Speed Limits in London to be Reduced, and More Enforcement

Mayor Sadiq Khan has stated that speed limits on London’s roads are to be reduced. In addition, there will be more “enforcement” of the limits.

The London Assembly Transport Committee published a report a few months ago calling on Transport for London (TfL) to review the speed limits on all its roads in the capital. They believed this would encourage more walking and cycling.

In response to a letter from Conservative London Assembly member Steve O’Connell which raised concerns that the majority of drivers ignore 20mph speed limits, the Mayor said: “Lowering speeds is fundamental to reducing road danger and Transport for London (TfL) is actively developing a strategy to increase the number of communities which will benefit from 20mph speed limits and speed reductions”. The Mayor said he will be publishing an action plan this summer which will provide details on City Hall and TfL’s approach and timescales for implementing lower speeds, as well as what measures will be rolled out in order to enforce them and ensure compliance. The plans apparently included imposing 20-mph speed limits on TfL controlled roads, which are the main roads in London.

However GLA Conservatives have raised concerns over the speed limit proposals, saying: “The Transport for London road network or red routes are London’s arterial roads. Although they make up just five per cent of London’s roads they contain approximately 30 per cent of London’s traffic. Their purpose – and the reason that they are run by TfL rather than London’s boroughs – is to keep London and Londoners moving.”

Comment: they are right to raise concerns. This looks like a plan to make London’s road transport network even more sclerotic than it is at present. The London Assembly seem to believe that simply reducing speed limits will cut road casualties when that is unlikely to be the case. The reason why speed limits, particularly 20-mph ones, are often ignored is because drivers see no purpose in them on some roads at some times of day. Drivers object to having their intelligence about what is and is not a safe speed at which to drive undermined by limits that apply regardless of traffic, pedestrians presence, cyclists presence, weather conditions and all the other factors that affect at which speed it is safe to drive. Imposing the lowest common denominator of a speed limit set by token gestures rather than the speed limit sent in a scientific manner using the 85th percentile of free flowing traffic speed will not increase compliance.

Other News

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has resigned from the Labour party. That’s probably before he was thrown out for his comments on Hitler. Readers should be reminded that the declared car-hating Livingstone was the catalyst for the destruction of London’s road network and it has gone downhill ever since. From the London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. tax) imposed to reduce congestion which it has not done, to the creation of Transport for London as a body that promoted the wonders of public transport, cycling and walking to the prejudice of all private transport. In reality TfL is an enormous expensive bureaucracy that is now running a massive budget deficit. Mayor Sadiq Khan has simply taken up similar policies in his new Transport Strategy, for example with the ULEZ proposals which will impose enormous costs on Londoners for very little benefit. Like Livingstone he is a “populist” Mayor who panders to the electorate with promises to freeze London’s public transport fares, promises to fix air pollution, promises fix our health problems by encouraging walking and cycling, and other very expensive policies that won’t work with a growing and ageing population in London. But as in the case of Livingstone there are signs that the public are becoming disenchanted with his regime as they see the results of his policies.

Incidentally I happened to walk past Sadiq Khan on the streets of London recently. I had not realised how short he is which is not obvious from his TV appearances. He would make a good shoe-in for Rick Moranis in a remake of “Honey, I shrunk the kids” if you recall that popular film of the 1980s. To quote Mr Khan: “Although I’m 5ft 6 I’ve grown in relation to the ideas I’ve got and what I’m going to do”.

The City of London Corporation that covers the square mile in the business district is drawing up their Transport Strategy. They are holding several meetings on the 29th June and the 6th July to discuss the proposed “vision, aim and outcomes”. Anyone with an interest in the road network in the City may care to attend – it’s free. See https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/city-of-london-transport-strategy-briefing-tickets-46108726442

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Richmond 20-mph Speed Limits – Democracy Abandoned?

The London Borough of Richmond is considering changing its policy on wide-area 20 mph speed limits. Currently it has a policy whereby any area in the borough that desires a 20-mph limit has to submit a petition to the Council, signed by more than 50% of relevant residents. An eminently democratic and sensible policy one might think.

However, a recent council report says that the 15 such petitions submitted since 2014 when the current policy was adopted have consumed a considerable amount of officer time, and that “the requirement for a majority threshold can be difficult to achieve”. Does this not simply mean that it is minority pressure groups that advocate such limits and that the general public (including non-drivers) do not support them?

Regardless the Council is proposing to introduce a 20-mph limit on all roads except the TfL network. Part of the justification is to avoid confusion with neighbouring boroughs such as Hammersmith, Fulham, Wandsworth and Ealing who already have just limits. Note: some of these boroughs do not adjoin Richmond. They also justify their proposals on the grounds of improvements in road safety while being selective in the statistics they use to support this claim.

The cost of this proposed change is £600,000 for new signage, plus £50,000 for a borough-wide public consultation on the proposal. Money to fund both would likely come from TfL grants. Is this a cost-effective use of road safety budgets? Such expenditure has not proved to be worthwhile in other locations and the money would surely be better spent on other road safety measures.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

 

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City of London Transport Strategy

City Traffic 2018The City of London Corporation is currently developing its Transport Strategy. The Corporation covers the square mile of the City and in some respects takes the role of other local London borough councils. It therefore has to also develop a “Local Implementation Plan” to match the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy. The aim is to publish a Transport Strategy for the City by Spring 2019.

As part of this exercise they are running a series of “Workshops” for interested parties and I attended one on the 6th March. This is a report on the event.

The meeting was hosted by Bruce McVean who is heading up the strategy development team. Apparently they have 8 people working on this project. It was amusing to note on my journey to the event where I had to walk through the Bank road junction that there were still numerous vehicles driving through it and ignoring the no-entry signs. See previous blog posts on that subject. Although this scheme is “experimental” the Corporation recently decided to postpone any longer-term proposals for improving the situation.

There is also a “Strategy Board” who will be considering the Transport Strategy, but I have previously commented on the lack of representation on that of anyone with a knowledge of transport issues other than City Corporation staff.

The people attending this Workshop were a very mixed bunch and I have no idea how they qualified for an invite. Apart from myself there was at least one elderly City resident, a lady who represented the interests of the disabled and a keen bus rider (also enthusiastic about trams and trolley buses).

The meeting commenced with a short talk by Iain Simmons (Assistant Director – City Transportation). I had previously communicated with him on the closure of Shorter Street. He gave an overview of the process and the public consultations being undertaken which should complete by the end of the year with findings to be published in March 2019. He discussed the current use of transport in the City based on a report they recently published (called “Traffic in the City 2018” which you can find on the web). The chart above,  taken from that report, shows traffic trends in the City.

As I said to one of the Corporation’s staff this just shows how the road network in the City has been damaged over the last twenty years as it seems unlikely that the demand by users of cars, taxis and PHVs has declined but usage has been obstructed by road closures, removal of road space, traffic congestion and other factors (the congestion charge is not one of them and claims for the impact of that are spurious).

Iain Simmons said that “virtually nobody is now riding around in the City in private cars” which I can well believe. Such vehicles have not just declined, they have been replaced by PHVs to a large extent (minicabs and Uber like services) with even licensed taxis declining in the last two years. There has also been a reduction in goods vehicles (LGVs) perhaps because of consolidation of trips and companies banning delivery of internet orders to their offices. Note that one cause of the reduction of vehicles is now simply the difficulty of entering the City from surrounding roads – for example TfL are using traffic lights to restrict access along the Highway to Upper/Lower Thames Street and the East-West Cycle Superhighway has obstructed access to some parts of the City. The removal of the Aldgate gyratories in the East has also caused congestion and problems with access from that direction.

There has been a big increase in cycling as you see from the chart, but motorcycling has been declining.

One of the key issues to be faced is that the City “population” is increasing. This is mainly driven by the growth in commuters as business offices increase in number and size. This has resulted in pedestrian KSIs going up while others have remained static. Mr Simmons said they still have “a big problem with road danger reduction”. (Note: the 20-mph wide area scheme was noticeably ineffective in improving the road casualty statistics). He also mentioned there was a drive to “turn streets into places”.

Bruce McVean then covered the transport challenges and the opportunities. He said they had received very mixed responses to the consultation so far, with concerns about cycling and the disabled. But he promoted the concept of turning streets into “places” as there was a desire for more open space for pedestrians in the City.

We then broke up into smaller discussion groups. There were lots of ill-informed suggestions made, but there was some agreement on the growing dangers posed by cyclists to pedestrians in the City due to the former’s inconsiderate behaviour. The difficulty of access to some parts of the City, including tube stations, for the disabled or elderly was mentioned. Route finding by pedestrians was often difficult (the Barbican was an area particularly mentioned as being obstructive).

A Corporation staff member suggested that one way to free up more open space would be to remove on-street parking. It was unclear why visitors were using this as such spaces would be difficult to find and there are several off-street car parks. I suggested they ask the users. Note: I think removal of such spaces would only make sense if more off-street parking was provided as many such car parks are now full to capacity. They are also often difficult to access and difficult to find for casual visitors.

There was some agreement that in some areas there was insufficient capacity for pedestrians on pavements and this problem might get worse.

Suggestions were also made to remove all road traffic from the City, simplify and rationalise the road network, develop a ring road, have a “park and ride” scheme and other oddball or impractical ideas (bring back trams for example). There seemed to be little understanding of why vehicles are on City streets although it was mentioned that there are food deliveries for example.

The large numbers of currently highly polluting buses in the City needs to be looked at, particularly as some of them seem to be on “long distance” routes where there seems little need for them to go through narrow City streets.

It was suggested by a staff member that timed road closures as around the bank junction might help (as to how was not clear). I opposed that because occasional visitors are unlikely to be aware of the timings and hence create the difficulties seen at Bank.

At the end of the session I said that I considered the Mayor of London’s desire to turn roads into “places for social interaction and exercise” to be nonsense. Surely the purpose of roads is to enable the movement of goods and people. This issue was not really debated with the City Corporation seeming to have swallowed the dogma of Transport for London and the Mayor hook line and sinker without any thought. Indeed as I have commented before, City Corporation staff seem to have a prejudice against motor vehicles on the roads of the City and the history of the road network in the City over the last 30 years demonstrates many damaging changes which have increased congestion.

Here’s my analysis of the issues and what improvements should be aimed for:

Problems to be faced:

  • Increasing numbers of commuters/pedestrians.
  • Rising traffic congestion, despite reduced vehicle numbers.
  • Air pollution from vehicles and businesses still poor, the former mainly caused by traffic congestion (damaging levels of emissions from vehicles are coming down rapidly due to technological improvements).

What should be aimed for:

  • Improvements in traffic speeds to provide economic benefits and help to cut pollution.
  • Safer roads (stopping pedestrians stepping off pavements into the paths of vehicles is still a major problem).
  • More capacity for all transport modes (i.e. vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians).

I suggest it would be possible to rationalise the road network to gain all those benefits. Bank junction is a good example of where a major redevelopment could simplify the roads, improve traffic flow, free up more open space and reduce road traffic accidents.

One of the problems with releasing more open space is that there is very little unused land in the City and it is of course enormously expensive land. Therefore new office developers like to maximise the developed land space. This is a planning issue that needs to be tackled. Developers really need to have an obligation to ensure some ground space is provided as a public amenity and pavements around new developments should be widened.

In summary there are lots of ways that transport in the City of London could be improved, but I am not convinced that concepts such as turning streets into places, an Orwellian redefinition of the word street, is going to help.

In the meantime, there is a public consultation where you can give your own views here: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/transportstrategy

Postscript: Under the City Corporation’s “Road Danger Reduction Plan”, there are some interesting new initiatives. These include:

  • Lane closures on multi-lane roads at night. Not that there are many in the City but Mansell street is one where there was a pedestrian fatality in 2017.
  • Part-day filtering of certain vehicle types at peak times.
  • Active Travel Priority Zones where the recommended speed for vehicles would be no greater than 10 mph.
  • Lunchtime closures of streets as there are more pedestrians around at that time.

These measures are in response to the latest road safety statistics which show high numbers of pedestrian casualties, mainly from stepping into roads without looking. Pedestrian numbers are rising, and the 20 mph wide area speed limit across the City has had negligible impact. There also seem to be increasing numbers of collisions between cyclists and pedestrians, which can be serious or fatal (e.g. the example of Charlie Alliston on Old Street).

Roger Lawson

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Should a Value Be Placed on a Life, re Croydon 20MPH?

The scheme to implement a wide area, signed-only 20 Mph speed limit in the London Borough of Croydon has been covered in past articles (see the ABD’s campaign page here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/croydon20.htm ). The scheme will cost over £1 million and there have been lots of objections from local residents and the ABD. But Councillors have pushed it through regardless.

It is now the subject of a Judicial Review over the defective consultation process. In addition, I made a complaint to Croydon Council about that in June, and after an initial brush off have had a final response from Jo Negrini, their CEO. She ignored my arguments about the lack of proper cost/benefit justification and lack of provision of the likely benefits in the consultation documents. She simply argued that a value cannot be placed on a life.

This is an extract from my response: “you say (on page 3) that “the report emphasises several times that a value cannot be placed on a life and therefore the benefit of preventing, even a single fatality, cannot be said not to represent value for money to the public”. You use that statement to justify the fact that no proper cost/benefit analysis was done, or the benefit of the scheme put to councillors before they made a decision to proceed.

Such a statement just shows how ignorant you are on road safety matters and the decision-making process used on public schemes (or perhaps you are not so ignorant and are just using this as a poor excuse). A value is placed on a life everyday when evaluating public expenditure. That is for the simple reason that when comparing projects, or looking at where limited cash resources are spent (and as Theresa May recently said: “there is no magic money tree”), it is rational to choose the most cost-effective projects in which to invest. By so doing, the most lives are saved.

The problem with the Croydon 20 wide area scheme is that an enormous amount of money has been spent, that could have been better spent on other road safety projects. And hence saved more lives!

Valuing lives may be seen as somewhat hard-nosed for those who do not have any scientific background, or have not been schooled in how to make rational decisions, but it is how road safety schemes normally are, and should be evaluated.”

This unfortunately is a very good example of the poor quality of local authority decision making in not just London but the UK as a whole. Uneducated and ill-informed councillors make policy decisions that their executive staff are expected to justify and implement. But good council officers should tell the truth and stand up for what is right.

Simillarly the Mayor of London has caught this bug. So he went ahead with the London “T-Charge” this week despite being advised that it would not show any significant benefit in terms of reduced air pollution. It has just imposed enormous costs on one of the poorest sections of the community (those who drive very old cars), but the Mayor thinks it makes for good headlines. Just line up some young schoolchildren for a photo-shoot (a very dubioius practice) and explain this is one step to fixing air pollution problems in London. It makes for great publicity, and helps the Mayor to raise more in taxes under the guise of public health! Great politics if you can fool the public for long enough.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

National Accident Trends and Bus Accidents in London

Fatal accidents on Britain’s roads rose 4% to 1,792 last year. That’s the highest level since 2011 and is clear evidence that fatal accidents are not falling despite all the chest beating of politicians about excessive speeds, and millions of pounds spent on speed cameras, speed awareness courses and traffic calming.

The DfT say the change in fatalities are not statistically significant, but even more alarming is the KSI figure which was up 8% in 2016 over the previous year and which is more statistically significant. The slight injuries were only up 4% but that may have been particularly affected by a change in the reporting system and are notoriously senstive to “under-reporting”.

Explanations from the DfT are the impact of the weather, the fact that accidents tend to rise when the economy is bouyant, plus lots of other factors. Note that the growth in traffic is only a very minor possible factor, and more traffic congestion can actually reduce accidents.

So in summary, the UK road safety industry and its experts have been an abject failure since about 2011 when the accident figures started to flatline.

An example of political posturing that is irrelevant to tackling the real road safety problems is the ambition of the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, in his Mayor’s Transport Strategy to reduce injuries from bus collisions in London to zero. In reality data from TfL show the number of collisions have been rising – up from 22,676 in 2013 to 28,035 in 2016. The number of injuries also rose to 1,231 in 2016.

What might be the reasons for these increases? Possibly more cyclists on the roads, more pedestrians who cross the road without looking, many using their phones at the time, and lots of other factors. So the response of the Mayor is to look at speed limiting technology for buses and anti-collision sensors. Will they solve the problem? Nobody knows because there is no road accident investigation branch similar to those used for rail and aviation, as the ABD has repeatedly called for.

In my view, only when Government politicians, the Mayor and TfL stop looking for quick answers to complex problems will we get some sense back into the road safety debate. In the meantime, it’s just a disgrace that nobody in power seems to be facing up to the reality that the UK is going backwards in road safety.

Roger Lawson

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ABD Response to Mayor’s Transport Strategy

The Alliance of British Drivers has published its formal response to the public consultation on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS).

The Mayor’s proposals are completely distorted because he does not seem to understand what roads are for. This is our answer to the first question posed in the consultation: “It states on page 11 that “London’s streets should be for active travel and social interaction….”. This is nonsense. Streets are built and maintained at great public expense to provide an efficient and cost effective transport system for people and goods. If people need exercise, or social interaction, there are many other ways they can obtain that without taking up scarce road space. The priority should be on providing a transport network in London that meets the business needs and preferences of the public. It should not be distorted to meet other objectives.”

The full document is present here: ABD-Response. It’s well worth reading.

The MTS has a very heavy emphasis on environmental issues and one useful contribution on the debate about air pollution in London and how to tackle it has recently been published by the GLA Conservatives. It is present here: Clearing-the-Air . It shows there are good alternatives to the Mayor’s proposals which would not put such a heavy financial burden on London’s residents and businesses.

You can already see the impact of some of the Mayor’s policies in the news from TfL that license fees for Uber to operate in London will rise from £3,000 to £3 million for a 5-year license!

Roger Lawson

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A Vision in a Dream, After Coleridge

 

The following manuscript has recently come to light, perhaps written by an acolyte of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Roger Lawson

<A Fragment>

In London did Sadiq Khan

A stately Transport Strategy decree:

Where the Thames, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

   Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground

With walls and tower blocks girdled round;

And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,

Where blossomed many a conker tree;

And here were roads ancient as the Romans,

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted

Down among the City streets!

A savage place! As Mammon rampaged free

As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted

By women wailing for West End shopping!

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,

As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,

A mighty fountain momently was forced:

Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst

Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,

Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:

And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever

It flung up momently the sacred river.

Fifty miles meandering with a mazy motion

Through East End industry and London’s suburbs,

Then reached the caverns measureless to man,

And sank in tumult to a polluted North Sea;

And ’mid this tumult Sadiq heard from far

Ancestral voices prophesying air pollution doom!

   The shadow of the dome of the GLA

   Located nigh the sacred river;

   Where was heard the mingled pleas

   From politicians left and right.

It was a miracle of rare device,

An un-costed Transport Strategy at the behest of Sadiq!

   A damsel with a dulcimer

   In a vision once I saw:

   It was an East European maid

   And on her dulcimer she played,

   Singing of Mount Street Mayfair.

   Could I revive within me

   Her symphony and song,

   To such a deep delight ’twould win me,

That with music loud and long,

I would build anew that dome,

Upon a new democratic model!

With freedom to ride the roads at will,

And all should cry, Beware the wrath of Khan!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.

<End>

The ABD’s comments on Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy are present here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm . Please register your opposition.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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