Friday, 18 March 2011

Blackfriars consultation starts Monday. This isn't just about Blackfriars. It's about people walking and cycling in central London. Needs YOUR help

A few of us spent a very chilly morning on Blackfriars Bridge this morning together with Assembly Members Jenny Jones (Green), John Biggs (Labour) and Val Shawcross (Labour).

The Assembly Members had come to look at Blackfriars for themselves and to understand why cyclists are concerned about the new scheme. What we stressed to them is that the scheme makes Blackfriars bad for cyclists and pedestrians, it's not just about bicycles. If you'd like to see the scheme and an initial critique of it, click here for more details or read what The Guardian has to say about or maybe The Evening Standard.

The fundamental problem with this bridge is that the junctions either side are being designed to protect motor vehicle space at high speeds (on average way, way over the speed limit) at the expense of space for pedestrians and cyclists. And TfL is being given political direction by the Mayor to pursue that agenda. And for this scheme, you can read any other major junction in London. The same would be true for the new junction scheme at Brixton. Or for what's coming at Tottenham. Or for Vauxhall gyratory. The list goes on. If you don't like walking or cycling in these places, then it's time to get involved.

What we learned is that there is now cross party support from two parties to do something about this particular scheme (and to push for a review of the southern junction of the bridge as well).

We also learned that Transport for London will be formally consulting on this scheme from Monday for four weeks. We are going to need to encourage as many people as possible to respond to that consultation.

What's more, whether we like it or not, this scheme has gone political.

I've strived in writing this blog to stay out of politics. And I will continue to do so. But I feel uncomfortable having support from only Labour and Green politicians, when really this isn't about politics. It's about making this bridge and the junctions north and south of the bridge safer and more useable for everyone, not just people in cars. That's especially the case given that the overwhelming number of people using this bridge are not in cars in the first place.

My own gut instinct is that we need to get Conservative politicians to understand this is an issue as well. And my naive understanding is that the Conservatives might assume people who walk or cycle aren't necessarily their core constituents. One way or another, we need to make London's Conservative Assembly Members or MPs realise that their own voters are the people who walk and cycle over this bridge and that there are a tonne of bankers, lawyers, accountants and who knows what else walking and cycling through these junctions and that these people want the Mayor's traffic policy to represent them as people who walk and cycle in central London.

Question is whether or not we can pull that off in four weeks and whether people are prepared to pick up their pens and write to their MPs and Assembly Members of all political groups and to answer TfL's forthcoming (I hope online) consultation?