Lewisham Parking Charges to Increase

The London Borough of Lewisham is proposing to revise it permit parking charges and make other changes to its parking policies. It includes emission-based charges that means owners of diesel vehicles or with larger engines will pay much higher charges.

They are doing this because they claim “air pollution is causing a public health crisis in London…” but that is simply not true. Londoners are living longer than ever. They also claim that introducing such charges will improve air quality when that is not true either – the vast majority of air pollution comes from buses, HGVs and other commercial vehicles, from home heating, offices, industry and other sources – such as blown in from outside the borough.

Charging car owners more will have negligible impact on air pollution in Lewisham but will cause some residents to incur substantial extra costs in paying higher permit charges or the cost of changing their vehicles.

But it will also have no impact on residents who park off-road or on visitors who drive through Lewisham so it’s basically an attack on a small minority of residents in the name of fixing a non-existent health crisis. It’s also probably about raising income from parking but the Council seems unable to disclose the financial impact.

The Council is running a public consultation on the proposals which you can access here: https://lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/parking/permits/parking-policy-consultation . Don’t forget to answer all the personal information questions such as sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and sources of income so that Lewisham Council can keep all your personal information on file for anyone to hack! I’m joking in that regard of course. Don’t answer them.

Roger Lawson

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E-Scooters and E-Bikes – Should They Be Regulated?

Lime E-Bike

Last week saw the report of the first death in London of a rider of an E-Scooter. Emily Hartridge, television presenter and YouTube blogger, died after being hit by a lorry in Battersea. These “vehicles” are actually illegal in the UK whether ridden on the pavement or on the road so are effectively useless other than on private land. The Government is to remind retailers of the devices that they need to tell purchasers of that fact as they are becoming a growing menace in central London.

However, there are calls for them to be regulated even though they have caused many difficulties in cities such as Paris not just on safety grounds but because many simply get abandoned on the streets, often in inconvenient or obstructive locations.

Another vehicle growing in popularity are e-bikes with more than one company providing “dockless” rental bikes (as opposed to the “docked Boris-bikes run by TfL). One operator is Lime who have recently opened a scheme in the London Borough of Bromley and they are also operating in Brent and Ealing. They are the bright green bikes you now see left on the streets of those boroughs, waiting for people to rent them. Incidentally Lime also rent e-Scooters in Paris so if they became legal to use on London’s roads then they may be expected to start up similar operations here.

What are the road safety concerns about e-scooters and e-bikes. For e-scooters they are potentially a risk to the users as they offer no protection to the rider from hitting vehicles as few users bother with crash helmets. In addition and because of the speed they travel, they are a risk to pedestrians. The first they know about it is the impact because they are silent and can hit you from behind without warning.

Indeed many pedestrians have the same concerns about bicycles being ridden on pavements in London and electric cycles are particularly dangerous as they can go at higher speeds.

Comment: Certainly regulations need to be established and enforced and consideration needs to be given to whether riders of such vehicles (including cycles) should need to be licensed and required to have insurance. In the meantime, if you see people riding either e-scooters or bikes on the pavement you should tell them to get off it as I do regularly. And in the case of e-scooter riders you should tell them they are illegal altogether.

Roger Lawson

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Highway Robbery and Leaving London

Highway Robbery CoverGareth Bacon, Conservative Leader on the Greater London Assembly, has published a most interesting document entitled “Highway Robbery – The Case Against Road Pricing in London”.

He makes the case very well and argues that Londoners should have a wide choice about the modes of transport that they use and that car journeys are quite essential for many trips in outer London. He highlights that Mayor Sadiq Khan may be looking at road pricing simply as another way to fix his TfL budget problems.

But it would undoubtedly lead to much higher costs on vehicle owners – perhaps 70% more than they pay in taxes at present very little of which is spent on the road network. Meanwhile public transport users in London are subsidised by over £1 billion per annum. Mr Bacon suggests the Mayor should rule out road pricing in London while committing to spend more on London’s roads. In particular he supports the Mayor’s claim that some of the VED tax paid by London’s drivers should be given to the Mayor but only on condition that it is hypothecated to spend on road maintenance.

The ABD has opposed Sadiq Khan’s stated wish to grab some part of the VED tax take as it might give him control of it and lead to higher tax rates for no benefit. But if it was strictly controlled by the Government on the suggested basis it may be more arguable. But will central Government and the public accept that less money is thereby available to spend on the national highway network?

Surely it would be better to cut out the excessive bus subsidies and the over-generous concessionary fares (payable to everyone even when they can afford the cost) which would easily pay for improved maintenance of London’s roads?

You can read the “Highway Robbery” report here: https://www.glaconservatives.co.uk/uploads/1/1/7/8/117899427/highway_robbery.pdf

Leaving London

Record numbers of people are leaving London according to a report by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). In 2018 some 340,000 residents left London while 237,000 moved in meaning a net loss of 103,000. The national press attributed this to high house prices and a fear of crime. No doubt they contributed but perhaps the congestion on the roads and on public transport is also making London a less pleasant place to live while car owning and public transport costs are rapidly rising.

Sadiq Khan seems to be making matters worse rather than fixing them. The report mentioned above shows some of the negative aspects of what he has done and what he is planning to do. That is surely contributing to Londoner’s giving up on the capital for a better life elsewhere.

Roger Lawson

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Huge Increase in Speed Enforcement

Speed Camera 4The magazine Local Transport Today have run a story headlined “Met Police prepares for huge increase in speed enforcement”. They report that London police are planning a huge programme of speed limit enforcement with the aim of catching a million offenders a year. That’s up from 160,000 per annum at present.

That will be achieved by a large increase in speed camera activities including more mobile speed enforcement equipment. This is likely to mean aggressive enforcement of the 20 mph speed limits being brought in on many London roads.

The above information was disclosed at a meeting of London Councils, the representative body for London boroughs. That organisation is also looking at “decriminalisation” of speeding offences, which would effectively make it possible for local boroughs to enforce speed limits in the same way they do for parking offences at present.

What’s the real motivation behind these moves? It’s almost certainly about filling the coffers of the police by the offer of speed awareness courses, and also enabling local councils to fill their budget holes by also taking a cut of fees paid. Both organisations are under financial pressure and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is unwilling to help with the police budgets but would rather spend money on other things.

There is no evidence that lowering speed limits or more aggressive enforcement has any significant impact on road safety statistics. But politicians like gestures and many are only too pleased to kowtow to the anti-car fanatics. When it can be combined with excuses for revenue raising, it’s difficult to stop.

Just make sure you oppose it though.

Roger Lawson

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Consultations in Name Only

Recent public consultations by Transport for London (TfL) have typically omitted any costs, or cost/benefit information, about the proposed schemes. For example on the “Safer Speeds” proposals for many more 20 mph speed limits in London, or Cycleway schemes. Nor do they ask a simple question as to whether people support the proposals overall or not.

I complained about those omissions in the ABD’s response to TfL and got a note back from Esme Yuill (Lead Consultation and Project Communications) which contained much waffle but did say “consultation is not usually about the principle of a project, but the proposed design”. In other words, the consultation is usually based on the project being a fait accompli and TfL have already decided to push ahead with it. That is not a consultation in the usual sense of the word, and clearly undermines the democratic principle that consultations should not assume pre-conceived notions.

Indeed this approach is contradictory to that laid down by the Government in their Consultation Principles where it says: “Consult about policies or implementation plans when the development of the policies or plans is at a formative stage”. See https://tinyurl.com/ycb3mwvk

That document also says: “Give enough information to ensure that those consulted understand the issues and can give informed responses. Include validated impact assessments of the costs and benefits of the options being considered when possible…..”. Neither of the recent consultations I referred to in my complaint (the “Safe Speeds for Central London” and the “Wood Lane/Notting Hill Gate” schemes) contained any costs or cost/benefit analysis and that has been a consistent omission in recent TfL consultations.

TfL has been one of the most impervious and undemocratic bodies since it was set up by Ken Livingstone. They do not listen to anyone. Indeed was it not Ken Livingstone who said “Consultation is a good thing when people agree with you, and a waste of time when people don’t agree with you” and TfL are clearly still following that principle. By avoiding consulting on the key questions as to whether projects should be done at all, and not informing respondents on the costs and cost/benefits, they are avoiding any meaningful consultation.

Is that the way that you think the body that runs transport in London and has one of the biggest budgets in the world should run consultations? I do not and I will be pursuing this matter.

Roger Lawson

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Rotherhithe Bridge – A Bridge Too Far

Work on the proposed pedestrian/cycle bridge at Rotherhithe is being “paused” which is probably a face-saving admission that it is being cancelled as being unaffordable. With costs rising above £400 million it was always a ludicrously expensive way of providing another river crossing east of Tower Bridge. The alternative of supplying a ferry will now be examined by TfL.

The bridge was strongly opposed by the ABD and by an active local pressure group. See these previous blog posts for more information:

https://tinyurl.com/y3ddvgzr

https://tinyurl.com/y5sgglzh

https://tinyurl.com/y3a9gll9

At least the Mayor has stepped back from what would have been yet another example of his financial profligacy, but one has to ask how this project ever saw the light of day. Such projects, rather like HS2, gather their own momentum when they should be killed off as soon as the cost/benefit ratio is obviously inadequate. No doubt we may learn how much money has been wasted on this project sooner or later.

Roger Lawson

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Chislehurst Commons – Accidents May Be Reduced, Perhaps

Commons roundabout accident

The mini-roundabout on the centre of Chislehurst Commons in the London Borough of Bromley is the scene of numerous road traffic accidents. It is one of the worst accident black spots in the borough. There were 8 personal injury accidents in the last three years alone despite several previous attempts to improve the junction. Above is a photograph of one incident.

A Bromley Council Committee considered proposals on the 18th June for changes to the junction in another attempt to reduce accidents. Council staff forecast a reduction of 50% but I spoke at the meeting and queried whether that would be the case. Surely it would be better to try and cut out the accidents altogether? This is some of what I said in a note to the Committee Chairman and to others:

  1. I fear that the latest proposal will have no great impact and will just be another half-baked solution that does not stop all such accidents from happening. It also has other considerable disadvantages.
  2. The probable cause of these accidents is that vehicles approaching from right angles to each other at similar speeds are concealed by the now wide windscreen pillars on modern cars. This is compounded by the fact that the junction is not that obvious to those unfamiliar with the roads. I do not see how building a speed table will solve those issues.
  3. In addition it is proposed to build a speed table when the Council has an adopted policy of a preference for “non-vertical traffic calming devices”. That policy was adopted for good reason to placate those people who find such devices very uncomfortable, particularly those with certain medical conditions, e.g. back pain which is an enormously common complaint.
  4. Loop Road is also a bus route and any traffic engineer will tell you that it is not recommended to put speed humps (or tables) on bus routes because bus suspensions cope very badly with such humps and passengers are discomforted or jolted around.
  5. Speed humps also generate considerable noise from passing traffic which will hardly make a positive contribution to the environment of the Commons.
  6. In addition it is proposed to install bollards and widen the pavements which will also be detrimental to the visual amenity of the Commons and might themselves be a safety hazard.
  7. It is in my view most disappointing that we have yet another half-baked proposal being proposed which is very unlikely to stop all accidents at that junction. I doubt the suggested 50% reduction will be achieved, and why cannot we have a proposal that will achieve 100%?
  8. There have in the past been proposals put forward to revise the roads over the Commons that would remove that roundabout and also enable improvement of other junctions on the Commons (e.g. at Heathfield Lane/Ashfield Lane where they are also numerous accidents including one to my personal cost). These would enable the release of more road space to the Commons green space and improve the visual amenity, unlike the latest proposals.
  9. I would even consider the closure of Ashfield Lane to be a better solution than that proposed and I doubt that it would increase traffic congestion substantially as there are good alternative routes.
  10. In summary, I doubt the current proposal is going to be the best solution to the road safety problem at this junction, and we will be looking again at this junction in another few years’ time. The short-term expenditure will effectively be wasted yet again with the other disadvantages of the scheme being ignored. We need a full and comprehensive solution to the road safety problems on the Commons.

In the meeting I also criticised the persistent obstruction by the Commons Trustees to any significant changes in the roads over the Commons that might fully resolve this problem. For those unaware, the Commons are governed by an 1888 Act of Parliament that enables the Trustees to block any changes. The Trustees are an undemocratic and self-appointed body who are accountable to nobody. Is it not time to replace that Act by a more modern one, as I suggested in the Committee Meeting?

However, the Committee decided not to oppose the proposals and just made a minor suggestion to make the roundabout more visible. I fear in another few years’ time this subject will come up for discussion again after a few more serious accidents occur.

Roger Lawson

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