Tuesday, 27 November 2012

City of London approves plan to investigate imposing a 20mph 'environment' on all its streets, notes considerable number of people driving through Square Mile way over the speed limit

People cycling to work in the City of London during the summer
Pictured Queen Victoria Street - two lanes in each direction, no bike lanes

In the last fortnight, the City of London has released two sets of figures that independently suggest there are two key issues around road user behaviour in the Square Mile.

The first of these is speeding drivers. In the 10 months to October 2012, City of London Police recorded 5,839 vehicles exceeding 30mph and issued 2,063 penalties for speeding. And this is the important bit: In an area packed with people on foot and on bikes, the average speed of those fined for speeding was 40mph.

What's interesting about the number of people speeding is that speeding is NOT one of the City of London Police's priorities.

The second issue is cyclists jumping red lights. In nearly all wards in the Square Mile, local people have asked the police to focus on cyclists, in particular those cyclists who jump red lights. This is understandable. There is heavy footfall at crossings in the Square Mile. Lots of people crossing the road feel that cyclists are taking liberties at red lights. I watched last week as one guy on a road bike charged through a red light sending three women who were crossing the road scattering out of his way. That's not on, frankly. It's downright pig-headed, arrogant and selfish cycling.

In the same period, to end-October 2012, City of London Police issued a total 2,188 non-endorsable fixed penalty notices. The majority, but not all, of these are to cyclists jumping red lights. If we use the more detailed statistics from the Police report at the Barbican, it looks like around 80% of those penalty notices are for cyclists jumping red lights. That suggests that slightly fewer than 2,000 people have been stopped and fined for cycling through red lights in the whole of the Square Mile this year, which compares with 2,063 stopped and fined for speeding.

Given the fact that the Police have been asked to prioritise "law-breaking" cyclists, I think it's quite telling that even more people have been stopped for speeding through the Square Mile's streets. It suggests that driving way above the speed limit is endemic in the City of London and it seems that speeding drivers are just as much, if not more of a menace in the Square Mile than red-light jumping cyclists.

In that context, I have to commend the City of London which earlier today approved a budget to investigate the benefits (or 'disbenefits' as the report calls them) of applying a 20mph speed limit across the whole of the Square Mile.

What is particularly interesting about the investigation is that the City intends to review a broad but important range of possible outcomes. These include:

  • The impact on average and maximum journey times for all users (so far so expected)
  • The impact on the frequency and severity of road traffic collisions (again, fairly expected)
  • The impact on air and noise quality from various types of emissions from motor vehicles (as above)

But then, interestingly, the City includes a couple of categories that go slightly beyond these usual measures:

The City officers say that they would like to measure the impact of 20mph on enabling people to shift from private motor vehicles to cycling, walking or public transport. Very specifically, in other words, the Square Mile is trying to work out whether by creating a 20mph environment, it can create a space in the centre of London that actively encourages more walking, more cycling and more use of public transport. The City expects to see "continuing strong growth in the numbers of pedestrians and the numbers of cyclists; and therefore in the proportion of City road traffic that these groups comprise".

This is quite an interesting approach. The theory being that if motor vehicle speeds are lower, more people might feel the streets are safer to cycle on, which in turn might lead to fewer motor vehicles on the streets in the first place.

The City's investigation will rumble on until next summer when the first results will be published. I think it will be very interesting to see how the City handles this topic and whether it manages to find a balanced perspective on all these issues.