The deadline for responses to Transport for London’s consultation Draft Network Operating Strategy is Friday. This is the document which sets out London Streets’ overall approach to the management and operation of the road network in London… as well as providing a framework through which to prioritise capital investment and ‘business as usual’ operational expenditure decision-making across the road network.
At the moment the strategy is all about cars, vans and HGVs, so it really is important that we get as many responses as possible from people interested in making London’s streets cleaner, more sustainable, more pleasant and less dangerous.
I just realised that I hadn’t actually sent a response yet, so have just bashed out some of my main objections. This is what I’ve written – feel free to use it/expand on it/dismiss it as communism:
1. Smoothing Traffic Flow
Response to: Measuring the performance of the road network (pages 14-24)
The majority of people on London’s streets – myself included – are not usually in cars, vans or HGVs. They are pedestrians, people on buses and people on bikes.
And yet “journey time reliability” is your “key indicator” for measuring the success of the road network. Which:
a) Only measures the journey times of cars and goods vehicles – not people on buses, pedestrians or cyclists.
b) Ignores other factors are important such as air quality, road danger reduction, and how pleasant streets are as places.
It has been pointed out to me that the strategy is able to focus on motor vehicles by systemically undercounting pedestrians in your Foreward. You talk about “journey stages” for cars, motorcycle and bus users but “trips” of pedestrians. As you know, this means anyone walking to a train station or bus stop will not be counted as a pedestrian but as a bus/train user. If you were to include all these people, pedestrian numbers alone would vastly eclipse the number of motor vehicles. The strategy needs to reflect this.
2. Repressing walking
Response to: Maximising the efficient and reliable operation of the road network (pages 25 – 37)
In this section, pedestrians are viewed mainly as a traffic hindrance. We see this in:
a) SCOOT – the system to electronically optimise traffic signal timings – does not even measure its effect on pedestrians. London Assembly Members have noted this is inadequate in their report, The Future of Road Congestion in London (p9).
b) Signal timing reviews which are designed to improve road traffic journey times with “no dis-benefit” to pedestrians. TfL should actively encourage people to be pedestrians – this is the only way to manage London’s congestion and air quality issues.
c) Pedestrian Countdown takes time away from pedestrians at some of the busiest crossings in London, like Oxford Circus and Kingsway. TRL’s research shows that pedestrian walking speeds increase, particularly in the over 60s. Additionally, while evidence on conflicts is not conclusive, it suggests that they increase.
c) Signal removals naturally need to be decided on a case-by-case basis, but the city-wide implementation is underpinned by the principle that the way forward is to remove restrictions on drivers. This will simply increase the number of drivers.
It concerns me that you are aware these measures will increase car usage and are still in favour of them. Indeed on page 32 you use a 12% increase in traffic at an Ealing junction as evidence that signal removals are a success. This is perverse. If TfL are serious about achieving a modal shift towards sustainable transport (as you claim to be in this document), you need to be making driving less attractive relative to cycling, walking and public transport (which usually includes walking). The measures in this chapter will achieve the converse.
3. Motorcycles in bus lanes
I sincerely hope that now that LB Ealing have banned motorcycles from bus lanes, following an increase in collisions during the pilot, that TfL will follow suit.
Personally, as a driver I find being undertaken at speed by motorcycles quite disconcerting, and when on my bicycle I find being overtaken with inches to spare quite chilling. The latter is particularly important. At TfL you say you want more people cycling: the more frightening you make the experience, the fewer people will do it.
This point is so important and this response is so very dry that I’m even boring myself slightly, so I’ll do you a graph.
I don’t mean to insult you with this analysis but I am honestly in awe of the cognitive shift required to claim in a single document that you promote cycling, and also that you are rolling out a scheme which will make it more terrifying.
I think cyclists talk about fear in a general sense but perhaps not personally – potentially an effect of the dominance of the macho 25-44 year old male commuter cyclist. So let me make this clear: measures like this are scary and make me want to not cycle in London anymore.
4. Managing demand and achieving modal shift
I appreciate the fact that this chapter is in here, but am extremely disappointed with the contents. You say that it is not in the scope of the Operating Strategy to focus on “strategic measures” for increasing cycling and walking, as you will be focusing on “more locally targeted measures”.
a) This is inconsistent with the rest of the document – even the examples I have mentioned in this response are enough to demonstrate this. Also, neglecting strategic measures seems bizarre for a strategy.
b) You do not actually go on to recommend a single measure (local, strategic or otherwise) which aims to increase cycling or walking. The rest of the chapter is just about managing the worst areas of traffic on your road network.
I am also dismayed that you see an increase in motor vehicle traffic volumes and speeds only as positive outcomes (p32 and p17, respectively).
Failure to take cycling and walking seriously
Let me say, there are some good ideas in the strategy – particularly in the managing planned interventions chapter.
On the whole, however, I think the strategy will actually be rather harmful. The following areas are outlined (p10) as being within the remit of TfL’s Network Operating Strategy:
- An increase in walking and cycling – can you honestly point to one measure in here that will do this, or even that aims to do this? I can’t, and I think I’ve listed a few which will discourage people from opting to walk or cycle.
- Reducing road casualties - There’s nothing on this. Everything about collisions is about how to reduce the traffic disruption which arises after a serious incident occurs.
- Improving road user satisfaction for pedestrians and cyclists – I have no idea how you expect to do this if you plan to increase motor traffic volumes and speeds.
It is clear when reading the strategy that you recognise the way to address road traffic problems is through infrastructure (pages 14-37 are entirely about this). But every approach to infrastructure mentioned either ignores cyclists and pedestrians or is actively hostile towards us (including Pedestrian Countdown).
If this strategy is meant to be the framework for prioritising capital investment, you are guaranteeing that pedestrians and cyclists will get none. Please address this in the next draft.
I hope you find this feedback helpful. I would be very grateful if you could confirm receipt of this response, and let me know what the next stage is of this process.