Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.

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.

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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.

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?


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