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.


Clare said...

Interesting stuff. I have similar issues with Downham pool. However, I don't think anything will change despite the pool managers having the issues brought to their attention. And the council aren't interested because they contract out the service to Leisure Connection (or whoever) and let them get on with it. At Downham it's a pain in the neck to even get hold of a timetable. And don't get me started on their policies on swimming lessons...

Anonymous said...

I, rather stupidly, paid a lump sum for the full years membership. However (again rather stupidly), because the pool isn't open at 7am (like I thought it would be) and because I often finish work at 6.30-7pm, I don't use it as often as I would like. The pool is very busy in the evening and slow swimmers swim in the fast lanes. The quietest times are obviously after 7.30pm and I can only go 2 times a week. If the pool was open in the mornings from 7am I would be able to get my moneys worth.

Deptford Dame said...

I'm sorry to hear about your experience, Anon, and I hope that you were not misled by the membership team about the proposed opening hours (if so, you have probably got a case to demand your money back). I agree that there is frequently a problem with swimmers using the wrong lanes, and there is no attempt by the poolside staff to enforce this. It's particularly bad when half the pool is being used by a club, and only three very narrow lanes are available for the public; there is barely room for two people to pass going in opposite directions, which does not help.

Jean said...

I really enjoy going swimming in wavelengths new pool. I think that it was a great idea to build a new pool for us to swim up and down. The leisure pool was always nice to swim in but i definately prefer swimming in the lane time at Wavelengths leisure centre. I would prefer that teenagers had to pay so that they learn the value of money. I wish that the car park was free for those that use the leisure centre.

Paul said...

I've (temporarily) returned as a regular swimmer and like you find the restricted access irritating. It should be said that the timetable has been amended since your original post but my maths skills are not great so I won't attempt to recalculate your pie charts.
For instance the ladies only session has been split over three days while the men only sessions no longer exists.
The pool opening time is now 7.30 which you may find an improvement. Though in Australia where I've been swimming for the past 15 years the pools (indoor and outdoor) invariably open at 6 am with a closing time of 10 pm (though outdoor pools generally close at 7 or 8).
I have noticed that the lanes have swimmers of varying abilities using them but I have not seen any signs directing swimmers into lanes nominated as being for fast/medium/slow swimmers.
Perhaps the most irritating policy is the alternating clockwise/anti-clockwise dedication of the lanes which increases the likelihood of coming into contact with swimmers in adjoining lanes. Can anyone explain what the logic of this policy is?

Deptford Dame said...

Paul, thanks for your comments. Do you know when the earlier hours start? I was there this morning (Wed) and it was still 8am. Half an hour earlier is not going to make any difference for me, unfortunately, nor I suspect for most people who work in town. It needs to be 6.30 or at a push 7.

Opening hours of pools in the UK vary hugely, although in my experience the average weekday opening time (at least for council-owned fitness pools) is roughly 7am. Wavelengths is well behind on this score.

As for the difference between the lanes - in theory they are divided into slow, medium and fast (written very small in the middle of the signs at the end of the pool. No good for anyone who normally wears glasses). Although most swimmers choose an appropriate lane, there are always one or two who presumably don't notice the signs, and the poolside staff don't do anything to enlighten them. I feel that bigger signs would be useful.

Clockwise/anti-clockwise? My solution is to be the first one in the pool and set your own agenda ;-)

cialis said...

Hello, I do not agree with the previous commentator - not so simple

Ginnie said...

So agree about the hours, tho don't mind sharing with classes if there's some space left for normal swimmers.
Re different directions in the lane swimming, as a right hand breather I am less wiggly if alonside a dividing rope. I imagine for left breathers it's nice to have a choice.
Re women only, I wonder if anyone has analysed this. How many people prefer this for cultural or modesty reasons rather than simply for less splash?
My main grumble is the showers. Despite recurrent apologetic signs saying they are being fixed they persist in being both feeble and arctic.