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Archive for January, 2014

Battle to save Kennington Park Crown Post Office hots up

25 Jan

I first wrote about the plans to ‘close’ Kennington Park Crown Post Office last year. The Post Office would have us believe that it is a ‘merger with Walworth Road Post Office’. The only thing that needs merging is the Post office PR machine with an extensive course on plain English. I say to the Post Office “Call it what it is. You are planning to CLOSE Kennington Park Crown Post Office. If you think there is no social cost to this think again. The elderly and vulnerable will suffer if this goes ahead.”

Anyway…The local Labour group had a stall outside the Post Office today getting signatures to help save the Post Office. Local councillors (existing and prospective candidates) from Oval and Princes Wards were there and trade at the stall was brisk. The battle to save Kennington Park Crown Post Office is now hotting up. Let’s see what proves to be more important, shareholders’ dividends or local people and businesses as they they are the ones who will lose the most.

 

Local shop Abi’s Deli part of ‘suspended coffee’ world record attempt

25 Jan

Abis Deli suspended coffeeFor those (like me) who have never heard of ‘suspended coffee’ before,  it is when you make a donation to participating shops and they use that donation to provide a cup of coffee or some food for that matter, to those in need.  It is a simple act of generosity “Caffè Sospeso” that started in Naples about a hundred years ago.  Now it is starting to glow global.

In the case of Abi’s Deli on the Oval Parade, they will also be donating any profits to charity.  There will be a world record attempt to see how many suspended coffees can be bought in one day  Please do pop in to Abi’s Deli and find out more about the scheme and how you too can help them be part of this world record attempt.

 

Vauxhall Gyratory cycling experiment

19 Jan

[Don’t be tempted to try this!]

I set out this morning with a simple idea – to test the relative merits of cycling different routes around the Vauxhall gyratory.  In the end, I had to call the experiment off because I thought it too dangerous even though it was a sunny Sunday and traffic was quieter than normal.

The intention was to cycle the following routes at a moderate pace and see what the average timings were. Here are the results:

  • Inner road route (5 laps) : average 3 minutes 18 seconds
  • Outer road route: (1 lap) 6 minutes 25 seconds
  • Cycle lane route  (2 laps) average 9 minutes  15 seconds

All traffic and pedestrian lights were complied with (6 on the two road routes and 10 on the cycle lane route) . As it turned out the experiment was flawed.  It would have been better to test typical routes through the Vauxhall gyratory rather than go completely around it.   The outer route I had in mind (tracking as close as practical to the cycle lane route) proved too dangerous due to having to cross the flow of traffic in place. Whilst I could have persevered, it didn’t seem a justifiable risk for a flawed experiment.  

In conclusion:

  • At over 9 minutes, I found the cycling route tortuous and can understand why some cyclists and pedestrians choose to ‘jump’  lights;
  • On the cycle lane route, there was more  conflict with pedestrians than expected so much so that I preferred to use the roads.  In any case, parts of the route had to be on the road anyway.
  •  On each lap I was obliged to stop on at least two occasions but often much more.  Although it may be possible to cross sections of the gyratory e.g. Vauxhall Bridge towards Kennington without stopping it it unlikely that you could go around the gyratory at a steady pace without being forced to stop at some point.

 

 

Vauxhall cycle lane survey

17 Jan

A recent article in the Guardian bike blog included a video clip of a cyclist travelling  around some of London’s most dangerous junctions including the Vauxhall gyratory.

The cyclist featured in the video was criticised by one online commentator for not using the cycle lane at the appropriate points promptly triggering some counter criticism that the cycle lane itself was not well designed. In order to test out the view points, I carried out a very quick survey this evening watching how cyclists were using the cycle lanes and the alternative road route under the bridge near the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT).  Here are some pictures to illustrate the issues.

  • The first picture shows a batch of cyclists opting for the road route under the bridge ignoring the safer but slower cycle lane to the left.  Note the road signage and worn road markings which do not make it easy for someone new to the route to find the cycle lane.
  • The second picture shows a cyclist coming out of the cycle lane near the RVT.  Note also how the cycle lane on the road starts, arguably, after the main danger has passed.   The pavement outside the RVT (from where the picture was taken) narrows so much so that cyclists often have to come to a complete stop as they compete for space with pedestrians or wait to join the flowing traffic.
  • The third picture shows a cyclist and a pedestrian waiting to cross the road.  Almost invariably, the cyclist will continue on the dedicated cycle lane.

 

The survey took about one hour at around 5pm  time when it was getting dark and traffic was busy.  A total of 106 pedal cycles exited either the cycle lane or alternative road route under the bridge..   Here are the results:

  • 58% (61 of 106) took the road route, the remaining 42% took the cycle lane route;
  • 59% (63 of 106) turned right,  towards South Lambeth Road the remaining 41% headed straight on towards Kennington;
  • Of those who headed straight on towards Kennington, approximately half (21 of 43) used the road route and the remaining half the cycle route;
  • Of those who turned right towards South Lambeth Road (as the cyclist featured in the video did) , 63% ( 40 of 63) used the road route and the remaining 37% the cycle route.

Although I did not specifically measure the relative time that cyclists have to wait I estimate that cyclists taking the safer cycle lane route would add between 30 to 60 seconds to their journey when turning right and up to thirty seconds when heading straight on.

Based on this very small survey, the cyclist featured in the video was doing what the majority of cyclists do when turning right.  Of the 40 observed doing something similar, only 1 (in my opinion) was badly positioned having to cut across traffic to a safe position.

A number of  subsidiary observations were made during the survey:

  • There were two near misses (pedestrians almost being hit) during the hour or so of the survey  – once by a car and once by a cyclist;
  • Of the 40 turning right from the road none joined the segregated cycle lane because there was no practical means to do so other than by jumping up on the kerb;
  • Almost all cyclists crossing the road at the RVT continued on the segregated cycle lane towards South Lambeth Road.  Only 1 of 23 went back on the road
  • Of the 22 who used the segregated cycle lane, only a minority 36% (8 of 22) joined the marked cycle lane at the start.  The 64% majority cycled on the pavement for at least 20 or more metres before joining the cycle lane.

In my assessment, there is clear room for improvement in this area for both pedestrians and cyclists.  No doubt there are many possible solutions but here are some:

  • A wider pavement outside the RVT;
  • A proper filter to allow those going ahead to Kennington to join the traffic flow without having to stop (this would probably encourage more to use the cycle lane rather than the road under the bridge)
  • A means to join the segregated cycle route towards South Lambeth Road for those turning right.

 

 

Fallen capital at St Marks Churchyard update

11 Jan

On Saturday 21st December 2013, a high sided delivery vehicle visiting the market dislodged the ‘capital’ of one of the St Marks Churchyard entrance pillars causing the capital and its capping to fall to the ground (‘Capital’ is an architectural term for the ornate part at the top of a column). Fortunately, no one was hurt but the capital, its capping and concrete paviours below sustained some damage. As Christmas and New Year have intervened, progress in getting the damage repaired has seemingly been a little slow but the work is not trivial and it will probably take a few months to sort out. It is expected that the works will be organised by Lambeth Parks but will be paid for by the relevant insurance company.

The Friends of St Marks Churchyard met today and undertook to chase progress. For posterity, below are some photos taken on the day of the incident and 21 days later.