Tag Archives: road safety

Suffolk towns denied speed-cuts?

Do we want Woodbridge to be a 20mph town or not? Some people do, others don’t. Whatever we think, we need to be able to SAY what it is we want and have Suffolk County Council listen to us.

There was a premature end to today’s full SCC Council meeting when I – along with every other non-Conservative member present – got up and left the chamber in disgust, leaving the Conservatives to talk among themselves.

This was because the Cabinet Member for Roads and Transport  had  a difficulty in differentiating between amendment and replacement. (At least the amendment he wrote began “Delete current wording and replace with..” pretty much as if he thought Full Council  and the whole democratic process were nothing more than an incompetent typist.)

The motion in question was, at first glance, pretty benign. It asked SCC  to  “support, help fund and actively engage with those communities, local residents and other civic amenity groups, town – and parish councils across Suffolk in their requests for speed limits of 20mph in residential areas which are designed as community-generated actions to make their local streetscapes safer (particularly for children and older pedestrians and cyclists); and more tranquil places where community life can flourish and air pollution can be reduced”

What could be more harmless and useful?

It didn’t demand anything. It didn’t insist on anything. It just suggested that SCC should have a look at its green protestations and perhaps consider those residents who wished to travel by other transport than the car unimpeded.

And as I have been trying  to get SCC to look at Woodbridge becoming a trial 20mph zone for the last 2 years I was going to speak in support of the motion.  20mph is an impossible speed for pedestrians or runners and a good fast speed for horse and cycle – why should we decide it is unreasonably slow for cars in residential areas? The practicalities can be achieved without speed-bumps or signs by making the whole area a speed-exclusion zone,  and a study of one of these zones in London found they reduced casualties by 40%.

What’s not to like?

A lot, according to Mr McGregor. He eyed this motion much as his namesake may have eyed Peter Rabbit,  drove his pen through it, and wrote something he approved of instead. So much for democracy and the will of the people

His replacement motion said instead that SCC will:

  • continue supporting 20s Plenty
  • provide support and help with funding for those 20mph schemes where pre-determined road safety [my question: predetermined by who and to what criteria?] and other environmental criteria are met and where they are deemed necessary[o note that fatal, weaselly passive: who deems them necessary? and on what grounds?] and
  • work with Suffolk Police to maintain and improve road safety.

Eh? In other words Mr McGregor replaced an honest, intelligent intention for the future of Suffolk roads with a so-called ‘amendment’ committing SCC to absolutely nothing that they are not doing already.

And he seriously expected members would neither notice this, nor mind wasting an entire afternoon debating this  fatuous statement of the status quo.

When it turned out that new SCC Chair (and ex-Leader)  Jeremy Pembroke was happy to accept this ridiculous replacement for serious political debate, the Lib Dem, Labour, and Independent members walked out en masse. (As would the Greens, no doubt, only the poor souls, having proposed the original motion were stuck).  When I last saw the Council webcam the Conservatives were busy debating this non-event all on their own.

Let’s hope in the absence of anyone other than themselves, Tory members might actually  say what they really think on the matter for once, rather than toeing the Cabinet line..

PS This is what the SCC website has to say about  the Council’s attitude to 20mph zones on its Cycling page.

Suffolk’s public transport: going the extra mile

Workers at Suffolk County Council can now use an online Travel Portal as a central point of information for all  travel.  Very laudable.

To aid you in your travel choices,  it has a  Step-by-step decision-maker (which doesn’t work) plus  a list of Alternative Travel Options to firm up your mind as to how you are to travel.

And this is where we part company as to its use and intentions.  For it has to be said, this  list of Alternative Travel Options (although intended to be informative) suggests there is no real alternative to the car.

In particular, Alternative Travel Options fails to mention the cheap and efficient bicycle as any form of travel alternative. Yet I personally cycled 2,500 miles on council business last year.

I’d like to point out here  that far fron being a lycra-clad fitness freak,  I am (sadly) 53,  fat, with a bad knee, a need to arrive appropriately dressed, have many care commitments and live more  than 8 road miles out of Ipswich. In short, if  someone like me can cycle 2500 work miles a year there must be many many other SCC employees who could also be encouraged to do the same.

In the absence of the bicycle,  SCC’s  Alternative Travel Options list provides the following six options for their workers to consider:

  1. Fleet vehicle (car, van or specialist vehicle)
  2. Lease Car –
  3. Hire car
  4. Team pool cars
  5. Public transport
  6. Reimburse  vehicle mileage

Notice anything? Out of these six , five refer specifically to car usage .

Each option comes with ‘issues to consider’ – issues which are broadly financial.   However, not in the case of Public Transport.  Here the issues to consider are (in full):

  • Not always an option due to time constraints/ availability/access.
  • May be more expensive for some journeys.
  • Requires planning ahead.
  • Some personal safety considerations (location/time of travel).

Let’s not big it up too much eh? Leaving aside the ‘May be more expensive for some journeys’, (which  is not mentioned in any of the car driving options), surely it is deeply unreasonable to list “personal safety considerations” as a reason to  for the Greenest County to discourage its own employees  from travelling  by bus/train?    There are many many more deaths/injuries in transit amongst car drivers and passengers than among those using public transport.  I am therefore pressing SCC to list “personal safety considerations” as a risk  with all the car-driving options .

Additionally, the mention of public transport is glossed as “Journeys to meetings, conferences etc where train travel between mainline stations is available. Business journeys within more urban locations.”  Yet shouldn’t we be encouraging all employees to travel sustainably within Suffolk at all times?   So why not advocate public transport more strongly?

The difficulty is laid out fairly and clearly: public transport is “Not always an option due to time constraints/ availability/access”.   Right.  Yet public transport difficulties have become  major problems for the people of Suffolk because of the lack of support SCC has given to public transport .  Our legislators  and administrators  like to talk the talk, but instead of walking the walk  – or cycling the bike, or taking the bus  – too many are wedded to driving the car.

Which has led inexorably to the County Council’s cut of the Bury Park and Ride site and its continuing barefaced  insistence that Demand Responsive Transport (7am – 7pm weekdays only)  adequately replaces subsidised bus services (yes, those which also operated during evenings/Sundays/Bank holidays). These two decisions alone  have  added greatly to the problem of ‘time constraints/ availability/access” in public transport – sadly there are others.

Is it entirely reasonable that SCC should be diverting away its own employees from the transport difficulties it  has inflicted on others who do not have the chance to claim back transport expenses?

 

End Note

I wrote to the  SCC Travel Portal on 2 June giving feedback on ther portal pretty much in terms of the above. I was delighted to receive an email two weeks later telling me that as a direct reponse to my comments, the portal had been entirely redesigned ” in accordance with the sustainable travel hierarchy“. 

The officer who redesigned it has done a wonderful job. The portal  is  now both more helpful and useful, and is much MUCH more encouraging towards sustainable forms of transport. Congratulations!

Woodbridge: Clarkson’s Crossing opens live on air!

There aren’t many road crossings that have their own name, but the brand new Clarkson Crossing in Ipswich Road Woodbridge is very different. For a start, it’s probably the only one in Suffolk  – maybe in the country – that local students have helped plan, design and name, in a joint project with Suffolk County Highway Engineers and their County Councillor! Today students from Farlingaye school, together with Farlingaye Deputy Head Graham Smith,  came out in force to help unveil a specially designed plaque to commemorate their collaboration, live on James Hazell’s radio show.

Caroline Page joins Farlingaye High School Students to open the Clarkson Crossing - live on Radio Suffolk!

The Ipswich road has become increasingly busy over the years and I have been very keen to provide a crossing, since I was elected, two and a half years ago. Althought  I had earmarked the money from my Quality of Life budget, and gained agreement for it to go ahead, we were uncertain what would be the best  solution.  Huge congratulations are due to the public-spirited students of Farlingaye High School who kick-started the final phase when they investigated difficulties in walking/cycling to school last year. This led to Suffolk’s Highway Engineers working with the students to look together at how this problem could be solved  within the money available -to  provide a solution that was fit for purpose.

Working together, the Engineers and the students established that a refuge island would best fit the problem and the bill. The students helped work out where it would have to be sited, and – as a last idea – they christened it. Today they helped unveil a specially designed commemorative plaque to officially open the Clarkson Crossing  live on Radio Suffolk.

The road is not only a school route  crossing point, but it is also a crossing point for bus users (many of them elderly), other pedestrians, and for National Cycle Route 1.

“For years children and their parents have crossed the Ipswich Road on the way to and from school but each year, this has got more difficult with more and more traffic going  faster and faster. It was becoming a daily battle . The worst thing was you could never find a gap in both streams of traffic at the same time. With the new crossing, you don’t have to! And having that island in the middle of the road is also slowing the traffic down.”  Ipswich Road Resident

Here, the young people  of Woodbridge have shown their elders something important: that if you think ‘something should be done’, the answer is often in your hands!

The plinth was designed by SCC's Sam Harvey - and didn't she make a lovely job of it !

This project started a long time before people started talking about the ‘Big Society’ To my mind it’s what we people in Suffolk just call ‘society’ – and society working as it ought to!

Let’s try rescue Suffolk’s Explore Card PLEASE!

I ‘m hoping that as many people as possible – cardholders, past cardholders, friends and family of cardholders – will sign the SCC e-petition asking them to overturn SCCs latest shocking proposal – to abolish the young person’s eXplore Card (click here).

Up till now young people in Suffolk  have had the eXplore card to help with travel costs to post-16 education, to work and to find work, and for socialising. EXplore cards were available free to students 16-19, and have enabled them to pay only half adult fares on buses and on many off-peak rail journeys.  Considering the scandalous cost of the average bus fare around here this is a huge advantage for them, and must have encouraged the continuance of various bus routes.   Additionally, the SCC post-16 transport policy relies on the fact that all post-16 students can have an Explore card to help with fares – and a very good thing  it has been too!

 SCC’s abolition of the eXplore card has happened simultaneously with  SCC’s evisceration of the rural bus services. This  is creating a double whammy for the young and poor – particularly the rural young and poor – that our SCC administration would do well to back away from with shame and embarrassment!

The proposed abolition of the card will mean there will be more cars on the road because many more young people will be driven or drive to school, college, employment etc. Worse, it will put more young drivers on the road before they are safe and ready often in cars that are chosen for cheapness rather than any more reliable quality. On top of this, it will put more, less confident cyclists on busier roads – where – as we’ve all heard – Jeremy Clarkson is advocating they should be knocked down for getting in his way  (No, I didn’t make that up, sad to say, click here: relevant section is at 21:44 and please don’t get me started on the appalling waste of public money HE represents. An expense of spirit in a waste of shame, that’s Jeremy Clarkson – but I digress). It will lead to less take-up of FE education because of difficulties of access. It will harm young people’s chances of going for job interviews and training.

SCC apologists – the ones I call the “Shh – be quiet, and it will all be ok“ brigade  (those who don’t want the victim to wriggle as the blade is shoved in),  say “shh – be quiet, and it will all be ok”.  These people speak loudly of their hope that individual bus companies might take up the idea of a paid-for version of the eXplore card for the future.  (Actually, I believe First have already rejected the idea.)

Such a scheme would, anyway, be of limited use unless all buses take it on the same terms. And one of the things SCC Transport has been constantly telling us in the past is that the bus companies have no desire to work together – this is the reason we were told that us poor bus users in Suffolk  never managed to get an integrated ticketing service as exists in most other places.

The  “Shh – be quiet, and it will all be ok“ brigade will also be out there telling you these cuts are sad but necessary. (By the way, the prerequisite of being a member of this brigade is never actually using a bus themselves.)

No, these cuts are not ‘necessary’ – Suffolk could well afford to keep the eXplore card, if Cllr Guy McGregor weren’t so determined to  stay in the good books of the car lobby. There is an extra £2m going to the roads budget this year. Explore card users, Park and Ride users, School Crossing patrols etc are all paying dearly for his partiality!

So, another epetition to sign. It is as urgent and vital as all the others!

Cuts in Suffolk – don’t ever forget who’s holding that knife!

As your county councillor I am horribly anxious about so many different  things simultaneously.  

This week  its been the almost certain loss of Suffolk’s libraries, school crossing patrols, care homes, bus services, the eXplore card, and services for families  that has  been most worrying me.  That, and the impact of these losses on the people of Suffolk.

For clearly, Suffolk residents are  likely to be losing all of these, losing them irrevocably, sacrificed to the ideological insanity of an ‘enabling’ council, run by affluent, untroubled  people who say:  “Do as I say, not as I do!”   It is  a Topsy Turvey world where those who run it can demand  pay moderation, job cuts, and employment freezes for everyone else but themselves;  can parrot the mantra of “Greenest County” and drive everywhere in a 4×4; can declare themselves determined to protect ‘the most vulnerable’  but do not include in this category the elderly, the very young, the disabled , or the disadvantaged.  

Pah!  

However,  I would urge you not to confuse national policies with our current disgraceful  local vandalism. For a start, such confusion could – no, WILL –  let those responsible off the hook! The New Strategic Direction has been a long time in the planning. It is making cuts greater than required in services the administration doesn’t value. A cynic would suggest that it is using the national situation as a cover for doing so.

Remember, in Suffolk the Liberal Democrats are not in any kind of coalition – they are very strongly the opposition party.  And as you know, both I and my colleagues have been fighting these cuts from the day they were first heralded, back in last September. Let us be clear here – although we are in opposition,  Suffolk Lib Dems are fighting this New Strategic Direction as a matter of common sense rather than party-political politicking.  We are fighting it because the effects will hit people of all ages, and backgrounds and political hue.

We – like any sane, sensible people – think there IS such a thing as society, and that  actually in Suffolk we had – till recently – a society that ran quite well. One that looked after its old and its sick and disabled, that tempered the wind to the shorn lamb. We think a  County Council should respond to its residents and their needs:  that the council is there to represent  and protect them and serve them. We are not so arrogant that  we forget that SCC  is paid for by the people of Suffolk, out of their own money! We feel that those who pay the piper should be allowed to call the tune!

 The council’s current bizarre ‘New Strategic Direction’ (which seems to combine ‘selling off of the family silver’ with dumping some of it in a skip) does not seem to think  this way. Far from intending to deliver ‘the best’ for the people of Suffolk,  the NSD  does not intend to deliver anything at all!

 Care homes, libraries, bus services and school crossing patrols:  all of these are not just ‘optional extras’ to be dispensed with and disposed of  by those who do not use them (and seemingly fail to remember they do not own them).  Yet there is such a thing as society in Suffolk, and all these services are ones that make you proud that it still exists.

Suffolk County Council is cynically using the cuts in central government grants to justify what it plans to do, but central actions (whatever we think of them) do not in any sense explain what is being done here in Suffolk.  The Coalition government is not going to win any popularity contests while trying to recoup the eye-watering deficit bequeathed by Gordon Brown and the last thirteen years.   However it should not be expected to carry the can for the ‘scorched earth’ decisions being made – without reference to the public or even a business plan – by those who have created the ‘New Strategic Direction’.

But the CEO and the Tory administration at Suffolk County Council are not the only people to blame for this mess. There’s also the sheer apathy of all too many of the people of Suffolk to factor in!    

In late October/November last year I  – together with many other colleagues – trudged around a large area of Suffolk Coastal delivering 23,000 copies of an emergency leaflet which tried to alert the people of Suffolk to what lay ahead. 

The administration accused us of ‘scaremongering’ – yet our direst predictions were less terrible than the truth.

We did our best and gained a huge amount of support from those prepared to listen – but it was not enough. Far too few people took notice. Some hoped it wouldn’t  really happen under a Tory watch, others hoped to regain popularity for the Labour party by standing on the sidelines and letting our society crumble, others  just hoped that the problem would go away if they shut their eyes and buried their heads in the sand.   

So, once again I urge you to put aside party-political differences and take action!  After months of refusing to listen to the people it represents, Suffolk County Council has finally  put up an e-petition site. Register on it and add your name  to an existing petition or  start a new one. Or best – do both!

http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/

You can sign any petition – the only qualification is that you need to live, work or study in Suffolk (for example, I have signed all the Library petitions as I believe in an integrated service for the county) but current petitions that particularly affect you are :

Save our School Crossing Patrols – the St Mary’s School Woodbridge lollipop man is going to be cut along with the other 97 lollipop posts across Suffolk, to save a sum of money that equates to to less that 80% of the Chief Executive’s annual salary!

Save Woodbridge Library: it will not be closed –  but it is still in danger of ‘divestment’.

Save Woodbridge Buses  Cuts – confirmed yesterday – to SCC subsidised services will leave Woodbridge without any evening, sunday or bank holiday bus services, plus cut easy links to other towns and villages. This will cause huge problems to those who can’t, don’t, or can’t afford to drive 

Save the Explore Card  Up till now young people have had this card to help with travel costs to post-16 education, to work and to find work, and for socialising. Explore cards were available free to students 16-19, and have enabled them to pay only half adult fares on buses and on many off-peak rail journeys. Additionally, the SCC post-16 transport policy relies on the fact that all post-16 students can have an Explore card to help with fares – and a very good thing too!. The proposed abolition of the card would mean there will be more cars on the road because many more young people will be driven or drive to school, college, employment etc. It will put more, less confident cyclists on busier roads. It will lead to less take-up of FE education because of difficulties of access. It will harm young people’s chances of going for job interviews and training. The proposed abolition is a retrograde step that threatens the very education and employment opportunities that our young people need in order to help us out of our current economic crisis. It also makes a mockery of our ‘Greenest county’ aspirations 

(NB: A word of warning sometimes the e-petition links work poorly. If so , go to the site and navigate from there! And if it doesn’t work, keep trying until it does.)