Monday, 25 July 2011

Time for the Mayor to grasp the nettle. Cycling is getting worse not better. TfL is running out of excuses and it's time to call a spade a spade.

Blackfriars - the other junction just the other side to the bridge:
Look how the pedestrians have to  walk in the carriageway and
then cross the motorway slip road.  This is what TfL wants more of.
When the new Blackfriars station is at full capacity, over 24,000 pedestrians will enter and exit during the morning peak," says TfL in a new letter sent on behalf on Leon Daniels, head of London's roads last week. "This will be a ten-fold increase in the number of pedestrians using the surface entrance, compared to the situation in 2008".

The letter asserts that pedestrians will make up 58% of the total number of people going through this junction at peak hours, up from only 14% in 2008.

As a result, says Leon Daniels, "The new design accommodates this huge increase in demand from pedestrians whilst improving facilities for the estimated 6% of people travelling through the junction by bicycle. This has been achieved without creating conditions which would severely disbenefit other modes, including bus and taxi passengers, who will account for around a fifth of those using the junction."

Funny that, really. Because TfL didn't properly measure the numbers of people walking or cycling here when it modelled the junction in the first place. It used data that was wildly out of date, didn't properly take into account the number of people cycling, and then tried to pretend everything was rosy.

But can you seriously imagine any other European country where this would be an issue? Where it would be possible to design out cycling simply because, 4,000 people cycling through the junction in the morning rush hour just isn't a very big percentage (even if people on cycles represent over one-third of the total vehicles on the road here)? By TfL's logic, perhaps we should we be considering giving 58% of the junction over to pedestrians and vehicles only get 42% of the space here?

If TfL really is so worried about creating space for pedestrians, how does it explain the presence of this motorway slip road, just the other side of that very same junction (pictured above). Thousands of pedestrians will be walking here from Blackfriars towards Mansion House. To get there, they will have to either burrow down into the underpass. Or like most people, they will walk in the carriageway, on the outside the railings you can see on the right and then across this motorway slip road, dodging fast-moving traffic.

And furthermore, if TfL really thinks pedestrians deserve more space at Blackfriars, then what is it doing giving motor vehicles an additional lane in each direction in the new scheme and why isn't it giving that space to people on foot or cycle?

David Arditti wrote a piece on his new but excellent blog yesterday. He wrote about how cycling campaigns are reduced to fighting over scraps. "I think the main lesson cycle campaigners in the UK need to learn is to stop being too diplomatic, and to ask for what we really need to make cycling a mass phenomenon, not for what they think is politically achievable in the short-term"

I think he's dead right.

Two months ago, I wrote a blog entry describing TfL as 'the enemy'. I wrote that at the time in response to another letter crafted on behalf of Leon Daniels that described how there was no tangible safety benefit to creating space that is safe to cycle in. Again and again, TfL changes the goal posts. Until recently it was saying that there were too many motor vehicles going through the junction to allow safe space for cycling. TfL's initital comments about the junction design were that it couldn't create safer space for cycling or walking because "Reducing the number of lanes on the bridge would greatly restrict traffic movement and lead to significant queuing, potentially over a wide area" (an excuse that is used again and again whenever TfL designs new road layouts). Now it's saying that it can't create space for cycling because there are too many pedestrians. But that avoids the fact that it's not creating any more space for people on foot either.

TfL means things are getting worse not better
(Thanks to Crap Waltham Forest)
I'm fed up with Transport for London. And I don't think I'm the only one. The London Assembly took an amazing stand last week at saying enough is enough on Blackfriars. But ultimately, the Mayor has to realise that his policies mean TfL is getting away (literally) with murder. If you cycle or walk in London, TfL will find every excuse, it seems to me, to make you less important than someone else in a motor vehicle. And it hides that fact by tweaking a little bit here, adding a little bit there, so that it makes it look like it's doing something to encourage people to cycle and walk.

But the truth is, wherever you look in London, whether it's Russell Square or Redbridge, Crap Waltham Forest is completely right too. Things are getting worse not better. And things are never going to change unless TfL stops feeding scraps to cycling and dressing them up as something much much better than they are. And they're also never going to get better unless the Mayor wakes up and does something about it. The London Assembly seems to realise this. Time for the Mayor to grasp the nettle.