Cyclist Faces Manslaughter Charge

The case of Charlie Alliston who is currently in court facing a manslaughter charge for killing a pedestrian is getting a lot of media coverage, and it’s surely not just because of the shortage of good news stories in August.

Mr Alliston ran into Mrs Kim Briggs, 44, on Old Street in London. She suffered major head injuries and died a week later. It has been revealed that not only was he doing over 18 mph, but the bike he was riding was a racing model – a “fixie” with no brakes, i.e. with fixed pedals and no front brake when it is illegal to ride such bikes on public roads. He apparently shouted to her to get out of the way, and even shouted at her after the crash.

This is not the first such case. The Daily Mail published a good article by Chris Greenwood earlier this year giving some of the data and other cases. He reported that the number of accidents between cyclists and pedestrians had soared by 47% in seven years, rising to 408 in 2015. He noted several pedestrians were killed which resulted in prosecutions of cyclists. He also reported that the biggest regional spike in the numbers was in London (226 accidents in 2015).

Now I have commented on the problems caused by some cyclists riding “furiously” on London streets before – in a blog post entitled “Are Cyclists Racing on London Streets?” where I came to the conclusion that they were – if not against each other, against themselves – based on the recording on Strava of trip times. As a result I got an enormous amount of abuse from a few cyclists.

After a lot of analysis, I came to the conclusion that the comments did not undermine the main point of the article and I said “it is very clear from anyone who walks, cycles or drives in London that there are a minority of cyclists acting in a somewhat dangerous way both to themselves and other people. In other words, cycling at an excessive speed in relation to road hazards and other road users”. This latest case simply reinforces the message that there are dangerous cyclists in London and the problem is getting worse if anything.

Roger Lawson

Garden Bridge Down The River

Yes that vanity project the Thames Garden Bridge has finally been cancelled. After it lost the support of Mayor Sadiq Khan it has not been able to get enough funding from private sources. The amount of money wasted is forecast to be about £46 million. And most of that came from public funds, i.e. your taxes, with nothing to show for it at all. But better late than never so far as cancellation is concerned.

It was a bridge sold on attracting tourists but was not in the right place and not useable by many people who might wish to cross the Thames at that point. No proper cost/benefit analysis was done on it. But like that other more grandiose vanity transport project, HS2, once these projects get launched they soon gain a momentum of their own as lobbyists for commercial groups who might benefit promote the project.

Now HS2 has only spent about £2 billion to date, without laying a single foot of track, but if it was cancelled now might save over £70 billion. As with the Garden Bridge, there are lots of other better uses to which the money could be put.

It’s not too late. Just time to make a tough decision.

Roger Lawson

Judicial Reviews invoked by Motoring Groups

T-Charge. The Sun has reported that FairFuelUK are planning to challenge the Mayor of London’s introduction of the “Toxicity Tax” (“T-Charge”) via a judicial review in the High Court. This is a tax of £10 on certain older vehicles that do not meet newer emission standards that is being imposed from October if they are driven into the central congestion charge area.

The challenge will be on the basis that it is unfair discrimination against a small minority of road users when other vehicles (e.g. TfL buses) and other sources (e.g. construction machinery and diggers) generate more pollution. In other words, it is an unreasonable attack on car users.

FairFuelUK may be looking for financial support to enable them to fight this case (judicial reviews are expensive), so anyone interested in this matter should keep an eye open for further news.

Croydon 20MPH. Another judicial review where the case has already been filed in court is that over the public consultation in Croydon on implementation of the blanket 20 MPH speed limit. The ABD supported an active local campaign against the proposals (see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Croydon20.htm ) and we have also complained to the Council about the defective consultation process. The process was changed from one area to another, apparently with the objective of obtaining the desired result, the information provided to residents was biased, the results ignored, and objections not considered properly. There are established legal principles about how public consultation should be run to ensure they are fair and unbiased, which is no doubt the basis of the challenge.

Both cases are in essence about illogical and unreasonable attacks on car and van drivers in the name of environmental improvement when there will allegedly be negligible advantage but significant costs imposed on drivers.

Roger Lawson

 

H&F Air Quality Consultation and Surprising News

The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham have produced an Air Quality Action Plan which is now open to public consultation. In summary, their proposals include:

  • Launching an electric vehicle hiring scheme – with a year’s free membership for local people,
  • Encouraging people to use electric vehicles by extending their network of charging bays,
  • Fining drivers who leave their engines running unnecessarily
  • Becoming the leading cycle-friendly borough in London with cycle quietways, cycle storage and cycle superhighways,
  • Encouraging more walking by tackling congestion, traffic speeds and by providing more greenery,
  • Reducing fossil-fuel boilers by replacing them with ultra-low nitrogen oxide boilers and ensuring energy plants are regulated through the planning process.

Not too many surprises there apart from the last one perhaps. But in the detail of the plan there is some surprising information. For example, it shows that as regards the impact of road transport on PM10, some 76% of them come from tyre and brake wear rather than engine tailpipe emissions.

Even more noteworthy is a statement on page 13 that they estimate that by 2020 emissions from road transport will reduce so much that it is projected that domestic and commercial gas sources will become the largest contributor of NOX in the borough, relegating transport to second place.

So will Mayor Sadiq Khan penalise inefficient and older heating boilers soon by forcing users to upgrade them, or imposing “emission charges” on them in the same way he has done for older car users?

It would be rational if he did, and clearly much more needs to be done to suppress dust on London’s streets. It was interesting watching an old film recently on television, the Blue Lamp, set in 1950, which showed water being sprayed from tankers to do just that. Perhaps we should reintroduce them. Other European cities use them. Or are they already being used in London but I don’t get up early enough to see them?

The H&F Draft Action Plan can be read here: https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/sites/default/files/section_attachments/hf_draft_air_quality_action_plan_2018-2023.pdf

Local residents should submit some comments.

Roger Lawson

 

The Social Costs of Air Pollution

A very good paper on the costs of air pollution in the UK, and the costs likely to be imposed on the public by the proposed measures nationwide, particularly in London, has been produced by Neil Lock. It is entitled “The Social Costs of Air Pollution from Cars in the UK” and is available here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Social-Cost-Cars.pdf

Mr Lock in his Conclusion to the note says the following: “If my figures are right, then on the specific issue of air pollution from cars in the UK, there may be a case for charging drivers of Euro 3 and perhaps Euro 4 diesel cars to enter certain very limited areas like central London. There is no social cost case for any such charges for Euro 5 or 6 diesels, or for any petrol cars. There is a case for charging drivers of diesels, and of petrol cars which do not meet the latest standard, an amount equivalent to the social cost of the pollution they cause (excluding the part of the pollution from diesels which is the manufacturer’s fault). There is no case for charging any more than this.”

He also says: “It is high time, I think, for the good people of the UK and of the world to wake up. To see the deep green agenda for what it is. To reject it and its proponents. And to seek to set up in its place just measures based on good science, honesty and common sense.”

The paper is well worth reading, particularly by those who live in London and who will be affected by Sadiq Khan’s plans. More technical data is available to support his case if you need it. Mr Lock can be contacted at e-mail: neillock@aol.com.  Mr Lock is a software consultant, with a degree in mathematics. He lives in Surrey and drives a diesel car, which he says he would not have bought if he could have found a petrol one of the model he wanted at the time.

Roger Lawson

Diesel and Petrol Car Demonisation Unjustifiable

Bearing in mind the recent Government announcement that diesel and petrol driven cars will be banned by 2040, and the recent policy announcements by the Mayor of London on the ULEZ and his Transport Strategy, it’s worth repeating what the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) have said at the national level on this topic. Here is a summary of their recent press release (note particularly their comments on air pollution and life expectancy in some London boroughs):

Diesel and Petrol Car Demonisation Scientifically Unjustifiable says ABD

So, diesel and petrol cars will no longer be on sale after 2040, politicians have decided. They would be well-advised to consult their electorate first. For decades now, whenever government wants to change (and invariably increase!) vehicle taxation, scientifically unsound diesel and petrol car emission scare stories have been periodically rolled out by tax-hungry politicians; and supported by useful-idiot eco-lobbyists who simply wish to curtail freedom and personal mobility. The true situation is that car emissions – and indeed those of all major atmospheric pollutants – have been dramatically declining for the past four-and-a-half decades[1].

The main reason that we have city centre emissions hotspots is government’s own anti-car policies.

Traffic speeds have plummeted to below walking-pace (typically boosting, e,g, NOx & NO2 emissions by a factor of four times compared with free-flow levels) due to subtraction of road space to accommodate intermittently utilised bus- and cycle-lanes, traffic light phasing deliberately set to increase gating and a panoply of other ill-considered measures aimed at slowing, hindering and generally obstructing traffic flow.

All current car emissions scare-stories share a common thread: they are based on junk epidemiology studies. These seek to exaggerate any tenuous connection between (declining) urban pollution levels (or proxies for them) and predicted mortality advancements amongst a very specific target group in the general population: one subject to chronically-degraded lung-function through genetic, occupational or lifestyle choices – or combinations of all three. These studies invariably exhibit very low correlation coefficients and extremely wide levels of uncertainty/ inaccuracy [2],[3]. Their value as predictive tools – as opposed to newspaper-selling scare-story generators – is negligible [4].

Mortality advancement episodes are invariably precipitated by two very specific weather condition scenarios: very low humidity in combination with either: (a) very high-; or (b) very low, temperatures. There is a much stronger correlation between mortality advancement and the frequency of such weather events than there is with urban air pollution levels. Amid all the urban emissions hype and hysteria, the scientifically-illiterate, sensationalist media have overlooked a colossal paradox: the boroughs of Chelsea, Kensington and Westminster – which boast amongst the highest (and rising) average life expectancy (and average income) figures in the United Kingdom[5] – also have amongst the worst measured urban air pollution statistics[6].

The primary determinants of life expectancy in the UK remain income and consequent lifestyle choices. Given that UK urban air pollution has declined dramatically (and average life expectancies have steadily risen) year-on-year since the Clean Air Acts; and will continue to do so with continuing advances in technology, isn’t it time the environmental lobby and cynical, vote-/ tax-rise chasing politicians laid off road users and focussed their attention elsewhere?

A recent BBC Science article reported that in Central London, only 5% of NOx comes from private diesel cars[7]. Trucks, taxis and public transport represent an even greater proportion. Public transport hubs: e.g., railway and bus stations and Thames shipping are also major contributors. However, 38% originated from commercial and domestic heating systems. Indeed, the overwhelming proportions of all the problem urban emissions: NO2, NOx, PM2.5s & PM10s arise from industry, commercial and domestic heating systems, plus “imported” emissions blown in from Europe. So unless we are prepared to adopt a BANANA strategy: Ban Anything Near Anyone Near Anywhere: stop consuming, heating our homes and workplaces, ban all industry and all travel, scientifically and economically viable alternatives must be adopted.

If politicians were really committed to improving urban air quality, they would immediately implement the five Action Points below.

1.    Most importantly of all, reverse the pernicious traffic gating-, lane-subtraction-, public transport- and cycle-prioritisation policies that have brought traffic speeds in our major cities down to a staccato mix of stationary and walking pace progress – with consequent completely avoidable adverse emissions and urban air quality effects.

2.    Invoke in the short term more targeted pursuit of the worst transport sector polluters; getting the highest emissions (mainly public transport & delivery) vehicles remediated or scrapped.

3.    Persuade heating and transport fuel manufacturers to alter their refining processes; further purifying their products, yielding cleaner-burning versions which produce lower concentrations of NO2, NOx, PM2.5s, PM10s and SOx,

4.    If, as is being constantly preached to us, the future is electric, Government must facilitate and fund the development of electric vehicles with an all-weather conditions range of between 350 and 700 miles, and a recharging time comparable to that required to refill a modern, liquid-fuelled car. Performance capabilities must also match that typically achievable by modern petrol and diesel cars.

5.    Government must also provide the infrastructure investment for all UK private dwellings to have the facility to park off-road – and recharge – at least two electric vehicles per household resident at that dwelling.

But then government is only really committed to squeezing every last drop of tax revenue from road users – by fair means or (usually) foul.

References:

1 Emissions time-series figure reproduced with permission from a Local Transport Today article authored by Mr. P. Dobson (LTT726; 07-20/07/2017,  p.20).

2 https://wintoncentre.maths.cam.ac.uk/news/does-air-pollution-kill-40000-people-each-year-uk

3 http://www.fairmotoring.com/index.php?entry_id=1500786900

4 http://www.cei.org/pdf/3452.pdf

5 http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/local-news/watch-kensington-chelsea-uks-highest-8141416

6 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/10758548/Why-living-in-Chelsea-could-be-deadly.html 7 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-38979754

Roger Lawson

Transport Costs in London – A Begging Letter from the Mayor

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has recently published a document entitled “Transport expenditure in London” (from the GLA Economics Current Issues Note 54). It claims to be an analysis of how much money is spent on transport in London in comparison with other parts of the country. But in reality it repeatedly simply argues that London needs more. Unfortunately, the facts presented, which is useful information in many ways, actually tend to show that London is already very well funded as regards rail transport, but that the road system has been neglected of late. Here are some of the key points from the document:

It says “Comparing regions based on how much transport expenditure they receive on its own or on a per head basis does not properly account for the need or demand for transport” (page 2). It suggests that rather than using a “per head” basis, it should be on a “per user” basis and proceeds to say “On this basis, the amount spent on railways per passenger journey and the amount spent on roads per 1 million vehicle miles in London were one of the lowest among the GB regions.”  

Now there are of course many more “commuters” who travel into London by train and other public transport on a daily basis than you get in the other major UK cities, let alone in the more rural areas. In addition many of these journeys in London involved multiple stages, i.e. separate trips, including changes of mode, which they are probably counting as separate journeys because they are otherwise difficult to measure. So they are selecting a measure that favours their argument.

In addition, they say that “In particular, London has seen the largest decline in road expenditure per 1 million vehicle miles since 2007-08”. Well one can quite believe that when London has had minimal expenditure on roads while cities like Birmingham have greatly improved their road networks in recent years.

They do point out that the number of passengers using public transport in London at peak hours far exceeds that of other major cities but their table of numbers of trips by mode shows that almost as many get made by car as by bus/tram and they are more than double those by rail. Mr Khan wants to change that of course, and the Mayor, and his cycling mad predecessor, have been increasing the number of cycle trips but they are still a small fraction of those by other modes (see page 9).

The report gives some figures on public sector expenditure by region, and London receives 29% of all of it, plus another 11% is spent in the South-East. The North-West is the next biggest at 11%. This just shows how much more subsidies, both capital and current expenditure, is spent in London and the South-East than the rest of the country – but the Mayor would like even more! See page 12.

In terms of expenditure per head, London is about twice as high as any other region and amounts to about £981 in 2015-2016 per head. To look at this a different way, the expenditure per passenger journey on the railways in London was approximately £6.94 in 2015-16. Bearing in mind that most rail trips within London probably cost less than £7 you can see how massive these subsidies are (i.e. more than 100%).

The rest of Great Britain gets even bigger rail subsidies per trip at £10.30, but one has to bear in mind that many such trips would be much longer and more expensive.

In terms of road expenditure per region per user, London is relatively high but Scotland is even higher (see page 21). But London’s has been declining and has “one of the lowest spends per vehicle mile in Great Britain”.

Page 25 of the report also gives a useful breakdown of “Sources of Funding for Transport for London”. Some 47% comes from fares, 25% from central Government grants (i.e. out of taxes), 17% from borrowing, and 11% from “other income” (that would include the Congestion and LEZ charges). So Londoners get a subsidy equivalent to 53% for public transport. But this report argues Londoners pay proportionally more for its own infrastructure investments in comparison to other regions.

The recently published Mayor’s Transport Strategy argued that public transport users subsidise car drivers. On the data contained in this report, that is clearly nonsense. Public transport users are massively subsidised and the Mayor is asking for even more. See here for more information on that and how you can object: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

The full report on Transport Expenditure in London is present here:

https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/transportexpenditure_final_cin54.pdf

Roger Lawson