Archive for the ‘Works’ Category

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.

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?

Thames Water: Marcel Duchamp lives on

April 2, 2011

Thames Water have a comprehensive Environmental Policy, including a Transport Policy (pdf). As policies go, it’s certainly impressive. Admittedly, it has no actual measurable commitments, deadlines or named people who are responsible for its implementation. However, it is filled with reassuring promises about “taking account” of information and “looking for creative ways of working” which only the most cynical of onlookers would find unsatisfactory.

A policy promising creativity is one thing, but can they fulfil such ambitious targets? I have to admit, I’m impressed. Their latest work on Lupus Street, SW1 has to be one of the most striking art installations I’ve ever come across. These photos were taken yesterday:

Approaching an obstacle like this would leave most cyclists floundering...

Aha, instructions! Cyclists Dismount...

Regular readers of this blog are likely to be aware Cyclists Dismounts signs have long been resented, with some particularly ridiculous examples becoming quite well known.

The fact that a national company like Thames Water has opted to use graffiti as part of what is clearly a caustic take on the traditional usage of these signs is laudable. While current discourse ruminates on whether graffiti is an acceptable form of political statement, industry-leading Thames Water are willing to produce this pungent satire in what I can only describe as one of the most impressive examples of social responsibility seen by a national corporation.

We can be sure that this is Thames Water making a stand because their Transport Policy specifically outlines their commitment to:

Developing innovative and environmentally efficient approaches to network maintenance and installation to minimise vehicle and fuel use, and traffic disruption.

Which is a relief.

The genius of such a seminal piece by Thames Water is that they have literally hundreds of simultaneous works taking place in London. (In 2008 it was 580. If you search the London Register of Roadworks for Thames Water at the moment you are simply told, ‘Your search has returned too many results. Please refine your search criteria.’)

Is anything bolder, more impressive, than the willingness of such a stupendous force on London’s streets to, in one prodigious work, put their hands up and say with spray paint, “actually, it’s our inconsiderate presence in the urban environment which should really be considered vandalism”?