Wednesday, 23 March 2011

TfL engineers imply they will only improve junction for pedestrian​s and cyclists if private sector pays and only if motor vehicles don't have to slow down or queue a little.

Blackfriars Bridge Southbound near Stamford Street. Note the
caged bike route in the middle
Transport for London has responded to a suggestion by Jenny Jones, Green Party AM, about the southern junction at Blackfriars Bridge. I've coped the exchange below including TfL's comments.

The correspondence is about the junction between Blackfriars Bridge and Stamford Street and is in Southwark, which you can see here.

What's fascinating about the TfL response, when you look at it in combination with the northern junction responses which you can read about here, is that it clearly demonstrates, in my view, how Transport for London (and therefore the Mayor) does not want to prioritise safe, convenient crossings and junctions for either pedestrians or cyclists.

Instead, it suggests that the Mayor and Transport for London might be thinking of spending private money for pedestrian or cyclist improvements here but not allocating public money to help people use this junction more safely.

Even if this magic private sector money comes along, then the implication in this response is that TfL will also consider making changes here if those changes don't slow down motor traffic in any way. And we know that the majority of the motor traffic here is speeding because TfL's own data shows this as you can see here. But we also know that this issue is the same all across London. In Vauxhall, Brixton, Tottenham and Walthamstow, TfL is designing pedestrians and cyclists out of its junctions by insisting that junctions must be designed to allow motor vehicles to travel without queuing.

In other words, it's all about motor vehicles. None of whom may ever be allowed to queue. But pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to be put in dangerous, compromising places on the road just to ensure that people in motor vehicles don't have to face any slow-moving junctions.
Heading southbound, this is a four lane monstrosity with two sets of pedestrian crossings, where pedestrians are caged in cattle pens. Cyclists are supposed to squeeze through those pens as well using the National Cycle Network that runs between Upper Ground on the south bank and on towards London Bridge. People heading on foot south along Blackfriars Road, don't have any pedestrian crossings at all. In fact, they've never, in the last 23 years, even had a phase in the traffic lights to let them get across. Hence the situtation that you see thousands of men and women each day, standing like lemmings in their suits in the middle of the road as the HGVs rush by and they try to get to Waterloo. And further up the road, you see cyclists trying to turn across four lanes of fast-moving traffic to head towards Waterloo.

It's just another hopeless TfL junction that seems to discriminate against people on foot or on bikes by deliberately designing itself around the motor vehicle. And fast-moving motor vehicles at that, with plenty of lanes to chose from.

So, it's highly interesting to see a senior TfL officer's response to Jenny Jones's query about why this junction can't be improved for the vast majority of people who use it on foot or on bicycles.

I've copied the exchange below and you can read it for more details. But in summary, I read this as saying roughly this:
a) TfL knows this is a rubbish junction for pedestrians and cyclists. And would like to have done something about it. But it's decided to only do something if someone else pays for it, ie if it obtains so-called Section 106 money, which is money provided through a development. So, TfL is actually saying here, in my view, that it does not believe public money should be used to make this area safer and easier to cross for pedestrians or for cyclists.

b) The reference below to 'crossing times in parallel with the signalised junction at Southwark Street' is a technical response to a request to make it possible for pedestrians and cyclists to cross in one go between Upper Ground - which is the National Cycle Network route along the South Bank - and the southbound side of Blackfriars Bridge. This is possible at the moment via a narrow cattle pen where pedestrians and cyclists are crammed into a tiny space and have to wait for motor traffic before they can continue crossing. What I think TfL is saying here is that it can't consider changing the cattle pen or changing the phase of the traffic lights to allow people to cross in one go. This would massively enchance the junction for pedestrians and cyclists, allowing them to cross in one go, with enough space for each other and would slow down the motor vehicles. But no, not possible. Because it might mean the motor vehicles, rather than the people, have to slow down.
Have a read for yourself and see what you think.

From: Jenny Jones

To: Various TfL senior team leaders

Subject: Re: Cyclist crossing facilities at the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge


Thanks for this explanation.

I take all your points about the difficulties of funding and signal coordination, but I feel that cyclists have been, and are still, getting a raw deal on the Blackfriars Bridge scheme.

TfL has a duty to all road users and the changes we have discussed are cheap compared with the tragedy, the congestion and the expense of even one road death, which the gov costs at £1.4m. Any cost benefit exercise would find that it's a bargain NOT to have road deaths and maimings.

TfL can find the money to do this if it decides it's a priority and I think it is.

Best wishes



Jenny Jones

From: TFL senior team leader

Sent: Tue Mar 22 19:02:40 2011

Subject: Cyclist crossing facilities at the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge

Dear Jenny,
It was good to meet with you on Friday regarding Blackfriars Bridge. When we walked back across the bridge you asked me about improving the cycle facilities crossing Blackfriars Road on the south side.

In recent times a number of developments were proposed in that area including a new 6 star hotel and office blocks located close to the Stamford Street and Southwark Street junction. TfL were expecting to receive several million pounds of Section 106 contributions from the developers and in 2008/09 we initiated a major study to prepare a Blackfriars Road ‘vision’ document to support the regeneration of the area. This work was undertaken with input from Southwark Council, South Bank Employers Group and Better Bankside BID.
The vision document recommends (subject to a traffic impact assessment) the provision of a straight across crossing to replace the staggered facility and also the removal of the barriered cycle track in the middle of the carriageway. There are also proposals to provide enhanced pedestrian facilities at the Stamford Street junction arm with Blackfriars Road where currently there is no facility. A greatly improved pedestrian environment, including significant tree planting was proposed along the rest of Blackfriars Road between the bridge and St Georges Circus
Unfortunately the recession has had a major impact on the developments and improvements to the area. Therefore, the Blackfriars Road study has been placed on hold for the time being and elements will be progressed as and when S106 contributions are released. I understand that discussions are currently in progress in relation to the development site at 241 Blackfriars Road and there is the possibility S106 could be released in the next 12-18 months providing us with funding to consider making the improvements suggested.

In parallel, I have asked that a consideration is given to whether a straight-across crossing scheme could be progressed in advance of any of these developments (and their related funding contributions), but this would obviously have a financial implication for TfL which would need to be assessed in the light of the current constraints on budgets. We would also need to be clear about the feasibility of the scheme in isolation (for example, I understand that the crossing timing runs in parallel with the signalised junction 100m away at Southwark Street, so to make this change may not be a straight forward as it seems).