Documents detailing Transport for London’s proposed Lane Rental scheme reveal that we can expect to see a lot more of this:
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)
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?