£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

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!

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.

Maghull – Vehicle chaos around L’pool Rd Nth shops

Having a friend who is blind and has the use of a guide dog makes me acutely aware of how those of us who drive vehicles make the lives of those with disabilities, the elderly and indeed Joe and Jane Pedestrian difficult and at times dangerous.

I took the two photos above on 16th October around 1.45pm because I just could not believe what I was seeing as I tried to navigate the section of pavement in front of these shops. One vehicle actually pulled onto and over the pavement right in front of me to access the private land which is actually the majority of what looks like pavement.

And thereby hangs the problem. The pavement is probably about 3ft wide from the kerb line, the rest of the hard standing is private land belonging to whomever owns the shops. Vehicles want to park on that private land as it’s free to do so and parking is very limited in the immediate area. To get to it they have to cross the pavement and with successive road resurfacings making the kerb level quite low it means that in reality vehicles bounce across the pavement wherever they can/want. In turn this makes a pedestrian’s life quite exciting and akin to running a gauntlet, at least it is for the abled bodied who can do that. The elderly, people with disabilities and the blind just have to hope they won’t be knocked over!

But in fact things are even worse than that because the pavement part is often parked upon too so there’s no clear footway at all as you can clearly see from one of the shots where there’s a parked car all but abandoned at an angle over it. A few days prior to taking these photos I had reason to walk in front of the same shops and I found a van parked pretty much the same way as the abandoned car. On that occasion there were a couple of blokes unloading the van and I decided to tackle them. That may not have been a wise thing to do but I stayed calm and simply said they should move their van because it was making the pavement dangerous particularly for people with disabilities. Half expecting some abuse in return they just looked at me and said nothing. However, when I went past again in the other direction a little later the same van was sensibly parked against the kerb. It seems they got what I was saying.

The black bollards you can see in one photo had to be put there to try to stop vehicles using the dropped kerb of the Pelican Crossing to access the private land about a dozen years ago so the problem is far from being a new one. However, it has got so much worse in recent times and I fear that there’s an accident just waiting to happen.

I’ve asked Sefton Council Highways to have another look at this area to see what can be done to make things safer.

Lydiate – Sandy Ln/Lambshear Ln junction dangers

I’ve long thought that this is a dangerous junction and blogged about one aspect of it back in June 2015 – see link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/09/22/an-end-to-rail-franchising-but-what-next/https://tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/01/22/lydiate-junction-of-sandy-lanelambshear-lane/

But whilst that plea obviously failed to push Sefton Council Highways Dept into action there is clearly another danger which I’ve witnessed a number of times recently. If you’re turning right out of Sandy Lane into Lambshear Lane you are often faced with a vehicle which has come from Lydiate Village Centre direction and which wants to turn right into Sandy Lane cutting the corner and all but hitting the vehicle/cyclist trying to turn right.

So that’s two dangers at this junction that could do with being looked into by Sefton Council, I hope they’ll try to look into them before there’s a nasty crunch!

Blue Wheelie Bins – It’s all about communication

Whatever the rights & wrongs (in recycling terms) of Sefton Council indroducing a 4th wheelie bin per household the issue is one that has many Sefton folk hot under the collar about, indeed some folks have been asking me (I’m a Lydiate Parish Councillor) to explain to them why it’s happening.

My understanding is that Sefton Council’s leaders must beleive there’s a good reason to separate out glass bottles and jars from other recycling materials which presently all go into the Borough’s brown wheelie bins like paper, cardboard, plastic, tins etc. It must be a good reason, or at least I really hope it is, because it’s costing £1.7m to order 100,000 Everton or Manchester City coloured bins! But as I’ve not seen the background information I don’t know whether the move is a good or bad one and I say that as a committed environmentalist & recycler.

But what I do see is a communications disaster due to the lack of clear messaging from Sefton Council. And that takes me back some years to when I was Leader of Sefton Council and a certain Councillor David Tattersall was Cabinet Member for the Environment. David was in public relations professionally and he realised as soon as Sefton was moving towards separating household waste into non-recyclable and recyclable that public messaging was vital. If I recall correctly some of the popular national press were sending out messages at the time against wheelie bins so clearly getting messages out to residents in the Borough was going to be difficult; all but a propaganda war.

The point here is that David realised that proper timely messaging was important via mail shots and even sticky labels placed on wheelie bins together, of course, with carefully placed local newspaper adverts and news items. I also recall that David told me that officials were not too keen on his demands for messaging but he was not to be put off.

Councils so often do things to their residents rather than working with them, command and control management I suppose you could call it. But, of course, imposition breeds resentment and a lack of cooperation/buy-in in a democracy, especially where folk are subject to alternative views and ‘facts’, or should I say even fake news/opinion.

Now I also realise that people with small outside spaces will, almost as a matter of course, be far from chuffed to find room for yet another wheelie bin. I even know of a Sefton resident who hardly ever uses their recycling bin but who drives to a local recycling centre to dispose of glass items. And yes there’ll be folk who oppose recycling in any form because that’s their political stance you might say. So there was always going to be a section of the Sefton community who just don’t want more wheelie bins, be they blue or any other colour, and they may even send their new bin back. However, the vast majority of folk just want to know in straight forward terms what they are being asked to do and why it will be of benefit to the environment, their ability to recycle etc. etc.

But, if you don’t get a clear message out or you just rely on messaging via press articles don’t be surprised that folks start asking ‘what’s going on?’. Politicians all know that personal messaging is what voters are more likely to respond to positively, that’s why political parties will often address political propaganda to you at elections. Why do those same politicians not realise that similar messaging is required when it comes to important council communications?

And to put the tin lid on it, so to speak, it’s only just over a year since Sefton ceased collecting food waste and that service cessation suffered from poor communication too as my blog posting of the time made reference to:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/06/13/sefton-council-food-waste-collections-cease/