Friday, 20 July 2012

Truly bizarre: City of London votes to reject The Times campaign forsafer cycling a week before the House of Commons committee formallysupports the campaign and Transport for London finally gets seriousabout cycling infrastructure

The scene at Bishopsgate after a cyclist was killed here early this year
Source: The Times (Matthew Lloyd)

There have been two massive announcement this week that will have longterm significance for people in London who use bicycles as transport.

The biggest of those announcements is the hugely welcome update from Transport for London on its plans to build safer junctions around the city. I'll cover that announcemtn in more detail in a future post.

The second announcement is a bit more gobsmacking - namely, the news that the City of London's policy & resources committee has voted - in direct contrast to the recent initiatives by the Mayor of London and in complete isolation from last week's House of Commons Transport Select Committee report on road safety - not to pass a resolution in favour of The Times's #cyclesafe campaign. I can't decide if the move smacks of arrogance, ignorance or complacency. Or possibly all three.

A quick summary of what's happening in the City of London first. After consulting on its local transport plan, the City did an extremely good job of listening to people's concerns and reversed some investment strategies that were, frankly, deeply hostile to safer cycling and walking.

One of the City's many committees - the Streets & Walkways committee - followed up on this work. In April it met to agree to support The Times's #cyclesafe campaign and to 'to support the growing number of cyclists on the City's roads'. In May, the committee also voted to recommend to the City of London Policy & Resources committee (ie the group of politicians who decide the City's strategy and where the money goes) "to indicate, in principle, support for [The Times's] campaign and to seek advice from the [Policy] Committee as to whether it would be appropriate for the City to join the campaign."

What did the City of London Policy & Resources committee think of all this? It met on 5 July (the notes are not yet available online but were handed out to the public at the committee meeting) and said this to its Streets & Walkways colleagues:

"From Policy and Resources Committee
The committee considered a resolution of the Streets and Walkways Sub-Committee, together with a report of the Director of the Built Environment concerning the Times Cities Fit for Cycling Campaign.
Discussion ensued on the merits of the City Corporation adopting the campaign. Members noted that a number of projects were already being adopted to address safety at the City's busy junctions and were therefore of the view that there was no need to adopt the campaign.
RESOLVED- That the resolution and the content of the report be noted and that as a number of projects were already being adopted to address safety at the City's busy junctions no further action be taken."

I can't work it out. The City of London seems to be saying a one-step approach to consider some junctions (and by the way, I'm not aware of a single junction that the City is looking at in any serious manner to make it safer for cycling) is all it needs to do. This coming two weeks before a House of Commons Transport Select Committee lambasts government and local councils for failing to do enough to make space for cycling on our streets.

Last week, the government announced plans to make it easier for local authorities to impose 20mph zones on their streets to improve road safety (and the City of London does NOT have a good road safety record). Then earlier this week, even that bastion of motor-centric transport Eric Pickles MP issued a report that promotes restrictions of motor traffic speeds to "reduce noise and pollution, improve safety and offer a more tranquil social environment."

Yet, from what I understand, the Policy committee is also now trying to backtrack on a commitment within its transport strategy to consider a 20mph zone across the Square Mile. It won't say so in public but everyone I speak with knows that the City of London is talking in public about support for a 20mph zone but won't really commit to implementation.

Meanwhile, earlier today, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson announced a significant number of serious and meaningful investments into London's road network to create safe space for cycling at key junctions and along certain corridors which I will explain in a future blog post.

In short, just as the rest of London and the UK starts getting behind cycling and starts to swing behind slower motor traffic speeds for the benefit of everyone (not just cyclists of course), the City of London's grandees seem (in my opinion) to be going into reverse - despite the very fine work of its Streets & Walkways Committee members who actually think about these issues in some detail. I think the City of London's Policy & Resources committee either hasn't got its ears to the ground or there's someone very senior who has a very strong bias against people doing things that don't involve driving through the Square Mile.