Cummings and Northern Goings On

It all sounded so easy when the Tories announced they were going to level up so that ‘The North’ would no longer be at a disadvantage to the south. So far not much levelling up has happened but then again we are living through a badly handled (by the Tories) health crisis/pandemic so they do have some excuse for the lack of anything tangible happening. However, that excuse won’t wash for long.

The other problem is that Johnson’s government seems incapable of handing just about anything well or even for that matter adequately. On that basis there can’t be much confidence that they’ll fix the north/south investment imbalance even when they do actually start doing as opposed to just talking about it.

Jim Hancock has an interesting take on all this. Please have a look what he has to say via this link:-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Jim, as often is the case, gets what’s going on when many other commentators flounder. Not only that but he’s capable of putting it all down in understandable words; he’s part of a dying breed in journalism sadly.

I agree with Jim about Prescott and his wish to bring in regional governance which somewhat fell apart in English terms. I’m no fan of City Region Mayors, I never have been. What with the half-hearted devolution packages handed down when they were foisted upon us and the majority of them not really changing much at all I’d rather be shut of them in favour of proper regional governance via elected assemblies.

Prescott in government was a chap of typical old fashioned Labour hang-ups. On the one hand he had what all but amounted to an approach to this subject that Liberals had been articulating for generations. However, he was also one not to work across political boundaries because all he’d been taught in the insular Labour movement was against working with others who may hold similar views. I guess he was ‘our way or no way’ a view which has bedevilled Labour and stood it firmly against truly progressive politics for generations. Of course he lost his internal battle in the Labour Party over regionalism and having not built any bridges outside of that party his ideas sadly floundered.

I’ve never ceased to be amazed at how Labour can attack others who broadly agree with a policy they are trying to take forward because those others are not 100% backing of the Labour view. Labour has to build coalitions within the party but they won’t build them outside of it and Prescott lost regionalism because of that flawed attitude.

£175m (or even £2b) sounds a lot for cycling & walking BUT it’s not much really

To start off this posting please have a read of the article linked below from The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport as it sums up where government thinking is seemingly heading quite well:-

ciltuk.org.uk/News/Latest-News/ArtMID/6887/ArticleID/32879/163175-million-more-for-cycling-and-walking-as-research-shows-public-support?gator_td=%2beI1zBnIYuYG7%2bOgusqjWGu5ZZ3%2bV4keUCmq3%2feVfXUBQ1EUrl6iRYVbt8AMDZa8BuPYg2Qec9tbYFzDd%2bowb%2fmeXmxqN51hO%2bWqAMtRbYK5EFnIW%2bJZy%2b9Bbs2rbZFBkIYukuNJZwTa74yXG%2fFBsa%2bjmt1QPIrPybd7EcLO7FMQgicqJmz9PJ9zZ1EWozrzCiROVULmgTH4DSsQ8w1KBg%3d%3d

News that government is to invest more in cycling and walking has to be welcome but let’s be honest an extra £175M spread across the country is not going to produce much at all; it will address the tip of a very big and long under-invested in iceberg at best.

But stop grumbling Robertson and come up with ways it could best be spent in Sefton and West Lancashire where you do most of your cycling. Well my first and most important advice to highway officers at Sefton Borough and Lancashire County Council’s is DON’T use what little money you get from this fund to try to do big projects. If you do a small area will get a big improvement but most cyclists won’t benefit at all. Please, please look at the myriad of small things you can do to make cycling safer and try to connect up obvious places which real cyclists want to get to and from. Presently the cycle network, other than in places like York, is a hotch- potch of bits and bobs all over the place which rarely connect with anywhere at all.

Safe cycling routes to schools is an obvious one to tackle but so are safe routes to railway stations, shopping centres, museums, leisure centres etc. Oh and don’t forget that secure cycle storage facilities are required too at each destination.

This is of course a subject I’ve banged on about before – see links below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/09/03/maghull-lydiates-berlin-wall-the-bible-of-cycling-infrastructure/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/05/03/maghull-lydiate-melling-simple-cycling-fixes-for-sefton-council-to-undertake/

And I noticed another easy fix for Sefton Council only today on Maghull’s Liverpool Road North (the section with a service road from the Westway to Green Lane junctions) where a dropped kerb outside Cornmill Lodge would enable northbound cyclists to access safer cycling on that service road. Obviously suitable bollards would be required to stop vehicles following suit!

Yes of course the rather grandiose safe cycling project to connect up Maghull with Kirkby is welcome but it’s one hell of a big investment for not a huge benefit for the majority of local cyclists. And that’s my point here; get the small easy fixes out of the way first because they will make a big difference to safe cycling. Oh and make sure that all projects that go through highways departments are scrutinised by cyclists before they are approved or you end up creating new highway infrastructure that all but excludes cyclists like the terrible new Alt Junction on the A59 in Maghull.

Walking and cycling destinations from Rimrose Valley County Park Country Park.

By the way the reference to Councils having to consult (see 1st linked article above) on how the money is spent is both welcome and interesting as my understanding is that with the money released by government during Lockdown 1 there was an instruction from government to benefiting councils not to consult!

With thanks to Mike Perkins for the lead to this posting

Mask wearing – Men in vans

As an observer of life in general one thing about our current pandemic has got my attention; men in vans generally don’t wear masks.

This is not intended to be a piece regarding the rights and wrongs of mask wearing but more about who does and who doesn’t comply with the rules.

I cycle a lot and in a similar way to walking you see far more than when we all speed about in vehicles. What’s become apparent to me is that you see men riding about in all kinds of vans, often 2 or 3 of them, and virtually none are wearing masks either in the vans or when they get out of said vans to go in shops. The odd ones may be in the same family bubble but that’s probably stretching it because my observations are that they are nearly always in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s age group.

I wonder why so many of them choose not to wear masks? I’m guessing it’s a bit like teenage peer pressure and not wanting to be seen as uncool and not fitting into a perceived male invincibility culture.

Yes, I’m sure there are some reading this who’ll want to cheer them on as they oppose mask wearing whilst many others will be concerned about the risks they are bringing into their households.

It’s clearly a cultural thing as I’ve seen so much of it. I wonder how many of them are trying to look macho whilst wishing they had the courage not to put their elderly relatives at risk? What I’m saying is that if it was seen to be cool to be wearing a mask they would be doing it.

And to close this short posting about what motivates human behaviour I was in a shop today when 2 men stepped out of a van and entered the shop with no masks on. One got what he wanted quite quickly and shouted to the other he’d wait for his mate outside. I’m guessing that he got rather self-conscious whilst outside as there was a short queue to get in and all those in the queue were wearing masks. So what did he do whilst waiting for his mate? He pulled his jacket over his nose and mouth trying to fit in with a different group as he did not want to be the odd one out? I did not see his mate come out but what’s the betting he let his covering drop when he saw his mate…….

Lydiate – Dropped kerbs help folk get around

Dropped kerbs are really important because they allow people with disabilities, the elderly, folks pushing prams etc. to travel around a community without facing the trip points and obstacles which pavement kerbs can present.

Over the past 25 years or more Sefton Council has (like other councils) been installing dropped kerbs particularly at junctions to make things easier for pedestrians but I’ve recently been made aware of a location where dropped kerbs could do with being installed – see photo below:-.

This site is on the eastern side of Northway/The A59 roughly half way between the Kenyons Lane junction and Robins Island and as you can see the kerbs are quite high where this farm access point comes off the A59.

I’ve raised the matter with Sefton Council Highways asking them to consider installing dropped kerbs at this location. I’ve also queried whether the path can be officially designated as ‘shared space’ (for pedestrians & Cyclists) as there’s no separate cycle path/safe cycling route along this section of Northway.

Readers of this blog site will recall I’ve been calling for a safe cycling route to be created north to south alongside the A59 (through Maghull/Lydiate) for a long time now. Yes, I realise money is tight and achieving that aim will take a while but there seems to be an opportunity here to get the process going.

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.

Merseyrail – Art On The Network

Do any of you Merseysiders out there recall this ‘Art On The Network’ project being launched by Merseytravel in 2005? Can’t say I do but during a rummage through my collection of books and magazines about Merseyside’s railways I rediscovered a forgotten pack from Merseytravel dated August 2010 all about the progress and future of this artistic project.

In the pack, sent to me by Merseytravel’s former Chief Executive and Director General Neil Scales was an Official Trail Guide, a book mark, a brochure and a DVD. In terms of ‘Selected forthcoming projects and plans’ the brochure says that in 2010 the following will take place – Animate the Underground, Art on the Network website to be launched, Art on the Artwork Open Art Competition and Charity of the year Art Project. And in 2011 – Animate Your Wait, Art on the Network Open Art Competition, Charity of the Year Art Project, Olympic 2012 programme, New [Merseytravel] Headquarters Artwork. It seems that Merseytravel was really becoming quite arty indeed. Time to start some internet searches for the project as I’m partial to art, particularly if it’s railway related:-

The first hit was this Flickr page www.flickr.com/groups/1557796@N25/ trouble is it has no photos on it!

This internet link to – Art on the Network – Public Art Update moderngov.merseytravel.uk.net › documents › Art on the… 15 Nov 2012 — The purpose of this report is to update Members on Merseytravel‟s. Public Art Policy/Strategy and Art on the Network (AOTN) activities. 2 – no longer works

I then found this Liverpool Echo article from 2012 launching that year’s art competition www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseytravel-launches-art-network-competition-3348110

I also found this from back in 2010 ‘The Drum’s’ website – www.thedrum.com/news/2010/06/23/merseytravel-launches-art-network-site-mando The link to the Art on the Network site does not work though.

In 2009 the Art on the Network Competition was won by Ron Davies farm8.clik.com/rdphoto/articles_114212.html

That’s pretty much all I found by Googling Merseytravel Art On The Network so I went onto Merseytravel’s own website and searched ‘Art on the Network’ but nothing came up at all. Now don’t get me wrong here, it’s not as if nothing was achieved by this project which may or may not be on-going. Indeed, some quite significant pieces of artwork have been created and displayed across the rail network on Merseyside it’s just that Merseytravel seems to have all but let the initiative go as there’s nothing on it’s website that I can find. That’s rather sad I feel.

But My point in penning this posting is not just to say how sad I am that the initiative ground to a halt (or should that be shunted into the sidings?) because it didn’t and hasn’t! I know that because my two local Merseyrail Stations have had artwork displayed on them in recent years and here’s the proof. First Maghull:-

Displayed at Maghull Station and designed by Deyes High Academy students

By Maghull artist Margaret Walton as part of the Station Volunteers project.

And at the new(ish) Maghull North Station:-

These two photos of the same sculpture celebrate the fact that this new station is on the former grounds of Moss Side Hospital which as a consequence of the Great War became a centre of expertise dealing with shell shock victims.

So to conclude my voyage into Art on the Network all I can say is how about celebrating it all at least on your website Merseytravel if nowhere else?