Thursday, 3 February 2011

Lambeth's transport plan - it flags the tough decisions. Then bottles it. Hackney takes decisions. Lambeth just describes the problem and does very little?

Image from the Lambeth transport survey. This image kind of
says it all, really. Bike in the middle of the highway, about to get
undertaken at speed?
The Lambeth transport plan now has a handy online survey where you can tell the council what you think about their plans to encourage cycling and walking. It takes five minutes to complete and it's well worth doing.

Do spend five minutes completing the survey which is here.

One key reason to complete the survey is that it asks that same old question as Southwark:

Do you agree with a road danger reduction approach to improving transport?

It depends what 'road danger reduction' means.

When I first filled out the online survey, I thought road danger reduction meant road safety, ie 'equipping vulnerable road users to move around in a dangerous environment'. ie, wearing helmets, hi-viz, teaching children to not play outside in case they get hit by a car. And so I ticked 'no I don't agree'.

Turns out that I acted in haste. I should have ticked 'yes, I more or less do agree'. But I really wanted to tick a box that said, this is still feeble and you need to be doing more.

Lambeth's take on road danger reduction is something I wholeheartedly agree with, in fact, I'd just like them to take it one step further and be a bit bolder. If the plan is correct, then it means "concentrating first of all on reducing the causes of danger." When I'm walking or cycling, the causes of danger are basically things like speeding cars, HGVs, lack of space between me and the speeding cars, too many cars frankly.

So Lambeth is undertaking to: 

But there's much that's a bit weak about it as well.
• Seek a genuine reduction in danger for all road users by identifying and controlling the principal sources of threat.
• Find new measures to define the level of danger on our roads. These would more accurately monitor the use of and threat to benign modes.
• Discourage the unnecessary use of motor transport where alternative benign modes of public transport are equally or more viable.
• Pursue a transport strategy for environmentally sustainable travel based on
developing efficient, integrated public transport systems. This would recognise that current levels of motor traffic should not be increased.
• Actively promote cycling and walking, which pose little threat to other road users, by taking positive and co-ordinated action to increase the safety and mobility of these benign modes.

All of this sounds good to me.

Like this for example: The council undertakes to make "walking and cycling a real alternative for local trips". Note that it's not going to be a priority, it's just going to be a slightly feeble-sounding 'alternative'. Compare that with Hackney where the council commits to "an emphasis on walking and cycling schemes"

Would you rather live and work somewhere that tries to make cycling 'an alternative' option or somewhere that 'emphasises cycling and walking'.

I think the difference is important because it results in two quite different facts on the ground.

In Hackney, residential streets are often closed to through traffic - only cycles and pedestrians can get through. There's precious little of that sort of stuff in Lambeth - at least in the parts of Lambeth I know. And what I find frustrating is that the Lambeth plan has plenty of good intentions about surveying and about measuring and about postponing the tough decisions. By contrast, Hackney's just getting on with it.

The area where I live is bordered by two A-roads. Our local streets are blighted by rat-running cars and vans cutting between these major routes. Cycling along what should be a residential street can feel more like a game of chicken with a queue of white vans up your backside. In the mornings and evenings, it can be deeply unpleasant. None of my neighbours like it, whether they cycle or not. In fact, Lambeth agreed several years ago to block some of the streets where we live to turn them into no-through routes for motor vehicles. And there was big residential support for blocking the roads to motorised through traffic at the time. But Lambeth chickened out and installed a few ineffective speed humps (you know, the ones that are like speed hump islands and you don't need to slow down for) instead.

So this Lambeth plan reads to me slightly like a dose of here-we-go-again. Lots of measurement. An acknowledgement of the problem. But it casually forgets they've actually done the measurement and they already know the problem. And it completely fails to have the guts to actually do anything about it.

I'll take a large dose of Hackney please. They have the guts to call a spade a spade and actually get on with it. Thumbs down to Lambeth by comparison which is telling me it is going to measure the dimensions of the spade, which it already measured six or seven years ago. It's still the same size spade. Everyone knew what the problem was then. They still know what the problem is now. They'd like you to solve it. It's still the same problem. Lambeth, you're still not tackling the problem.