Thursday, 12 September 2013

City of London votes near-unanimously for 20mph zone to cover entire Square Mile; City of London Police 'supportive'

Excuse the graphics. We firststarted talking about this several years ago
The City of London earlier today voted more or less unanimously to support "the adoption of a 20mph speed limit in all City streets, including those managed by Transport for London".

The City rightly notes that, with the exception of Westminster (a borough where public realm and transport planning are both stuck in the 1960s), "all other London Boroughs surrounding the City have adopted a 20mph limit".

The difference in the Square Mile, however, is that all streets within its boundaries (with a possible exception of Victoria Embankment), will become 20mph, including traffic-filled sewers like Farringdon Road and, I expect, much of Blackfriars Bridge as well. In other boroughs, you have 30 or 40mph main streets but 20mph quiet streets. In the Square Mile, the whole lot will be going 20mph.

As the only London local authority with its own police force, it is also worth noting that the City of London Police 'support the introduction of a 20mph speed limit'. 

Why is the City doing this? Well, the number one reason is to reduce casualties on its roads. The City of London (like Westminster, which unlike the City is doing nothing whatsoever about it), has a poor road safety record. On the City's roads "a disproportionately high number of cyclists and pedestrians are involved in collisions". When it comes to people on bikes, in fact, they make up 20% of the traffic in the Square Mile but a stunning 47% of the people seriously injured in road collisions. And the source of that danger (in my mind) is two-fold: bad road designs and too much motor traffic.

And the City is aware that by creating a 20mph zone, it creates a meaningfully better environment for doing business - it is more likely to remain a place that people want to be; to do business and to locate their offices.

Provided it is policed properly, and in particular at spots like Blackfriars Bridge and Holborn, where people tend to drive at excessive and intimidating speeds, this vote could make a significant difference for the vast majority of people in the Square Mile who get about on foot and for those of us on bikes.

City of London wants you to plonk yourself in front of the motor traffic on Cheapside

It's an impressive change of heart for the City of London and a welcome development. Certainly much more welcome than the patronising 'fun film' about 'sharing the streets safely' video that the City has just launched to try and change user behaviour on Cheapside - a road that the City has made so horribly narrow it is now a nightmare for cycling. As I've said again and again, this road is now so narrow, motor vehicles try to brush past you with inches to spare. Most of the day, the street is so jammed with queues of motor vehicles, that the only way to cycle here is to overtake on the wrong side of the road, cycling into the oncoming traffic. 

AsEasyAsRidingABike blog calls it exactly right about Cheapside and this video: "Nobody riding here wants to have to place themselves directly in front of motor traffic to prevent dangerous overtakes, yet this is what you have to do" and he notes that "This is not a consequence of the ‘medieval street pattern’. It is a consequence of the City creating a deliberately narrow carriageway." Exactly right.

The City of London wants us to all treat other road users 'like eggs' on Cheapside. It should be building roads that work, not roads that cause conflict the way that Cheapside does. 

The City wants you to 'use the full width of the lane', to do exactly what hardly anyone wants to do on this road. Some people in the City think that they can encourage people to do this, even though they admit in private that isn't what is actually happening on the street.

The reality is that people are intimidated into the side of the carriageway by aggressive driving and because they don't want to put themselves in the way of a massive truck, bus or taxi. And, frankly, why should they. What the City should be doing on Cheapside is creating "Safe Space for Cycling". Very simple. Thousands of people took to the streets a couple of weeks ago to demand exactly that. Instead, the City is living in a sort of mythical denial and hoping to encourage people to treat each other like 'eggs' (?!?!) Somehow, everyone will just rub along nicely then. That's never going to happen. What needs to happen on a road like this, which is busy, congested (and now overly narrow) is a flow for people on bikes, for people on foot and for people in motor vehicles.

The City of London needs to listen to this message, not prattle on about 'eggs'

See for yourselves what you think. I think it's patronising, misguided and completely misses the point that on busy, main through routes, local authorities need to build 'Safe Space for Cycling'. End of story.