Rotherhithe Cycle and Pedestrian Bridge

An article contributed by the Rotherhithe Bridge Action Group:

Sadiq Khan’s Taxpayer funded vanity project – the world’s longest and tallest vertical lift bridge.

Rotherhithe Bridge 2Rotherhithe Bridge 1

TfL recently confirmed that their chosen bridge design, connecting the eastern fringes of Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf, is a vertical lift bridge with a truss deck. The bridge will have concrete towers 90m tall and 15m wide, supporting a bridge deck 180m long. The Rotherhithe Bridge design is 10m longer than the Arthur Kill railroad bridge, currently the world’s longest vertical lift bridge. The deck will lift to a height of 60m above the mean spring high waters to facilitate the movement of large vessels.

The initial cost of the Rotherhithe Bridge is currently estimated at £400m+, with project costs at £600m (including operating, renewal and maintenance costs of £2.4m per annum over the appraisal period of the asset). Currently the GLA have allocated just over £100m towards the Rotherhithe Bridge. As private funding has failed to meet the remaining cost, TfL have confirmed that the funding will come from the 2017/18-2021/22 Healthy Streets Programme budget. As a result many programmes, which include cycling projects, are at risk of being postponed or cancelled.

TfL analysed the Navigable Bridge (swing design) as having the highest Benefit to Cost Ratio (“BCR”) value of 1.97:1, as compared to a tunnel or enhanced ferry. Further investigation shows that TfL used a bridge cost of £19m or less to achieve this favourable 1.97 BCR value. Using the current bridge cost estimates gives a realistic BCR value of just 0.65:1. This project, therefore, represents poor value for money and always has done. TfL have actually estimated a swing bridge cost of between £182m and £274m (including 52% optimum bias), so it is difficult to understand the reasons for using the erroneous £19m value in the BCR analysis. Sadiq Khan and TfL have failed to provide an explanation. Since the Mayor was made aware of this material error in 2018 he has spent a further £7.2m on the Rotherhithe Bridge project.

More information on the BCR analysis is provided in this document:

https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/80a646fd/files/uploaded/BCR%20analysis.pdf

TfL have chosen the central alignment connecting Durand’s Wharf Park, south of the river, to Westferry Circus. No feasability study was commissioned to determine the most suitable location for a bridge in East London. TfL confirmed that this was because the location had been selected by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Spending £600m on any project without commissioning this basic assessment is irresponsible at best.

Thames Clippers is currently working with Beckett Rankine to develop a rival scheme to the Rotherhithe Bridge. This uses three all electric, zero emission, ferries with a new pier at Rotherhithe and an extended pier at Canary Wharf. The total cost would be under £30m which is a fraction of the £400m+ cost of the Rotherhithe Bridge. The ferries would be cycle-on cycle-off and during peak times all three would run, departing every few minutes. There are a number of examples where this works well around the world including Gosport and Amsterdam.

With Sadiq Khan’s mantra being that he will not tolerate any waste of public money; it is hard to understand why so much Taxpayer funds are being spent on the Rotherhithe Bridge. The free to use enhanced ferry is a far cheaper viable alternative, which meets the “Healthy Streets” objectives without compromising other projects.

Karryn Beaumont

Rotherhithe Bridge Action Group

www.rotherhithebridge.uk

 

Dockless Bike Hire Schemes Fading Away, and TfL Scheme Economics

Cycle - Ofo.jpgDockless bike hire is where cycles can be picked up, used and then discarded anywhere on the streets of a city, for a small fee. That contrasts with the TfL/Santander bike hire scheme in London where you can only retrieve and return bikes from docking stations. Dockless bike hire has taken off in some cities across the world, and a number of operators launched such schemes in London.

The Guardian ran an interesting article recently on the success, or otherwise, of such schemes in the UK under the heading “Life cycle: is it the end for Britain’s dockless bike schemes? See: http://tinyurl.com/y37ugqc3

Many operators who launched in the UK have found to their cost that there are high levels of theft and vandalism of bikes. In addition, many local councils (i.e. boroughs in London) have opposed their introduction because it means that bikes get abandoned on streets, often causing obstruction. Some boroughs have taken to removing bikes unless the operator is approved, although technically they do not have to be licensed as yet. This means that as some boroughs have approved operators but others not, bikes cannot be ridden across borough boundaries without the risk of seizure.

Failures include oBike who put 1,330 bikes in London in July 2017 and withdrew them four months later. Wandsworth impounded many of them as they appeared without warning they claimed. Ofo, a very large Chinese company, launched in London but is now withdrawing altogether from the UK.

Comment: Clearly an example of a “good idea” which ignored the amount of criminal activity and general vandalism in some parts of London. An example of an unproven business model which has yet to demonstrate it can be run as a viable economic business.

But is the TfL “docked” scheme economic? The answer is no. It lost £3.7 million in 2017/18 even after the sponsorship income of £6.3 million from Santander. So losses are about equal to the fare income in reality. Or to put it another way, the fares paid by users cover less than half the operating costs. That year was similar to the previous year and the one before that was even worse. Clearly a totally uneconomic solution for the transport needs of London users, heavily subsidised by other TfL income (which is mainly bus/tube fares and taxes) and by Santander.

You can see more detail on the economics of the TfL scheme here: http://tinyurl.com/y44cyebj

This was another “good idea” introduced by cycling fanatic Boris Johnson pandering to the cycling fraternity, just like all the very expensive cycle lanes built in London in recent years. The result is enormous expenditure to no good purpose and it is financially unjustifiable. But recent Mayors of London have tended not to be hot on financial management as Sadiq Khan has shown repeatedly with TfL running up large deficits while Boris Johnson wasted £43 million of public money on the “Garden Bridge” before it was recently abandoned altogether. Politicians are good at spending your money, and politicking it seems to pander to the whims of the electorate, but not at managing budgets and staying within their income. That’s one reason why Mr Khan is so keen to raise taxes via the ULEZ scheme.

Roger Lawson

 

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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How TfL and Local Councils Waste Your Money

On the 17th December I attended a Committee Meeting of the London Borough of Bromley. It can be useful to attend such meetings so as to become familiar with what your local representatives are doing. This meeting was one of the Environment and Community Services Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee called specially to review the proposal for a cycle lane on Crofton Road in Orpington. The proposal to spend £673,000 on this project had been “called in” by Councillor Tony Owen and others after a decision by the Portfolio Holder Councillor Huntington-Thresher to proceed with it. So the Scrutiny Committee had to review the decision.

This cycle lane was originally planned to run all the way from Locksbottom to Orpington Station at a cost of nearly a million pounds. The scheme was reduced in cost when the section from Ormonde Avenue was cut out. Note that the funding to cover the cost of the scheme comes from Transport for London (TfL). As was pointed out in the meeting, this is still taxpayer’s money and councillors need to take care of it.

Councillor Owen spoke against the scheme. He said that Councillor Huntington-Thresher had previously assured us that he would not make decisions that were not evidence-based. He suggested this scheme was being driven by two motives: spending of budget money and the need to encourage switching from using cars to using buses or cycling – but the latter was not credible. He said that it was “overkill” when the council could just paint some cycle lanes on the road. It might result in slower traffic and more air pollution and might disrupt bus timetables. There are possible alternative routes to the Station. He also expressed concern about the impact on emergency service vehicles who had not been consulted.

Councillor Huntington-Thresher responded that they are encouraging cycling but there was slow take up of bikes. Others mentioned that TfL were keen to support this proposal as part of their wider cycling strategy and considered this a key route.

There was discussion of the number of cyclists who might use the route – TfL had forecast 21,000 apparently. But a TfL survey in the summer had shown only 91 cyclists on the road in a day. It was suggested that the forecast usage was simply incredible.

The public consultation on the proposals were also discussed. Over 3,000 consultation forms had been sent out to local residents but only 26 responses were received. Of those 17 were in favour. The Crofton Residents Association Chairman was reported as saying the consultation was “not credible”.

The Scrutiny Committee voted to take no action so the scheme will proceed as proposed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Comment: Yes it’s your money that is being spent by TfL on what seems a totally unjustifiable cycle scheme. Encouraging cycling may be meritorious but I doubt that cyclists are deterred from using this route at present on what is mainly a wide road (see photo above). There was also no apparent case in road safety terms as no accident data was presented at the meeting. It’s more likely the number of cyclists is very low on this route because there is a steep hill from Orpington High Street up to the Station and thereafter west on Crofton Road. Could it be that bureaucrats at TfL just looked at a map and did not actually try cycling the route?

This “eye-watering” expenditure as Councillor Owen called it, is a ridiculous use of public funds when TfL are already running up a major budget deficit. TfL are funding similar schemes all over London in other boroughs as cycling gets funding that is unjustified on any rational basis. It is very unlikely that car users on that route will turn to cycling and the cost per cyclist is simply enormous. The public consultation was also very selective. Were people told how much money it would cost and how few cyclists were currently using the route? I doubt it.

In summary, it certainly seems unwise of councillors to support this expenditure. The cost of £673,000 would be a godsend to hard-pressed council budgets if spent on other things such as social services. TfL is in essence being financially mismanaged by a Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who seems to have no financial acumen whatsoever. That is very apparent from his Transport Strategy for example. He complains about lack of money but wastes money on such schemes as that in Orpington.

Mayor to Spend Even More Money on Cycling

The Mayor has recently announced a “Major Action Plan to Get More Londoner’s Cycling”. This will involve improved standards for cycle routes, a rebranding of Superhighways/Quietways, and a cycling infrastructure database but also undoubtedly more expenditure on cycling provision. See https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/action-plan-to-get-more-londoners-cycling

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Are the Public Concerned About Cyclists Behaviour?

The public in London are certainly concerned about cyclists’ behaviour. Below are some of the comments noted in the Transport for London (TfL) document just published on “Response to Issues Raised on Cycle Superhighway 4 (Tower Bridge to Greenwich)”:

Cyclist behaviour – Attitude and compliance

Some respondents said they were concerned that cyclists disobey traffic lights. Others raised concerns about aggressive cycling, lack of awareness towards other road users, including pedestrians and disregard to the Highway Code.

Speed

A number of respondents expressed concern over speeding cyclists posing a danger to other cyclists, with some suggesting a cyclist speed limit or physical measures to reduce speeds. Others raised concerns over pedestrian safety due to the speed of cyclists.

Policy

A number of people raised policy issues around cycling including suggesting cyclists are licenced, insured, should pay tax, follow the Highway Code or take a test. Others said it should be compulsory for cyclists to use cycle lanes and that bells on bicycles should be mandatory.

See https://tinyurl.com/yahz3rk2  for the full report, and TfL’s answers to those concerns.

These concerns will surely only grow as electric cycles become more common, enabling cyclists to achieve higher speeds. The other concern is the use of “cargo bikes” that are often very heavy and often also electric powered. A pedestrian being hit by a cargo bike is much more dangerous than being hit by a car at the same speed because they are not designed to protect pedestrians in collisions.

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Unblock the Embankment and City Transport Strategy

A campaign named “Unblock the Embankment” (see https://unblocktheembankment.co.uk/ ) have published a report that says the Cycle Superhighway on the Embankment is costing the capital £5.3 million per year. The Embankment was reduced from two lanes to one on some stretches to accommodate the Superhighway (CS3) in 2016. Not only did that create enormous traffic congestion due to the necessary road works, but ever since there has been increased congestion on that route which has added very substantially to journey times on this key East-West route. The increased congestion has also made air pollution on that route substantially worse when Upper/Lower Thames Street was already one of the worst pollution hot-spots (which of course cyclists have to breathe).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are few viable alternative routes for the many commercial vehicle users which affects thousands of businesses. The route is used by cyclists but their numbers are only significant during rush hours and alternative routes could have been devised for them. This was one of the most damaging changes to the road network in London ever devised. But Sadiq Khan thinks it’s a great success which just shows you how misinformed he is.

Please support the “Unblock” campaign.

The Unblock campaign has also pointed out that the City of London’s Transport Strategy which aims to reduce traffic within the City will cause more vehicles to use this key East-West route through the City. I attended a meeting in the City on Friday 30/11/2018 to complain that the Corporation’s officers do not seem to be listening to our objections to their proposals. They still refused to listen on the basis that many respondents to their consultations supported their proposals. Indeed the audience present was hardly typical of the hundreds of thousands of people who work in the City, or those who have to service them. There is an on-line consultation which you can respond to here: https://www.citystreets.london/questionnaire/age-check but bearing in mind the way such surveys are designed to get the intended answers, it may be better, and simpler, to just send your comments directly to this email address: strategic.transportation@cityoflondon.gov.uk

But will the consultation results be honest? It is possible to submit multiple responses to this consultation from the same IP address so it is likely to be manipulated by pressure groups. Likewise multiple emails could be sent to the above email address (many people have more than one).

Here are suggestions for submissions on the “Key Proposals” (focussed on the consultation survey questions):

Proposal 2. There should be no prioritisation of transport modes. All road users are equal and provision for different modes should be based on rational cost/benefit analysis and the demands of different users, i.e. provision for pedestrians should not automatically take priority over other road users.

Proposal 11. There should be no general policy to reduce road traffic which is essential to the working of the City and for the convenience of the public. Road traffic is already quite low in the City during most of the day due to past restrictions on access. It is not necessary to reduce it further.

Proposal 14. I am opposed to reduction in parking. Parking provision is essential for many vehicle users and reducing it just causes them to drive around looking for a space creating more congestion and air pollution.

Proposal 17. Keeping pavements free of obstructions is a laudable aim but does drinking outside pubs really cause a problem when it is a long tradition in the City?

Proposal 20. Vision Zero sound like a good objective but in reality is unlikely to be achievable. Limiting vehicle speeds to 15 mph is particularly objectionable as it is both impractical and won’t be adhered to. Even if enforced it will be no more effective than the 20-mph limit has been. It will also slow traffic and increase journey times. There is no cost/benefit justification for such a proposal.

Proposal 24. Too much money is already been spent on cycling provision as opposed to the needs of other road users (e.g. vehicles and pedestrians).

Proposal 29. I am opposed to a Zero Emission zone as it will impose enormous costs on vehicle owners and have very little benefit in terms of reducing air pollution. It is also impractical for some vehicle owners to purchase such vehicles, e.g. for HGVs because they are simply not available.

Proposal 38. Reducing freight vehicles is not possible without imposing very high costs on businesses. Where is the cost/benefit analysis? Where are the practical alternatives? Cargo bikes are not a practical solution for most purposes.

Proposal 41. Reducing the impact of construction is a laudable objective but this has been proposed in the past with no great result.

MAKE SURE YOU RESPOND TO THE CITY’S CONSULTATION NOW!

Roger Lawson

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Bromley LIP – Better But Not Good Enough

My previous article was on the draft Local Implementation Plan (LIP) for Transport published by the London Borough of Lambeth. I suggested their past policies have been a failure both to improve road safety and provide an efficient transport network. The adjacent Borough of Bromley has now published their LIP and opened a public consultation on it. This article explains in brief some of the key points.

You would expect that Bromley’s LIP would be more sympathetic to vehicle users, and so it is to some extent, but it’s far from perfect. Bromley is a large borough with very high car ownership levels and some parts of the borough, such as Biggin Hill, have relatively low public transport accessibility. Poor orbital connectivity of public transport is also a problem that encourages car use. It is also hilly in parts which mitigates against cycling. But the future transport policies are to a large extent by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan – indeed I suggest that this LIP kowtows too much to the Mayor’s desires.

But Bromley’s population is growing like most London boroughs so traffic congestion is getting worse. The Mayor would like 80% of trips in London to be taken but Bromley is proposing targets of 47% by 2021 (1% change) and 60% by 2041. These figures will be achieved by encouraging more walking and cycling and by public transport improvements. To encourage cycling it is proposed to develop the Strategic Cycle Network and expand Quietways.

As regards road safety, Bromley has a good record – reducing KSIs from 230 in 1999 to 50 in 2014. This has been done by concentrating efforts on accident hot spots and good education programmes. However there was an increase in the last couple of years even allowing for adjusting to the change in accident recording. As in Lambeth, there is a disproportionate casualty incidence for pedal cyclists. Yes cycling is dangerous. This was made clear by a recent press release by a road safety organisation which said that people on two wheels face a 63 times higher risk of being killed or seriously injured (KSI) per mile travelled than car drivers. But the Mayor still wants us to cycle which might be good for your health in other ways but is clearly risky.

As regards safe speeds, the borough suggests that removing entre line markings can have a significant impact on traffic speed. But does it make the roads safer? And this is what they have to say on 20 mph limits which is more sensible: “With regard to 20mph speed limits and zones, the Borough does not believe that a blanket approach is the most effective means of improving road safety. Too often such schemes do nothing to change the characteristics of the street and lead to only quite insignificant reductions in speed and the cost of a Borough wide approach would also mean that resources would be diverted from schemes that tackle actual hot spots and priority areas that require more significant engineering measures. There is also a concern that borough wide approach could lead to an element of driver fatigue with the result that the key areas for driver attention are no longer prominent. The Borough will therefore adopt a targeted approach to the introduction of 20mph speed limits or advisory limits…..”. An eminently reasonable approach and which accords with the evidence on 20-mph schemes just published by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Apart from relieving traffic congestion by “mode shift”, they propose to promote the use of car clubs and various approaches to reduce van deliveries such as central consolidation centres with local cargo bike provision.

Air quality is not a major problem in Bromley but there are some “hot spots” that need improving. These will be tackled by specific measures – details to follow in the Borough’s Air Quality Action Plan, but the measures look relatively harmless such as encouragement of electric vehicles and anti-idling measures.

There are many initiatives proposed to improve access to public transport such as to buses and train stations which are positive, but they also wish to improve bus journey times. One proposal to assist is to extend the hours on some bus lanes. The ABD believes bus lanes should be removed not extended. They create congestion for other vehicles and do not necessarily assist with improving total people movement.

Many of the proposals do of course depend on funding from Transport for London (TfL) as local boroughs have very little of their own funding for transport programmes. This is evident from page 91 of the LIP. That means, the Mayor is dictating where money is spent, with the result that there is too much on cycling and pedestrian encouragement and too little on improving the road network for other users.

Will the draft Bromley LIP get past TfL and the Mayor, who have to approve such documents? We will have to wait and see. In the meantime you should respond to the on-line consultation here: https://www.bromley.gov.uk/localimplementationplan where you can also download the full LIP document to read if you wish to do so.

DO TELL THEM WHAT YOU THINK!

Roger Lawson

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