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borrowing old books from the library

Books + Ideas, Children — September 2021

The Oxfordshire library system has a lot of older books in storage (the "fiction reserve") - you won't find them on the shelves, but they're in the catalogue and you can reserve them for pickup. One of the nice things about these older books is that they still have stamped dates and card sleeves in their front covers. So we can see that this copy of Moonfleet was bought in 1972 for £1.50, and that it was being borrowed quite regularly between 2008 and 2010.

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Coot Club and Moonfleet
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the front of Moonfleet

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Cowley Rd is a disaster zone for cycling

Oxford, Transport — September 2021

This map shows the collisions on the north-western end of Cowley Rd (the B480) between 2005 and 2019. The purple stars are serious collisions (resulting in overnight hospital stays) and the pink ones are slight ones (that resulted in police reports).

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collisions on Cowley Rd, 2005-2019

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the long way around: missing cycling connectivity

Oxford, Transport — September 2021

Last Monday I needed to cycle with Helen from Cheney school, where she'd had a morning summer school session, to the county library in Bonn Square. The difficulties involved doing this - and planning it - illustrate just how hostile Oxford is for people who want to cycle and aren't able or willing to share with dense traffic flows. (My challenges cycling with an 8 year old are similar to those faced by less confident adults cycling by themselves.)

map: Cheney to the library direct (3.2km)

the direct route (3.2km)

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reading at 8½

Books + Ideas, Children — July 2021

Much of Helen's reading has consisted of older classics: Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1908), Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons (1930), Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes (1936), J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937), James Thurber's The 13 Clocks (1950), Gillian Avery's The Warden's Niece (1957), Madeleine l'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time (1962), Maurice Druon's Memoirs of Zeus (1964), Berlie Doherty's Children of Winter (1985), and Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy (1994). (She didn't read these in chronological order!)

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Uninterpretable Error: Osney Mead cycling infrastructure

Oxford, Transport — June 2021

The cycling infrastructure on Osney Mead, put in only this year (2021), is seriously dysfunctional.

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The bollards here seem almost deliberately placed to minimise usable space and create conflict between cycles, strollers, and even just ordinary pedestrians - why not one central bollard?

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Botley Rd cycle infrastructure

Oxford, Transport — June 2021

I was pretty critical of the plans for the Botley Rd rebuild, but at least for cycling the results from the first works to be completed seem even worse than I had feared.

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The cycle track here is just 1.25m wide and the footpath 1.45m — but room has been found for four lanes of motor traffic and some central hatching

The cycle lanes/tracks are too narrow - in places even narrower than the inadequate 1.5m that was promised. This is aggravated by the use of unforgiving full-height kerbing to the carriageway, which prevents easy overtaking and creates a serious hazard if something forces a swerve. The cycle tracks are often directly adjacent to narrow 3 metre motor traffic lanes carrying 30mph traffic — a pedestrian suddenly stepping into the cycle track, debris, or anything else, and someone cycling might be straight under a car or bus. And the cycle tracks lack consistent priority over side entrances and are not flat, going up and down over driveway entrances (where keeping very occasional vehicle movements smooth has been prioritised). more

modal shift in the school run

Children, Oxford, Transport — May 2021

cycle rack with overflow bikes attached to edges of frame and lying on the grassModal shift in action! Seeing individual children at Larkrise taking up cycling or walking is great, but this photo gives a feel for the broader picture. I did a count and there were twenty bikes more than would fit into the school's cycle parking: this rack was eighteen over capacity and the other was two over! (Normal was fewer cycles than spaces.) And it's still happening: there are still people planning cycle training for their children, trying to buy bikes, and so forth. There are also families who have switched from driving to walking, and increasing numbers of older children being allowed to walk to school by themselves. more

things that aren't alternatives to LTNs

Oxford, Transport — May 2021

Various things have been proposed as alternatives to LTNs. Some of the proposals are complementary to low traffic neighbourhoods rather than alternatives to them. Others rely on technology that doesn't exist, funding that doesn't exist, or are otherwise fantastic. None will achieve the core active travel and liveability goals of a low traffic neighbourhood. more

the worst junction in Oxford?

Oxford, Transport — May 2021

Consider the junction where the B4495 (Church Cowley Rd) meets the A4158 (Henley Avenue/Rose Hill). Is this the worst junction in Oxford? more

evaluating LTNs

Oxford, Transport — May 2021

A guest piece by Simon Munk, Senior Infrastructure Campaigner, London Cycling Campaign

Should there be baseline measurement and assessment of LTNs? Hell to the yeah. Will there be? Likely, yes. What should we assess? Overall motor traffic volumes, traffic volumes on peripheral main roads, traffic volumes in adjacent areas, ideally pollution also (but traffic volumes will likely be an incredibly close correlation if not), walking & cycling rates, resident feedback and more. But, wait.... when should we measure? This is really important. IMO measurement of the post-scheme steady state should not happen until at least six months after all schemes are in fully. more

calming traffic and lowering speeds is not enough

Oxford, Transport — April 2021

Lower speed limits and speed limit enforcement keep cropping up as an alternative to low traffic neighbourhoods (or to city-wide action to take back space from motor trafic). Traffic calming and lower traffic speeds are an important complement to reducing motor traffic volumes, but not an alternative to doing that. more

Boundary Brook parking - a hazard

Oxford, Transport — April 2021

I think the biggest gain from controlled parking zones is the prevention of dangerous parking. This can be illustrated by the case of Boundary Brook, in the proposed Donnington CPZ Zone of East Oxford. Vehicles parked here block routes, prevent visibility, and pose a serious risk to the children at Larkrise primary school, as well as to residents and to people who use the area as a walking or cycling route.There are four year olds who cycle to school here with their parents; there are nine year olds who walk here unaccompanied. more

can we live without that junction?

Books + Ideas, Oxford — March 2021

It must have been in 2013 or 2014, when I was still pushing Helen around in a stroller. Coming back from a friend's place on Campbell Rd, I got her safely across Cornwallis Rd at its junction with Rymers Lane, breathed a sigh of relief, and had the idea that a lot of problems would be solved if that junction were simply destroyed — or, to be more accurate, made impassable to motor traffic. At the time this just seemed like a fantasy.

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reading at eight

Books + Ideas, Children — February 2021

I had thought all my early childhood books were gone — sadly, at some point when I was a teenager I culled them as too childish, leaving only the "young adult" ones — but my sister saved our copy of Gerald Durrell's The Talking Parcel and has given it to Helen, who loves it. Reading that brought back memories, and I think this must have been one of the books I read many times as a child. more

Grothendieck primes

Books + Ideas, Children — February 2021

The details are unclear and the story may be legendary, but the great mathematician Alexander Grothendieck apparently once picked 57 as an example of a prime number. So a Grothendieck prime is a number that looks like it's prime but isn't. more

remote learning

Books + Ideas, Children, Life — January 2021

We've had five days of remote learning so far, and everything seems to be running pretty smoothly. Helen's teachers and school have put in an impressive performance, especially given how little notice there was of whether schools would fully open. (The government delayed announcing a lockdown till the night before we were scheduled to reopen — and after many other schools had opened for a day.) more

road speed limits

Books + Ideas, Transport — January 2021

The default speed limit in built-up areas should be lowered to 20mph. There's plenty of evidence that this does change actual speeds, even without increased enforcement, and does reduce injuries and fatalities.

This limit can be raised to 30mph on stretches of road where that is appropriate, after a safety audit. This should require good visibility, sufficiently frequent crossing places for pedestrians, adequate (LTN 1/20 compliant) cycling infrastructure, and the absence of schools, parks, care homes or other destinations with large numbers of vulnerable users. more

schools: it's not an "open" or "shut" decision

Children — January 2021

Neither "open" nor "shut" are actually possible options for schools now. more

iphone software bloat

Technology — December 2020

Software bloat strikes again. I managed to get my old iphone SE upgraded to iOS 14 (from 12). That means it's getting security updates — always good! — and has stopped crashing semi-regularly. But the operating system in total (along with "other") is now using over 10GB of storage, leaving too little for me to run the apps I actually want to run (since I have a model with only 16GB). more

Electric Vehicles

Technology, Transport — December 2020

Decarbonisation requires fewer cars and can't be achieved just by electrifying current numbers of vehicles. So we need to electrify public transport, freight, services, car club vehicles and taxis, and provide for individual car ownership where alternatives are impossible, but otherwise we need to drastically reduce the number of private motor vehicles.

A 2019 Parliamentary report "Technologies for meeting the UK's emissions reduction targets"

"In the long-term, widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation. The Government should not aim to achieve emissions reductions simply by replacing existing vehicles with lower-emissions versions."

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