Monday, 28 February 2011

TfL response to Blackfriars criticism seems to me to miss the two important points about the gyratory scheme. Possible ways to respond

A number of people have received an email from TfL or from their Assembly Members about Blackfriars Bridge and the new gyratory that I've copied below.

I have to say, this is a dismal response but it is the line that TfL and some Assembly Members are cutting and pasting in response to queries about the scheme. 

Having read the TfL email, I think a few points need to be made clear. I'd welcome people's thoughts and comments on this:

No one is questioning the need for space for pedestrians outside Blackfriars station. No one is questioning the need for crossings so that people can leave the station easily. 

However, everyone is questioning why an additional motor vehicle lane that has been removed for a number of years needs to be re-instated to the detriment of the significant number of people walking and cycling in this area.  

The email states that "Reducing the number of lanes on the bridge would greatly restrict traffic movement and lead to significant queuing, potentially over a wide area." No-one's asking them to reduce the number of lanes on the bridge. People are asking them not to install an additional lane that doesn't currently exist through each direction of the gyratory. This is nothing to do with the bridge itself. A point they seem to be willfully ignoring in their responses and which a number of Assembly Members have simply cut and pasted without having realised the distinction between the two. 

Point 1

People are asking TfL for two very simple things. TfL is proposing to add one more lane on the gyratory within a narrower road space. Please don't add an extra lane for motor traffic that isn't even there at the moment. Instead of which, TfL could and should be using that not yet existent lane to create a bicycle lane. And just to be clear, there is no need to reduce the number of lanes on the bridge. Just don't add another one on the gyratory please.  And we know it works because that's how this space has functioned now for several years. So I'm not sure it's possible to buy TfL's assertion that "Reducing (ie, retaining the same number as now) the number of traffic lanes would generate significant congestion throughout a potentially wide area." It hasn't for the last few years so why should it now. 

Point 2

And please account for the needs of people who aren't leaving or entering the station by retaining an existing  pedestrian crossing point between Watergate and the Black Friar pub. There's absolutely no mention of that immensely busy desire-line in this response. And, although this scheme claims to be hugely generous by adding a few more centimetres of pavement, it still plunges people coming off the train into an urban motorway. Not exactly the sort of thing you need here. 

Yes there are lots of buses here. A total 3.7% of traffic going northbound all day consists of buses. But you still have massive cycling volumes. And I'm sorry but I don't think thousands of cyclists every rush hour should be made to jostle for position against speeding motor vehicles in motorway style conditions. And I don't think TfL should be at all proud that it's managed to save an advisory 1.5metre cycle lane in some of the space on the gyratory. 

One reason so many people drive in London, one reason that there is so much of what TfL calls 'traffic' and by which it means 'motor traffic' is that they don't have an alternative. And the bridges are a real crunch point. If you can get to work on quiet roads south or north of the river but you can't face getting across the bridges, you're not going to use your bicycle. I therefore believe that TfL is institutionally designing out cycling by making it something that is not an option for most people. And in doing so, it generates its own issues with motor traffic volumes. It's almost like a fairy story: TfL is sticking to the absolute letter of the law and doing everything it can to make sure London's motor traffic runs smoothly. It seems utterly oblivious to the fact that in doing so TfL itself is generating the monster in the room - the vast amounts of motor traffic, the pollution and the sheer dismal central London streets - that prevent it from allowing motor traffic to run smoothly in the first place. 

Perhaps it's time to write back to your assembly members once again and just make sure they understand the difference between what you're asking for and how TfL, in my opinion, seems to be re-interpreting that to answer a slightly different argument.  

From: Miles Andrew (ST) <>
Cc: Members Correspondence <>; James Hayley (ST) <>;;; Hardy Nigel (ST BR&P) <>
Sent: Mon Feb 28 11:00:32 2011
Subject: FW: Blackfriars Bridge North side scheme 

Thank you for your email.

The reopening of Blackfriars Station will greatly increase pedestrian footfall in the area, particularly in the area immediately outside the station. The number of pedestrians accessing the station at street level will be far greater than when it was operating previously.  Accordingly, the Thameslink Works Act 2006 contains a requirement that new crossing facilities be in place before Blackfriars Station can reopen. 

TfL, City of London and Network Rail have been working jointly to develop a scheme that will provide new surface level pedestrian crossing facilities for the new station.  In doing so, it was necessary to review the use of Blackfriars Bridge by all modes, in order to develop a scheme that provides the best balance between the needs of all modes; including pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists.  There were a number of technical considerations to bear in mind, including the physical space and structural restrictions on the bridge, but also security concerns and the need to ensure the traffic capacity of the Blackfriars Bridge junction was not constricted to such an extent that there would be widespread traffic congestion.

The scheme was designed by consultants acting on behalf of Network Rail, and the emerging design was considered by City of London and TfL.  TfL recently consulted key stakeholders and cycling groups about creating a new cycle lane across the Blackfriars Bridge junction, which would allow cyclists to turn right from Embankment onto Blackfriars Bridge more easily. During this, a number of concerns about the more widespread layout changes were raised.  TfL will therefore carry out further engagement with key stakeholders into the proposed changes to junction design and will feedback any significant issues that are raised to Network Rail’s consultants.

Mr Barraball commented on his current experience when cycling north into Queen Victoria Street.  The footways at the section between the Blackfriars on and off slip roads and Victoria Embankment are too narrow to accommodate the significant increase in pedestrians the re-opening of Blackfriars Station will generate. The footway has been widened at this location to allow for more pedestrians, whilst maintaining a cycle lane of 1.5m, which is the minimum width identified within the London Cycle Design Standards.  There are currently no traffic signals in this area of the bridge, and traffic is free flowing.  The installation of new pedestrian crossing points will introduce signal control, allowing cyclists to position themselves more easily, and so improve their passage across the bridge.  Reducing the number of traffic lanes would generate significant congestion throughout a potentially wide area.

Mr Barraball also commented on the removal of the southbound cycle lane at the entrance to the station.  Network Rail data indicates that pedestrian flow at the station will increase to 10,000 pedestrian movements per hour during the AM peak, as a result of the redevelopment of the station.  The majority of the existing subways outside the station will close, and new surface-level pedestrian crossings will be provided in order to meet this enhanced demand.  The footway outside the station will be widened to provide additional space for pedestrians and to meet DfT guidelines for there to be space between the carriageway and the frontage of a national rail station, for security reasons.  It is necessary to remove a short section of the southbound cycle lane in order to meet the significantly increased demand from pedestrians.  At the same time, TfL must bear in mind traffic flow across the bridge.  It is necessary to provide three southbound traffic lanes on the bridge: two for traffic heading south via Blackfriars Road and one for traffic turning right towards Queen Victoria Street.  Reducing the number of lanes on the bridge would greatly restrict traffic movement and lead to significant queuing, potentially over a wide area.  Buses make up a significant proportion of traffic passing through this area: in the busiest hour of AM peak period a total of 64 buses pass north and southbound through the Blackfriars Bridge junction.  TfL has a duty to keep traffic moving throughout its network.  Overall, the scheme has been designed to have a neutral effect on vehicle flow over the bridge. 

If you would find a briefing on this issue useful please let me know,



Andrew Miles I Government Relationship Manager


  1. I'm still composing an epic response.

    I crossed Blackfriars twice a day for two years, a bit before but mostly during the works.

    I have never ever seen a volume of traffic that could create the blockages they imagine.

    And it's really rather disturbing that in 2011 the professional highways engineers in this city still don't understand the basic effects of supply on demand in urban transport...

  2. "It is necessary to remove a short section of the southbound cycle lane in order to meet the significantly increased demand from pedestrians. At the same time, TfL must bear in mind traffic flow across the bridge. It is necessary to provide three southbound traffic lanes on the bridge: two for traffic heading south via Blackfriars Road and one for traffic turning right towards Queen Victoria Street."

    Without wishing to be rude... no, actually, let's be rude... Are TfL really this thick?

    There's effectively only one lane on the bridge, if we exclude the bus lane. The bottleneck is there already. Putting an extra lane just before the bus lane achieves nothing, as even a five year old could tell you.

    That aside, it's wonderfully gruesome to see the logic of TfL's prioritizing of "traffic flow" in action, with all its attendant failure to recognize that bicycles are also traffic, and that getting people on bikes might, you know, help traffic flow.

    We're doomed.

  3. This might be a good moment to point out that TfL seem to take a very narrow view of their 'network management duty' which pushes them down this path of 'avoid any chance of any increased congestion at any cost'.

    TfL's Traffic Modelling Guidelines are here and seem to be the basis for assessing the impact of schemes such as this. Page 20 says:

    "The Traffic Management Act (TMA) 2004 places a Network Management Duty (NMD) on all Local Traffic Authorities (LTAs) in England. In London, LTAs are the Boroughs and TfL. As London’s strategic traffic authority TfL has both a local and strategic NMD. The NMD requires the LTA to:
    - Ensure the expeditious movement of traffic on its own road network; and
    - Facilitate the expeditious movement of traffic on the networks of others.
    Guidance was produced by the Secretary for State in 2005, but essentially the NMD requires an authority to manage all their activities in such a way as to minimise congestion on the road network."

    Except when you look at the Traffic Management Act, section 16, paragraph 1, it says:

    "It is the duty of a local traffic authority to manage their road network with a view to achieving, so far as may be reasonably practicable having regard to their other obligations, policies and objectives, the following objectives—
    (a) securing the expeditious movement of traffic on the authority's road network; and
    (b) facilitating the expeditious movement of traffic on road networks for which another authority is the traffic authority."

    You will notice that TfL have apparently decided to ignore the bit about "so far as may be reasonably practicable having regard to their other obligations, policies and objectives". Those other objectives could include things like promoting cycling or reducing road danger, but they are left out of the traffic modelling guidelines in favour of a single-minded focus on reducing congestion.

  4. The Government Relationship Manager for TfL points out that the proposed scheme is 'flow neutral'. I am having trouble trying to understand what he means. Is this compared to how the flow was before the temporary bike lane was installed, or after?

    I would ask my Assembly Member to accept Andrew Miles' offer of a briefing. The number of cyclists using Blackfriars Bridge, both now and in future years, are unlikely to have been taken into account in Surface Transport's modelling process.

    Additionally, one questions whether TfL have taken into account the high proportion of motor vehicles using Blackfriars Bridge who only do so until the Thameslink upgrade is completed.

    It also occurs to me that the delay imposed on cyclists by motor vehicles in this proposal is higher here, where the cyclist must concern himself with so many lanes of conflicting traffic, than at an ordinary road crossing where cyclists are assumed to make up 0.2 times the value of a car. I would like to know what other options were considered in the design of this scheme, leading to the removal of a bike lane and increasing both the perceived and real danger to pedal cyclists. For example, were TfL presented with options for phasing the traffic lights to allow a green phase for cyclists?

    I am also concerned that strategic modelling is being used as a reason against including sufficient provision for cyclists. Mr Miles suggests that traffic congestion would be 'wide spread' and 'significant'. This seems to go against what is being said elsewhere in TfL where modelling suggests that capacity could be reduced on all central London bridges with no significant additional congestion.


  5. Good points Danny, distilled from an apologia which is incoherent, and contains numerous non-sequiturs (adding to pavement = reducing cycle lane. Really?), bogus assertions, and basic factual errors (southbound traffic can't turn right into QVS - that is a left turn; keeping two lanes instead of three is staying the same, not reducing, etc) which clearly indicate that Andrew Miles has never actually been to the site!

  6. The Traffic Management Act is open to interpretation about including cyclists and or pedestrians as 'traffic' or only motor vehicles. It doesn't say anything about if it is reasonable to count a cyclist as only one fifth or one third as important as a car, we don't count for much because we don't cause much congestion.

    The suggestion that the scheme should be 'flow neutral' is outrageous, they have added massive capacity for 'cross flow' pedestrian movements so mainting the motor vehicle flow means taking capacity from someone else. The pedestrian access is essential for the station. It was removed in the 1960s to promote motor traffic; resulting in wrecking the station as a transport interchange.

    Equally outrageous is the fact that Transport for London has forgotten the assurances they gave London Cycling Campaign in 2006 to provide for cyclists in the re-design. After two fatalities on the bridge in 2004 the TfL management of cycling provision was shown to be inadequate. They re-designed the northbound section, took out a motor traffic lane and a sweeping left turn, this theoretical 'loss of capacity' did not cause significant congestion over a widespread area. It is possible that the extra cyclists attracted to the route reduced the demand for many short motor vehicle trips.