Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Peasants' Revolt.

The Climate Camp arrived on Blackheath today. Using no doubt 100% green recycled fuel, lorries have brought thousands of metal fences so that they can build themselves a ''defensive'' barrier. There are rather more white vans than green vans as well. And that police helicopter hovering high over the camp - at a discreet distance, of course - can't be doing much good for reducing carbon dependency.

I wonder if they remember what happened to Wat Tyler.

Well, if we're all going to get overheated about global warming, this man has a temporary fix.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Aesthetics versus health

I'm going to start with a question: in the picture below there is something that allegedly detracts from the aesthetics of this hospital entrance. Can you guess what it is?

Well, what did you go for? The brightly coloured ambulances, the grit bin on the grass, the car in the ambulance parking space? I bet you haven't guessed what it is.

Ok, I'll move a little to the left and let's see how this aesthetic world becomes immediately compromised...

Can you see it now? Still not sure. I'll move in a little to help you...

There, now you see it! The bike. Someone has had the temerity to introduce a symbol of fitness into this shrine for the sick.

Now, the last time I went to this hospital I went by bike and locked my bike not 10 yards away from where this bike is standing. My nephrologist will be pleased with me, I thought: after all he's always trying to get me exercising again.

Instead, a security guard approached me and ticked me off with the warning that I was liable to have my bike removed should I park there again. I was more than a little taken aback. It's a hospital so there are millions of signs all around but none to say where bikes should be left, and also none to say that bikes should not be attached there. When I asked why I couldn't leave my bike there, I was told that it was for aesthetic reasons.

Deeply irritated by the guard's aesthetic evaluation of my old bike, I wrote a letter to the hospital and received the following reply.

Whilst I note your observations regarding the lack of facilities for cyclists on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital site, I have to inform you that we are consistently striving to improve the aesthetics of the site, and this would include discouraging cycles from being chained to our main entrance.

As an organisation promoting the good health of the population, we have attempted to facilitate the provision of cycle parking. This is in fact highlighted on our website (extract enclosed) and on our patient information maps (also enclosed). Should you require any...etc.etc.

Yours sincerely

for Clive Aylett
Head of Estates & Facilities
Now, just for the sake of argument, let's assume that it's perfectly reasonable for security staff to act as style police and that there is a clear aesthetic argument for eliminating all sight of bikes, wouldn't an aesthetic considerations also force the ambulances out of the way too? And the grit bin too?

And now let's look at the claim that they ''have attempted to facilitate the provision of cycle parking.'' Doesn't ''facilitate'' mean ''to make easier?'' In other words, they have tried to make it easier to provide bike stands. And in this I think they have actually succeeded - instead of taking the trouble to put up signs and providing secure parking stands, they've taken the easier, more ''facile,'' way of using completely unsatisfactory sheds with ''wheel bender''-type stands way out of sight from the entrance .

This is the shed for ''Bycycles(sic) and motorcycles'' in car park 2

First of all, you'll notice that these stands are anything but secure. If you lock your bike to the ramps, thieves simply come along and pull the stand away from the ground. Look at the two detached ramps in the foreground: they should illustrate the danger.

As for the bike you see, it actually is securely attached because the chain is wrapped around the centre pillar - but that's about the only safe place to leave your bike. Yes, they've definitely made the provision of cycle parking so much easier for themselves. And if no one uses it (because it's useless) it's wasted public money.

Would anyone feel confident leaving their bike in this out of the way shed hidden in a car park - an ideal place to drive a van up and lift the stolen bikes into?

This is the first thing you notice as you approach the second shed right around the back of the hospital by the accident and emergency entrance:

This of course is a sure sign that there are thieves about - the previous shed seems to illustrate that too. (And if you look at how the bike's locked up, someone's going to lose their cartoon wheels very soon....)

Feeling confident about leaving your bike there?

And onto the sheds: where the two personnel are walking, the words ''and motorcycles'' have been painted over just so we're clear about what this shed is for. Yes, it's the same sygnwriter's handiwork. A couple of bikes have been left up at the smoking shed end. Brave of them, but maybe they reasoned that there would nearly always be someone around in the shed...

(That brash red bike in the foreground, lowering the tone of the neighbourhood, isn't locked - it's mine.)

All in all, pretty shoddy all round. It's probably not worth mentioning that the ''patient information map'' does state ''...cycle racks are located in the car parks'', however it omits to say that that there aren't cycle racks in car park 1 and the car park that they didn't get round to numbering, and they're not marked on the map itself. And as mentioned, there are no signs about bike racks anywhere around the hospital. Their website does specify where the sheds are, but unless your bike is set up for wi-fi broadband, you're not going to find out where they are, are you?

Oh damn, I've mentioned it now.