Cycle Superhighways Brought in Too Quickly

London Transport Commissioner Mike Brown conceded at a recent LBC event that former London Mayor Boris Johnson pushed through implementation of the first cycle superhighways too rapidly. He said “I think it was ill-judged, it was too fast and ill thought through in the speed in which it was done which I’m afraid is the main downside of living in a democracy because people want to do things in their term”. In other words, Boris wished to get some implemented before he departed for higher things and pushed the plans through too quickly.

Mike Brown did say that he supported the superhighways which he suggested had reduced accidents to cyclists and expenditure on cycle schemes is still rising.

What was wrong with the cycle superhighways? They have increased congestion substantially – for example on a key east/west route along Upper/Lower Thames Street and the Embankment. Indeed cyclists have to now breath air on one of the most heavily polluted roads in London because of the air pollution from slow moving traffic and the fact that many buses and HGV/LGVs use that road. The extra journey times were forecast but the cost/benefit analysis or consideration of alternative routes were not properly considered. Motorists are as a result deeply unhappy. Other routes including some still being developed are causing opposition from road users because of the lack of thought in their design and the impact on traffic speed and congestion. Transport for London (TfL) still seem to prioritise the needs of cyclists over all other road users while spending enormous sums of money supporting them when very little is otherwise done to improve the road network.

But cyclists are also unhappy because of the poor design of some aspects of Cycle Superhighway 1 where there are junctions with other roads or it runs along main roads.

If more consideration had been given to the design of cycle superhighways, and their routing, all these problems could have been avoided.

Roger Lawson

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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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Bank Junction Closure To Be Made Permanent?

Bank junction in the City of London has been closed to all but cyclists and buses for more than a year on an “experimental” basis. This was declared to be in the interests of road safety following the death of a cyclist a couple of years ago, and to reduce air pollution. The City of London Corporation have now issued a press release and report on the scheme – the latter can be found here in the Agenda Reports Pack: http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=19871&x=1

In summary, Corporation staff claim it has been a great success with casualties reducing by 52%, air pollution reducing and bus journey times improving. They also claim no major impact on surrounding roads and that three quarters of people responding to a consultation supported the scheme.

The ABD opposed the closure because this is a key hub in the City’s road network, and because there were many people who were not aware of the closure and ignored the signs. The latest detail data on that indicated 800 drivers per day were infringing with the result that they will get a £130 penalty fine (reduced to £65 if they pay promptly). That’s equivalent to £15 million per year in total.

We also suggested that the road junction be redesigned to improve safety at the junction and provide more pedestrian space. There were plans for a longer-term project to improve the junction but it looks like this has now been dropped as there is no mention of it.

What are the facts about this scheme? Firstly only 45% of respondents supported the scheme in the consultation without changes being made, i.e. THERE WAS NO OVERALL SUPPORT.

Journey times on alternative routes to avoid Bank Junction have been substantially increased in some cases. For example it now takes an extra 1 to 2 minutes along Cannon Street, a relatively short road.

Taxi drivers are particularly concerned by their inclusion in the ban, and they have problems with delivering people to some locations – for example the relatively new NED hotel just west of the junction.

As regards the road safety benefits, obviously if roads are closed then accidents are reduced. But as the traffic simply diverts to other roads, there may be no overall benefit. In addition there is always a temporary improvement in accident figures after road engineering work which is why a three year before and three year after analysis is usually considered best practice by road safety engineers. But in this case the City Corporation have not waited for the full results.

I spoke briefly on the LBC Nick Ferrari show about this proposal and questioned why the whole of the City was not closed to traffic as that would obviously improve road safety even more. If you think that is a good idea, then you are ignoring the needs of certain road users (including bus users), and the need to deliver goods and services to offices and shops in the City.

The report mentioned above will now be considered by a number of City Corporation Committees. Let us hope that some members have the sense to object.

Roger Lawson

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How the Mayor Spends Your Money

An interesting report was recently published by the City of London Corporation on how they plan to spend a £1 million grant from the Mayor of London for a Low Emission Neighbourhood scheme (LEN). This was a figure (£990,000 to be exact) to be spent over three years and although some minor projects have been delivered it seems that the intended “transformational” scope is missing and that the money needs to be spent in the 2018-19 financial year or it will be lost.

As a result two schemes have been put forward: 1) for a Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) restriction on Moor Lane in the City; and 2) for a similar restriction on Beech Street. Beech Street runs east/west underneath the Barbican like a tunnel and is a particularly poor location for air quality as a result.

But it looks like only a Moor Lane ULEV scheme will be delivered in 2019 using the LEN funding. The air pollution benefit may be relatively low but it will enable the impact of such schemes to be measured, particularly as they affect taxi drivers who are some of the more common users of that road. It will also encourage taxi owners to upgrade to newer zero emission capable vehicles.

The Beech Street proposals will be phased but if found to be viable will ultimately be restricted to west-bound only ULEV vehicles. Funding for this will apparently come from later schemes and might be delivered in 2021.

Comment: Moor Lane is a very minor part of the City road network and it would seem likely that air pollution there not just arises from vehicles on the street itself but is blown in from the surrounding area. It may be a good location for an experimental ULEV scheme but it’s a huge amount of money for a scheme that will probably have relatively little impact on air pollution. Beech Street would have a much bigger impact but would seriously affect traffic in the City as it is one of the key routes. No doubt that is the reason for deferring that scheme. But there seems to have been no consideration of the impact on the residents of the Barbican who have car parking provision in underground car parks and would be affected by the closure of Beech Street (partial or otherwise).

Roger Lawson

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Silvertown Tunnel Gets Go-Ahead

The Government has given the go-ahead for the new Silvertown Tunnel in East London under the Thames. This will run slightly to the East of the existing Blackwall Tunnels which are one location of high traffic congestion every day. The slightest hiccup such as minor accidents or people running out of fuel in the existing tunnels or on the approach roads can create miles of traffic queues.

With the Secretary of State giving planning consent, and Mayor Sadiq Khan not apparently likely to block it despite the many objectors to the scheme, it looks likely that construction will start next year with completion in 2023. This is what the Mayor had to say: “I’m delighted that the green light has been given to progress with the Silvertown Tunnel. Since I became Mayor I’ve been determined to ensure the Silvertown Tunnel doesn’t have a detrimental impact on our environment. That’s why the new plans have such a focus on cleaner transport, with only buses with the highest emission standard using the tunnel, and substantial investment in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.”

A toll will be introduced on both the new tunnel and the old tunnels to help pay for the scheme. Although there were objections on air pollution grounds, it is not expected to make matters worse in that regard and the smoother traffic flows will mean substantial benefits. That’s apart from the economic benefits of reducing the wasted time of people stuck in traffic jams and the improved public transport provision (the new tunnel will be large enough to accommodate double-decker buses).

Comment: On behalf of the ABD I have submitted a number of supportive representations for this scheme over the last few years. For residents of South-East and North-East London this will prove to be a major improvement to the road network which is long overdue. Let us hope there are no further delays and that schemes for other Thames crossings are also progressed.

Roger Lawson

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Heidi Alexander Appointed Deputy Mayor for Transport

Mayor Sadiq Khan has appointed Heidi Alexander, M.P., as Deputy Mayor for Transport in London. She takes over from Val Shawcross who has overseen major damage to London’s road network as a result of the Mayor’s policies.

Heidi Alexander will be resigning from her position in Parliament where she has acted as a representative for Lewisham East. A bye-election will therefore have to be held for a replacement. She has not announced the reason for her departure from Parliament except she was known to be opposed to Brexit and not apparently a Corbyn supporter.

Does Heidi Alexander have special expertise or knowledge of the transport sector which would quality her for this position? A quick search of the internet reveals only that she expressed concern about access to Lewisham Station. Otherwise she is quoted as being “excited about her appointment” and that “I know just how important it is we ensure everyone has access to a high-quality and affordable public transport network with safe cycling routes across the capital”. So it looks like more of the same policies we have endured in London in recent years. Not that Heidi looks like she does much cycling from her physical appearance. If she does not she might want to practice a bit because no doubt there will be calls for photo shoots of her cycling with the Mayor very soon.

Roger Lawson

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Opposition to Oxford Street Pedestrianisation

Proposals to pedestrianise most of Oxford Street in central London have been put forward – see our previous blog post here for details: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/11/07/oxford-street-to-be-pedestrianised/

But according to a report in the publication Transport Network, the scheme is in jeopardy because Westminster Council has objected. They report that residents in Marylebone, Fitzrovia and Mayfair raised concerns about the diversion of traffic, including bus routes, which were likely to cause traffic congestion in surrounding streets. The Westminster council cabinet member, Daniel Astaire, who was responsible for the roads instructed staff to stop work on the proposals.

Note that the ABD also expressed concerns about the impact on traffic congestion in surrounding roads, but it seems many residents’ objections might have been lost because TfL gave out an incorrect email address. Regardless they claimed 64% of respondents supported the proposals.

Roger Lawson

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