Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Bring back Boris? Sadiq suggests we should have narrower cycle tracks and promises to 'make sure cars flow smoother'. That policy failed 8 years ago & was conclusively rejected by Boris

Five years ago, I never thought I would say this but I am really going to miss Boris Johnson.

Five years ago, Boris's strategy was to get London moving by 'smoothing traffic flow'. This was an awful, awful strategy that involved removing pedestrian crossings. It meant that Blackfriars got redesigned for cars and only for cars, even though the vast majority of people used that junction on foot. The pedestrian crossings over Blackfriars Road (north of the bridge) got ripped out, for example. In other words, it was bad for everyone who wasn't in a car, not just for cyclists. What's more, although it's hard to prove for definite, my own feeling is that 'smoothing traffic flow' was a direct contributor in worsening collisions and increasing casualties on London's roads. Oh, and what's more, it didn't seem to do anything to improve congestion. You have to remember that all sorts of things impact congestion - like the fact that London's population is booming, like the fact there are thousands more private hire cars and white vans on the road each and every month.

And that is why the 'smoothing traffic flow' strategy was conclusively buried by Boris a few weeks ago. The Evening Standard carried a headline page with Boris saying that the next Mayor would have to extend the congestion charge. Why? Because the only way to make London's streets work efficiently is to get people out of their cars. Boris says exactly that to the Standard.

Both Zac and now Sadiq have promised NOT to extend the congestion charge.

As many of you know, Zac Goldsmith has been giving slightly mixed messages about all of this, though. In particular, he has been giving mixed messages about cycling. It seems to me he has been telling his audience what they want to hear - on the one hand more cycle highways, on the other going out of his way to attend anti cycle highway meetings.

But this latest comment from Sadiq Khan just blows my mind. Speaking to Nick Ferrari of LBC at a hustings, Khan says three things that are just mind-bogglingly awful.



"We've got to learn the lessons from the huge problems caused by the first generation of cycle highways". Which first generation of cycle highways? The first generation was just paint, complete waste of money paint.

Nick Ferrari (not known for his love of cycle lanes) interjected with some proper common sense "but
road works are going to cause problems". Nick's right. Building cycle highways = congestion. Once they're built, as at Vauxhall, the congestion goes away, the number of people goes up.

But then Sadiq Khan makes it even worse.

"You don't have to have [cycle] lanes as wide as we do" - Seriously? Wide cycle lanes? They're only just starting to be built close to international best standards.

"You don't need to have permanent obstructions in the road" - So that means no more segregated safe space for cycling on main roads or at junctions does it? Which is odd because Sadiq Khan's manifesto promises more segregated cycle highways and safer junctions.

"We have to learn the lessons to make sure cars flow smoother" - This is the most pernicious one. It really depends what Sadiq Khan means here. 'Smoothing traffic flow' hasn't worked in London. It is an awful policy that some people within TfL still cling to but which simply doesn't work. As Boris Johnson says, we need a Mayor who has the guts to get people out of their cars. Both Khan and Goldsmith seem to be ducking this fundamental truth.

Caroline Pidgeon (LibDems) and Sian Berry (Green) are the only candidates talking sense on this stuff at the moment. A fuller review of what they have to same is coming up.

Meanwhile, here's the new Blackfriars Road cycle highway in action. It's not even fully open yet. Narrower lanes here? We don't need segregated, permanent safe space for cycling here? It should all be about smoothing flow for cars here? I think not.