Shapps Transport Announcements – More Removal of Road Space

I mentioned in a previous blog post how the Covid-19 epidemic is being used as an excuse to close roads and implement other measures that prejudice vehicle drivers – for example by removing road space for cycle lanes. Yesterday Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, announced a whole raft of national measures that will fund such plans and give local authorities powers to implement them.

You can read the details here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/2-billion-package-to-create-new-era-for-cycling-and-walking . Up to £2 billion of funding will be provided by the Government to support local schemes.

I and many other ABD members consider these proposals totally unreasonable and unacceptable and I have written to my local Member of Parliament, Bob Neill, accordingly – see below. Readers are invited to copy the text, add your own personal comments, and send it to your own MP (you can find their contact details by going here: https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP  – don’t forget to add your postal address so they know you are one of their constituents).

Letter text:

Dear Bob,

I have seen and read the announcement made by Grant Shapps on 9/5/2020 entitled “£2 billion package to create new era for cycling and walking”. I acknowledge that there are particular problems created by the Covid-19 epidemic that will impact transport, particularly in London where public transport use is very high. But the epidemic is likely to be a short-term problem whereas it is clear that these measures are intended to herald a long-term change in how we travel.

But the measures proposed are simply irrational and will worsen many of the existing traffic problems that we have. Removing road space to add more cycle lanes, close roads to traffic and widen pavements will actually create more traffic congestion when people should be encouraged to use vehicles where they run no risk of personal contact and virus infection.

By the time such measures can be implemented, the epidemic may well be over but the cycling enthusiasts will not support any reversion to the status quo. The total capacity of roads to transport people and goods is not improved by such measures, just the exact opposite.

Promoting cycling does not in reality enable better “social distancing”, as we have seen in the last few weeks where groups of cyclists often ride close together. I also note that the Government is to support the use of e-scooters and it suggests they may be used on our roads in June when the public consultation on their use has not even concluded. This is jumping the gun on what might be a very negative change in road safety terms.

I am also very concerned about the new Statutory Guidance under the Traffic Management Act which will enable local councils to introduce measures with minimal public consultation and at great speed. We have already seen how Lewisham Council is trying to introduce road closures (a.k.a. “Modal Filters”) with no public consultation whatsoever using Temporary Traffic Orders, despite very strong local opposition. Although Traffic Orders still have to be published, the lack of local newspapers nowadays and local councils’ inability in many cases to provide clear ways for the public to find out what is proposed and comment on it, is undermining democracy. For example, Lewisham Council consistently does not respond to questions on proposed schemes.

The regulations really need to be strengthened to stop councils rushing in measures without proper consideration and with minimal public consultation.

I would suggest that you need to ask Mr Shapps to reconsider his proposals so that unreasonable measures are not pushed through with minimal consideration and public consultation. Encouraging cycling and walking may be meritorious in some ways but there are many people, such as the elderly or disabled, who will never take up cycling and cannot walk very far. The announced proposals effectively try to dictate how people should travel which should not happen in a democracy.

There are many other ways that the Government could have considered to tackle the problem of public transport use in the current epidemic – such as supporting home working (“tele-commuting”), relocation of businesses from congested areas to others, improving the road network, the provision of more parking, and many others. The existing proposals are a very one-sided approach to meeting the known transport problems and will incur great costs with very limited impact.

Please discourage the Government from going down their chosen path.

Roger Lawson

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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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E-Scooters May Be Permitted on Roads

E-ScooterBoth the Times and Daily Mail have run stories that the Government may permit electric scooters to be used on both roads and cycle paths. At present they are illegal except on private land. E-scooters can travel at up to 30 mph although there is a suggestion that they might be legally limited to 15 mph. The Government is intending to undertake a public consultation on the subject in the near future.

Comment: There certainly needs to be some regulations put in place about their use and to clarify the law. At present the fact that they are currently illegal to use on roads or pavements is widely ignored in London. There has already been one death to an E-Scooter rider in London (Emily Hartridge last year), and in those countries/cities where they have proliferated there are numerous injury accidents – for example there were 1,500 injuries involving them in the USA in 2018 and there have been several deaths in Paris.

As a frequent pedestrian in London this writer is already concerned about the number of cyclists who ride on the pavement. They can come up on you from behind silently and at speed and who wants to be hit by anyone or anything travelling at 15 mph or faster without warning? The elderly are particularly vulnerable as they can have bones broken or other injuries from which they cannot easily recover. This is a frequent complaint from pedestrians in central London who attend consultative meetings.

Mixing e-scooters with traffic might be dangerous as many riders do not wear crash helmets. But perhaps it’s no more dangerous than cyclists? However it surely would be a good idea to require licensing and insurance of all electrically assisted vehicles – both e-scooters and e-cycles. This would at least help to ensure reasonable standards of behaviour from such vehicle users.

Mixing e-scooters with pedestrians on pavements where the speed differential is so large is surely dangerous unless they were limited to 7 or 8 mph, but allowing them in cycle lanes should be acceptable even if cyclists may not be too keen on the idea.

There is also a question of whether e-scooters meet a need that is not currently satisfied. Users of e-scooters often use them for commuting quite long distances (many can do 20-mile trips or even longer before expiring). They can be cheaper than cycles, certainly than e-bikes, and are obviously easier to store as they take up much less space. So they do provide a very low cost option as an alternative to cycles or using public transport.

One aspect to bear in mind is that where they are permitted there are rental companies set up who offer a pick-up and drop-off anywhere service. This has meant that they get abandoned all over the place and have become somewhat of a public nuisance. This area would certainly need specific regulation.

What do readers think? You will be able to give your views to the public consultation no doubt but post your comments below if you have any.

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E-bikes and Scooters Have Become a Major Casualty Problem in Holland

The use of electric powered cycles and e-scooters has taken off in a big way in Holland. But the results in terms of road casualties have got substantially worse.

In 2017, for the first time ever, more cyclists were involved in fatal accidents than motorists in the Netherlands. The number of cyclists suffering fatal injuries was at its highest for ten years and more than a quarter of the victims met their end on an e-bike. More men than women cyclists died and two-thirds of them were over 65.

In addition 25 people using scooters died. The article that disclosed this news (see https://tinyurl.com/y5kx2e5n ) suggested that the reason the elderly were such high a proportion of victims was because they have problems in keeping their balance on e-bikes. But it also probably relates to their higher risk of medical problems, and poor recovery times, after simple falls off fast moving bikes. It’s worth pointing out that many of these accidents will not have involved motor vehicles in any way.

Comment: It is clear that the encouragement of more cycling on congested streets as we have seen in London under the Mayor’s Transport Strategy is likely to have negative consequences. Meanwhile the suggestion of the use of e-scooters on London’s streets, where it is currently illegal but most people don’t know it, should surely be discouraged.

Roger Lawson

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E-Scooters and E-Bikes – Should They Be Regulated?

Lime E-Bike

Last week saw the report of the first death in London of a rider of an E-Scooter. Emily Hartridge, television presenter and YouTube blogger, died after being hit by a lorry in Battersea. These “vehicles” are actually illegal in the UK whether ridden on the pavement or on the road so are effectively useless other than on private land. The Government is to remind retailers of the devices that they need to tell purchasers of that fact as they are becoming a growing menace in central London.

However, there are calls for them to be regulated even though they have caused many difficulties in cities such as Paris not just on safety grounds but because many simply get abandoned on the streets, often in inconvenient or obstructive locations.

Another vehicle growing in popularity are e-bikes with more than one company providing “dockless” rental bikes (as opposed to the “docked Boris-bikes run by TfL). One operator is Lime who have recently opened a scheme in the London Borough of Bromley and they are also operating in Brent and Ealing. They are the bright green bikes you now see left on the streets of those boroughs, waiting for people to rent them. Incidentally Lime also rent e-Scooters in Paris so if they became legal to use on London’s roads then they may be expected to start up similar operations here.

What are the road safety concerns about e-scooters and e-bikes. For e-scooters they are potentially a risk to the users as they offer no protection to the rider from hitting vehicles as few users bother with crash helmets. In addition and because of the speed they travel, they are a risk to pedestrians. The first they know about it is the impact because they are silent and can hit you from behind without warning.

Indeed many pedestrians have the same concerns about bicycles being ridden on pavements in London and electric cycles are particularly dangerous as they can go at higher speeds.

Comment: Certainly regulations need to be established and enforced and consideration needs to be given to whether riders of such vehicles (including cycles) should need to be licensed and required to have insurance. In the meantime, if you see people riding either e-scooters or bikes on the pavement you should tell them to get off it as I do regularly. And in the case of e-scooter riders you should tell them they are illegal altogether.

Roger Lawson

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