20MPH Zone Impact on Traffic Speeds? – Not Much

What’s the impact of putting up 20MPH speed limit signs? Minimal according to a report from the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. A report on traffic speeds after the introduction of wide-area 20 mph speed limits comparing measured traffic speeds in 2015 and 2017 showed an average reduction of just 1.3%.

Across 100 comparable roads, the 85th percentile reduced from 24.83 mph to 24.52 mph. Although some roads showed bigger reductions in speed, others actually showed substantial increases. But the data is difficult to interpret because those with the highest increases reported low speeds in 2015 while those with the biggest reductions reported high speeds in 2015. It’s possible these are statistical anomalies resulting from inadequate sample sizes.

Is there any data on accident impact? Too early to report apparently. But the Council is pushing ahead regardless with extending 20mph to all remaining side roads in the borough and on some sections of main roads.

You can read the H&F report here: http://democracy.lbhf.gov.uk/documents/s93226/20MPH%20Speed%20Limit%20-%20Speed%20Surveys%20Results.pdf

Comment: This surely demonstrates that the likely benefits of such schemes do not justify the cost. The money would be much better spent on other road safety measures.

Roger Lawson

Mayor’s Transport Strategy – Another Attack on Private Transport

London Mayor Sadiq Khan published his draft Transport Strategy yesterday. It is now open to public consultation – see:

https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/transport/our-vision-transport/draft-mayors-transport-strategy-2017

Here’s a brief summary of its contents (a fuller report will be in our next newsletter):

  1. As in the Livingstone era, we now have a Mayor who clearly hates cars – even zero emission ones. His target is to reduce car use and increase public transport use (the latter is currently 64% of all journeys but his target is 80%). Indeed, if you are not using public transport he will be encouraging you to walk or cycle. And there will be more vehicle free zones and car-free days.
  2. Parking provision will be restricted in new developments – yes we could be back to the regime where inadequate parking provision in new housing developments creates excessive on-street parking.
  3. There is a target of a zero emission transport system by 2050 (helpful if you can live that long perhaps).
  4. Pay-per-mile road pricing (as recently advocated by the EU) will be considered. Effectively replacing and extending the current “Congestion Tax” and emission taxes such as the ULEZ. How much will it cost and why will it reduce congestion are surely the questions to ask?
  5. The target is to reduce freight traffic in the central London morning peak by 10 per cent on current levels by 2026, and to reduce total London traffic by 10-15 per cent by 2041.

It is interesting to look at the graphics that accompany the words of this vision. Barely a private car in sight, and no LGVs, with roads just full of cyclists and buses. And no congestion of course which we all know is totally unrealistic bearing in mind the projected population growth. He expects more people to move to public transport when he concedes 71% of London Underground will be overcrowded in future in the rush hour and national rail and buses will not be much better, unless action is taken. The document reports that there is already severe overcrowding on some tube lines, as users know.

As usual, the advocates of public transport simply ignore the unpleasantness and overcrowding of public transport even though the Mayor concedes that is a problem. Anyone who has travelled on it in London in the recent hot weather will know just how obnoxious it is. Until air-conditioning, larger seats and capacity to avoid standing is provided (an impossible dream cost-wise of course), I for one will be ignoring the Mayor’s exhortations and will be suggesting an alternative strategy in response.

But Londoner’s might get what they voted for as after electing Mayor Khan they should not be surprised at this latest attack on personal liberty.

Roger Lawson

Barriers on London Bridges

London Bridge Barriers.jpgAs a safety measure, subsequent to the recent terrorist attacks, steel and concrete barriers have been erected on several London Bridges to separate the roadway from the pavements. These are on Westminster Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, London Bridge and on part of Tower Bridge. Photo above is of London Bridge.

Perhaps most interesting is that there were actually metal railings protecting pedestrians on some of these bridges before 2010 when Boris Johnson, Mayor at the time, removed them. He considered them ugly. This was part of a general policy to remove pedestrian guard rails by Transport for London.

Cyclists are complaining that the new “bollards” on Blackfriars Bridge at the ends of the bridge are causing congestion and delays to cyclists. A similar problem is on London Bridge where cyclists previously often mounted the pavement when vehicles became congested at the northern end.

This has clearly been a rushed response to the threat posed by copycat terrorist attacks, particularly when one bears in mind that there are many other streets in London where dense crowds of pedestrians would be vulnerable to such attacks. The long-term answer may be to simply put back all those traditional pedestrian guard rails which may have had little benefit in road safety terms and were frustrating for pedestrians, but might assist with this problem.

Roger Lawson

Party Manifestos and London

Yesterday (25/5/2017), UKIP published their General Election Manifesto. That completes the quartet of the main parties, so it seemed an opportune time to analyse and comment on them so far as they affect transport in London. That is of course the sole concern of this blog so any diversion into wider political issues will be avoided so far as is practical.

UKIP. Let’s start with UKIPs (subtitled “Britain Together”) as that contains more specifics than the other parties and has a separate Chapter on Transport. It suggests they would:

  • Scrap HS2 on the basis that it is unaffordable, will blight homes and will only save a few minutes on a London to Leeds trip.
  • End all road tolls on the basis that they are an unfair burden on the already highly taxed road user. That would presumably include scrapping the London Congestion Charge, the ULEZ and proposed tolls on the Dartford and Blackwall Crossings.
  • They oppose the proposed new Thames Crossing at Thurrock and would move it further east through Canvey Island.
  • They would encourage zero emission vehicles by providing more supporting infrastructure.
  • They would prevent diesel vehicle owners from being penalised through higher taxes and parking fines, but they support a diesel scrappage scheme and incentives for diesel vehicle owners to exchange them for electric or hybrid models.
  • They do not support the expansion of Heathrow Airport and would encourage the expansion of smaller regional airports (such as development of Manston in Kent).

In summary, it’s very much a “pro-motorist” transport agenda.

Another aspect of their manifesto is the commitment to “balance migration”, effectively reducing inward migration to zero over 5 years (and thereafter only a “one in, one out” policy as the media dubbed it). This would of course relieve the pressure in the longer term on the transport network (both road and rail), which suffers from major congestion in London mainly because of massive increases in passenger demand in recent years. 

Conservative & Unionist (“Forward Together”). This party’s manifesto is short on specifics, perhaps because their policies are very much a continuation of existing ones and because they seem to be relying more on the winning personality of Theresa May rather than vote winning policies. But there are a few comments on transport as follows:

  • They will continue to invest £40 billion in transport projects, including: a) HS2, b) Northern Powerhouse Rail, c) Expansion of Heathrow Airport, d) Development of the strategic road network including extra lanes on motorways.
  • They want almost every car and van to be zero emission by 2050, and will invest £600 million to achieve it by 2020.
  • Rail capacity will be increased (but the specifics are lacking).
  • More money to support cycle networks and cycle parking at railway stations will be provided. (How much? It does not say).

Yes that seems to be about it.

Labour (“For the Many, Not the Few”). As one might expect, the Labour Party has a strong commitment to invest more in infrastructure, communications and energy systems. That includes:

  • Completion of HS2 to Leeds/Manchester and then on to Scotland.
  • A new Brighton Main Line.
  • Build Crossrail 2 in London.
  • Bring the railways back into public ownership (i.e. renationalise them).
  • They will cap public transport fares, introduce free Wi-Fi across the rail network and stop driver-only operation of trains.
  • They will support investment in low emission vehicles.
  • On airport capacity in the South-East, they “welcome the work done by the Airports Commission” and don’t seem to rule out expansion of Heathrow if noise and air quality issues “can be addressed”.
  • They will “refocus” the roads building and maintenance programmes on “connecting communities” and “feeding public transport hubs”.
  • There will be a stronger focus on road safety improvement targets with “bold measures” to improve safety standards.

How some of this programme might be funded I will leave others to comment on.

Liberal Democrat (“Change Britain’s Future”). The Liberal Democrats focus on “clean air and green transport”. Specifics include:

  • Support for a diesel scrappage scheme and encouragement of the swift take-up of electric and driverless vehicles.
  • Extending Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZs) to ten more cities.
  • All PHVs and buses in urban areas to run on ultra low or zero emission fuels within 5 years.
  • Reform of vehicle taxation to encourage electric and low emission vehicles.
  • Establish Government run companies to take over Southern Rail and Govia Thameslink due to severe failings of existing franchisees.
  • Proceed with HS2, HS3 and Crossrail 2.
  • Support the takeover of metro services in London by London Overground.
  • They are opposed to expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and want to improve regional airports.
  • Design cities as safe and attractive walking spaces.

To summarise therefore, all the parties support the promotion of zero emission (electric) vehicles. They all support more rail capacity in one form or another, but only UKIP would specifically cancel HS2. UKIP is “against” more things as one might expect from a populist protest party whereas the Conservatives have gone more for a “positive vision” with lots of the written equivalents of “sound-bites” using words such as “strong”, “stable” and “prosperous”. Actually interpreting what these fine words will mean in practice can be more difficult. The Labour and LibDem manifestos are very much in their traditional mode and hence might appeal more to their existing supporters than new ones. The impact of any party which might win the national election might be limited in London though as the Mayor is very much a dictator and can introduce his own policies and taxation (disguised as “charges”) to a great extent.

Perhaps it might be better to have a right-wind central Government to control the excesses of a left-leaning Mayor (look at some of the quite disastrous changes under Livingstone). But no doubt readers can all make their own minds up after reading the manifestos which are all available on the web.

Roger Lawson

Croydon 20 – Pushing Ahead Regardless of Objections

Croydon Council are pushing ahead with implementing wide-area, signed-only 20 MPH speed limits in the rest of the borough despite enormous numbers of objections.

The consultation process on Area 1 was clearly subject to fraud, and on Area 2 the vote in favour narrowed very substantially. So for areas 3, 4 and 5, which by their nature were more likely to oppose the proposal, they abandoned the previous consultation process and moved straight to a “statutory consultation”. That meant people had to take the trouble to write in with specific objections rather than simply respond to an on-line poll. The other advantage of that change is that objections to statutory consultations can be ignored so long as the council simply gives reasons to do so.

Was this process ethical? Absolutely not.

And what was the result of the formal statutory consultation on Areas 3, 4 and 5? They got 3,357 representations in total from 2,050 individuals, but only 103 of the representations were in support of the proposals. In detail there were a total of 18,862 objections of different kinds. These numbers are enormous for such a relatively small geographic area.

But are the Councillors and Council Officers going to reconsider? Absolutely not. A typical example of how dogma and policy decisions overrides the will of the people in some councils. The recommendation in a report to the Traffic Management Advisory Committee is to proceed regardless – see the report here which will be considered at a meeting on the 9th May – see Meeting-Agenda (Item 7 on the Agenda).

Residents of Croydon should go along to the meeting to show their concern about this anti-democratic approach, or make their feelings known to their local Councillors. And next time there is a vote for local Councillors, just bear in mind which Councillors and which political party (the Labour Party) have taken this stance in Croydon.

The last time I saw this ignoring of the electorate take place was in the London Borough of Richmond where the LibDems pushed through an emission based permit parking scheme against strong public opposition. They were subsequently removed from control of the Council by popular vote. And a very good thing that was too.

You can see more about the scheme in Croydon on this web page and our objections:  http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Croydon20.htm . The ABD did make written submissions on these schemes including on the latest 3 areas.

The report from Croydon Council does not adequately deal with all the objections, and in some regards is grossly misleading. For example, in Para 3.1.8 it says Manchester reported falls in cyclist and pedestrian casualties in 20 mph zones but due to the average speed reduction being only 0.7mph the further roll-out was being halted. In actual fact what Manchester City Council actually said (you can find their report on the web) was “Overall the results show that casualties in the phase 1 20mph area have not reduced as much as the casualty numbers citywide“. In other words, there was absolutely no benefit whatsoever in terms of casualties despite very high expenditure and if anything it made accident numbers worse.

Both ethics and democracy have clearly be thrown out of the window in Croydon.

Roger Lawson

Making Bribery of the Police Legal

As followers of the AMPOW campaign against police waivers and speed-awareness courses will know, we have been considering a legal challenge to the abuses that this system has created. But the Government have launched a Bill in Parliament that could make it very difficult to challenge.

The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill is currently passing through Parliament and is due for a second reading on the 6th March. In Part 4 Section 23 of this Bill the offer of courses as an alternative to prosecution for Road Traffic offences is covered. That effectively would regulate, and make legal, the use of police waivers and the offer of speed-awareness courses.

For the first time in British history this Bill would introduce into English law the concept that it is legal to pay bribes to the police to avoid prosecution for offences.

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has shown how these arrangements have been abused. Such practices have enabled the police to generate cash to fund their operations and that includes equipment and services that have nothing to do with road safety. In addition it has financed the acquisition and use of more speed cameras. In effect the police have been using the funds so obtained to maintain their establishments and the consequence is that there are clear incentives to the police to raise money in this way. This is a distortion of the justice system.

The evidence on how these arrangements are currently being abused by the police are present on this web site maintained by the ABD:

http://www.speed-awareness.org/index.html

Although the ABD has called for proper legal regulation of this system, the proposals in the Bill actually make matters worse. There is a provision that any excess over costs must be used for promoting road safety but there is also a provision that “promoting road safety” includes the prevention, detection or enforcement of offences relating to vehicles. So this fixes into law the ability of the police to finance more speed cameras and their operation so as to generate more cash, and so this dubious industry will be expanded as a result. This has nothing to do with road safety and everything to do with empire building by the police.

Indeed the evidence obtained by the ABD shows that the police are diverting the funds raised in this way to other activities and are misreporting the profits generated. This is a natural consequence of the perverse financial incentives that are being created.

Please write to your Member of Parliament (via post or email) opposing this Bill or asking for amendments to be made to it. A suggested template letter you can use is present here (a pdf document):

http://www.speed-awareness.org/Letter-to-MP-2.pdf

(Include your name and full postal address even in an email to ensure your M.P. will respond)

How do you write to your M.P.? You can obtain their contact details from this web page: http://parliament.uk  (enter your post code at the bottom left). This will take you to a page giving their name, postal address and email address – an email will do fine.

DO WRITE TO YOUR M.P. NOW – THIS IS URGENT

You can read the draft Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill and follow it’s progress through Parliament here:

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/vehicletechnologyandaviation.html

If you agree with us, and wish to stop the financing of speed cameras by this dubious practice which has nothing to do with improving road safety, please register your interest by signing our petition and joining the campaign here if you have not already done so:

http://www.speed-awareness.org/join.html

Roger Lawson

Bank Junction Closure

As first reported back in December 2015, the City of London Corporation are proceeding with a plan to close Bank junction to all but buses and cyclists. Black cab drivers are incensed by this proposal and ran several demonstration at that junction and near the Houses of Parliament last week. This caused widespread traffic chaos.

According to a report by the City of London Corporation, the benefit will be a significant reduction in casualties (often pedestrians and cyclists) around the junction, and average traffic journey times will be neutral or slightly positive. It will also improve bus services based on the modelling done.

All general traffic will be banned from 7.00 am to 7.00 pm from travelling through the junction, which is one of the key parts of the road network in the City of London. Although much traffic already avoids it because it is very heavily congested, it will certainly cause a lot of difficulties for taxi drivers. Diverting traffic will surely make other alternative routes busier.

The scheme will start in April, and last for 18 months on an experimental basis but such schemes tend to become permanent. The Corporation’s report says “The experimental scheme will not solve all safety aspects at Bank, but will make a significant difference without the need for infrastructure changes, which will take more time to plan and deliver”.

What’s the cost of this project? It is budgeted to be £792,000. More information is present here: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/transport-and-streets/traffic-management/Pages/Bank.aspx

Comment: One of the key sources of congestion at Bank are in fact buses of which there are many and who move slowly. The configuration of the junction and the narrow pavements (insufficient for the number of people exiting Bank underground) are major problems and a cause of the poor accident record. So one cannot dispute that some measures needed to be taken to tackle these problems.

However there were other alternatives, such as simplifying the junction, or allowing entry only from certain directions that would have surely helped. Closing this key junction to traffic will be similar to the redesign of other key junctions in central London such as Trafalgar Square and Aldgate which has contributed so much to reduced journey times in central London.

Taxi driver David Morris was quoted in the Financial Times as saying “We are part of the London public transport system and yet we will be denied access”. He suggested there would be horrendous gridlock as a result and questioned where all the traffic will go. One cannot but be sympathetic to his views because this looks like another step that will reduce the capacity of the road network of London. One cannot continue to remove road space and expect congestion to do anything but get worse.

If you wish to object to these plans, I suggest you write to Gillian Howard, at City of London Corporation, Guildhall, PO Box 270, London EC2P 2EJ. Or send an email to bankarea@cityoflondon.gov.uk . There does not appear to be any formal consultation process as yet and given the timescale for implementation it would seem they are not going to bother with one.

The ABD has already submitted an objection, but the more they get, the better.

Roger Lawson