Monday, 13 April 2009
Wavelengths pool: access analysis
As a regular swimmer at the Wavelengths training pool, I am often frustrated by the restrictions placed on access to the pool. These range from the late weekday opening hours to the fact that the pool is often unavailable because it is being used by school groups, or that public users have to share it with swimming clubs or lessons.
When the pool first opened it was difficult to get hold of details of these restrictions, but requests to the management team resulted in the timetable shown above being made available on the Parkwood Leisure site as a pdf (or you can click on the picture for a bigger and more legible version).
As a matter of curiosity, I decided to do some analysis of the hours available to swimmers in the borough, and came up with some interesting results.
The first thing to notice from the timetable is how complicated it is and how many different sessions there are, some of which seem indistinguishable from others.
For instance, what is the difference between 'private hire', 'club hire' and 'Saxon Crown'? To the public swimmer they mean the same thing: 'not you'.
Why the need for so many sessions that exclude others? I'm talking about 'ladies only', 'men only', 'adults only', '50+ swim'.
And from a purely personal viewpoint, why so few hours for anyone who lives in the area but does not work in the area?
I have created a pie chart showing the division between public use of the pool and private use of the pool (including school hours). [For each one-hour session that is shared between for example Saxon Crown and 'lane swimming', I have assumed that half the pool is given over to each, and have allocated half an hour to each. This may not be totally accurate; I don't know if this is the case in all shared sessions, but it is the case in my experience.] Restricted hours refer to public sessions such as 'ladies only', 'men only' which may be available to you depending on your sex/age etc.
So what is available to those of us who live in the borough, contribute to council tax, but work elsewhere?
Assuming that you work a standard 9am - 5.30pm day, and hence have to leave before 8am to get to work and don't get home until about 6.30pm (trains willing), what swimming opportunities do you have?
Here we see a division of the sexes; in this case, women come off better than men! 'Ladies only' is a very generous three-hour session on a Tuesday night, while 'men only' is squeezed into one and a half hours on Sunday lunchtime.
To give a fair illustration I've made up these pie charts based on the hours available to this particular user group - 29.5 hours in total.
This shows that as a sector of the community we are very poorly served indeed, being able to use the pool for just HALF the time it is available to us outside of our working and travel hours (and assuming that we are happy to swim during the 'casual swim' on Saturday morning, which I am guessing means 'no lanes').
A few things for consideration - please feel free to offer any response or add your own opinions in the comments box:
- we were promised that the council was looking into earlier opening hours to address just this problem and to try to attract new members. There seems to have been no progress on this as yet, for reasons that have not been explained.
- 'training pool' is a bit of a misnomer; 'fitness pool' would be better. We are not all Olympic hopefuls; some of us just use swimming as our main form of exercise and need the opportunity to swim up and down the pool at our own speed for half an hour or so without interruption, two or three times a week. We'd like to be able to slot this around our work and home lives with as much flexibility as possible.
- why so many restricted sessions? And why the need for 'casual swimming' sessions? Isn't that what the Leisure Pool is for?
- club hire undoubtedly brings in valuable revenue, but it severely restricts the hours available to potential (paying) members too. I do not bother to take out membership since the hours available for me to use the training pool are so few.