City of London Traffic Reduction

The City of London Corporation are developing a Transport Strategy as part of the Corporation’s “Local Implementation Plan” that all local councils in London have to prepare. The proposals from Steve Presland, Transportation and Public Realm Director, include “measures to reduce traffic” and “the reallocation of road space to increase priority and comfort for people on foot….”. There will be research to agree the optimal allocation of space between all travel modes and a review of the potential “for permanent or timed road closures to improve conditions for people walking, cycling and using public transport”. Yes we are likely to see more damage to the road network such as the one recently introduced at Bank. The move to reduce traffic is despite the fact that the level of business activity in the City is likely to increase over the next few years. So traffic congestion will no doubt get even worse.

The Transport Strategy will be subject to a public consultation in early 2018 but you can see what it is likely to contain.

Roger Lawson

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Sadiq Khan Plans Your Life

If you live in London, you should pay attention to the “London Plan” that Mayor Sadiq Khan has recently published. Indeed if you live in other large conurbations you might wish to review it also because the policies he is promoting might spread elsewhere.

What’s the London Plan? It’s a document that sets the “spatial development” strategy for London over the next few years and has legal implications for planning developments, housing construction, transport infrastructure, and many other aspects of our lives.

The Mayor makes it plain that London needs to cope with the rapidly expanding population and business activity. The population of London might reach 10.5 million by 2041 he says (currently 8.8 million). That means a lot more houses have to be built (66,000 per annum he says) and support for more workplaces.

In addition it has major implications for transport infrastructure while at the same time he wants to clean up London’s air. He wants to make London a “zero carbon” city by 2050, although no doubt he will be long gone by then. As part of this he aims to reduce “car dependency” (an emotive and inaccurate phrase disparaging people who have made a rational or personal choice about how they travel when you don’t see this said about those who rely on cycles for their daily travel needs).

Why has the population of London grown so rapidly in recent years and continues to do so? Page 12 of the Plan explains why. It says 40 per cent of Londoners were born outside the UK, and the city is now home to 1 million EU citizens, no doubt attracted by the vibrant London economy. This has put a major strain on housing, transport, social services and other infrastructure (incidentally an unbelievable 1.2 million Londoners are apparently “disabled”).

This state of affairs has come about because of national policies on immigration with no effective policies to distribute that more widely across the country compounded no doubt by a desire by some politicians to improve their chances of being elected.

Specifically looking at transport, the Mayor’s target is for 80% of all journeys to be made by walking, cycling and public transport (that of course includes the 14% of Londoners who are disabled!). It’s currently 64%. This is going to mean an aggressive set of policies to reduce car use – hence our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy which supports the London Plan – see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

The Mayor highlights the health inequalities in London, with deprived areas of London having reduced life expectancies (as much as 15 years for men and 19 years for women) surely an astonishing statistic. What is the reason for this? Poor housing conditions are certainly one, but lack of daily activity is allegedly another so the Mayor wants us all to be walking and cycling.

The Mayor does have plans to improve public transport including proposals for Crossrail 2 and extension of the Bakerloo line but these proposals will do relatively little to soak up the increased demand, and with no proposals of significance to improve the road network, hence no doubt the need to encourage us all to walk or cycle.

The Mayor’s plans to support the need for more housing include targets for every London borough (for example over 2,000 new homes every year in Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Greenwich, Hounslow, Newham, Southwark, and Tower Hamlets). This includes high concentration developments in locations with good public transport access levels (PTALs), particularly inner London boroughs. Outer London boroughs might see a relaxation of planning regulations to allow more “in-fill” developments including building on back gardens as the Conservatives promptly complained about. There will be more encouragement for smaller builders, more efficient building techniques and “proactive” intervention in London’s land market (more “compulsory purchase” perhaps).

One aspect of transport infrastructure that the London Plan covers is that of parking provision for new housing, office or shop developments. It wants most developments to be “car free” (i.e. no parking provision), particularly those with high PTAL levels. The details of what this means in practice are not clear, but it looks like the intention is to reduce parking provision substantially, thus resulting in more on-street parking and obstruction.

The Mayor concludes his near 500-page tome on the subject of the “Funding Gap”. By this he means the gap between the public sector funding required to support London’s growth (and his plans) and the money currently committed. In other words, he wants more money, including a bigger share of taxation collected from Londoners. For example, he repeats his call for control of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) which any right-thinking person should surely oppose. Yes the Mayor wants more money and more power. Unfortunately the establishment of directly elected Mayors such as Mr Khan has resulted in empire building of the worst kind. They are effectively dictators within their realms with no effective democratic constraints on their policies and negligible public accountability.

In summary, it is not clear that the building of lots of new homes (which of course will emit more pollutants, particularly during constructions, more than offsetting any reduction from restraining car use), of a fairly low standard in dense conurbations, is going to improve the quality of life for Londoners. It is undoubtedly the case that more new homes are needed in London but building new homes without complementary improvements to the transport infrastructure, which has consistently lagged behind the growth in London’s population, does not make much sense.

As is already seen in the statistics, older London residents are moving out and being replaced by immigrants. Some readers might wish to consider doing the same given the outlook for the quality of life in London. Simply reacting to the population growth in London without trying to constrain it, or divert it elsewhere, is surely a mistake.

You can submit your comments on the London Plan to the public consultation by going here: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/london-plan/new-london-plan/comment-draft-london-plan . Please be sure to do so.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Cycle Superhighways and Motorbikes

Here’s a letter received from a resident of south-east London which is worth repeating:

Hi,

I’m thankful I’m retired now, and only have to visit London when I choose to.

I used to commute by motorbike and that (for the time being) is still my preferred method of transport. I always perceived motorbikes as being virtually negligible in their contribution to congestion and/or pollution, and never thought of them as ‘bothering’ anyone. It actually disgusts me that TfL see them very differently, with the same disdain they apply to any other type of motorised vehicle.

Their pro-cyclist / anti-anything with an engine stance is now going beyond ‘psychotic’ – their latest mailshot was about how they propose to redesign Lower Road / Jamaica Road (which aren’t short of cycle lanes as they are) into yet another Cycling Superhighway, with a whole “boulevard” for them and – consequently – a whole lot LESS space for ‘everybody else’ Never mind the disruption or the cost: it’s so easy to play easy with budgets when they’re using other people’s money to do it!

I actually do count myself lucky to be retired. Where I take myself now (and it usually involves my wallet) is my own choice, and there’s coming a time soon when it won’t be London.

The problem with TfL, unfortunately, is that they’re not just wrecking the road network out of ‘necessity’… they’re actually taking a sneaky pleasure from doing it!”

Roger Wood

<ENDS>

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Proposals to Improve M25/A3 Wisley Junction

Anyone who regularly travels around the western side of the M25 will know that the A3 junction near Wisley has been a congestion hot spot for many years. Traffic joining the M25 from the A3, or leaving it to get on the A3, results in traffic jams. Likewise queues can arise on the A3, partly because the roundabout at the junction contains traffic lights. Highways England have now published their preferred proposals to improve the situation.

There was an informal public consultation which considered several options, but Highways England have revised the one which proposed simply a larger roundabout so as to try to meet environmental concerns (RHS Wisley Gardens are very close by and there are ancient woodlands near the roads). That is the one they are proposing to put to a formal public consultation in early 2018. Prospective completion date might be as late as 2025.

More details are present here: https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/he/m25-junction-10-a3-wisley-interchange-improvement/

Comment: This junction is well overdue for improvement so the reaction of most motorists is likely to be that the sooner this is implemented, the better. The proposed solution does look like a reasonable compromise although the details of the traffic modelling would have been helpful. Perhaps we will see that in due course. Will the suggested design actually cope with the likely additional traffic flows around the M25, particularly if Heathrow airport is expanded? The proposed solution may provide only temporary relief and there will be considerable disruption while it is constructed.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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The Disabled and the Mayor’s Transport Strategy

As readers will probably be aware, the ABD has been running a campaign against London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy for some months (see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm ). It has been remarkable that a large number of the responses came from disabled people, or those caring for them. Below is one example of a letter sent to the Mayor on this topic. 

Subject: objection to tyrannical taxes

Dear Mr Khan,

I wish to object to your Stalinist policies intended to impose even more taxation on already monumentally taxed motorists driving in London. Can I remind you that in this country it is not yet a criminal offence to be a motorist, and your treatment of them as virtual criminals is a scandal.

My wife is disabled and moving around for us has become a nightmare in London. Successive ideologically obsessed, national and London Mayoral governments have ramped up the difficulties of driving in London and have imposed punitive measures on anyone who has the audacity not to walk or ride a bike or travel on the dysfunctional public transport system.

Do you, Mr Khan, intend to make life even more difficult for disabled people like my wife, as well as for millions of able-bodied people whose lives are not so cushioned as yours?  How would that look on the election posters?

Soviet style dictats which sneer at democracy are imposed without regard for those whom governments are supposed to serve.  Public opinion is swept aside in a cynical, Stalinist, totalitarian, environmental policy, in the formulating of which hardly any rigorous scientific expertise has been used – merely the intolerant, doctrinal posturing and ignorant polemic of bullies.

You are supposed to represent ALL Londoners, not merely your tiny political clique and your sycophantic fan-base in the East End.  A majority of London taxpayers live outside your exclusive and introspective inner-city bubble; do their interests not count?  Or are they just tax-fodder?  There is a fundamental democratic principle which seems to have escaped you – ‘No taxation without representation’.  It is the principle on which Americans parted company from Britain.  You certainly don’t represent me, a London taxpayer, and I suspect there are many others who would say the same.

If I’m wrong, Mr Khan, challenge me – though I doubt you will consider a mere taxpayer worthy of an answer.  I know what I expect from the London Soviet, but I’m quite prepared to admit I’m wrong if you can demonstrate that you are a democrat.  If you aren’t a totalitarian, Mr Khan, then come and talk to me – and millions like me in London who are sick of Soviet government.

I’ve thrown down the gauntlet and all that remains is to see whether you have the honour, the sense of democratic obligation and the justice to pick it up.  I await your reply.

Yours sincerely, Peter Newsham

<END>

We will advise readers if any response is received, but I doubt there will be one of any substance.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Oxford Street to be Pedestrianised

Transport for London (TfL) have announced major changes to the western end of Oxford Street in central London. The road itself will be pedestrianised. All the multiple bus routes that currently use the road, and which cause very poor air pollution will either be simply “withdrawn”, or diverted down Wigmore Street and Henrietta Street in some cases. Even cyclists will be prohibited although one can imagine the problem of enforcing that restriction.

A lot of the surrounding roads will also be affected, and routes north and south across Oxford Streeet limited. For example, the Harewood Place/Hollies Street route north from Hanover Square will be barred except to buses and taxis. This will make it difficult for some vehicles which need to reach the car park under Cavendish Square from the South. This is a large car park used by many shoppers and visitors to the surrounding medical practices in the area around Harley Street. Cavendish Square will be substantially improved though and as a result the entrance/exit to that car park need to be reversed

Note that this section of Oxford Street (west of Oxford Circus to Orchard Street, where Marks & Spencer is sited) is already restricted to buses and taxis. An artists impression of what the street might look like is given below, and you can find more information and respond to the consultation here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/oxford-street/?cid=oxford-street

Comment: The “bus jams” caused by queuing buses on Oxford Street, often quite empty, certainly needed tackling and there are frequently accidents caused by folks stepping in front of buses. Pedestrianising the street is surely a good concept although some bus passengers may be seriously inconvenienced and Wigmore Street may become congested.

Otherwise, the ABD is generally not in favour of restricting roads to certain types of vehicles, or of having time limited road closures (James Street will be closed 11.00 am to Midnight). But if any readers have other comments on the proposals, please let us know by commenting on this blog post.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Oxford Street Pedestrianisation

Bank Junction Closure – Make Sure You Object

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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