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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Smart Motorways Not So Smart

Anyone who drives around the M25 will have noticed that the speed limits set on the overhead gantries appear to bear no relation to the traffic volumes. Speeds are often set at 60, 50 or even 40 for no obvious reason. Other “Smart Motorways” across the country show the same problem, and the result has been a large increase in the number of people fined (or diverted to speed awareness courses) for exceeding the set speed limit. The number of infringements doubled last year according to the Times.

The justification for smart motorways was that they can reduce congestion by smoothing the traffic flows and help to maintain safety. The speed limits are set partly by automated systems that measure the speed of traffic, but apparently they are also set “pre-emptively” by staff where known congestion is likely to occur at busy times. But as traffic volumes can be unpredictable this sometimes results in lower speeds being set than is appropriate – you can frequently see this around the western side of the M25 around London airport and on the eastern side near the Dartford Crossing.

In addition it is known that the odd particularly slow moving vehicle can result in the speed limit being reduced by the automated system. In other words, the “smart” system is not at all intelligent.

However Highways England is now undertaking a comprehensive review of variable speed limits on motorways. Surely it would be better to simply have an advisory system to tell drivers that there was congestion ahead so that they can slow down and avoid the “stop/start” problem that reduces traffic flows?

At present you have a dumb system instructing intelligent humans (which they mostly are) with the result of needlessly slower traffic speeds and drivers being caught out by unexpected changes in the limits or signs they may not have seen or noticed.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Richmond 20-mph Speed Limits – Democracy Abandoned?

The London Borough of Richmond is considering changing its policy on wide-area 20 mph speed limits. Currently it has a policy whereby any area in the borough that desires a 20-mph limit has to submit a petition to the Council, signed by more than 50% of relevant residents. An eminently democratic and sensible policy one might think.

However, a recent council report says that the 15 such petitions submitted since 2014 when the current policy was adopted have consumed a considerable amount of officer time, and that “the requirement for a majority threshold can be difficult to achieve”. Does this not simply mean that it is minority pressure groups that advocate such limits and that the general public (including non-drivers) do not support them?

Regardless the Council is proposing to introduce a 20-mph limit on all roads except the TfL network. Part of the justification is to avoid confusion with neighbouring boroughs such as Hammersmith, Fulham, Wandsworth and Ealing who already have just limits. Note: some of these boroughs do not adjoin Richmond. They also justify their proposals on the grounds of improvements in road safety while being selective in the statistics they use to support this claim.

The cost of this proposed change is £600,000 for new signage, plus £50,000 for a borough-wide public consultation on the proposal. Money to fund both would likely come from TfL grants. Is this a cost-effective use of road safety budgets? Such expenditure has not proved to be worthwhile in other locations and the money would surely be better spent on other road safety measures.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

 

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Press Release: Mayor Sadiq Khan Ignores Objections to his Transport Strategy

The ABD has issued the following press release:

The response of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to the public consultation on his Transport Strategy has been announced today. The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has been actively campaigning against certain aspects of his proposals.

We suggested that his proposals were a direct attack on the use of cars or indeed private transport in general and that not only were his proposals unrealistic but would not work. Our campaign attracted more responses to his proposals than any other campaign group.

Has he made any significant changes to his proposals? In reality NO. The response document (see below) is full of comments that say “no change” is proposed.

A Brief Analysis of Responses to the Public Consultation

The Mayor claims “broad support” for his Healthy Streets approach and the 80% mode share target for cycling, walking and public transport use. But then goes on to say “there were sometimes divergent views across issues”. Indeed, if you look at the details of the comments TfL received there was substantial opposition to many points, including much opposition to road user charging or congestion charging schemes.

There were clearly lots of opposing comments from outer London residents and although the Mayor has committed to respond to them by improving the bus network and surface rail in outer London, this is hardly likely to placate many objectors. Our experience is that many of those objecting are disabled or very elderly who often rely on private vehicles and who would have difficulty with public transport (most of them consider the suggestion that they should cycle as laughable). You can see some comments from our campaign supporters on our web site.

This is also evident from the Consultation Response Document where it says “there was a notable level of disagreement with the aim that by 2041 Londoners should be doing 20 minutes of active travel each day” (page 30 of the Consultation Report).

Opposition to road charging was evidenced by 566 “comments of concern” versus 250 supportive comments (see page 103). That’s good evidence of the level of opposition. That’s despite the repeated claims by the Mayor that the Congestion Charge system reduced congestion (see page 106), which is simply not true. But it is “no change” for his strategy to support charging schemes. His only concession is that it will be up to local boroughs to consider how or whether to implement them (see page 109). The ABD is likely therefore to be fighting these in individual boroughs in future as we successfully did in Greenwich when this was last proposed.

Even the Mayor’s environmental policies received a lot of negative comments (see page 110) and there were also many against “densification” of London which is a major concern in outer London boroughs (see page 162). The Mayor again proposes “no change” to his strategy on those.

In summary a disappointing outcome, with consultation responses minimised by the short timescale allowed. The outcome is much as one might expect when you have a Mayor who has dictatorial powers and who does not seem to understand the diverse population of London and those who live in outer London.

More Information

The ABD’s campaign against the Mayor’s Transport is described here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

The Announcement from TfL and the Consultation Report document can be obtained from here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/policy/mayors-transport-strategy/?cid=mayors-transport-strategy

For more information, contact Roger Lawson on 020-8295-0378.

Bank Junction Closure – Make Sure You Object

I was in the City of London last week, and walked through the Bank Junction area, as I often do. It was very clear that the “experimental” closure of that junction to all traffic except buses and cyclists during the hours of 7.00 am to 7.00 pm had certainly reduced the volume of traffic. But it was also obvious that some vehicle drivers were still not aware of the restriction (and the fines they will collect) as I reported back in May (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/bank-junction-closed-to-most-traffic/ ).

This junction is of course the central hub of the road network in the City so closing it was bound to disrupt the network and cause congestion elsewhere. For example, it has noticeably worsened traffic congestion on the alternative routes such as Cannon Street and Gracechurch Street/Bishopsgate. These were already badly congested before this experiment was implemented but now you often get stationary traffic for much of the day. And that includes buses resulting in appalling bad air pollution.

This closure also causes major problems for delivery drivers and taxi drivers. A representative of The NED Hotel has contacted me about their difficulties. This is a new luxury hotel which recently opened on Poultry very close to the junction. The front entrance cannot even be reached by taxis without incurring a fine. Although there is a rear entrance, visitors obviously have great difficulties persuading taxi drivers or other vehicles such as PHVs (minicabs) to go anywhere near the location. They probably would not have opened the hotel if they had known the roads around Bank would be closed.

Comment: A large proportion of the accidents and casualties, which this closure was aimed to reduce, are caused by pedestrians stepping into the road without looking. It is undoubtedly the case that with rising numbers of pedestrians in this location, and with pavements that are too narrow, it would make sense to redesign this junction. In addition, the traffic congestion that existed before this scheme was introduced caused high air pollution. A better solution would be to reduce the complexity of the junction so as to smooth traffic flows.

The City of London Corporation is looking at some longer-term options for this junction, although they are all very expensive. These include:

  • Closure to motor vehicles on the North/South Axis (King William Street/Princes Street).
  • Closure on the East/West Axis (Poultry, Queen Victoria St, Cornhill, Threadneedle Street)
  • Closure on Cornhill and Poultry.
  • A reduction in available capacity, perhaps by use of a “shared space” scheme.

It is not clear why those roads are proposed for closure rather than say Victoria Street, Lombard Street and Threadneedle Street. But reducing the number of roads feeding into the junction is clearly a priority to simplify the junction and increase the pedestrian space. A shared space scheme may be a viable option and the ABD has no objections to such schemes so long as they are carefully and well designed, which sometimes they are not. At present pedestrians in the area take little notice of formal crossing points so reflecting that in the road design may make sense.

In summary, we would support development of solutions that ensure that this junction remains a key and useable part of the road network. In other words, not just a “place” as the transport planners might desire. It is simply not acceptable to corrupt and damage the road network in the way currently happening.

There is a public consultation being undertaken on the current experimental scheme. Please go here for more information and to respond to it: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/transport-and-streets/traffic-management/Pages/Bank-On-Safety.aspx

You need to do that before the 24th November so do it now!

Postscript: The City of London Corporation have published an initial report on the closure of Bank junction to most traffic, here are some more comments having read the report entitled “Update on Monitoring” authored by Gillian Howard:

  1. From Figure 3 in the report it is obvious that although the number of infringers dropped from the initial level, it has now stabilised and is still running at around 4,000 per week, i.e. 800 per working day. This is obviously an unacceptable level and indicates that either the restriction is inadequately signed or that drivers simply do not expect to meet such a restriction. One problem is that SatNav systems may not be updated for many months if not years and in the meantime, hundreds of thousands of people are likely to be issued with fines for contraventions every year. This is simply unacceptable.
  2. As regards the initial collision data, although this shows a reduction (which it should do because of the reduction in traffic volumes), to try and interpret such data over such a short period of time after a change in the road layout would be inappropriate. Any road safety expert knows that after a road layout change, the immediate result tends to be a reduction in accidents for a few months but that often the change disappears over time as drivers become familiar with the new layout and revert to old habits. That is why 3-year before and after data is normally used to identify any real impact.
  3. One very unsatisfactory aspect of the reported data is that no information on traffic volumes through the junction is reported (before and after) so one could examine whether the change in accident figures is due solely to removing traffic or not.
  4. The report also refers to meeting the “success criteria”. But these have clearly been chosen to ensure that the outcome is beneficial. Nowhere in the criteria is the need to maintain a viable road network for all traffic on what is a key junction in the road network. Nor is there any criteria to minimise the additional journey times imposed on all traffic. This is clearly a biased approach to judging the merits of this change to the road layout.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Will Your Car Be Prosecuted in Future?

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill is currently going through Parliament. It covers legislation necessary for self-driving cars. Included in this is a provision that insurers of cars (rather than car drivers at present), will be liable for any accidents caused by them. For example, as a result of a software defect.

That may be sensible. But one pecularity of this brave new world is the fact that you apparently could still be prosecuted for exceeding a speed limit (or of course be offered a speed awareness course which is even more bizarre). In other words, your car or the manufacturer and software designer will not be liable, nor the car’s insurers, even though it may be their fault that you exceed the speed limit.

This may not be a common problem because such cars should have a digital map of the speed limits on all roads. But it may not be up-to-date. In addition it might not include temporary speed limits (e.g. for road works), and it may not be aware of reduced limits imposed by “smart motorways”. In reality such cars will need to recognise speed limit signs, and interpret them, to ensure they stay within the limits. What’s the chance of that happening when other vehicles may obstruct their view, or the weather conditions cloud the picture? Not all the time I suggest.

So if you think that you will be able to relax in self-driving cars, or if you are using ISA (Intelligent Speed Adaptation) which some folks would like to see mandated, then forget it. Life will simply get yet more complex and confusing for drivers – even if “drivers” is the wrong word to use for those sitting in the driving seat of self-driving cars.

Car owners is probably a more suitable word. And if your self-driving car is not insured when it causes an accident, it’s you as the owner that will be liable.

Welcome to the bizarre new world of self-driving cars.

Roger Lawson

Mayor’s Transport Strategy – Campaign Report

The formal consultation on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) is over but responses to our campaign against it are still coming in. Thanks to all those who have submitted objections to TfL or the Mayor or have helped in other ways. Here is a summary of what has been achieved. More information on our campaign is present here: AGAINST-MTS

The campaign hasn’t been an easy one. The public consultation on this very important issue was launched in the Summer months and with minimal publicity by Mayor Sadiq Khan. As a result, media coverage was low. In addition lots of information about the proposals was concealed and requests under the Freedom of Information Act frustrated. In summary, a defective public consultation both legally and morally.

Myself and Brian Mooney put in a lot of work on social media, getting circulation on email lists and delivering tens of thousands of leaflets (with the assistance of other volunteers) so as to raise awareness of what Sadiq Khan is planning – effectively an attack on all private transport modes using the “healthy streets” concept and environmental scare stories in support. One way or another, we reached into all 32 London boroughs, despite working against the clock. We got positive responses in support from all parts of London and all sections of the community. You can read some of the comments received here: PUBLIC-COMMENTS

We will wait to see the results of the public consultation in the next few weeks and let you know what is published. But the Mayor may well ignore public criticisms of his plans (he can do that as he is effectively a dictator in London), so we will have to continue to fight on the individual proposals as they are progressed.

For example, allowing local boroughs to bring forward congestion charging plans may provide further battlegrounds and there will be Borough elections in May next year where you can express your opinions. The Mayor has admitted that he is in discussion with unnamed boroughs to bring forward congestion charging plans. This will not just create problems in an individual borough because to avoid being charged traffic will divert into neighbouring boroughs and create pressure for charging in that borough too. This disastrous domino effect has already been shown with CPZs. A similar pattern could occur if boroughs are forced to remove parking spaces.

It is important to communicate your views on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy to your local borough councillors, London Assembly Members and even your local Members of Parliament over the next few months. If you don’t know who they are, contact us for assistance (go to CONTACT ).

But we do need more financial support if we are to continue this fight (the campaign has already cost the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) several thousands of pounds and we could have done a lot more with more resources.

PLEASE DO MAKE A DONATION NOW HERE: DONATE

THE ABOVE IS VERY IMPORTANT. TO PUT UP A GOOD FIGHT WE NEED BETTER FINANCIAL SUPPORT AS WELL AS ENTHUSIASTIC VOLUNTEERS!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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