Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Tories and former British National Party Assembly Members walk-out again and delay discussion about what London's roads should look like. The real issue is that the Mayor is letting Transport for London carry on with policies that are killing people

Safe road design for cycling, London-style. Spot
the cyclist?
Almost unbelievably, London's Conservative Assembly Members have once again walked out on a motion to express the point that dangerously-designed road infrastructure is killing Londoners on bikes. The Conservatives were joined by former British National Party (now independent) Assembly Member Richard Barnbrook.

The motion stated that: "some cyclist deaths and injuries could have been avoided if the road network designs for the locations where these deaths and injuries occurred had been safer".

The walk-out has brought a withering attack from Ross Lydall in The Evening Standard: '16 cyclists dead but Tories refuse to debate road safety'  and from cycling website road.cc.

From what I understand, the Tory walk-out was related to their belief they are under-represented on various London Assembly Committees. There was a similar walk-out, ostensibly for similar reasons, in June when the Tories walked out and prevented a debate about Transport for London's plans for Blackfriars Bridge.

Jenny Jones tweeted earlier today that she has some sympathy with the Conservative position on under-representation. And they may well have a point. But the fact is that they, and the ex-BNP Assembly Member - have now stalled issues relating to road safety twice in a row.

It is galling that the Tories keep doing this. 16 people have been killed on their bikes so far this year, double the number killed in 2008. And I suspect more of us will be killed before the end of the year.

However, what is even more galling is the total failure of London's politicians to work out what to do about London's roads.

All of them.

Montreal - home of the original Boris bike.
A Mayor that makes space for cycling. Very
different to London's Mayor
After the Blackfriars walk-out, something quite amazing happened. The Conservatives came back to the issue and worked with the Green party to table a revised motion that secured all-party support to make Blackfriars Bridge safer for cycling. 

The thing is, absolutely nothing has happened since. In fact, Transport for London has simply stuck two fingers up to London's politicians, declaring last week that a safer scheme for Blackfriars couldn't possibly work. Because it might impede 'traffic flow'. Yes, that's right. It might encourage people to actually take up cycling instead.

According to Andrew Boff, the Tories did also table an amendment to this second London Assembly motion. He writes on Ross Lydall's blog that the Conservatives proposed the following motion and that Jenny Jones may have rejected the revision to this new motion to:

Publicly engage with cyclists and the London Cycling Campaign on a review of all future major schemes on the TLRN (main roads) 
Review the design of the major junctions on the Cycle Superhighways and publish the findings;
Ensure that raw accident data is made publicly available;
Prepare and publish a design guide to inform and instruct all future schemes.


London Assembly did vote against this.
Transport for London has told them to sod off
That's all well and good. But the fact is, as I pointed out here, Transport for London has already consulted publicly with tens of thousands of cyclists and the London Cycling Campaign. It spent years doing so. The Mayor scrapped the work that was being done at the time and has utterly ignored the findings.

The one and only thing that will make any use in London is to publish Boff's suggestion of a design guide for all future schemes. But even that will work only if Transport for London is told to change its obsession with 'traffic flow'. And the only way that will ever happen is if the Mayor steps in. So far, he's made clear he's not going to. Hence, Transport for London can do what the hell it likes and screw the London Assembly.

Earlier this week, Transport for London sent a letter to Conservative Assembly Member, Richard Tracey. Andrew Miles, TfL Government Relationship Manager said this:

"Dealing with the competing demands on our road network is not straightforward, but we believe it is possible to improve road safety and to provide enhanced facilities for cyclists or pedestrians, whilst maintaining traffic flow.  The reality is that we must ensure both objectives are accommodated within our scheme designs across London.  While we are not complacent and recognise that there is more to do, the reality is that significant progress has been made to improve facilities for pedestrians and cyclists over the last few years, as demonstrated by the growth in walking and cycling and the improving safety picture."

In other words, Transport for London is trying to have its cake and eat it.

London Cycling Campaign design for Bow
roundabout cycle tracks
It wants maximum motor traffic on the roads. And it wants safer cycling and walking facilities. The fact is that this contradiction means we will never ever have safer cycling and walking facilities in London. Pictured left, is design by the London Cycling Campaign for a safer junction at Bow roundabout that is to international standards.  This sort of design is impossible if you maintain that you can provide enhanced facilities for cyclists AND maintain traffic flow.

No, Mr Miles. The 'reality' is not that you must ensure 'both objectives are accommodated'. At some point you need to actually encourage people to cycle and walk. And to achieve that, you need to make the roads work properly and safely for people on bikes. You can't do that if you're busy designing schemes to maximise fast motor traffic.

I've given up feeling that the London Assembly can do anything. Transport for London is simply ignoring them because the Mayor seems to be ignoring them too.

Sadly, our Mayor hasn't got the balls to act on this. He thinks we should all just man up, keep our wits about us, and feel more confident cycling on the roads. I think he's wrong. And I think that his duplicity with TfL on this topic is killing people.