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.

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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).

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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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City of London Becomes Paranoid – It’s 15MPH Everywhere

The City of London Corporation, who govern the square mile, have published their proposed Transport Strategy. It is surely one of the most paranoid attacks on all forms of transport vehicles ever proposed. It includes the following proposals:

  • A City-wide speed limit for all vehicles of 15 mph, with Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) being used in all buses and public service vehicles to enforce it.
  • Priority given to pedestrians, even over cyclists, in most of the City’s streets.
  • Encouraging the Mayor of London to implement a central London zero emission vehicle zone, or if he does not doing it themselves for the City, i.e. only electric vehicles would be permitted.
  • Reducing vehicular traffic by 25% by 2025.
  • Expanding the City’s cycle network with wider cycle lanes.

As I said in my previous report on consultation meetings for the development of the Transport Strategy: “The road network will be degraded in the alleged interests of cyclists, pedestrians and environmental dogma”. See https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/07/01/degrading-the-road-network-in-the-city-of-london/ . One of the “key themes” that the Corporations officers say came out of these events were that motor traffic levels on the City’s streets are too high. That’s not how I recall the meetings. There were more concerns expressed about dangerous cycling than road traffic. There was of course no mention of a wide-area 15 mph speed limit in any of their consultations or meetings.

Bearing in mind that the vast majority of City workers do walk to work from main line or underground stations, and that some locations are overcrowded, improvement in pedestrian facilities does make some sense. But ignoring the needs of vehicle users is wrong. Very few people drive in the City unless they need to. The City is even going to discourage taxis and PHVs and it is going to work with TfL to reduce the number of buses. Likewise there are proposals to reduce the number of service and delivery vehicles in the square mile.

The proposed 15 mph speed limit is surely not going to be complied with, and that applies to pedal cyclists as much as vehicle drivers. It is very difficult to drive a car at 15 mph or less consistently if for no other reason than vehicle speedometers are not accurate or easy to read at very low levels. The only reason it might be complied with is because of traffic congestion which reduces vehicle speeds already to below that level for much of the time. But I would also question whether such a limit is legally enforceable. Signs to indicate that limit would be required but there are no legally approved signs of that nature (only 20, 30 etc.). Driving vehicles at less than 15 mph will of course increase air pollution so it’s also contradictory to their other transport policies.

The City Corporation will be undertaking a public consultation on their Transport Strategy in November. Readers are encouraged to respond to it. You can read the draft Transport Strategy document here: http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/documents/s102969/Draft%20TS%20Local%20Plan%20Sub%20091018%20combined.pdf

In the meantime, the City’s Planning and Transport Committee confirmed that the closure of Bank junction will be made permanent despite that fact that numerous vehicle drivers are clearly not aware of the restriction and collect a fine from driving through it.

Roger Lawson

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Cycling in London, and Cycle Passing Limits

There are a number of cyclists who avidly read this blog. Many of them are critical of the issues I have raised about the standards of cycling in London in a number of articles. It was very amusing to read an article in the Financial Times last Saturday (29/9/2018) by Katie Martin. She is an FT writer and she gives the views of someone who has been cycling to the office for the last nine years.

She said cyclists would be wrong to assume the main threat was cars, and she highlights two others as of importance: the road itself and other cyclists.

Potholes are a major menace to cyclists and she points out that unlike for vehicle drivers, potholes are not just a route to a repair shop, they are a risk to life and limb. I am sure that all road users will agree that potholes have become a major problem as expenditure on road maintenance and proper resurfacing has been cut back by local councils.

But she says an under appreciated risk is other cyclists who are “comfortably the diciest fellow users of the road”. She describes most of them as “infuriatingly rubbish and some would struggle to pass a primary school proficiency test”. She reports that they run red lights, don’t signal before they swing into your path, don’t use lights in the dark and barge in front of you at traffic lights. There is much more in the same vein.

She also criticises pedestrians and car passengers who open doors without looking, but she does not wish to put off anyone from cycling! You can read the full article here: https://www.ft.com/content/b6ffcb9c-c239-11e8-8d55-54197280d3f7 . I hope she does not get too many abusive comments from her fellow cyclists.

Cycle Passing Limit and Disclosure of Evidence

One ABD correspondent has written to the ABD about the fact that he received a Notice of Intended Prosecution about a claimed offence of passing a cyclist too closely in North Wales, which he denies. The police are claiming to have evidence based on a headcam worn by a cyclist but are refusing to disclose the video evidence or even a transcript of a statement given by the cyclist.

Firstly, headcam or dashcam footage can be used as evidence in criminal cases if some conditions are met although the widespread use of cameras does raise the question of privacy. There is effectively none at present on the public roads.

As regards disclosure of evidence, the police certainly need to disclose the evidence if they intend to pursue a prosecution. See this article on Pepipoo for more information on that subject: http://www.pepipoo.com/Disclosure.htm . Perhaps the Police are relying on people accepting a Fixed Penalty Notice rather than going to court to challenge the case, but that would be most dubious.

As regards the distance that vehicle users should allow when overtaking a cyclist, the Highway Code says the following: “Give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car” and “Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make”. This is somewhat unspecific as some drivers might feel they need not give much space when overtaking another vehicle at slow speeds.

One can see that any prosecution might be difficult based on those parts of the Highway Code. So cyclists have called for more specific limits, e.g. 1.5 metres, or perhaps 1.0 metre on roads with lower speed limits. Ireland proposed to introduce such a law but it was abandoned after realisation that it would create legal difficulties. The Department for Transport is currently considering the matter in the UK.

But in this writer’s view, any specific limit is not sensible. In central London, where streets are narrow, and traffic speeds are low, giving 1.5 metres would not be easy and might simply lead to encroachment onto the opposite carriageway thus creating other road safety risks. Likewise on some of the narrow country roads in North Wales. A wide limit on high-speed dual carriageways or other A-roads may be quite appropriate but equating it to the road speed limit rather than the speed of a vehicle and its size makes no sense. Larger vehicles that create much bigger back drafts are more of a risk to cyclists and drivers of those need to allow more space.

Perhaps the Highway Code should be reworded to try and clarify what is a reasonable passing distance but any specific limit seems unwise because it very much depends on the circumstances. The ABD will respond to any public consultation on this issue if one appears.

In the meantime, it seems some Police Forces are using “Careless Driving” offences to try and enforce specific passing distances and are even offering “education courses” as an alternative to taking the points and fines. That is much the same way as they offer speed awareness courses which the ABD is campaigning against (see our AMPOW campaign at https://www.speed-awareness.org/ ). This is morally and legally dubious and should be strongly opposed.

Roger Lawson

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Number Plates for Cyclists

It was Ken Livingstone who first advocated that cyclists should have number plates on their bikes. That was in response to poor behaviour by cyclists and a complaint to him on a radio phone-in about cycling on pavements. That was back in 2006 but he did not progress the proposal.

Since then cycling behaviour in London has got considerably worse. But a south London school is going to make its pupils display a number plate. This is in Carshalton in South London. Headmaster Amit Amin said that pupils have been cycling in a way “that endangers themselves and others”. Cycling pupils will be given a number plate which they must display when riding to and from school in future.

It brought a rather predictable response from a spokesperson for Cycling UK who suggested it might deter cycling by “making it more difficult”. Cyclists seem to oppose more regulation of cycling in any form. Note that other schools already have rules about what pupils should wear when cycling – for example helmets. That is for safety reasons for themselves but rules that provide more safety to others do not seem totally unreasonable and it is difficult to see why having to display a number would deter anyone from cycling.

Roger Lawson

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