Lydiate and its volunteer litter pickers

There’s a band of volunteer litter pickers in the community I live in and they go out regularly to try to keep Lydiate clean. They don’t ask for recognition and unless you see them doing their bit you might think our reasonably litter free community is being kept clean by ‘the council’.

Some impressive lengths of roads are litter picked by the volunteers and sadly they are always kept busy because a certain section of our society seems to think that chucking litter, bottles, dog poo bags etc. is a positive contribution to local life. They love throwing litter out of the windows of moving vehicles or picking up dog poo where they think they may be seen only to then deposit the very same bags anywhere they can’t be seen. The participants in these anti-social activities must feel they have a social duty to keep ‘the council’s’ street cleaners busy and in work. However, the reality is that councils do much less litter picking these days as they’ve cut back on such work to try to better fund other vital work such as paying for children in care and social care for the elderly. These two council activities cost an arm and a leg no matter which party runs ‘the council’.

I’m not trying to make excuses for ‘the council’ but having been a Borough Councillor for 16 years (1999 – 2015), 7 of those as a Council Leader, I know how desperately stretched nearly all councils are and why the likes of street cleaning has slipped down their list of priorities. It’s not a good situation but sadly it’s reality. Of course that’s why in so many communities volunteers can now often be the backbone of keeping our streets clean.

I have nothing but admiration for the work of Lydiate’s volunteer litter pickers many of whom do far more than my own very limited contribution.

I look after a footpath which connects Southport Road, Marshalls Close and Coppull Road and I litter pick it around once a month. I did it yesterday and despite only doing it around 3 weeks ago I still collected half a back bin bag of rubbish and litter. I know this path is well used but it’s also secluded so I’m guessing that a very small minority of its users chuck all the litter along it on the basis that with a quick look around to check no one can see them they can just drop whatever they want – and they do.

Whenever I see litter my mind goes back to my favourite author Bill Bryson and his book Notes from a Small Island. Bill, on travelling to Liverpool happened to do so whilst there was an industrial dispute on-going between refuse/street cleaners and the City Council. Liverpool was indeed a mess at that time and he dubbed it a ‘festival of litter’. Sadly, whilst that situation was subsequently resolved there are a small number in our society who have opted out of civic life to create work for those who really care about their community. I fear that the volunteer litter pickers will be doing their rounds for a long time to come because some in our society really can’t give a damn!

Canada – Violence? Really?

I think it was around 2002 that Sheila, Jen and I had a holiday in Canada and my abiding memory of that lovely country was how safe it felt; far safer than the UK. Indeed, I recall that during a bus tour around Montreal the guide proudly told us how safe the city was and how little crime took place compared to many western cities.

Imagine my surprise then when I came across the video on You Tube:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYVzM0ku_J4

Ok, yes, I’m a railway enthusiast and our holiday in Canada all those years ago was by rail up the eastern coast. We started at Toronto where we spent a couple of days, then got a VIA Rail train to Ottawa. Again, a couple of days there and then another VIA train to Montreal. Finally, after a few days in Montreal we got our final VIA train to Quebec City. Here’s a shot of our train at Ottawa station:-

I suppose all western societies are getting more violent but somehow I can’t get my head around it happening in Canada, that friendly and peaceful country I had the pleasure of visiting nearly 20 years ago.

Lydiate – The racetrack called Southport Road

Cllr. Edie Pope outside her Southport Road farm shop. The notorious accident black spot is in the background.

This week’s Champion newspaper is highlighting the dangerous nature of Lydiate’s Southport Road and they are to be congratulated on an excellent article by reporter Danielle Thompson.

The vast majority of Southport Road has a 30mph limit – that’s not a target but a maximum! Frankly, the reality is that the road is little more than a racetrack from the Maghull boundary with few vehicles keeping to the maximum speed. The part of it which is 40mph runs from Lydiate Abbey to the Merseyside boundary just past St Thomas’ Church where the road becomes Mairscough Lane. It is this latter section where Cllr. Edie Pope has her farm and shop and where she fought to get the speed limit reduced to 40mph a few years back due to the number and regularity of serious accidents. Despite Edie’s efforts, this 40 mph section is also a racetrack and not so long ago Lydiate Parish Council called upon Merseyside Police to take enforcement action to try to curb excessive speeding.

Here’s Danielle’s excellent article:-

Nice to see a really good piece of local journalism – the late Jim Sharpe would have been proud of Danielle.

I really don’t like cycling on pavements

I’m a regular almost daily cyclist for fitness, shopping, and local visits for whatever within a few miles of where I live – Lydiate, Merseyside. You may therefore be surprised that I have some negative things to say about some of my fellow cyclists who use pavements to get around rather than being on the road where they belong. To me cycling on a pavement is dangerous for pedestrians especially when bike riders all but creep up on them from behind without even announcing they’re there as it’s uncool to have and to use a bell. It’s bad enough cyclists expecting pedestrians to move out of the way when they are cycling illegally and don’t have any right of way but when also scaring the elderly and people with disabilities out of their wits it’s nothing but utterly disgraceful.

You won’t be surprised that I take a similar view with vehicles parked on or driven on pavements as pavements are for pedestrians unless they have been designated as shared space with cyclists by a local council.

I was exchanging views recently with a Sefton Borough councillor on this matter and the following is a reply that Borough Councillor recently received to concerns he had raised on behalf of residents in his ward who, like me, want the police to put a stop to riding on pavements – The reply concerns Southport but clearly the police are making general, if not nationwide comments:-

‘Cycling on the pavement is an offence but we have to adapt a common sense approach. It has
been agreed nationally that momentary use of the footpath should not be construed to be an
offence. Also we have be mindful of the dangers certain roads also pose to cyclist.

Cycling on pavements is something that does get reported to us, particularly in the summer
months. In recent years we have seen a dramatic increase in cycling, partly due to the British
successes in major cycling events but also under the current COVID-19 restrictions as a
recognised way of keeping fit and safer travel.

We do however recognise that whilst there is a large majority of responsible cyclists, there are
those that do not abide by the rules and can pose a risk of injury to themselves and others.
They are often attracted by the wide pavements that exist in Southport and the reduced risk to
themselves from motor vehicles.

This is something that we discuss with the local Council and over the years there has been the
introduction of cycle lanes and pedestrian areas. These are designed to facilitate cyclists
around the town and protect them from increased motor vehicle traffic and reduce the impact
upon pedestrians. You will be aware of the recent introduction of more cycle lanes designed to
alleviate the problem and also the change in description regarding the Chapel Street area. This
formerly prohibited cycling but now contains a cycle lane and has adapted the “Share with Care”
approach.

We currently liaise with local cycling groups and Schools in an attempt to educate cyclists,
raising awareness of the consequences and also conduct spontaneous operations to tackle
these offenders. Some offenders are advised regarding their conduct and others are fined.
We will continue to address incidents of cycling on pavements when staffing and conflicting
demands allow but based upon the threat, harm and risk to the Community, combined with the
number of incidents reported it is not presently a priority.

What we are targeting is anti-social behaviour in the Town and this often includes inconsiderate
or even dangerous use of pedal cycles. We have dealt with a number of offenders through the
justice system under the anti-social issues rather than specific cycling alone. This is not always
visible to members of the public as it may be addressed by later prosecutions as attempting to
stop the cyclist there and then can further danger themselves and other pedestrians.

I must add that such enforcement also receives complaints due to an opposing view in favour of
the cyclist.’

When I first read the police view I must admit to thinking along the line of that’s a good politician’s response as it says a lot whilst not really addressing the fundamental issue i.e. the safety of pedestrians. However, on reflection I think there is some hope, if only a very small amount, that Merseyside Police do understand the issues whilst rarely having the spare resources to tackle those who put pedestrians at risk. It would be interesting to see some stats on police interaction with illegal cycling across Sefton Borough and indeed Merseyside as a whole as I have a horrible feeling that such interaction only really happens when a pedestrian has been injured by a reckless cyclist on a pavement.

Whatever we as cyclists and motorists (yes I’m a driver too) may think when we are in our own little world the fact is that the most important and vulnerable thing on our roads is the pedestrian, that’s why our bikes and vehicles should not be ridden, driven or in the case of vehicles parked on or across pavements.

Sadly, I have the feeling that with police resources being so stretched (although I bet they did little cycling intervention when they weren’t so stretched) that a significant minority of cyclists will continue to put pedestrians at risk and there’ll be no one to challenge such anti-social behaviour until a pedestrian gets injured.

Why cyclists really do need the police to step up

Cyclists know that the police are stretched and that Bobbies are hardly ever seen on cycles these days but police forces across the UK turning what amounts to a blind eye to the antics of some drivers is unforgiveable. Sadly, it seems dangerous drivers who put cyclists at risk are only really tackled when they have done some harm rather than them being targeted when seen driving dangerously near a cyclist.

The link below from Cycling UK is about using video evidence to help prosecute dangerous drivers but whilst being quite specific sadly it shows how UK police forces are reluctant to take dangerous drivers to task when they threaten the safety of cyclists:-

www.cyclinguk.org/article/roads-policing-review-failures-video-evidence

And sadly as if we needed reminding why the safety of cyclists needs to be a priority the Liverpool Echo put this article on its website only yesterday.

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/woman-cyclist-critical-condition-after-19006592

Let’s hope the injured woman survives and gets well again but let’s also not forget that a cyclist (a retired policeman) was killed on Wood Ln/Causeway Ln in Great Altcar only weeks ago as was former Melling Parish Councillor Alison Doyle a couple of years ago in Aughton’s Bold Lane. That’s 3 serious road accidents involving cyclists in a small geographic area and there will be others with non-life threatening consequences that go unreported. I blogged about Alison’s accident at the time:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/08/20/aughton-fatal-accident-on-bold-lane/

Speeding and close passing of cyclists are often the cause of such accidents that’s why it looks like the Highway Code is about to be changed to say that at 30mph drivers should give 1.5m of space when overtaking a cyclist. Another related issue is drivers overtaking cyclists who then see vehicles coming towards them on the other carriageway. Their reaction is to swerve back into their lane as though the cyclist whom they are overtaking has just vanished! If pulling a caravan or trailer this can hit the cyclist but even a car on its own swerving back into the lane can have a similar consequences. The massage is don’t overtake a cyclist if you’ve not got room to do it safely. Anything else is not unfortunate its dangerous driving!!!

Some drivers, a very small minority, don’t only drive dangerously around cyclists but they do it deliberately to intimidate them. I’ve been shouted at to ‘get off the road’, I’ve been all but run off the road by drivers passing within a coat of paint of my handle bars. I’ve even had drivers overtaking me and then slamming on their brakes! I’m told that some drivers hate cyclists, well if they do they really shouldn’t have a driving licence should they.

I’m a driver myself although I try to use my car as little as possible for environmental reasons on short journeys. And yes of course there are terrible cyclists out there swerving in out out of traffic, jumping red lights, riding on pavements etc. I saw one near Meols Cop Station a couple of days ago in Southport. But of course it’s probably the case that a poor driver is also a poor cyclist.

All we want is UK police forces to target bad drivers far more than they do and yes persecute the illegal cyclists too; I don’t have a problem with that. And remember the dangerous driver that knocks a cyclist off may well hit a pedestrian or crash into your car; they’re not just bad drivers around cyclists.

My thanks to Andrew Blackburn for the lead to this posting

How not to take the House with you – A guest posting by Bob Robinson

I read “Conservative Home” – for as the axiom hath it. “If you read only one newspaper, read the one published by the opposition”. A Fanzine, written by Tories – for Tories, “Conservative Home” often has me spluttering my cornflakes. But Andrew Gimpson’s piece following Prime Minister’s questions on the 9th September was remarkable – not only was he calling a spade, a spade but also he was calling a charlatan, a charlatan.

www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2020/09/andrew-gimsons-pmqs-sketch-johnson-starts-to-sound-like-the-boss-of-a-tractor-plant-in-minsk.html

“At the end of PMQs, Sir Desmond Swayne had asked the Speaker, on a point of order: “What remedy is there for those of us who enthusiastically support the Prime Minister but nevertheless want to restrain the Government’s ability to govern by order without debate?

Boris Johnson was sitting on the Treasury bench, smiled and nodded gently as the Speaker exploded with fury at the absent (Matt) Hancock. The Prime Minister’s demeanour was that of a schoolboy who finds it amusing that one of his chums is being given six of the best.

Johnson might have done better to look grave. For one of the problems from which he himself suffers just now is an inability to take the House into his confidence, and thereby carry MPs with him. He naturally expected Sir Keir Starmer would challenge him on the shocking admission the day before by Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, when asked about the Internal Market Bill: “Yes this does break international law in a very specific and limited way.

I suppose one might say Lewis was taking the House into his confidence, but not in such a way as to carry MPs with him. The Prime Minister seized the chance before facing Starmer to make a bald statement: “We expect everybody in this country to obey the law.

Starmer then ducked the argument about the rule of law. This was an odd decision, for it is a necessary argument. However preposterous the PM’s attempts to extricate himself from the appalling statement made by Lewis might have been, we wanted to know what they were.

This is something the Commons can do extremely well: expose ministers when they are talking nonsense”.

Andrew Gimson concluded:

“This is a Government that puts its arms round the people of this country,” Johnson said at a later stage of PMQs. Again, this sounded like a strange, faintly totalitarian, even creepy remark for a Tory Prime Minister to be making. We don’t want the Government to put its arms round us. We just want it to do various things reasonably well”.

Alex Ferguson was famed for scorching criticism of poor performance even by the Galactico’s in his team as David Beckham recalls. It was known as “hair-drying”

www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2057556/David-Beckham-Alex-Fergusons-hairdryer-secret-success.html

Boris would be well advised to ask not for whom the hair-dryer blows. It blows,,,,,,

For those who missed PMQ’s you catch up on the BBC’s “Match of the Day” Channel – BBC Parliament.