Thursday, 20 October 2011

Lord Mayor of London: "Cycling is the way to travel". But how many more of us need to die before Boris Johnson's TfL designs separate traffic flows for cycling, keeps us away from HGVs and buses?

I tweeted the City of Westminster earlier this week. My tweet was triggered by them suggesting parents should encourage their children to get out and about more. My comment was: "@CityWestminster wants children to lead active/healthy lives. Try asking child to cycle on your streets to school? Cycle-unfriendly policies".

Westminster's response was drivelling, in my opinion: "@citycyclists We have lots of free educational schemes to help cyclists get the best out of the city - see here…" Right, so some training will help kids cycle around Parliament Square, will it? Or around Aldwych? Or down the Edgware Road. No, frankly Westminster council, it won't. It hasn't yet and it never will.

I truly believe Westminster Council dislikes bicycles and that provision for cycling is almost non-existant in Westminster.

Why do I feel so strongly? Because this time last year I met Councillor Lee Rowley, who is responsible for transport in Westminster. What did he tell me? He said this: "You lot are getting more attention than you deserve...You should be allowed to cycle but you shouldn't need anything from us to help you do it.."If you don't think [the cycling facilities are good], you should drive." Context is important here. This was at a party and he was off-duty and relaxing. But he wasn't joking. We were discussing this very much in the context of him knowing I write this blog and him having told me about his councillor role.

Let's compare and contrast. A couple of years ago, the City of London felt like somewhere that was fairly anti-cycling. A lot of dangerous junctions and policies that didn't help at all.

A lot of the junctions are still there. But they're improving. And the City has at least had the foresight to put together a strategy that might just start to reverse some of the anti-cycling policies of the past. There's more on that strategy on this page here.

Just as significantly, cycling is starting to be seen as something, 'normal' in the Square Mile. Have a look at the video above. This is an event earlier this month - the City Cycle Style event - run by the Lord Mayor of London for his charity in which the Lord Mayor of London says this: "" today's congested traffic environment is the way to travel". Compare and contrast with Westminster.

And yet Transport for London thinks that cycling is an activity that should be specifically undertaken in that congested traffic and seems to believe that junctions should be designed for maximising the flow of more and more motor traffic. It dithers for four whole years about putting in a couple of advanced stop lines at Kings Cross, and rejects a design that might actually make this a safe place to cycle. It rejects calls by people to make Blackfriars a place where people can cross the street in one go or make safe turns on their bicycles. It threatens to reject a plan to remove the horrendous roundabout at Elephant & Castle that would benefit tube passengers, businesses, pedestrians, bus passengers and cyclists. Why?

A few weeks ago, a young woman cyclist was hit by an HGV at Kings Cross and killed. Today, another woman cyclist was hit at Kings Cross. This time by a bus. Earlier this week a woman was knocked off her bike on Parliament Square. She just told me she has a broken back. The Kings Cross Local Environment site is doing an amazing job pushing for change at Kings Cross. But in my view, the 'safety' benefits that Transport for London is proposing at Kings Cross are derisory. Some paint. That's it. Likewise at Blackfriars. And all over London. These aren't isolated incidents. The increase in cycle deaths and collisions is a result of a policy of encouraging more motor vehicles through London's streets and encouraging cycling to mix with that heavy congestion. What should be happening is the creation of separate flows of traffic for motor traffic and cycling traffic. If you want to see something inspiring, a vision of what London could be like, then look at this page here.

Boris Johnson is at the head of Transport for London. According to the City of London video, he wants a 'cyclised London'. I agree with the Lord Mayor of London (Mayor of the City of London/Square Mile) - cycling is the way to travel. So what the hell is Transport for London thinking and why is it not designing London's roads so people can walk and cycle safely. Roads like those in the Netherlands, or New York or Paris?

Transport for London - how many more of us need to be killed before you start designing roads with separate flows for cycling and motor vehicles?