Active Travel and Road Safety – The Facts

There has been a big push to encourage people to take up “active travel” in the last few years, i.e. to cycle or walk on the premise that this will improve their health. It is hoped that this will relieve pressure on public transport and reduce traffic congestion by getting people out of their cars. So the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy that he adopted focussed on this well before the latest attempts to encourage active travel in response to the Covid-19 epidemic.

How successful has this strategy been and what are the unintended consequences?

The latest figures available from the Department for Transport (DfT) in their National Travel Survey for 2019 showed no change in the number of stages cycled and an actual fall in the average distance cycled from 58 to 54 miles. The number of stages walked also fell from 347 in 2018 to 332. Cycling remained very much a male dominated travel mode – they made 3 times as many cycle trips as women.

There was little change in the road casualty statistics in 2019. The number of people killed was 1.748. Despite sharp falls in the number prior to 2010, the figures plateaued in the 2010s. The DfT suggests that any changes in recent years are simply random variations (only 2% down in 2019). There has of course been some increase in traffic volumes in the last few years but the results are still very disappointing.

Although overall casualty figures fell by 5% in 2019, this data is probably an under-estimate as it is known that slight casualties are under-reported and recent pressures on police resources mean even fewer are reported with police forces not even turning out to attend many road traffic accidents.

The ABD has been claiming for some time that the failure to bring down casualties is due to defects in road safety policies. For example a concentration on automated speed enforcement rather than spending money on road engineering and education. The encouragement of cycling may not have helped either. These are the relative figures for fatalities per billion miles travelled using different transport modes:

Motorcycling: 113.3

Walking: 34.1

Cycling: 29.4

Car use: 1.8

HGV use: 0.9

Bus use: 0.6

Van use: 0.6

A new negative trend may soon appear if E-Scooters are widely adopted as they appear to be positively dangerous. The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) recently said this: “From evidence and experience around the world, it is now very clear that the public benefits of [e-scooters] are illusory and the disbenefits substantial, at least in a European context”. They oppose the current trials and wider legislation to support them. Very few car trips apparently transfer to e-scooter use and they also are not “active travel”.

They are also a particular danger to pedestrians when ridden on the pavement which is happening all over London at present with the police doing very little to stop it.

What have been the changes in transport modes prompted by the Covid-19 epidemic?  They have been substantial, particularly in London. Underground and London bus usage has fallen greatly as more people worked from home which is why the Mayor and TfL have financial difficulties as income has fallen while the network has not been reduced. Nationwide cycling rose by as much as 300% on some days in the first couple of months (April/May) over the start of the year. The weather does of course have a big impact on cycle use which has been relatively benign in recent months and summer makes cycling more enjoyable. Cycle use rises sharply during weekends and bank holidays which suggests it is dominated by “leisure” and “exercise” use, particularly as gyms and sports venues have been closed. But the cycling numbers are now reverting to more normal levels. You can see the data for different modes during the epidemic here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/transport-use-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic   

Car use fell very substantially during the first few weeks of the epidemic but that has also reverted to near normal levels across the country. Any big increases in traffic congestion in London are surely due to the road closures and removal of road space by cycle and bus lanes using Covid-19 as an excuse.

Comment: The fear of gridlock on the roads as people avoided public transport is not born out by the facts. They have mainly avoided travelling altogether. As people have learned to work from home, it is clear that the demand for central London offices will fall, and the number of commuters may never recover to previous levels. Why should TfL maintain a network of bus and underground services at previous levels when the passengers are much reduced? Any commercial business would cut services to match demand because to do otherwise leads to bankruptcy. That is what will happen to London’s transport services unless the Government bows to Sadiq Khan’s demands for more cash to keep it afloat. The Government should ignore such requests and force TfL to adapt to the new world rather than waste the taxes we all pay.  

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Bromley Council Experimental Traffic Orders – Objections Submitted

Albemarle Road, Beckenham and School Road/Church Row in Chislehurst

The London Borough of Bromley have published two sets of Experimental Traffic Orders to put in one-way systems, cycle lanes, parking restrictions and road closures in Beckenham and Chislehurst. These are being justified using the Covid-19 epidemic as a feeble excuse to assist walking, cycling and social distancing. The changes are being financed by TfL – the cost is not disclosed but must be very considerable as it even includes a new pedestrian crossing.

The first such scheme covers Albemarle Road and Bromley Road which are the main roads between Bromley and Beckenham. This is what the ABD has submitted in response to these proposals:

Our objections to these proposals are as follows:

1.       The changes are unnecessary and not justified in the given “Statement of Reasons”. These changes will not “facilitate walking, cycling and social distancing” as specified. There will certainly be no additional advantages to walking as the pavement on the affected roads such as Albemarle Road are wide, and there is no problem with “social distancing” at present. Neither is there any apparent benefit for cyclists who have no difficulty in cycling on these roads at present.

2.       The introduction of a one-way system on the stretch of Albemarle Road between Downs Bridge Road and Bromley Road will mean vehicles that wish to travel west will have to turn right at the junction with Bromley Road, which is currently banned for obvious safety reasons. There is undoubtedly a considerable volume of vehicles wanting to do that as there are numerous visitors to the Sloane Hospital.

3.       The introduction of a pedestrian crossing on Bromley Road, just east of the junction with Albemarle Road, is surely dangerous. This is a relatively sharp bend on a busy road. We recognise the need for a pedestrian crossing on this stretch of Bromley Road, but it should be moved further east or west (preferably west to avoid interaction with the Shortlands junction traffic lights).

4.       The introduction of parking restrictions along the whole of Albemarle Road will inconvenience local residents, and visitors to the Sloane Hospital, very considerably.

5.       These proposals will clearly be very costly and there is no justification for such expenditure on a cost/benefit basis.

More details of this scheme can be obtained from traffic@bromley.gov.uk by referencing:

The Bromley (Prescribed Route) (No. 1) (One Way) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Prescribed Route) (No. 2) (Cycle Lanes) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Prescribed Route) (No. 3) (Road Closure) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Waiting and Loading Restriction) Order 2003 (Amendment No. 207) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Controlled Parking) (On Street Places) Order 2004 (Amendment No. 128) Experimental Order 2020; (Bromley Road and Albemarle Road, Beckenham; Crystal Palace Park Road, Penge).

The second scheme includes the closure of School Road (see photo above) and the introduction of a one-way system in Chislehurst plus some School Streets. The ABD has put in the following objections:

1.       The closure of School Road at its junction with Royal Parade will cause more traffic to use Church Lane to reach the St.Pauls Cray Road or Centre Common Road. This is already heavily congested at busy times of day.

2.       The introduction of a one-system covering School Road and Church Row makes sense but it should be in the reverse direction to that proposed with the exit onto Royal Parade maintained. This would maximise traffic flows and avoid long circuitous routes for residents of Church Row and other roads.

Note that as a matter of principle we object to the closure of roads unless there are very good reasons to do so. The justifications provided are inadequate. These changes are not justified in the given “Statement of Reasons”. These changes will not “facilitate walking, cycling and social distancing” as specified.

Note that there will be signs on Royal Parade diverting traffic via Bromley Road and Watts Lane. But not only does Watts Lane have a width restriction on it but there is an awkward left turn from Bromley Lane at the Hangman’s Corner roundabout. Larger vehicles going to the Crown Inn are surely going to have difficulties also because of the sharp bend introduced on the one-way system.

For more information contact traffic@bromley.gov.uk by referencing:

The Bromley (Prescribed Route) (No. 4) (School Streets) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Waiting and Loading Restriction) Order 2003 (Amendment No. 208) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Prescribed Route) (No. 5) (One Way) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Prescribed Route) (No. 6) (Road Closure) Experimental Order 2020 (Various Locations). Or contact the ABD for more information.

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Opposition to Road Closures in London Grows – Sign the Petitions

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The opposition to “temporary” road closures in London grows daily. These are being put in by a number of London boroughs, using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse. The argument is that road closures help with social distancing but it is very unclear how. Widening pavements and cycle lanes may assist but road closures do not – they just divert traffic onto other roads thereby creating more congestion, or encourage people to use public transport where the risks of infection are very high.

Gridlock is happening all over the place as normal routes used by delivery drivers, social care workers and those elderly and disabled who need to use a car or taxis find the roads blocked. It’s clearly the intention to make these measures permanent in due course in many boroughs, driven by those ideologically opposed to the use of vehicles of all kinds.

You can join the opposition to the closures by signing all the relevant petitions some of which are given below – there may be others in your local area if you search for them.

Lewisham: There is a petition on Change.org created by the ABD which has already collected 1,500 signatures – see http://chng.it/ft4KcrVM . Please sign it if you have not done so already. There is also a petition against the specific closures in Lee Green ward created by a local resident – see  http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?id=46 and against the closure of South Row near Blackheath – see http://chng.it/PNWJWG57Sn

Lambeth: Opposition to road closures in the Oval Triangle: http://chng.it/wywrxJVmz2 . There is also a council e-petition for Lambeth residents here: https://moderngov.lambeth.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?Id=478 . And there is a specific petition against closures of Railton Road and Shakespeare Road on Change.org here:  http://chng.it/hf5MdDmX9W . Plus one on the St Matthews Road closure: http://chng.it/YKwqY6tWVH

Islington: Opposition to road closures in Prebend Street, Colebrooke Row, etc, in the St. Peters Ward: https://www.change.org/p/islington-residents-stop-islington-councils-closure-of-local-roads

Waltham Forest:  A petition against road closures in the borough: https://www.change.org/p/cllr-clare-coghill-walthamforest-gov-uk-stop-road-closures

Southwark: A petition against road closures in the Walworth/Kennington area: https://www.change.org/p/southwark-council-no-to-cooks-road-chapter-road-carter-street-closures , plus a petition against road closures in Dulwich: http://moderngov.southwark.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=500000049&RPID=773103676&HPID=773103676

Croydon: A petition against the closure of the Southern Avenue/ Lancaster Road Junction, in South Norwood: https://www.change.org/p/croydon-council-reopen-southern-avenue-lancaster-road-junction

Sunbury: A petition against an “Active Travel” scheme including road closures in Sunbury: https://www.change.org/p/surrey-county-council-cancel-active-travel-scheme-in-lower-sunbury

Wandsworth: Opposition to a “Low Traffic Neighbourhood” in Heaver/Balham South: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/no-heaver-ltn-1

Ealing: Opposition to plans for “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods” and the failure of the Council to disclose those plans: http://chng.it/wncQVWDbsG

Enfield: Objection to Low Traffic Neighbourhood: https://www.change.org/p/london-borough-of-enfield-objection-to-low-traffic-neighbourhood-and-immediate-opening-of-roads-to-traffic

Hammersmith & Fulham: Local M.P. Greg Hands in Hammersmith & Fulham has created a petition calling on LBHF to cancel its SW6 traffic scheme. See:  https://www.greghands.com/campaigns/SW6petition

Greenwich: Opposition to road closures blocking east-west routes: http://chng.it/jTNxZhVhBS and opposed to Hills and Vales closures: http://chng.it/2qWywzpfxP  

Newham: Immediate removal of Newham’s LTN schemes: http://chng.it/WzY7F2Ys58

Hackney: Reverse the road closures and have a public consultation: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/hackney-road-closures

Camden: Opposition to Arlington Road closures: http://chng.it/PrvZvscwZw .

There are also road closures taking place in these London boroughs: Tower Hamlets and Kingston. If you live or work in those boroughs, why not create your own petition against them? It’s very easy to do so on Change.org.  

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Lewisham Pushes Ahead Regardless in Lee Green

The Alliance of British Drivers issued the following national press release yesterday:

One Metre Rule Makes ‘Social Distancing’ Road Blockages Redundant

Many current and proposed road blockages are now unnecessary argue the ABD.

Spokesperson Paul Biggs explains:

Anti-car authorities all over the UK have relished the chance to obstruct motorised traffic under the guise of encouraging walking and cycling by enabling 2 metre distancing. Most of these schemes have dubious merit and many have simply resulted in making life more difficult for drivers, clogging up the roads whilst the extra space remains virtually unused. With the expected announcement that a 1 metre gap is sufficient, there is even less justification for such schemes. Existing schemes should be scrapped and no further schemes pursued. The roads must be allowed to flow freely to get the economy back on track.

<Ends>

One London Council that is ignoring this in their desperation to get road closures in place is Lewisham. They previously proposed numerous road closures (modal filters and school streets) as part of their Healthy Neighbourhood proposals. This generated numerous objections from local residents which enthusiastic cyclist Councillor Sophie McGeevor proceeded to ignore.

But the Council has just circulated a letter in Lee Green which spells out that they will be implementing almost identical proposals next week using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse. See the letter here which includes the latest map of the proposals: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Lee%20Green%20Council%20Letter%202020-06-23B.pdf

The road closures will be implemented using Experimental or Temporary Traffic Orders which have not been published (we will advise the details when known). There will be no public consultation on the proposals – effectively they will be delivered as a fait accompli by Councillors ignoring the views of many residents, particularly those elderly or disabled who cannot cycle or walk far.

These road changes are clearly intended to be made permanent in due course. Residents should object to the Traffic Orders and should bear in mind the names of the local ward councillors at the next local council elections who have supported these plans – namely Octavia Holland, Jim Mallory and James Rathbone in Lee Green.

Postscript: The first road closures in Lewisham have now been put in for Scawen Road, George Lane, Kitto Road, Glenbow Road, South Row, Bishopsthorpe Road and Silverdale. These closures have been authorised using a Temporary Traffic Order – see: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Lewisham%20Temporary%20Traffic%20Order%20Phase-1%202020-06-22.pdf

We have sent the Council this letter pointing out that the road closures are unjustified and the wording of the Traffic Order does not justify the closures as it needs to do: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/ABD_Letter%202020-06-26-Web.pdf

The Council seem to be ignoring all the legal niceties including putting in the road closures even before the date authorised on the Traffic Order.

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Bromley – Funding Submission for Highway Measures

ChislehurstHighSt1Anyone with an interest in the activities of the local London Boroughs as regards highways measures will know that a revolution is taking place for two reasons: 1) The Mayor and TfL have run out of money so funding by Tfl for previously approved highways schemes has been stopped; and 2) the Covid-19 epidemic has prompted the Government to ask local councillors to bring in measures to promote “social distancing” and encourage walking/cycling to relieve pressure on public transport and roads. Some money is available in grants for such measures but they have to be bid for and soon in a competition that will be judged on merit.

Bromley Council have published what they may submit in a document that explains the process – see https://cds.bromley.gov.uk/documents/s50082088/ES20029.pdf

Many of the proposed measures may be temporary, but some might be made permanent. Plans for “Healthy Neighbourhood” or “Mini-Holland” schemes which include road closures may have lost previous funding, but they might still be snuck in using the new funding measures. It is therefore important if you live in London to keep an eye on what your local borough is proposing because there will otherwise be minimal public consultation. The proposals are considered urgent now because of the epidemic and decisions may simply be delegated to council staff to push them through quickly.

However, I have submitted the following comments to some of the relevant Bromley Councillors and officers (I may try and cover some other boroughs later but it really needs someone with local knowledge of the roads to make suggestions and comments – with 32 London borough I cannot personally cover all of them):

Bromley Funding Submission for Highway Measures

Dear Councillor Harmer,

Here are some comments that you requested on the published “Funding Submission for Highway Measures to Support Social Distancing….”. As you may know, I have taken a strong interest in traffic and transport issues in Bromley for the last 20 years.

Being someone who is considered a particularly “vulnerable” person from the Covid-19 epidemic being a transplant patient, I have a strong interest in ensuring that roads and pavements provide adequate social distancing capabilities. However I also have a strong interest in ensuring that vehicle users are not unreasonably prejudiced by such measures in my wider role for the ABD in London, particularly as the use of cars rather than public transport can be an invaluable resource to the elderly and disabled, of which there are very many in the borough.

In general most of the proposals being put forward for funding seem quite reasonable, so I will only comment on those worth highlighting and where I have particular knowledge:

Temporary measures in locations where walking and cycling schemes have been previously supported by members.

BROMLEY TOWN – Glassmill Lane. I note the proposal to “filter”, i.e. close, the road to southbound traffic with the introduction of a cycle lane. This road is used by a lot of traffic headed from Bickley or Chislehurst to Beckenham (you indicate 15,000 vehicle movements). The reason for this is because the alternative routes, particularly Beckenham Lane where traffic queues up to Shortlands Station for much of the day, are not very viable.

Although the volume of traffic may be temporarily lower, it is clearly likely that any such change would be made permanent. There are also a considerable number of properties to the east of Glassmill Lane (between Mill Lane and Bromley Gardens) who would be severely inconvenienced by this closure. I suggest if nothing else that they be consulted before this is done, irrespective of the urgency of these proposals.

I can well understand this proposal is being considered because the tight bends at the top of Glassmill Lane and the narrow carriageway at that point are clearly dangerous, and not just to cyclists. However, I would suggest that a closure northbound rather than southbound would be better. Traffic travelling from Beckenham eastwards has good alternative routes so would not normally use Glassmill Lane.

CHISLEHURST: Add a refuge at the bottom of Old Hill. I am very supportive of this proposal.

COPERS COPE: A regards the proposed temporary closure of Park Road, I suggest the local residents should be consulted before any such measure is undertaken. The ABD is opposed to road closures unless there are very good reasons to do so.

As regards the suggestion that Temporary Traffic Orders (TTOs) might be used to put in measures such as road closures, they are intended for the use in emergencies and it would be a misuse of the legislation that permits road closures by councils. The latest Government Guidance does not change the wording of the Act that covers such capabilities. TTOs should only be used for such things as emergency road repairs and should be temporary as the name implies. To use them for measures to improve social distancing may be justified temporarily, but that does not support the closure of Park Road, nor the closure of Glassmill Lane mentioned above.

SHORTLAND: Durham Road – Valley Road. It is not at all clear what is being proposed here, and by “filter” I presume a road closure is being proposed. Could you ask whoever writes these documents to stop using a euphemism. A road closure to everyone but cyclists is a closure. What are the alternative routes that might be used around such a closure? Again local residents need to be consulted first. The Covid-19 epidemic should not be used as an excuse to close roads without prior public consultation.

Town Centre Distancing Hotspots.

BROMLEY TOWN CENTRE: I would support the pedestrianization of East Street. As regards keep left and lane signage for pedestrians, I really doubt that this will be adhered to and could be expensive to implement.

ORPINGTON: We would oppose any suggestion of restricting the High Street to buses, cyclists and servicing vehicles only. I doubt any vehicle users who know the area would use this road as a through route, so the vehicles are mainly dropping off and picking up pedestrians. However, some of the parking on this road could usefully be removed.

CHISLEHURST TOWN CENTRE (see photo above).  I completely agree with changing the parking to be parallel with the road between Willow Grove and Prince Imperial Road entirely. Indeed I have supported this ever since I was involved with the Chislehurst Society. This should be made a permanent change. This would provide a wider pavement, possibly even a cycle lane, and smooth traffic flows.

Temporary Measures for Schools in the Borough.

CHISLEHURST: Chislehurst CE Primary – closure of School Road at Royal Parade. A closure at the end of School Road (at the junction with Royal Parade) would effectively mean the closure of Church Row and hence require all north/south traffic to use Church Lane instead. This would put more pressure on Royal Parade which already has stationary traffic for most of the day, on Bull Lane and Manor Park Road. I would suggest alternative closure points would be better, including making Church Row one-way southbound which has long been proposed and would enable wider pavements to be introduced. In summary, I think any changes in these roads would be problematic without a lot more consideration and estimates of the impact on traffic queues. The closure of School Road might be welcomed by the School, but local residents over a wide area might be adversely affected.

Temporary Measures in locations where walking and cycling schemes were being developed.

CHISLEHURST: Improving the footpath between Belmont Lane/Edgebury and Kemnal Road. As a former resident of Belmont Lane, I wholeheartedly support this, although it’s not a “short-cut” that takes you anywhere of interest. However the last time I walked it, it was barely passable on foot and in winter gets very deep in mud and slippery at the Northern end. It would be a useful improvement but far from essential.

I hope you will consider the above comments before deciding where any money that is available might be spent.

Yours sincerely

Roger Lawson

<END LETTER>

P.S. Apparently the intention is to make Glassmill Lane, Queensmead Road and Station Road one-way along the whole length thus enabling one phase of the traffic lights at the Shortlands Station junction to be closed, thus improving traffic flow on Beckenham Lane. But it would create major inconvenience for many local residents forcing them onto Beckenham Lane via a circular route.

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