City of London Transport Strategy

City Traffic 2018The City of London Corporation is currently developing its Transport Strategy. The Corporation covers the square mile of the City and in some respects takes the role of other local London borough councils. It therefore has to also develop a “Local Implementation Plan” to match the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy. The aim is to publish a Transport Strategy for the City by Spring 2019.

As part of this exercise they are running a series of “Workshops” for interested parties and I attended one on the 6th March. This is a report on the event.

The meeting was hosted by Bruce McVean who is heading up the strategy development team. Apparently they have 8 people working on this project. It was amusing to note on my journey to the event where I had to walk through the Bank road junction that there were still numerous vehicles driving through it and ignoring the no-entry signs. See previous blog posts on that subject. Although this scheme is “experimental” the Corporation recently decided to postpone any longer-term proposals for improving the situation.

There is also a “Strategy Board” who will be considering the Transport Strategy, but I have previously commented on the lack of representation on that of anyone with a knowledge of transport issues other than City Corporation staff.

The people attending this Workshop were a very mixed bunch and I have no idea how they qualified for an invite. Apart from myself there was at least one elderly City resident, a lady who represented the interests of the disabled and a keen bus rider (also enthusiastic about trams and trolley buses).

The meeting commenced with a short talk by Iain Simmons (Assistant Director – City Transportation). I had previously communicated with him on the closure of Shorter Street. He gave an overview of the process and the public consultations being undertaken which should complete by the end of the year with findings to be published in March 2019. He discussed the current use of transport in the City based on a report they recently published (called “Traffic in the City 2018” which you can find on the web). The chart above,  taken from that report, shows traffic trends in the City.

As I said to one of the Corporation’s staff this just shows how the road network in the City has been damaged over the last twenty years as it seems unlikely that the demand by users of cars, taxis and PHVs has declined but usage has been obstructed by road closures, removal of road space, traffic congestion and other factors (the congestion charge is not one of them and claims for the impact of that are spurious).

Iain Simmons said that “virtually nobody is now riding around in the City in private cars” which I can well believe. Such vehicles have not just declined, they have been replaced by PHVs to a large extent (minicabs and Uber like services) with even licensed taxis declining in the last two years. There has also been a reduction in goods vehicles (LGVs) perhaps because of consolidation of trips and companies banning delivery of internet orders to their offices. Note that one cause of the reduction of vehicles is now simply the difficulty of entering the City from surrounding roads – for example TfL are using traffic lights to restrict access along the Highway to Upper/Lower Thames Street and the East-West Cycle Superhighway has obstructed access to some parts of the City. The removal of the Aldgate gyratories in the East has also caused congestion and problems with access from that direction.

There has been a big increase in cycling as you see from the chart, but motorcycling has been declining.

One of the key issues to be faced is that the City “population” is increasing. This is mainly driven by the growth in commuters as business offices increase in number and size. This has resulted in pedestrian KSIs going up while others have remained static. Mr Simmons said they still have “a big problem with road danger reduction”. (Note: the 20-mph wide area scheme was noticeably ineffective in improving the road casualty statistics). He also mentioned there was a drive to “turn streets into places”.

Bruce McVean then covered the transport challenges and the opportunities. He said they had received very mixed responses to the consultation so far, with concerns about cycling and the disabled. But he promoted the concept of turning streets into “places” as there was a desire for more open space for pedestrians in the City.

We then broke up into smaller discussion groups. There were lots of ill-informed suggestions made, but there was some agreement on the growing dangers posed by cyclists to pedestrians in the City due to the former’s inconsiderate behaviour. The difficulty of access to some parts of the City, including tube stations, for the disabled or elderly was mentioned. Route finding by pedestrians was often difficult (the Barbican was an area particularly mentioned as being obstructive).

A Corporation staff member suggested that one way to free up more open space would be to remove on-street parking. It was unclear why visitors were using this as such spaces would be difficult to find and there are several off-street car parks. I suggested they ask the users. Note: I think removal of such spaces would only make sense if more off-street parking was provided as many such car parks are now full to capacity. They are also often difficult to access and difficult to find for casual visitors.

There was some agreement that in some areas there was insufficient capacity for pedestrians on pavements and this problem might get worse.

Suggestions were also made to remove all road traffic from the City, simplify and rationalise the road network, develop a ring road, have a “park and ride” scheme and other oddball or impractical ideas (bring back trams for example). There seemed to be little understanding of why vehicles are on City streets although it was mentioned that there are food deliveries for example.

The large numbers of currently highly polluting buses in the City needs to be looked at, particularly as some of them seem to be on “long distance” routes where there seems little need for them to go through narrow City streets.

It was suggested by a staff member that timed road closures as around the bank junction might help (as to how was not clear). I opposed that because occasional visitors are unlikely to be aware of the timings and hence create the difficulties seen at Bank.

At the end of the session I said that I considered the Mayor of London’s desire to turn roads into “places for social interaction and exercise” to be nonsense. Surely the purpose of roads is to enable the movement of goods and people. This issue was not really debated with the City Corporation seeming to have swallowed the dogma of Transport for London and the Mayor hook line and sinker without any thought. Indeed as I have commented before, City Corporation staff seem to have a prejudice against motor vehicles on the roads of the City and the history of the road network in the City over the last 30 years demonstrates many damaging changes which have increased congestion.

Here’s my analysis of the issues and what improvements should be aimed for:

Problems to be faced:

  • Increasing numbers of commuters/pedestrians.
  • Rising traffic congestion, despite reduced vehicle numbers.
  • Air pollution from vehicles and businesses still poor, the former mainly caused by traffic congestion (damaging levels of emissions from vehicles are coming down rapidly due to technological improvements).

What should be aimed for:

  • Improvements in traffic speeds to provide economic benefits and help to cut pollution.
  • Safer roads (stopping pedestrians stepping off pavements into the paths of vehicles is still a major problem).
  • More capacity for all transport modes (i.e. vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians).

I suggest it would be possible to rationalise the road network to gain all those benefits. Bank junction is a good example of where a major redevelopment could simplify the roads, improve traffic flow, free up more open space and reduce road traffic accidents.

One of the problems with releasing more open space is that there is very little unused land in the City and it is of course enormously expensive land. Therefore new office developers like to maximise the developed land space. This is a planning issue that needs to be tackled. Developers really need to have an obligation to ensure some ground space is provided as a public amenity and pavements around new developments should be widened.

In summary there are lots of ways that transport in the City of London could be improved, but I am not convinced that concepts such as turning streets into places, an Orwellian redefinition of the word street, is going to help.

In the meantime, there is a public consultation where you can give your own views here: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/transportstrategy

Postscript: Under the City Corporation’s “Road Danger Reduction Plan”, there are some interesting new initiatives. These include:

  • Lane closures on multi-lane roads at night. Not that there are many in the City but Mansell street is one where there was a pedestrian fatality in 2017.
  • Part-day filtering of certain vehicle types at peak times.
  • Active Travel Priority Zones where the recommended speed for vehicles would be no greater than 10 mph.
  • Lunchtime closures of streets as there are more pedestrians around at that time.

These measures are in response to the latest road safety statistics which show high numbers of pedestrian casualties, mainly from stepping into roads without looking. Pedestrian numbers are rising, and the 20 mph wide area speed limit across the City has had negligible impact. There also seem to be increasing numbers of collisions between cyclists and pedestrians, which can be serious or fatal (e.g. the example of Charlie Alliston on Old Street).

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

 

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City of London Wants Your Views

The City of London Corporation, who control the streets in the City, want your views on their transport strategy. They have mounted an exhibition that runs until the end of March and there are some “drop-in” sessions also where you can talk to their staff. In addition they would like you to complete a survey.

See that and more information here: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/transport-and-streets/Pages/transport-strategy.aspx

If you work in the City or travel there on business, please make sure you complete the survey.

You might wish to state you oppose road closures, and you will also find the survey requires you to indicate a hierarchy of priorities for road usage – cars, PHVs, buses versus cyclists and pedestrians. This is a very divisive approach. It should be a question of what is an appropriate balance in different locations and at different times.

The transport strategy is still being developed but it’s interesting to look at the proposed Strategy Board Members. It’s dominated by City Corporation staff, GLA representatives, and by representatives of financial institutions (what do the latter know about transport issues?). There is not a single representative of road users such as taxi drivers, PHV drivers, private motorists (the ABD has certainly not been invited), freight owners or even cyclists. See this document for details: http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/documents/s90399/TS%20Strategy%20Board%20Report%20LP%20Sub%20260118%20FINAL.pdf

Regretably this is a typical example of how the City Corporation is biased and staff in the relevant department seem to want to close down all the roads if they could.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

 

Bank Junction Closure

As first reported back in December 2015, the City of London Corporation are proceeding with a plan to close Bank junction to all but buses and cyclists. Black cab drivers are incensed by this proposal and ran several demonstration at that junction and near the Houses of Parliament last week. This caused widespread traffic chaos.

According to a report by the City of London Corporation, the benefit will be a significant reduction in casualties (often pedestrians and cyclists) around the junction, and average traffic journey times will be neutral or slightly positive. It will also improve bus services based on the modelling done.

All general traffic will be banned from 7.00 am to 7.00 pm from travelling through the junction, which is one of the key parts of the road network in the City of London. Although much traffic already avoids it because it is very heavily congested, it will certainly cause a lot of difficulties for taxi drivers. Diverting traffic will surely make other alternative routes busier.

The scheme will start in April, and last for 18 months on an experimental basis but such schemes tend to become permanent. The Corporation’s report says “The experimental scheme will not solve all safety aspects at Bank, but will make a significant difference without the need for infrastructure changes, which will take more time to plan and deliver”.

What’s the cost of this project? It is budgeted to be £792,000. More information is present here: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/transport-and-streets/traffic-management/Pages/Bank.aspx

Comment: One of the key sources of congestion at Bank are in fact buses of which there are many and who move slowly. The configuration of the junction and the narrow pavements (insufficient for the number of people exiting Bank underground) are major problems and a cause of the poor accident record. So one cannot dispute that some measures needed to be taken to tackle these problems.

However there were other alternatives, such as simplifying the junction, or allowing entry only from certain directions that would have surely helped. Closing this key junction to traffic will be similar to the redesign of other key junctions in central London such as Trafalgar Square and Aldgate which has contributed so much to reduced journey times in central London.

Taxi driver David Morris was quoted in the Financial Times as saying “We are part of the London public transport system and yet we will be denied access”. He suggested there would be horrendous gridlock as a result and questioned where all the traffic will go. One cannot but be sympathetic to his views because this looks like another step that will reduce the capacity of the road network of London. One cannot continue to remove road space and expect congestion to do anything but get worse.

If you wish to object to these plans, I suggest you write to Gillian Howard, at City of London Corporation, Guildhall, PO Box 270, London EC2P 2EJ. Or send an email to bankarea@cityoflondon.gov.uk . There does not appear to be any formal consultation process as yet and given the timescale for implementation it would seem they are not going to bother with one.

The ABD has already submitted an objection, but the more they get, the better.

Roger Lawson

Traffic in the City of London, and Beech Street

The City of London Corporation has recently published a report entitled “Traffic in the City of London”. It acknowledges that “certain major infrastructure project such as Crossrail and the Cycle Superhighway” along with new building development have increased demand on the highway network. As a result traffic congestion in some parts of the City has increased.

Their solutions include “reducing the amount of traffic in the City to a level our community finds acceptable”, making representations for London wide policy change (e.g. changes to the Congestion Charge, which would include higher charges and wider geographic coverage) and reducing goods vehicle movements. They also propose to “actively discourage vehicle movements”.

In addition they suggest bridge tolls over all the Thames bridges using ANPR technology as on the Dartford Crossing to reduce traffic volumes and more active management by TfL of traffic signals to reduce traffic into the City.

Zero Emission Vehicles Only and Beech Street

They also suggest a ban of all vehicles in the City other than zero emission ones and have already firmed up proposals to do that for Beech Street, or close it completely to through traffic. Beech Street runs underneath the Barbican and is heavily used as a cross-city route.

The City Corporation’s report is well worth reading and is a good example of the anti road transport mentality that is now so prevalent.

Roger Lawson

More Congestion in the City

We have covered the worsening congestion in the City of London arising from the works around Aldgate and the impact of the new Cycle Superhighways during 2015. But it is going to get worse in 2016.

There will be in addition be major works that will close the junction of Aldgate, Leadenhall Street and Fenchurch Street requiring that all three roads be closed from January to April.

In addition Tower Bridge will be closed to “re-deck” the bascules (the raising part of the road surface). This is likely to take place in Q4 2016 and will require traffic on the inner ring road to be diverted via the Congestion Charge zone to use Southwark or London Bridges.

The end of 2016 might also see a closure of Bank junction (see previous blog post on that topic).

Note that the Highways Team in the City of London Corporation now have their own Facebook page (see https://www.facebook.com/Squarehighways) and Twitter feed so you can easily give them your comments on news items.

There is one thing for certain in 2016 – road users will find life more difficult in the City.

Roger Lawson