Archive for the ‘infrastructure’ Category

Blackfriars: Don’t let Boris Johnson’s TfL send cycling back to 2006

October 5, 2011

In the recent discussions about the proposed 80mph motorway speed limit, I was reminded on twitter of an article by Jeremy Clarkson, where he says,

“People go with the flow. We drive as fast as traffic conditions allow. We use public transport when it’s better than taking the car. We use an umbrella when it’s raining and wear a jumper when it’s chilly.”

Clarkson is right. I love driving – but I always cycle or use public transport to commute in London. It makes sense.

Expanding on Clarkson’s point (words I don’t write often) is that as well as people shifting between modes of transport, they also shift routes within those modes, according to what makes sense at the time.

This effect seems to be present if we look at cycling levels at Blackfriars Bridge over the last 10 years – and it shows just how harmful TfL’s changes will be if they go ahead.

Blackfriars in 2004 (image from LCC City of London)

The magnet effect

Blackfriars Bridge has seen a greater than threefold rise in cycle commuters since 2000. But this increase has not been constant.

Prior to 2006, cycling over Blackfriars changed at around the same rate that cycling increased overall on London’s main roads. Since 2006 the number of cyclists over Blackfriars has more than doubled – far outpacing the overall cycling rise.

Increase in rush hour cycling over Blackfriars compared with increase over London's main roads: since 2006, the popularity of Blackfriars has skyrocketed.

What is interesting is that we have not seen the same increase in cycling on the bridges which neighbour Blackfriars: Waterloo to the west and Southwark to the east.

In fact, rush hour cycling on both those bridges between 2006 and 2010 actually decreased – although cycling in London increased by around a third.

Cycling rates over three bridges, 7-10am northbound, 2000-2010. 100 = average in 2000 over all Central London bridges.

Why did commuters old and new (the total number of people crossing all three bridges still increased) suddenly choose Blackfriars over the other bridges?

I may be misinformed, but I don’t believe London’s office space all moved between 2006 and 2010.

What did change was the deaths of two cyclists in 2004 over Blackfriars Bridge. Transport for London resurfaced the road, adding a wide cycle lane.

Blackfriars post 2006 – resurfaced after the deaths of two cyclists with a wide, mandatory cycle lane, no longer between two lanes of traffic.

This wasn’t perfect – the northbound junction was still a problem – but a wide clear space, largely separate from the bus lane, suddenly made this route cyclable again, at least relative to the neighbouring bridges.

The lane won the London Cycle Campaign’s award for best cycle facility of the year in 2006.

The increase in cyclists supports the argument that cycle bloggers have been making for a long time: what really bikes on streets is not marketing (competition in public services has not yet led to each bridge advertising its individual benefits to prospective consumers) – it’s feeling safe.

Going backwards

Jenny Jones, the Green Party London Assembly Member said last week that London’s cycle revolution is losing momentum.

At Blackfriars, TfL’s plans to narrow the northern cycle lane, remove the advanced stop box and addition of an extra traffic lane, are all clear signs that we’re now moving backwards.

I don’t want cycling to return to 2006 levels at Blackfriars – or at Elephant and Castle, Finchley, Richmond, Vauxhall or anywhere else that Boris Johnson’s TfL is making regressive changes to London’s streets.

That’s why I’ll be at Blackfriars on Wednesday October 12th at 5.45pm, for a flashride to show the Mayor which direction London needs to be moving. See you there.

Get the data.

What’s wrong with lane rental: it counts vehicles not people

August 22, 2011

The Department for Transport have today launched a 12-week consultation on a proposed “lane rental” scheme, where utilities companies would charged for digging up the road.

Transport for London will tomorrow begin their consultation on whether we should have this in London.

New design

When lane rental was piloted in Camden and Middlesborough in 2002-04, it was concluded that it had little effect on the amount of time companies spent digging up the roads. 

The scheme currently being proposed by the government is quite different to the previous one. The 2004 pilot applied one charge to all streets at all times. The scheme the government are currently proposing will only charge at times which cause the most disruption.

This, we are told, will provide an incentive for companies to carry out works at less inconvenient times.

Inconvenient for who?

This all sounds somewhat sensible. But where will this actually apply?

The streets where evidence shows that works in the highway cause the highest levels of disruption and thus require the greatest efforts to smooth traffic flow.

DfT Guidance to Local Authorities, p8.

This is a phrase straight out of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and demonstrates the extent to which TfL have influenced (or written) the national policy here. A google search for “smoothing traffic flow” on TfL’s website produces over 20,000 results:

On the Department for Transport website, three results.

What will lane rental look like?

The DfT guidance tells that “the detailed design of lane rental schemes is best determined at a local level”.

Fortunately for us, TfL have done exactly this. They have produced a map of the “most congested” areas in London.

TfL Network Operating Strategy p46

These Congestion Management Areas are where lane rental will apply – as explained to the Surface Transport Panel in May 2011.

And how is this measured? By counting delays on roads, to motor traffic. Doesn’t include pedestrians. Doesn’t include people on bicycles.

This means that – despite the fact that Blackfriars Bridge is actually a designated Congestion Management Area – the following will still be acceptable:

There are more bikes here than any other vehicle at rush hour - yet delays to bikes aren't counted by the TfL methodology (image from Cyclists in the City)

Closing a footpath rather than a “lane” will be encouraged under lane rental:

Year long works at Henley's Corner

If Transport for London want to prevent delay and disruption to journey times, great.

But once again they continue to define “disruption” and “delay” as only counting when it affects people in motor vehicles. This simply creates an incentive for people to use cars over other forms of transport – which apart from anything else will actually cause more delays.

The fact that TfL has managed to influence the national policy here is all the more concerning.

Blackfriars: Critical Mass 6pm Friday

July 27, 2011

Transport for London have announced that they are gong to ignore the unanimous vote of the democratically elected London Assembly demanding a review of Blackfriars, and start building overnight from Friday.

Cyclists in the City is calling for Critical Mass to loop on Blackfriars this Friday. The London Cycle Campaign has also said that Critical Mass is the vehicle for cyclists to make themselves heard.

No one really needs any more persuading that what TfL is doing is regressive, but I felt compelled to address TfL’s main justification for not providing for cyclists:

Usage by cyclists through this junction [Blackfriars] is predominantly for travelling to and from work and is therefore concentrated during traditional ‘rush hour’ periods

This is true: but it’s true of traffic in general. That’s why it’s the rush hour. Look at 24 hour bike and car flows northbound in 2010:

Are they making the same arguments about cars not being important because they peak at rush hour?

The other point is for three years now, during rush hour bicycles have outnumbered all other modes of travel.

Blackfriars Bridge, north, 7-10am 1988-2010.

As we can see, bikes are also the only mode whose share is increasing. Even if we do nothing, the problems cyclists face at this junction are going to get worse, not better. Actively designing cycling out of this junction is outrageous.

If the campaign on Blackfriars fails, TfL will probably try to impose the same engineering style on all the Thames bridges, and, by extension, all other major road junctions in London under their control.

Come Friday night, I know where I’ll be…

Update 29/7/11: the London Cycle Campaign are calling for people to meet tonight at at the south end of Blackfriars Bridge, for a slow ride to Waterloo to join Critical Mass. Be at this ride first if you possibly can.

Justice: City of London style

July 20, 2011

In February 2011, I was stopped by a police officer in the City of London for cycling through a red traffic light. It was the reason that I started this blog. I stated to that officer at the time, and I maintain, that I did not commit this offence and so since then I have been embroiled in the process of appealing it in court.

The Court

After one adjournment from an original court day in May, I received last month a Summons to City of London Magistrates Court for this morning at 10am.

I sat in the court room for 4 hours. During this time, I watched three cases. All of them were people who already had between 6 and 9 points on their driving licenses, and who had subsequently committed a variety of motoring offences. They were:

  1. A man with 9 points on his license, including various speeding convictions, who was caught driving at 48mph through a red traffic light in a 30mph zone.
  2. A man with 9 points on his license, including speeding and driving while using a handheld mobile phone in May 2011, who was caught driving at 30mph in a 20mph zone.
  3. A man with 6 points on his license for driving without insurance who was facing charges after having been caught driving while using a handheld mobile phone, at which point it transpired that he was not insured.

All three pled guilty. In normal course, they would all lose their licenses. However, they all claimed that it would cause “exceptional hardship” if they were to do so.

The magistrate told driver one that he did not accept the exceptional hardship claim, however due to his early guilty plea he would only face a driving ban of six months. Driver two was given three points (bringing him to a total of 12), but his exceptional hardship claim was accepted – he was given no driving ban.

Sadly, I was not around to see the verdict for driver three, as while the magistrate was deciding (4 hours after my arrival at the court), I was told that my case would be adjourned again and I would have to come back in November.

This is half the story.

The Street

After leaving the court, I cycled down Queen Victoria Street towards Blackfriars Bridge:

At this narrow point, I decided to “take the lane”, as I’ve been overtaken by buses here before and it’s a little close for comfort.

A black cab driver behind me became very angry, aggressively revving and trying to squeeze past. At the end of this section (about 15 seconds after the beginning of it), he leaned out his window as he overtook me and said, “Who do you think you are? I’ll slit your fucking throat.”

There was a police car stopped at the next set of traffic lights. I knocked on their window, reported what the taxi driver had said, and one of the two officers within asked both me and the driver to pull over.

The Police

One officer spoke to me and one to the driver. The one who spoke to me (CP 241) was very friendly, said she understood my concerns but also that it’s understandable that taxi drivers get frustrated being on the road all day.

Her colleague, PC Jeffreys (CP 267), spoke to the taxi driver then came over and said that I had been cycling in the middle of the road and this was why the taxi driver had become so aggressive. He said that the taxi driver had admitted that he had sworn at me, but not the threat to kill.

PC Jeffreys then told me that I should not have been cycling in the middle of the road and that both parties were in his view in the wrong. He said that in future if I felt intimidated by a taxi driver behind me, the correct action would be to pull over to the side of the road, dismount my bicycle and wait until I no longer felt at risk.

I could not understand why on earth we were talking about where I had been cycling, when it was clearly not illegal, whereas I had just been the victim of a verbal assault and threat. I said so.

I then tried to take a photograph of the taxi driver using my mobile phone, so there would be no possibility of the man denying that he was driving should I wish to take the issue forward with either to police or the Public Carriage Office. PC Jeffreys physically prevented me from doing this by grabbing my arm and pushing me back to the kerb.


Honestly at this point, I lost the will to continue. I’d just taken holiday from work to sit in a court room watching drivers who clearly should have been disqualified for a long time managing to avoid it, then to be told that these cases were more important than mine so come back in November, then immediately upon leaving been aggressively bullied by a taxi driver, and then been told by the police that it was my fault.

On the plus side, the London Assembly agreed today to review a 20mph limit on Blackfriars Bridge. Great, right? Speeding is incredibly harmful. (Source: Amy Aeron-Thomas’s Street Talk). (Update: having read this while less frazzled, they’ve actally agreed to “ask the Mayor to instruct TfL” to do a review. So it may not even happen.)

I’d like to pretend to care about the London Assembly vote, but I just can’t. We already have a report saying 20mph on London’s bridges would be safer. Even if the review says it is unambiguously advantageous to move to a 20mph limit (it won’t), and if somehow the London Assembly manages to on this basis pressurise the Mayor into actually implementing such a limit (doubtful), it will make basically no difference.

Unlike Tower Bridge, the road layout at Blackfriars lends itself to driving much faster than 20mph, which people will do. Enforcement of the limit will be rare, and as I saw today, consequences in those cases where it is enforced minimal. We need to stop devoting our energy to tinkering around the edges like this and start campaigning for proper infrastructure – yes segregated cycle lanes, but this as part of a package of properly designed streets, not huge urban motorways.

Henly’s Corner: A walker’s paradise?

May 25, 2011

TfL have always been in favour of walking. Rarely do they release a marketing publication without several paragraphs explaining how pedestrians will benefit from the newest scheme designed to maximise the amount of traffic on London’s streets.

The current “improvement works” at Henly’s Corner in Barnet are, it seems, primarily being undertaken in order to “improve crossing facilities for pedestrians and cyclists”. This is a populous, residential area sitting roughly at the centre of a trapezium bounded by the following tube stations: East Finchley, Golders Green, Brent Cross, Hendon Central, Mill Hill East and Finchley Central.

The works have been running from February this year and are set to continue until February 2012 (details on p76). Let’s take a look at how TfL has left the conditions for their darling pedestrians during this time period:

Take a hike: the footpaths are closed for a year

Fair enough. Pedestrians are already selfless enough to choose not to use their cars. It’s a safe bet they’d be willing to go several hundred metres out of their way to assure the convenience of their neighbours taking the Range Rover to Waitrose.

(Well, either that or they don’t actually own cars, in which case they’re obviously alfalfa-eating freaks with no political clout who TfL and the Mayor would be wasting their time on anyway.)

Let’s have a look at how the junction on the map manifests itself in reality:

Photos courtesy of the East Finchley Beth Din

Note that the “You are here” sign on the above map is on Finchley Road. This picture is taken on the south side of Falloden Way, travelling west. From this direction, there is no warning for pedestrians that the footpath stops dead (or for cyclists – this is a shared use path).

Well, maybe it’s all worth it? What’s a year of being unable to walk or cycle if at the end of it a sustainable transport utopia is produced? Will the A406/A598 junction become the new Camino de Santiago?

Here is TfL’s CGI projection of what the completed junction will look like:

The A406 ramble? The Henly’s Trail?

Ah. Let’s see:

  •  Bus lanes: 0
  • Cycle lanes/paths:  1 “shared use” path running east-west (i.e. pavement with a white line down the middle) which disappears as soon as there is a conflict with an actual road. 0 running north-south.
  • Buses: 1
  • Goods vehicles: 6
  • Cyclists: 2
  • Cars: 25
  • Pedestrians: 5

And remember, this is the marketing image – the aspiration for this £8m junction. The reality is that no one who can avoid it is going to walk down this 8-lane turbohighway which requires pedestrians wishing to cross the road to do so in four separate stages.

So who is to blame for spending twice the entire budget of the Biking Boroughs entrenching infrastructure so deeply hostile to anyone not in a car?

In 2002, then mayor Ken Livingstone was pushing plans for this junction to be redesigned, with bus lanes and cycle lanes. However, Barnet’s then Cabinet member for the environment, Brian Coleman, led the council’s effort to block these plans under the premise that they were “inadequate to deal with the issue of endemic congestion.”

As we know, Ken was ousted by the Conservative contender in 2008 and true-blue Mr Coleman went on to become the mayor of Barnet in 2009. The bus and cycle lanes were subsequently removed from TfL’s plans, which were then agreed with Barnet, and as you can see the work is now underway.

Never let it be said, however, that Mr Coleman has forgotten the little people. He, too, is unhappy about the way that the works are being carried out. Writing to the mayor earlier this month, he complained that,

These road works are chaotic, causing huge problems for motorists and massive tailbacks.

So, while underway the works are causing problems for pedestrians, cyclists and apparently motorists. When completed, as far as pedestrians and cyclists are concerned, they won’t be much better.

So why go to all this trouble?

The important works at Henlys Corner will bring huge benefits to all road users along the A406 North Circular Road, and deliver smoother traffic flow along this key arterial route. – David Brown, Managing Director, TfL’s Surface Transport

Sounds remarkably familiar.

Whether it’s at Blackfriars or Brixton, Fulham or Finchley, Marylebone or Mitcham, TfL’s current priority remains the same: make travelling in cars easier and quicker at the expense of all other transport.

Except, in outer London, the situation is considerably worse. While people who opt not to drive are numerous and vocal enough to make a difference on Blackfriars Bridge (how much difference remains to be seen), cycling modal share in the outer London Boroughs currently sits at 1%.

Or forget modal share: TfL’s recent Analysis of Cycling Potential calculates that 250,000 trips a year in Barnet could be made by bike. How many of just those quick wins are actually cycled? Around 3% (page 27).

It suits TfL and the outer London boroughs to pay lip-service to cycling and walking while continuing to build motorways in the middle of residential areas (while closing bus lanes, cycle lanes and footpaths).

Will cheery copy and self-satisfied soundbites be enough to persuade the residents of Finchley and Golders Green to take a pleasant stroll or cycle through the new Henly’s Corner?

Westminster Parking Policy Review: traffic “counts” don’t count cyclists

May 17, 2011

The City of Westminster are currently conducting a review of their parking policies. Deadline for responses is June 23rd.

It is clear that one of the groups most affected by parking and loading policies are cyclists.

blue superhghway van stockwell.jpg

Direct and continuous… into the back of a van or the path of an HGV

When cyclists encounter a parked car, they are often forced to take various risks trying to integrate into a fast-moving lane of motor vehicles. Despite the best efforts of people riding bikes, the possibility remains that drivers may not be anticipating such a manoeuvre, willing to allow the person sufficient space, or even (dare I say it?) devoting their full attention to what is happening on the road in front of them.

Barry Smith, the Operational Director of the City’s Planning Delivery Unit, has submitted a report about the parking review to the council’s Cabinet noting that,

The council has carried out a range of research and consultation exercises… including Automatic Traffic Counts and video traffic counts to monitor traffic levels. (Point 5.1)

This excited me. TfL’s screenline data for 2010 shows that on, for example, Waterloo Bridge during rush hour, cyclists far exceed other modes of transport:

TfL Screenline data for 2010. Waterloo Bridge, northbound, 7-10am.

I was very much looking forward to seeing how this traffic, arriving in Westminster, translates into modal share in other areas of the borough.

The results of the traffic counts undertaken for the parking review can be found (if you look hard enough) in a document entitled, Seven Day Traffic Counts in Westminster, dated April 2011.

Page 6 of that document glibly informs us that:

Please note that Automatic Traffic Counters (ATC) do not record cyclists.

Waterloo Bridge

Zero cyclists crossing Waterloo Bridge

I find it astounding that Westminster are considering how they allocate street space without bothering to count a highly populous and vulnerable groups of road users upon whom any changes will significantly impinge.

The address to email with your views is

How did TfL build a junction, brag about it, and demolish it within a year?

May 14, 2011

This post exists to demonstrate how TfL are unfit to be designing cycling infrastructure. It will do this through examining the design, construction and subsequent destruction of a junction in Lewisham, built at the end of 2010.

It is not the claim of this post that no one in TfL knows how to make safe infrastructure. However, it will become clear that the process is so convoluted, subject to so many (often conflicting or erroneous) guidelines, principles and stakeholders, that any resulting type of sensible infrastructure would be miraculous.

Some might find this post confusing – I found it confusing to write. This is a symptom of the labyrinthine manner in which directorates of TfL’s Surface Transport division are expected operate. To clear this issue up, I have added a timeline of events at the end of the post.

The Kender Street Triangle is one of TfL’s flagship “improvement” works in South-East London. In November last year Kulveer Ranger, then the Mayor’s Transport Advisor, gleefully informed us that,

The Mayor is committed to making London’s streets more accessible through his Great Outdoors programme and Kender Street Triangle is a perfect example of that.

If the junction is a ‘perfect example’ of anything, it is how TfL are so internally divided about cycling that they cannot even decide what safe infrastructure might look like.

The junction, built towards the end of 2010, now looks like this:

It seems clear that this advisory cycle-lane leading straight into a pinch point could be hazardous to cyclists. How could TfL fail to notice that?

The original plans for the design were drawn up by London Streets, part of TfL’s Directorate of the Road Network. They sit on the 4th floor of TfL’s Palestra offices. A Safety Audit was then conducted by a different part of the same directorate, the London Road Safety Unit (LRSU), who sit on the 7th floor.

Apparently, moving up three floors provides a completely different perspective. Look at the following comment in the LRSU’s Stage 2 Safety Audit:

So the safety audit did raise an issue with the cycle lane (counter to what I was told by TfL when I initially complained about it). Why, then, did TfL’s London Streets allow the junction to be built?

To find out, let’s draw our attention to the Safety Audit Response Report, published by London Streets to address the issues raised in the LRSU’s audit:

Aha! London Streets feel that LRSU’s perceived danger is acceptable, because it is outlined in the London Cycle Design Standards (LCDS).

And to be fair to London Streets, if we go to Appendix C, p180 we find that it is in there:

Click image to enlarge

So, TfL finds themselves facing a problem. On the one hand, the Road Safety Unit thinks that the pinch point is hazardous. And yet their London Streets disagree – and this is backed up by the TfL’s LCDS.

Quite frankly, the London Cycle Design Standards are dire, and rather alarming. I think the above case speaks for itself. Let’s look at some other examples:

Cyclists in this example are at risk of being "doored" by a parked car. Those who cycle outside of the lane will incur the wrath of impatient drivers. (p183)

And the following example, forcing cyclists between two lanes of motor traffic, is shockingly similar to the lane on Blackfriars Bridge which was replaced overnight after Vicky McCreery was killed in 2004 (this link contains a picture of that lane).

Best practice (p184)? These guidelines were published over a year after Ms McCreery's death

The LCDS were (rather ironically) published by the Cycling Centre of Excellence, another (now defunct) part of the Surface Transport division. They appear to have been subsumed into the Better Routes and Places directorate, headed by Ben Plowden, who are responsible for the much more general task of “delivering the mayor’s vision of urban realm improvements” on TfL’s road network.

This lack of focus on cycling clearly has detrimental effects. Better Routes and Places conducted a post-construction safety audit of this scheme in February 2011, where they found no issue with this cycle lane.

Interestingly, Mr Plowden, at this week’s Surface Transport Panel meeting, submitted a report bragging about how the Kender Street triangle program is being “progressed” (pdf, point 4.4).

Which brings us back to to the junction in question.

Pinch me

Despite works only having been completed in the summer of 2010, TfL’s complaints division informed me in April that,

Having discussed this with internal colleagues and cycling experts we believe a modification to the markings would be desirable. “

Rather oddly, none of TfL’s pages for the public exclaiming the success of Kender Street improvement, nor their publicly available internal communications, seem to mention what is at best a flip-flop, and at worst a callous waste of public money.

So what to take from all of this? Let’s recap the events over time:

Date Action
Before March 2009 Plans are drawn up for a new junction.
March 2009 TfL’s Road Safety Unit describes the plans as hazardous.
April 2009 London Streets says that the plans are fine because they’re consistent with the London Cycle Design Standards, published by Cycling Centre of Excellence, a vision of Surface Transport which no longer exists).
Mid-end 2010 Construction takes place
Feb 2011 TfL’s Road Safety Audit Team in conjunction with Better Routes and Places produces a post-construction safety audit where they find no issues with the cycle lane in question.
Feb 2011 I email TfL Surface Transport complaints with my concerns about the advisory cycle lane (I did not know at that time about the above audit).
March 2011 I escalate the complaint to London Travel Watch as TfL have not responded within the time limit set it out in their own policies.
April 2011 TfL email me to say that they are going to remove the cycle lane by the end of June 2011.

TfL’s departments can’t agree what cycle lanes should look like, and cycling is so down their list of priorities that they lack a strategy to deal with this fact.

Infrastructure is built that London Streets has been told is a risk, and when the public start to notice then they scrap it. Designing streets like this increases the risk of injuries and fatalities, as well as reducing the number of people who are willing to get out their cars and on their bikes. And cases like this one are not just dangerous: they’re also an obscene waste of time and money.

TfL are a public body. They should be held to account.

What the London Cycle Network looks like in Westminster

May 4, 2011

The City of Westminster’s deeply hostile attitude to cyclists and pedestrians is no secret. But today I came across an example which exemplifies car-centric thinking so much, I simply had to blog about it.

I was travelling in the north of the borough, along a marked cycle route, which as you can see on the LCN+ map is part of the London Cycle Network.

Image from LCN+ map - click it for the location on map

The road is a backstreet which runs north-south directly between the A5 (Highways Agency managed trunk road) and the A41 (TfL managed trunk road). The junction that I have photographed is respectively 0.1 and 0.4 miles from each of these roads.

Let’s take a look at some photos and some problems:

1. Someone at Westminster has taken the extraordinary decision that the optimal design for users of this very wide, residential street is to shove a lane of cars down the middle of it:

Even with the extraordinary decision of allowing cars to park down the centre of the carriageway, it is clear from this photo that the lanes are still much wider than a car-width and unmarked, encouraging high speeds.

2. There is actually considerably more potential space that could be used. Let’s accept for a moment that, for some reason, it is essential to the lives of the residents of Maida Vale that they own enough cars to take up both sides of the road and the centre of the carriageway. There is still easily enough space for some sort of cycling infrastructure:

3. Finally, at this wide, busy rat-run with no speed cameras, bumps or any other type of speed reduction or enforcement, Westminster are not even good enough to provide a zebra, pelican or other pedestrian-focused crossing (this is a residential street within 1 mile of three primary schools):

Oh wait, hang on a second. Westminster have thoughtfully added some provision for pedestrians:

Advice that perhaps Westminster City Council could do with taking on board.

Back from paradise. Verdict: delightful.

May 4, 2011

I wasn’t sure whether or not I would write a detailed post about cycling in Montpellier until I went. Then it became abundantly clear: not a chance.

Why? Because it’s just lovely, and the reason why is quite simply that the old town is closed to motor traffic.

Compare and contrast. Pavement dining in Montpellier (taken from a cafe table – you can see in the corner the top of my rum, gin, campiri, red martini and white martini “cocktail”):

Pavement dining in London (can you spot them?):

Cafe O'Porto

There’s nothing else to say. Take cars, taxis and HGVs out of your life (OK and make it a little sunnier) and suddenly everything is tranquille. Sadly, this is London. Normal service will be resumed.

“We will not be banning cars from city centres anymore than we will be having rectangular bananas”

March 29, 2011

Yesterday the European Commission released, A vision of an interconnected Europe, a new transport plan.

This controversial document contains a number of howlers that you would only find written by the idiotic pen-pushers in Brussels who’ve got no idea what life is like in 2011 Britain.

Oncoming Traffic

The bureaucratic bods have included statements such as,

“Oil will become scarcer in future decades, sourced increasingly from uncertain supplies.” (p3)

Infrastructure shapes mobility. No major change in transport will be possible without the support of an adequate network and more intelligence in using it.” (p4)


“If we stick to the business as usual approach, the oil dependence of transport might still be little below 90%… CO2 emissions from transport would remain one third higher than their 1990 level by 2050. Congestion costs will increase by about 50% by 2050. The accessibility gap between central and peripheral areas will widen. The social costs of accidents and noise would continue to increase.” (pp 4-5)

Obviously these jobsworths need to check themselves. (Perhaps there’s a problem with their masculinity?) We know that the current government tries to belittle civil servants as either rubber stampers, backroom functionaries or, in the cases where it can’t be denied that they are having an effect, “enemies of enterprise”.

And fortunately, our beloved Transport Minister is nothing if not reliable. The very same day as the release of the plan, he managed to issue a statement not just rejecting the plan, but the very idea that the EU might be allowed to have a say:

“”It is right that the EU sets high-level targets for carbon reduction, however it is not right for them to get involved in how this is delivered in individual cities.”

Back to business as usual, then.