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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New Thames River Crossing at Rotherhithe?

Transport for London (TfL) are proposing a new river crossing between Rotherhithe (Canada Water) and Canary Wharf. Before you get too excited, this would be for pedestrians and cyclists only. Their preferred option is a bridge, although they have also considered a tunnel (more expensive even if done as a submerged tube), or a ferry (much cheaper).

The bridge would cost as much as £300 million but they estimate as many as a milllion pedestrian trips and 340,000 cycling trips per year would use the crossing. But recovering the cost over ten years would require the users to pay over £20 per trip. Needless to say, they are not being asked to pay for that as there would be no tolls or charges for use – at least they are not mentioned in the consultation documents.

Comment: the only option that makes any financial sense in my view is a ferry which is much cheaper and more flexible to cope with demand variation and inaccurate forecasts of usage. The Rotherhithe Tunnel can be used by pedestrians and cyclists but demand there is minimal so even TfL’s forecasts of usage seem optimistic to say the least.

Such large expenditure being considered for this project would surely be better spent on a proper road crossing (bridge/tunnel) further downstream which has been wanted for many years but gets continually delayed.

This could likely be another vanity project like Boris Johnson’s Emirates Cable Car, or the recently cancelled “Garden Bridge”. The cable car has over a million users a year and covers its operating costs at least, but is mainly used by tourists. At a return trip cost of £9, you can see why. It’s questionable whether it will ever recover its capital costs. Perhaps Mayor Sadiq Khan wants a bridge they can name after him as a legacy when he departs? There seems no good reason to build it otherwise. 

But it’s a good example of the financial profligacy to pander to the London electorate beloved by the current Mayor.

For more details or to respond to the public consultation on these proposals, please go to: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings/rotherhithe-canarywharf/?cid=r2cw-crossing

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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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

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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Mayor Pushes Ahead With ULEZ

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced today that he is definitely going ahead with the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London from 2019, i.e. he is bringing forward the original planned date based on the results of his last consultation.

This will cover any vehicle that enters the existing Congestion Charge zone and will operate seven days per week, 24 hours a day, unlike the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. tax). The additional charge will be £12.50 for cars, vans and motorbikes that do not meet defined emission standards, or £100 per day for lorries, buses and coaches.

Diesel cars that do not meet the Euro 6 standard, which means most of them that will be more than 4 years old in 2019, will need to pay the additional charge – making it cost as much as £22.50 to drive into central London. Petrol cars will only have to meet the Euro 4 standard so even older such vehicles may be OK. Go to this web page to check your vehicle: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone/check-your-vehicle?intcmp=32646

The ULEZ will replace the “T-Charge” on older vehicles which came into force in October this year.

The Mayor is also introducing a “particulate matter standard” to the ULEZ standards bearing in mind recent concerns about that kind of air pollution. It is not clear how that will work as it suggests that vehicles that comply with the Euro standards might fail on other grounds.

Bearing in mind that the ULEZ may be extended across a wider area (for example to the North/South circular), it seems likely that not many London residents will be buying diesel cars in future as emissions standards tighten, and more will buy electric vehicles.

The consultation responses (over 18,000 in total) showed 72% of the general public support the principle of a ULEZ, with only 21% opposed. But for those who drive within central London, 65% were opposed. Some 52% of drivers were also opposed to bringing forward the ULEZ to 2019. The ABD was one of only three stakeholder groups who opposed the ULEZ.

The Mayor also makes a pitch for a national vehicle scrappage scheme, a new Clean Air Act, changes to VED, and more money for City Hall in his press release.

Will the announced measures reduce air pollution? Probably although these are improving anyway as older vehicles are scrapped and replaced. But the main culprits as regards pollution were and are HGVs, LGVs, buses and taxis. Imposing such draconian standards on cars and even motorbikes 24×7 is not a cost-effective solution. The fact that the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have failed to provide any cost/benefit justification, nor even any of the budget costs of the scheme in response to an FOI Act request just tells you one thing. This scheme is as much about making money for the Major’s coffers as improving air pollution. This was also reflected in the consultation comments “written in” where 5% of respondents suggested it was a tax/revenue raising scheme for TfL.

But there were very few comments in support of extending the ULEZ boundary. Only 1% supported extending it to the North/South Circular. Let us hope that kills off that idea which would impose a major financial burden on many more London residents.

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Will Your Car Be Prosecuted in Future?

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill is currently going through Parliament. It covers legislation necessary for self-driving cars. Included in this is a provision that insurers of cars (rather than car drivers at present), will be liable for any accidents caused by them. For example, as a result of a software defect.

That may be sensible. But one pecularity of this brave new world is the fact that you apparently could still be prosecuted for exceeding a speed limit (or of course be offered a speed awareness course which is even more bizarre). In other words, your car or the manufacturer and software designer will not be liable, nor the car’s insurers, even though it may be their fault that you exceed the speed limit.

This may not be a common problem because such cars should have a digital map of the speed limits on all roads. But it may not be up-to-date. In addition it might not include temporary speed limits (e.g. for road works), and it may not be aware of reduced limits imposed by “smart motorways”. In reality such cars will need to recognise speed limit signs, and interpret them, to ensure they stay within the limits. What’s the chance of that happening when other vehicles may obstruct their view, or the weather conditions cloud the picture? Not all the time I suggest.

So if you think that you will be able to relax in self-driving cars, or if you are using ISA (Intelligent Speed Adaptation) which some folks would like to see mandated, then forget it. Life will simply get yet more complex and confusing for drivers – even if “drivers” is the wrong word to use for those sitting in the driving seat of self-driving cars.

Car owners is probably a more suitable word. And if your self-driving car is not insured when it causes an accident, it’s you as the owner that will be liable.

Welcome to the bizarre new world of self-driving cars.

Roger Lawson