A framework for marginalising cycling and walking: TfL Network Operating Strategy response

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Many thanks.

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11 Responses to “A framework for marginalising cycling and walking: TfL Network Operating Strategy response”

  1. A framework for marginalising cycling and walking: TfL Network Operating Strategy response « Cycle of Futility « Bicycle Geek Says:

    [...] A framework for marginalising cycling and walking: TfL Network Operating Strategy response « Cycle …. Categories La Vie en Velo!, Politiques en Velo LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  2. Gibby Says:

    Thanks for this post. I like your response and have used it as a base construct for my own (which I won’t reproduce here as it is almost as long as your original post). I hope they listen, but sadly my fingers aren’t crossed

  3. If TfL’s Feats Create Unpleasant Streets, Then That’s More Lame. « The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club Says:

    [...] To all bicycle riding and walking Londoners; please take part in TfL’s Draft Network Operating Strategy Consultation. The deadline is tomorrow. Further details on the excellent Cycle of Futility here. [...]

  4. Tim Says:

    I had a few minutes at lunchtime and did this: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/streets/nos/consultation/my_response?user_id=ANON-PD3W-EH1A-W&key=a6ae790cdbe09f5002658526b94690f857dcc545

    Thanks for the heads-up.

  5. TFL Network Operating Strategy Consultation - Tell Them It's Shit. - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed Says:

    [...] last bump closes tomorrow more ideas for comments here: http://cycleoffutility.wordpress.com…onse/#comments [...]

  6. Just how motor vehicle-centric is Transport for London? | As Easy As Riding A Bike Says:

    [...] Cycle of Futility has plenty of other objections to this document, the consultation for which closes today. Feel free to bombard Transport for London with as many of these as you wish. The email address is here. This entry was posted in Boris Johnson, Car dependence, Transport for London. Bookmark the permalink. ← The delusion of ‘shared space’ as an urban transport panacea LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  7. aseasyasriding Says:

    “Signal timing reviews which are designed to improve road traffic journey times with “no dis-benefit” to pedestrians.”

    Well as far as I can tell, there ARE serious dis-benefits to pedestrians. The only reason TfL think there aren’t is due to the ludicrous way in which they have defined pedestrian delay, namely not as the amount of time they have to wait for an opportunity to cross, but as

    “The number of occasions pedestrians waiting at a ‘red man’ signal clear the kerb during the invitation to cross ‘green man’ phase of the lights”

    As I point out in my post, this means that you could hold pedestrians waiting for an opportunity to cross for half an hour, and as long as all the pedestrians waiting during this half an hour get across during the brief ‘green man’ signal, TfL think they won’t have been delayed at all.

  8. radii8 Says:

    When I click on that link to give feedback on the consulation it says “website under critical maintenance”. Do you have an email address I can email instead. And some information on what I need to be commenting on. Thanks!

  9. Jon Bleeding Parker Says:

    Great work! Really glad you’re pushing this. Apologies if I’m being thick, though, but who do I send the email to?

  10. SteveL (a Bristol Traffic Team Member) Says:

    My reply:

    As a scientist who cycles round London, I feel that your NOS is flawed

    -it underestimates pedestrian traffic. First, by failing to specify any mechanism to measure foot traffic. Second by failing to include the fact that anyone who uses public transport or even parks anywhere other than directly outside their origin and destination walks. That means everyone who doesn’t have private parking or uses taxis is a pedestrian. Therefore your estimates on pedestrian footfall are ridiculous.

    -your focus on “smoothing traffic flow” is unrealistic and an example of what could be called “institutional motorism”. It fails to recognise that you are making implicit choices about what transport options people should be using, and targets the traffic flow of those people who have chosen to drive ahead of all others. Therefore those people who are imposing the highest external costs on the city are the ones you are offering the most benefit to.

    -it fails to address the pollution issues of the city. Motor vehicles are a primary cause of this, and anything that “smooths traffic flow” rather than “places hard limits on the number of polluting vehicles within the inner city” will do nothing to discourage more EU files for urban pollution.

    -while it claims to encourage cycling, your valuing of the time of anyone on a bicycle as a fraction of anybody in a car is again, ridiculous. They, and people on public transport, should have equal value. That said, people in multi-occupancy vehicles do have more value and so the average number of passengers should be taken into account -and those of taxi drivers ignored, as they are only there for the journey. If such equations were used you would soon notice that empty taxis impose nothing but costs on the city: congestion, pollution and opportunity cost of taxi ranks, while people on foot and bicycle are the most valuable people per square metre.

    -Its assessment of risk of routes (such as blackfriars bridge) uses KSI as a success metric for walking/cycling safety, without factoring in the number of people discouraged from taking a specific route by the “improvements”. This is hard to measure, but possible, if the effort is made.

    -The cost of all RTCs also need to be taken into account, both the network costs and the fiscal ones. Although each RTC can be viewed as “an unwelcome event”, if you do more statistical analysis you eventually have to conclude that the events are not independent and happen frequently enough that their cost and traffic flow impact have to be averaged out over the entire year. As a result, any junction that encourages such collisions is not only dangerous -it is expensive.

    Overall, then, it looks like a lukewarm update of the old 1970s inner motorway plans, “motor vehicle throughput” being the primary metric of success.

    I would recommend that you
    -Correct your value model to recognise that someone on foot or bicycle is worth as much as anyone in a car or taxi.
    -Include all walking stages of a journey in your measures of pedestrian traffic.
    -Consider the pollution aspects of your decisions of which traffic options that you explicitly or implicitly encourage
    -Include the network and financial costs of RTCs in the cost/benefit analysis of junctions.
    -Step away from this “smoothing traffic flow” vision and move to one of “a clean and safe city”

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