Last week, the London Assembly passed a unanimous motion against Transport for London’s controversial Blackfriars Bridge plans, which marginalise pedestrians and cyclists in an attempt to cram more motor traffic through the heaving junction.
Conservative Andrew Boff called the plans “too dangerous” and Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon demanded that the Mayor “use the facts”.
The Green Party’s Jenny Jones, who submitted the motion, said it was time for a “fresh think” about Blackfriars Bridge.
The motion, passed with support from all parties, called on Mayor Boris Johnson to “revisit” the plans for the bridge, particularly due to the dangerous junction designs at either end.
Transport for London’s strategy for dealing with scrutiny seems to be to rush things through and hope no one notices.
In 2004, after cyclist Vicki McCreery was killed by a bus on Blackfriars Bridge, they scrapped the cycle lane overnight.
Faced with allowing the Mayor time to asses their plans at Blackfriars, TfL announced on Monday that they will begin work on the junction this Friday – and will work through the night to finish by 5am the following Monday.
The London Assembly may be our democratically elected representatives – but they have no direct power over TfL, whose strategic direction comes from the Mayor.
What are the facts?
Here are some facts to which Lib Dem AM Caroline Pidegon may have been refering:
- Transport for London are proposing to add a new traffic lane at the north of end of the bridge, remove a pedestrian crossing and increase the speed limit.
- Cyclists make up the enormous majority of traffic over the bridge during peak times, and the number of cyclists is still going up while cars are in decline.
Has Boris lost it?
The Mayor of London has responsibility for appointing three functional bodies:
- Metropolitan Police Authority
- Transport for London Board
- London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority
On his third Police Commissioner in as many years, Boris is facing criticism from all directions about his direction of the Met.
Police first: transport next?
The stain of the Met’s activities already has the public suspicious that Boris is either incompetent or iniquitous.
Blackfriars is just the latest in a string of events at Transport for London which suggest that they Mayor can’t quite grasp this brief, either. TfL are currently blocking plans for regeneration at Elephant and Castle because it would “interfere with traffic flow too greatly”. They are also systemically taking time away from pedestrians at London’s busiest crossings, including at Holborn and Oxford Circus.
This latest Blackfriars blunder comes straight off the back of the news that, despite claiming poverty to justify hiking fares last year, TfL’s budget shows a £1.3 billion underspend.
Crisis of control
The private motor car is simply not the way that most people get around Central London. The position of Londoners at Blackfriars is clear. Far more people will use the bridge each day as pedestrians and cyclists than they will as drivers.
All London’s political parties, including Boris’s own Conservatives, understand this. They have all explicitly stated they are against TfL’s proposed Blackfriars redesign.
That TfL is still designing streets for cars and not people makes them look increasingly out of touch and out of control. The question now is: is Boris out of his depth?