How to Travel Safely in London

London residents will no doubt be aware that the capital is suffering from a major crime wave at present. Robberies on the street (muggings) are now a major problem in London, typically by youths armed with knives while moped crime is at record levels. The latter is where mopeds are stolen and then used in street robberies. The police have been markedly ineffective in preventing such crimes or catching the criminals.

One recent case was that of comedian Michael McIntyre who was mugged for his £15,000 Rolex watch while doing the school run in north London. Even Home Secretary Sajid Javid had his mobile phone stolen outside Euston station as he called a cab.

Here’s a few tips on how to avoid being mugged:

Don’t wear expensive watches. They don’t tell the time any better than cheap watches.

Avoid flashing expensive jewellery, watches or mobile phones on the streets, particularly at night.

Do not use your mobile phone while walking or standing on the streets of London. Let all calls go to voicemail and respond later in a safe place. This will also avoid you being the victim of a road accident as in London many pedestrians do not see or hear vehicles and step out into the street without looking.

When driving a car, always allow space in front of you to the next vehicle so you can drive around it and escape if attacked, and where there is more than one lane use the outside lane at traffic lights so that you cannot be boxed in. Even if a moped rider stops alongside you, remember that a car can push a moped and its rider out of the way.

How can this crime wave be reduced, other than by people taking more precautions? Clearly the police numbers in London have been falling in recent years – now down to about 30,000. Mayor Sadiq Khan blames this on lack of funding, although per head of population funding of London’s police is higher than in other parts of the UK. But others blame the reduction in “stop and search” activity due to pressure from the black community. The Mayor published a “London Knife Crime Strategy” last year but the impact on such crime has not yet been apparent with fatal stabbings rising this year.

In the case of moped crime, the police do not seem to have been responding with new tactics to tackle it and are allegedly being hampered by rules that prevent them chasing such criminals. Police officers are reluctant to do so simply because if the criminal is injured they may be the subject of an inquiry. Their procedural rules need changing and they need new motorbike patrols using smaller, agile bikes.

One of the problems is that although there is now very extensive video coverage of London’s streets, the criminals’ faces are concealed by crash helmets and the mopeds are typically only recently stolen. Here’s one suggestion that might help. Why not license the helmets used by riders as well as the mopeds or motorbikes. Unlike the latter, helmets are generally not left lying around by their owners and hence would be quickly reported to the police if stolen. Licensing helmets might enable criminals using helmets to be traced, and unlicensed or stolen helmet users could be stopped and questioned or prosecuted. All helmets would have to display their licence number clearly. Is this a workable solution or not?

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No Benefit From 20-MPH Speed Limits

Hampshire County Council have reported that there is no road safety benefit from signed-only 20-MPH speed limits. The county have installed such limits in 14 residential areas since 2012. But this is what Stuart Jarvis of the Council said: “In terms of accident and injury data, the impact of the pilot schemes upon road safety is projected to be neutral and there is no evidence of enhanced road safety benefits compared with that observed for the entire road network maintained by the county council”. The overall accident rates for the pilot schemes have actually risen, although this is not considered to be statistically significant. There have been marginal, or nil, reduction in traffic speeds in the scheme areas.

The residents in the scheme areas seemed happy though so it is not proposed to remove the existing 20-mph limits. But it is unlikely that any new such schemes will be installed.

The full council report on the schemes is here:

http://democracy.hants.gov.uk/documents/s19310/Review%20of%20Residential%2020mph%20Pilot%20-%20Report.pdf

Comment: The ABD has consistently argued that such schemes cannot be justified on any sensible cost/benefit basis and that the large amounts of money spent on them would be much better spent on other road safety programmes. Not surprisingly perhaps, the latest Hampshire report does not mention the costs and links on the council’s web site to previous reports and decisions that might have mentioned the costs seem to no longer work. I wonder why that is?

It is regrettable that Transport for London (TfL), and local borough councils such as Croydon, have consistently ignored the mounting evidence that wide-area signed-only 20-mph schemes are a waste of money. TfL continue to finance them with taxpayers’ cash, and local borough councils in London are still implementing them. Why do they continue to ignore the evidence?

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Mayor’s Environment Strategy Misses the Point

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Kham, has published his Environment Strategy. The executive summary talks about the “greening” of London with more trees, green roofs and walls to reduce energy demand, the encouragement of more walking and cycling to improve air quality and many other environmental improvements. But the report fails to mention the key problem. Namely that there are too many people in London.

It highlights that water supply is set to outstrip supply by 2020 and the city’s electricity infrastructure is approaching full capacity. Air pollution is also high but that’s not just from transport, albeit much of the transport emissions are generated by the goods vehicles and public transport vehicles required to serve the growing population. Non-road emissions such as from construction, the river or wood burning constitute half of emissions in London and are a growing issue – that’s what the Mayor says, but he has no solution to that other than to “work with the government and other partners”.

London’s population is growing rapidly and the more people there are, and the more businesses that provide employment and services to those people, the more energy and water are consumed and the more emissions generated. It also results in a sclerotic road transport network where no new capacity has been added for many years. But instead of tackling the root cause of the problem the Mayor is talking about planting more trees and providing more open spaces.

In summary, many of the Mayor’s proposals are worthy and may have minor impacts on the quality of life in London. Encouraging us all to drive zero emission electric vehicles by 2050 may help in some regards, although they will add a further heavy load on the already stretched electricity network, but the report fails to spot the elephant in the room and propose how to deal with it. Namely that there are too many people in too small an area of land. The densification of London, with more and more homes and other buildings to support the growing population, supported by a few more green parks will not tackle the fundamental problem.

More information on the Mayor’s Environment Strategy is present here: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/environment/london-environment-strategy

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More on the ULEZ Expansion

Apart from the lack of any proper cost/benefit justification for the ULEZ expansion as I explained in my previous blog post on the subject (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/06/08/mayor-proceeds-with-expansion-of-ulez/), there are other very good reasons why you should see this as a very dangerous step.

As I have already pointed out, once the infrastructure is put in place for this scheme it will enable the Mayor to introduce congestion charging schemes in future over most of London. But there are lots of other possible negative scenarios.

You may say, I am not too concerned because I don’t drive an old diesel vehicle or I can afford to buy a new vehicle that is exempt. But once the Mayor obtains this power to obtain money from vehicle owners in London he can easily vary the rules so that everyone is paying a lot more money in taxes.

For example, he could claim that come 2022, the new ULEZ has proved to be less effective than expected in reducing air pollution. Indeed that is very likely to be the case. Or he might simply say that air pollution is still not good enough. He could justify charging all vehicle users accordingly, even the latest petrol and diesel vehicles. Indeed he could argue that even electric vehicles should be included as they generate particulates from brake and tyre wear. So it could be not just £12.50 per day for older diesel vehicles, but for everyone!

In addition as we saw with the central London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) this was initially set at £5 per day but is now £11.50, i.e. it’s more than doubled but has not proved any more effective. It now generates significant revenue for TfL above operating costs. So instead of the ULEZ charge being £12.50 it could soon be moved to £15, £20 or even £30 per day and for everyone.

Do you think that the Mayor and TfL have no such intention and have not even looked to the future prospects for this scheme? Think again. The ULEZ is being driven by the desire for more income by the Mayor. Follow the money as always in politics. Discouraging motor vehicles by high charges on everyone who owns one would be perfectly consistent with his objective, as stated in his Transport Strategy, to reduce car usage to a fraction of what it is at present.

A particularly sickening aspect of this matter is the involvement by the Mayor of very young schoolchildren to promote his policies and his politics. He announced the latest extension at Netley Primary School in Euston. This “photo opportunity” was covered by the national media extensively. But what do schoolchildren know about this subject? And why should their teachers be allowing this kind of politicking in their schools? Netley Primary School is close to the Marylebone Road, one of the most polluted roads in London, but even so this hardly justifies the involvement of young children. Mayor Sadiq Khan is a serial offender in this regard as he has done this previously. Children should not be used by politicians to promote their financial policies.

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Mayor Proceeds with Expansion of ULEZ

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that the proposed expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to within the North/South Circular will go ahead in 2021.

This will mean that it will cost you £12.50 per day (365 days per year and at all times) to drive within that area from 2021 if you drive an older car (roughly diesel cars/vans more than 6 years old in 2021 and petrol cars/vans more than 15 years old). There will also be heavy charges for non-compliant HGVs and buses. The only concessions the Mayor has made is for an extra 4 years for disabled vehicles and for charity minibuses. He claims “staunch support” for these proposals but only 56% of respondents to the consultation supported it – and that after a very biased consultation report.

In reality this scheme is a very expensive solution to cleaning up London’s air when not only is that happening already as older vehicles are scrapped, but there are also better alternatives. It imposes major costs on Londoners out of all proportion to the benefits. Read our previous blog post on this topic for more background: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/03/25/the-real-profits-from-the-ulez/ . In summary for a total cost of £516 million to London vehicle users, the health benefit is valued at £7.1 million over 5 years. This is surely one of the most ineffective uses of financial resources ever devised.

Not only that, the infrastructure to be put in place for this scheme will enable the Mayor to introduce congestion charging schemes in future over most of London. Will it be demolished once it is no longer needed as the vehicle fleet is modernised? Don’t bet on it.

Note that the ABD supports improvements to London’s air quality because there are certain locations where it is clearly a significant problem. Focussing on transport alone will not solve it though. Likewise penalising older diesel vehicle owners is not fair when they were bought in good faith and encouraged by Government aims to reduce CO2 emissions – and doing so will have only a minor impact. What we have is political posturing where the Mayor wants to be seen as doing something while he is fixing his budget problems at the same time by the money to be raised from the ULEZ. It’s an ignorant policy led by an ignorant politician.

More information in the Mayor’s Press Release here: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/ultra-low-emission-zone-to-expand .

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London Airport Expansion – Government Stops Prevaricating

It seems that the Government has decided to try and push ahead with a third runway at London Heathrow airport. It is likely to be voted upon in Parliament in the next few weeks which will provide some distraction from the Brexit debates. The plan is to double the airport’s capacity to cope with rising passenger and freight demand. However Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, said it would only go ahead if the UK’s air quality obligations could be met.

Apart from the hundreds of people whose homes will be demolished, there are many objectors to these plans from west London politicians and from others such as Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith. Residents of many areas of London are strongly opposed because of the increased noise and air pollution that are likely to result. Tory MPs have been promised a free vote on the issue, and it also seems unlikely that the Labour party will support it without reservations.

One major problem with this choice for airport expansion is that the new runway will be sited so that it crosses the existing M25. So that will have to be put in a tunnel. The increased road traffic going to and from the airport combined with the emissions from aircraft will make the area surrounding Heathrow one of the worse pollution hot spots in London – indeed it already is. So how will that be fixed? Perhaps by a local “congestion charge” no doubt.

If you wish to join the opposition to Heathrow expansion (as this writer did many years ago), why not support Hacan who have long opposed the noise from the airport? See http://hacan.org.uk/ where you can read more information on this issue.

It seems very odd to me that airport expansion has to be concentrated in the heavily populated south-east of the country. The unbelievable figure of 30% of the UK’s exports currently go through Heathrow. It’s the London-centric mentality of politicians and planners yet again. This will rise further if a third runway is built. No other nation has such a focus for centralising transport to such an extent in an already overcrowded part of the country so far as transport facilities are concerned. Freight and passenger traffic should be distributed across the country so that road traffic is minimised via the expansion of regional airports.

Roger Lawson

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Cycle Superhighways Brought in Too Quickly

London Transport Commissioner Mike Brown conceded at a recent LBC event that former London Mayor Boris Johnson pushed through implementation of the first cycle superhighways too rapidly. He said “I think it was ill-judged, it was too fast and ill thought through in the speed in which it was done which I’m afraid is the main downside of living in a democracy because people want to do things in their term”. In other words, Boris wished to get some implemented before he departed for higher things and pushed the plans through too quickly.

Mike Brown did say that he supported the superhighways which he suggested had reduced accidents to cyclists and expenditure on cycle schemes is still rising.

What was wrong with the cycle superhighways? They have increased congestion substantially – for example on a key east/west route along Upper/Lower Thames Street and the Embankment. Indeed cyclists have to now breath air on one of the most heavily polluted roads in London because of the air pollution from slow moving traffic and the fact that many buses and HGV/LGVs use that road. The extra journey times were forecast but the cost/benefit analysis or consideration of alternative routes were not properly considered. Motorists are as a result deeply unhappy. Other routes including some still being developed are causing opposition from road users because of the lack of thought in their design and the impact on traffic speed and congestion. Transport for London (TfL) still seem to prioritise the needs of cyclists over all other road users while spending enormous sums of money supporting them when very little is otherwise done to improve the road network.

But cyclists are also unhappy because of the poor design of some aspects of Cycle Superhighway 1 where there are junctions with other roads or it runs along main roads.

If more consideration had been given to the design of cycle superhighways, and their routing, all these problems could have been avoided.

Roger Lawson

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