Monday, 21 March 2011

City's transport plan - how the City is starting to respond. The 20mph question.

All together now. Typical fast-moving City street
with bus overtaking bicycles, giving them
a couple of inches space. Fairly standard scene
in the Square Mile
I've been a bit silent on the City of London local implementation plan of late.

For those of you blissfully unaware of what I'm talking about, you can read the background here. Alternatively, you can make do with knowing this is the transport plan for the City of London for the next few years. It is the way that the City responds to the Mayor's Transport Strategy. And it is essentially a political document that sets out how the City judges it ought to handle things on its streets and transport networks.

Over 113 people responded to the Plan, including a number of organisation and companies. Over 100 of these focussed on issues relating to cycling. And from what I can tell, there were roughly 100 more responses than at the time of the last Plan a few years ago.

In any case, yesterday heralded the first of many discussions to be had about the Plan within the City's various committees.

Yesterday was the turn of the Streets & Walkways Committee. Who, now that they have approved a number of amendments to the Plan, hand over to the Planning & Transport Committee and thence to the Policy & Resources Committee. It is the latter that assigns the cash, as it were, and is therefore rather important.

The Streets & Walkways Committee was presented with four amendments for discussion. It had to approve whether or not these amendments should be included in the Local Implementation Plan. And these were they:

1 Control of inappropriately high vehicle speeds

2 Continuity of high quality cycle routes

3 Through- traffic restrictions; and

4 Road traffic casualty targets

For today, I'll deal solely with 1, ie innappropriately high vehicle speeds and the consideration of a 20mph speed across the City of London. Something we have been arguing is necessary for some time and something that over a hundred of you have written to support.

My own view is that the quality of discussion was very mixed. Some of the councilmen (the City's own brand of local councillor) showed informed and intelligent views (whether I agreed or not was another matter but the quality of debate tended towards intelligent points for the most part). Other councilmen struck me as having rather ill-informed views but a slightly bullying nature that on occasion carried the room. I have to say that I was impressed by how the chair, Martin Farr, kept the meeting to the point and negotiated some of the quirkier utterances of his colleagues. 

In any event, here's the good news: The Committee agreed that the Plan should include a proposal to examine a 20mph speed limit or one either a) covering the whole of the City except for the Transport for London road network or b) the whole of the City.

Gosh.

City officials pointed out the speed limit would help improve safety on the City's roads and help improve its poor air quality.


And then Michael Hudson, of Castle Baynard ward opined that the City's streets are in any case 'self-regulating' because they're so narrow. Try telling that to someone cycling along Bishopsgate, London Wall, Holborn Viaduct or around the gyratory between St Paul's and the Museum of London. He related that the Cycle Super Highways are on streets that don't have 20mph limits and I quote "[if 20mph is implemented] the majority of vehicles breaking the speed limit will be cyclists at they go down a hill". 


Oh dear. 


There were some sensible discussions around implementation. How would the City go about enforcing a 20mph limit? Would it put an enormous burden on the police, for example. It was agreed that the City of Lonodn is almost unique is having sufficient influence over its own police force (I paraphrase) to ensure a high level of enforcement. The fact that the City of London Police can monitor poor road user behaviour several days a week where other forces seem not to be quite so omnipresent on London's streets would back that up, I suppose. 


And there was more sensible discussion from other members as well about the fact that it would make sense to make all streets in the City of London 20mph, thereby including roads like Upper Thames Street and Farringdon Road which are operated by Transport for London rather than by the City itself. 


In any case, the vote towards a possible 20mph implementation was carried in the form of an agreement to look for a report which examines a possibly lower speed limit. The first of very very many steps, I suspect. But it's on the agenda at least. Which is good news. And will be incorporated into the draft local implementation plan, pending several further layers of approval. The fact that even TfL realises some of the City's streets (notably Blackfriars Bridge) should go 20mph is one step in the right direction. And there was useful discussion about how every borough around the City, with the exception of petrol-head Westminster, is going 20mph (in fact, there is already one 20mph area in the City, just next to Islington near the Barbican).


It's interesting to note that on Blackfriars Bridge, motor speeds are at 39mph for most cars at night and where 71% of all road collisions involve bicycles. On Tower Bridge, where the speed limit has been 20mph for some years, guess what, no one killed or seriously injured for several years. It must be time to give 20mph a try.