University of Warwick Plans for New Parking Garage

The University of Warwick is planning a new parking garage on campus. It is also requesting feedback from various constituencies, which you can leave here. People are encouraged to leave feedback if they are interested in having input and potentially shaping the project.

As always, these products look pretty and the university has – by some accounts (namely the British Car Parking Association) – done a good job during the last round of car parking construction. As we have previously pointed out, the approach to that new car park, which is also part of Cycling Route 52, could however use some improvements.

According to the project description, the planners aim for an “efficient and safe new car park” and for “[h]igh quality pedestrian routes will be provided to link the car park into campus” (see here). Moreover, the total number of spaces will still be below the limits agreed upon with Coventry City Council, although we understand that the number of remaining slots is decreasing. What happens in the future remains unclear, as the impact of the new “main entrance” to the University from the A46 Link Road Scheme is still in the planning stages.

Here are some thoughts we sent to the planners of the new parking garage. They concern first better bicycle parking as the new structure will be constructed on a site where bicycle parking is currently in operation. We would propose to provide covered bike parking with a bicycle repair stand built into or close to the garage. Given that the costs are – in comparison to a car parking garage – minimal, such facilities could become part of this project. If we were to dream, the university could actually do something fantastic like a bikestation (happiness would consist of covered parking with some additional amenities) since there appears to be space for a future project between the new structure and University House.

The second comment concerns the ingresses and egresses onto Gibbet Hill Road and Kirby Corner. Both should be designed so that they are friendly for pedestrians. This includes relatively tight turning radii (we understand that one could argue that speed shouldn’t be an issue at peak times, but it can be even for such projects), speed tables for both departing and incoming vehicles and – crucially – giving pedestrians priority through zebra crossings.

The campus overall is not particularly friendly in that regard and lacks some of these rather basic elements that make the built environment pedestrian friendly. Car drivers regularly disregard pedestrians even in areas where shares spaces were built. These two areas on campus are prime examples, but so is pretty much every roundabout where pedestrians regularly have to contend with aggressive drivers.

It would be good to start improvements (even if that means slowing cars down) with this project.

National Cycle Route 52 in Coventry

A blog reader sent in the following message:

The road and path from the new car park up to Tesco and Cannon Park has been clear of road works for a while now, so I’m presuming it is thought of as complete. As a cyclist could I ask whether I’m supposed to ride on the extra wide path with pedestrians or bump up and down the kerb to access the path that leads to the residences or bump up the kerb to access the path from the new car park leading to car park 8/8a?

If the former why is this not painted on or signposted? If the later WHY is there no dropped kerb? We haven’t all got mountain bike tyres and the angle means I have to swing to the right slightly (with cars behind trying to access the car park entrance) to cleanly access the path.

This is unacceptable and short sighted by the University and contractors, it also confirms my opinion that cyclists come as low priority to campus ‘improvements’ over cars and pedestrians. I have patiently been waiting to see if this will be rectified (common sense alone would spot this) but unfortunately common sense isn’t that common and I feel forced to complain (again).

Also no route signs signifying national cycle way? Anyone else on the list have thoughts on this?

To clarify things a bit, here is the map of the general area, with the particular section pointed out:

Here are some pictures that provide a bit of context. Bear in mind that this path is one of the main entrance ways for cyclists and pedestrians to the University of Warwick coming from Coventry or a nearby shopping center. The pictures are taken sequentially from north to south. The whole section is only about 200-300 m long. To be fair, the Road Safety Audit is upcoming and there is some hope that things will improve. It also seems that the planners were surprised that there was more foot traffic on the sidewalk than they had anticipated so that cycling on that path is now often out of the question.

But with a bit more foresight (or asking the users what they think of the plans) better infrastructure could have been had without any additional costs.

As you approach from the north, this is what you see:

The first thing to note is that the sign for the cycle route is arguably on the wrong side.

Lo and behold there is a signpost on the left, but I suppose it was too important to put information for car drivers on it:

You then see a splayed kerb at roughly where the red marking starts in the picture above, which looks like this:

Those splayed kerb is gradually lowered:

This is done to allow cyclists to take a left at this stage. The kerb is not overly high and cycleable at the end (but rather high in the beginning, see above), but some users feel that it in combination with having to swerve into the roadway with cars potentially behind you (the last picture shows the new parking structure the University put up recently), this is not an appropriate design. Moreover, in winter with ice forming this could be a dangerous spot for those unaware of the design. The fix would have been simple. Just drop the kerb all the way down.

This last picture also shows that what the designers cared about was car access to the garage. Beautifully done. It would have been so simple to help cyclists wanting to go straight with a dropped kerb, but that didn’t happen.

It is a tiny project in the grand scheme of things and improvements are promised. Still, the takeaway is that the designers need to have in mind all road users (even if the Transport Secretary doesn’t think cyclists are road users). There is an active Bicycle User Group (BUG) at the University of Warwick and I think the planners would find its members would be happy to take a look at the plans if they were made available. In the long run it saves costs and hassle.


National Express: Invoking the State Secrets Excuse

On December 14, 2016 I was heading to work and as I was approaching campus on Gibbet Hill Road. Right around here:

As I am heading down the hill a National Express bus driver overtakes me despite me controlling the lane as there is an obstruction on the left hand side of the lane. The bus came close and without having moved away I would have likely been hit.

The bus stopped at the University of Warwick interchange and after catching up, I tried to talk to the driver about maybe giving cyclists a bit more space. He immediately blows me off and says that he doesn’t need to be following a cyclist and that I shouldn’t be in the middle of the lane. The bus company also didn’t like for him to be late and so he would have to hurry up. At this point I decided to call the bus driver in and snapped a picture.

The bus driver objected to me taking this picture as he felt it invaded his privacy. I tried to calmly respond that there was no invasion of privacy as he was in a public space, that I only took a picture of the bus for identification purposes and that at any rate his right to privacy stands against my right to not be run over by someone who had plenty of time to discuss his supposedly proper behavior with me.

Two days later I receive a response that I should expect to hear back within 7-10 working days. This being the holidays I didn’t expect much of a response until the new year, somewhat apprehensive about the recordings potentially being overwritten.

On January 4, 2017 – after not hearing from National Express – I try to gently nudge the company for a response. I receive the following message one day later:

Dear Markus

Thank you for your further email.

I am sorry for the delay in getting back to you. We have seen an increase in the volume of correspondence. Regrettably, this has meant that some customers have not received a reply as quickly as we would like. I can assure you that steps are being taken to address this.

I’m concerned to hear about the poor driving standards and conduct of our driver that you’ve reported.

Safety is our number one priority and I can assure you that the standards you’ve mentioned are not tolerated under any circumstances. I have therefore forwarded the details to the driver’s manager so that the driver can be seen within our internal procedures about this.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention, please don’t hesitate to contact me again if I can help with anything else.

Best wishes

[name omitted]

Customer Liaison Officer

You can judge for yourself whether you think that this is an actual response or whether it is devoid of any meaning whatsoever. In my book it qualifies as the latter. I thus asked that I receive an actual response to my concern. Shortly thereafter I receive a phone call from a restricted phone number.

The Customer Liaison Officer, let’s call her N., is on the line and I thought that this was a pleasant surprise. She inquired how she could help me any further. I said that the email she sent me was meaningless as I had no idea what it meant. She replied that she was not at liberty to divulge any further information and that legislation prevented her from saying anything further. This piqued my interest and I said that I would like to know what the basis for such an assertion would be as I would like to know (I’m a recent arrival to the UK still, after all). The conversation turned sour after that. N. pretty much treated any information as a state secret (my words) and said that the information provided would be all that would be released. Whether she could “help me any further” to which I responded “yes, I would like to actually receive a response!”. I was again hit with a “Can I help you any further?” to which I responded: “Yes, please pass me on to a supervisor.”

A couple of hours late I receive a call and have a very cordial conversation with N.’s supervisor. I did not note down her name. The short of it is that National Express thinks that people who almost got hit by their drivers should be left in the dark as to what the company is doing. To be fair, N’s supervisor explained that complaints are taken seriously (thank you!), but that they are dealt with internally and that it is National Express’ policy to not let the complainant know what happens.

So here is my problem with this: my assumption has to be at this point that National Express is not doing anything. I appreciate that National Express wants to protect its drivers from frivolous claims and I think they should. That’s what the CCTV footage is for. What is not OK is to hide behind a policy that completely shields its drivers from any responsibility – at least as far as those endangered by their drivers can ascertain. I did not ask for any identifiable information. I simply asked for the steps that National Express took in the aftermath. I was told that the supervisor had dealt with the situation, but was not told whether that person took a look at the footage; whether the driver underwent additional training; whether there was a reprimand and never received an apology for the behavior of the driver (I did hear that N.’s supervisor was “sorry that you feel that way”).

This is the 21st century and no longer a time in which secrecy about the steps that a company takes when its personnel endangers someone should win out. I offered that I would be happy to talk to National Express about this policy because frankly it makes the company look bad. I don’t have any hope that I will get a phone call any time soon.