Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Blinking Plymouth City Council!

In Plymouth we have suffered some 18 months of severe disruption due to the construction of what is called the East End Transport Scheme. Despite the great inconvenience the roadworks have caused, most people have accepted that it was necessary, especially in the light of the extra traffic a proposed new town to the east of Plymouth would generate.

I've posted about this before, and on Twitter I've also expressed by dissatisfaction. The tweets led to the Web Team at Plymouth City Council responding directly to me, and asking me to e-mail them with more details.
This is what I sent them:
"Now that the redevelopment along the East End is finally coming to an end, we have ended up with a snazzy new pavement all along the Embankment road shops. In various places there are build-outs, further extending the foot-way into the road. This is all very nice, except there is now even less provision for cyclists compared to before, as we now don't even have those horrid cattle-pen style railings to lock our bikes to when we go to the shops.

Why has no provision been made for bicycle parking? Surely there is now ample space, especially on the foot-way build-outs, to have installed several sheffield stands? This is yet another example of how the council claims it is pro-cycling in all literature, but utterly fails to deliver on the ground. After all, in the build-up to construction starting, the council tried to make a big thing out of how much this would improve things for cyclists.

A major part of the East End Corridor scheme was supposedly aimed at sustainable travel, yet cyclists are now worse off than before, as we have no cycle parking facilities at the shops, and we've lost the cycle lane on Gdynia way. Additionally, the junction between Finnegan and Laira Bridge roads is deeply unpleasant at best for cyclists and pedestrians, and dangerous at worst, yet nothing was done to improve it. Well, actually there was a slight improvement for a while, when an additional pedestrian cycle was added to the lights, to allow pedestrians to cross Finnegan road safely, but that has subsequently been removed again.

I suppose you'll point out the new little off-road cycle path that links the new housing development opposite Tothill park to the existing cycle path as a major benefit? Now I actually agree that this has improved things a fair old bit, the point still stands that bicycle parking provision all over the project is pretty much non existent.

Is the council deliberately setting out to be as obstructive to cycling as possible, does the council not understand that cyclists do indeed cycle to shops, or is this just an oversight that borders on pure incompetence?"

The Web Team were very good. They told me (via Twitter) that they have forwarded my e-mail to the Transport & Highways Team, and they even followed up by asking me if I've had a response yet.

Yesterday,  I received a response in the form of a letter posted to my home address (even though I did not supply them with that, nor did I ask for a postal reply).

This is what they wrote in their letter:
"Thank you for your enquiry of the 27th October concerning provisions made for cyclists through the East End Transport Scheme.

Please find enclosed the Eastender newsletter and Getting Around The East End, which should go some way to addressing your concerns.

f you have any further questions please contact us on 01752 668000 or email Plymouth.watchman@amey.co.uk."

They included an out-of-date Eastender newsletter, and a map showing how all the new driving, walking and cycling routes through the East End work. The emphasis is on driving routes.

None of what they sent me addresses any of the points I have raised, and I was left with no doubt that they simply weren't interested enough to even read what I had written. In fact, it is an infuriatingly dismissive response.

The Transport & Highways Team are actually contractors to the council, from Amey.

So there you have it: democracy in action! We have local counsellors who aren't worth the effort to approach as they simply respond with "We'll try and raise the issue with the Transport Team", then never get back to you, and we have a commercial, private company masquerading as the council. Above all else, we have a situation where the people of Plymouth are simply ignored.

And do you know what is scary? There isn't actually anything we can do about such absolutely stinking attitudes at all. Welcome to democracy! Well, at least Plymouth's poor facsimile of it.