Archive for the ‘infrastructure’ Category

TfL lies about consultation

March 17, 2011

Cyclists in the City has just posted an excellent line-by-line response to the email from Alexander Jackson’, TfL Customer Services Manager.

I wanted to highlight just one sentence that deserves particular scrutiny.

TfL said:

The drawing for this wider scheme was used for initial engagement with key stakeholders in February 2010. At this initial engagement the City of London consulted the local cycle group Cyclists in the City.

Cyclists in the City responds:

I think that means me. The bright-eyed among you may have noticed that in February 2010, this website didn’t exist.

I’ve let TfL know, also copying in the relevant London Assembly members. Watch this space for a response.


Blackfriars Bridge – TfL don’t understand their own data

March 16, 2011

I have just received a very long email from Alexander Jackson, TfL customer service manager, about Blackfriars Bridge.

Going through the email line-by-line and responding is a pleasure I will save for later. Right now, I only want to isolate one sentence:

“TFL is not expecting to see an increase in the amount of traffic using this junction from the original levels in 2008 (prior to any station works).”

The question is not whether there will be an increase in traffic, but how much the trend of decreased motor traffic will continue.

A longitudinal view of TfL’s screenline data for Blackfriars Bridge northbound from 7-10am from 1988-2010 shows us the following:

Car use is in decline, goods vehicles and taxis remain fairly constant, and people are cycling much, much more. Any scheme based on the amount of traffic remaining constant is folly.

Adding an extra motor traffic lane and narrowing the cycle lane is indefensible.

Val Shawcross’s response to TfL: Not good enough, and I’ve told her so

March 12, 2011

Update: I may have been a bit harsh. See here for more.

Danny at Cyclists in the City has posted Val Shawcross’s latest response about Blackfriars Bridge.

I have to admit, I’m disappointed. I always knew we would have to fight TfL. But I thought that my London Assembly member might actually be on my side. Here is what Ms Shawcross has said she will actually do:

Val understands TfL’s need for more pedestrian crossings, but would like you to know that she and John challenged TfL about the loss of cycling facilities and have asked them to consider reducing the speed limit of the cars around Blackfriars Bridge. They have also asked TfL to see if they could look into the potential reworking of the teardrop shape island. TfL have confirmed that they will look into this and that they are investigating the costs involved.

To be fair, we wanted Ms Shawcross to ask for two things and she has said she will. Sadly, they’re not the same two. At the risk of repetition, but just to be perfectly clear, she has said she will:

1. Ask TfL to consider reducing speed limits. (We know how well this works.)

2. Ask Tfl to consider re-shaping the the traffic island.

Notably she will not:

1. Ask TfL not to add an extra lane of motor traffic.

2. Ask TfL not to make the cycle lane narrower. (She may have “challenged” TfL about the loss of facilities but it seems like her solution to this is lowering speed limits – in any case, unless she asks them not to add an extra traffic lane, which she hasn’t, then it is impossible to ask them not to reduce the cycle lane width.)

We know from TfL’s own data that at any random point during rush hour there are on average 17 bikes, compared with 6 private cars and 4 taxis on this section of road. This is what this looks like.

Is the solution to this creating more space for motor traffic and narrowing the bike lane, with a conciliatory reduction in the speed limit (and no mention of enforcement)?

In the email, Ms Shawcross’s assistant says:

Jenny Jones AM has been actively looking into this issue as well and has informed Val she is going to be doing a site visit with TfL and Val is hoping to go.

Hoping to go? She is chair of Transport Committee. She is the elected member for Lambeth and Southwark (where the south side of the bridge sits). I understand Ms Shawcross may be busy – but the pretense that she doesn’t have time to go and look at Blackfriars Bridge doesn’t wash.

If Val Shawcross doesn’t even bother to go and look at the bridge, she really doesn’t care.

I have replied to Ms Shawcross’s assistant’s email making the points I’ve made in this post. I’ve CCed in Jenny Jones so at least someone who is doing a site visit will be able to keep them in mind. I will post an update if I get a response.

Is the Big Society the solution to our transport needs?

March 12, 2011

Philip Blond, the Big Society poster boy, has published a blog about an attractive sounding ideal, the Transport Retail Model.

Firstly you would see marketing techniques and IT used to get more information about people’s lifestyles.

Secondly you would see integrated transport services, perhaps provided by a single ‘mobility manager’ with the remit to meet city or community requirements.

Thirdly, you would at last see more subtlety in transport policy and practice. Instead of blunt instruments like charging for use of infrastructure (like roads) that have been accepted as free for decades there could be continuous dynamic ‘nudging’ of behaviour using small scale sticks and incentives.

Sexy as this marketing fluff is, no amount of sophistry can change the fact that there are essentially two ways to change people’s behaviour with regard to transport:

1. Persuade people that the choices about transport they currently make, based on the conditions of their travel environment, are wrong.

2. Change those conditions.

The cycle-blogging community has robustly rejected the first. And as Cycalogical notes, the Department for Transport itself has admitted that “soft measures” do not have a long-term success rate.

Deflated: Soft measures don't work

The proponents of the Transport Retail Model are aware of this. They need to find a Big Society approach to improving how people get around. For my international readers, what this means is that it needs to be:

1. Cheap

2. Shiny

And lo, the Transport Retail Model is born. Once we get past the management meshugas [pdf] (attractive as a seamless, end-user focused, zero-wait state solution sounds), we realise what this actually boils down to is this:

1. A bunch of cool phone apps.

2. Extending where you can use your Oyster card

3. Wrapping up some leisure centre discounts or other promotional offers with (2), based on your behaviour.

But how does that help us with this:

Now, don’t get me wrong, incentives are important. But is my mother likely to consider cycling rather than driving the 3 miles to work around the Highgate Triangle (above) because she gets 20% off cinema tickets? No – and given the focus on car-clubs, parking info and road toll payment systems, I’m not convinced the architects of this model actually want her to.

Approaches like these are just another instance of trying to fix a powercut by releasing a new type of candle. Nudge all you like, you won’t “meet potentially conflicting objectives such as growing out of recession while meeting carbon reduction targets” without dealing with the root of the problem: infrastructure.

This is a problem that the Big Society alone cannot solve.

Forget Superhighways – it’s the normal ones that are choking cycling

March 1, 2011

I work in an office in Hammersmith. A particular bugbear of mine has been that, due to the unpleasant, car-obsessed one-way system at Hammersmith roundabout, it is considerably quicker for me to walk the 0.5 miles from my work to the high street than it is to cycle.

Impenetrable: the one way system

I have done a map of the journey from my office to the high street. The blue lines represent where one can cycle, the red lines where you must walk, and the red man where you are forced to dismount and wait to push your bike along the pavement.

The red man is not a matter of chance: both junctions prioritise road traffic to the extent that pedestrians necessarily have to wait at either the start of the crossing or the island in the middle for at least one traffic stream. There is no phase where pedestrians can cross the entire junction, and both streams of traffic are stopped.

Who is to blame for this monstrosity of road design in the centre of an urban hub? Is it TfL? Sadly, not in this case. The borough, then? Well, maybe they should have put up more of a fight – they do seem inordinately proud of cycling’s risible 4% modal share (pdf, p28), given that they are a residential area, a nucleus of offices, and 3 miles (through Hyde Park) from Central London.

The bulk of the blame becomes clear, however, when looking at the map in H&Fs Local Transport Plan (LTP) Borough Transport Objectives (pdf, p13):

The red lines on the map are TfL’s Road Network (TLRN). If this infamous car-crash of a network that fascinates the blogging community is our Paris Hilton, then the green lines are Nicky: less discussed, but just as ugly.

I’m talking, of course, about the Highways Agency’s Strategic Road Network (SRN) (map [pdf]). You’ll be glad to know, the Highways Agency is committed to:

  • Considering the needs of cyclists at all stages of trunk road scheme development
  • Encouraging use of cycle lanes and cycle tracks, and cycle-friendly junctions
  • Where possible, working to provide more direct for cyclists for key destinations

I suppose it’s just not possible here. There’s only enough room for 3 lanes of motor traffic – how on earth could anyone find room for bikes? And after all, the Highways Agency loves cyclists. They have Non-Motorised User Audits which ensure that routes:

  • Directly facilitate the desired journey without undue deviation or difficulty
  • Are continuous and not subject to severance or fragmentation

What’s more, the Highways Agency really gets cycling. Their Useful Cycling Links page is a wealth of invaluable, current information for cyclists:

Sadly, the first “up to date” link simply takes you to a site that says, has now moved. Please visit

Fortunately they make up for this with the relevance of the Tour de France 2007 to everyday commuter and urban cycling in 2011.

In The Subjection of Women, JS Mill discusses the root of men’s false beliefs about the inferiority of women (bear with me…). He compares the nature of women’s development in society to a tree, “left outside in the wintry air, with ice purposely heaped all around.” Any conclusions based on the nature of this tree are necessarily false: its development is stunted by its environment.

The Highways Agency says, “most of our business is concerned with providing for the movement of motor vehicles throughout the network.” They only need to look to Holland or Denmark to realise that this is not an a priori truth – and to accept responsibility for creating the environment where cars flourish, as people on bikes wilt and wither and our numbers waste away.

Quick update

February 22, 2011

I have submitted a hastily written complaint to TfL’s Surface Transport customer services about infrastructure at Queens Road. Their written complaints policy notes that they have two working days to acknowledge receipt and 15 working days to respond substantively. (The letter was by email so I got a fairly immediate confirmation of receipt).

Regarding the City of London’s Fixed Penalty notice, I am yet to hear back from them – fear not, I will be quick to post when I do.

TfL’s Cycling Revolution – a bloody one

February 20, 2011

According to TfL, we’re undergoing a Cycling Revolution.

Behind the PR, the reality is that there are avoidable deaths on London’s roads and a disproportionate amount of these are caused by TfL. In June 2009, where a father of three was dragged under the wheels of a cement mixer, the police said,

“Our traffic management unit has advised me that that cycle lane is not of the required width. It is not the proper width for a cycle lane.

What does this have to do with TfL? Well, there are a number of trunk roads which are managed directly by TfL, rather than the borough that they are in (and according to Cyclists in the City, 50% of road casualties occur on these 5% of London’s roads.) Vauxhall Bridge Road (the A202), where this death occurred, is one of them.

Let’s take a journey down the A202, 4 miles south-east of where Everton Smith was killed, to Queens Road, Peckham. TfL have resurfaced this road to make it two-way since this time – around August 2010, if I recall correctly. This is actually quite convenient when travelling eastbound. Westbound, however, is a different story. The junction with Kender Street, by the Montague Arms, has been redesigned:

What used to look like this (thanks Google Earth),

now looks like this:

Fortunately, unlike the above case, the cycle lane here is wide enough to fit a picture of a bicycle in it. Not without painting over the red lines, of course, but it’s there. No, wait, that’s exactly like the above case:

After Everton Smith was killed, Sergeant Seeley of the Met Police said that the problem was that, “the road layout was too cramped”. Fortunately, TfL have the foresight to ensure that on Queens Road, there remains plenty of space for cyclists despite the “traffic calming” island: