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
8 THE TIMES CITIES FIT FOR CYCLING CAMPAIGN
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. 

3 comments:

  1. As a City of London employee I find this news worrying but not surprising given the make up of this particular committee.
    However, the good news is that the new Chief Executive who will be starting in the Autumn is John Barradell, the current CEO of Brighton Council and a keen cyclist himself. I'm hopeful that he will push the cycling agenda in the City to the next level.

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  2. I would have to second that. There are a very few members of this committee who seem reasonable people - the chairman Mark Boleat, for example, Martin Farr, a keen cyclist, and Catherine McGuiness, a Bromptonaut.

    Otherwise, I found that attending the proceedings of this committee as a member of the public was a bit like straying onto the set of a production of "Alice through the Looking Glass". Those members who were not decrepit were, at best, eccentric, and went off on rants about all sorts of subjects, including the inevitable cyclists on pavements but also many non-cycling related issues, which the chairman struggled to control. I left thinking "is this really the body which governs the policy of the City of London?

    I am deeply concerned that the City is doing its best to kill off the cycling related resolutions it added to its local implementation (transport) plan following written responses to the consultation by an unprecedented number of respondents, many of whom were cyclists or cycling bodies. In particular, they resolved to consider 20mph limits and to ask TfL to do the same for the "red routes" which pass through the city, to minimise confusion and signage as people pass from one to the other. That seems now to have morphed (and I have seen the original language - it is quite explicit) into considering 20mph ONLY if TfL will do the same.

    20mph is not a cycling-specific measure, although it benefits cyclists, but nearly 400,000 people enter the City every morning to go to work, and about 90% of those arrive on public transport, 3% by bicycle and only 6% in cars, taxis and motorcycles. In other words, 93%, or about 370,000 people, become pedestrians or cyclists as soon as they set foot in the City, and 20mph is good for them too.

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  3. arrogance, ignorance or complacency.?

    Looks more like officer sabotage: After a brief look at the papers I thought that you had selectively quoted the minute from Streets and Walkways, but when I double checked I found the following:

    This paragraph appears on the agenda of the STREETS AND WALKWAYS SUB (PLANNING AND TRANSPORTATION) COMMITTEE Monday, 21 May 2012 as a matter arising at item 6 (Minutes of the meeting held on 23 April 2012):

    Item 4C – The Times Cities for Cycling Campaign – Members agreed to submit a resolution to the Policy and Resources Committee to indicate, in principle, support for the campaign and to seek advice from the Committee as to whether it would be appropriate for the City to join the campaign. Members particularly sought to understand the distinction between ‘supporting’ the campaign and ‘signing’ up to it.

    However on the agenda of the POLICY AND RESOURCES COMMITTEE 5 July the following wording appeared:

    Item 4C – The Times Cities for Cycling Campaign – Members agreed to submit a resolution to the Policy and Resources Committee to indicate in principle support for the campaign and to seek advice from the Committee as to whether it would be appropriate for the City to join a campaign to which there was now a political dimension. Members particularly sought to understand the distinction between ‘supporting’ the campaign and ‘signing’ up to it.

    An officer appears to have inserted the phrase "to which there was now a political dimension", presumably in an attempt to subvert the committee. There is nothing in the accompanying report to support the "political dimension" assertion, but given the City's aversion to party politics it would have had an effect.

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