No Benefit From 20-MPH Speed Limits

Hampshire County Council have reported that there is no road safety benefit from signed-only 20-MPH speed limits. The county have installed such limits in 14 residential areas since 2012. But this is what Stuart Jarvis of the Council said: “In terms of accident and injury data, the impact of the pilot schemes upon road safety is projected to be neutral and there is no evidence of enhanced road safety benefits compared with that observed for the entire road network maintained by the county council”. The overall accident rates for the pilot schemes have actually risen, although this is not considered to be statistically significant. There have been marginal, or nil, reduction in traffic speeds in the scheme areas.

The residents in the scheme areas seemed happy though so it is not proposed to remove the existing 20-mph limits. But it is unlikely that any new such schemes will be installed.

The full council report on the schemes is here:

http://democracy.hants.gov.uk/documents/s19310/Review%20of%20Residential%2020mph%20Pilot%20-%20Report.pdf

Comment: The ABD has consistently argued that such schemes cannot be justified on any sensible cost/benefit basis and that the large amounts of money spent on them would be much better spent on other road safety programmes. Not surprisingly perhaps, the latest Hampshire report does not mention the costs and links on the council’s web site to previous reports and decisions that might have mentioned the costs seem to no longer work. I wonder why that is?

It is regrettable that Transport for London (TfL), and local borough councils such as Croydon, have consistently ignored the mounting evidence that wide-area signed-only 20-mph schemes are a waste of money. TfL continue to finance them with taxpayers’ cash, and local borough councils in London are still implementing them. Why do they continue to ignore the evidence?

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The Menace of Potholes

Chislehurst High Street Pothole 2018-02-20A

You may not be aware of it, but today (8/3/2018) is National Pothole Day (twitter #natioonalpotholeday2018). This is an annual event dedicated to raising awareness of the problems caused by potholes.

Spending on maintaining roads across the whole country is being cut back by local councils to save money. As a result, potholes are increasing. This is creating dangerous roads. Cyclists are particularly at risk. There have been deaths reported of cyclists who ran into a pothole (pensioner Ron Hamer of Manchester is one such case). Roads Minister Jesse Norman reported to Parliament that 22 cyclists died and 368 were badly hurt between 2007 and 2016 where a factor in the accident was a “poor or defective road surface” and the numbers seem to be rising. Bicycles are vulnerable to damage and cars and other vehicles can also suffer very expensive damage.

Now it happens that I had cause to complain to the Leader of Bromley Council (my local borough) only a week ago. This was to Councillor Colin Smith who recently got the top job and I am confident he will do it well as he is more sensible than many Councillors. He was also previously responsible for the Environment portfolio which includes traffic issues so he should know about the subject.

I said in summary that Bromley’s roads seem to be getting much worse of late in terms of numbers of potholes – and that’s even before the recent bad weather. Bromley’s roads used to be better maintained than many other London boroughs but I do not think that is true any longer. But he did not exactly agree with me.

It is true that if one uses Bromley’s fix-my-street web site to report potholes, they are normally rectified relatively soon, particularly if they are dangerous ones more than a few inches deep. One I reported recently in Chislehurst High Street is shown in the photo above. But there are now so many potholes to report I could spend days doing so. In addition there are now so many repeated “patches” on some roads that the whole surface is poor quality and soon another pothole will develop. The general standard of the road surfaces is declining in my view.

Coincidentally Bromley Council recently published a report on their use of the “Pothole Action Fund”. This is grant funding via the Government Department for Transport to local councils. Bromley will receive £113,000 in 2017/18 and a similar amount in 2018/19. They do plan to use it to “supplement revenue budgets”. But they expect expenditure on general maintenance of roads will be reduced because the Mayor of London has cut it back – local boroughs won’t get money from him for that purpose (this is part of Sadiq Khan’s budget restrictions arising from his financial difficulties as a result of past poor decisions which I have covered elsewhere).

So we may see less major road resurfacing projects, but more patching in Bromley. Will £113,000 help a lot? It seems unlikely to me. Anyone who has any knowledge of the cost of road works would not expect that to cover more than a few rushed patches.

Drivers are advised to purchase a car sticker that I saw recently on an ABD Member’s vehicle which reads “I’m not drunk – I’m just avoiding potholes”. It’s available from Amazon.

Roger Lawson

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Road Reopening and Closure

Transport for London (TfL) have announced a proposal to re-open St. Thomas Street in Southwark. The road lies between London Bridge Station/ The Shard and Guy’s Hospital. It was a key east/west route before the road was closed about 6 years ago.

To reach the Shard taxi drivers now have to enter the road from the west and then turn around. The proposal is to allow one-way operation west bound, but only for vehicles that wish to access premises along the road and then only at 10 mph. Cyclists will also be able to use it.

Pedestrian traffic is quite high across the road at the exit from the Station to Guys but even so it would not seem impossible to allow shared usage in a safe way. But the consultation talks about “Healthy Streets” and “rat running” so you know it’s going to be biased.

You can obtain more information and respond to the consultation on the proposals here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/thomas/ . The ABD has suggested it could be reopened to all traffic with suitable street design.

Church Street / Isleworth

Hounslow Council closed Church Street in Isleworth a couple of years ago even though there was a petition signed by almost 2000 people against it. Now local resident Philippa Auton is planning to stand as a Councillor in the May elections on a platform suggesting it should be reopened.

The closure caused traffic on other roads to increase and meant circuitous routes for some residents.

The ABD is of course consistently opposed to road closures of all kinds unless there is very good justification for doing so, e.g. on road safety grounds.

Roger Lawson

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More Money For Cycling

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has announced a commitment to spend £142 million on new cycle routes. He claims this will benefit cyclists and pedestrians, but why the latter is not clear.

These are the routes where money will be spent:

  • Lea Bridge to Dalston – This 3km route would link the City and Waltham Forest by filling the gap between Lea Bridge Road and Cycle Superhighway 1 at Dalston
  • Ilford to Barking Riverside – This 8km route would link two bustling outer London town centres and a major growth area with up to 10,800 new homes and a new London Overground connection – while enhancing access to the Elizabeth line and London Overground services
  • Hackney to the Isle of Dogs – This 8km route would stretch from Hackney to the Isle of Dogs via Canary Wharf, Mile End and Victoria Park
  • Rotherhithe to Peckham – This 4km route would link Peckham with key and growing destinations such as Canada Water and Surrey Quays, and connect up other cycling routes such as Quietway 1 and the proposed Cycle Superhighway 4
  • Tottenham Hale to Camden – This 8km route would connect major town centres and will cover seven junctions identified as being among the 73 with the worst safety records
  • Wembley to Willesden Junction – This 5km route would be north-west London’s first major cycle route, connecting Wembley, Stonebridge Park and Willesden Junction. Future sections will connect to planned infrastructure in west London such as CS9 and CS10.

The Mayor has also committed to providing a new river crossing between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf for pedestrians and cyclists. Note that we commented on this project previously here: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/11/11/new-thames-river-crossing-at-rotherhithe/ . It is surely a financially unjustifiable project, but needless to say the Mayor says the initial analysis of the consultation results shows substantial support – surely a case of folks voting in favour of something when they think they don’t have to bear the cost.

Note that the Mayor has committed to spend similar sums on cycling, if not more, over the next 5 years – an average of £169 million per year. Meanwhile budgets for road maintenance have been cut and projects put forward by local boroughs are being cut back. As usual these days, there is no cost/benefit justification provided for this expenditure.

It is not clear what the nature of these cycle routes will be. Will they be fully segregated as are the Cycle Superhighways or simply minor improvements such as blue paint and junction improvements. It seems some of the routes may be partly on “Quietways” (i.e. back roads with little traffic).

But one thing is for sure from past experience of similar projects. Road space will be removed from motorised traffic and traffic congestion will increase as a result.

Roger Lawson

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Hammersmith Flyunder Going Nowhere

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has made it clear that the proposed scheme favoured by Boris Johnson to replace part of the Hammersmith (A4) flyover with a tunnel is going nowhere. This would have improved the local environment and enabled buildings to be constructed on the land thereby made available, helping to pay for the scheme. It would also have been linked to remodelling the Hammersmith gyratory and got the strong support of the local council. But the Mayor has made it clear that he will not support it financially.

This is what he said in response to a question on the subject:

“TfL completed a feasibility study for the Hammersmith flyunder in 2015. The scheme looks to address issues of congestion, mitigate against noise and air pollution from traffic, provide space for new housing and make the area more appealing for walking and cycling. The study indicated that it would be technically feasible to build a tunnel to replace the flyover and provide opportunities to regenerate Hammersmith town centre.

The likely construction and operational costs of the scheme were found to be significant and could not be covered through local sources and from proceeds from associated development in the town centre. As this is primarily a regeneration scheme, it is being considered further by the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham who are developing a Supplementary Planning Document for the town centre.

While I am supportive in principle of schemes such as the proposed Hammersmith flyunder, any such schemes need to be fully funded by development in the local area. TfL will work closely with the Council, but the scheme has to demonstrate that it can deliver the benefits and meet the key challenges before I can fully support it.” 

In effect he is saying that the Mayor and Transport for London are not going to help fund any projects to improve the road network. That’s despite the fact that they have spent enormous amounts of money on new cycle superhighways, cycle lanes, quietways and pedestrian schemes.

Comment: Bearing in mind that the A4 elevated section is now very aged and was closed recently for emergency repairs that cost £100 million, this seems to be a very-short sighted decision. The flyover is also an ugly blot on the landscape. The proposed scheme (along with other similar flyunders in London) was an innovative approach to improving the road network which we desperately require.

Roger Lawson

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New ABD Web Site

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) have released a new national web site (at www.abd.org.uk). It is a clean, uncluttered new design developed in WordPress that replaces a site that had been in use for many years and was showing its age.

The new site is aimed at communicating the key policies that the ABD promotes and why people should join the organisation.

The intention is to develop the site further (we recognise that the graphics could be improved for example) and the content expanded. Anyone who has suggestions to make for site improvements should contact me via the Contact page: http://www.abd.org.uk/about/contact/

Roger Lawson

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Is Khan Trying to Kill the Private Hire Industry?

Gareth Bacon, leader of the Conservatives in the London Assembly, has published a revealing article on the policies of Mayor Sadiq Khan under the headline “Is Khan trying to kill the private hire industry – or is he just incompetent”. It suggests that Khan is pursuing short term flashy policy gimmicks but he is hampered by his election promise to freeze public transport fares. This means he is “scrambling around to make savings and raise money”. One victim of this is the private hire (minicab) industry where proposed increases in license fees are astronomical. This could force hundreds of mid-size PHV operators out of business.

The costs for larger operators such as Uber will rise enormously – as much as 102,500 per cent the article suggests. That’s assuming they even manage to retain their license which is under threat.

The recently published Mayor’s Transport Strategy indicates he wants us all to walk, cycle or use public transport as it’s more “healthy” than getting in a car or PHV. So his tactics are certainly consistent if nothing else. He not just wants you to stop owning and driving a car, he wants you to stop using private hire vehicles and taxis also no doubt.

But like all good politicians, he is not proposing a simple ban, but attacking them indirectly by raising their costs and getting tough on licensing conditions.

The full article is here and it’s well worth reading:

https://www.conservativehome.com/localgovernment/2017/11/gareth-bacon-is-mayor-khan-trying-to-kill-the-private-hire-industry-or-is-he-just-incompetent.html

Roger Lawson

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