TfL research finds Londoners becoming more scared of cycling

November 10, 2011

Just a quick post to flag up some research undertaken for Transport for London by market research agency SPA Future Thinking. A summary report has been published this month on TfL’s website.

The research found:

  1. More people than last year agreed that “traffic makes people afraid of cycling in London’s streets”.
  2. Concern about safety is the most common deterrent to taking up cycling.
  3. While more people are cycling than last year, the report notes that cycling still remains “the least appealing of the major modes”.

Is it any surprise that this is the case when TfL are building cycle superhighways that people are killed on?

CS2 A11 A12

While cycling casualties in England are decreasing overall, in London they’re going up.

The blame for this lies squarely at the door of Transport for London.

TfL says their road network comprises 5% of London’s roads and carries over 30% of its traffic. Yet eight of London’s top ten dangerous junctions for cyclists are managed by TfL.

On Saturday, a group of bold cyclists will be touring TfL’s most dangerous junctions. As Mark from ibikelondon says:

If you want to see safer streets for cycling too, we’d love to welcome you too.

TfL “do not record” the time of car expense claims. Three questions for them.

October 21, 2011

The Evening Standard reports that Transport for London’s staff have made expense claims for over a million miles of journeys in their own cars since April 2008.

This includes some incredibly short trips – my favourite of those listed being Moorgate to Liverpool Street (about 300 metres).

Having seen the Freedom of Information responses (see below), I can reveal that other trips include Bank to Moorgate, Pimlico to Victoria and Baker Street to Marylebone. I’ve fallen over and travelled further than some of these.

Except if you’re TfL staff

The Standard article notes Transport for London’s defence that the journeys were “made at night when the Tube had stopped”.

Yet how they’re able to make this claim, I don’t know. When I asked TfL for the details of when specific trips were made, under Freedom of Information legislation, they responded that they “do not record” this information.

Insulated from London

Of the 1069 journeys of five miles or under that were claimed for in 2010/11, not a single one was cycled. (Correction 9.14am: Only 8 were cycled. Thanks to the beady-eyed Twitter user who pointed this out.) 

Is it any surprise that cyclists are dying on TfL’s dangerously designed streets? Can we realistically expect that an organisation so entrenched in car culture will actually try to sort this out?

These expense claims raise a number of questions:

  1. Why aren’t employees being encouraged to avoid using cars for short trips, as outlined in the Travel at Work Policy?
  2. Why aren’t TfL recording the times of trips made? And why is their Press Office then allowed to claim that journeys are made at night?
  3. Who is making expense claims for car trips of less than 1 mile in Central London? And who is signing them off?

Something is deeply wrong at the core of TfL. The organisation’s Chair, Boris Johnson, needs to get a grip on it.

For the main FOI response, including total miles travelled and cash paid in the last five years click here. For the spreadsheet of all 6000 trips made in the last year, click here.

Behind the stats: How TfL misled the London Assembly about Blackfriars

October 7, 2011

In September, Transport for London released a copy of a presentation they had submitted to the London Assembly about Blackfriars Bridge.

This contained some rather extraordinary claims, for example this projection (p3):

AM peak 2012 – pedestrians 58%, cyclists 6%, car occupants 14%

Given that there are currently more cyclists than car occupants, and cycling is increasing while driving is decreasing, the above is quite clearly wrong.

Thanks to the tenacity of London Assembly Member John Biggs (and his researchers), TfL has been forced to release an explanatory note, which shows the dubious assumptions that they have made in order to arrive at these figures.

TfL’s projection in their presentation:

There are a number of sins in the explanatory note (detail below). Here are some of my favourite:

  1. Citing a figure from the Department for Transport’s guidelines, but actually using a different figure.
  2. Extrapolating about what will happen at Blackfriars based on a survey about travel in the whole of London – when we have exact figures at Blackfriars going back to 1986.
  3. Using a dataset from JMP consultancy, rather than TfL’s own screenline counts, where the consultancy’s figures lend more support to TfL’s argument.
  4. Despite cycling increasing every year at Blackfriars since 1994, assuming that there will be no increase between 2010 and 2012.
  5. Similarly, despite people driving cars decreasing every year since 1996, assuming that this will not change between 2010 and 2012.

A projection based on correcting the clear errors in TfL’s methodology:

Pedestrians, cyclists and bus passengers increase. Car occupants decrease. Cyclists far outnumber car occupants.

Without pedestrians, this is what this looks like:

Cyclists 23%, car occupants 14%

Get the data behind this here.

I outline the errors and idiosyncrasies in TfL’s methodology that I have addressed below. TfL’s comments are in italics and mine are in bold.

Cars and LGVs

In 2007/08 there were 4033 car and LGV occupants.  This is based on JMP’S January 2007 counts and an occupancy rate per vehicle of 1.63. The occupancy value is from ‘Values of Time and Operating Costs’ (April 2009) TAG Unit 3.5.6, Department of Transport.

This is calculated by adding 1400 cars to 850 LGVs and multiplying by a 1.63 occupancy rate. However, the relevant occupancy rate from the DfT TAG figures cited by TfL is not 1.63 – this is the all week average for all cars. The average per km travelled figure between 7-10am for cars is 1.37, and for LGVs is 1.23.

Using the correct figures, the number of occupants is actually 2963.

For 2012 there are assumed to be 3750 [car and LGV] occupants.  This is based on modal share reported for 2007-2009 in Travel in London Report 3, where car and LGV numbers reduced by 7%.

Using the figures from a report about travel in the whole of London is an odd choice when we have exact year-on-year figures about car and LGV rates at Blackfriars back to 1986.

When we look at those figures, we see that cars have reduced by 7% over the last 2 years – so a reduction of 7% by 2012 would mean that they stayed constant between 2010 and 2012. This seems unlikely, given that car usage has decreased in every period since 1994. 7% is the smallest post-congestion charge 2 year reduction, so it seems conservative to use that for the change between 2010 and 2012.

LGVs increased 6% in the last 2 years, and stayed constant in the 2 years before that – so let’s assume a 3% increase next year.

HGVs

In 2007/08 there were 259 HGV occupants.  This is based on JMP’S January 2007 counts and an occupancy rate per vehicle of 1.

Again an interesting choice of dataset – using the figures from a consultancy rather than TfL’s own screenline counts in the same year which show only 67 HGVs during rush hour.

There is nothing wrong with having two datasets, but it seems reasonable to use an average of the two for a total of 163 HGVs.

Cyclists

In 2007/08 there were 1173 cyclists.  This is based on JMP’S January 2007 cycle counts which have been uplifted by 17% to reflect seasonal differences in cycle numbers.

Once again this is lower than TfL’s own screenline data (1288 cyclists) but it’s not too different so let’s accept it.

In 2012 there are assumed to be 1666 cyclists.  Cycling numbers uplifted by 42%, based on modal share changes reported 2007-2009 in Travel in London Report 3.

Except once again TfL use a report for the whole of London when we have hourly data for this particular bridge for the last 25 years.

Cycling increased 40% between 2008 and 2010, so TfL are saying that it will not increase at all between 2010 and 2012 which seems highly unlikely. In four year period of 2006-2010, cycling over Blackfriars increased 100%. So once again let’s go for a reasonably conservative estimated 2008-2012 increase and say 65%.

Taxi Occupants

In 2007/08 there were 2254 occupants.  This is based on JMP’S January 2007 traffic counts and an occupancy rate of 1.8 based on TfL Strategy Guidelines.

Which guidelines? We know that 1/3rd of taxis in the City are empty between 7am and 10am. So this claim means that the average occupied taxi has 2.7 passengers. A figure this high demonstrates what we already suspected: that TfL are including the driver as an occupant.

This is simply incorrect. 1000 empty taxis add nothing – in fact it’s worse than that. Indeed some might argue you should count taxis with just the driver in as worth less than 0. But let’s not, and just subtract the driver for a figure of 0.8 people per taxi.

Pedestrians, bus passengers and motorcyclists

There aren’t enough other sources of data for pedestrians or bus passengers, so we have to accept those estimates. Motorcyclists seems about right.

I am astonished that Transport for London seem to be able to get away with this. Are they accountable to anyone? This is what I’ll be asking on Wednesday, 5.45pm at Blackfriars.

Blackfriars: Don’t let Boris Johnson’s TfL send cycling back to 2006

October 5, 2011

In the recent discussions about the proposed 80mph motorway speed limit, I was reminded on twitter of an article by Jeremy Clarkson, where he says,

“People go with the flow. We drive as fast as traffic conditions allow. We use public transport when it’s better than taking the car. We use an umbrella when it’s raining and wear a jumper when it’s chilly.”

Clarkson is right. I love driving – but I always cycle or use public transport to commute in London. It makes sense.

Expanding on Clarkson’s point (words I don’t write often) is that as well as people shifting between modes of transport, they also shift routes within those modes, according to what makes sense at the time.

This effect seems to be present if we look at cycling levels at Blackfriars Bridge over the last 10 years – and it shows just how harmful TfL’s changes will be if they go ahead.

Blackfriars in 2004 (image from LCC City of London)

The magnet effect

Blackfriars Bridge has seen a greater than threefold rise in cycle commuters since 2000. But this increase has not been constant.

Prior to 2006, cycling over Blackfriars changed at around the same rate that cycling increased overall on London’s main roads. Since 2006 the number of cyclists over Blackfriars has more than doubled – far outpacing the overall cycling rise.

Increase in rush hour cycling over Blackfriars compared with increase over London's main roads: since 2006, the popularity of Blackfriars has skyrocketed.

What is interesting is that we have not seen the same increase in cycling on the bridges which neighbour Blackfriars: Waterloo to the west and Southwark to the east.

In fact, rush hour cycling on both those bridges between 2006 and 2010 actually decreased – although cycling in London increased by around a third.

Cycling rates over three bridges, 7-10am northbound, 2000-2010. 100 = average in 2000 over all Central London bridges.

Why did commuters old and new (the total number of people crossing all three bridges still increased) suddenly choose Blackfriars over the other bridges?

I may be misinformed, but I don’t believe London’s office space all moved between 2006 and 2010.

What did change was the deaths of two cyclists in 2004 over Blackfriars Bridge. Transport for London resurfaced the road, adding a wide cycle lane.

Blackfriars post 2006 – resurfaced after the deaths of two cyclists with a wide, mandatory cycle lane, no longer between two lanes of traffic.

This wasn’t perfect – the northbound junction was still a problem – but a wide clear space, largely separate from the bus lane, suddenly made this route cyclable again, at least relative to the neighbouring bridges.

The lane won the London Cycle Campaign’s award for best cycle facility of the year in 2006.

The increase in cyclists supports the argument that cycle bloggers have been making for a long time: what really bikes on streets is not marketing (competition in public services has not yet led to each bridge advertising its individual benefits to prospective consumers) – it’s feeling safe.

Going backwards

Jenny Jones, the Green Party London Assembly Member said last week that London’s cycle revolution is losing momentum.

At Blackfriars, TfL’s plans to narrow the northern cycle lane, remove the advanced stop box and addition of an extra traffic lane, are all clear signs that we’re now moving backwards.

I don’t want cycling to return to 2006 levels at Blackfriars – or at Elephant and Castle, Finchley, Richmond, Vauxhall or anywhere else that Boris Johnson’s TfL is making regressive changes to London’s streets.

That’s why I’ll be at Blackfriars on Wednesday October 12th at 5.45pm, for a flashride to show the Mayor which direction London needs to be moving. See you there.

Get the data.

Transport for London’s lack of transparency: just one example

September 28, 2011

As the protests at Blackfriars continue, it is worth looking at the issues which made this bridge the battleground for variety of campaigners around cycling, air pollution and reclaiming streets for people.

IMG_8645

A Blackfriars Bridge protest: Image from ibikelondon

A key part of the reason that Blackfriars became so heated so quickly was the announcement in February that TfL would not consult at all on their proposed plans for Blackfriars – except regarding one right hand turn, and only for five days (including a weekend).

Such manifestly unreasonable actions led to many Londoners writing to their Assembly Member, and ultimately Val Shawcross was able to reveal that TfL would be consulting on plans for the entire bridge.

But there are plenty of cases where TfL refuses to be transparent and is able to get away with it. Here is just one of those.

‘Pedal confusion’

I am aware of two recent incidents where someone has been killed by a London bus driver who has subsequently claimed in their defence that they accidentally pressed the accelerator rather than the brake.

  1. July 2011 – a bus driver who claimed his sciatica caused him to press the wrong pedal on Oxford Street, killing 25 year old Jayne Helliwell, had the case against him dropped after the CPS decided to offer no evidence.
  2. August 2011 – the South London Press reported that the driver of the bus who claimed she accidentally pressed the wrong pedal, crushing 65 year old civil servant Newell Lewis to death against some railings, was given a 12-month suspended sentence and 150 hours of unpaid work.

To their credit, Transport for London seem to be doing something about this.

The minutes of their Health, Safety, Environment and Assurance Committee in August say:

A study commissioned by London Buses looking into ‘pedal confusion’ (where the wrong pedal is pressed accidentally resulting in unintended acceleration) among bus drivers was concluded. The recommendations will be shared with bus manufacturers. Bus operators have agreed to incorporate key lessons into their training and bus driver awareness materials. (p10)

I emailed Transport for London on August 5th, to request a copy of this study under the Freedom of Information Act.

Transparent as a rock

These are the events that have occurred since then:

Date Action
5th August I request a copy of the pedal confusion study under the FOI Act.
23rd August I receive an email from TfL informing me that this Freedom of Information request (amongst others) is being refused as they consider that I have put in too many similar requests in a 60 day period.
TfL agree that they will consider some other requests under the Environmental Information Regulations – which are broadly similar to FOI for information relating to the environment, but have no cost limit.
26th September I ask my London Assembly Member, Val Shawcross, to request a copy of the study at Mayor’s Question Time. She kindly agrees to do so.
1st September TfL say they will not accept the Pedal Confusion study under an Environmental Information Regulations request, despite the fact that information on buses, the built up environment and human health & safety is covered by the conditions set out in the Information Commissioner’s guidelines.
14th September Mayor’s question time rolls around, and Val Shawcross requests a copy of the pedal confusion study from Boris Johnson.

The answer from Boris Johnson  was:

Officers are drafting a response which will be sent shortly.

Apart from delaying in the hope that Val Shawcross, Ken Livingstone’s running mate, might have better things to do than chase up an answer, such a response also takes the issue out of the public domain.

People who are not Val Shawcross (and this includes me) will have no idea if or when TfL officers have drawn up a response, or what it might contain.

Routine

The above behaviour is not so scandalous that it alone warrants anything more than slight irritation.

But it is just one, mundane example of TfL’s everyday obstinacy, which shows the divergence between their attitude and the public’s.

That TfL has commissioned the pedal confusion study is commendable: but that it won’t release it demonstrates its deeply held view that the public ought to sit back and let their city be run by the professionals.

I’m sick of it here, at Blackfriars, with the Cycle Superhighways budget, the Cable Car, and innumerable other places.

Until Transport for London is prepared to listen to Londoners, I suspect we will see a lot more people protesting at Blackfriars Bridge.

London is broken: why people keep taking to the streets at Blackfriars

September 20, 2011

Running the roads is an enormously expensive business. TfL’s Surface Transport division’s expenditure is forecast at £2.6bn this year.

Let’s put this in perspective for a second – this is twice the figure lost by rogue trader Kweku Aduboli, which last week plunged global investment bank UBS into a quarterly net loss.

While much of the press bemoaned last week’s fares rises in articles which might as well have been written by Ken Livingstone’s campaign team, Dave Hill deftly pointed out the actual issue: Transport for London needs cash.

Hill argues that this money should instead come from higher road pricing for car users – which there is plenty of evidence for. But let’s take a step back.

Where does all the money go?

Transport for London give the public some idea what happens to this money through Finance and Policy Committee meetings.

But how useful is this? Thursday’s meeting, for example, revealed that TfL had revised the estimated final cost of the Cycle Superhighways down from £145m to £105m.

Did someone tell them cyclists like downward inclines?

Why isn’t this news? Basically: because no one really knows what it means.

Can Transport for London really have just reduced the budget by £40m without bothering to consult beforehand, or tell anyone afterwards?  It looks like it – but astonishingly for a public body, they don’t have to say.

Open up TfL

Here’s the rub. Does the Mayor really have to choose between two politically horrible options to come up with capital, raising fares or charging car users – where the decision of a leader largely elected by the outer boroughs is preordained?

That depends if the roads really require the level of government subsidy that they currently receive.

Climate Rush, an organisation who protest primarily about climate change, are on Thursday holding a protest at Blackfriars where their first demand is “an open and democratic Transport for London”.

They cite when TfL ignored the London Assembly’s unanimous vote about Blackfriars Bridge as their watershed moment – but there are plenty more.

Why has Transport for London this month suddenly said it has to splash out an unbudgeted £60 million at Hammersmith Flyover to “address recently identified structural defects”?

Vanity project? Same budget as Boris’s Cable Car

Might such maintenance be required because of the high volumes of wear caused by motor traffic? Is it right that £60m of public funds is being used to restore the very conditions that doom us to perpetually pouring more money into a congested, destructive streetscape?

Why does London keep taking to the streets?

Londoners are not happy with the political choices that are being made on our streets – choices being made with our money.

Thursday will be the third mass protest against TfL at Blackfriars Bridge alone in the last four months – and I suspect that there will be more.

Transport for London are not accountable to the public, nor to our elected representatives, the London Assembly. Nor our MPs, nor our local councillors, nor anyone else we ever get to vote for – with one exception.

TfL are only accountable to the Mayor – and so, for those concerned with transport, protests sizable enough to make Boris take notice are the only form of political engagement left.

The Climate Rush protest is on Thursday September 22nd, meeting at 8am on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge.

Why have TfL cut £40m from the Cycle Superhighways budget?

September 16, 2011

To see the May 2011 budget where the estimated final cost of the final tranche of Cycle Superhighways is £142m, click here (p13). To see the September 2011 budget where the final cost is £106m, click here (p11).

The budget allocation in September 2010 was £145m.

What is going on at TfL?

Transport for London have this quarter decided to embark on a £5m project to “commence investigation” of rebuilding the A4 Hammersmith Flyover, minutes from Thursday’s Finance and Policy meeting reveal. This project was not in the March 2011 Business Plan, and no money has been set aside for it.

TfL estimate the final cost of this project will be £60m. They have so far found £100k from the funding stream for maintaining the road network. The remaining £59,900,000 “is unbudgeted and the funding sources are being explored”.

IMG_1024

Cycle Superhighway 7: Do we need to spend less money on these?

Transport for London have also managed to award over-budget funding to a number of projects in the last quarter.

This includes the controversial Henley’s Corner scheme, which has ballooned in projected cost from £8m to £9m in the last three months.

Under budget

Impressively, despite all this, we are informed in the Q1 Operational and Financial Report that for this quarter TfL have actually come in under budget. How have they achieved this feat?

This is due to re-phasing of expenditure on Cycle Hire, Countdown II, Cycle Superhighways and Better Routes and Places schemes. (p11)

For those not steeped in TfL vernacular, Better Routes and Places is the current name for the directorate which funds the Biking Boroughs, cycling and walking Greenways and various walking events and streetscape improvements.

Steep drop

Just to confirm for anyone who is unsure about these numbers – and that included me because I couldn’t quite believe the amount of  money disappearing here – this really is happening and it’s reflected in a number of Transport for London’s documents.

In the Project Approvals list of May 2011, the Estimated Final Cost of the Tranche 2 Cycle Superhighway Routes was £142.4m. Now it is £105.7m.

What next? These are both down from the initially approved cost of £145m

The September 2011 Investment Programme Report final cost for the ten Cycle Superhighways as £105.7m (p41), down from September 2010 figure of £145m (p43).

Re-phasing

These projects need the money that they have been allocated. In May 2011, the project to build the first two Cycle Superhighways was closed after spending £22.4m out of the £23m they had been given project authority for. A cut of similar proportions would have left Londoners with a £6m shortfall.

I am flabbergasted that TfL have almost silently made such deep cut, burying it in the driest of committee minutes, released on a Friday.

Cycle Superhighways are one of the Mayor’s flagship projects. I confess, I do not know how TfL expect to be able to deliver them with £40m less to spend. I wonder whether Boris does.

Blackfriars Bridge: what we can learn from radical feminism

September 6, 2011

A constant barrier faced by people arguing for change in conditions is the claim that the presence of those conditions is, in itself, evidence that the groups involved are in favour of their existence.

Perhaps my favourite, slightly pretentious example of this is the 17th Century political philosopher John Locke. One of the founders of liberalism, a staunch advocate of the social contract and fierce opponent of the arbitrary rule of monarchy, when discussing the role of women he has a pretty serious wobble:

She should be subject to her husband, as we see that generally the Laws of mankind and customs of nations leave ordered it so: and there is, I grant, a foundation in nature for it.

Locke is unable to overcome the conviction that women ought to be subjugated by men. His only justification for this being “natural” is that this is the behaviour that he has observed.

This continues into modern political debate. Attempts to strike a balance between economic productivity and the need for childcare are concluded with statements from media and policy outlets like:

Pay mothers to stay at home.

Why? This presumption that state should legislate in a gendered fashion based on the historical behaviour of one sex is underpinned by the assumption that actions in the past have been choices.

This view – that the actions of women are an approximate indicator of social vocation – is perhaps most succinctly rejected by Catherine MacKinnon:

Take your foot off our necks, then we will hear in what tongue women speak.

Blackfriars Bridge

In Transport for London’s presentation to the London Assembly about Blackfriars Bridge, published last week, they similarly use the argument that a situation currently exists as evidence that it ought to exist – even though what we see at Blackfriars has quite clearly been artificially created by the very body who refuses to change it, Transport for London.

The Assembly were presented with this pie chart as part of the justification for making cycling conditions worse (p3):

These figures are highly suspect – we know that actually, there are more bicycles than any other vehicle over Blackfriars Bridge into the City during the AM peak.

Note how in the above graph, TfL lump together car and LGV occupants to make that section larger than cyclists (both would otherwise be smaller).

They also assume inordinately high vehicle occupancy rates – on average more than 3 people per occupied taxi – leading to the ridiculous conclusion that more people commute over Blackfriars Bridge by taxi than by bike.

But none of this matters. Even if TfL’s data was correct: so what?

Are we to assume that a relatively low percentage of cyclists over Blackfriars Bridge is an argument for worsening conditions over the bridge?

The demand is there

Transport for London can perpetually produce presentations and press releases of modal share stats, layout drawings and planners’ projections of junctions where they squeeze cycle lanes and remove pedestrian crossings.

But they cannot keep trying to use the fact that people are not cycling in London as an excuse for making London’s roads more hostile to cyclists.

There is a demand for cycling in London on traffic-free routes. On Sunday, 55,000 people on London’s streets showed us that.

And yet TfL in Blackfriars and elsewhere are not just refusing to make streets better – they are actively making them worse. The reason that there aren’t more cyclists on the streets is because of how those streets are being designed.

An executive decision

This is not about TfL and the figures they plug into which modelling software – if the Mayor and TfL can persuade us that it is, then we will never have conditions for cycling in London that would get the tens of thousands of Sky Ride participants on London’s streets any other day of the year.

Sky Ride

Our streets for a day

This is a political situation where people do not have the freedom to use their streets in the way that they would like to. The way out is through a decision that the Mayor has to make.

Image problem

This is an irritating issue for Boris Johnson and TfL because they are aware that Blackfriars has the ability to undo the good work of the Sky Rides: the persistent focus on the day-to-day reality of cycling can harm both Boris and TfL.

Catherine MacKinnon argued that practices of inequality do not require that acts be intentionally discriminatory, “all that is required is that the status quo be maintained”.

Boris can opt to do this – keep building streets the way that they have been built, keep designing people out of London’s cities, keep telling us that this is “not atypical” of London. Or he can choose not to.

But as more people start to notice, and write about it and take to the streets, Boris will find it harder and harder to convince Londoners that he’s in favour of cycling, while continuing to design it out of the city he runs.

Lane rental will “deter walking”, admits Transport for London

August 31, 2011

Documents detailing Transport for London’s proposed Lane Rental scheme reveal that we can expect to see a lot more of this:

Image from Construction Photography

The scheme charges works companies to dig up the road in the most congested areas, at the busiest times. You can read some details of the national consultation in my blog here.

The technical is the political

What is perhaps more interesting is that it once again shows how, under Boris Johnson, TfL pays lip service to the idea that people might matter when they’re not driving (or being driven), yet does nothing about it. They tell us in their consultation document that lane rental will apply,

at the most critical parts of an authority’s street network in terms of high traffic flows (whether the traffic is vehicular or pedestrian). (p5)

A promising prospect.

However, if we dig down into the more detailed cost-benefit analysis, we are informed that calculating where Lane Rental should apply uses a number of metrics for measuring vehicle flows, delays and value per vehicle (pp13-15).

None of this has anything to do with the people who use the roads who are not in motor vehicles.

We are then subject to another 40 pages of fascinating analysis of motor vehicle flows (the graphs are pretty), before being told:

The London Lane Rental scheme would not impose any charge on works occupying the pavement only. (p50)

Image from HU17

Seems rather likely to encourage works providers to move works from the road to the pavement, doesn’t it?

Costs and benefits

One of the wonderful things about TfL is that they are a public body and, while perhaps they are the moment suffering from a crisis of political leadership, there are a large number of very sensible people who work for them.

The cost-benefit analysis does, therefore, actually include some costs:

On walking (p50):

It is unavoidable that the occupation of the pavements will increase as a result of the lane rental scheme, during peak times, for the parking of vehicles and the storage of materials.

As a consequence, there is a high probability for the lane rental to deter walking along the congestion management areas.

On cycling (p50):

One could note the risk that lane rental would allow an increased volume of traffic to flow on the TfL Road Network, travelling at higher speeds, reducing the safety and attractiveness of cycling.

On emissions (p48). Lane rental will:

induce additional traffic to an extent… which may have a detrimental impact on climate change.

Streets for who?

This push for more, faster motor traffic – at the expense of people who walk, cycle and just be in London – comes straight from the top.

Back Boris, the mayor’s website to push for re-election in 2012, has told us that lane rental will lead to works being carried out “more quickly”

But in fact, TfL’s own document says that for works “will have a longer lasting effect on pavements”, as contractors will have to clear the carriageway at times deemed traffic sensitive (p50).

The same press release also tells us that works will be “at less disruptive times of day”. But pushing works from the traffic-heavy day time to nights is also disruptive – just to people who live, walk and go out near the areas, rather than people sitting in traffic.

TfL’s own document estimates that lane rental could lead to “2 million nights of sleep deprivation per year” (p49). Shifting the negative effects of roadworks away from people in traffic jams is a political decision.

Driven to action

All of this demonstrates just how much of London Boris Johnson is prepared to sacrifice to attain re-election, by pandering to the cohort of Outer London car owners.

But attitudes are beginning to change, Boris. This Saturday the Cycling Embassy will launch in London, a national campaign which aims to bring about mass cycling in the UK.

And on September 22nd, Climate Rush will take a protest to the now totemic Blackfriars Bridge to object specifically to TfL’s car obsession.

As Climate Rush points out,

Our clogged up streets can’t carry this capacity any more.

The city is changing. Can the Mayor?

Freedom of Information: TfL gets nasty

August 24, 2011

Last week, I used the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to reveal that Boris Johnson had misinformed the London Assembly about the advice he had received from traffic planners.

The information was somewhat embarrassing, not just for Boris but also for senior Transport for London figures named in internal documents, such as Ben Plowden and Daniel Moylan.

I have now received an email informing me that TfL will not be providing me with any of the information on the various outstanding requests that I currently have.

This is surprising, as I have successfully received regular FOI responses from TfL since I started this blog.

Are they allowed to do this?

TfL’s legal team are now claiming that they are not obliged to provide me with any information if costs more than £450 in total to respond to the requests that I have submitted.

This is not actually what the legislation says. Costs of individual requests may only be aggregated if,

the two or more requests relate, to any extent, to the same or similar information.

What requests are they refusing?

The claim that my outstanding requests relate to the same or similar information seems far-fetched. I am currently waiting to hear back about a number of different things, including:

  • Transport for London’s usage of “grey fleet” and “support fleet” cars in London’s streets.
  • Pedestrian Countdown Equality Impact Assessments
  • A ‘Pedal Confusion Study’ commissioned by London Buses
  • Information on a project entitled ‘21st century traffic signals’
  • Details of the disbanding of TfL’s Cycling Centre of Excellence
  • The Vauxhall, Nine Elms & Battersea Planning Framework

These are “similar”, I suppose, to the extent that they all refer to TfL’s operations. But essentially any FOI requests made to TfL, or any public body, will have to refer to the activities that they carry out – this can’t be the test of whether information requested is similar.

I have emailed TfL asking them how they have arrived at the conclusion that the above requests constitute “the same or similar” information and will publish their response.

Why now?

Since starting this blog, I have put in a lot of FOI requests to TfL, allowing me to post in detail a range of topics such as freight regulations, the street design process and Pedestrian Countdown.

I don’t know why TfL have suddenly decided, a week after I exposed through FOI that claims made by Boris Johnson were not accurate, that they are not going to respond to my outstanding requests.

Accountability

At the end of the day, the reasons do not really matter. This is about democratic accountability. As the Information Commissioner’s Office informs us, the public have the right to request any information held by public authorities.

That Transport for London is refusing to reveal information about the above topics, on frankly the most spurious of pretexts, leaves me wondering just one thing:

What is Transport for London trying to hide?

Click here to read the full text of TfL’s email to me.

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