Richmond Ignores 20 Mph Vote, and Wandsworth’s Doubtful Claims

 

The London Borough of Richmond is set to ignore a public consultation where a majority of respondents opposed the introduction of a borough-wide 20 mph speed limit. The almost 10,000 respondents voted 47.9% in favour and 49.7% against. There was even less support for the notion that 20 mph speed limits will improve air quality and reduce car use.

However they have made some changes to the original proposals with more roads excluded from the scheme. See https://tinyurl.com/y2qcfz2m for more details.

Note that the LibDems won control of Richmond Council in 2018 when it had previously been Conservative controlled. They took over from LibDems in 2010 after the latter repeatedly ignored public opinion, e.g. over emission-based permit parking charges.

Comment: It looks like the LibDems are back to ignoring the results of public consultations, presumably because they think they know better. A very dubious decision which they will surely live to regret.

Wandsworth Claim 20 Mph Success, But Is It?

Meanwhile the neighbouring London Borough of Wandsworth have claimed a success for their borough-wide 20 Mph scheme which was implemented in 2017. Analysis of the first year post implementation data indicated a reduction of 9% in casualties although mean traffic speeds only fell by 0.6 mph. On that basis they have claimed it to be a success although casualties actually fell by 28% across all roads in the borough (which includes the Transport for London controlled main roads where the speed limit generally remained unchanged).

The other problem with this data is that using only a one-year post implementation period is known to distort the figures. A three-year before and after period is recommended by road safety engineers to avoid temporary reactions to perceived road changes.

But Wandsworth is claiming it as a success anyway and is looking to impose 20 mph limits on some major roads such as Putney High Street.

Roger Lawson

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Mayor’s Dubious Gesture and Taxi Age Consultation

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has announced more money for his “scrap for cash” fund. Previously this trade-in scheme for older more polluting vehicles had funds allocated of £25 million but it’s now £48 million. This is particularly designed to help small business owners to replace vans and to help “low-income Londoners scrap older cars”, i.e. the vast majority of vehicle owners will not be eligible.

However, details of the additional scrappage scheme won’t be available until later in the year, despite the fact that the central zone ULEZ commences in April. Details of even the first scheme for vans do not seem to be available from TfL. In reality the amount of money being offered will not cover the vast majority of costs incurred by people in replacing cars and vans, so this looks like a token gesture.

The Mayor did of course promote this scheme at a recent Clean Air Summit meeting where he had children support his actions in the audience. Likewise at a recent London Assembly Committee meeting. They had clearly been well-rehearsed by their teachers. Some of these children came from Henry Maynard Primary in Walthamstow. If you think it is wrong for uneducated children to be used to promote dubious policies which are primarily aimed at raising taxes rather than solving real air pollution issues, you could contact the school here: http://www.henrymaynardprimary.co.uk/contact-details/

The Mayor is a serial offender in using children to support his political campaigning as the ABD has covered previously. Does he have no ethics?

The Mayor has also launched a public consultation on changes to the age limits of taxis – see https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/tph/taxi-age-limits/?cid=taxi-age-limit . Older diesel taxis are undoubtedly some of the most polluting vehicles in central London, but will his changes actually have an impact on pollution? There is a very long phase in time which means that the taxi vehicle fleet might change substantially anyway. There is also still only one electric charging point for taxis in central London so any taxi owner would be unlikely to move to an electric vehicle until that issue is resolved.

Note that these proposals replace previous ones that have not worked. As the Consultation says: “in spite of previous steps to reduce taxi emissions, the required reduction in emissions has not been achieved”. But there is no clear estimate provided of the impact of the new proposed measures on air pollution. And as usual with TfL consultations of late, no cost/benefit justification provided as there should be.

Roger Lawson

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The Most Congested Roads in the UK

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The BBC has reported on congested roads in the UK and rates the North Circular Road (A406) as the worst. Needless to say, other London roads such as the A23, Kingsway/Strand and the A1203 (The Highway) also rate highly.

The report is based on information from Inrix who estimated that London drivers lost about 227 hours each on average to congestion. London is by far the worst city in the country for traffic congestion. For example in Leeds only 143 hours are lost. Is it surprising that many companies have expanded operations in Leeds as opposed to London?

What have the current and past Mayor’s done about traffic congestion in London? Basically done nothing but make it worse. The Congestion Charge scheme has been an abysmal failure and the growth in PHV (minicab) use and internet deliveries have contributed more recently. Schemes such as cycle superhighways on the Embankment which reduced 2 lanes to 1 on a major east-west route have also made congestion worse – that is why The Highway is congested as traffic backs up from Lower/Upper Thames Street all the way there.

Transport for London (TfL) and the Mayor Sadiq Khan think they can reduce congestion by encouraging modal shift – persuading people to cycle or use public transport – but that simply does not work. They need to rethink their approach. The current Mayor’s Transport Strategy is already proving to be an abject failure.

You can read the BBC report here: https://tinyurl.com/yyrv44cz

Roger Lawson

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Cab Driver Protests Escalating

I attended a meeting of PHV (minicab) drivers in Hackney last night (members of the UPHD – see www.uphd.org) . They had just finished blocking Tower Bridge for an hour or so, have done other similar demontrationss and plan more. Everyone’s realised that blocking London bridges is exceedingly easy.

Black cab drivers have also done demos outside Parliament and at Bank in the City – about roads being closed to them (and of course all other vehicles except buses) at Aldwych, Tottenham Court Road, Bank Junction, etc.

I promoted the ABD’s campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and the ULEZ and emphasised it’s all about raising taxes to fix holes in the Mayor’s budget in in a brief speech at the UPHD meeting. PHV drivers are very unhappy about losing their exemption from the Congestion Charge and of course the new ULEZ charges also. This could destroy their livelihoods, particularly of smaller operators. They think the black cab drivers are being favoured but they are not happy either.

But the demos both groups of drivers are running are not having much impact. The BBC TV news and press media aren’t even covering them of late, despite the major disruption they cause to traffic. Perhaps they need to escalate the demonstrations and block the roads for longer and in a wider area to ensure Transport for London (TfL) and Mayor Sadiq Khan pay attention!

Roger Lawson

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Mayor Loses Case in High Court over CS11

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has lost a judicial review case on Cycle Superhighway 11. That was proposed to cover the Swiss Cottage gyratory, Avenue Road and the road around Regents Park which would be mainly closed to vehicles. We published an article by objector Danny Michelson in November 2016 which gives more details: http://tinyurl.com/ydh4wc8b . The picture below is how Transport for London envisaged the Swiss Cottage junction would look – as usual a very optimistic and unrealistic view!

Swiss Cottage Cycle Superhighway 11

The City of Westminster launched the judicial review on the basis that there had been inadequate consultation and TfL had ignored their objections on the matter. They suggested the proposals would cause more traffic congestion. High Court judge Sir Ross Cranston ruled in their favour.

TfL may appeal the case, otherwise they will have to go back to the drawing board and possibly do another consultation.

Comment: Swiss Cottage is one of the key road junctions in London for North/South traffic and Regents Park is also an important route for vehicles. Swiss Cottage road junction is far from perfect and no doubt could be improved in a number of ways, including provision for better cycle safety. But this scheme was badly designed and there was no justification for all the road closures to vehicles.

It’s a case of the Mayor not listening to objectors as we have seen many times recently. The only folks who supported this scheme were the very vociferous cycling lobby but they need to listen to the concerns of other people also.

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Mayor Sadiq Khan Refuses to Answer Questions

At a recent session of the Greater London Assembly where Sadiq Khan was supposed to answer questions, he repeatedly refused to answer simple questions about the ULEZ and his view on road pricing.

You can see the session here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqCrWcZIF7I and it’s well worth watching to see just how bad is the current Mayor. He also grandstands to children who were in the audience and makes totally false allegations about the impact of air pollution.

The meeting was badly chaired by Tony Arbour but Sadiq Khan even abused him for being partial.

Bluster, pomposity and personal abuse is the approach of the Mayor to quite simple questions. I hope the general public will learn just what this man is like sooner or later.

Roger Lawson

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Air Pollution – A Crisis Created by Politicians?

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The following article is by Paul Biggs, ABD Director and Environment Spokesperson. It first appeared in Local Transport Today, the magazine for local road traffic engineers.

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”  H L Mencken

Imaginary might be a little harsh, but exaggerated certainly isn’t. The latest hobgoblin is the air quality ‘crisis’, which is being used to justify more taxes on some drivers in the guise of clean air zones (CAZ) such as the ULEZ scheme in London. If the much-delayed carbon dioxide hobgoblin doesn’t get us, which we were previously using diesel to help slay, then NOx and particulates (dust) certainly will, according to the likes of London mayor Sadiq Kahn.

In fact, London is where the hobgoblin meets the ‘zombie’ statistic in the form of the mayor’s false 40,000 air pollution deaths claim, which has been shot down by the likes of respiratory physiologist Professor Tony Frew, a former member of the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) (http://tinyurl.com/y7coye43 ). This Frankenstein’s monster of statistical constructs doesn’t refer to real people, but is derived from the estimated 340,000 life years lost by everyone in the UK as a result of an average ‘early death’ of around three days due to air pollution, all things being equal, which in reality they are not.

In fact, there are a number of factors that can influence life expectancy in positive or negative ways. These include the likes of genetics, wealth, lifestyle, diet, environment, medical advances, etc. It’s clear from the increased life expectancy from birth that we enjoy as a developed nation driven by carbon fuels that the balance of all factors is strongly positive in favour of increased longevity.

Professor Frew also points out that just because pollution levels have been made illegal doesn’t mean that they are dangerous. There’s a lack of publicity for the latest report from COMEAP where experts can’t agree on any link between NOx and mortality, and the latest Office for National Statistics data shows that the North-South divide for life expectancy is clearly wealth-related rather than related to air quality.

Dates of birth and death are ‘hard’ data compared to junk epidemiological guesswork. Making people richer, rather than poorer with unjustified taxes, is the best way to make their lives longer and happier.

As for asthma, it was identified by the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece and China BC – Before Cars. There are many potential attack triggers for people who are genetically predisposed to asthma and it’s a well-known fact that indoor air quality, where we spend 90 per cent of our time, can be many times worse than outdoors. Also, individuals with compromised respiratory systems are susceptible to spikes in poor air quality due to very specific combinations of weather conditions.

To mayor Khan’s credit, he has recognised the stupidity of wood-burning stoves, which can emit 18 times as much pollution as a modern diesel car and six times as much as a diesel truck. But there is no sign yet of any wood tax or recognition of the impact of the ‘prettiest pollutant’ known as fireworks. It’s ironic that London bus shelters carry posters side-by-side advertising the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) and firework displays. If there really was an air pollution emergency or crisis, wood-burning stoves and fireworks would be top of the banned list.

Regressive taxes, which is what CAZ charges are, target the less well-off who can’t afford new or newer vehicles. CAZ policies also fail to pass any cost-benefit analysis. Close to home for me personally, but not affecting my Euro 6 car, the planned Birmingham CAZ is projected to provide purely theoretical health and environmental benefits of £38m over ten years against a negative overall cost of £122m. This makes Birmingham’s EU-threatened fine of £60m for failing to tackle levels of air pollution declared illegal (by an EU we were supposed to be leaving) look like a bargain. Additionally, areas outside the Birmingham CAZ are likely to lose thousands of free parking spaces and the 6,000 free parking spaces within the zone could also face charges or restrictions.

UK vehicle emissions have declined significantly over the past 40 years against a background of increased vehicle usage. The fact that urban pollution ‘hot spots’ remain can to a large extent be blamed on deliberate congestion-causing policies, which have been designed to obstruct and slow traffic.

Banning all transport in London, for example, would only reduce particulate levels from the current average 14 micrograms per cubic metre to 12, the worldwide background level being 7 micrograms per cubic metre.

The potential air quality benefits of a ULEZ or CAZ will therefore be insignificant. We should instead be pleased with the significant improvements in air quality that have been achieved thanks to advances in vehicle technology and look forward to continued improvement from reduced vehicle emissions driven by technology.

Our tax- and restrictions-obsessed politicians should recognise the longer, happier lives that people in the UK are enjoying largely due to the economic benefits of carbon fuels. But we won’t be holding our breath waiting for that to happen!

Paul Biggs is environment spokesman for the Alliance of British Drivers. He is a biological sciences graduate and retired cancer researcher.

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