One of the key pieces of news I managed not to cover while on holiday is Boris’s massive transport team shake-up. However, this post feels timely as Freewheeler has just written a piece declaring Ken Livingstone an obstacle to mass cycling in London.
Do Boris’s changes make him any more attractive to those of us in favour of well-designed, segregated cycle facilities in London? Kulveer Ranger will finally be going from his post as Director for Transport Strategy, ostensibly “promoted” to the role of Director of Environment. Meanwhile, Isabel Dedring, the current Environment Advisor, is being actually promoted to shiny, newly appointed role of Deputy Mayor for Transport. As some have perhaps cynically noted, “two people can’t change jobs and both have a promotion”. Far be it for this blog to speculate whether the transport or environment brief is a more politically significant issue in London…
The other critical change is that Daniel Moylan, the Conservative Deputy Leader of Kensington & Chelsea Council who currently works 2 days a week as Deputy Chair of TfL’s board, is having his hours doubled.
Well, what does this mean for those of us who would like more people in London to cycle, and more journeys to be made by bike? One might be tempted into thinking that Dedring is a good choice. After all, someone who has held the environment post must at least be aware of some potential benefits of getting more people on bikes.
Having said that, since she took up the role in 2008, London has repeatedly failed to meet EU targets on air quality. A study commissioned by the Mayor’s office estimates that this has “an impact on mortality equivalent to 4,267 deaths in London in 2008”.
What else do we know about Isabel Dedring? Well, she is deeply ensconced she is in TfL culture. Prior to her environment brief she held the role of Director of TfL’s Policy Unit (2003-8) and before that she was Chief of Staff to Bob Kiley, TfL’s Transport Commmissioner.
OK, so simply working for TfL is not necessarily enough to incriminate someone. Let’s have a look at some of her policy work. In 2006, she was responsible for an illuminating document entitled Tackling Climate Change: How London’s Transport Sector Can Help (pdf) (section 4, pp8-35).
The document is a bit of a mixed bag, although overall far from impressive. On the one hand:
- The document notes that private motor vehicles are responsible for half (49%) of emissions in London (p31) and that this must be reduced.
- It is argued that “behavioural change measures are critical”. This is half the battle.
On the other, there are some negatives.
- Some of the claims seem to be deliberately misleading. It is repeatedly said that, “adding in London’s aviation emissions triples London’s total transport emissions.” (e.g. p8, p9, p24). This may be true, but the relevant measure for TfL is not London’s total emissions – no one holds them responsible for aviation emissions. The Mayor of London and TfL are repeatedly lambasted by the EU for failing to hit targets which will reduce the number of PM10 particles in the air. In 2006, when this document was published, road transport was responsible for 20% of these emissions. Air transport’s share was 0.07%. (Source). I find this kind of statistical sleight-of-hand highly irritating.
- On the point of behavioural changes, they simply do not go far enough. On page 9 the “opportunities to reduce emissions by mode” are listed for cars. What is listed is congestion charging, driver education, use of biofuels, hybrid vehicles and lighter vehicles. The document points out, “a Vauxhall Corsa emits 1/3 the CO2 of a Range Rover”. This is all well and good – but it’s the infrastructure, stupid. Any mention of this is notably absent.
Ok, so Dedring accepts that there are some problems, even if her solutions aren’t quite up to scratch. But perhaps trusty Deputy Chair Daniel Moylan’s increased hours will allow him to whisper words of wisdom in her ear?
Sadly, and somewhat surprisingly for someone in his position, when it comes to Surface Transport Mr Moylan only seems to have one policy idea: Shared space.
In 2007, Mr Moylan wrote an article for The Guardian extolling the virtues of such an approach. In it, he says, “Coercive measures like 20mph limits are the wrong approach to road safety.”
It’s odd, but that’s the exact opposite of what the data from TfL’s own London Road Safety Unit data demonstrates. There is a strong positive correlation between lower speed limits and a reduction in deaths and serious injuries, particularly of vulnerable road users.
In any case, there are already examples of Shared Space in London. And look how well they work.
So, the depressing conclusion? Boris’s new clique might look greener, but peel back the foliage and find the familiar, regressive roots of the old set.