Back to the future with Mark Bradshaw and friends

Bradshaw slunk in to the main entrance. The clean, light lines of the glass building’s vast atrium and its stylish matt black Conran-copy furniture with its brisk and business-like red trim still managed to inspire a slight awe in him, even in this hungover and dishevelled state.

He was still quietly humming that Billy Bragg tune that had been insistently spinning around (like a record baby) in his head – a vague but insistent memory of the brilliant Red Wedge gig just the night before – as he headed for the reception. What a night he mused as he crossed the expanse. Except for Peter’s printing cock-up that is. What were they going to do with 1,000 ‘Rock again Racism’ t-shirts? Typical Hammond cock-up. He’d been told not use that printer in Old Market.

Bradshaw arrived at reception. Sharon, resplendent as ever in shoulder pads and flick haircut, was obviously fully engrossed in urgent Avon County Council business as she kept her head firmly down and fully focussed on something – failing to acknowledge him in the slightest. Bradshaw eventually coughed.

Sharon looked up. God what a mess he is she thought. His cheap highlights were growing out while the Sun-in he was obviously using had turned much of his hair an unsightly orange. He also needed to give that big hair a good wash she mused.

“Don’t you think you should take your sunglasses off when you’re inside?” she snapped.

“Er,” Bradshaw muttered before elegantly pulling the Aviators from his face and delivering his best Tom Cruise toothy grin. Oh Jesus, thought Sharon, he’s got the nervous twitch back too …

“I’m expecting a.” Brashaw hesitated before saying the magic words. “A fax,” he heavily pronounced. “Can you bring it up for me when it arrives?”

“No,” replied Sharon.

“Why the hell not?”

“No one knows how to work the fax machine yet. There’s a two day course on it all next month apparently.”

“Oh,” said Bradshaw and headed for the lift sharpish.

“Pratt,” Sharon muttered under her breath as she returned to trying to puzzle out what this mornings weirdly 3-D style photo on the cover of the full colour Today newspaper actually was.

Bradshaw hurried down the corridor to his office. Knight was obviously already there, he could already hear his ghetto blaster.

Bradshaw stepped into his office. “Morning Colin,” he said.

Knight was at his Amstrad, staring, as if hypnotized, by the warm green glow from the screen. He didn’t look up. “Morning,” he replied.

“What’s this racket you’re listening to?” Asked Bradshaw.

“Oh it’s a cassette my sister did for me. It’s called home music? House music? Something like that.”

“Utter rubbish. It’ll never catch on. Anyway I’ve got the Morrissey solo album at last. On cassette too. It’s brilliant.”

Bradshaw headed for his desk. He stood before it for a moment, admiring the elegant lines of the brand new Amstrad PCW 8512 before him. He inwardly sighed as he sunk into his seat feeling just a little like Michael Douglas (without the braces obviously). He was, after all, about to become a master of his own traffic universe at least.

It’s incredible. Just incredible,” Knight, still staring at his screen, announced. “I thought Sim City on the Spectrum was something. But this is unbelievable technology. You know Mark with this stuff we’re going to create a city for the 21st century. There’s no doubt about it.”

“I know Colin,” replied Bradshaw. “Here, right at our fingertips is the powerful state of the art technology we’ve always needed to get the traffic moving in this city … By the way? How do I switch this thing on?”

“There’s a button on the keyboard …”

“Oh yes of course,” said Bradshaw as he reached for the MS-Dos manual.

If you’ve just spent a couple of hours today stuck in traffic in Bristol as usual then Steve Loughran, a renowned-computer scientist who works with CERN, the High Energy Physics establishment and Railway Path campaigner, may have discovered why.

He says that Bristol City Council’s traffic team and their consultants are using something called “SDG’s SATURN simulations” to computer simulate traffic flows in Bristol and work out what they think is going on and then to develop solutions.

Steve also says, “this is basically a piece of late-eighties code running on a single desktop PC – a box that just lacks the raw CPU power to do any decent modelling.

“This software doesn’t even make an attempt to model walking or cycling, or even BRT routes, making it utterly useless for modelling the effects of a BRT bus running over a walking/cycle path. Yet everyone persists in using it, for reasons I don’t fully understand.”

Brilliant. Well done Bristol City Council. Why not use completely useless out-of-date technology and base important decisions on it?

What next? Will Bradshaw be consulting astrological charts to decide whether to build a PFI rubbish incinerator in Avonmouth?

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10 Responses to Back to the future with Mark Bradshaw and friends

  1. BristleKRS says:

    Post of the month! 😀

    Well, if we’re sticking the boot in on the transport & technology front, how about those killer puffin crossings? Whose genius idea was it to plonk them all over the shop? Was there ever any decent research into the safety implications, or did the junkets laid on by the manufacturers for council officers and other interested parties smooth out all potential problems?

  2. Woodsy says:

    You might be interested to know that Saturn is supplied by Atkins. Strange how the same old names keep cropping up innit? 😉

  3. Bristolkid says:

    “Sharon, resplendent as ever in shoulder pads and flick haircut’ – the council’s technology would appear to be as old and demeaning as your sexist stereotypes Blagger

  4. thebristolblogger says:

    Silly me. It’s a description of a woman wearing women’s clothes with a woman’s haircut. Whatever next?
    Next time, in order to ensure I fully meet cohesive, non-judgmental, diversity in equalities anti-racist criteria I shall ensure I have a female character in dungarees.

  5. JulieAnn says:

    Wait a minute Blogger – you didn’t say she wasn’t wearing dungarees – she may have had them on under whatever had shoulder pads. Come to think of it, you didn’t mention clothes at all. It’s possible that Bradshaw failed to notice that she was wearing NOTHING BUT shoulderpads.

    Well, personally I think they were part of her Harris Tweed jacket.

    …..and as for you Bristolkid, are you so sure that the Blogger isn’t a woman herself?

  6. SATURN is resold by atkins, but the original author now works for SDG; the consultants on the path. It may be loyalty to the developer that leaves them stuck in the eighties.

  7. Bristol Dirt Bag says:

    Sadly I suspect that your portrayal of the mighty Bradshaw is all too accurate.

    I was tickled by the “Rock again Racism” t-shirts touch – knowing our council though, they’d probably have wondered why they were selling like hotcakes to punters sporting funny tattoos of crooked crosses before anyone noticed the typo.

    I’d bet good money that Bradshaw is also the proud owner a squarial and a betamax – all payed for by the Bristol taxpayer of course.

  8. Pedestria says:

    “This software doesn’t even make an attempt to model walking or cycling, or even BRT routes, making it utterly useless for modelling the effects of a BRT bus running over a walking/cycle path …”

    “… Why not use completely useless out-of-date technology and base important decisions on it?”

    Why not indeed, when it beautifully complements Labour’s off-the-wall cost/benefit analyses that favour car-travel and additional fuel consumption (it’s the taxes, geddit?).

    Jason Torrance, of the Campaign for Better Transport writes that the Government’s review of the way it assesses whether transport schemes will go ahead looks deeply flawed. The CBT has analysed government proposals.

    “Our first shocking finding: If projections show that a scheme will result in more fuel being used, this is classed as a benefit. Yes, you read that correctly: the transport appraisal process favours schemes that lead to increased fuel use. Why? Because more fuel sales mean more fuel duty for the Government. This crazy logic means schemes that increase traffic, air pollution and CO2 get a big thumbs up.

    Our second shocking finding: Cyclists and bus users are given a lower value than drivers, because it’s assumed that we make less contribution to the economy. I mentioned earlier that if a scheme saves drivers’ time, this is calculated as a benefit. Fair enough. But while one minute of a driver’s time is valued at 44p, a minute of a bus-user’s time is valued at 34p. And a cyclist’s minute is apparently worth just 28p. This chilling assessment of our worth gives the Government little incentive to spend money on us lowly bus-users and cyclists …”
    The Government assesses proposed transport schemes through a framework called NATA (New Approach to Appraisal). It is currently reviewing this process. A public CONsultation around the review closes 31 March.

  9. old misery guts says:

    Very amusing post BB. I don’t want to piss on anyones chips or anything, and christ knows this city is usually a bleeding nightmare to get around, but has anyone else noticed a disturbing lack of rush hour traffic over the past day or two? I thought there had been some sort of zombie invasion on the way in this morning – no jams or hold ups, even at the glorious temple meads. Is it a bank holiday that I forgot?

  10. redzone says:

    The head of transport/traffic/roads etc in the BCC is waiting for an appointment at Specsavers for new glasses, until there is one free he is currently using a pin and map to decide Bus lanes, road changes and vague directions that ends up with you going in circles to reach your destination. Also he seems to have an agreement with aliens to spirit away roadworkers from the ‘essential’ mass of work on the roads leading into and out of and around this city of ours, it usually a case of spot the worker on any of these jobs.

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