Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Plymouth City Council discriminates against cyclists

Some time ago I posted about some really iffy road "features" put in place in Devonport, Plymouth.
Basically, the roads have many cobbled strips inserted that span the full width of the carriageway. The gap between the cobbles is in places well over an two inches, and in places perhaps of that depth, too.

This doesn't show the worst!
This means it creates an uncomfortable, potentially lethal surface for cyclists.

I contacted the local ward councillor for Devonport, Mark Coker, seeing as this was on his patch. By pure coincidence, he's also the cabinet member for Transport on Plymouth City Council. My first email was sent on the 31st of January, 2013. So far I haven't yet received a straight answer from Plymouth City Council about this matter.

Oh, I've had a few replies. I've been told, on the 5th of February, that they'd be "in touch soon". On the 11th of February, I received an email that consisted in it's entirety simply of one (partial?) word - "Wed".
This I followed up on the 12th of February and waited patiently before again following it up on the 4th of March.

To my delight, I received an answer! That answer referred to an email I had never received, but stated that there was a meeting about the matter at the end of February, with action to be taken by the end of March.

On the 10th of April, given that I had seen no more responses and certainly no action, I emailed Councillor Coker again, sending him this:
"Given that you mentioned in your last email to me that action on issues raised will be by the end of March, and considering that there simply is no action at all regarding the cobbled strips across the carriageway, am I to assume that the council refuses to rectify the appalling manner in which it is actively discriminating against cyclists by failing to provide a safe, decent riding surface?"

On the 7th of May, having heard nothing in the meantime, I emailed Councillor Coker again, to ask why he was ignoring me. I received the following as a reply:
"Dear William

I am sorry that you feel that you have been ignored but that has not been my attention.
The new development at Kerr street has highlighted a number of problems as you are aware, The walk around by senior officers was completed and a number of action have been completed.

I have asked for the Assistant Director to contact you ASAP to explain the lessons learned from this development and he is happy to give you a call if you would prefer and follow up with an email.

Please let me know.


Regards

Mark"

On the same day, I also received this email from Clive Perkin, the Assistant Director for Transport & Infrastructure:
"Dear William,

Apologies if we have not yet provided an answer to you.  I am getting the information together on this development and will come back to you in the next couple of days.

Clive Perkin
Asst Dir for Transport & Infrastructure"

This was looking good! I had an email from the Assistant Director for Transport & Infrastructure saying he'd get back to me "in the next couple of days". Surely things would finally get moving. After all, a couple means two, doesn't it?

Apparently not.

On the 13th of March, having heard no more, I sent this email:
"Dear Clive,

Have you perhaps had any progress with this issue? I believe I've been extremely patient, seeing that I've been trying to get a straight answer since the 31st of January, but unfortunately all I've received since then was delay upon delay.

Mark Coker said in an earlier email that there's be an area walkabout in February and actions to follow by the end of March. As we're now mid-way through May it must be safe to assume that the council refuses to act on the appallingly poor road surfaces I have highlighted?

I really don't understand why there is a delay in getting information when there has already been an in-situ inspection, which led to no action whatsoever regarding this matter. What I am now asking is what the council will do to rectify this situation with the poor road surface on Ker Street (and surrounding streets) as well as what the council is doing to avoid a repeat occurrence elsewhere?

I look forward to receiving your timely response.

Kind regards,"

On the 20th of May and close to four months after first having emailed Councillor Coker, I was no closer to getting any answer. As a result, I sent this email to the Assistant Director of Transport and Infrastructure:
"Dear Clive,

On the 7th of May you gave me a commitment to update me within a "couple of days". Instead, it has been two weeks, and despite me having chased it up, there is still no response from you.
I must therefore conclude that you are ignoring me and that neither you, nor PCC have any interest whatsoever in answering the questions I have raised. 

Kind regards,"

Disappointingly, but given their track record, not unsurprisingly, I have had no response whatsoever.

Newer cobbled strips in the same neighbourhood appear to have been better built and do not have similar gaps between the cobbles, which shows either infrastructure is built in a random fashion, or they've realised that they've messed up. If the latter, at least that's a step in the right direction, though of course it doesn't fix the dangerous cobbled strips across the road.

The sad reality that I've been forced to accept is that Plymouth City Council is discriminating against cyclists by either putting in place, or knowingly allowing to be put in place road infrastructure that is dangerous to cyclists. When asked about it, they avoid any straight answers and play delaying games, perhaps hoping I'll forget about the matter.

Only, the trouble is I ride these roads daily, and I've already had to replace a rear wheel that was less than 5 months old. The ONLY reason why I'm not pursuing Plymouth City Council for the cost of that wheel is because it would be a bit hard to conclusively prove their cobbled strips had broken it.
However, should I suffer another wheel failure, I will pursue it as by then I'd be able to show a pattern.

Equally, should those cobbled strips cause me to fall, I will of course explore every legal option open to me. After all, roads are public infrastructure, and should be fit for purpose for ALL users.

In this instance (as with other examples) Plymouth City Council has again succeeded in discriminating against cyclists and that should never be allowed.