Mayor’s Vision Zero Strategy Failing

In 2018 the Mayor of London launched the Vision Zero strategy to reduce road casualties in the capital city. But road casualty figures for 2018 show that Killed and Seriously Injured (KSIs) on London’s road actually increased by 5% to 4,065 in 2018. Vision Zero is a key part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy along with the encouragement for modal shift with the aim of getting more people walking and cycling.

However, cyclist fatalities actually rose by 20% to 12, and cyclist serious injuries rose by 14% to 770. Cycling is one of the most dangerous ways to travel so is this encouragement to cycling misconceived?

The trend in London KSIs matches the national picture where road deaths have plateaued in recent years. See chart below from the DfT report of national road casualties in 2018.

National Fatalities 2018

We will no doubt see renewed calls for lower speed limits and more enforcement, but the ABD has consistently argued that the focus on simplistic solutions to road safety problems, such as traffic speed reductions, cannot and will not work to cut the horrendous toll of road casualties. The encouragement of cycling is surely an example of an unintended consequence of a policy introduced with the best of intentions to improve the health of the population. In London enormous expenditure on Cycle Superhighways and cycle lanes of other kinds has been incurred in the last few years. This was justified on improving cycle safety but in reality the impact is not apparent. The encouragement of cycling may have actually made the road casualty statistics worse.

The ABD has argued that Vision Zero is a counter-productive road safety fantasy. We argue that more attention should be paid to road user education and road engineering. See our submission to Parliament’s Road Safety Transport Committee in April 2019 given below:

Evidence to Transport Committee 2019: Evidence to Transport Committee 2019-03-26

London Road Casualties 2018: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/casualties-in-greater-london-2018.pdf

National Road Casualties 2018: https://tinyurl.com/yy4ouonf

Postscript: With the appointment of Andrew Gilligan as a transport advisor to our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who as former London Cycling Commissioner under Boris was a big contributor to the growth of cycling in the capital and what many argue is the wasted expenditure on Cycle Superhighways, will we see the same defective policies being spread across the country?

Roger Lawson

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Consultations in Name Only and “Safer Speeds”

I covered the issue of Transport for London (TfL) doing public consultations that do not provide enough information and are already decided in a previous note (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2019/06/24/consultations-in-name-only/#comments ).

Subsequently I used the Freedom of Information Act to ask TfL for their consultation policy documents and guidelines, plus information on the costs and any cost/benefit analysis of the “Safer Speeds for London” proposals. That’s the proposal which will slow traffic to 20 mph on many major London roads and where there was a short (now closed) public consultation which did not contain evidence for justification.

TfL has supplied the information on their consultation policies and procedures and if anyone would like a copy, please let me know. In Principle 3 of the TfL Consultation Policy it says “We must provide consultees with enough information to understand what we are proposing so that they can respond on an informed basis”. That was certainly not done on the Safer Speeds proposal.

As regards my request for costs and cost/benefit data on the Safer Speeds proposal, TfL rejected my request on the basis that it is exempt information because the information requested “is intended for future publication” – see Section 22 of the FOI Act, and that it was not justified in the public interest. What is the point in publishing that information after the public consultation has ended? It looks like a simple attempt to avoid answering, or are they saying that they have not looked at the costs and costs/benefit before putting forward the Safer Speeds proposal? Either way, it is unreasonable so I am appealing.

This is of course the typical run around one gets with TfL when they don’t wish to disclose information. TfL are a secretive organisation that likes to develop proposals and present them as a fait-accompli with only public consultation on trivia. It has been that way ever since Ken Livingstone was in charge. It surely needs to change!

But according to a report in Local Transport Today (LTT) TfL is heading in the opposite direction. The report said that TfL is changing the way it engages and consults on active travel schemes. There will be “a greater emphasis on local engagement either in advance of, or potentially instead of, formal consultation”. It is suggested that to get the 73 safety critical road junctions in London improved they need to push through with projects and the public “has a limited ability to influence our proposals” – so there is no point in statutory consultations. But It also suggests road users will have less opportunity to comment, and of course a non-statutory consultation leaves little ability to mount a legal challenge.

Roger Lawson

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Biased Reporting by the BBC on the Silvertown Tunnel, including Paedophrasty

A queue of traffic on the approach to Blackwall Tunnel

A queue of traffic on the approach to Blackwall Tunnel

Yesterday evening an item on the BBC London evening news covered the announcement of London as a “National Park City” and the new Silvertown Tunnel. I have sent in the following complaint to the BBC about the bias in this programme and the use of children to promote an agenda:

“In the BBC TV London Evening News on 22/7/2019 BBC Transport Correspondent Tom Edwards reported on the “National Park City” and also covered complaints from schoolchildren at Thomas Tallis School and their teacher about the new Silvertown Tunnel. They complained about the possible air pollution from HGVs and the contribution generally to air pollution and global warming. There was no representative giving an opposing opinion except for the Mayor of London briefly explaining that HGVs would not likely use the new tunnel because it would be expensive for them to do so. There was nobody else who supports the new tunnel which will be of major benefit to many people and will not make air pollution worse in the area.

This programme followed on from a similar item by Tom Edwards in the previous week where a hysterical campaigner against the tunnel was interviewed, but again there was no contrary view represented of the substantial merits of the new Silvertown Tunnel.

Complaint 1: The BBC is not providing an independent and unbiased view of the merits of the Silvertown Tunnel as against those who oppose it.

Complaint 2: The BBC should not be using ill-informed schoolchildren in this way who had clearly been encouraged by their teacher and rehearsed in what they should say.”

The Silvertown Tunnel is essential tor relieve congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel which has long queues of traffic most days and where even a minor incident causes massive traffic jams. As a result of the often stationery or very slow-moving traffic, air quality is poor in the vicinity and may be actually improved by the new Tunnel. Air quality was reviewed carefully in the planning process and charges on the new Tunnel, and the ULEZ zone charges/restrictions, will reduce traffic and air pollution. It is unlikely that many vehicles will divert from the Dartford Crossing to use the new Tunnel.

Note that Thomas Tallis school is very near the A2 – the road that leads to the Blackwall Tunnel. It was probably an unsuitable location for the school when it was built. The solution is obviously to relocate it which in comparison with the cost of the Silvertown Tunnel would not be expensive.

If you wish to make your own complaint to the BBC over their biased reporting on this matter, go here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/ . You could also complain to Tom Edwards via Twitter: @BBCTomEdwards . These reports were typical of the environmental coverage by the BBC which never represents contrary views to the extreme eco-terrorism of such groups as Extinction Rebellion.

Using school children to promote the agenda of their parents or teachers is of course unethical and is a favourite ploy of Mayor Sadiq Khan. In this case it was used against him though.

Here’s a new word for you: paedophrasty – “An argument involving children to prop up a rationalisation and make the opponent look insensitive and uncaring. As people are defenceless and suspend all scepticism in front of suffering children, nobody has the heart to question the authenticity or source of the reporting. Often done with the aid of pictures.”

Roger Lawson

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Lewisham Parking Charges to Increase

The London Borough of Lewisham is proposing to revise it permit parking charges and make other changes to its parking policies. It includes emission-based charges that means owners of diesel vehicles or with larger engines will pay much higher charges.

They are doing this because they claim “air pollution is causing a public health crisis in London…” but that is simply not true. Londoners are living longer than ever. They also claim that introducing such charges will improve air quality when that is not true either – the vast majority of air pollution comes from buses, HGVs and other commercial vehicles, from home heating, offices, industry and other sources – such as blown in from outside the borough.

Charging car owners more will have negligible impact on air pollution in Lewisham but will cause some residents to incur substantial extra costs in paying higher permit charges or the cost of changing their vehicles.

But it will also have no impact on residents who park off-road or on visitors who drive through Lewisham so it’s basically an attack on a small minority of residents in the name of fixing a non-existent health crisis. It’s also probably about raising income from parking but the Council seems unable to disclose the financial impact.

The Council is running a public consultation on the proposals which you can access here: https://lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/parking/permits/parking-policy-consultation . Don’t forget to answer all the personal information questions such as sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and sources of income so that Lewisham Council can keep all your personal information on file for anyone to hack! I’m joking in that regard of course. Don’t answer them.

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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Highway Robbery and Leaving London

Highway Robbery CoverGareth Bacon, Conservative Leader on the Greater London Assembly, has published a most interesting document entitled “Highway Robbery – The Case Against Road Pricing in London”.

He makes the case very well and argues that Londoners should have a wide choice about the modes of transport that they use and that car journeys are quite essential for many trips in outer London. He highlights that Mayor Sadiq Khan may be looking at road pricing simply as another way to fix his TfL budget problems.

But it would undoubtedly lead to much higher costs on vehicle owners – perhaps 70% more than they pay in taxes at present very little of which is spent on the road network. Meanwhile public transport users in London are subsidised by over £1 billion per annum. Mr Bacon suggests the Mayor should rule out road pricing in London while committing to spend more on London’s roads. In particular he supports the Mayor’s claim that some of the VED tax paid by London’s drivers should be given to the Mayor but only on condition that it is hypothecated to spend on road maintenance.

The ABD has opposed Sadiq Khan’s stated wish to grab some part of the VED tax take as it might give him control of it and lead to higher tax rates for no benefit. But if it was strictly controlled by the Government on the suggested basis it may be more arguable. But will central Government and the public accept that less money is thereby available to spend on the national highway network?

Surely it would be better to cut out the excessive bus subsidies and the over-generous concessionary fares (payable to everyone even when they can afford the cost) which would easily pay for improved maintenance of London’s roads?

You can read the “Highway Robbery” report here: https://www.glaconservatives.co.uk/uploads/1/1/7/8/117899427/highway_robbery.pdf

Leaving London

Record numbers of people are leaving London according to a report by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). In 2018 some 340,000 residents left London while 237,000 moved in meaning a net loss of 103,000. The national press attributed this to high house prices and a fear of crime. No doubt they contributed but perhaps the congestion on the roads and on public transport is also making London a less pleasant place to live while car owning and public transport costs are rapidly rising.

Sadiq Khan seems to be making matters worse rather than fixing them. The report mentioned above shows some of the negative aspects of what he has done and what he is planning to do. That is surely contributing to Londoner’s giving up on the capital for a better life elsewhere.

Roger Lawson

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Huge Increase in Speed Enforcement

Speed Camera 4The magazine Local Transport Today have run a story headlined “Met Police prepares for huge increase in speed enforcement”. They report that London police are planning a huge programme of speed limit enforcement with the aim of catching a million offenders a year. That’s up from 160,000 per annum at present.

That will be achieved by a large increase in speed camera activities including more mobile speed enforcement equipment. This is likely to mean aggressive enforcement of the 20 mph speed limits being brought in on many London roads.

The above information was disclosed at a meeting of London Councils, the representative body for London boroughs. That organisation is also looking at “decriminalisation” of speeding offences, which would effectively make it possible for local boroughs to enforce speed limits in the same way they do for parking offences at present.

What’s the real motivation behind these moves? It’s almost certainly about filling the coffers of the police by the offer of speed awareness courses, and also enabling local councils to fill their budget holes by also taking a cut of fees paid. Both organisations are under financial pressure and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is unwilling to help with the police budgets but would rather spend money on other things.

There is no evidence that lowering speed limits or more aggressive enforcement has any significant impact on road safety statistics. But politicians like gestures and many are only too pleased to kowtow to the anti-car fanatics. When it can be combined with excuses for revenue raising, it’s difficult to stop.

Just make sure you oppose it though.

Roger Lawson

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