Welcome to Bennett's World: a collection of articles and references covering a wide variety of topics in which I am involved. I am a very political person but I have no allegiance to any political party. Follow me on twitter @colinhove

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Letter to Brighton & Hove Argus

Below is the original version of my letter, published today in the local Argus newspaper. Their headline for the published (edited) version was Cyclists should behave or be tamed. Peddling My Thoughts The question of bicycles looms large in our City. I think most of us would agree that a reduction in private motor car use would improve our lives. One way of achieving this is to promote walking, cycling and the greater use of public transport. I commend Brighton and Hove City Council for promoting these objectives. Below are some suggestions for helping the cause of cycling. One August night I was walking to Pool Valley from my home - a journey which takes me half an hour in daylight. It was 3.30 am when I went sprawling at the SW corner of North Street and East Street, Brighton. I had fallen over a bicycle horizontal on the pavement. I am a visually impaired person and had no chance of seeing it. My white cane caught in the spokes and was bent at right angles (comical but unhelpful to me). Surprisingly bearing in mind the suddenness of the fall and the fact that I was carrying a rucksack I was not hurt but merely badly shaken. My body had just missed the upturned pedal. You might wonder why I was not safely locked up at home at that ungodly hour. The reason is that I wanted to catch the very useful National Express coach that leaves Pool Valley at 4.15 am for Gatwick. I discovered on that walk that there were many other things that should also have been locked up at home at that time. These were the bicycles that festoon posts and railings. I constantly bumped into their handle bars and pedals. I suppose most of them had been abandoned or stolen and then dumped there. Later I made enquieries about how the City dealt with these bicycles. It seems that if they are clearly abandoned they are removed. Otherwise a label is attached giving the owner seven days to remove the bicycle before the Council takes it away. Bicycles reported as being a nuisance are removed quickly but otherwise the streets are only patrolled for this purpose two or three times a week - not enough! The problem is that there are too few staff to remove bicycles promptly. I think this problem could be solved by transferring other Council staff to this useful job. Some weeks ago I attended a long Council meeting in which I learned that an incredible 220 people were "employed" by the City in Human Resources (Personell to you and me). The managementspeak I heard then and the pointless presentations were worthy of a Turner Prize. If 10% of those staff were transferred to tidying up the City no one would notice and there would be 22 people making a useful contribution to Society. I wonder what happens to the removed bicycles? Perhaps they are taken to a pound and for a fee people can remove a spare part of whatever they like. If not, I propose that. I believe that the Council does not yet encourage proper provision for the storage of bicycles when considering planning applications for residential and commercial developments. With so many houses now divided into flats there is as problem about where the residents and visitors can but their bicycles. Fire regulations frown upon leaving bicycles in communal hall ways. Cyclists lean their bicycles against lamp posts and other up-rights. I am not against this as I sympathies with the cyclists. However some changes in their practices and the designs of bicycles would make it easier for pedestrians, especially those with sight problems. Every attempt should be made to keep the bicycle upright and in one plane. Bikes should be chained at two places to keep them verticle and the front wheels should be kept aligned with the frame. If possible the handle bars should be twisted through 90 degrees. I would welcome as standard practice pedals that could be twisted upwards so that they do not jut out. With imagination, bicycles could be better designed for the realities of urban life. The cycle racks provided by the Council (I think they are called Sheffield type) are not well designed. Essentially they are an up-turned U which means bicycles can slip and cause obstructions. To deter this, and also vandalism and theft, a horizontal bar should be added lower down so that the rack looks like the letter A. The object is to keep the bicycles verticle and in one plane. I think we could learn a lot from cities in Scandinavia and the Low Countries. I am not going to moan here about the behavior of some cyclists. I used to be a very keen cyclist myself. In those halcyon days, most cyclists were gentle creatures, usually wearing sandals when not in the saddle, read the New Statesman and were veggies. We would often stop at pedestrian crossings to help old ladies cross and rescue trapped kittens from trees. Ok, perhaps I exaggerate. I fear that if responsible cyclists do not crack down on their terrorist brethren then registration and licenses will ensue. I do not want this but I do want the law to crack down heavily on cyclists that do not have good quality functioning front and rear lights plus reflectors on their bikes. I learned recently that the bi-laws in Hove prohibit all cycling on the Promenade. These should be relaxed so that children can learn to ride there. I believe most blind people are in favor of responsible cycling by children on the Promenade. What better place to learn? What we don't like are fast silent adults weaving through groups of people doing what was intended on the Promenade: promenading.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The World Tonight 15 September 2006 : Listener Debate

I am a regular listener to BBC Radio 4 The World Tonight. I recommend this to all my readers. Last night I heard a discussion about whether campaigners for disabled people have gone too far. As a campaigner myself this was obviously of major interest. After listening to the programme, I made the following contribution on the BBC programme website (this link might change shortly). My contribution: I think that Mr Binyon and his disabled adversary (Mr Kelly), each made the case for his opponent ! Both were unreasonable and did not deal with the real world. Mr Kelly grossly understated the progress made in the environment for disabled people since 1995. His manner was very aggressive and seemed designed to put peoples backs up. I am not politically correct but I do not like the term 'the disabled' rather than 'disabled people'. No mention was made of the hidden disability: deafness. It was particularly ironic the well-intentioned Caroline Goodey from the DRC conducted a discussion with Mr Kelly with intrusive background noise from a shopping centre. The programme producers should have realised that this meant that the discussion was very difficult for people with hearing impairment to understand. Perhaps Caroline Goodey should have insisted that the discussion take place in a quiet location.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Remembering Roznov pod Radhostem

It is nearly one month since the holiday and the memories are still with me. I would like to share the following items with all of my friends who were at Orbita. Article in the International Herald Tribune Newspaper This is a Google Maps Satellite Image of the area. Have a look !

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

DDA Claim Latest Update

Documents 55 and 56 are now added to my Dossier (see top link on top left of the main page of this Blog). This is now fully updated. I now have to lean on the Council to obey the Court Order. When they have complied with it, both sides go back to Court advising of compliance and seeking final hearing concerning damages and costs.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Local Threat to Protected Landscape

An interest of mine is the protection of our countryside and the best parts of our towns. We used to have in the UK a relatively progressive method of protecting sensitive areas by means of planning control and the need to get planning permission for controversial proposals. In recent years protection afforded by the legislation has been weakened especially by the present Government. Regrettably there is now naked 'political' intervention to overturn decisions taken by the respected and neutral Planning Inspectorate. Perhaps the worst case is that of the proposal to locate a football stadium in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) at Falmer in East Sussex between Brighton and Lewes. After two comprehensive Planning Inquiries which gave the 'wrong' answer, John Prescott in his capacity as Overall Planning Minister ignored due process and gave the go ahead for this desecration. Brighton & Hove City Council, the Sussex newspaper The Argus and developers claiming to speak for football fans displayed great bias and vitriol in promoting the development. To their great credit, Falmer Parish Council and Lewes District Council have taken the matter to the High Court in London to uphold the law. They have been supported morally and with money by principled conservation bodies. The Press Release issued by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) sums up the situation well. Those who support their stance are encouraged to write to the media of their choice eg the main newspapers. The Royal Town Planning Institute has betrayed its principles by crazily supporting the urbanisation of Falmer. ### ### From the CPRE Press Release 30 August 2006 SUSSEX (building scheme) Status of threat: permission granted; subject to legal challenge Brighton and Hove Albion F.C Football Stadium and transport interchange at Falmer within Sussex Downs AONB (due to be confirmed as a new National Park). It would also have an adverse impact on Stanmer Historic Park and associated ancient woodland. The matter will proceed to the High Court on 5 and 6 December 2006. CPRE fought the planning proposals through two planning inquiries over six years and welcomed the challenge to Mr. Prescott’s decision. Other possible sites for the new stadium, that will not have adverse impacts on the designated landscape, should now be considered.