Active Travel and Road Safety – The Facts

There has been a big push to encourage people to take up “active travel” in the last few years, i.e. to cycle or walk on the premise that this will improve their health. It is hoped that this will relieve pressure on public transport and reduce traffic congestion by getting people out of their cars. So the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy that he adopted focussed on this well before the latest attempts to encourage active travel in response to the Covid-19 epidemic.

How successful has this strategy been and what are the unintended consequences?

The latest figures available from the Department for Transport (DfT) in their National Travel Survey for 2019 showed no change in the number of stages cycled and an actual fall in the average distance cycled from 58 to 54 miles. The number of stages walked also fell from 347 in 2018 to 332. Cycling remained very much a male dominated travel mode – they made 3 times as many cycle trips as women.

There was little change in the road casualty statistics in 2019. The number of people killed was 1.748. Despite sharp falls in the number prior to 2010, the figures plateaued in the 2010s. The DfT suggests that any changes in recent years are simply random variations (only 2% down in 2019). There has of course been some increase in traffic volumes in the last few years but the results are still very disappointing.

Although overall casualty figures fell by 5% in 2019, this data is probably an under-estimate as it is known that slight casualties are under-reported and recent pressures on police resources mean even fewer are reported with police forces not even turning out to attend many road traffic accidents.

The ABD has been claiming for some time that the failure to bring down casualties is due to defects in road safety policies. For example a concentration on automated speed enforcement rather than spending money on road engineering and education. The encouragement of cycling may not have helped either. These are the relative figures for fatalities per billion miles travelled using different transport modes:

Motorcycling: 113.3

Walking: 34.1

Cycling: 29.4

Car use: 1.8

HGV use: 0.9

Bus use: 0.6

Van use: 0.6

A new negative trend may soon appear if E-Scooters are widely adopted as they appear to be positively dangerous. The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) recently said this: “From evidence and experience around the world, it is now very clear that the public benefits of [e-scooters] are illusory and the disbenefits substantial, at least in a European context”. They oppose the current trials and wider legislation to support them. Very few car trips apparently transfer to e-scooter use and they also are not “active travel”.

They are also a particular danger to pedestrians when ridden on the pavement which is happening all over London at present with the police doing very little to stop it.

What have been the changes in transport modes prompted by the Covid-19 epidemic?  They have been substantial, particularly in London. Underground and London bus usage has fallen greatly as more people worked from home which is why the Mayor and TfL have financial difficulties as income has fallen while the network has not been reduced. Nationwide cycling rose by as much as 300% on some days in the first couple of months (April/May) over the start of the year. The weather does of course have a big impact on cycle use which has been relatively benign in recent months and summer makes cycling more enjoyable. Cycle use rises sharply during weekends and bank holidays which suggests it is dominated by “leisure” and “exercise” use, particularly as gyms and sports venues have been closed. But the cycling numbers are now reverting to more normal levels. You can see the data for different modes during the epidemic here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/transport-use-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic   

Car use fell very substantially during the first few weeks of the epidemic but that has also reverted to near normal levels across the country. Any big increases in traffic congestion in London are surely due to the road closures and removal of road space by cycle and bus lanes using Covid-19 as an excuse.

Comment: The fear of gridlock on the roads as people avoided public transport is not born out by the facts. They have mainly avoided travelling altogether. As people have learned to work from home, it is clear that the demand for central London offices will fall, and the number of commuters may never recover to previous levels. Why should TfL maintain a network of bus and underground services at previous levels when the passengers are much reduced? Any commercial business would cut services to match demand because to do otherwise leads to bankruptcy. That is what will happen to London’s transport services unless the Government bows to Sadiq Khan’s demands for more cash to keep it afloat. The Government should ignore such requests and force TfL to adapt to the new world rather than waste the taxes we all pay.  

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Cycling and Walking Revolution and Highway Code Changes

The Prime Minister has announced a “£2 billion cycling and walking revolution” – see Reference 1 below for the Government’s press release. There is also a consultation launched on changes to the Highway Code – see Reference 2.  I will comment on some of the implications for London and give my personal comments on the Highway Code changes as the ABD nationally will be formulating a formal response in due course – your views might assist.

The £2 billion might sound a lot of money but spread over some years it might not be a great deal. It includes the provision of new “protected” cycle routes. If they were segregated from other road traffic that might make much sense to avoid conflict but the danger is that it will just mean more cycle lanes taking away road space with fairly disastrous results for traffic congestion as seen in London.

Boris Johnson’s press release suggests that getting people to cycle and walk will enable them to lose weight and get fitter thereby generally improving their health. The only problem with this is that, as anyone who has tried to lose weight knows, you have to do an awful lot of exercise to lose much weight. In reality the only way to significantly lose weight is to eat fewer calories and drink less alcohol. Exercise can only contribute in a minor way, not that I would discourage you from taking it.

For the elderly taking up cycling can be positively dangerous. My brother-in-law just fell off a bike in Italy and hurt his shoulder which was already damaged, and he is an experienced cyclist. But if you really want to take up cycling the Government is to provide cycle training, vouchers to fix your old bike, or possibly assistance to buy a new electric one (details not yet clear).

The Government is to encourage “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods” that might include road closures like we have seen in Lewisham and other London boroughs, much to the disgust of many residents. The result has been more traffic congestion, not less, and there has been no public consultation before putting in the measures using the epidemic as an excuse. It’s good to see that the Government says that includes “consulting on communities’ right to close side streets” – I look forward to such consultations! I trust they will be made retrospective.

All this enthusiasm for cycling is of course driven by the fine weather, and the fact that sporting facilities such as gyms have been closed. People may continue to avoid the latter, hence all the weekend cyclists. In London commuters have also been avoiding public transport so cycling has been seen to be a viable alternative to avoid the risk of infection. And it’s cheaper than using public transport unless you have a concessionary fare.

But cyclists are still a minority of traffic on London’s roads (about 2% according to the last reported data from 2018). See Reference 3 below for the trends in traffic data. Will the Government really turn the UK into the cycling capital of the world? I doubt it. It might be popular for young males, but will it ever be for the elderly and never for the disabled or sick surely (of which there are an enormous number in London – actually 21% of adults).

The convenience of a vehicle for transporting people (such as family members) and goods over short and long distances, in all weathers and safely just cannot be beaten. Those who can afford a vehicle and have space to park it usually learn to drive and buy a vehicle sooner or later. It opens up many new leisure and work opportunities and gives you access to a much wider geographic area that may simply be impractical to access via public transport in a sensible timeframe.

Highway Code Changes

The proposed changes, to which you can respond in a public consultation, are not all bad in my opinion (see the link below). But there are some issues I note:

– It introduces a “hierarchy of road users”. I always thought all people who use the roads should be treated equally as in essence all people have the same rights and responsibilities in a free society. They should also share the roads irrespective of their chosen transport modes. To give more obligations and responsibilities to any one class of road user is wrong.

– There is a change that does not dissuade cyclists from overtaking vehicles on the left. That is a dangerous manoeuvre on crowded London roads as cyclists may be in a blind spot on some vehicles.

– They are also proposing to introduce specific passing distances for cyclists which will cause unnecessary difficulties on many narrow London roads. More flexible rules should be set rather than fixed limits. They also encourage cyclists to ride in the centre of a lane which will delay/obstruct other traffic and cause needless annoyance, and they encourage cyclists to ride 2-abreast also.

– They also encourage the use of the “Dutch Reach” when opening a car door. This is really only practical in small vehicles and for those people who can turn their head through 180 degrees – many elderly people cannot. It’s actually safer to look in a door mounted wing mirror when a wider view of traffic approaching from behind can be seen (including cyclists).

In summary, many of the changes favour pedestrians and cyclists and might improve their safety, but those for cyclists are often irrational and unnecessary. They will be particularly problematic in London where the behaviour of cyclists is often quite appallingly bad. There is more helpful guidance for cyclists in the new Code, but will they actually read it? They unfortunately have no obligation to do so and many clearly have historically not done so. At least vehicle owners have to pass a test to ensure they know it.

Roger Lawson

Ref. 1: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-kickstarts-2bn-cycling-and-walking-revolution

Ref. 2: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/review-of-the-highway-code-to-improve-road-safety-for-cyclists-pedestrians-and-horse-riders

Ref. 3: https://roadtraffic.dft.gov.uk/regions/6

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Paranoia on Speeding Rising and Linking it to the Coronavirus Epidemic

The public’s paranoia about speeding drivers on our roads seems to be increasing. That may be partly driven by the fact that average traffic speeds have been rising as the roads are often empty due to the coronavirus epidemic. But it is also raised by politicians and even the police who are using social media to promote a false message.

For example, this was a recent exchange on twitter that I had with Councillor Nicola Dykes (she is a ward councillor in the London Borough of Bromley and also a Committee Chairman):

Posted by Nicola Dykes: SPEEDING- Police are increasing their operations to tackle this. Please contact them direct via ‪@MPSBromley to share roads where this is an issue. As ward Cllrs we have already highlighted roads we know there is an issue – Farnaby, Hayes Road, Siward etc. Please share!

Posted by me in reply: What is the accident record in those roads that justifies expending police resources on a witch-hunt?

What followed was not an answer to my question, but a long dialogue criticising my comments but never answering the question.

Unfortunately there is too much paranoia about people exceeding the speed limit with the result that a large amount of effort is being expended by the police and others on stopping it when that effort is very unlikely to result in any reduction in road casualties.

As anyone who has looked into this issue would know, the number of road accidents where speeding (i.e. exceeding the speed limit) is a factor is very low. In London the data makes it plain that exceeding the speed limit (factor 306 on the police STATS19 reporting forms) is a very minor factor in KSIs (Killed and Serious Injuries). It’s actually recorded as a contributory factor in only 5.9% of such accidents in the last five years.

The largest contributory factor by far is “Failed to Look Properly” which accounted for 42% of KSIs in London or 35% nationally. But there are several other factors with higher ratings than “Exceeding the Speed Limit” such as “Poor Turn or Manoeuvre”, “Failed to Judge Other Persons Path…”, “Loss of Control” and “Careless, Reckless or in a Hurry”.

Bearing in mind that multiple factors can be recorded, and that many of those involved in accidents will be under the influence of drink or drugs, or otherwise be involved in criminal activity (e.g. in stolen cars), even if the speed limit was rigorously enforced it would be unlikely to make much difference to road casualty statistics.

That is why I say that the whole policy of more speed enforcement is driven by paranoia and is actually diverting resources from more productive and effective road safety policies – such as improving roads, improving driver education and other possible approaches.

As regards the possible problem of excessive speed in Farnaby Road, Hayes Road (the B2212) and Siward Road before the police or Bromley Council spends money on tackling that alleged problem it is best to obtain some data on the actual speed of traffic in those roads and the accident record – the latter should already be available.

I have therefore requested under the Freedom of Information Act the following information:

  1. The details of all road accidents in the following roads: Farnaby Road, Hayes Road and Siward Road for the last three years that are available. That should include not just the totals but the details of accidents in those roads as reported on STATS19 forms (but excluding personal information of course).
  2. Any information held by Bromley Council on the speeds of traffic in those roads.

One of the persons who has been very active on social media promoting the hysteria over speeding is Superintendent Andy Cox of the Metropolitan Police. One of his recent tweets said: “With some very high speeds in London increasing risk of fatal and serious crashes which would add pressure to the NHS, Police, Fire causing potential impact on Covid-19 patients”.

This suggestion that accidents are increasing, putting pressure on the NHS is unsupported by any facts. In reality NHS A&E facilities have fewer patients and plenty of spare capacity at present and the suggestion that treating accident patients might affect treatment of Covid-19 patients is simply wrong. It’s too early to obtain the actual data on vehicle accidents but insurance companies such as Admiral are already refunding part of their car insurance premiums because the number of car accidents has fallen.

We are also seeing the same biased and inaccurate messages from those campaigning for 20 mph speed limits where they suggest that imposing them would relieve pressure on the NHS. It’s simply nonsense.

Readers should make sure they oppose this frenzy of fake news by responding to it with the facts.

Roger Lawson

Postscript: The results of the FOI Act request for data on roads in Bromley can be summarised as follows. It does not provide all the information I requested but there are some conclusions that can be drawn from it.

  1. Recent traffic speed data is only available for Farnaby Road but it shows average traffic speed is well below 30 mph, at about 26 mph. The 85th percentile figure also suggests this road is best signposted at 30 mph. There is some research available that shows that setting the speed limit at the 85th percentile of traffic speed actually results in the minimum of road accidents.
  2. The accident records for the last 5 years from Crashmap shows a few slight accidents in Farnaby Road, one serious accident in Hayes Road and only one slight accident in Siward Road. There were no fatalities. These are not exceptional figures for any roads in Bromley. Slight accidents can be quite trivial but it might be worth looking at the details of the serious accident in Hayes Road to see what the cause of that was.
  3. If local residents are concerned about the speed of traffic in Hayes Road or Siward Road, I suggest that council officers be asked to undertake some speed monitoring on those roads.

Speeding is often a subjective matter, reported by some people but not considered a problem by others. Whether there is a problem, or one worth expending resources upon, is best judged by looking at the accident data. The roads mentioned are obviously not ones that should take priority for road safety measures in Bromley as there are many other roads with a worse accident record. That is where money should be spent – not on roads where there is simply a vociferous group of residents.

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The Future of Transport – Government Consultation

E-ScooterThe Government has launched a public consultation on “The Future of Transport”.  This covers the possible future regulation of “micromobility” vehicles such as electric scooters, flexible bus services and “mobility as a service”.

Of particular interest to other road users, and to pedestrians, is the regulation of scooters. Should they be permitted on roads, on pavements or on cycle lanes for example? Should such “vehicles” have a maximum speed limit, be “type approved”, require registration numbers and be licensed, should the users be licensed and required to take a training course, permitted only on lower speed roads, and require riders to use helmets? There are many questions they pose in this area.

It is certainly the case that we need some regulation and urgently as in major cities such as London they are already coming into use despite the fact that they are illegal to use except on private land, i.e. illegal on both roads and pavements. There have already been injury accidents, including one death, reported from the use of scooters on public roads in the UK, and the number of casualties in other countries where they are permitted are already quite high.

It also covers the regulation of self-driving cars, and how trials of such vehicles can be regulated. Mobility as a service is also covered and this relates to the development of new digital platforms to enable innovative transport services combining multiple modes.

As with many Government announcements, it clearly shows a prejudice against cars and private transport in general. It says this in the “Executive Summary”: “Walking, cycling and active travel must remain the best options for short urban journeys”, and “Mass transit must remain fundamental to an efficient transport system”, and “New mobility services must lead the transition to zero emissions”. Not everyone might agree with those statements.

This is an important public consultation for anyone interested in road use, and there is an easy on-line consultation process. There are probably too many questions in it but you can skip a lot of them.

Please respond to the consultation which can be obtained from here:

https://tinyurl.com/s9f7bvp

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Lewisham Spending £0.5 Million With No Justification

The ABD has been running a campaign to oppose the road closures proposed as part of Lewisham Council’s “Healthy Neighbourhoods” scheme for Lee Green. We submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain information to justify the scheme to which we now have most, if not all, of the answers.

The cost of the proposed “trial” will be just less than £500,000! Will the trial ever be abandoned if there are too many objections? That is very, very unlikely because Councils never want to admit they have wasted money. So the suggestion that it is a “trial scheme” is a fiction.

We also asked for what cost/benefit analysis had been done to justify the scheme. Apparently NONE!

We also asked for information on what traffic modelling had been done to see the impact of likely increases in traffic volumes on the major roads. It seems that it is still being carried out. In other words, the scheme proposals have been put forward without any study of the impact.

We asked for details of the consultations with the emergency services (fire, police, ambulance services). No formal consultations to date – only informal meetings. So clearly the proposal was to put in the trial scheme without doing any proper consultation with them first.

We asked for details of the road accident statistics. Some data has been provided. There were no fatal accidents in the Lee Green/Lewisham area covered by the scheme between 31/1/2013 and 31/12/2017 although there were a few serious and a large number of slight casualties. Drivers and vehicle passengers were the majority of casualties. The figures are typical for inner London boroughs.

We asked for information on air pollution in the area. The answer was that “baseline monitoring” is currently being carried out. So it seems that the scheme was proposed without key data on the historic air pollution and the proposed benefits from the scheme.

Bearing in mind the claims for “rat-running” on the area’s roads we asked for what proportion of the claimed vehicles were non-resident delivery or service vehicles. No data on that is available apparently.

In summary it seems the trial scheme proposals have been put forward without any proper investigation of the need for it. In addition, as no baselines have been established it will not be possible to say later whether the scheme has provided any benefits or not.

It is rather as the ABD suspected. The scheme has been proposed simply by councillors and council staff who have a prejudice against private vehicles and would like everyone to cycle, walk or use public transport.

There is no evidence that it will provide any health benefits as is claimed and it will simply be a waste of public funds. But with Transport for London providing the funds and the Mayor of London encouraging such schemes, this is the kind of perverse result that we are seeing.

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Lewisham Neighbourhood Meeting – Councillors Ignore Public Opposition.

Lewisham Meeting 2020-02-12

Last night (11/2/2020) there was a “Lee Green Assembly” meeting at which the main topic was the proposed Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme. It was well attended with I would guess over 100 local residents there. I tried to ask some questions but was ignored; however my points were well covered by other people.

The event was managed to avoid debate – for example by dealing with questions in threes which avoids follow-up responses. It was clear that some people supported the scheme but it was also obvious that more people opposed the scheme than supported it. Councillors present simply brushed off the objections. One speaker suggested it was appropriate that the event was held in a school because they were being treated as schoolchildren.

I will cover some of the speeches and the questions/answers in detail but this is not a verbatim report:

  1. Councillor James Rathbone (for contact info see below) opened the meeting but Councillor Octavia Holland then spoke. She said the key objective was to reduce traffic. The drivers of the policy are air quality and pedestrian safety. She apologised for people not hearing about the proposals. She mentioned there had been more than one petition on the subject (Note: one of these is still open – see https://tinyurl.com/wpbx57u – you may care to sign it). She also said that 60% of traffic in the area is not starting or stopping within it and admitted that the scheme was going to be inconvenient for some people – that is particularly so as 65% of households in the area own a car. It will need significant change in how people organise their lives.
  1. The scheme is based on the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy and there will be a consultation during the trial period. The scheme also depends on approval by Transport for London (TfL) as it might impact on bus journey times. There will also be multiple “drop-in” sessions, and it was said later that will be another “letter drop” (Comments: so why can’t they simply ask residents whether they support the proposal or not?).
  1. It is also proposed to extend the current CPZs across the area and there will be a public consultation on those proposals.
  1. Questions were then taken by Octavia and Josh Learner who is the Cycling and Walking Programme Manager at Lewisham Council.
  1. The first Question/Comment was from a police constable who said the modal filters will impact emergency response times. It will apparently require the police to get out to unlock and remove the “bollard” to gain access and replace afterwards. She said that you would be “buggered” if it was a single person call-out. The response was that it works OK in other similar schemes.
  1. Another issue raised was the increased traffic on Hall Park Lane coming off the A205 to avoid the road closures. Answer: This is being discussed with Greenwich Council who are responsible for that area – more closures might be imposed.
  1. A cyclist who lives on Burnt Ash Hill supported the scheme but raised the issue of monitoring of air pollution before and after the trial (there may be more traffic on that road, increasing air pollution). The answer was that it will be monitored.
  1. The next speaker who lives on Manor Lane near the blockages was concerned about increased traffic and difficulty getting onto the South Circular which is already a problem. Answer: this will be looked at.
  1. The next speaker complained about the consultation. Why not a simple vote on the scheme, with a letter sent to everyone? (Comment: this is a very good point).  The answer from a councillor was simply waffle at which point they were shouted down. But it was said that the scheme would not be stopped regardless of the public views [in other words, the “consultation” is a farce as the public will be ignored anyway).
  1. A resident of Burnt Ash Hill said that they were going to be poisoned but you are ignoring us, and why can’t we have proper consultation. Councillor Rathbone said that Councils often went ahead without consultation and mentioned a similar scheme in the London Borough of Bromley at Shortlands (Note: the Shortlands scheme is very different and does not involve road closures. There is no public opposition and Bromley Council is very good at doing wide public consultations when necessary).
  1. The next speaker spelled out the impact of low traffic speeds on air pollution and mentioned the negative impact of a scheme in Walthamstow. The answer given was that it will be monitored in the trial.
  1. Another person raised the possible conflict of interest of having a TfL employee on the board of Sustrans who were developing the scheme.
  1. Another speaker raised concerns about the delay to emergency services and access to the South Circular. The answer was that the emergency services had been contacted but had no objections.
  1. One speaker suggested “timed” closures instead of 24-hour coverage to stop rat running during commuting hours. Answer: it could not be done as part of the trial.
  1. A speaker asked whether there were targets for reduction of air pollution and traffic. Answer: There was none because the final design was not settled and there were “too many moving parts”. Comment: this is a major omission and makes it clear that with no targets being set the “trial” will be considered a success regardless of the facts.
  1. The next question was “had they consulted local businesses”? For example Brewers on Chiltonian Estate? Answer: businesses had been overlooked and they are looking into that. Note: the ABD sent a few letters to such businesses but we could not cover all of them and they will be very badly affected.
  1. A resident of Dallinger Road queried the closures and asked how vehicles were expected to turn around when they ran into one. Answer was that perhaps we should move the closures to the other end of those roads. Comment: I don’t see how that solves the problem.
  1. The next speaker complained about the problem of quick access to Lewisham Hospital as all the fast routes would be cut off (the speaker’s husband had often had to be taken to A&E). Answer: there will be some people who take longer to get to hospital. (Comment: delays to emergency services are already a major problem in London where they consistently fail to meet response time targets. Don’t have a heart attack in London as you are likely to die as a result! The road closures in Lewisham will make matters worse).

It was mentioned in the meeting that another draft of the scheme will be proposed. The last one published was Version 11 so there will be a Version 12, or 13, 14, etc as someone suggested.

It was very clear from the comments of people at the meeting that there is widespread opposition to the scheme as proposed, particularly against the road closures. These might make air pollution slightly better for some, but a lot worse for others. Journey times will be substantially increased.

But councillors and council staff seem to want to push ahead regardless. Anyone who has had dealings with councils will know that they hate to admit mistakes and reconsider proposals or abandon them despite public opposition. That is what is happening in Lewisham.

It is also clear that Lewisham Council is pushing ahead with a “trial” of the road closures before doing a proper public consultation. This is an “arse about face” approach to put it politely. They will never to be taken out later.

I urge all residents of the Lee Green area to contact their councillors below.

Contact information:

Councillors:

James Rathbone: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=2990

Octavia Holland: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=2989

Jim Mallory: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=167

Roger Lawson

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Book Review – Demotorized – A Witty Look at the Use and Taxation of Motor Cars 

Demotorized Cover

“Demotorized” is a new book by experienced motoring journalist James Ruppert. As he describes it himself, it “is partly a giant whinge on behalf of the average motorist” whereas he believes motor cars are a “force for good that outweighs any downsides”. That is certainly what the Alliance of British Drivers believes.

The book is a witty look at the history of the automobile and how politicians have taxed them, often using excuses for doing so that have created unintended consequences. Or they have simply misunderstood the technology and the underlying science so that money has been wasted and negative results obtained – such as the push for diesel usage that has now been reversed.

The author takes a close look at the global warming paranoia that is being used to attack personal vehicle use – he clearly does not believe in it at all. He also takes a look at the revenue raising from the pursuit of speeding offences, but unfortunately fails to mention the false statistics on which it was based and how money is being generated by “speed awareness” courses. Indeed he suggests that the latter is a “local authority revenue raiser” when in fact few local authorities currently run such courses – It’s mainly commercial organisations and it’s them and the police who are the main financial beneficiaries. At least that is the current position although there are moves to enable local authorities to get on this gravy train.

There is a good section on the history and future prospects for electric vehicles. The author makes it plain that their economics have yet to be proven.

It’s quite a long book at over 300 pages and a mine of useful information so at £9.99 for the paperback edition it’s good value. But it’s still an easy and amusing read – indeed sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether the author is being serious or not.

In summary a useful book for anyone who wishes to learn more about the motor industry and how the motorist has suffered from perverse government policies.

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Safer Speeds – The Real Data

I have commented before on how Transport for London (TfL) have failed to justify their “Safer Speeds” proposals which includes imposing 20 mph speed limits on many roads. We have previously pointed out how TfL have been misinterpreting police accident data to support their claims that the measures are justified.

For example, they issued a Tweet that said “speed accounts for 37% of all death and serious injuries” in road accidents in London. That figure is simply wrong. The claim was allegedly based on the STATS19 data reported by the police (a form they fill out about every accident involving injuries).  That form allows for multiple factors to be recorded and after submitting a Freedom of Information Act request we learned that they counted all the accidents where factors 306, 307 and 602 were noted.

But factor 602 is described as “Driver/rider either behaved in a negligent or thoughtless manner or was in a hurry….”. Clearly the key word in that sentence is the second “or” when TfL have interpreted it to mean “and”.  There is no basis for claiming that all accidents where factor 602 is attached were rated by the police as ones where a driver was in a hurry. They might have simply been careless. Only where the other factors 306 or 307 were also noted could there be any claim that speed was a factor in the accident.

We now have the complete accident data and the data makes it plain that exceeding the speed limit (factor 306) is a very minor factor in KSIs (Killed and Serious Injuries) in London. It’s actually recorded as a contributory factor in only 5.9% of such accidents in the last five years. That’s actually less than the figure of 7.1% reported by the Department for Transport for the national figures in 2018 – see table below. Clearly tougher enforcement of speed limits is therefore unlikely to have much impact on the overall numbers. That of course is particularly so in London where average traffic speed is typically well below the speed limit.

Contributory Factors and Speed - ras50008

The largest contributory factor by far is “Failed to Look Properly” which accounted for 42% of KSIs in London or 35% nationally. But there are several other factors with higher ratings than “Exceeding the Speed Limit” such as “Poor Turn or Manoeuvre”, “Failed to Judge Other Persons Path…”, “Loss of Control” and “Careless, Reckless or in a Hurry”.

Even if you bundle factors 306 and 307 together only 12% of KSI incidents are included nationally so reducing speed limits is going to have only a small contribution at best to reducing such accidents. It’s reducing the other factors that is the key to substantially reducing road casualties. More driver education, improved roads and research into saccadic masking may be productive.

Note also that a lot of the reported factor 306 and 307 claims of excessive speed and speed above the speed limit might well involve illegal use of vehicles such as stolen vehicles so reducing speed limits will have negligible impact in reality.

There is simply no cost/benefit justification for the Safer Speeds proposals as pointed out in our previous article and TfL have clearly been abusing the data so as to make spurious claims.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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TfL Business Plan and Budget for the Next 5 Years – More of the Same

London Road

Transport for London (TfL) have published their Business Plan to cover the next 5 years and a Budget for the next year. The latter has already been approved by the London Assembly.

I shall pick out a few key points from these long documents which are certainly worth reading if you have the time – see https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/business-plan .  Bear in mind that as always, it’s money that drives the political and policy decisions – in this case the apparent desire of the Mayor to build a bigger empire and control more of our lives. So private transport will be discouraged and he wants more money from central Government and from Londoners to fix his self-inflicted budget problems caused by fare freezes, Crossrail delays and reckless expenditure on cycle infrastructure.

The delays to Crossrail and its rising cost run through the whole document like an albatross around the Mayor’s neck. Crossrail is now unlikely to open until 2021 which means £750 million in lost revenue as against that expected, hitting the TfL budget. In addition the delays and extra work means extra costs of up to £650 million and it’s not clear where that money will be coming from. There are very optimistic forecasts in the Business Plan for income from Crossrail – for example £884 million in 2023/24. Will it really be achieved?

Diesel Buses, one of the major sources of air pollution in the capital, are to be replaced to a large extent by 2,000 zero-emission buses by the end of the 5-year business plan period, but the whole fleet will not be zero-emission until 2037. However they will be at least Euro VI compliant soon. There is also a commitment to install 300 rapid Electric Chargers for other vehicles by the end of 2020.

Note that the London bus network has been reduced partly due to falling passenger numbers and income no doubt but there is also a reduction in central London offset by increases in outer London.

TfL Transport Commissioner Mike Brown reiterates the commitment to Vision Zero to reduce road casualties despite the fact that the policy has had negligible impact to date – see a previous blog post on that subject. He also commits to tripling the amount of “protected” Cycling space which will mean more underused cycle lanes. But he is also committing to make 73 junctions safer which may assist cyclists.

Despite cutting operating costs, one of the few good things reported, there will be deficits of £307m, £493m and £513m in TfL (after “capital renewals”) for this year and the two following ones and barely break-even in 2022/23. As a result the Mayor will have to substantially increase borrowing to cover that and large amounts of capital expenditure for both Crossrail and other network improvements. That includes £2.2 billion this year and next year, followed by £1.2 billion each year in subsequent years. Total borrowing will reach £12.3 billion within 2 years. None of this is being spent on the road network of course other than some maintenance.

So far as the road network is concerned, the maintenance of road surfaces including the repair of pot-holes has been reduced in the last two years which the documents concede has caused a deterioration in road assets. However there is a commitment to “gradually restore the condition of highway assets, with a focus on those that contribute more to walking, cycling and public transport” whatever that means. Does that mean they will fund repairs to bus lanes but not the rest of the road?

On Hammersmith Bridge whose closure is causing major problems in West London, the document only says that £25 million has been allocated to pay for preliminary work but no contract will be awarded to repair the bridge until Spring 2020 and it might take several years to complete the work. It is unclear where the money required will come from. The Rotherhithe Tunnel will be refurbished within the next 5 years – cost of around £140 million, and work done on the A40 Westway. Work on the Silvertown Tunnel should commence in 2020 and complete by 2025.

As regards the ULEZ, the Budget document finally discloses some financial figures. In 2018/19, the ULEZ will contribute most of the £215 million improvement in operating income in the current year, but with implementation costs of £58 million, i.e. a net £157 million which is somewhat more than previously forecast (see   https://tinyurl.com/y4w6pwuk ). As the Budget document only covers the year 2019/20 and no details are provide in the Business Plan the impact of the extension of the ULEZ to the North/South Circular is not apparent but the Mayor clearly intends to push ahead with that (assuming he gets re-elected).

The Business Plan indicates that fares income is expected to rise at around RPI which ignores the fact that Sadiq Khan has already promised to continue to freeze public transport fares if he gets re-elected, at least for 2020. So the Business Plan may be totally unrealistic.

In summary the Business Plan and Budget demonstrate an incompetent Mayor and senior management at TfL who wish to get us all cycling, walking or using public transport while the road network gets worse. This results in more traffic congestion and more air pollution which most Londoners would prefer them to fix. The persistent financial mismanagement by the Mayor will also come home to roost sooner or later.

A good example of the result of his policies is actually shown in a photograph of an east London street in the Business Plan document. A long queue of traffic in one lane with the bus lane unused and few cyclists in the cycle lane! See above.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Reporting a Road Incident to the Met

The Metropolitan Police have had a useful web site for reporting a crime or road accident for some time – see https://www.met.police.uk/ , where is not an emergency. It’s very easy to use and saves you having to visit a police station. They also now seem to have added a specific page to enable you to report a road incident and upload some dashcam footage – see:  https://www.met.police.uk/dashcam

But one person said on Twitter: “Can someone explain why I can film freely with a dashcam but to put a CCTV camera in a public space I have to jump through various legal hoops under the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice issued “to ensure that the use of cameras is only used in pursuit of a specified purpose”.

That’s a good question. A quick review tells me that this is a complex area of regulations. The use of video cameras is governed by two bodies – the Information Commissioner (ICO) who lays down guidelines, and the Surveillance Commissioner who regulates Police Forces and Local Authorities but their guidance is only advisory for other organisations so far as I can see.

But the ICO barely seems to be keeping up with technology. For example they say “The ICO recommends that users of drones with cameras should operate them in a responsible way to respect the privacy of others” and not much more.

In essence I conclude that a dashboard camera (dashcam) is no different to using any other kind of camera in a public place and hence is not subject to regulation except that any photographs that may contain personal information need to be stored securely and other data protection rules apply.

But a fixed video camera that covers a public place (e.g. a street outside your house) is subject to guidelines issued by the ICO and unless there is a justifiable purpose a complaint against it might be upheld.

There is clearly a general privacy issue here. Dashcams are obviously very useful if an accident has occurred or a potential crime. That has to be counterbalanced against the pervasive surveillance of the population that now happens in all locations and at all times. In London this has reached astonishing proportions. One estimate is that there are 500,000 video cameras in London and the Police have access to the Congestion Charge and ULEZ cameras and others that will soon cover most of London. That’s in addition to all the commercial and domestic cameras. In essence privacy has disappeared if you live in London!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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