E-bikes and Scooters Have Become a Major Casualty Problem in Holland

The use of electric powered cycles and e-scooters has taken off in a big way in Holland. But the results in terms of road casualties have got substantially worse.

In 2017, for the first time ever, more cyclists were involved in fatal accidents than motorists in the Netherlands. The number of cyclists suffering fatal injuries was at its highest for ten years and more than a quarter of the victims met their end on an e-bike. More men than women cyclists died and two-thirds of them were over 65.

In addition 25 people using scooters died. The article that disclosed this news (see https://tinyurl.com/y5kx2e5n ) suggested that the reason the elderly were such high a proportion of victims was because they have problems in keeping their balance on e-bikes. But it also probably relates to their higher risk of medical problems, and poor recovery times, after simple falls off fast moving bikes. It’s worth pointing out that many of these accidents will not have involved motor vehicles in any way.

Comment: It is clear that the encouragement of more cycling on congested streets as we have seen in London under the Mayor’s Transport Strategy is likely to have negative consequences. Meanwhile the suggestion of the use of e-scooters on London’s streets, where it is currently illegal but most people don’t know it, should surely be discouraged.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Mayor’s Vision Zero Strategy Failing

In 2018 the Mayor of London launched the Vision Zero strategy to reduce road casualties in the capital city. But road casualty figures for 2018 show that Killed and Seriously Injured (KSIs) on London’s road actually increased by 5% to 4,065 in 2018. Vision Zero is a key part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy along with the encouragement for modal shift with the aim of getting more people walking and cycling.

However, cyclist fatalities actually rose by 20% to 12, and cyclist serious injuries rose by 14% to 770. Cycling is one of the most dangerous ways to travel so is this encouragement to cycling misconceived?

The trend in London KSIs matches the national picture where road deaths have plateaued in recent years. See chart below from the DfT report of national road casualties in 2018.

National Fatalities 2018

We will no doubt see renewed calls for lower speed limits and more enforcement, but the ABD has consistently argued that the focus on simplistic solutions to road safety problems, such as traffic speed reductions, cannot and will not work to cut the horrendous toll of road casualties. The encouragement of cycling is surely an example of an unintended consequence of a policy introduced with the best of intentions to improve the health of the population. In London enormous expenditure on Cycle Superhighways and cycle lanes of other kinds has been incurred in the last few years. This was justified on improving cycle safety but in reality the impact is not apparent. The encouragement of cycling may have actually made the road casualty statistics worse.

The ABD has argued that Vision Zero is a counter-productive road safety fantasy. We argue that more attention should be paid to road user education and road engineering. See our submission to Parliament’s Road Safety Transport Committee in April 2019 given below:

Evidence to Transport Committee 2019: Evidence to Transport Committee 2019-03-26

London Road Casualties 2018: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/casualties-in-greater-london-2018.pdf

National Road Casualties 2018: https://tinyurl.com/yy4ouonf

Postscript: With the appointment of Andrew Gilligan as a transport advisor to our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who as former London Cycling Commissioner under Boris was a big contributor to the growth of cycling in the capital and what many argue is the wasted expenditure on Cycle Superhighways, will we see the same defective policies being spread across the country?

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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E-Scooters and E-Bikes – Should They Be Regulated?

Lime E-Bike

Last week saw the report of the first death in London of a rider of an E-Scooter. Emily Hartridge, television presenter and YouTube blogger, died after being hit by a lorry in Battersea. These “vehicles” are actually illegal in the UK whether ridden on the pavement or on the road so are effectively useless other than on private land. The Government is to remind retailers of the devices that they need to tell purchasers of that fact as they are becoming a growing menace in central London.

However, there are calls for them to be regulated even though they have caused many difficulties in cities such as Paris not just on safety grounds but because many simply get abandoned on the streets, often in inconvenient or obstructive locations.

Another vehicle growing in popularity are e-bikes with more than one company providing “dockless” rental bikes (as opposed to the “docked Boris-bikes run by TfL). One operator is Lime who have recently opened a scheme in the London Borough of Bromley and they are also operating in Brent and Ealing. They are the bright green bikes you now see left on the streets of those boroughs, waiting for people to rent them. Incidentally Lime also rent e-Scooters in Paris so if they became legal to use on London’s roads then they may be expected to start up similar operations here.

What are the road safety concerns about e-scooters and e-bikes. For e-scooters they are potentially a risk to the users as they offer no protection to the rider from hitting vehicles as few users bother with crash helmets. In addition and because of the speed they travel, they are a risk to pedestrians. The first they know about it is the impact because they are silent and can hit you from behind without warning.

Indeed many pedestrians have the same concerns about bicycles being ridden on pavements in London and electric cycles are particularly dangerous as they can go at higher speeds.

Comment: Certainly regulations need to be established and enforced and consideration needs to be given to whether riders of such vehicles (including cycles) should need to be licensed and required to have insurance. In the meantime, if you see people riding either e-scooters or bikes on the pavement you should tell them to get off it as I do regularly. And in the case of e-scooter riders you should tell them they are illegal altogether.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Rotherhithe Bridge – A Bridge Too Far

Work on the proposed pedestrian/cycle bridge at Rotherhithe is being “paused” which is probably a face-saving admission that it is being cancelled as being unaffordable. With costs rising above £400 million it was always a ludicrously expensive way of providing another river crossing east of Tower Bridge. The alternative of supplying a ferry will now be examined by TfL.

The bridge was strongly opposed by the ABD and by an active local pressure group. See these previous blog posts for more information:

https://tinyurl.com/y3ddvgzr

https://tinyurl.com/y5sgglzh

https://tinyurl.com/y3a9gll9

At least the Mayor has stepped back from what would have been yet another example of his financial profligacy, but one has to ask how this project ever saw the light of day. Such projects, rather like HS2, gather their own momentum when they should be killed off as soon as the cost/benefit ratio is obviously inadequate. No doubt we may learn how much money has been wasted on this project sooner or later.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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CS9 Will Reduce Traffic Speed to 4 MPH on Hammersmith Road

Cycle Superhighway 9 (CS9 or CW9 as it now is) will reduce traffic speed on the Hammersmith Road to 4 mph (6 km/h) according to a report on the environmental impact of the scheme issued by TfL. What the report says is that “The change in road layout, removal of a bus lane and decrease in predicted average speeds from 23 km/h to 6 km/h at R57 (Hammersmith Road) offsets the predicted reduction in traffic at this location”. It also suggests there is no significant benefit in air pollution.

This is yet another example of how damaging cycle schemes are to the road network and the enormous waste of money that is being spent on them.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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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