Radical TfL Plan to Remove Road Space from Drivers

When the coronavirus epidemic is over, will transport and traffic in London return to normal? Not if Cycling Commissioner Will Norman of Transport for London has his way.

In an article published by Bikebiz (see link below) he says that TfL is working on a radical solution – a Streetspace Plan. That might include converting general traffic lanes and parking spaces to cycle lanes and installing wider footpaths. Some roads may be restricted to buses and cycles only at certain times of day.

This is not just about providing more distancing space for pedestrians temporarily during the epidemic. It is clearly focussed on what happens after restrictions are lifted with the objective of making permanent changes to the allocation of road space.

In other words, it’s just another attack on the use of motor vehicles led by a cycling enthusiast. There is no justification for such measures and there is no public information available, nor any apparent public consultation proposed.

This is yet another damaging attack on the road network coming out of the Mayor of London’s office. Make sure you oppose it!

Bikebiz article: https://www.bikebiz.com/mayors-streetspace-plan-could-see-cycling-increased-tenfold-post-lockdown/

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Supt. Andy Cox Misleads the Public on Social Media

Police Superintendent Andy Cox has been very active on social media promoting how great a job he is doing for road safety by increasing the number of speeding tickets being issued in London.

For example a recent tweet from him said: “Incredible work by Traffic officers tackling #speeding. Last week we enforced 2,020 speeding offences across #London. By comparison it was 268 in same week in 2019. An 8 fold increase!”

What he does not say is that speed limits have been reduced in that period with a blanket 20 mph limit on all main central London roads. In addition there are more speed cameras and an expanded team of police officers using them.

Supt. Cox and others are saying that due to the lighter traffic from the coronavirus epidemic there is more speeding taking place but no evidence has been provided for that. It may be possible that some people are exceeding limits where roads are quiet and pedestrians non-existent but that hardly justifies a major police campaign. The increase in recorded speeding offences is undoubtedly mainly due to more enforcement activity.

Will it actually reduce road casualty statistics? Exceedingly unlikely because exceeding the speed limit is actually recorded as a contributory factor in only 5.9% of such accidents in London in the last five years. It’s just a witch-hunt in essence when the police would be much better to spend their resources on tackling real crimes such as knife crime which is out of control in many parts of London.

There are some extreme speeders that should be stopped because those are the ones involved in drink/drug driving or other crimes. But a lot of police enforcement of speeding is pointless. It does not cut accidents but just leads to more speeding fines being issued. And as we have pointed out before, the use of speed awareness courses now provides a powerful incentive for the police to waste resources on speeding offences because they get a cut of the income generated. It’s distorting road safety priorities.

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Sadiq Khan Asks for £1 Billion Bail-Out

Sadiq Khan may be asking for as much as £1 billion to bail-out Transport for London (TfL). He did not deny it when interviewed on BBC television. The organisation is haemorrhaging cash as most of its income comes from bus and tube fares and usage of those has severely declined. It may be unable to pay its staff very shortly without some Government support and has already “furloughed” 7,000 staff from today. TfL will be able to access funding from the Government’s Job Retention Scheme for those staff, saving the organisation millions of pounds every week, but that’s only a short-term and temporary solution to the Mayor’s financial problems.

How did the Mayor get TfL into the position where it cannot survive the problems caused by the coronavirus epidemic? In essence because the Mayor is financially inept and has allowed TfL to run up massive deficits so it has minimal reserves to cope with such an event. We have commented on this issue repeatedly – for example here on the TfL budget in January: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2020/01/17/tfl-business-plan-and-budget-for-the-next-5-years-more-of-the-same/

Total borrowing was forecast to reach £12.3 billion within 2 years because of delays to Crossrail and other issues, and that was before the impact of the coronavirus. A lot of the problem is caused by the Mayor spending money on programmes such as cycle schemes, Active Travel, Healthy Streets, Vision Zero road safety, the ULEZ and other policies for which there was no cost/benefit justification provided in this Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS). Now we are seeing the result of this financial incompetence and inability to manage the budget.

The ABD suggests that before the Government hands the Mayor any cash, they should lay down some conditions on how it will be used and insist on some changes to the MTS. Scrapping the expansion of the ULEZ would be a good starting point.

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Paranoia on Speeding Rising and Linking it to the Coronavirus Epidemic

The public’s paranoia about speeding drivers on our roads seems to be increasing. That may be partly driven by the fact that average traffic speeds have been rising as the roads are often empty due to the coronavirus epidemic. But it is also raised by politicians and even the police who are using social media to promote a false message.

For example, this was a recent exchange on twitter that I had with Councillor Nicola Dykes (she is a ward councillor in the London Borough of Bromley and also a Committee Chairman):

Posted by Nicola Dykes: SPEEDING- Police are increasing their operations to tackle this. Please contact them direct via ‪@MPSBromley to share roads where this is an issue. As ward Cllrs we have already highlighted roads we know there is an issue – Farnaby, Hayes Road, Siward etc. Please share!

Posted by me in reply: What is the accident record in those roads that justifies expending police resources on a witch-hunt?

What followed was not an answer to my question, but a long dialogue criticising my comments but never answering the question.

Unfortunately there is too much paranoia about people exceeding the speed limit with the result that a large amount of effort is being expended by the police and others on stopping it when that effort is very unlikely to result in any reduction in road casualties.

As anyone who has looked into this issue would know, the number of road accidents where speeding (i.e. exceeding the speed limit) is a factor is very low. In London the data makes it plain that exceeding the speed limit (factor 306 on the police STATS19 reporting forms) is a very minor factor in KSIs (Killed and Serious Injuries). It’s actually recorded as a contributory factor in only 5.9% of such accidents in the last five years.

The largest contributory factor by far is “Failed to Look Properly” which accounted for 42% of KSIs in London or 35% nationally. But there are several other factors with higher ratings than “Exceeding the Speed Limit” such as “Poor Turn or Manoeuvre”, “Failed to Judge Other Persons Path…”, “Loss of Control” and “Careless, Reckless or in a Hurry”.

Bearing in mind that multiple factors can be recorded, and that many of those involved in accidents will be under the influence of drink or drugs, or otherwise be involved in criminal activity (e.g. in stolen cars), even if the speed limit was rigorously enforced it would be unlikely to make much difference to road casualty statistics.

That is why I say that the whole policy of more speed enforcement is driven by paranoia and is actually diverting resources from more productive and effective road safety policies – such as improving roads, improving driver education and other possible approaches.

As regards the possible problem of excessive speed in Farnaby Road, Hayes Road (the B2212) and Siward Road before the police or Bromley Council spends money on tackling that alleged problem it is best to obtain some data on the actual speed of traffic in those roads and the accident record – the latter should already be available.

I have therefore requested under the Freedom of Information Act the following information:

  1. The details of all road accidents in the following roads: Farnaby Road, Hayes Road and Siward Road for the last three years that are available. That should include not just the totals but the details of accidents in those roads as reported on STATS19 forms (but excluding personal information of course).
  2. Any information held by Bromley Council on the speeds of traffic in those roads.

One of the persons who has been very active on social media promoting the hysteria over speeding is Superintendent Andy Cox of the Metropolitan Police. One of his recent tweets said: “With some very high speeds in London increasing risk of fatal and serious crashes which would add pressure to the NHS, Police, Fire causing potential impact on Covid-19 patients”.

This suggestion that accidents are increasing, putting pressure on the NHS is unsupported by any facts. In reality NHS A&E facilities have fewer patients and plenty of spare capacity at present and the suggestion that treating accident patients might affect treatment of Covid-19 patients is simply wrong. It’s too early to obtain the actual data on vehicle accidents but insurance companies such as Admiral are already refunding part of their car insurance premiums because the number of car accidents has fallen.

We are also seeing the same biased and inaccurate messages from those campaigning for 20 mph speed limits where they suggest that imposing them would relieve pressure on the NHS. It’s simply nonsense.

Readers should make sure they oppose this frenzy of fake news by responding to it with the facts.

Roger Lawson

Postscript: The results of the FOI Act request for data on roads in Bromley can be summarised as follows. It does not provide all the information I requested but there are some conclusions that can be drawn from it.

  1. Recent traffic speed data is only available for Farnaby Road but it shows average traffic speed is well below 30 mph, at about 26 mph. The 85th percentile figure also suggests this road is best signposted at 30 mph. There is some research available that shows that setting the speed limit at the 85th percentile of traffic speed actually results in the minimum of road accidents.
  2. The accident records for the last 5 years from Crashmap shows a few slight accidents in Farnaby Road, one serious accident in Hayes Road and only one slight accident in Siward Road. There were no fatalities. These are not exceptional figures for any roads in Bromley. Slight accidents can be quite trivial but it might be worth looking at the details of the serious accident in Hayes Road to see what the cause of that was.
  3. If local residents are concerned about the speed of traffic in Hayes Road or Siward Road, I suggest that council officers be asked to undertake some speed monitoring on those roads.

Speeding is often a subjective matter, reported by some people but not considered a problem by others. Whether there is a problem, or one worth expending resources upon, is best judged by looking at the accident data. The roads mentioned are obviously not ones that should take priority for road safety measures in Bromley as there are many other roads with a worse accident record. That is where money should be spent – not on roads where there is simply a vociferous group of residents.

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The Future of Transport – Government Consultation

E-ScooterThe Government has launched a public consultation on “The Future of Transport”.  This covers the possible future regulation of “micromobility” vehicles such as electric scooters, flexible bus services and “mobility as a service”.

Of particular interest to other road users, and to pedestrians, is the regulation of scooters. Should they be permitted on roads, on pavements or on cycle lanes for example? Should such “vehicles” have a maximum speed limit, be “type approved”, require registration numbers and be licensed, should the users be licensed and required to take a training course, permitted only on lower speed roads, and require riders to use helmets? There are many questions they pose in this area.

It is certainly the case that we need some regulation and urgently as in major cities such as London they are already coming into use despite the fact that they are illegal to use except on private land, i.e. illegal on both roads and pavements. There have already been injury accidents, including one death, reported from the use of scooters on public roads in the UK, and the number of casualties in other countries where they are permitted are already quite high.

It also covers the regulation of self-driving cars, and how trials of such vehicles can be regulated. Mobility as a service is also covered and this relates to the development of new digital platforms to enable innovative transport services combining multiple modes.

As with many Government announcements, it clearly shows a prejudice against cars and private transport in general. It says this in the “Executive Summary”: “Walking, cycling and active travel must remain the best options for short urban journeys”, and “Mass transit must remain fundamental to an efficient transport system”, and “New mobility services must lead the transition to zero emissions”. Not everyone might agree with those statements.

This is an important public consultation for anyone interested in road use, and there is an easy on-line consultation process. There are probably too many questions in it but you can skip a lot of them.

Please respond to the consultation which can be obtained from here:

https://tinyurl.com/s9f7bvp

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Bus and Underground Usage Collapses While Anti-Car Measures are Promoted

According to figures published by Transport for London (TfL), bus usage is down by 85% from the pre-virus epidemic levels and underground usage is down by 95%. That’s hardly surprising as Mayor Sadiq Khan is now advising people not to use public transport unless they are essential workers travelling to work. That’s a big “U-Turn” from his original comment in March that there was no risk of catching coronavirus on the tube. That was a very ill-advised comment at the time when it was already obvious that it was a highly contagious disease.

It is also causing the deaths of many bus drivers who are exposed to the general public although the Mayor is belatedly taking steps to protect them by limiting access, providing screening and PPE. Meanwhile crowding of people on the underground is still happening as the service has been reduced, partly because underground staff are sick or “self-isolating” (or “under house arrest” as Norman Tebbit aptly called it recently).

Note that income from bus and underground fares provides almost 50% of TfL income so the Mayor has a major financial problem to add to the already high deficit in TfL if the Covid-19 epidemic continues for much longer.

It is very clear that using private cars is a much safer way to travel and that public transport should be avoided but the anti-car and cycling lobbies continue to try and make capital out of the epidemic. The Times reports that roads in built-up areas may be converted into car-free zones to create extra space for joggers and cyclists during lockdown and there is a call for lower speed limits to protect the NHS from having to deal with road casualties. That’s despite the fact that most A&E Units have fewer customers than normal probably because many potential users probably consider them high risk places to visit so are avoiding them.

ABD Spokesman Paul Biggs said: “At a time when vehicle reliant key workers such as mobile carers, NHS staff, delivery drivers etc, are working hard to provide care and keep shops and hospitals supplied, the senseless, shameless anti-driver lobby comes up with ideas to obstruct them in favour of people who aren’t working.

Whether we like it or not, the Government have made it clear that they want people to ‘Stay Home’ as much as possible in order to minimise the spread of virus. Driving a car is the lowest risk form of transport in terms of virus transmission. Jogging and cycling entails heavy breathing outdoors, which is obviously a higher risk. However, it is quite possible for all three to coexist with the common sense and courtesy that is currently being displayed by the vast majority. There is no need for any activity to be banned, including essential car travel, but the roads need to be kept clear for those who actually need to use them rather than being closed for spurious reasons.”

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ULEZ – The Latest Information Including Poor Financial Outcome

The London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is currently suspended due to the coronavirus epidemic. This enables key workers to get to work without taking the risk of taking the still crowded public transport. This is a wise move by Sadiq Khan but it will create yet another hole in his TfL budget.

However, the plans for the expansion of the ULEZ to the North/South Circular in October 2021 are still proceeding. One of our supporters has recently submitted a Freedom of Information Act request and obtained some more useful information. I highlight the interesting points:

  1. The scheme is likely to be enforced in the same way as the existing ULEZ and Congestion Charge, i.e. via cameras, both fixed and mobile ones. A map showing where the boundary will be is present here: http://lruc.content.tfl.gov.uk/ulez-boundary-2021-map-local-detail.pdf
  1. But one concession is that vehicles parked, but which don’t move within the zone, and which are non-compliant won’t incur any penalty. However, there are very large numbers of cars parked on roads within the enlarged zone that are only used occasionally. But as the current ULEZ operates all day, every day, their owners will find themselves paying £12.50 for virtually every vehicle movement (the daily charge).
  1. The expected operating income of the expanded ULEZ for 2021/2022 is £160-£170 million with operating costs of £100-£110 million, i.e. a profit of perhaps £60 million. But the infrastructure set-up costs are forecast to be up to £120 million so it will be at least two years before those costs are even recovered, i.e. by 2024.

Note: in reality by 2024 the vehicle fleet will have changed considerably so the level of emissions will by then have reduced very significantly and few vehicles will be non-compliant thus substantially reducing the income from the scheme. For example the chart below shows the NOX emissions that were originally forecast by TfL, with and without the ULEZ. By 2030 there is no benefit from the ULEZ at all.  This means that this is yet another financial mistake the Mayor is going to make if the scheme is implemented as planned.

ULEZ NOx reduction-web

However, it seems that more detailed design of the scheme is still being undertaken so perhaps Mayor Sadiq Khan and TfL management are having second thoughts. They would be wise to do so as TfL are already running a massive deficit with debts rising. That was before the decline in public transport income from bus and underground fares that will have been badly hit by the epidemic plus the suspension of the ULEZ, LEZ and Congestion Charge.

It would be simply madness to proceed with the ULEZ expansion based on what we now know. But the Mayor is now so desperate for money that he might increase the proposed charge, expand the zone even further, or class even more vehicles as “non-compliant”.  That should go down well in the 2021 election year!

Note that the above financial figures are much worse than the last numbers we reported in January 2019 on our blog. There will be a very substantial amount of cash taken out of the London economy from the ULEZ taxes. This  will hardly help the economic health of the city, when it might still be recovering from the severe recession that is predicted from the virus epidemic. In addition, there may be a cost to Londoners of over £200 million from having to upgrade to compliant vehicles.

In conclusion, the expansion of the ULEZ makes no sense. A very expensive project that will not have much impact on air pollution.

See this page of our web site for more information: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment.htm

Roger Lawson

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