Thursday, 28 April 2011

Did TfL plan a safer Blackfriars Bridge and scrap it? It won't let us see the traffic data it used for its new scheme.

TfL's original plan for Blackfriars?

The LCC claims that this plan on the left was approved by the City of London and was TfL's original suggestion, subsequently scotched in favour of a plan that keeps motor vehicles moving as quickly as possible over the bridge while making it more dangerous and less convenient for the majority of people using the bridge junction who are walking or cycling. This original plan would have slowed the junction down and added more pedestrian crossings, making it safer for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

The diagram shows the original proposal superimposed on the current motorway-style arrangement.

The LCC also claims that TfL has admitted Transport for London used out-of-date traffic data when it submitted its more recent anti-walking and anti-cycling plans. When we went to meet TfL at this junction together with three London Assembly Members, TfL verbally admitted to using traffic data from 2007.

Why's that important, you say?

Well, have a look at this video. I took this video at 8am one morning last week. The video shows one green light phase at this junction on a perfectly typical morning.

What this shows is that the junction, at least in the rush hours, is packed with bicycles. More bicycles than motor cars, in fact.

In Februay I noted there are now 1,926 bicycles a day heading north on this bridge in the rush-hour. That's up from 432 in 1990.  In any case, bicycles now comprise 35.6% of the total traffic on Blackfriars Bridge heading north in the mornings. That's more than any other mode of transport and higher than private motor cars and taxis combined (31.9%). Back in 2007, though, the number of bicycles was only about half what it is now.

And that's why TfL's traffic data matters. Because if TfL is really modelling on 2007 numbers, then it is completely failing to take into the account the fact that number of people cycling in central London is booming while the number of people using private motor cars in central London is falling. And as the LibDems put it, it's very strange that Transport for London "favours smoothing the traffic flow for motorists and worsening conditions for pedestrians and cyclists"

It's almost as if Transport for London is looking at what's happening on the ground and deliberately ignoring it.

So, we decided to ask Transport for London in writing.Specifically we asked them for:

1. Any information held about modelling of vehicle flows for the Blackfriars junction scheme being progressed for Network Rail. This should include (but not be limited to) baseline data for motor vehicles and cycles, sensitivity testing and details of the model packages used. I realise this may mean a large amount of data so would appreciate advice and assistance as soon as possible to narrow down this request.

Here's their response:

"TfL is not obliged to supply this information to you as it is exempt from disclosure under Regulations 12(4)(d) of the EIRs, which applies to information which is still in the course of completion, to unfinished documents or to incomplete data. The information you have requested is in the course of completion and the modelling does not yet incorporate changes made to the Blackfriars junction scheme. The modelling needs to be reviewed, adjusted and approved to ensure that it is an accurate reflection of the proposed scheme.

The use of Regulation 12(4)(d) is subject to an assessment of the public interest in relation to the disclosure of the information concerned. TfL recognises the need for openness and transparency but considers that the public interest favours maintaining this exception as disclosure of incomplete modeling work could give a false impression of the impacts of the scheme. TfL considers that the public interest is better served by allowing TfL to complete and audit the modelling in line with changes made to the scheme."

This response came a couple of days after we'd met TfL. And it came after TfL affirmed to us that the design had been approved some time ago by TfL and by the City of London 'as required under Network Rail’s Traffic and Works Obligation'.

TfL's defence of the current scheme for this junction is founded on the "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".

And yet I interpret TfL's refusal to release traffic data as saying something like this: Despite the fact that the scheme for Blackfriars was complete, signed off and agreed by everyone, err, the traffic modelling data wasn't complete, so we can't let you see it. If that's the case, then TfL's insistence that making this bridge safer for cycling and walking would harm "traffic capacity" wouldn't really add up.

If that's the case, then, can we have that original design back please?


  1. Incomplete information? Why was a decision made on incomplete modelling?

    Have you appealed against the exemption for disclosure?

    TfL have a habit of not releasing modelling results as they have a fear of them being misused, but this should only apply to large scale strategic models that can be misleading when viewed at the micro level.

    This is clearly a case of obfuscation from a body that is supposed to be democratically accountable. Simply not good enough.

  2. Great spot - that plan we're not getting looks pretty good :(