Friday, 27 September 2013

Those bus lane comments - what do they mean?

Liverpool City Council's Cabinet today (27th September) agreed to get rid of all the bus lanes in the City for a "trial" nine months starting at some point in October.

The coverage of the decision in the Echo today has this quote from Mayor Joe Anderson

“We’ve reviewed them  (the bus lanes) over the last six months and we will compare that data with what we gather over the next nine months."

The Echo had a journalist at the meeting so there's no reason to doubt the accuracy of this quote.

But what on earth does it mean?

It appears to say that the existing bus lanes have been monitored carefully and data collected over six months.

So no doubt there is all sorts of statistical information used in the decision (the data).

Now decisions at these sorts of meetings are pretty much based on the material in reports provided for the committee.  And you can read the report for this one on the Council's website at this link.

Now there are several types of data that might be useful for an exercise like this.

You could count the numbers of buses and cars in various lanes and compare these to data from before the bus lane introduction.

You could time a typical car journey and compare it to a car journey from before the bus lane introduction.

You could look at numbers of passengers on buses using bus lanes as opposed to routes without any, and compare these to pre bus lane times.

You could measure air pollution in the areas near bus lanes and compare with data from before the introduction of the lanes (air pollution is one of the problems linked to traffic congestion).

You could measure traffic flows on "rat runs" and draw some conclusions about whether drivers are attempting to avoid roads with bus lanes.

And there are quite a few other data driven things you could do.

Now some of these bring their own problems.  The obvious is how you  control for other variations
 ( growth in car ownership, change in population, changes in bus fares, impact of roadworks and so on).  But they all have the benefit that they produce figures and could be viewed in graphs as trends if collected in a certain way.

So what exactly is the Mayor's data?

Well the report admits there is no up to date figures on bus useage (why?) but then goes on to use material from cameras overlooking the lanes (thus sidestepping the issue of lack of data from bus lanes without cameras).  And we get some pretty vague statements with no numbers attached. We're also told that officers have monitored these lanes directly (implying standing by the road rather than using a camera). But we're not told whether this monitoring consists of sampling and if so how often and at what time of day (there is nothing wrong with sampling but you need to know it's been done)

To be honest this "data" is nothing like data and is more a series of "ooh terrible traffic" type semi anecdotal statements.

Now it's perfectly possible to make decisions based on gut feel or impressions.  But if you do that you shouldn't claim you are using evidence (because you are not).

It's certainly true that some very specific problems have been identified, and these are listed in the report.  But isn't that an argument for looking at those specific problems rather than deciding on a blanket ban?

I am pretty agnostic about bus lanes.  I think if they work (and we need to define what we mean by work as the report certainly doesn't) they should stay and if they are not serving a purpose, or if they are not working, they need to be reviewed.

But I suspect this "all or nothing " approach will simply bring more problems to the very streets it's claimed it'll help.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Ah.. so Meadowlands decision next month then

I blogged earlier about the odd lack of material about the Meadowlands decision on this week's Cabinet agenda.

I was surprised not to see it there, particularly as it had earlier been listed as a September decision.

It now turns out that it's first going to be discussed by the Regeneration Select Committee, which meets next week.  It'll go to Cabinet after that.

It may seem strange to talk about a decision.  After all there's been lots of publicity already for the Cabinet saying "yes go ahead and sell it". 

Because its the loss of open space though, it has to be advertised so that various objections can come in.  This is a legal process and you may have seen the statutory advert in the Post.

Obviously rather a lot of people saw the ad as more than 1,200 objections came in by deadline.

You can read the committee report (and this is the only thing due to be discussed at the committee) at this link.

The meeting is on 3 October and the agenda lists this as Land at Park Avenue.

Basically the mayoral recommendation at the end can be paraphrased as
"read the objections... going to do it anyway".

Want to know about local history writing?

Next month sees the second in a series of literary events at Garston Library.  And this time the focus is on local history.

On 17th October, local author Mike Axworthy will be there to talk about writing and researching local history and in particular about his book "From Monks to Mudmen".

The event is free, with refreshments from 6 and the talk starting just after 6 30.  Its's open to anyone so do come along.

There'll also be a guest of honour and a presentation to two youngsters who've won the summer review writing competition (I'll blog again nearer the time about this)

This evening event follows the September event which saw crime writer Martin Edwards talk about his detective fiction series. November sees the focus move to poetry on November 21st.

Friday, 20 September 2013

What are those committees for?

Liverpool City Council, like others, has a number of Select or Scrutiny committees that are meant to scrutinise,look into, examine, challenge what the Council is doing.

The Chairs of each get a pretty impressive extra payment and if you add up the number of councillors attending you can see quite a bit of elected member time goes into them.

I will leave you do decide, gentle reader, if this one was planned as a worthwhile scrutiny event.

(Of course its just one of a number at which there are few items that look like discussions and
debates rather than just getting information - which presumably an intelligent person can get through reading)

Bus lanes - why the arguments don't stack up.

Liverpool City Council is to decide next week on a "trial period" in which there are no longer bus lanes in the City. 

I've taken the time to read the Cabinet report on this as well as the media coverage and heaven help us if this is the basis on which decisions are taken.

Firstly it's worth saying that not every bus lane is necessarily needed.  The one at Horrocks Avenue for example was originally linked to a fast bus service to the airport.  That service no longer exists and people using that stretch of road generally feel the lane achieves no purpose.

However the fact that a few may be in the wrong place is not an argument for junking the lot.

The media coverage has focused on the Council saying that the lanes have not resulted in a shift from car use to bus use (the implication being that they therefore serve no function).  The Cabinet report claims that the purpose of introducing bus lanes was to get people to switch their type of transport (interestingly no earlier report is cited and I'd be happy to bet that that wasn't the only reason or even the prime reason at the time). 

Now the Council doesn't run the bus service here so it won't have figures for bus use.  Merseytravel however does passenger surveys and the bus operators must have a clear idea of use in order to get the money back from things like free passes.  The Council report tell us however that no local figures are available. Instead is uses national figures which , it's true , do show a decrease in bus use. 

But the media coverage implies that bus use (as a percentage of journeys)  has not gone up in Liverpool, and therefore the bus lanes have not achieved their aim.

So we have a lack of statistics turned into an assumption and then a piece of dodgy logic about causation thrown in for good measure.

The only way we could know whether or not there is a causal relationship between bus lanes and transport modes is by having

a. accurate figures for transport use before their introduction
b. accurate figures for transport use after their introduction
c. those figures adjusted for demographics (like population figures)
d. all other conditions being held equal (ie nothing else being capable of causing transport decisions or those effects taken out in a reliable statistical way).

And the Council report, and media coverage has none of this  (I wonder why they haven't at least tried to use Mereytravel or Arriva/Stagecoach figures - a case of not wanting the info to get in the way of a decision I guess. Or perhaps if you know a decision has already been made you don't need to waste time on data either way)

However, putting aside the Council's lack of logic here, there is another argument.  The Council report talks about congestion and the need for traffic to move smoothly.  This is not least because of air pollution, particularly in the City Centre. 

This is a valid concern.  It's not great for air quality or for carbon reduction for lots of semi stationary vehicles to be belching out fumes

However, as someone who walks around the City a lot, it's clear that among the most polluting fumes are those from buses that are not moving much (or at all) Try breathing in those fumes and you soon see what a problem that is.  With no bus lanes, those buses are likely to be slower (they can't possibly be faster!)  The Government has recently given some cash to make some buses on Merseyside less polluting, but that won't cover the lot by any means.

Of course if the pollution from buses has been measured against that from other modes of transport in a serious statistical way, this point might be answerable.  I have looked in vain through the Cabinet report for this information.

The coverage also tells us that often drivers avoid bus lanes even at the times of day they are allowed to be in them .  Signs for bus lanes are confusing and I am not surprised that drivers treat them as 24 hour just to be on the safe side.

The suggestion seems to be that the bus lanes will be suspended for a trial period.  This doesn't feel like a trial though, it feels like a final decision.  I can't help feeling that it would be better to review each bus lane , or group of lanes, separately and make separate decisions based on actual hard data.

Finally, I had to laugh when I saw that one suggestion in the cabinet report is that while the lanes are suspended, the Council will consider whether to put cycle lanes there.  So basically they make a bit of the road busier and then ask if it would be a good idea for people on two wheels to be directed to that space! (of course they could mean the sort of cycle lane which bans cars..but isn't that just re introducing the problem they claim exists now?)

I am pretty agnostic about bus lanes as a whole  I think some work and some don't.

But it's clear that the Council is about to make a decision based on virtually no hard data.

Err... Meadowlands details please???

Liverpool Council is meant to be making its final decision on the Meadowlands planned sell off later this month  This follows the legal process with an advert and people sending objections in.

This should be happening at the Cabinet meeting next Friday (27th).  Papers for meetings are meant to be published a clear five working days in advance but pretty typically this item hasn't appeared yet on the Cabinet agenda (it's not uncommon for this council to dump things out with just a day to go)

However when it does appear it should be at this link.

Murder Mystery night

Big thanks to everyone who came to the first Friends of Garston Library literary evening last night.

We heard some really interesting stuff from author Martin Edwards about crime writing and where he gets his ideas from.

Our next event is on 17th October when we'll hear from Mike Axworthy about local history writing AND the winners of our summer writing competition will take part in a presentation by a guest of honour.

Our literary events are free and start at 6pm at the Library with free refreshments.  We end by 8pm.  Do come along if you can .  We are also keen to hear ideas for themes for events next year.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Garston Reads - events at the Library

The Friends of Garston Library invite you to one or all of a series of evenings for lovers of literature.

Each evening involves a talk by an author or authors and a chance to ask questions.

And one of them involves a chance to read your own work.

On 19th September the focus is on crime and detective fiction, with guest speaker Martin Edwards.

On 17th October the topic changes to local history, with guest speaker Mike Axworthy

And 21st November is poetry evening, with guests from the Dead Good Poets Society.

Each event is free (including refreshments) and runs from 6pm to 8 (with the talks scheduled to start at 6 30). Each takes place at the Library on Bowden Road, Garston.

The poetry event includes a chance for you to read your own poems.  If you want your poem to be considered, please let the Friends of Garston Library have it by 21 October.  You can e mail it to

or bring it along to one of the earlier events.  (If you are e mailing please put POETRY in the subject line).

The Friends look hope to see you there!

Greenhill Road planning

A new application's come in for work at the West Farm Hotel on Greenhill Road.  There's been a bit of a delay on this one because of some detail the Council didn't have or hadn't received.

Anyway it's all ready for comments now.

You can look at the application at this link. Applications On-Line&TYPE=PL/PlanningPK.xml&PARAM0=865113&XSLT=/PlanningExplorer17/SiteFiles/Skins/Liverpool_WIP/xslt/PL/PLDetails.xslt&FT=Planning Application Details&PUBLIC=Y&XMLSIDE=/PlanningExplorer17/SiteFiles/Skins/Liverpool_WIP/Menus/PL.xml&DAURI=PLANNING

The deadline for on line comments is 26 September.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Grants on offer for local groups

A couple of deadlines are coming up for local groups or organisations who want to apply for grants for projects.

The Cressington Community First fund, which gives grants for activities in Cressington or benefiting people from Cressington has a deadline of 20 September.  Cressington ward includes quite a bit of L19 and a smaller bit of L18.  There's a website which has application forms and guidance which you can find at
The website also has some articles on projects given money in the past, which might help you see if your idea is likely to get funded.
(Ignore the information on the website about the May deadline.  This will be updated but it doesn't affect the fact you can apply by 20 September and use the form from the site)

There's also a fund run by Liverpool Mutual Homes which gives money for projects in areas with LMH tenants.    The deadline for this one is 13 September.  You can find the form at (its the one called CIF).  This then goes back to LMH electronically or it can be dropped into their reception.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Greenhill/Melbreck residents association

We'll be having our AGM on 1st October.  I'll post more details soon but meanwhile if you live in the Greenhill Road and Melbreck Road area and are interested in getting involved, do please save the date.

UPDATE: The venue will be the Heath Hall Social Club on Heath Road.  The time: 7pm.

Get involved in community radio - South Liverpool

Next month a temporary community radio station will be broadcasting from and to South Liverpool.

Based at ESLA in Garston, the project is designed to give local people a chance to take part in broadcasting as well as to provide some interesting local content.

There's free training for anyone wanting to get involved in making some local programmes.

If you're interested, and live in South Liverpool, please contact

The station is due to start on 14 October and broadcast for 12 days but obviously there's lots of training and prep that has to happen first.