my criticism of the local Labour party. I bet they wish they hadn’t asked me to keep their last communication now. It takes a little more perseverance to locate the equivalent Conservative page, but give it time.

 

29 September - Another cover up by Bexley council? - click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

Men at work Cast iron coverSomething a little more light-hearted for today. I asked these men if I could photograph them and what they were doing. It seems that the long delayed asphalting of the pavement had covered up an inspection chamber cover! It had to be uncovered and raised. So the new path didn’t last long before being dug up.

 

27 September - Caught short! Caught out!

Sign to toiletWhile close to Lesnes Abbey my walking companion felt the need for the park toilet facility. So we trudged up the hill only to find it was shut. It’s only open on request to staff apparently. So on a sunny Sunday afternoon or weekday evening it’s almost certainly unavailable.

The sign by the roadside would have you think otherwise.

 

26 September - Putting our lives on the line

While crossing Abbey Road via a pedestrian refuge today, I and a friend had to wait just a foot or so from the passing traffic only to find a car travelling at high speed pass behind us in the same direction to overtake the line of slower traffic.

One must wonder why one unelected man, somewhat deficient of brain cells, is able to impact the lives of so many people at the behest of a lobbying organisation and I feel that there will soon be injuries because of what Bexley council has inflicted on its residents. It would be ironic if their first victim was me!

 

25 September - Email from Andrew Bashford, Team Leader (Traffic Projects) regarding Abbey Road

Apparently “most of” what I have said about Abbey Road is wrong. Mr. Bashford did not, he says, “deliberately withhold the consultation from the people most affected” and the scheme is not to “solely provide a small benefit to cyclists”. He doesn’t like my reference to accident statistics and says that the road redesign is not “politically correct” in the way it favours cyclists.

Perhaps he should read his own files again. Street notices to keep pedestrians informed were rejected because “As there are no such changes (of law) required as part of the Abbey Road scheme, no street notices were required.”

Mr.  Bashford’s final submission to The Cabinet Member for Transport says that the scheme is “part of a cycle route condition study which identified safety issues and the scheme reduces speeds by decreasing road widths. This is achieved by widening footpaths on both sides and relocating the existing cycle lanes to the widened footway.” Apart from a reference to the London Cycle Plus Network that’s it. Abbey Road was virtually destroyed by seven lines of typescript. If the scheme is not “solely to benefit cyclists” it was certainly the driving force and the possible by-product of speed reduction is not supported by the experts at The Transport Research Laboratory (T.R.L.) or the Vice-Chairman of Bexley’s Traffic Scrutiny Sub-Committee.

On the subject of speed Mr. Bashford said “this road was not identified as one of the priority roads, based upon its collision history assessment”. Is that not an indication that accident levels have been low? Now that we have accidents occurring he seems to want to rewrite history to make the contrast as favourable as possible.

Andrew Bashford makes many references to his contact with the London Cycle Network Plus Team (LCN+) and how they have approved the changes in Abbey Road. LCN+ is The London Cycling Campaign, a Registered Charity. It’s a pressure group. Their stated mission is to “influence decision making”. Mr. Bashford may not like me calling his motives politically correct but rewarding pressure groups with £400,000 of taxpayers money is certainly a political issue. But let’s look on the bright side. My criticism of his “naive mathematics” about the car door risks goes unchallenged. The same for my claim that he did not follow the T.R.L. and Department for Transport guidelines and that based on their advice the failure to do so could lead to head-on collisions. Neither was there any rebuff for my suggestion that the restriction at Florence Road was “malicious” and that the failure to paint the cycle track there for eight years was a mistake.

Why a scheme the councillor did not believe in was allowed to go ahead remains a mystery. Maybe we should vote for someone with teeth next time.

 

24 September - The Energy Saving Trust

I had a letter from Kevin Murphy, Head of Public Protection at Bexley council today. They have apparently seen fit to join up with a quango, The Energy Saving Trust, (EST). Kevin says I could save £300 a year on my fuel bill. I doubt it as that would mean a more than 30% reduction. I could either go on line to get a report or fill in a form. If you fill in any government form your details are likely to go on their database and eventually result in an increase in your council tax. But curiosity drove me to go for an on-line check to see just how intrusive the EST would be. I put in a postcode I’ve not lived at since early 1987 and it came up with the right address but that is at far as it got. Internet Explorer reported an ‘Error on page’ and refused to take me any further.

The form Bexley council sent me contains 36 questions, ten or eleven of them I suspect they could answer themselves if they really wanted to. I’m not going to fill it in. My boiler is 23 years old, I only have 4" of loft insulation as the roof space is fully tongue and groove floored for storage, and if some government nosey parker went up there he might see my stock of 150 traditional style light bulbs. My experience is that the new ones give only half the light claimed and don’t last anything like as long as they should. The Head of Public Protection, what a grandiose title for a non-job that is, might be better employed protecting us from guangos and escalating council taxes. It is absolutely crazy for any homeowner to invite any government official, local, national or quasi, into his home. They are already spying on us from the air to find excuses to tax us more. Don’t make it any easier for them.

Energy saving at Bexley council

 

23 September - The accident last Wednesday

After the accident last week I emailed the chap at the Transport Research Laboratory who predicted traffic accidents on Abbey Road to say that events had proved him right. But they are cautious people at TRL and he reminded me that it could be caused by a heart attack at the wheel or similar. However now that I have listened to eye-witness reports I know that was not the case. I emailed back to tell him. In reply he said “Don’t let them (the council) fob you off with blaming it on mobile phone use. Accidents are very seldom the result of a single cause and usually occur when a few factors combine and usually it’s the case that remove any one of the factors and it doesn’t happen. On that basis even if distraction as a result of mobile phone use is one contributory factor the changed road design could be another and and it may well be that if all else stayed the same and the road design was changed back the accident would not have happened.”

This is all a bit academic of course because our useless councillor and Mr. Bashford who admitted that accident statistics didn’t figure in his plans have both failed to acknowledge my request for information when it becomes available.

 

19 September - Wilton Road parking penalties

I was speaking to my friend Terry this morning who owns property on Wilton Road. Wilton Road forms the boundary with Greenwich. You may notice that the waste bins on each side of the road are different and one side of the road is often filthy while the other side has been cleaned.

Terry was telling me that the Bexley parking attendant had warned him that as of today the parking regulations are being interpreted differently. They have for a long time been of the ‘Maximum 60 minutes, no return within the hour’ variety. However the definition of return has been changed. You cannot return anywhere within the locality, even if you return to the other borough. No official warning to motorists who will have grown accustomed to what they have been able to do and not do and who won’t be aware of the changes until too late. That might reduce the revenue streams. I saw the penalty notices being attached to windscreens and as many as four photographs taken of each alleged offence. I cannot imagine that any reasonable person would anticipate that driving off from a legal parking space and returning later to another recognised space in a different London borough would result in a hefty fine.

What can you say about Bexley council’s behaviour? They must really hate every one of us.

 

18 September - Parking disgrace - click any image for photo gallery (4 images)

Cars soon after 7am Look where the warning sign is The ticket Gestapo have been busy I noticed yesterday afternoon that a yellow parking restriction notice had gone up at the extremities of the parking space commuters use on their journey to Abbey Wood station. There were none of the cones or road markings that Bexley’s parking gestapo have previously put out on the same section of road while Bexley were vandalising it. I anticipated the likely outcome and noted that by 7 a.m. a line of cars had been left there, their drivers having been misled by the inadequate notices. I returned just after 11am and sure enough some mindless numbskull had been around punishing council tax payers ensnared in Bexley’s trap.

The photos indicate what has happened. The parking space is divided into two, a short bit near the bus stop is within a controlled parking zone (but is nevertheless marked ‘Free’. The rest of it is also marked ‘Free’. This morning, by the bus stop, was a blue arrow of the sort that one sees before road works and immediately afterwards there were cones in the road. The first driver must have seen the obstruction ahead with the yellow restriction notice adjacent to it (if he saw the notice at all of course) and sensibly parked in the Free section outside the controlled zone, against which there was no notice and no cones. Others naturally pulled up behind him.

By just after 11am eleven or twelve cars had been ticketed. No one seems to have noticed that all the road markings were removed in April as part of the destruction of Abbey Road and only the notice on a pole saying ‘Free’ remains. But motorists still got tickets. The council has form for stepping outside the law if it leads to additional persecution of residents. I immediately emailed John Davey the ward councillor about this latest piece of Bexley idiocy but heard nothing.

At 12.30 one of my network of informants phoned to say the yellow notices had been removed. Now whether this is because the councillor took action or because the road work wasn’t being done and the signs might as well go I do not know, but I photographed the new situation and stuck an explanatory note on the windscreens of ten cars. One or two cars may have disappeared before I managed to get there.

I have been driving for 47 years and never picked up a parking ticket but with devious tactics like this even I wouldn’t stand a chance. We have to strike back against the bastards (sorry there really is no other word apart from four letter ones) who have no other motive than to trick and penalise motorists. The parking adjudicator’s contact details are given below. I know someone who is on good terms with the boss of the national adjudication office, below is for London only. I’m told they like nothing better than putting council cretins in their place.

If you wish to comment on this, please use the Contact page. Incidentally, the ward councillor never did respond. You would think he would if it was him who had tried to put the situation right, instead I am left to conclude that the notices were removed around mid-day because they were no longer needed and to hell with the expense and confusion caused to ten or more motorists. I am also slowly coming to the conclusion that the councillor for Lesnes Abbey ward is well into chocolate fireguard territory.

P.S. During the early evening of 18th September I discovered that the inadequate warning signs were removed by a council official from their roads department. He seemed entirely unconcerned about the confusion he had caused and apparently cared less about the unfair fines that had resulted. And yes I do know his name. There was no contact from the councillor. Clearly his loyalties lay with the bureaucrats and not the people who elected him.

Official Parking appeals service
A more useful appeals service (but not free.)

 

16 September - Accident on newly modified road; quick cover-up by council - click any image for photo gallery (2 images)

Broken fence Mended fence

I usually walk along Abbey Road two or three times each day and on my second such stroll today I noticed that the heavy duty fencing by the bus stop opposite Fossington Road had been demolished. A nearby resident told me that he saw only the wreckage after a Mini coming from the Abbey Wood direction went out of control, he didn’t know why, but the end result was a smashed fence (which was made of scaffold poles!). I hope no one was hurt.

Now this is interesting because for the past four months I have been trying to get details from Bexley council of what they have been playing at in Abbey Road for the past year. It was like getting blood out of a stone and I had to get the Local Government Ombudsman on side before I made any progress at all. Even then it took constant pressure. This sorry tale of incompetence, arrogance, profligacy, half-truths and mismanagement will be reported in all its gory detail just as soon as I can find the time. Meanwhile the salient point is that Bexley council said there have been no accidents on this stretch of road and that it was being narrowed solely to benefit cyclists. Not, it would appear, giving any thought whatsoever for the safety of pedestrians, passengers alighting from buses, passing motorists or of the wing mirrors of parked vehicles.

I passed this information to the world renowned experts in these matters, The Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire. They read my reports and looked at my photographs and said that what Bexley had done was a recipe for head-on collisions. The scheme isn’t even finished yet and it looks like we have something like the first one. I have asked the council for more details as it is always possible that someone collapsed at the wheel, but I haven’t received so much as an acknowledgement. I only wish I knew the motorist concerned as Bexley have ignored nearly all of the TRL recommendations on road design and were warned of the consequences. Someone should sue the backside off them to maybe teach them a lesson.

A strange thing that a neighbour remarked on is that within hours of the accident Bexley council had removed every last shred of loose evidence. All that could be seen were the relatively light scuff marks on the grass and the broken fence posts. On the other side of the road they had left debris and trip hazards for two whole months. The neighbour, who seems to have a more suspicious mind than me, thinks the council is trying to hide the consequences of its bad design as quickly as possible. I think he may be right. Two days later the fence had been repaired. Quite different to the neglect displayed on the opposite side of the road.

Since posting the above I have spoken to an eye-witness who I met by chance in the street. A Bexley council road inspector (whose name I know but will not divulge) was within 30 feet of the incident. He said that the Mini was negotiating the kink in the road which is part of the new scheme and clipped the kerb. One person, he said, but not him, thought the driver was on the phone at the time. The road is too narrow to give room for recovery and the car went out of control across the path of on-coming traffic, over the pavement, through the fence and finished up in the bushes. Luckily no one was injured. This is exactly what the expert at TRL had predicted and advice the council ignored. Sooner or later they will have blood on their hands.

 

6 September - Bikes on the pavement - click any image for photo gallery (5 images)

A few neighbours thought that after paying half a million pounds for Bexley’s latest initiative, cycle lanes on the pavement, we ought to show our gratitude on a nice sunny day and use it. So off to Erith we went.

Soviet style barracks Bexley council in the shape of Andrew Bashford their Team Leader (Traffic Projects) says that lots of councils are mixing bikes with pedestrians. I don’t know anything about that except that friends in Farnborough (Hampshire) and Worthing suffer them and report at least one consequent death. Mr. Bashford doesn’t want to talk about that of course. In fact he doesn’t really want to talk about anything. Whether this is because he is not on top of his brief and too easily out-manoeuvred, or because he isn’t proud of what he has inflicted, or simply because he is too arrogant, is open to debate.

So what did we find on our travels? One thing that caught our attention was the Soviet style barracks that have been put up near St. Augustine’s church. The pavement was completely blocked there and nearby residents massively inconvenienced with their driveways blocked. We noted that the pavement was not only being widened but had been excavated deeply, quite unlike the work conducted elsewhere. The deep hole was being filled with concrete and we did wonder if it was the reason for no one being spare for deployment to other sections for the past six weeks leaving umpteen trip hazards. One of our number speculated that some deal had been done between the developer and the road contractor to hasten the work outside the ‘barracks’. I suppose he should know about these things, he’s the one who works in civil engineering, not me.

The cycle path itself was relaxing where it existed, but there were far too many breaks in it and it was too easy to be just a little too relaxed when forced back on the road. The frequent bus shelters were worrying. We were expected to go between them and the kerb and hoped that a bus didn’t pull up at that very moment and disgorge its passengers directly into our paths when they were least expecting it. On a cycle lane the cyclists presumably have right of way. Some bus stops appeared to be protected, in theory at least, from cyclists but each bus stop adopted a slightly different arrangement. Some photographs may illustrate the various hazards we encountered.


Strange road feature Cycle slipway Get off the pathThe first photograph shows a complex right turn for cyclists which sticks out into the road tempting motorists to run down any cyclist foolish enough to wait there. Fortunately there will be few cyclists as daft as Bexley council. If they are intending to turn into the road on the other side they will either be using the track on that side or will have ridden off the kerb earlier and taken a short cut.

Where cyclists need to cross side roads, slipways are provided at some junctions but not all. It is too easy to go down one of those slopes from the relaxing cycle track on to a busy road without glancing over your shoulder. The third style of slipway is just too complicated. The solid white line appears to be telling cyclists to get back on the road. Do you think they will take any notice with that wide expanse of empty pavement ahead of them? Probably the idea is to get cyclists back on the road before the bus stop at the bend ahead. But if so why is such a weird construction not in use at all bus stops? Please don’t expect a sensible answer; this is Bexley’s road planning department we are dealing with.

We were surprised to find that the ride from Lesnes Abbey to Erith town centre took almost 25 minutes. It wasn’t the photography that made things slow, we walked out more than a week later for that. Perhaps it was because we slowed down and sometimes stopped when we encountered pedestrians, unlike one cyclist a few days ago who brushed my sleeve with his handlebars as he raced by.

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