Monday, 28 February 2011

TfL response to Blackfriars criticism seems to me to miss the two important points about the gyratory scheme. Possible ways to respond

A number of people have received an email from TfL or from their Assembly Members about Blackfriars Bridge and the new gyratory that I've copied below.

I have to say, this is a dismal response but it is the line that TfL and some Assembly Members are cutting and pasting in response to queries about the scheme. 

Having read the TfL email, I think a few points need to be made clear. I'd welcome people's thoughts and comments on this:

No one is questioning the need for space for pedestrians outside Blackfriars station. No one is questioning the need for crossings so that people can leave the station easily. 

However, everyone is questioning why an additional motor vehicle lane that has been removed for a number of years needs to be re-instated to the detriment of the significant number of people walking and cycling in this area.  

The email states that "Reducing the number of lanes on the bridge would greatly restrict traffic movement and lead to significant queuing, potentially over a wide area." No-one's asking them to reduce the number of lanes on the bridge. People are asking them not to install an additional lane that doesn't currently exist through each direction of the gyratory. This is nothing to do with the bridge itself. A point they seem to be willfully ignoring in their responses and which a number of Assembly Members have simply cut and pasted without having realised the distinction between the two. 

Point 1

People are asking TfL for two very simple things. TfL is proposing to add one more lane on the gyratory within a narrower road space. Please don't add an extra lane for motor traffic that isn't even there at the moment. Instead of which, TfL could and should be using that not yet existent lane to create a bicycle lane. And just to be clear, there is no need to reduce the number of lanes on the bridge. Just don't add another one on the gyratory please.  And we know it works because that's how this space has functioned now for several years. So I'm not sure it's possible to buy TfL's assertion that "Reducing (ie, retaining the same number as now) the number of traffic lanes would generate significant congestion throughout a potentially wide area." It hasn't for the last few years so why should it now. 

Point 2

And please account for the needs of people who aren't leaving or entering the station by retaining an existing  pedestrian crossing point between Watergate and the Black Friar pub. There's absolutely no mention of that immensely busy desire-line in this response. And, although this scheme claims to be hugely generous by adding a few more centimetres of pavement, it still plunges people coming off the train into an urban motorway. Not exactly the sort of thing you need here. 


Yes there are lots of buses here. A total 3.7% of traffic going northbound all day consists of buses. But you still have massive cycling volumes. And I'm sorry but I don't think thousands of cyclists every rush hour should be made to jostle for position against speeding motor vehicles in motorway style conditions. And I don't think TfL should be at all proud that it's managed to save an advisory 1.5metre cycle lane in some of the space on the gyratory. 


One reason so many people drive in London, one reason that there is so much of what TfL calls 'traffic' and by which it means 'motor traffic' is that they don't have an alternative. And the bridges are a real crunch point. If you can get to work on quiet roads south or north of the river but you can't face getting across the bridges, you're not going to use your bicycle. I therefore believe that TfL is institutionally designing out cycling by making it something that is not an option for most people. And in doing so, it generates its own issues with motor traffic volumes. It's almost like a fairy story: TfL is sticking to the absolute letter of the law and doing everything it can to make sure London's motor traffic runs smoothly. It seems utterly oblivious to the fact that in doing so TfL itself is generating the monster in the room - the vast amounts of motor traffic, the pollution and the sheer dismal central London streets - that prevent it from allowing motor traffic to run smoothly in the first place. 

Perhaps it's time to write back to your assembly members once again and just make sure they understand the difference between what you're asking for and how TfL, in my opinion, seems to be re-interpreting that to answer a slightly different argument.  


From: Miles Andrew (ST) <Andrew.Miles@tfl.gov.uk>
To:
Cc: Members Correspondence <MembersCorrespondence@tfl.gov.uk>; James Hayley (ST) <Hayley.James@tfl.gov.uk>; garrettemmerson@tfl.gov.uk;davidbrownmd@tfl.gov.uk; Hardy Nigel (ST BR&P) <Nigel.Hardy2@tfl.gov.uk>
Sent: Mon Feb 28 11:00:32 2011
Subject: FW: Blackfriars Bridge North side scheme 

Thank you for your email.

The reopening of Blackfriars Station will greatly increase pedestrian footfall in the area, particularly in the area immediately outside the station. The number of pedestrians accessing the station at street level will be far greater than when it was operating previously.  Accordingly, the Thameslink Works Act 2006 contains a requirement that new crossing facilities be in place before Blackfriars Station can reopen. 

TfL, City of London and Network Rail have been working jointly to develop a scheme that will provide new surface level pedestrian crossing facilities for the new station.  In doing so, it was necessary to review the use of Blackfriars Bridge by all modes, in order to develop a scheme that provides the best balance between the needs of all modes; including pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists.  There were a number of technical considerations to bear in mind, including the physical space and structural restrictions on the bridge, but also security concerns and the need to ensure the traffic capacity of the Blackfriars Bridge junction was not constricted to such an extent that there would be widespread traffic congestion.

The scheme was designed by consultants acting on behalf of Network Rail, and the emerging design was considered by City of London and TfL.  TfL recently consulted key stakeholders and cycling groups about creating a new cycle lane across the Blackfriars Bridge junction, which would allow cyclists to turn right from Embankment onto Blackfriars Bridge more easily. During this, a number of concerns about the more widespread layout changes were raised.  TfL will therefore carry out further engagement with key stakeholders into the proposed changes to junction design and will feedback any significant issues that are raised to Network Rail’s consultants.

Mr Barraball commented on his current experience when cycling north into Queen Victoria Street.  The footways at the section between the Blackfriars on and off slip roads and Victoria Embankment are too narrow to accommodate the significant increase in pedestrians the re-opening of Blackfriars Station will generate. The footway has been widened at this location to allow for more pedestrians, whilst maintaining a cycle lane of 1.5m, which is the minimum width identified within the London Cycle Design Standards.  There are currently no traffic signals in this area of the bridge, and traffic is free flowing.  The installation of new pedestrian crossing points will introduce signal control, allowing cyclists to position themselves more easily, and so improve their passage across the bridge.  Reducing the number of traffic lanes would generate significant congestion throughout a potentially wide area.

Mr Barraball also commented on the removal of the southbound cycle lane at the entrance to the station.  Network Rail data indicates that pedestrian flow at the station will increase to 10,000 pedestrian movements per hour during the AM peak, as a result of the redevelopment of the station.  The majority of the existing subways outside the station will close, and new surface-level pedestrian crossings will be provided in order to meet this enhanced demand.  The footway outside the station will be widened to provide additional space for pedestrians and to meet DfT guidelines for there to be space between the carriageway and the frontage of a national rail station, for security reasons.  It is necessary to remove a short section of the southbound cycle lane in order to meet the significantly increased demand from pedestrians.  At the same time, TfL must bear in mind traffic flow across the bridge.  It is necessary to provide three southbound traffic lanes on the bridge: two for traffic heading south via Blackfriars Road and one for traffic turning right towards Queen Victoria Street.  Reducing the number of lanes on the bridge would greatly restrict traffic movement and lead to significant queuing, potentially over a wide area.  Buses make up a significant proportion of traffic passing through this area: in the busiest hour of AM peak period a total of 64 buses pass north and southbound through the Blackfriars Bridge junction.  TfL has a duty to keep traffic moving throughout its network.  Overall, the scheme has been designed to have a neutral effect on vehicle flow over the bridge. 

If you would find a briefing on this issue useful please let me know,

Regards

Andrew

Andrew Miles I Government Relationship Manager