Monday, 10 October 2011

London Cycling Campaign releases alternative vision for Blackfriars and for the whole London road network. This would be normal in most countries but Mayor's TfL will call it 'very ambitious'. Why exactly?

Blackfriars if New York or Denmark designed it. Proper
pedestrian crossings, place for cycling. More at
UPDATE: check out the Before & After images with commentary here.

Brace yourselves. Here's a scheme that would be totally normal in New York, Denmark, Holland, Frankfurt or Paris. But something that the Mayor's Transport for London will probably define as 'very ambitious' for London. Because it wants Londoners to think proper streets are only possible for private motor vehicles. 

The London Cycling Campaign has gone on the offensive about London's streets, starting with Blackfriars where the Campaign is aiming for a demonstration of pedestrians and cyclists, joined by politicians, on Wednesday 12th October at 5.45pm starting at the south side of the bridge. 

The Campaign has today released a series of images and videos showing how the traffic could be made to flow on a Blackfriars Bridge designed by anyone other than Transport for London. And it's a million times better than anything Londoners are ever going to get unless the Mayor either starts taking walking and cycling seriously up or he loses the election. 

Click HERE to see the general view and HERE to see videos of how the streets would work.

Transport for London pays lip service to 'encouraging modal shift', to 'encourage' Londoners to shift from motor vehicles to walking or cycling. But look at most streets. Cycling is squeezed in as an after-thought with schemes that the average Londoner would find extremely dangerous to use and are at best highly inconvenient. Walking is also made less convenient and more dangerous by giving people less time to cross the road and removing crossings. No wonder the roads are congested with motor vehicles.

I've focussed on Blackfriars Bridge recently because it's a place where bicycles outnumber cars and taxis. People deserve the right to travel safely and conveniently on bicycles, especially here. It is also heaving with pedestrians. If the Mayor can't get it right at a junction like Blackfriars where pedestrians and cyclists make up the massive majority of users, you have to ask if anything is ever going to change.

This is not an anti-car agenda. It's about showing there is both enough space and moneyto create something that works for driving, for proper, safe cycling and for easier, safer pedestrian crossings. It's also flags the point that that although the Mayor is happy to admit in public his scheme for Blackfriars is a pigs-ear, he doesn't seem prepared to actually do anything about it and you have to wonder why.

Mayor's plans for Blackfriars. More of the same, lots of
motor traffic, lots of congestion. Dangerous cycling. Ages
waiting to cross the road. Thanks Boris. 
The facilities for both pedestrians and cyclists at Blackfriars are pretty bad. They're not great for driving either, to be honest. And despite thousands of people protesting, the Mayor's Transport for London is in the process of making them worse. 

My view is this:Blackfriars is emblematic of Boris Johnson's failure to deliver on cycling and walking. He has quite deliberately allowed his transport authority to design for more and more motor traffic, paid for some fluffy cycling marketing campaigns and then wonders why the congestion is getting worse and people aren't taking up cycling. 

If Blackfriars looked anything like the scheme designed by the London Cycling Campaign, I would cycle more and I know some of my colleagues would switch to cycling - they're too scared by the bridge at the moment. I would feel I had a decent right to my own safe space on the road. It would give me easier and better access as a pedestrian as well. I don't think Boris wants me to feel equal on my bicycle or on foot. All that seems to matter to him is motoring. And a sodding cable car.

The London Cycling Campaign plan has many merits. It keeps pedestrian crossings where people need them (TfL is removing many of them). It lets you cross in one go (TfL is making you wait in the middle of the street). Instead of having to walk along a ridiculously narrow pavement (at the top of the bridge) you can walk along a wide paved area instead. It lets people cycle and turn safely next to the motor traffic (TfL makes you cross three lanes of motor traffic to turn right). It lets people cycle in their own space (TfL mixes you in with HGVs and buses). It lets drivers turn without worrying about crushing dozens of people on cycles (TfL lets you drive left across the cycle lane where thousands of people are cycling straight ahead). 

As I said earlier, this isn't revolutionary. This is completely normal in New York these days. The same goes for Paris, Holland, Denmark, Berlin, Frankfurt, Zurich, Geneva. But for some reason London is years and years behind the rest of the world.

London has a choice. More motor traffic, more congestion, more dangerous streets, more conflict between people in motor vehicles and on bicycles. Or it can calm the whole thing down and give people a proper chance to cycle and walk instead of drive everywhere (remember even TfL states the majority of car trips in outer London are less than 2 miles and easily cyclable if the streets weren't so anti-cycling). It could follow New York where streets are being designed exactly like this. Rather than giving Londoners some Cycle Super Highways that are filled with parked cars and nerve-shattering junctions, Mayor could start to show people it's genuinely safe and easy to use a bike through central London.

Last week Peter Hendy, Transport Commissioner for London spoke at a conference where he declared Boris's ambition of increasing cycling rates by 400% to 2026 were "very ambitious"

I think Boris's cycling revolution is 'very ambitious' because TfL doesn't want it to happen. I think Boris needs to get a grip on TfL and deliver on his manifesto promise to cycling. Either that or we need a new Mayor. Simple as that, really. 

If you think cycling and walking deserve better in London, please join us on Wednesday evening. Several London politicians have committed to join us as well. Blackfriars Bridge, southern end. 5.45pm, October 12th.