Wednesday, 25 November 2015

3 Years On

It has been 3 years since I started this blog with a crazy idea of writing something every week. Well, this is post #157 and mathematically at least, I have kept to my idea.

My very first post was a bit of navel-gazing where I mused "What do we really want" and it was in response to what I had read in that month's edition of Transport Professional, the magazine of the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT). I was interested in the juxtaposition of an historic idea of building more roads like the USA and the London Cycling Campaign's "Go Dutch" campaign of which I knew very little at the time. There was also thoughts on the DfT's plans to raise the rural speed limit for HGVs from 40mph to 50mph with part of the justification being drivers ignoring the 40mph limit and comment on the woeful lack of investment in our crumbling roads. 

I started the blog in response to a frustration of seeing the effects of business as usual in our urban places, frustration with politics at all levels wanting to maintain this status quo and to explore change from a professional point of view; especially where walking and cycling were concerned. My interest in walking stemmed from work I had been doing with CIHT and cycling from coming to the end of my second year of cycle commuting and putting up with the conditions myself. As a professional engineer, I have a responsibility to maintain a programme of continuing professional development (CPD) and I firmly believe that engineers have a duty to explain and educate other people in how we work and what we do.

So, then, to my highlights. My second post was about a wonderful weekend I spent in Copenhagen, where I didn't cycle, but it was still wonderful. I have managed to get round a few places such as Bruges which was a delight and Deventer which was of great interest to me given that I hadn't been to the Netherlands in over a decade (and the trip was an adventure in itself). Sadly, the overseas trips weren't to do with cycling, but I have had plenty to see in the UK. London often features in my ramblings as I am a local (although it is a huge city), but I have had the pleasure to join the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain in Brighton and Leicester for their AGMs. In the coming months, expect more kerb-nerdery from London and further afield, although this Saturday (28th November) and on Sunday 13th December, I will be leading an infrastructure safari around some interesting new London schemes in association with the Embassy.

It is on infrastructure safaris and other events where I have met some really interesting and passionate people both within my profession and other disciplines as well as tireless campaigners and advocates who are going all out to get the message out there for what we need to be doing to make our urban places liveable; and means putting walking and cycling first. There are so many people, I am not going to list them as I am bound to miss somebody! Two events of note were the launch of the Near Miss Project and an joint CIHT and London Cycling Campaign evening seminar on inclusive cycling - it was a great format and the joint meeting gave such cross-pollination.

Inclusivity is a topic I am increasingly becoming interested in. It has been there in the background when I have been thinking about transport, but it is becoming increasingly clear that those of us who want change need to engage far more with accessibility and inclusivity advocates and end users. It was brought home to me starkly when I watched the "Sea of Change Film: Walking Into Trouble" which showed how visually impaired people struggled to cope with street layouts, especially shared space (a subject I have't dared to talk about on its own as yet). 

The theme of accessibility has come up quite a bit in my technical posts which have covered subjects such as getting vehicle crossings right, traffic calming and zebra crossings. Technical posts have been a theme over the years and will continue to do so, although my post on kerbs still has the greatest number of hits ever! I am hoping some of my other posts such as the recent one on a "cycle road" will prove just as interesting, as well as my very occasional series on traffic signals. I have also seen how changes in London have developed after taking part in some off-street trials.

Beyond the infrastructure, there have been some sobering events. Last year, I attended a Stop Killing Cyclists vigil and a larger event which were times for me to reflect on how our streets influence behaviours and end up with people paying the ultimate price. If you can make it, Stop Killing Cyclists has a vigil this Friday (27th November). 

On a lighter note, there has been much fun. Whether it is Ride London which shows how wonderful a place can be with the motors kicked out (even in sideways rain over 86 miles). It is interesting to compare photos of Ride London on the Embankment with the infrastructure being built for the East-West Cycle Superhighway - every day can be ride London! Plus, I will never forget the sheer joy my family and I had at the London Kidical Mass last month (it was sunny - remember that). Yes, I am very interested in cargo bikes now! 

The final things which have interested me is the day to day stuff I am doing anyway, but where there is learning and experience I can share. Whether it is being roped in to drive a lorry, learning to ride with my cycle trailer or sneaking off from my family when on holiday to look at stuff!

What have I learned in three years? The short answer is a colossal amount and much of it from the many people I have had the pleasure to meet in person and to debate with over social media and through the blog. What of the future? Well, I think more of the same, but we will see better and better conditions for walking and cycling created with the very best being built, but I worry about what the current government is doing to active travel with its crazy road building schemes which lead to more traffic and congestion and the ever present crumbling of our local roads. We also have the threat of "business as usual" with electric vehicles and the constant deluge of stupid ideas which end up being a distraction.

Still, I must be positive. I am not a campaigner, but I think that professionals with an interest in liveable places must speak out. Not just urban fabric people such as engineers and architects, but health professionals, business people and anyone else who realises that doing what we have been doing for decades doesn't work. Building towns and cities around the motor car doesn't work and the sooner we realise this the better.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Learning Pathway

I have been meaning to write a post about a little scheme I have been working on (a team effort). It is nothing compared to what we are seeing in places like Central London or Leicester, but it is home grown and it makes me happy.

The scheme is linked to development of several hundred homes and the where and the why is not important. What is important is that as part of the planning consent requirements, the development had to have a secondary fire access as the wider site is not permeable for motor traffic; this access was also to be provided for walking and cycling. The development has opened up new walking routes which make the wider area more permeable and cycling benefits too, although there is a shared-use path through the site which could have been much better (planning consent was granted in 2006, so modern opportunities were missed). Yes, this is a tiny scheme, but (almost) perfectly formed.

Fortunately, there was the opportunity to influence the fire access and rather than the original basic shared tarmac path, we convinced the developer and their designer to go with something a little different and unique (at least in my neck of the woods). Now, as you might realise, I am coming up to my third blogging anniversary (that will be a future post) and so I have seen one or two bits of infrastructure in that time. With this scheme I have been able to throw some ideas into the pot from things I have seen on my travels. Two things have stuck in my mind and they are a walking and cycling link in Bermondsey, London and a section of cycle track along the A48 in Port Talbot, South Wales.

Bermondsey. A nice machine-laid track, in red asphalt
and with a separate and kerbed footway. Completely
intuitive to users and nice safe space.

A48, cycle track on the left, stepped down from the
footway and the first time I had seen a 45 degree
splayed kerb used in the UK.

OK, I have been influenced by an awful lot more than just two schemes, but the basics are there and it was just a case of putting them together. OK, time to show you what we built;

Taken a while back, this shows the site corridor cleared and a capping layer laid (essentially a road foundation made from crushed rock or concrete waste). The guys on site are laying various kerbs with those either side being British Standard 45 degree splay kerbs, 255mm deep by 125mm wide. We could have actually use kerbs 150mm deep to get the same effect and this was a bit of a learning point, although they would have had a thicker capping layer below. The important point is that the capping extends beyond the kerb lines and so the kerbs are properly supported. All too often, paths are built too thin and the kerbs supported (on the usual concrete bed) directly on the soil. After a while, a crack appear along the path as things move because of the lack of support.

Further up the site, a view of the capping layer with kerbs freshly laid. The capping layer essentially helps transfer the traffic loading from the heavy duty and expensive surfacing down to the original ground which in this case is fairly soft clay. This scheme is no different to a mini road scheme in terms of design and construction. A far cry from a thinly constructed and badly surfaced shared-use arrangement.

Fast forward a few months and all of the kerbs are in and the sub base layer is in. The sub base is a higher quality than the capping (and a bit more expensive - you see theme here!) For this scheme, we used a hydraulically bound mixture (HBM) for the capping and sub base. There is a bit of science involved and the thicknesses are based on the strength of the underlying ground - yes, a mini road! HBM uses cement and some recycled soils (produced on site in this case) and acts flexibly and provides a replacement for some asphalt thickness. A good product if properly controlled and installed.

This photo shows a junction being formed with a road within an existing estate that this link connects to. The estate is very quiet and through traffic is excluded, but walking and cycling is permeable beyond the traffic filters. The junction has 2 metre radius kerbs and dropped kerbs with the usual tactile paviours. It has been suggested that this could have been a continuous footway. This is true, but there is a footway on the left and a full height kerb was appropriate opposite it to assist visually impaired people. Notice proper transition kerbs from the 45 degree splay kerbs to the dropped kerbs.

A view down the site with everything ready for surfacing. Actually, apart from forming the junction, most of this was built for months and the use of HBM meant the sub base could be left exposed to weather without needing to cover it up because of the cement content - crushed rock or concrete would have been affected by the weather.

Fast forward a little more and the job is done. This is the view on the existing street showing the little cycle junction. We had to install bollards because car drivers cannot be trusted, but they are set back 4 metres so that people on all kinds of cycle can complete their turn and the straight before they pass through.

A view along the track. The cycle logo is one of two (one at the other end) and this is the only signage to indicate that the road is for cycles (wayfinding coming in the future). The arrangement of the separate and raised footway means there is no need at all for any signage or tactile paving (apart for the junction). Nothing is needed to tell drivers to keep out, the bollards say that, along with the logos which say why! The cycle track is 3.1 metres wide (suitable for a fire path) and the bollard is 100mm wide (and removal by the fire brigade). This gives 1.5 metres of tarmac each side of the bollard. The bollards are at 1.8 metre centres

The bollards here are well back from the pedestrian route along the main street and so out of the way. We are aiming to paint some white banding for a bit more conspicuity.

The footway is 2 metres wide and the cycle track 3.1 metres wide, excluding kerb widths. The road markings are standard with 4 metre lines and 2 metre gaps approaching each end (which act as a warning) and then 2 metre lines and 4 metre gaps in the central section for guidance. Totally UK standard.

Splay kerbs with a 75mm upstand and no vertical upstand to maximise safety. All UK standard materials available off the shelf. A shallower angle would be better for potential overrun and a lower kerb face would be less likely to catch pedals, although users will be in the centre of the lanes and this won't be swarming with people - it's just a link.

Extreme close up! Some very nice surfacing skills! 

Bog standard AC10 surfacing in red for the track at 40mm thickness. There is a thicker layer of asphalt underneath for structural purposes and both are machine-laid.

Black AC10 for the footway. In hindsight, a light grey block paved footway would have looked nicer I think, but this still gives a very high level of service to pedestrians.

The other end of the cycle track connects to an area which moves from usual carriageway and footway construction to a level surface shared space which is the access to a few homes. Here, the kerb-separated footway continues on to a spine road through the wider development.

A waffle grid gully which should be standard if cycles go anywhere near it. Actually, we have found out since that we could have got a 45 degree splay kerb inlet gully - one for the standard construction details being worked on!

Closer view of the bollard. Not sure about the handles, but they are there to help with lifting out the bollard. We didn't go for a fold-down bollard as some fool always leaves it down which is a hazard.

Approaching the cycle junction at night. Might need double yellow lines to stop the stupid parking.

The whole link and night - there is a lighting column about half-way along. A good view of the second cycle logo.

Both ends of the scheme pass the trailer test easily.

Photos are one thing, but I have also made a couple of videos of the link. The first is simply a ride along the cycle track. The second spares no personal safety as I bounce my bike up and down the splay kerbs a couple of times and then try a nudge at the end. It was on the bike in the photo above. While I don't recommend it (and there is no need to go close to the kerbs with this path), they are kind of forgiving!

My colleagues and I have had fun with this scheme to be sure, but there has been wider benefits beyond people being able to use the little, 65 metre long link. Two things spring to mind.

First, we have learnt from it in terms of using the splay kerbs correctly (and yearning for a more forgiving UK standard kerb), how to do the drainage better next time (into the kerb line), playing with the red surfacing and all of the other layers which built this mini-road for cycles. We have also shown how a track of an appropriate width can be accessible for all and also, that we don't need to plaster the street in tactile paving and signs to explain how to use it, the route is completely intuitive. There is a debate in the office with the maintenance guys who are nervous about reactive repairs to the red surfacing (potholes mainly) and inevitably, they will blog black tarmac in. If the footway had been light grey, a black track would still have been fine. A black track and black footway would have done the job, but it wouldn't have looked as nice (in my view). The debate will continue, but we have built this scheme pretty bullet-proof.

The things arising from this scheme are being incorporated into some standard construction details and the scheme is influencing our thinking on other projects. To be honest, this design is very similar to what is being built in many parts of London (although we have done the kerb upstands right!)

Second, we have something tangible we can show other people when we are talking about potential new schemes and designs. Already, I have sent photos to people to explain how we want to see future links of this nature built; of course, we can also take people out on cycles to show them what a proper job looks like. Many designers are still stuck with proposing 3 metre wide hand-laid tarmac paths. This kind of design shows what is required in terms of space and specification if we are really treating cycling as a mode of transport.

But, I don't want to get ahead of myself, lots of people are building huge schemes which are doing so much for cycling. This is one scheme in a big city and it doesn't make a network, but we have to start somewhere and I don't think this is a bad scheme for moving the debate on locally. I truly look forward to the time where this type of thing has no interest to anyone, as it is standard, normal and mundane. Of course, I like to celebrate the mundane!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

20 Years Since 'DDA'

A piece on the BBC News website about the protests in the early 1990s which brought about the Disability Discrimination Act has had me thinking.

DDA (as it has popularly been abbreviated) came into force the year I graduated with my civil engineering degree and it has been an issue always in the background for me, although in recent years it has rightly pushed its way into the foreground. I often hear people refer to things and being "DDA compliant", despite the fact that it was absorbed into the Equality Act in 2010, although I think it is a good example of how mainstream thinking about access has become.

I am not going to spend this post going through the legislation or what it means, the good people at the Equality and Human Rights Commission have done a far better job than I ever could. I am going to explore what I think this means for transport. I have referenced accessibility in transport quite a bit over the last (nearly) 3-years of blogging and if you are interested, just search "equality" and "accessible" for some more posts.

I am not suggesting that accessible streets and transport are now cracked, far from it, but there is a generation of designers and engineers which have now grown up with the concept and it does take this kind of time for change to become ingrained in the collective thinking. My first recollection of accessible transport was the Jubilee Line extension (JLE) of the London Underground which started on site when I was a student and which I used in its early years after opening in my regular visits to the Institution of Civil Engineers in Westminster, where I was involved with its Association of London Graduates & Students. 

Proper step-free on the Docklands Light Railway
The platform doors and level thresholds to the trains are memorable and in later years, I became a fan of the lifts to street level for when we took our brood for a day trip in their buggies. Even the placing and arrangement of lifts makes a difference. If you are travelling in a group, you don't want to have to hunt the lift - it should be where the stairs or escalators are placed. Also, if they are arranged to provide different entrance and exit doors, people don't need to turn round which is great for buggy pushers and wheelchair users alike - it is subtle, but these little things make a huge difference. I have appreciated the high level of accessibility on the JLE because travelling with small children reduces one's mobility and it is a prime example of how access for all really is access for all. Fast forward to Crossrail and until very recently, Transport for All (TfA) has been running a campaign to push for step-free access to this railway (i.e. train to street). 

At one point 33 of the 40 stations were planned to be step free and this is only because many London boroughs had to lobby extremely heavily when the enabling legislation was making its way through. Of course, 33 is not 40 and TfA's campaign has managed to push the number up to 37 stations (all within London) and most recently, after further pressure it was announced that all stations would be accessible. It remains shocking that the original plans didn't allow for all stations to be accessible and it just shows that we need to keep the pressure on. It costs a great deal of money to retrofit stations for accessibility, but in a modern and civilised society, this is a cost which mustn't be an obstacle to well, transport being an obstacle. Of course, we also have the DLR in London and many tram systems across the UK of a varying quality and age, but with the newest installations we have some excellent levels of accessibility.

Staying on the streets (see what I did there), I have to mention buses. In most UK cities I have visited, most buses seem to be low floor and "kneeling" (that is, the suspension can drop to bring the loading doors nearly level with the footway) and with extending ramps for wheelchair users (although the technology can still be hit and miss). Unless one is forced to catch a smoke-belching, semi-scrapped rail-replacement bus, the UK fleet is improving. The trouble is that the places where passengers are picked up and dropped off haven't kept up with the technology. I am talking about bus stops dammit!

An accessible bus stop. Photo from TfL guidance.
In London, the Mayor is throwing money at the boroughs to meet his crazy promise of 95% of bus stops in the Capital being fully accessible by 2016 (whether than is 1st January or 31st December, nobody is saying - probably the 2016/17 financial year from what I can work out!). Well, it isn't that crazy for inclusivity, but the target is tough and believe me, it is hard work surveying, consulting and building accessible bus stops. Transport for London has some good guidance on the subject, although it is a little old and is being reworked to include wider street issues.

So, onto the streets more generally. This is where the action is because so many people are trying to change things for the better, although not always for the better in terms of inclusivity. I'll start with walking. We have spent decades systematically removing walking as a viable transport mode for short journeys in our urban areas with convoluted crossings, footway parking, flooded subways, guardrail, so much clutter and traffic severance; not to mention road danger and pollution. In some ways, pedestrian infrastructure has been around a long time as we generally have footways everywhere, but the pedestrian has been marginalised by the car. 

Pedestrian Neatebox in action.
Look at some of our urban dual carriageways to see what I mean - crossings only at main junctions (with several crossings stages and green men if you are lucky) and no easy way to cross mid-block. If we actually measured the quality of our streets against the theme of DDA (as was), the results would be shocking - "reasonable adjustments" often accommodate car use! On the good news front we have seen the use of tactile paving to help people become pretty much mainstream (if not always done properly) and new technology such as "Pedestrian Neatebox" to assist people at signalised crossings gives us a glimpse of a future where the infrastructure can be tailored to the person. But, we also risk marginalising the most vulnerable in our society with our changes and by that I mean visually impaired people caught up in many of the "shared space" schemes placed on busy motor traffic corridors. 

This not a post against shared space, I have one brewing for the future. But, sharing is a matter of power and where the powerful can dominate, sharing will not be successful. So for me, the only successful shared spaces are those where the powerful are removed or substantially curtailed (in volume and speed) and that means limited, slow access for motors. This view will not sit well with some of my peers, but it needs stating. Don't take my word for it, if you do anything today spend 30 minutes watching "Sea of Change Film - Walking Into Trouble" and see and hear what the most vulnerable pedestrians have to say about how they are treated.

The East-West Cycle Superhighway under construction.
Of course, people wanting to cycle are also hugely excluded with many places in the UK suitable for only the "fit and brave" when it comes to cycling. Where routes away from traffic are provided, we confound anyone who cannot dismount or carry their cycle with barriers and gates. Use a non-standard cycle, then forget it, the infrastructure is not for you - have a look at this video to see what I mean (HT to Sally Hinchcliffe). Fortunately, we are seeing some good UK schemes now either as routes (such as the London East-West and North-South Cycle Superhighways) or at a city level such as the changes being made in Leicester. the really good stuff can be easily used by people using tricycles, handcycles, tandems and trailers and show what inclusive infrastructure design can be achieved. We need to remain careful that we don't erode the pedestrian experience otherwise what we build will be not better than the ring-road of yesteryear (at least from a walking point of view). 

DDA has done a great deal of good over the last 20 years when it comes to public transport and I think we have made great strides on our streets. But we clearly still have a long way to go. In the coming couple of years I expect to see a test case brought against a local authority under the Equality Act for barriers on either a footpath or a cycle route which cannot be used by all as sometimes this is what it takes to move the argument forward. In the mean time, we need to keep listening to the end users to make sure they are being properly accommodated.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Powerful Words

This week's post is more of a reply to a post from Katja Leyendecker, erstwhile engineer and now PhD researcher.

In her post, "A Common Language", Leyendecker decries a Sustrans suite of city-based publications which essentially present an inconsistent approach to the language being used to described "cycling facilities". She helpfully links to a US website which seeks to provide some smart language for various things linked to providing safer streets and is worth a look. The post ends with a plea to get some common language in the UK so people are able to know they mean the same thing.

Before I continue, let's have a non-cycling example. If I said "pavement", I would be confident that most people would think I am talking about the paved area along the side of the road, (a sidewalk to those over the Pond) which is normally separated with a kerb and normally at a higher level than the road. This is a mass-market word which probably didn't need me to describe. But, if you were talking to a highway engineer, they would recognise pavement as the various layers which make up a road (generally applying to the carriageway, but can mean the footway or indeed a cycle track). 

Oh, that's some more terms I have introduced. A carriageway is that part of a highway which is generally constructed for vehicular traffic to use (including cycles). Carriageways are generally designed to be heavy-duty because of the damage inflicted on them by motors. A footway is actually what someone like me would call a pavement. A cycle track is like a footway, but reserved for cycle use, except when it is shared with pedestrians.

I'll pause for a moment as this has got a little complicated and probably confusing. We professionals like our own language and this applies to highway engineers as it does doctors and the legal profession. Language is a powerful tool. It can be used as a common "code" between like minded professionals and it can be used to exert power over those who don't know that code. Despite me being a fan of people asking stupid questions (and there is no such thing as a stupid question), people don't like asking for clarity and so the "them" and "us" system of power is maintained.

But, please don't blame the professionals completely (apart from the lawyers of course). For highway terminology, we have primary legislation (hence my friendly pop at the lawyers) which sets it out. The Highways Act 1980 is the principal (but not only) source of interpretation with Section 328 (often written as S328 and the act written as HA1980) defining a "highway" and S329 defining most of the other terms we need to be concerned with. So, returning to the items mentioned above;

carriageway” means a way constituting or comprised in a highway, being a way (other than a cycle track) over which the public have a right of way for the passage of vehicles

footway” means a way comprised in a highway which also comprises a carriageway, being a way over which the public have a right of way on foot only

cycle track” means a way constituting or comprised in a highway, being a way over which the public have the following, but no other, rights of way, that is to say, a right of way on pedal cycles with or without a right of way on foot.

The reason for the confusion in the cycle track term is that it can be shared with pedestrians - i.e. a "shared use" cycle track. Even more confusingly, a shared use cycle track can be unsegregated (a free for all) or segregated (often with line painted down the middle). As a layperson, an engineer referring to a shared use, unsegregated, cycle track is a bit of a mess. I would also say that segregated and unsegregated isn't strictly defined legally, it comes from guidance (but don't worry about it here). A cycle track can also be purely for cyclists, but that is another discussion as well! I think that "cycleway" would be a better term and be consistent with "footway", but again, there is no legal definition.

There is no legal interpretation for road or pavement, although I guess road is probably understandable by most lay people. As I have said, pavement is probably used most consistently outside of highway engineering circles. Groups such as Living Streets and the media at large perpetuate the use of pavement in campaigns and reporting, but a little part of me always finds it grating when I am personally used to the "official" term of footway.  My guess with the Sustrans reports is local employees or volunteers involved haven't quite managed to get a "house style" and perhaps the messages are being watered down as a result.

Personally, I would rather stick to the legal terms where they exist because ultimately there is something we can refer to and we don't need to guess. Where there isn't then we should try to use similar language. For example, we have "continuous footway" which means a footway which extends across a side road - technically a footway can do this, but adding continuous gives a helpful descriptor.

I know this post seems to be me forcing my world-view onto others, but as explained in Leyendecker's post, inconsistency creates confusion and certainly within the cycling spheres, so many terms are bandied about no wonder we are in this state. The legislation can be pretty impenetrable sometimes and really, the Government should put together an authoritative list of definitions (with references) to make lives easier. But, it is official and when used in dealing with those within the highways community (who ultimately implement schemes) you will at least be able to put your point across. Of course, to speak to us on our terms means there is some learning to do - but always ask for clarification.

I will leave it up to you of course. I have a list of terms on the glossary page of the blog and the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain has an extensive dictionary on a whole range of terms (and you might recognise the odd definition from yours truly!).

Friday, 30 October 2015

Zombie Nation

As Jim climbed into his car, he shivered as he thought to himself "the paper shop is only down the road, but it is too cold to walk". Jane was running late as usual. She yelled at the kids to put their seat belts on. She tutted to herself as she saw Jim pull away, "why doesn't he walk to the paper shop, it's only round the corner" she grumbled. 5 minutes later, she pulled up on the 'school keep clear' zig-zags before shooing the kids out of the car into school.

Raj finally got fed up with sitting in the daily traffic jam, stuck there because just down the road parents would be dropping off the kids at the school. "Bollocks to this" he thought and so he overtook the queue on the wrong side of the road before swerving off down a side road, just missing a person crossing, "bloody zombie pedestrians, never look where they are going" he muttered as he slowed down behind the queue of people who had done the same thing as him. Sam shouted after the car which nearly hit her as she crossed the side road, "what were you thinking being on the wrong side of the road!"

John had to step on the brake sharply as the car came towards him, "didn't he see me for goodness sake, I'll have a passenger complain about my driving; I am sure that guy using the wheelchair at the last bus stop will have something to say because I didn't stop, but I just couldn't get into the kerb because of that idiot parked there to go into the shop" he groaned. 

Bill looked up from his book as the bus lurched, now stuck in the middle of the junction "this flipping bus journey gets worse and worse, stuck in this blasted traffic every day. Why can't they just rephase the traffic lights at this stupid junction", he thought. 

Emily was already late for college and rather than ambling along her normal route by the canal, she decided to take the direct route which involves a diagonal crossing at Campbell junction, "six green men to cross, I would have been better off by the canal after all", she groaned as she dodged a bus which was blocking the crossing. 

Yannis was arguing with a bloke on a bike, "I have a delivery to make and I can't go round the corner", "but you are not only blocking the cycle lane, just look at the traffic jam you have caused back through the lights" countered Paul. "It's not my fault", said Yannis," I have to make this drop now, otherwise I won't make by next one on the other side of town". Jess smiled as she weaved through the traffic thinking "why is he arguing with that van driver, he stops there every morning". SMASH. Jim hadn't seen the cyclist as he opened his door.

Yes friends, it's the run up to Halloween and this is my little hat-tip to the season, but this is not a nightmare. It is far worse then that. This is real life and is found daily in many of our towns and cities where we lurch on in a stupor worthy of a character from the brain of George Romero; unable to comprehend that there are better ways to run our local transport networks. Yes, the Zombie Apocalypse is here, we are the zombies and this is our very own Zombie Nation. They're us. We're them and they're us.