Cycling City Documents

We are starting to collect what we know about cycling city, to see if it offers anything for the Railway path. The initial item we have is the proposal to cycling england.

The answer is: there is a lot there on cycling, some mention of pedestrians. And we know where the council side of the money is going to come from. This is the money that the Evening Post was saying would be better spent on other things round the city. Well, it looks like much of the money is going to come from Section 106 "developer funds to improve the area" money, including Filton North Field and stuff in the centre. Another slice of the council matching funds is actually central government money for the Greater Bristol Bus Network!

To spell it out: anything done for bicycles as part of the GBBN qualifies as Cycling City improvements. The Bristol Cycling Campaign will have to get involved in making sure that money is well spent. For the Railway Path campaign, perhaps the only way that money will come the way of the path is if FirstBus are allowed to run buses down it. We don't want that, so will have to come up with more compelling reasons for spending some money to improve the value of the path, which, as the councillors said themselves, "is a central part of the future".

It's worth noting that the Bristol Cycling Campaign were very divided on this bid, because everyone was so angry about the idea of BRT down the railway and other paths, and because we felt the money wouldn't do that much good -it would just be a propaganda event. Certainly the very qualified "we cannot support this while you want to run buses down the path" letter of support did not get printed in its full in the application, so it is good that the review committee did know what was going on, and would have vetoed any funding without a clearer statement of "no BRT on the path" from Cllr Mark Bradshaw, which is why we saw that "I've just realised it wouldn't work" statement on 2nd June.  However, the city has got money to improve cycling in Bristol and South Gloucester, which doesn't mean to make it easier for those people who already cycle, it means increase the use of bicycles for all those people who currently get driven to school, or who drive to the shops and work.

The Bristol Cycling Campaign and the Railway Path Campaign both intend to take an active role in achieving such a goal. For us, we want people to use the Railway Path for their commuting, shopping and leisure needs, and to do so in a way that is safe for all path users.

New Presentation: Overthrowing (local) goverments using open source techniques

The title is an exaggeration; I've learned that you need to have a witty title to get your paper read or presentation viewed. Here's a talk on the infrastructure requirements of a local goverment campaign -this one- and a review of what works and what doesn't. Some of the terms used in the talk only make sense to software developers, especially those who have worked in open source projects. They were the planned audience.

It was presented at OpenTech 2008, which was a really fun event in London. The MySociety team were out in force, and there may be some followup discussions on what need local campaigns need. One of their presentations was interesting: What do they know, which relays FOI requests to any authority of choice, and collects all results. They create a new email address for every request, so can collect all correspondence and the FOI documents themselves. It acts as a central store of all the FOI documents so retrieved.

My proposed 'George' application - a laptop-hosted program that logs all bluetooth discoverable devices (usually phones with bluetooth enabled in the 'discoverable' mode), doesnt exist yet. I've run a first pass collecting six months worth of data, but now we need to write some code to analyse that data and produce statistics. For paths and greenways, we just want to know useage numbers and what percentage of foot traffic is so discoverable. What worries everyone -myself included- is that you can start 'mining' the data to discover things the people don't want to share. Like how often they follow a route, what their times are and who they use the route with. Yet this collection and mining is currently legal. There is a lot to be said for banning it under data protection/privacy rules -maybe I can code something that provokes such an action. At least you can turn bluetooth discovery off; tracking phones by their messages to the base stations are much less optional, yet that is what is being deployed in a Portsmouth shopping centre.


 (Disclaimer: these slides are the opinion of one person and not an official postmortem/analysis from the project. All statements in here are unsubstantiated hypotheses. All future plans are subject to change without prior notice)




New Video - Going the Extra Mile

Charlie Blackfield has done a lovely video of the railway path, showing how green and wild it can be.

This is one of the key reasons so many people fought to keep the path as is: because its such a lovely place to be. There are other paths you can walk or cycle along in the city, but very few are so green and peaceful.  And the ones that are, appear to be considered candidates for BRT.

Nature Study of the Path Published - lots of protected wildlife found

Sian Parry, of Avon Wildlife Trust, has produced a review of the wildlife known to live in the vicinity of the Railway Path. This was done by analysing the existing work (including the consultants surveys and the Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre data).

A key finding is that as well as the "The species identified in records for the Railway Path include badgers (9 badger setts are within 500m of the Path, with 3 being located very close to the path); slow worms, a noctule bat, an adder and a great crested newt.". This is good news for Bristol, and good for the Railway Path. It shows that this "disused railway" does provide clear benefits to wildlife in the city, providing a place to live, and a route between the city and the countryside. Some of these species also have very strong legal rights: it is hard to move them.

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