Unblock Meeting, Bank Junction, Moor Lane and Sadiq Khan’s Antics

Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Unblock the Embankment Group (see https://unblocktheembankment.co.uk/ ). This was a group formed to oppose the closure of the Embankment and Lower/Upper Thames Street route for 6 months, a key east-west route through London, for the construction of a new Super Sewer. It seems they were successful in that regard. But they are now focussed on trying to persuade TfL and the City Corporation to reroute the Cycle Superhighway (CS3) to relieve the congestion on that route. There were representatives of the City Corporation at the meeting including Chris Hayward who chairs the Planning and Transportation Committee. He actually said in the meeting that CS3 has unquestionably made congestion worse, with which I don’t think anyone would disagree. Journey times across London (e.g. City to Westminster and back) have increased very substantially and there are no good alternative routes.

One issue raised was that cyclists on the CS3 superhighway have to suffer the high pollution levels when it is known that pollution levels on Upper/Lower Thames Street are some of the worst in London and exceed legal limits. Cyclists might prefer an alternative route and bearing in mind that the City Corporation is planning to improve cycle routes through the City as part of its Transport Strategy, it was suggested that the CS3 could be relocated. Naturally that would require some funding (perhaps £10 million) but it seems HM Treasury might provide some funds to improve traffic flows in London. But will the Mayor of London and TfL support such a move even if funding is available?

Has CS3 reduced accidents to cyclists? It was noted that it has not.

The City Corporation’s Transport Strategy was discussed and there have been many thousands of responses to their public consultation on that – which is more than expected. The ABD promoted responses among our supporters so perhaps we helped in that regard. The consultation has now closed and it’s too early to give any analysis of responses. It might be March/April before a report is published.

One aspect of the Transport Strategy is the proposed 15 mph speed limit across the City, but it was acknowledged that this would require legislation, i.e. the City Corporation cannot impose without an Act of Parliament.

With more cycle routes in the City and closure of Bank Junction, even more traffic might be diverted to Upper/Lower Thames Street, making congestion and air pollution even worse.

There was some discussion of air pollution trends on the CS3 route, and in London as a whole, on which data seemed to be limited. Incidentally a new initiative on that is to equip Google’s Street View cars with air pollution sensors. This would enable a real time and very localised view of pollution to be obtained. There will also be more fixed sensors attached to lampposts and buildings to obtain even more data.

Of course the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is forcing all taxis to become zero emission capable (hybrid/electric) in the near future but surprisingly there are still no electric charging points for taxis in the City. TfL are dragging their feet on providing it seems.

There was some discussion on the closure of Bank Junction, and proposals for a zero-emission limit for vehicles on Moor Lane in the Barbican. The City Corporation have now published a report on longer-term proposals for Bank Junction that includes three suggested options – total pedestrianisation, pedestrian priority with some vehicle movement, and thirdly retaining existing vehicle movements. Option 2 includes closure of some of the “arms” of the junction which seems eminently sensible – see illustration provided below – you can see other ones in the Committee Reports obtainable from here: https://tinyurl.com/y96stsvu

bank junction option 2

But there is still a commitment to turning this key road junction into a “place” and reducing vehicles to improve road safety so it is not at all clear whether even the third option would support taxi movements.

Another subject briefly discussed was the proposal to close Moor Lane to all vehicles other than zero emission ones. Apparently there was a majority of respondents opposed to the scheme in a public consultation (see the Committee Report mentioned above). Confusion between that and TfL’s ULEZ scheme was one objection. What was the response of the City Corporation? They are not dropping the proposal, but intend to either go-ahead of simply postpone it. As I commented in the meeting, will the City Corporation and its elected members actually take account of responses to the public consultation on the City’s Transport Strategy? To date they have not shown any willingness to listen.

Is Sadiq Khan responding to the air pollution concerns that he spends so much time talking about? Amusingly there was a report on the Guido Fawkes web site (which is usually accurate) saying that his official vehicle is a 4.4 litre BMW on which the MOT has expired. Not exactly environmentally friendly as Guido pointed out.

Meanwhile the Mayor continues to spend money as if it’s going out of fashion on public relations and social media consultants. That includes promoting his views on Brexit very vigorously and Guido also revealed that the Mayor had given £20,000 to a group called “The3million” representing EU citizens in the UK who want to stop Brexit. The Mayor continues to waste money while interfering in national politics rather than sticking to his job of Mayor of London.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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London Travel Trends – Mayor’s Policies Failing Badly

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

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

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

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

car traffic levels 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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City Corporation Response to Draft Transport Strategy

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

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

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

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

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Demonstrations Blocking Roads and Why the Police Do Nothing

The demonstrations that blocked roads and caused gridlock in central London by Extinction Rebellion I covered in a previous blog post – see  https://tinyurl.com/yavgwvlk . Subsequently there have been similar demonstrations on Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge by “yellow-vest” Pro-Brexit supporters. Clearly the fact that the police took no action on the first event is causing others to copy.

Why did the police take no action? I wrote to Police Commissioner Cressida Dick querying why not as obstruction of the public highway is clearly an offence. I got a response from Chief Superintendent Elaine Van-Orden who is responsible for the “Public Order and Resources Command”. This is some of what she said:

“Whilst highway obstruction is an offence, when policing protest activity, we have an obligation to balance our policing response with those fundamental rights that exist under Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act 2000 (HRA). These articles relate to the individuals having the right to Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly and Association. As such there is an expectation that individuals should be permitted to exercise these rights by way of peaceful protest. Police can however intervene if there is a likelihood of serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community, resulting from protest activity.”

She goes on to say (summarised) that the Extinction Rebellion protests were peaceful and relatively brief. To arrest in such circumstances might be seen as unreasonable. Event organisers only have to inform the police in advance (under Section 11 of the Public Order Act 1986) if there is a march or procession. Static protests are OK it seems.

I also wrote to the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) who are responsible for the road network and have legal obligations under the Traffic Management Act to minimise disruption but their response was that all protests are managed by the police so it was nothing to do with them. They are in error I suggest on that point.

I shall be responding further to these communications as I do not believe the Human Rights Act supports the stance of the police. However much some of my readers might support the Pro-Brexit demonstration, London will soon be gridlocked if anyone with a bee in their bonnet on any subject can sit down in the road and block traffic.

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Unblock the Embankment and City Transport Strategy

A campaign named “Unblock the Embankment” (see https://unblocktheembankment.co.uk/ ) have published a report that says the Cycle Superhighway on the Embankment is costing the capital £5.3 million per year. The Embankment was reduced from two lanes to one on some stretches to accommodate the Superhighway (CS3) in 2016. Not only did that create enormous traffic congestion due to the necessary road works, but ever since there has been increased congestion on that route which has added very substantially to journey times on this key East-West route. The increased congestion has also made air pollution on that route substantially worse when Upper/Lower Thames Street was already one of the worst pollution hot-spots (which of course cyclists have to breathe).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are few viable alternative routes for the many commercial vehicle users which affects thousands of businesses. The route is used by cyclists but their numbers are only significant during rush hours and alternative routes could have been devised for them. This was one of the most damaging changes to the road network in London ever devised. But Sadiq Khan thinks it’s a great success which just shows you how misinformed he is.

Please support the “Unblock” campaign.

The Unblock campaign has also pointed out that the City of London’s Transport Strategy which aims to reduce traffic within the City will cause more vehicles to use this key East-West route through the City. I attended a meeting in the City on Friday 30/11/2018 to complain that the Corporation’s officers do not seem to be listening to our objections to their proposals. They still refused to listen on the basis that many respondents to their consultations supported their proposals. Indeed the audience present was hardly typical of the hundreds of thousands of people who work in the City, or those who have to service them. There is an on-line consultation which you can respond to here: https://www.citystreets.london/questionnaire/age-check but bearing in mind the way such surveys are designed to get the intended answers, it may be better, and simpler, to just send your comments directly to this email address: strategic.transportation@cityoflondon.gov.uk

But will the consultation results be honest? It is possible to submit multiple responses to this consultation from the same IP address so it is likely to be manipulated by pressure groups. Likewise multiple emails could be sent to the above email address (many people have more than one).

Here are suggestions for submissions on the “Key Proposals” (focussed on the consultation survey questions):

Proposal 2. There should be no prioritisation of transport modes. All road users are equal and provision for different modes should be based on rational cost/benefit analysis and the demands of different users, i.e. provision for pedestrians should not automatically take priority over other road users.

Proposal 11. There should be no general policy to reduce road traffic which is essential to the working of the City and for the convenience of the public. Road traffic is already quite low in the City during most of the day due to past restrictions on access. It is not necessary to reduce it further.

Proposal 14. I am opposed to reduction in parking. Parking provision is essential for many vehicle users and reducing it just causes them to drive around looking for a space creating more congestion and air pollution.

Proposal 17. Keeping pavements free of obstructions is a laudable aim but does drinking outside pubs really cause a problem when it is a long tradition in the City?

Proposal 20. Vision Zero sound like a good objective but in reality is unlikely to be achievable. Limiting vehicle speeds to 15 mph is particularly objectionable as it is both impractical and won’t be adhered to. Even if enforced it will be no more effective than the 20-mph limit has been. It will also slow traffic and increase journey times. There is no cost/benefit justification for such a proposal.

Proposal 24. Too much money is already been spent on cycling provision as opposed to the needs of other road users (e.g. vehicles and pedestrians).

Proposal 29. I am opposed to a Zero Emission zone as it will impose enormous costs on vehicle owners and have very little benefit in terms of reducing air pollution. It is also impractical for some vehicle owners to purchase such vehicles, e.g. for HGVs because they are simply not available.

Proposal 38. Reducing freight vehicles is not possible without imposing very high costs on businesses. Where is the cost/benefit analysis? Where are the practical alternatives? Cargo bikes are not a practical solution for most purposes.

Proposal 41. Reducing the impact of construction is a laudable objective but this has been proposed in the past with no great result.

MAKE SURE YOU RESPOND TO THE CITY’S CONSULTATION NOW!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Bromley LIP – Better But Not Good Enough

My previous article was on the draft Local Implementation Plan (LIP) for Transport published by the London Borough of Lambeth. I suggested their past policies have been a failure both to improve road safety and provide an efficient transport network. The adjacent Borough of Bromley has now published their LIP and opened a public consultation on it. This article explains in brief some of the key points.

You would expect that Bromley’s LIP would be more sympathetic to vehicle users, and so it is to some extent, but it’s far from perfect. Bromley is a large borough with very high car ownership levels and some parts of the borough, such as Biggin Hill, have relatively low public transport accessibility. Poor orbital connectivity of public transport is also a problem that encourages car use. It is also hilly in parts which mitigates against cycling. But the future transport policies are to a large extent by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan – indeed I suggest that this LIP kowtows too much to the Mayor’s desires.

But Bromley’s population is growing like most London boroughs so traffic congestion is getting worse. The Mayor would like 80% of trips in London to be taken but Bromley is proposing targets of 47% by 2021 (1% change) and 60% by 2041. These figures will be achieved by encouraging more walking and cycling and by public transport improvements. To encourage cycling it is proposed to develop the Strategic Cycle Network and expand Quietways.

As regards road safety, Bromley has a good record – reducing KSIs from 230 in 1999 to 50 in 2014. This has been done by concentrating efforts on accident hot spots and good education programmes. However there was an increase in the last couple of years even allowing for adjusting to the change in accident recording. As in Lambeth, there is a disproportionate casualty incidence for pedal cyclists. Yes cycling is dangerous. This was made clear by a recent press release by a road safety organisation which said that people on two wheels face a 63 times higher risk of being killed or seriously injured (KSI) per mile travelled than car drivers. But the Mayor still wants us to cycle which might be good for your health in other ways but is clearly risky.

As regards safe speeds, the borough suggests that removing entre line markings can have a significant impact on traffic speed. But does it make the roads safer? And this is what they have to say on 20 mph limits which is more sensible: “With regard to 20mph speed limits and zones, the Borough does not believe that a blanket approach is the most effective means of improving road safety. Too often such schemes do nothing to change the characteristics of the street and lead to only quite insignificant reductions in speed and the cost of a Borough wide approach would also mean that resources would be diverted from schemes that tackle actual hot spots and priority areas that require more significant engineering measures. There is also a concern that borough wide approach could lead to an element of driver fatigue with the result that the key areas for driver attention are no longer prominent. The Borough will therefore adopt a targeted approach to the introduction of 20mph speed limits or advisory limits…..”. An eminently reasonable approach and which accords with the evidence on 20-mph schemes just published by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Apart from relieving traffic congestion by “mode shift”, they propose to promote the use of car clubs and various approaches to reduce van deliveries such as central consolidation centres with local cargo bike provision.

Air quality is not a major problem in Bromley but there are some “hot spots” that need improving. These will be tackled by specific measures – details to follow in the Borough’s Air Quality Action Plan, but the measures look relatively harmless such as encouragement of electric vehicles and anti-idling measures.

There are many initiatives proposed to improve access to public transport such as to buses and train stations which are positive, but they also wish to improve bus journey times. One proposal to assist is to extend the hours on some bus lanes. The ABD believes bus lanes should be removed not extended. They create congestion for other vehicles and do not necessarily assist with improving total people movement.

Many of the proposals do of course depend on funding from Transport for London (TfL) as local boroughs have very little of their own funding for transport programmes. This is evident from page 91 of the LIP. That means, the Mayor is dictating where money is spent, with the result that there is too much on cycling and pedestrian encouragement and too little on improving the road network for other users.

Will the draft Bromley LIP get past TfL and the Mayor, who have to approve such documents? We will have to wait and see. In the meantime you should respond to the on-line consultation here: https://www.bromley.gov.uk/localimplementationplan where you can also download the full LIP document to read if you wish to do so.

DO TELL THEM WHAT YOU THINK!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Political Protest Blocks Traffic

Traffic in central London was severely disrupted yesterday by a protest by a group named “Extinction Rebellion”. Traffic was blocked on Lambeth, Tower and Vauxhall bridges at on roads at Elephant & Castle and Earls Court. All of 100 people were reported as present to demand that the Government take action on climate change. The police appeared to do nothing to stop the obstruction of the highway. Why not?

This is the latest in a series of demonstrations by small groups of people who according to the BBC are intent on causing “gridlock across the capital”, and more are planned. They certainly achieved that due to lack of police action. Nobody objects to peaceful demonstrations but when they disrupt the life of people just trying to get around it is simply not acceptable. If Extinction Rebellion get away with this activity then all sorts of protest groups will learn they can cause trouble with immunity. London traffic is bad enough already without extremists disrupting it more.

Were these demonstrations approved by the police as would normally have been required? If so they should not have been. I will be writing to Police Commissioner Cressida Dick and to Mayor Sadiq Khan asking them to put a stop to these demonstrations forthwith. Readers of this article should do the same – we need a protest about a protest!

You can contact the Mayor here: https://www.london.gov.uk/contact-us-form

Comments for Cressida Dick can be sent to enquiries@mopac.london.gov.uk

Roger Lawson

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