City of London Corporation Ignores Representations

We reported previously on the consultation by the City of London Corporation (effectively one of the London boroughs) on their future transport strategy – see https://tinyurl.com/yd3qne6c . The ABD opposed several aspects of the proposals including a City-wide speed limit of 15 mph and a zero emission vehicle only standard for the whole of the City. The “Unblock” body also made representations to change the routing of the East-West Cycle Superhighway from the Upper/Lower Thames Street route.

The Corporation has now reported on the results of the consultation and its proposed decisions. Although there were many individual objections by organisations and individuals, no significant changes to the proposals, including the points above, are being considered.

The reason is because there was overall support for reducing road traffic and putting walking first – as most of the respondents to the consultation will have been City workers, that may not be surprising. But it totally ignores the needs for those who have to service business activity in the City, and the practicality of these proposals. It seems that the City Corporation has been captured by the irrational anti-vehicle fanatics.

Roger Lawson

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Mayor Lies at the People’s Question Time in Bexley

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On the 14th March there was a “People’s Question Time” in Bexley where Mayor Sadiq Khan answered questions from the public (photo left).

It commenced by the Mayor suggesting that London’s roads were unsafe because he had no control over road safety in response to a question on junction improvement. He claimed that 95% of the roads are controlled by local boroughs, suggesting it was their fault. But in reality, the Mayor via TfL controls almost all the money spent on roads and road safety. TfL dictates what projects local boroughs can spend on by only funding what they like. In addition they dictate transport strategy directly. As a result, boroughs are forced to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on 20 mph wide area speed limits that have been proven to be totally ineffective, on cycle lanes, speed hump schemes and other pointless measures.

The Mayor was also criticised for spending £400 million on the proposed Rotherhithe cycle/pedestrian bridge, and when it came to policing there was applause from the audience when one person suggested he could solve the crime problem overnight by just diverting money spent on cycle lanes to the police.

When discussing public transport the Mayor said that London is the only city in the world that is not subsidised by Government. That is simply not true. TfL receives £3.2 billion in grants which is 31% of TfL’s income. Most of that money comes from taxes and much comes from central Government – see https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/how-we-work/how-we-are-funded .

In response to questions on the environment the Mayor said that London air is a killer which is a gross exaggeration. But he got one point right – namely that diesel buses are a major problem. He said the worst areas for air pollution in London are those with the most buses. He said they are not buying any more diesel buses and are retrofitting existing ones.

He got criticism on the ULEZ but apparently expects central Government to bail out folks who cannot afford to buy a new car, which is highly unlikely to happen.

His final major point was to promote another referendum on Brexit. What a pity that Parliament ruled it out the same day which probably pleased the audience and certainly pleased me.

You can see a recording of the meeting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lmqgw6OjMD4

Mayor’s Tax Precept Rises

There were a number of criticisms of the Mayor’s financial policies at the meeting described above. London residents may have just realised that their local Council Tax is rising significantly this year and one reason is that the Mayor’s tax precept that you pay in your Council Tax, and is passed through to the GLA, is rising by 8.93%. That’s way ahead of inflation and is another example of the Mayor’s financial incompetence.

Roger Lawson

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Bus Accidents Kill Too Many People

The trade union GMB have complained about the number of people killed or seriously injured by buses on London’s roads. There were 45 people killed and 1,017 seriously injured in the last 5 years, which is certainly a large number which should be tackled.

The GMB, which represents bus drivers, claimed one of the causes is the pressure put on bus drivers to drive fast so as to meet schedules and punctuality targets. They also blamed the culture at TfL. GMB regional secretary Warren Kenny was quoted as saying “Sadiq Khan has to get a grip on the problem he inherited from the past managers who designed the outsourced killing machines that TfL presides over”.

But is the problem as simple as suggested? Many of these accidents involved pedestrians stepping off the pavement in front of buses without looking. Others are cyclists hit by turning buses or being squeezed under the wheels. Other accidents arise from injuries to bus passengers as they are jolted by abrupt braking or turns, or from pedestrians being clipped by bus wing mirrors.

It is possible that drivers are having difficulty in meeting timetables as buses have been slowed by increasing traffic congestion of late. But it seems unlikely that bus drivers are deliberately driving more dangerously. They can be traumatised by accidents to pedestrians so no experienced driver would risk such an accident. Perhaps there is an issue of driver recruitment and education.

But all the above are hypotheses. Clearly more research is needed into the causes of such accidents and how to prevent them. It is an unfortunate fact that when it comes to road traffic accidents, those with little knowledge are all too quick to jump to conclusions without examination of the detailed accidents statistics, and research into specific accidents and their causes.

Roger Lawson

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3D Zebra Crossings

The first 3D zebra crossing has been installed in the UK on St. Johns Wood High Street (borough of Westminster) – see http://tinyurl.com/y5h33jnr . They have been used in other countries such as Iceland and are designed to look like the road contains vertical boxes. They won’t fool anyone after the first drive over them, but might cause unfamiliar drivers to slow down, or brake abruptly which might be positively dangerous.

These are using the same principle as painted speed humps (they look like real road humps until you drive over them). They are of course much quieter than conventional humps. They have been used in a few streets in the UK, including some in London. But the lack of widespread adoption rather suggests that they are less effective in slowing traffic.

Roger Lawson

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London Travel Trends – Mayor’s Policies Failing Badly

London’s population is still growing rapidly, albeit the rate of growth has slackened slightly of late. That increases the demand for travel in London. A recently published report from Transport for London (TfL) highlights the trends in travel in different modes – see below for a link to the full report. Here’s some of the key points:

The average number of trips per day in 2017/18 was 2.1. That figure has been falling in recent years and is similar to national trends. It probably reflects the difficulties of travel in the UK and in London, the higher cost, the fact that the population is ageing and the increase in remote working and telecommuting.

From 2010 to 2017 the proportion of trips by walking, cycling and public transport in London increased only slightly from 62.6% to 62.7%. The trend to more “sustainable and active” travel modes has actually flattened out in the latest 2 years. In other words, the recent Mayoral policies to get people to change their travel modes to what he wants has been a dismal failure. But the Mayor is not giving up. The Mayor and TfL still believe there is a large scope for mode shift according to the report, but that is surely a figment of their imagination. Based on the data below, the Mayor will no doubt be focussed on getting those who live in outer London to change their ways – you have been warned!

Road traffic in London increased only slightly by 0.1% in 2017. There was no growth in car traffic but LGVs rose by 1.9% probably due to more internet shopping deliveries. The general trend in car traffic levels in London is shown in this chart:

car traffic levels 2017

This probably reflects improved public transport (e.g. more buses that have been heavily subsidised and more underground/rail/tram/DLR services) and the degradation of the road network with fewer and more expensive parking facilities, particularly in central London, in the last 20 years. But note the relatively lower decline in outer London and the fact that since 2013 the decline has ceased in all areas.

The Congestion Charge (a.k.a. tax) in central London is not the cause of the reduction there because inner London has also shown sharp declines to which the Charge does not apply. It might have more to do with increased congestion and hence higher trip times in central and inner London for the reasons given above.

Both bus journeys and underground usage have been falling – bus trips down by 6.5% in 2017 since 2014, and underground trips fell by 1.1% in 2017 although that had grown in previous years. These figures reflect perhaps the high costs of public transport, the overcrowding on the underground and on some bus routes in rush hours and the fact that bus journey times have been slowing due to traffic congestion. It can simply be quicker to walk in central London!

Cycling figures suggest that numbers of trips were unchanged in 2017, but distances travelled were greater suggesting there are more long-distance cycling commuters and more trips in outer London. This might be the result of economic incentives to cycle as public transport fares increased (particularly national rail serving outer London) and more cycle superhighways. Cycle usage as a proportion of overall trips remains low at 2% however despite the massive investment in cycle infrastructure in recent years. Cycling is still relatively unpopular among the elderly, among females and those of a non-white or mixed- race background according to the report.

Walking trip rates have been in decline in London in recent years despite the Mayor’s policies. Young adult walk rates fell by 22% between 2011/12 and 2017/18 for example. The impact of “healthy streets” and “active travel” policies promoted by the Mayor are conspicuously absent from the data in TfL’s report. Free travel passes both for those in education and for the elderly have clearly had a negative impact on walking rates. If the Mayor is serious about encouraging more active travel, that’s surely one hand-out he should cancel.

As an aside, the recent introduction of 16-17 and 26-30 railcards has been promoted as a generous offering to help the young, but is it not just another way to charge less to more impecunious customers and more to the others? Anyone familiar with economics will know that this is a tactic to maximise profits. In the case of railcards, which have time of travel restrictions, it’s also a way to smooth out travel demand and fill those otherwise empty seats at off-peak times.

Another failing Mayoral policy has been that on improving road safety. In 2017 the number of fatalities actually increased to 131 – up 15 on 2016. There were marked increases in pedestrian and cyclist casualties. Overall KSIs also rose in 2017 (by 2%) although that figure might be distorted by changes in casualty reporting. The roll-out of wide area 20 mph zones financed with many millions of pounds of funding from TfL and which was supposed to have a major impact on pedestrian casualties has clearly been very ineffective.

In relation to improved public transport capacity to serve the growing population, that simply did not happen in 2017 – “place kilometres” remained unchanged. That’s surely another Mayoral policy failure and resulted in higher public transport overcrowding. But service reliability on buses and London underground plus DLR/trams did improve. Surface rail was patchy though.

The full London Travel Report Number 11 can be read here: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/travel-in-london-report-11.pdf . It looks like it’s been written by public relations consultants as it presents a positive spin on the data when any detailed reading tells you a very different story.

But in summary it shows how the policies pursued by Transport for London, and by both the current and previous Mayors, have been a dismal failure. Lots of expenditure on the promotion of cycling and walking have not influenced travel behaviour much while expenditure on road safety has been misdirected with negative consequences. Improvements in public transport infrastructure have failed to cope with the increase in population which has been promoted rather than discouraged.

Roger Lawson

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City Corporation Response to Draft Transport Strategy

I have covered the City of London’s draft Transport Strategy before – see https://tinyurl.com/yd3qne6c . I called it a stinker because it is an aggressive attack on most forms of road transport with a 15-mph speed limit proposed across the Square Mile, a zero-emission standard for all vehicles and road closures.

The ABD has now submitted a formal response to the public consultation which covers our objections in detail – see https://tinyurl.com/y8o23l9u

It’s a good example of how the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy is being followed in the local boroughs and how it is corrupting London’s road transport network. The policies promoted are simply irrational, will not work and fail to cope with the increasing population and business activity in the City.

You can still respond to the public consultation which closes on the 13th January. Go here to do so: https://www.citystreets.london/ or send an email to strategic.transportation@cityoflondon.gov.uk

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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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