Demo Against LTN, LibDem Opinion Poll and Tranche 2 Funding

On Saturday the 3rd October there was a public demonstration against the road closures in Lewisham (photo above). This is a typical Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) scheme funded by the Government and TfL under the pretence of a response to the Covid-19 epidemic. But was originally planned as a “Healthy Neighbourhood” scheme aimed at stopping us from using vehicles, or encouraging “active travel” such as walking and cycling, depending on your point of view. It has proved to be an abject failure with traffic congestion worsening, more air pollution and massive inconvenience to residents who rely on motor transport. Even buses have been slowed down.

There were over a 100 people turned up for the demonstration according to a report received despite the fact that it was legally questionable in the current restrictions on gatherings. But some social separation was maintained and the demonstration went off peacefully. Several police vehicles turned up but the police took no action to stop the event.

Motorists and bus drivers tooted their horns in support. One contact said he did chat to 4 bus drivers who all said the same thing “things have only got worse for them since the road closures were put in place, and what the hell did it have to do with Covid and social distancing?”.

I understand that similar demonstrations may take place on subsequent Saturdays. This writer would attend but as someone with a suppressed immune system and vulnerable to Covid-19 for other reasons, I am avoiding all public meetings. No doubt other supporters were deterred from attending for similar reasons but it shows the strength of feeling about this issue. People want the road closures removed without delay.

LibDem Opinion Poll

The strong opposition is also very evident in the results of a survey of Lewisham residents undertaken by the Liberal Democrats, which has just been reported. See https://www.lewishamlibdems.org.uk/residents_unite_against_lewisham_council_s_traffic_scheme for the details. They got almost 1,000 responses, mainly from Lee Green and Hither Green. What follows is a summary.

The LibDems are usually strongly in favour of environmental measures and the survey questions were not seen as totally unbiased by many. But the answers they got were very clear.

To quote from the report: “The majority of residents felt that the scheme failed in its main objective – to tackle the climate emergency. The scheme, which closes many Lee Green roads to through traffic, has created gridlock in neighbouring streets and the increased congestion has added to air pollution, in areas where air pollution already needed to be reduced.

Residents cite many frustrations over delays, confusing signage and missed appointments but the biggest complaint is over the failure of Lewisham Councillors to engage with local residents to discuss concerns. For many residents there have been unexpected and severe consequences on their lives”; and:

“We expected those against any traffic management to be most vocal but critically this scheme is also being condemned by people who want some form of traffic reduction in the area. There is huge frustration about the appalling consultation and the lack of response from the Council and councillors. The majority of residents have concluded it is not fit for purpose.”

The LibDems recommend that the scheme be suspended.

Question 1c in the survey shows the level of opposition. The question was “Are you happy with the Council’s changes?”. The answers were 771 said NO, 159 said YES and 10 omitted a response. That is very clear cut for these kinds of surveys.

There was some support for camera systems to limit use to local residents (a totally impractical and very expensive solution in our view) but time-limited restrictions were clearly not popular.

Many respondents had contacted councillors, MPs or Council officers but 84% of those who did considered they did not receive an adequate response.

You can read many of the detailed responses in the report where it is clear that they are similar to the ones the ABD has received – see this https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm where you can obtain a file of some of them. The anger stimulated by the road changes is very apparent, with local councillors coming in for a lot of criticism for not listening.

Tranche 2 Funding

The Lewisham scheme, and many others around the country, was funded partly by Tranche 1 of the “Emergency Active Travel Funding” from central Government. Tranche 1 consisted of £45 million of which only £5 million was given to London. But TfL also received £55 million for spending on active travel measures on TfL and borough roads.

But Tranche 2 to be supplied before the end of the year consists of another £180 million of which £25 million will go to London. The second tranche is aimed at enabling “authorities to install, further, more permanent measures to cement cycling and walking habits” to quote from a letter received from the Department of Transport by one of our supporters.

It was very clear that the intention all along was that the “temporary” measures such as those installed in Lewisham would subsequently be made permanent and that is how it is going to be achieved. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

But local boroughs do not have to spend this money on damaging schemes. Councillors can reject schemes that residents oppose. They just need some common sense and some guts to do so.

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Shaun Bailey’s Views, Self-Driving Cars and Climate Change

Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate to be the next Mayor London, today (24/4/2019) issued the following statement in the Evening Standard giving his views on the Ultra Low Emission Zone, and very reasonable they are too in this writer’s view. Here’s some of what he said:

Shaun Bailey: Expanded Ulez will hurt poorer

Let us agree on one thing: We need to clean up London’s dirty air.

Clean air is a perennial problem for London. My grandparents and parents suffered pea soup fogs. I had headaches in the days of leaded petrol. And today my boy and I struggle with asthma. We need strong action to this killer problem, in central London and beyond.

To his credit, Sadiq Khan has adopted Boris Johnson’s plan for a central Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) and is planning on expanding it to the North and South Circular Roads in 2021. I support the former but have concerns over the latter. Here’s why.

If we’re going to shift people’s behaviour using expensive taxes (and the ULEZ is £62.50 a week) there needs to be an alternative for those without the means to get a new vehicle or pay. The central ULEZ is relatively fair to poorer Londoners because central London is well served by cheap public transport. It is also home to the worst pollution.

Zones 1 and 2 also have the necessary enforcement infrastructure in place; cameras already police the congestion charge, so using the same tools to enforce a central ULEZ is easy and inexpensive.

The same isn’t true in outer London, where the infrastructure will have to be built from scratch (at a cost of £130 million), and where our transport network isn’t as comprehensive. Hitting Londoners — many of whom are already struggling with the cost of living — with a tax on driving when they simply have no alternative is unfair; especially when there are other ways we can clean up our air. A tax alone won’t do.

Top of the list is greening our fleet of almost 10,000 buses and our army of taxis. Hybrid taxis are now a reality and more and more hybrid or low-emission buses are being rolled out too, but we need to move to zero-emission technologies more quickly than by the current target date of 2037.

Instead of setting up the massive surveillance system we’ll need to make the bigger ULEZ work we should be spending that money expanding our green bus fleet and routes.

To be sure, we need strong action. But in his rush to tax, Mr. Khan risks penalising a critical mass of Londoners — especially poorer Londoners — many of whom simply don’t have the money to change their mode of transport on a dime.

<End>

Self-Driving Cars

Another announcement this morning was from UK public company AB Dynamics. Their financial results were very good but it was interesting to read their comments on vehicle technology.

The company specialises in testing systems for major car manufacturers including a range of driving robots, soft vehicle and pedestrian targets and driving simulators. This is just what is needed to test the new Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles (“self-driving” vehicles) that all car manufacturers are now investing a large amount of money in developing.

For example Elon Musk of Tesla recently predicted that his cars will have self -driving capability by mid-2020 – they just need the software upgrading to achieve that he claims. He also promised a fleet of “robo-taxis” by the same date. These claims were greeted by a lot of skepticism and quite rightly. This is what AB Dynamics had to say on the subject in today’s announcement: “There will be many phases to the development of fully autonomous vehicles and we foresee extended periods of time before they can satisfy a significant part of society’s mobility requirements.  There remain significant barriers to adoption including technical, ethical, legal, financial and infrastructure and these challenges will result in the incremental implementation of ADAS systems over many years to come. The ongoing regulatory environment and consumer demand for safety are also driving technological advancements in global mobility requirements and this provides a highly supportive market backdrop to the Group’s activities”.

I can tell you that the ABD is also very wary of self-driving vehicles. None of the vehicles under test offer anything like the reliability needed for fully-automated operation and expecting human operators to take over occasionally (e.g. in emergencies where the vehicle software cannot cope), is totally unrealistic. In other words, even “level 3” operation for self-driving vehicles which requires drivers to take over when needed is fraught with difficulties and offers little advantage to the user because they have to remain awake and alert at all times, something not likely to happen in reality.

Extinction Rebellion and their supporters who have been blocking London’s roads lately seem to want to remove all vehicles from our roads in the cause of reducing CO2 emissions which they claim is the cause of global warming (or “climate change”). I won’t even attempt to cover the latter claims although it’s worth stating that some dispute the connection and that climate change is driven by natural phenomena and cycles. But three things are certain:

  1. Reducing carbon emissions in the UK alone will have negligible impact on world CO2 emissions. China, the USA and other developing countries dominate the sources of such emissions and China’s are still growing strongly due to their heavy reliance on coal-fired power stations for electricity generation. China now produces more CO2 emissions than the USA and EU combined and is still building new coal-fired power stations. The UK now runs much of the time with no use of coal at all and rising energy contribution from wind-power and solar although gas still provides a major source.
  2. Environmental policies in the UK and Europe have actually caused many high energy consumption industries to move to China and other countries, thus enabling the UK to pretend we are whiter than white but not solving the world problem.
  3. A typical example of this approach is the promotion of electric vehicles. A recent article in the Brussels Times suggested that in Germany electric vehicles generate more CO2 over their lifespan than diesel vehicles. The reason is primarily the energy consumed in battery production – for example a Tesla Model 3 battery might require up to 15 tonnes of CO2 to manufacture. Electric car batteries are often manufactured in locations such as China although Tesla produces them in the USA.

In summary the UK and other western countries are being hypocrites and environmental campaigners are demonstrating in the wrong places and for the wrong reasons. The real problem is too many people in this world wanting to move to a high energy consumption lifestyle as we have long enjoyed in the western world. Population control is the only sure way to limit air pollution or CO2 emissions but nobody is willing to face up to that reality. In the meantime we get a lot of virtue signaling from politicians but a failure to tell the public the facts of energy consumption and production. Energy consumption is still growing world-wide and will continue to do so due to demographic changes and the desire for western lifestyles.

Finally just one comment on the Extinction Rebellion demand for a “people’s assembly” or “citizen’s assembly” as it is sometimes called. Is not the parliamentary democracy that we have at present such a system? Or is it simply a case that they want unelected people to decide on future policies? It has been suggested that such an assembly would be chosen at random from the population which hardly seems a very practical idea to me. This demand is a classic example of how muddled the thinking actually is of Extinction Rebellion supporters.

Roger Lawson

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Demonstrations Blocking Roads and Why the Police Do Nothing

The demonstrations that blocked roads and caused gridlock in central London by Extinction Rebellion I covered in a previous blog post – see  https://tinyurl.com/yavgwvlk . Subsequently there have been similar demonstrations on Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge by “yellow-vest” Pro-Brexit supporters. Clearly the fact that the police took no action on the first event is causing others to copy.

Why did the police take no action? I wrote to Police Commissioner Cressida Dick querying why not as obstruction of the public highway is clearly an offence. I got a response from Chief Superintendent Elaine Van-Orden who is responsible for the “Public Order and Resources Command”. This is some of what she said:

“Whilst highway obstruction is an offence, when policing protest activity, we have an obligation to balance our policing response with those fundamental rights that exist under Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act 2000 (HRA). These articles relate to the individuals having the right to Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly and Association. As such there is an expectation that individuals should be permitted to exercise these rights by way of peaceful protest. Police can however intervene if there is a likelihood of serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community, resulting from protest activity.”

She goes on to say (summarised) that the Extinction Rebellion protests were peaceful and relatively brief. To arrest in such circumstances might be seen as unreasonable. Event organisers only have to inform the police in advance (under Section 11 of the Public Order Act 1986) if there is a march or procession. Static protests are OK it seems.

I also wrote to the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) who are responsible for the road network and have legal obligations under the Traffic Management Act to minimise disruption but their response was that all protests are managed by the police so it was nothing to do with them. They are in error I suggest on that point.

I shall be responding further to these communications as I do not believe the Human Rights Act supports the stance of the police. However much some of my readers might support the Pro-Brexit demonstration, London will soon be gridlocked if anyone with a bee in their bonnet on any subject can sit down in the road and block traffic.

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