Islington council transport strategy

Here are a few quick thoughts I had about Islington Council’s transport strategy.

The tone of Islington Council’s Transport Strategy is the right one. It puts walking and cycling (and similar activities) at the forefront of their goals. There are some concrete actions, but not many given the time frame.  

Islington

A few key facts that are important to know:

  • In 2016, 30% of households in Islington owned a car, well down from 40% in 2011. This low rate of ownership is driven by good access to public transport, but also by the fact that Islington ranks very poorly on a number of welfare indicators and a large number of people can’t afford a car (35% of children under the age of 16 live in poverty which is the third highest nationally. 36% of Islington’s population aged over 60 are living in income-deprived households).
  • Almost all of the traffic deaths in the borough are pedestrians, cyclists and scooters/motorcyclists.

Empower locals, and allow them to ‘show, not tell’

The reality is that Islington doesn’t have much budget for a lot of transport improvements. If every change requires external research or extensive public consultation it is going to be hard to justify doing much. Small things that bring joy to locals won’t ever be done. Time and time again we see that, initially, people are against changes that will take away road capacity for cars. But after the change has been implemented people love the changes, because it improves their lives and their community in ways that are hard to describe. The lesson is that, where possible, you have to implement ideas for low-cost on a trial basis.

As an example of ‘show, not tell’ is in Times Square, NYC. It to be dominated by cars until a transport official went out with traffic cones, lawn chairs and created temporary oasis for pedestrians. “Instead of waiting through years of planning studies and computer models to get something done, we’ve done it with paint and temporary materials. And the proof is in the real world performance of the street.”

Image result for times square before and after

But the changes don’t have to be so large. Check out some of the examples in this report by 880 cities.

Dockless transport

The council has worked with dockless bike share companies and it appears that the rollout of the electric bikes in the borough has been much more successful than the non-electric bikes (probably due to the fact that electric bikes have to be frequently removed for charging so fewer bikes are left to languish in bad locations). Given the success so far, electric bikes should continue to be promoted and the council should:

  • Promote the benefits of dockless bike share to surrounding councils (including Hackney and London city). Right now Islington residents cannot start a journey in Islington and finish their trip in adjacent boroughs.. 
  • Work with providers to promote responsible parking (particularly so as not to impede visually impaired, wheelchair bound, or pram-pushing residents). This can be done by asking companies to specify preferred parking spots for dockless transport + by the council identifying and sharing such locations in an easy, scalable manner for private providers to communicate with their customers.
  • Lobby for the introduction of dockless electric scooters. Currently these scooters are illegal to ride in the UK but they are a space efficient, cheaper, and often preferred alternative to electric bikes.

The strategy around cycle hire contains a few points which require clarification. The points are:

  • “Establish cycle hubs at estates to provide free-to-hire cycle facilities” – What would this look like?
  • “Work with private cycle hire providers and/or the Mayor of London to establish an electric cycle hire system in Islington, to help make cycling accessible to a wider audience.” — If this suggests that local government or TfL should build their own bike scheme I daresay this will be a mistake if the intention is to try and replicate the current privately provided products. I know that in March 2019 DfT announced the launch of a £700,000 pilot to give 11 hotspots in cities, rural and tourist areas the opportunity to trial electric cycle sharing schemes. Has the council learned lessons from this pilot?

Car Parking

The council has an aim to reduce the number of parking permits. There aren’t very clear targets around the aim. The council should also have an aim to reduce the number of on-street parking spaces. They should set explicit targets around these goals.

Right now the council subsidises parking to a great degree.  A parking ticket will cost a car owner about £150 per year https://www.islington.gov.uk/parking/parking-permits/parking-permit-costs-table

The land a parking space occupies is very valuable. If that area was incorporated into an apartment, rent would be more than £1500/year. Car users do pay other on-road costs to government, but in general if we want effective use of land we shouldn’t subsidise parking to such an extent. Islington Council should raise the price of non-concessionary parking permits.

As a resident of Highbury Stadium Square (HSS), I can say that more than 50% of the car parks are unused at any given point in time. One approach to reduce on road parking might be to propose opening up some car parking spaces in private developments with under-utilised car spaces for non-resident usage. Right now, according to HSS policy it “it is a breach of planning and the lease to let a space to any one who does not live in Highbury Stadium”. Changing this wouldn’t require any council effort other than convincing HSS management of the idea. If it is commercially viable it could be a win-win-win as owners of the car parks would get increased revenue, car owners get guaranteed parking, and locals could get reduced demand for on-street parking. Private providers could be appointed by developments to manage the identification/verification of non-resident parkers.

There is no mention of RingGo parking in the document. Right now this private provider has a monopoly on issuing parking tickets. It would be good to understand how RingGo fits into the council’s strategy. The long-term aim should be for multiple providers to compete for the right to provide parking. This may involve Islington Council being the owner of the booking data that they make accessible to booking apps (similar to how travel agents + online websites can book flights for an airline). 

Safer and healthy streets

The strategy aims to make streets more appealing by making them safer + more aesthetically appealing.

School Streets seems to be a good policy but is rolling out slowly. What would it take for it to be sped up? How could we make some of the part-time closures become full-time closures, or at least altering the traffic flow to be one way?

We have a lot of under utilised schoolyards in the borough that should be made available to residents on weekends and after school finishes until dusk, just as New York has done.

Example from 880cities.org

One of the council’s aims is to “Ensure that streets are great places to walk, rest and play by providing seating, greenery, public art and events”.  We need to have a permissive way to allow artists to contribute to our streets. A good example is from the city of St Paul in Minnesota, USA. They printed short, resident-submitted poems into the concrete and got great feedback from their residents. The council could pre-approve some locations for temporary installations and these could be handed over to a local university or community group to install works that fit within a basic set of guidelines. 

Car club parking

The council talks about car clubs in a positive light which is good. It’s worth distinguishing between cars that are used solely for car club use vs. cars that are privately owned but can be rented to locals (let’s call it full car clubs vs. partial car clubs).

Typically, renting ‘partial car club’ vehicles is slightly cheaper than renting a ‘solely car club’ vehicle. Islington council could perhaps do more to encourage use of partial club car types of vehicles. Some ideas that would have low-cost implementation and running costs might be: 

  • If a vehicle has been rented out certain number of times in a year (e.g. 10 times) then the car owner can apply a free parking permit. This would take liaising with car club companies to verify this information but free parking permits might entice people to list their car.
  • Residents that are currently ineligible to get on-street parking permits due to council policy around new development requirements are precluded from renting their car out on car clubs as their private carparks can’t be accessed by non-residents of the development. Councils should figure out a way for these residents to be able to participate in car club schemes, perhaps by giving them access to on-street parking.
  • Council can advertise the policies above, or just the existence of the different car clubs in relevant communication with residents

The policies above should translate to a much higher supply of car club cars, making it more appealing for people to rent one.

Minimising on-street delivery time

It is great to see a novel approach to minimising lorry usage being trialled by promoting a hub-and-spoke warehouse facility that is stocked en masse, but with the last-mile delivery done by cargo bike. Islington council should promote the results of this trial open and transparently even if it is a failure, to help other councils learn from the work they are doing. 

Parkland walk – the best run from Highbury

Running in London is often characterised by running on pavement and road crossings. The 2.75km stretch of Parkland Walk between Finsbury Park is a refuge from all of that. It is easily my favourite run from my home in N5, Islington.

Here are some photos I took from my run on 15 Sep at 8am in the morning which was a particularly sunny day by London standards.

The path follows a former rail trail an is maintained by the friends of the parkland walk. Check out their history page to learn about the history of the rail track (including the fact that it nearly became a tube line!) and for the nature and conservation work they are up to, including the wildlife trail open to the public on weekends.

Given how good of a walk it is, it can get pretty crowded on the weekends and dogs off the leash and prams make it necessary to do a bit of dodging in the narrower parts if you are running past 10am. (N.B. this is particularly true in winter when the path can get quite muddy, especially at the start and end of the tracks where it’s narrower). If you run early cross paths with a number of runners and a few walkers and cyclists (I passed about 20 in my 5.5km out and back) but you’ll spend more time without anyone in sight than with.

I enter from the Finsbury Park end of the track, running over a wide set of tracks that form one of the main entry points for regional trains into London Kings Cross.

As you turn right onto the path there is a large building close to the path. I always assumed it was some type of utility building but it turns out it’s an Artist’s Co-op which has occasional open days.


The run is varied, with a lot of remnants of the train track, graffiti and flora.

This adventure playground and the associated building is owned by an employee-owned organisation that provides free adventure playground play for local kids. There was also a small half-pipe for skateboarding next to the path near here here but it got removed recently.

If you run all the way to the end and up a short steep hill, onto the street and turn right you’ll be right at Highgate Station. You can continue to the rest of the Parkland Walk but I usually turn around here as an 8km run is plenty long enough.

It’s a very popular run, as can be seen on Strava heatmaps. If you want to continue running the most popular options at the north are around the perimeter of Highgate Wood, then across to Alexandra Palace, or if you want to run some bigger kms you could run west over to Hampsted Heath. If you want to run further at the southern end of the track, Finsbury Park laps, or heading over to Clissold Park are good options.

3 Peaks 2014 – as told by charts

(To see the charts clearly, please click to expand)

3 Peaks 2014 was held over the weekend, in much more pleasant weather than last year’s scorching heat.

Here are some charts that show a bit about this year’s ride, and also how it compared to last year’s.

This year’s 235km ride attracted 1922 entrants, up from 1543 last year. This chart shows that, despite the larger field this year, there were a lot fewer DNFs in 2014. The weather no doubt played a role in this. A total of 1639 people finished.

finishers1
In percentage terms you can see that the completion rate was about 10% higher this year.
finishers2
Broken down by gender you can see that women who entered had a slightly higher completion rate than men. Men were more likely to DNS and women were more likely to DNF.
finishers3

On to finishing times: Here’s a chart showing finish times by 30 minute intervals. Six absolute weapons managed to crack the 8 hour mark and 75 cracked the 9 hour mark.

times1

And the accompanying density plot”
times2

Times by Gender (stacked histogram) – You can see here that a lot more men participated than women.

times3

times4

The (ecdf) chart below shows the cumulative distribution of times by gender.

times5

And on to the coveted average speed section. A total of four people broke the holy grail of 30km/h (including stops!). I was lucky enough to suck one of these gents’ wheels in the Sydney Rapha Gentlemen’s Race last year – I cannot imagine how painful attempting that would have been on Sunday.

times5

The ride results contain data on how long it took to do the three monster climbs. I subtracted the time spent climbing the three major climbs from the total time and called this the time ‘descending’ (optimistic, I know). While there is a positive relationship between time spent climbing and ‘descending’, the dispersion of the points shows the enormous amount of variation.

prop1

If you divide the time spent climbing by the time ‘descending’ you can see this variation just presented in a different way.

prop21

The following charts investigates how a rider’s time up Tawonga Gap relates to their overall performance. Nobody who took more than 30 minutes to get up Tawonga Gap broke 9 hours and nobody who took more than 35 minutes broke 10 hours. Events like this are all about finding the right bunch to be a part of, so you have to make sure you don’t miss the bus on the first climb.

predict1

predict2

If we focus on just the fastest people up Tawonga Gap (those who do it sub 28 mins) you can see that the top finishers at the end of the day weren’t the fastest up TG. They all rode together while a few others went up the road (and potentially blew up). EDIT: Andy’s comment tells us nobody went up the road from the front bunch on TG so the  few posting faster times must have been slower on the Falls descent and were trying to catch the lead group or they started in a later wave.

predict31

Now, let’s have a look how people who participated last year and came back to face the challenge again this year.

The following two charts show how last year’s performance is related to this year’s. The first chart shows proportional ranking and the second shows a rider’s placing (there were a lot more entrants this year, so a given place is better (proportionally) in 2014).

dual1

Three Peaks 2014

This chart compares performance up Tawonga Gap in 2013 vs 2014. On average people improved over the year but the effect size is small.

dual3

70 people who did not finish in 2013 came back to tackle the event again in 2014. 9 of these 70 didn’t show up on Sunday but the good news story is that 52 of the 70 finished. The chart below groups people into their race  ‘status’ (finished, DNF, DNS) from last year to see what happened to them this year. Those that finished last year were very likely to finish again this year. Those that DNS-ed last year were more likely to DNS in 2014.

dual4

Three peaks is a massive event, drawing people from all over Australia.

The following chart shows which state participants come from. Being held where it is, the biggest representation obviously comes from Victorians but A LOT of people come from NSW for this event, most from Sydney as we’ll see in a second. I know that 20+ come down from my old club  alone.

travel1

Using suburb names I could determine how far people travelled (as the crow flies) to get to 3 peaks. In short, people travelled a long way to put themselves through hell. The four distinct lumps in the following density plots show people travelling from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and WA respectively.

travel1

Animated Australian Population Projections

Following from the .gif I posted yesterday, I had a request to animate Australia’s projected population.

In 2008, The Australian Bureau of Statistics modeled 72 permutations of fertility, migration and life expectancy in order to project Australia’s population out to 2101. Of the resulting 72 series, the ABS provide us with three of them as annual time series.  ‘Series A’ uses high growth (HG) assumptions, ‘Series B’ follows current trends and ‘Series C’ uses low growth (LG) assumptions. The specific assumptions of each series can be seen in the table below.

The ABS also modeled the population with zero net overseas migration but that was only modeled (thankfully) so it would be apparent what the impact of NOM on the population is.

The assumptions vary significantly under the different scenarios, so much so that the forecast difference in population between the likely scenario and the HG one is more than 15 million by 2101. The difference between HG and LG is enormous with the HG population nearly double that of the LG one in 2101.  More than anything, this shows the uncertainty, sensitivity and danger generated by compounding projections over a long time frame.

2

Below are two versions of the .gif, one with the three growth scenarios plotted and one with just the likely scenario (I like this one more). The ABS estimated the population in yearly age intervals all the way up to 99 years of age then they bundled everyone older into ‘100 or older’. This causes a problem in the charts as is apparent once the projected number of 100+ year old residents start piling up. I stopped the animations at 2080 as I think that is already looking plenty far ahead and that looking too far ahead might detract from the story at hand.

Note that forecasts start from 2011 as I couldn’t find more recent stats in my brief search.

animation

animation1

Apart from the obvious ageing of the population you can also see the increase in the population that occurs either side of the 25 year old mark which is occurring due to NOM.  Australia is essentially getting working age adults for free after we’ve let their home countries bear the cost of raising and educating them – sounds like a good deal to me.

What does it all mean?

As the chart below (implicitly) shows, the percentage of Australians who are of ‘working age’  will fall rapdily into the future. This will put stress on our health system and the public purse. There will be  implications for policy around health, superannuation and the retirement age, as all of these areas will have to accommodate the large shift in the age distribution. As Australia’s population grows we will need to accommodate our new citizens so need the foresight to implement  effective infrastructure spending and urban planning .

4

All data sourced from here – http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/3222.02006%20to%202101?OpenDocument

Fun Facts(you deserve it if you got this far):

Under Scenario A, Melbourne overtakes Sydney as Australia’s biggest city in 2039.

Under the likely growth scenario, Tasmania’s population will start declining from 2031

Attacking educational disadvantage through school funding

Nicholas Biddle asked me to contribute to a piece written for The Conversation about the funding allocated to tackling educational disadvantage under the National Plan for School Improvement. The piece on The Conversation is yet to be published and will be significantly shorter than this.

“…all students must have access to an acceptable international standard of education, regardless of where they live or the school they attend. …[equity means] differences in educational outcomes are not the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possessions” (pg 105, review of funding for schooling)

Education can be cause or cure for disadvantage within and across societies. The extent to which education reduces rather than exacerbates inequality, however, is largely determined by the quality of education. In Australia, all levels of government and the major political parties recognise the role of the public sector in funding the delivery of education. With regards to school funding, there is debate around three main questions:

  1. What should be the total level of government funding available to school education?
  2. To what extent should governments subsidise the choices made by families to send their children to non-government schools?
  3. How should the characteristics of students and schools impact on the amount of funding received?

The National Plan for School Improvement

The responses to each of these questions are different in the eight Australian States and Territories. While the Federal Government has a minimal direct role in school education, they do provide significant funds to the States and Territories. The National Plan for School Improvement (NPSI) and the Australian Education Bill 2012 represent the Federal Labor Government’s response to the three questions posed above and is an attempts to make funding more standardised across Australia.

Continue reading “Attacking educational disadvantage through school funding”