Saturday, 5 March 2011

From the archives: Closing Blackfriars to motor traffic would ease traffic congestion

In all the recent back and forth about Transport for London's plans to turn the junction at the northern end of Blackfriars Bridge into a six lane motorway (three in each direction), I had completely forgotten this post by the (I hope) temporarily absent Real Cycling blog which cited a 2008 study which asserts that:

Closing Blackfriars Bridge and its approach roads to traffic (the black-striped sections in the illustration on the right) would actually improve the overall traffic flow in London. That's the counter-intuitive suggestion in a 2008 paper by academics Hyejin Youn, Hawoong Jeong and Michael Gastner.

Hats off to CycleofFutility blog for digging this one out of the archives.

Remember that TfL is asserting that not having an extra two lanes on this junction "would greatly restrict traffic movement and lead to significant queuing, potentially over a wide area". TfL is of course referring only to motor traffic, something which it seems to regard as infinitely more important than any other form of movement. The fact that those additional two lanes have been absent for over two years and their disappearance has never led to any significant queuing over a local, let alone wide, area seems to have escaped its notice.

Isn't it refreshing to realise that there are plenty of people who don't share TfL's apparent obsession with the bogeyman of "significant queuing over a wide area" and are prepared to consider how more radical solutions might actually make conditions better for people on bikes and for people in motor vehicles. I'm not anti motor vehicles. I've owned several. But I don't feel I should have the right, just because I'm in a motor vehicle, to drive anywhere I want, whenever I want, at more-or-less whatever speed I want.

There's a very serious point made in CycleofFutility's blog about all of this. In another entry, he calculates that, at any point between 7-10am, there are 17 bicycles crossing Blackfriars Bridge and heading north.

Guess how much space those 17 people get at the junction? 150 centimetres. Cars and taxis combined, make up less of the traffic than those people on bicycles. And yet they currently get a whopping 10.1 metres. And TfL doesn't think that's enough. It's proposing no change for cycling but a whole extra lane for motor vehicles. At some point, I do hope there will be enough of us on our bicycles prepared to vote and force for change. Because whether you like it or not, if you think road conditions in London are rubbish for cycling, then you've just made a political statement. TfL's not budging on this yet because a bulk of politicians still think motor transport is the only way to go. It's up to us to make them realise they're wrong about that.


  1. Good post.

    I've been pondering your conclusion - re. politics - reckon there are 130,000 people who would vote for a Cycling Party Assembly Member? Thanks to PR that's all you need in the whole of London - I think it's possible.

  2. Good post; a safe, wide and convenient north-south cycle route is sorely missing from London.
    Similar candidate bridges for closure to motor traffic would be Albert Bridge (where the current expensive works to the bridge show that closure hasn't caused local gridlock) and also Lambeth Bridge which is a similar case to that modelled in your post.

  3. I suggested to the Assembly closing Southwark Bridge to motorized traffic, but clearly I wasn't thinking big enough!

  4. This reminds me of when Hammersmith Bridge was closed to motor traffic in 1997. A study at the time commisioned by TfL and DEFRA showed that closing roads cuts traffic and encourages a modal shift to public transport and walking/cycling.

    New Scientist reported "Computer models used by transport planners effectively assume that closing one road moves traffic elsewhere, causing congestion. But researchers led by Phil Goodwin of University College London, the government's adviser on transport policy, found that this is not what happens."

    In the case of Hammersmith Bridge traffic in the area decreased by one third and many people switched to walking or taking the bus. Sadly, despite a campaign to keep it closed, the bridge re-opened in 1999.