Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Global property developer asks TfL to sort out cycling and walking on central London roads and indicates that Mayor's current policies simply adding to congestion

Farringdon Street - seven lanes wide. None for cycling.
Credit: Crap Waltham Forest blog
In an article from 2010, Crap Waltham Forest blog pointed to Farringdon Street as a place where it would be perfectly feasible to build a segregated cycle track. The carriageway is seven lanes wide, two reserved for taxi parking, none devoted exclusively to cycling.

Unfortunately for most of us, Blackfriars Street is managed by the Mayor Boris Johnson through Transport for London, the capital's transport authority that loves speeding traffic flow through our streets as quickly and unpleasantly as possible.

There's an awful lot happening on Farringdon Street these days. For starters, several of the tower blocks have been demolished and new ones going up in their place. There's also the brand new Thameslink station and the Crossrail station under construction just to the right of this picture. And, of course, the scene pictured above is just minutes from Blackfriars Bridge.

So it's very interesting indeed to have the chance to see what one of the property developers responsible for the development of one of the new office blocks here has to say about Blackfriars Street. The property developer in question is no small fry, they're a very sizeable firm, owning several landmark properties around the world. I can promise, several of their properties are globally iconic landmarks you'll have heard of. The following is copied from a letter sent on behalf of the property's owner to TfL:

"We understand that the area in the a red route operated by TfL", says a letter sent on behalf of the property's owners. "Many cyclists find this red route an intimidating and unpleasant environment along which to cycle as the wider-than-average street and multiple lanes encourage drivers to drive at high speeds".

And then comes this: "We consider that a redesign of Farringdon Street is necessary to order to provide a more attractive cycle friendly environment".

And not only that, the letter also flags poor quality pedestrian crossings and points out that there is insufficient time for pedestrians to cross before traffic lights change and insufficient places for pedestrians to cross the road. Which is no surprise, frankly. Because TfL's policy under the Mayor is to shorten green phases for pedestrians and, in essence, as Cycle Of Futility points out "People are being designed out of London's streets".

So, it's rather heartening to see in writing that big business is beginning to have enough of Boris's election commitment to 'smooth the traffic flow'. Yes, a poll of London's businesses states that 57 per cent of London business leaders say that reducing disruption from roadworks should be a top priority for the next mayor. But it's starting to become apparent in all walks of life that people and businesses don't think that dealing with road works in isolation are the only way to go.

Here's a big global property owner putting its name to the fact that more people would like to walk and cycle but that TfL is preventing them from doing so. Thereby adding to the numbers of people using taxis during the day. In this particular case, one-third of business travel in this particular development is by taxi. This developer reckons that number would be far lower if people felt confident they could cycle safely to meetings on London's streets. Which implies this developer thinks the Mayor's policies are not creating safe spaces to cycle in and are directly adding to congestion. Therefore buggering up the Mayor's promise to rid the city of congestion.

I think it's very encouraging that a large City of London property developer is telling TfL that business wants to get around the city on foot and by bicycle but that business is being thwarted from doing so by TfL's policies. And that TfL's strategies are adding to congestion as a result.

As it happens, a very different sort of organisation is organising a protest on Blackfriars tomorrow morning. Protesting about this:

"In the eyes of TfL one car-user deserves and is given 5x the space of a cyclist or pedestrian. Every time TfL design a road or public space they put the needs of a life-endangering car above the needs of vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists.

It’s time their attitude changed. Our clogged up streets can’t carry this capacity any more.  People should be encouraged to leave their car at home, jump on their cycle or use public transport and walk."

The protest is tomorrow morning on Blackfriars Bridge at 8am starting from the south.

Interesting isn't it, that property developers and climate campaigners are both starting to say fairly similar sorts of things. Boris's plans to cut congestion aren't working. They're adding to congestion. And one of the key solutions, more people walking and cycling, are what people want. It would even benefit the people who want or have to drive.


  1. I think this is epic. Us small fry (cycles & pedestrians0 have been ignored. By those in the muddling middle. Bloomin' big business has, in this case, seen the obvious light. They are investing heavily and want the area to be top notch, massive car provision doesn't make areas feel like a neighbourhood or give them much chance of an identity.

  2. My own employer, a major City financial services firm, prefers not to make "political" representations, but their views are similar and they support walking and cycling, at least for commuting.

    Large City businesses approach transport and the street network in a hard-headed manner. They want free-flowing streets, so that their offices can be efficiently serviced - by equipment/stationery suppliers, engineers, couriers, etc - but they have virtually nil interest in the surface network supporting private cars (except perhaps for the bosses) and not much interest in taxis, if only because public transport is much cheaper, often much quicker, and transport costs have to be absorbed, they can't normally be recovered from clients.

    Promoting cycling openly raises some legal issues around staff health & safety and third party liability, but they are very keen to facilitate where an employee arrives at the decision on their own.

  3. It's unfortunate that some other developers still don't get cycling:

  4. I am in doubt about businesses' power to influence the Mayor -I mean oxford street hasn't been pedestrianized even though most of the businesses there want it...

  5. If Mr Cameron and Boris had their way we would all only have a bike !!!