Tuesday, 31 May 2011

If you don't like TfL's plans for Blackfriars, then send them this message now

Two lanes now. Three lanes coming soon. And higher
speed limits
Over the bank holiday weekend, Local Government Minister Grant Shapps announced a welcome initiative to make it easier for local councils to to scrap by-laws without permission from Whitehall with a view to making it easier to implement quiet cycle routes in parks, on pavements etc.

The Conservative Home blog announced the decision by slightly undermining the whole initiative and almost inviting people to object to the new measure when it added this statement:

"Of course there will be lots of local controversies about just where cycling should be allowed. The point is these should be local decisions. If you don't want cycling along the promenade in Worthing then you can vote to throw out the councillors who allowed it."

I'm going to flick that idea on its head:

Transport for London is busily designing its vision of London as a haven for maximum through-put of motor vehicles. From the perspective of people who walk or cycle through London, with the notable exception of some sections of Cycle Super Highway, it seems that TfL, under the direction of our Mayor, wants to roll more and more motorway-style conditions through London.

Some of us met the TfL people responsible for designing central London's trunk road system back in February. We argued then that the scheme for Blackfriars was just one scheme that was absolutely rubbish for cycling. The TfL officials responded in a way that made me feel they simply aren't engaging with cycling as a serious option for people to get around in London.

Blackfriars Bridge is just one of several examples of how I think TfL isn't taking cycling (or walking, for that matter) seriously. I've profiled Blackfriars a lot here and there's an excellent summary on the ibikelondon blog here as well. You can look all over London for examples that directly mimic what's happening at Blackfriars, for example here or here.

So, coming back to that statement from Conservative Home: "If you don't want cycling along the promenade in Worthing then you can vote to throw out the councillors who allowed it".

Well it's time to support some councillors who want to vote for cycling and for walking. I mentioned last week that three parties in the London Assembly will be putting forward a motion to request Transport for London make Blackfriars at 20mph zone.

The London Cycling Campaign explains the motion in simple detail on its page here. The point is that the scheme is rubbish. But we can at least insist TfL make the scheme safer for pedestrians and cyclists by slowing the scheme to 20mph. And to do that, as many people as possible need to support to the London Assembly members who are pushing for this to happen. On that basis alone, I'd urge you to go to this London Cycling Campaign page and all you have to do is sign up your support of the London Assembly members who are putting this motion forward.

The Conservative Home blog seems to suggest we should all vote out councillors who support cycling. I think it's time that those of us who do cycle started voting with our feet (or pedals) as well.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Blackfriars 8th June: You have 11 days to support the London Assembly motion against TfL's latest scheme. Here's how you can help

Thanks to TfL: A third lane for motor vehicles coming here
soon. Oh, and a higher speed limit. Despite 37% of traffic
being cycles. Cycle and pedestrian safety doesn't
seem to matter even though they massively outnumber
motor vehicles here.
After nearly 600 people wrote to Transport for London to protest about their plans for Blackfriars Bridge northern junction, this tweet appeared two weeks ago on the twitter feed of Dave Hill, Guardian London journalist:

Green Jenny Jones says cyclists are the majority on Blackfriars Bridge. Boris says southbound lane to be reinstated there

Moments later out popped a notice from Transport for London announcing that, after months of saying their original plans were set in stone, some significant changes can be made.

And moments after that, a sigh of relief from the very supportive Assembly Members who had been so influential in helping make Transport for London change its mind about its original anti-walking and anti-cycling plans for Blackfriars Bridge junction.

But the reality is that Dave Hill got it completely right. All that's changed is TfL has magicked up some space to reinstate a southbound cycle lane that's already there. You can see my initial critique of the revised plans here. Essentially, TfL is installing a motorway junction in the middle of the City of London and rejecting its previous plans of making this a double T-junction that would make this a safer, more convenient space for the vast majority of people who use this junction to walk and cycle. Last week, several hundred people cycled over the bridge to protest at TfL's latest half-hearted measure.

So what happens now, you might ask?

Well, it turns out that cyclists aren't the only people who feel cheated by TfL. Several London Assembly Members realise the plan is anti-cycling and anti-walking. On 1 June, London Assembly Members from the Green Party, Labour Party and LibDem Party will announce a motion to the Assembly which will be debated the following week (8 June), asking TfL to reconsider his rejection of a 20mph speed limit on Blackfriars Bridge, in the interests of the safety of all its users.

It's not so mad as you may think. Two weeks ago, the City of London approved a measure to consider applying 20mph in the surrounding streets and it wants TfL to follow suit. And in 2008, Transport for London's own Road Safety Unit recommended the bridge and its junctions should be 20mph zones. And that these would be highly cost-effective, as well as safer. And bear in mind, that junction is already a 20mph zone. At the moment, TfL is proposing to increase the speed limit.

In short, if the Mayor is going to insist on building a motorway through this area, then at least by keeping motor traffic speeds at 20mph, it might be safer to cycle and walk here. It's not ideal by any means. What TfL should really be doing is creating a space that works for pedestrians and cyclists first, and motor vehicles second. But it's not.

It's frankly insane that it comes to this level of compromise just to get our transport body to even think about spaces in the centre of London that are designed for people and not simply for cramming more motor traffic through as quickly as possible.

But I'm also surprised by three further things.

a) Firstly, that the Assembly Members (and hats off once again to Jenny Jones, Val Shawcross, John Biggs and Caroline Pidgeon) aren't letting this one go.

b) Secondly that, so far, there's no sign that Conservative Party Assembly Members are supportive. It surprises me that in an area where the vast majority of people are walking and cycling the Conservative Party (and the former BNP member) are the only parties in the London Assembly that are happy to pursue an anti-walking and anti-cycling agenda.

c)Thirdly, that the London Cycling Campaign isn't letting this go either.

Here's how you can help:

The London Cycling Campaign is hosting a page here asking people to support the motion. I think the entire community of people who cycle and walk here should sign up and support the motion and encourage their Assembly Members to vote for this measure that will make the junction safer for cycling and walking.

Hundreds of you have already written in letters and comments. This time, I think we need the thousands of people who are the majority on this junction, whether they walk or cycle here, to pledge their support of the motion.It's not a perfect motion. I'd much rather see the bridge made safe for cycling and walking through a proper design but I think the London Assembly motion deserves support.

By the way, if you want another example of how Transport for London has become an anti-cycling and anti-walking entity, have a look at this excellent, but profoundly depressing update from Brent.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Help us get safer routes for cycling in your area

Please forgive the scrappy nature of the map below. But it's rather refreshing to see that street design in the Square Mile can get down to basics with a marker pen, a map and some arrows. Below is a plan of the City of London. The streets marked in green marker pen were made two-way for cycling over a year ago.

Last October, the City gave full backing to these two-way streets. They had been made two-way on a trial basis in 2009 full of doom-mongering in the press, including quotes from the AA about 'dangerous' and 'illegal' cycling. By the end of the trial, they had been proved a huge success. They allowed cyclists to avoid some dangerous junctions and have the full support of the City Police because they actually help make road conditions safer. There wasn't a single collision on the newly two-way streets during the trial period. On average, each route was seeing 60% more cycling traffic than in their previous one-way incarnation.

The City, with the clear support of City Police, concluded: "The cycle permeability improvements implemented in December 2009 have been well received with cyclists. They provide alternatives to some of the busy City Streets and make it easier and safer to navigate the City by cycle without prejudicing safety and convenience for other road users."

The City is now considering extending the number of two-way streets. If you look carefully at the map, the streets in green are already two-way for cycling. The City is now considering other streets in clumps. Orange streets are being investigated for the short-term. Yellow streets are not yet on the list.

The City is looking for feedback on how to prioritise these streets and we'd welcome your thoughts. What I can't work out is why it's not possible to simply make entire zones two-way. So, for example, the zone north of Cheapside, bordered by London Wall, Broadgate and the Museum of London is a warren of tiny one-way streets with relatively little motor traffic. It's completely baffling on a bike. Instead of being able to use this area to avoid the main roads, for example, you end up cycling round in circles trying to find a way out. Same goes for the patch south of Fleet Street.

We'd welcome any thoughts you have in the meantime so we can put these to the City soon either in the comments or email cyclistsinthecity@gmail.com

Friday, 20 May 2011

Blackfriars. How do we make people realise this is about improving things for drivers and pedestrians, not just for cycling?

Pictured left: Blackfriars Bridge northbound this morning at 8.30 on the way to work.

Cycling over the bridge was great: No one tried to squeeze past me in their motor vehicle giving me only a few centimetres of space. I didn't have to try and cycle faster than an HGV speeding down the bridge to get into the correct lane to turn towards my office.

Some cyclists in Waltham Forest put it very well on their site yesterday: The reason hundreds of people got together this morning to cycle across the bridge isn't just about cycling.

It's about the fact the walking and cycling are shoved to the bottom of the pile by our Mayor's transport authority which favours more and more motor vehicles trying to cram their way through London. And that, as a result, people don't feel they have the option of not using their cars.

Which is why even Transport for London acknowledges that 58% of people say they would like to cycle more but don't at the moment. And it's also why people are feel they have no option but to drive around London at snail pace: 50% of journeys in outer London made by car are under two miles, more than easily cyclable. If people felt they had a choice.

There's some fascinating data over in Southwark. They asked all the school children in 85 schools to stick up their hands and vote for their preferred way of getting to school. Only 3% of Southwark's school children get to school by bicycle. 19% said that cycling would be their first choice if they felt it was an option. 15% get driven to school, by the way.

Earlier this week a 13 year old boy was mowed down on his bicycle. A couple of months ago, it was the Station Commander of RAF Northolt killed by a van as he cycled from the airbase. It's not all about young urban males in lycra any more.

After this morning's ride to work, I feel something's started moving. But I don't feel particularly jubilant. I don't want to wind up people in their cars particularly. Or wind up people waiting for the bus. But the question I'm asking myself is how to make people realise this isn't just for the benefit of me or for the benefit of people who already cycle. I'm questioning whether (and how) we can help people realise that it's possible to have less congestion for motor drivers and make it easier for them to drive when they want to (and I speak as a motor driver) and make our streets easier to cycle and walk in at the same time, so that people feel they have a choice between whether to drive or whether to cycle. Because most people don't feel they have that choice at the moment.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

London Cycle Campaign finally gets angry: Proposes Blackfriars flash-ride Friday morning


Review of Friday morning's FLASH-RIDE over Blackfriars Bridge here

From Yesterday:
Evening Standard - Ross Lydall blog highlights LCC action
Crap Walthamstow - I think a world-first. Crap Walthamstow flags the LCC response.
WF Cycling - Why Blackfriars matters to us here in Waltham Forest

I think this is the first time ALL people who cycle and walk in London agree that the way Transport for London plans our streets has to change. The London Cycling Campaign has come out fighting and plans to leaflet people tomorrow morning at Blackfriars Bridge about how TfL simply ignores Londoners if they don't want to drive everywhere all the time. More details here and my thoughts below. Details about tomorrow morning at the bottom of this article.


Yesterday, I profiled the amendments that Transport for London will be implementing on Blackfriars Bridge. The fact that the combined efforts of hundreds of people and the input of politicians and associations has made TfL listen and modify its earlier plans. Plans which, at the time, TfL told us could not be changed have now been changed.

But in one crucial respect, nothing's changed.

Back in February I profiled TfL's initial response to criticism of the earlier scheme. That criticism was fairly mild at the time but TfL took a dogmatic line and stated:

"Reducing the number of lanes on the bridge would greatly restrict traffic movement and lead to significant queuing, potentially over a wide area."

At the time, I wrote:

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.

And the fact is, that issue is still live even with the new plans. If you live south of the river and you work in the City or in Hackney or in Islington, chances are, you cross the bridge and need to turn right into Queen Victoria Street.

And from late this year, that manoeuvre will mean traversing three lanes of motor traffic to get into the right hand filter where there's not even the puny concession of an advanced stop line. Try wobbling through that on a cycle hire bike with a string of taxis and an HGV behind you.

Almost uniquely in my memory, the London Cycling Campaign has come out fighting on this point with the rather apt comment "The choice for cyclists shouldn’t be to navigate through a dangerous junction or take a boat.”

And what's intrigued me (and this is the first time I can recall that the London Cycling Campaign has really stood up to be counted), is the LCC's call on all cyclists in London to meet for a 'flash-ride' outside the Doggetts pub on the south side of the bridge at 8.30 tomorrow morning to highlight the changes TfL is proposing to people who walk and cycle here. Especially here, where the vast majority of people are cycling or walking and where they're prepared to stick up for themselves. More details here and on the LCC twitter page.

A timeline of Blackfriars is here. How this all came about and some of the steps that have led up to today.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Blackfriars - Cycling lane saved! It's a 150cm gutter next to a 1960s motorway and fewer places to cross the road

New Blackfriars. Some changes. And thank you for those. Some of
it's much worse
UPDATE on Thursday:

Update about planned response tomorrow morning by London Cycling Campaign

560 people wrote to Transport for London about its plans to make the northbound junction of Blackfriars Bridge even more of a 1960s motorway than it is already. In addition, we know that nearly 200 people wrote to TfL even before the consultation on this scheme was re-opened.

Everyday Londoners who cycle and walk to work here took to their pens to complain about the removal of pedestrian crossings, about high traffic speeds and narrow cycle lanes for the more than 7,000 cycles that cross this bridge in each direction just between the hours of 7am and 7pm each day. Since the vast majority of people who use this junction are either pedestrians or cyclists, they were rightly fed up with the new designs for the junction being designed exclusively around the motor car.

And for once, with the help of Assembly Members from all four main parties in the London Assembly, TfL has actually listened and come up with an alternative plan shown above. The full details of the plan can be found here.

Big thanks go to Jenny Jones of the Green Party and Val Shawcross and John Biggs of Labour for jumping on this so effusively. Caroline Pidgeon got on board as well from the LibDems and Andrew Boff from the Conservatives.

And there's a lot of good stuff in this plan. A few of the good bits in summary:
Southbound - TfL has retained the southbound cycle lane, which is great news as it gives the thousands of cyclists who use this junction every day much safer conditions than TfL had planned previously.

There's a convoluted bike lane and toucan crossing to allow you to cycle up the ramp from the Embankment and then head south on the bridge. The only problem is the bike lane takes up a chunk of the pavement which is packed at the best of times.

There's also some better provision as you head into Queen Victoria Street with only one lane for motor traffic instead of the current two.

But, overall, TfL has completely missed the chance to make this a civilised, safe space for people to walk and cycle.

Heading northbound, the good news is that the bike lane will be a fraction wider immediately as you come off the bridge. But then 7,000 of you are crammed into a 1.5m wide space heading north into New Bridge Street and smack into a bus stop. No change there then.

And if you're heading to Queen Victoria Street you will now have to figure out how to turn right across three lanes of motor traffic with a higher speed limit (is 20mph now, will be 30mph). There's not even an advanced stop line to help you get out the way of HGVs heading this way. It's way more dangerous than it is at the moment. The irony is that the City of London agreed last week to pursue a policy of 20mph across the Square Mile, just as Transport for London decides the exact opposite here.

If you're a pedestrian and you want to get from KPMG or Unilever House on the west, you'll have to use a subway or take you chances and run across New Bridge Street if you want to get to City Thameslink or the shops. TfL's removing the pedestrian crossings here.

It's a lot better than the last set of plans TfL put in front of people. Much better. But it's still a motorway. And if you're heading to work in the City of London and you're coming from the south, it's way way more dangeous than what's there at the moment.

My own view is that people are starting to show that they want a choice in how they get about London. If they have to wait ages just to cross the road across multiple traffic lights or they have to broker a right-hand turn on a virtual motorway just to get to the office on their bike, well, they'll just be put off cycling or walking more. And the thing is, that the inspectors reviewing the Mayor's transport plans are beginning to say the same thing.

So I see the new Blackfriars plan as a fudge. It's a step in the right direction. And I'm grateful for that. But it's still a motorway. Right in the centre of the City where people on foot and on cycles outnumber people in motor vehicles by some massive ratio.

Ultimately, it's a question about how the politicians we vote for want London to function. And I agree completely with this statement on Londonist.com:

The big issue here is that it should not be necessary to involve members of the London Assembly in individual junction design. There needs to be a clear policy set at City Hall and TfL needs to implement that policy in a consistent and open way. Sadly the Mayor is far from clear about what he wants (‘smoothing traffic’ and a ‘cycling revolution’ are not natural bed fellows) and TfL have not been voluntarily open in this case
What we need is a London Plan that gives proper priority to cycling and walking, but as the Government Inspectors pointed out, what we have now does not.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

City of London sort of approves measures to improve road safety, cycling and walking. And sort of doesn't.

New cycling route on City of London street. Located
underneath the HGV. Handy for mothers and children
on their bicycles.....
First the extremely good news. And then the really not so very good news.

Back at the start of the year, I covered the City's planned transport strategy in some detail. This strategy is called the City of London Local Implementation Plan and there's a summary of my criticisms at the time on this page here.

Impressively, 113 people or organisations submitted responses to the Plan. That's roughly 100 more responses than the City received last time it consulted on its strategy five years ago. The list of responses is on this page here and includes responses from individuals at Deloitte, RBS, Deutsche Bank, Nomura, Allen & Overy, Kirkland & Ellis, Thomson Reuters....The list goes on.

And now for the big news.

Having worked its way through several committees, the City of London Policy and Resources Committee, last week voted in principle  to support three amendments to the underwhelming original Local Implementation Plan.

The Policy and Resources Committee is essentially in charge of policy in the Square Mile and in charge of resource allocation between the various subcommittees.

These are the amendments to the original plan that were discussed last week:

"(1) More ambitious road traffic casualty targets to reduce the number of persons killed or seriously injured to 50% below the 2004–2008 average by 2020 and the total number of persons injured to 30% below the 2004–2008 average by 2020.

(2) A commitment to provide continuous high-quality conditions for cycling on several routes through the City, with a further recommendation that these routes include both the London Cycle Network routes on City Corporation streets and several north–south and east–west quieter back-street routes through the City.

(3) A commitment to formally investigate the desirability of a 20 mph speed limit or 20 mph zone covering the whole of the City, with a further recommendation that the preferred option for such a speed limit or zone incorporate the Transport for London road network in the City."

This is very very good news indeed and a hgue thank you goes to everyone who participated in this consultation to help push some of these amendments through the strategy planning process.

But now for the less good news. You might have noticed that I stated the Committee voted 'in principle' for these amendments. That's because the actual decision taken in the meeting was an agreement that:

"Investigation be carried out in the three areas identified by the consultation process in consultation with the Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of this Committee, the Planning and Transportation Committee and the Town Clerk”.

Some of us have sat in the various committee meetings that led up to this decision. And we're none too sure what this resolution actually means. Our sense is that it may mean that a handful of committee chairs go sit in a room and work out whether or not to accept these amendments or to tweak them.

Now, the Chair of the Committee, Stuart Fraser, is one of those people. From the way he talked about cycling at the Committee meeting, we sense that he's not terribly aware of the conditions for cycling on the City's streets and bridges. The Chair of the Planning and Transportation Committee is a chap called Martin Farr who's views we profiled a few months ago here.

Our sense from listening to various committee meetings recently is that very very few councillors are prepared to stick their necks out in favour of cycling (or walking for that matter), largely because the general level of discussion about cycling at these meetings is fairly tabloid. Various of the more senior figures will rant about 'dangerous and inconsiderate cycling' in a way they would never talk about any other group of City professionals. And this will generally set the tone that many other committee members follow. Only the braver members will risk making a more considered comment.

So, to be honest, the jury is still out on the City's thinking about transport issues.

In theory, here are three very worthy amendments that could go a long way to improving safety for all types of people on the City's roads and not just for cyclists. But we're going to have to play a bit of a waiting game to see how the committee chairmen decide to implement those recommendations.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

78% of crashes involving cyclists are at junctions. Does TfL wimp out of genuinely making junctions safer for cycling?

A few weeks ago I profiled the plans for the new Cycle Super Highway from Victoria to Peckham. Transport for London kindly offered to walk along some sections of the planned Super Highway with me and I touched on some of their suggestions here

TfL has now sent a formal response to my original comments and I thought I'd share those, together with some further comments. The TfL chap who met me is a keen cyclist. His family are cyclists and he 'gets' cycling. And, frankly, it was very nice of him to give up an evening looking at speeding motor vehicles with me. But his response is formal TfL feedback and something I want to comment on in that context.

"I was pleased to meet you last month at Vauxhall Bridge Road, and I am glad you found this informative.....

TfL takes cycle safety very seriously. The number of cyclists involved in serious incidents has reduced in recent years, against a trend of rising numbers of cyclists."

Indeed that's true. The number of cyclists involved in serious incidents has reduced in recent years. But, as Crap WalthamForest points out here, the number of crashes that injure cyclists and pedestrians is generally increasing. I can't find the TfL documents that Crap WalthamForest refers to on the TfL website but fortunately the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety has some back up copies. According to their statistics, crashes involving cyclists were up 15% in 2009 on the previous year. Crashes involving pedestrians, by the way, were up 2% in the same period. Add to that, the fact that this year, 10 people have been killed by motor vehicles while cycling around London. 10 people in less than five months. Last year, a total of 13 were killed all year. So, the trends aren't great.
"We are striving to achieve further improvements. I am sure you are aware of our Cycle Safety Action Plan, which is being pursued in partnership with the London Cycling Campaign, the Metropolitan Police and the freight industry amongst others. The plan may be downloaded [here]"

If I had to pick one thing in the Cycle Safety Action Plan, it would be this statement here:

"Data shows that 79% of casualties were injured at, or within 20 metres of a junction".

Curiously, it is exactly at junctions that the Cycle Super Highways seem to wimp out. At Blackfriars, TfL prioritises 'smooth traffic flow' but only for motor vehicles and not for cyclists or pedestrians.

And at Vauxhall Bridge, the new CS8 Super highway, which has good, wide and useful lanes, as soon as you reach a junction, you're stuck creeping along next to motor vehicles that share your lane. In the picture on the left, that nearside lane is now a left-turn only for motor vehicles. Four taxis were in the left-turn lane. Every single one of them carried straight on.

We go on...

"Some of the comments you have posted do not accurately represent our proposals. At Drummond Gate we are exploring cutting back the kerb by 0.5m in order to achieve a left turn lane of 3.4m as recommended by the Metropolitan Police."

Fair enough. That's possibly the best you can do here, to give HGVs etc a wide enough lane to turn left towards Pimlico here.

"We are also proposing to cut back the island at this junction to provide a 1.5m ahead lane for cyclists travelling towards Victoria.  This addresses concerns raised about cyclists being squeezed on the inside of a left turning vehicle lane. Further towards Victoria we are investigating the removal of a traffic lane, as we are on part of the Vauxhall Gyratory heading south."

There's some good stuff here, for sure. But the 1.5 metre lane still bothers me. Most cycle standards, even in the UK, where we're still fairly rubbish at these things, recommend at least a 2.0 metre cycle lane in these situations to give enough distance between traffic either side of the lane. It'll be fun wobbling along between two HGVs in a 1.5m blue lane, don't you think?

In case you'd like reminding what a 1.5 metre bike lane looks like when it's stuffed between two lanes of motor traffic, here's one TfL made earlier. And then they removed it. Because people kept getting killed.
What flummoxes me is that TfL knows that accidents happen mainly at junctions. And junctions are where the Cycle Super Highways are a consistent let-down.

Whether that's at Southwark Bridge here, at Vauxhall gyratory here, or at Blackfriars Bridge here.

Maybe I'm being too idealistic. Maybe TfL can only squeeze cycle infrastrucure around fast-moving motor vehicle lanes. But, as the original Blackfriars scheme suggests, it is possible for TfL to design plans that slow everything down at junctions making safe cycling and walking a priority instead of speedy motor driving. They just choose not to.
One useful bit of information though. If you look at these plans or the plans for Vauxhall Bridge and Vauxhall gyratory (which are part of the same scheme) and have any comments, then do send them through to TfL. You need to fill out the form on this page here www.tfl.gov.uk/contact

Monday, 9 May 2011

High quality, continuous cycle route in the City? No chance. It's proposing to fill them with 24 hour loading bays for HGVs

HGVs will be permitted here 24 hours a day
You can send your thoughts via the online
Pictured left is the scene just past City Thameslink on Holborn Viaduct heading west.

The lorry in the cycle lane is delivering to Tesco.

There is a concrete strip down the centre of the road, just visible to the left of the lorry that is passing the Tesco HGV.

At exactly this point, the City of London is proposing to allow loading at any time of the day or night, bang in the middle of this advisory cycle lane.

Under the proposal, it will be possible to load or unload at any time of day along large chunks of both Cannon Street and Holborn Viaduct.

400 metres of loading restrictions will be removed on Cannon Street, allowing HGVs to park and unload at any time. Similar amounts on Holborn Viaduct.

The consultation period is open now for the next two weeks. The proposal is as follows "It is anticipated that this review will lead to a significant increase in kerbside loading space throughout the City. Loading restrictions will be removed completely in many areas."

But is this good news for HGV deliveries and dreadful news for cycling?

Cannon St: Loading will be banned in the orange bits 7-7 but
allowed elsewhere at all times
Pictured left are the proposals for Cannon Street. You can download the plans here. You can also comment on the plans via the online questionnaire here. If you have views on any of these plans, I'd urge you to spend five minutes filling in the questionnaire.

There's good and bad here. And once again it's a question of wimping out when it comes to cycling.

Good is the fact that loading restrictions near junctions will be made either permanent or 7am to 7pm, which is longer than the current arrangements.

But much much less encouraging is the fact that loading restrictions will be completely abolished along large sections of these routes.

So, you will now have the prospect of cycling along Holborn Viaduct past the Tesco lorry at rush hour. Which means an extended sprint in a fairly narrow lane with a queue of motor vehicles pushing to get past you. Not much fun on a cycle hire bike.

One of the key issues that was identified by people who objected to the City of London's planned transport plan earlier this year is that complete and utter lack of continuous, high quality cycle routes through the Square Mile. The City finally seems to be taking that point seriously and (future post coming on this) has indicated it may consider implementing two quality, continuous routes through the City of London. But just as it works in the direction of creating safer routes for cycling, it fills up those exact key cycling routes with loading bays for HGVs slapped bang in the middle of cycle lanes, usable at any time of day or night, forcing you to swerve into the path of motor vehicles.

Ironically, this comes the same week that a European Union-funded project kicks off to encourage the use of cargo bikes for city deliveries.

If you want to comment on these plans, you have until May 20th to fill in the online questionnaire here. 

Friday, 6 May 2011

Inspectors tell Mayor: re-allocate road space to cycling (and other sustainable transport) now

London's streets - Inspectors tell Mayor it's time to
re-allocate space to cycling and walking. Clearly not much
space here....
It was Val Shawcross who first pointed out on Twitter this week: "Inspectors report on London Plan calls for constraint on traffic growth". Gosh.

The London Plan "describes an integrated economic, social, environmental and transport framework for the development of London over the next 20-25 years". When it comes to cycling, there are only two things of any significance in the plan (remember this is a 25 year plan, not just a few months): Cycle Super Highways and Cycle Hire.

There are a couple of interesting bits to note in all of this. As I understand it, the inspectors' report is a kind of critique of the plan, containing recommendations to the Mayor. 

Firstly, the inspectors make extremely clear that they think the Mayor's policy of 'smoothing traffic flow' is inconsistent with government policy as it fails to enable priority for more sustainable forms of transport. If you don't create priority for sustainable transport, you essentially make it easier to drive than you do to walk or cycle. And so you drive to the supermarket, to the cinema, to your friends...It results in compromises like the junctions on Cycle Super Highways, where people on cycles have to leg it across multiple lanes of fast-moving motor traffic. It designs conflict in to our streets between cycles and motor vehicles and sometimes between cycles and people on pavements. In Holland (and in Germany and in France and even now in New York), they design that conflict out of the streets. Have a look at this if you don't believe me.

Exactly this issue is at the heart of the Blackfriars Bridge scheme and of the Cycle Super Highways. Just when you need the road conditions to be asafer and easier to navigate on a bike or on foot, the Mayor is encouraging policies that do the exact opposite. As I've said before, Blackfriars is being redesigned to favour fast-moving motor vehicles. 

Back to the inspectors' report which states "it seems to us that there is clear Government guidance encouraging a hierarchy in road use in order to give priority for the more sustainable forms of transport...., we consider that there should be a place for explicitly recognising a hierarchy of roadusers in the over-arching transport policy in order to guide formulation of public realm as well as transport schemes."

You can't get clearer than that for dismissing the Mayor's policy of 'smoothing traffic flow'. 

Well, actually, you can. Because the inspectors then continue to say that boroughs should (see p214 on this link):

"where appropriate re-allocate road space and land to bus priority, bus or tram (light transit) schemes, cyclists and pedestrians to support sustainable transport"

If you look at how TfL is designing Blackfriars, it is basically adding space for motor traffic. And reallocating space away from cyclists. The exact opposite of  what the inspectors recommend. If you look at any number of schemes around London such as this one, this one, or maybe this one.

But here's the rub. These recommendations are very significant if you walk or cycle more than you drive in London. And yet Boris Johnson seems to disagree. But seemingly so does Ken Livingstone, if you read this review by the Crap Walthamstow blog,

An Islington street. Clearly no room to re-allocate space
to cycling here....
So it's good to see that Jenny Jones of the Green Party has joined the dots. Jenny is one of the five Assembly Members who have taken a strong interest in Blackfriars Bridge. She quite rightly notes that the inspectors report is telling the Mayor to prioritise sustainable transport forms where possible and Blackfriars is one such possibility. Here's a copy of the letter she sent to the Mayor yesterday: "Blackfriars Bridge has shown a significant shift towards sustainable transport with an increase in the number of cyclists. The opening of the new station will also increase the number of pedestrian users at the north end of the bridge. These increases clearly need to be recognised and accommodated. The inspectors report makes clear that such shifts should be recognised and encouraged when planning London’s public realm. The existing TfL scheme not only fails to do this, but seeks to impose a road hierarchy which places motorised traffic as priority. This may not be explicitly stated in the consultation, but it is clearly implicit within the value judgements made concerning your fears of increased ‘congestion’.

Whilst I understand that the Mayor needs to consider the Panel’s recommendations and respond to them, I do believe that the Inspector is right on this point. I therefore urge you to accept the Panel’s report and for TfL to take it into account when making its decision on Blackfriars Bridge. I hope you will give me your reassurance on this point. "

Spot on for both Val Shawcross and Jenny Jones on this one. The question is, will the Mayor accept the findings of the report? It's not about Blackfriars any more, it's about how the Mayor plans all of London's roads.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Good and very bad on the new Cycle Super Highway to Wandsworth

I decided to take a quick spin home via the new Cycle Superhighway that is stretching its way from Millbank towards Wandsworth. This post covers the section from Vauxhall Bridge to Chelsea Bridge.

I've already covered parts of this scheme, notably at Vauxhall Bridge Road in a previous entry here.

Bicycles go straight on. Cars have to pull across
them and turn left in front of the bicycles.
I'm not going to repeat in too much detail just how weak I think the Super Highways are when it comes to junction design. But here is what they look like. Bicycles that are going straight on are sharing a lane with left-turning motor vehicles, forcing bicycles to wobble along the inside of the motor vehicles to get to the junction and then into a conflict with motor vehicles that want to turn left.

This next section isn't finished yet but I am quietly impressed with it. Here's a shot of what this road used to look like.

As you can see, the hatch markings in the middle of the road have been vastly narrowed, making space to create an obligatory cycle lane. It varies in widty but is frequently wide enough for one bicycle to pass another and still keep within the lane. Yes, it would be great to have more separation from motor vehicles, in the form of some sort of physical barrier. But it's pretty decent. And for the first time ever, I saw a few women in skirts and some older people cycling along in this new lane. In the past, whenever I've cycled or walked along here, the cycling traffic has been entirely made up of younger, faster people cycling in lycra. Admittedly, its only my first observation of the route but it's good to see normal people going about the place in this lane on their bikes.

Slightly less impressive was this moment. As you can see in all the other shots, the motor vehicles stay out of the bike lane. But not this taxi. Admittedly, the full road markings haven't been laid yet. But here's a cab driver deciding the bike lane is just for him. He'd actually jumped the traffic lights and then undertook the 4x4.

 And then things go a bit pear-shaped.

Here's the scene heading south at rush-hour once you cycle over Chelsea Bridge. Some blue paint and lots of motor vehicles parked in the lane.

TfL hasn't finished the bridge yet so the markings aren't laid out properly. But it doesn't look a whole barrel of laughs from what's there at the moment. As usual, what seems to be happening is that TfL is making space for cycling where it's easy. But it's ducking out of genuinely creating safe space for cycling at the junctions where most collissions occur. And this seems usually to be the result of a fear of 'widespread traffic [by which it means motor traffic, not people on foot on on bicycles] congestion'.

Overall, some elements of good. But just when you need it, some elements of really bad. As cyclists in Sydney are finding out (and Sydney is being much more rigorous than London about creating space for cyclists away from motor vehicles), the links needs to be continuous. Not stop and start at junctions.

Mind you, here's a scene of what the Chelsea Embankment looks like just after the bridge, when the new cycle superhighway comes to a halt. Two lanes of motor traffic at a standstill. Hapless woman on very yellow Dutch bicycle, weaving between motor vehicles.

I'd much rather have that white line here as well keeping the cars away from me on my bicycle and push for TfL to sort out its junctions than nothing at all.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Surrey village has more ambitious plan for cycling than the City of London

Extensive cycle parking at St Paul's: Working here?
You can lock up to some railings...
The City of London, like other boroughs, is developing a Local Development Framework. The key plank of this is a document called the Core Strategy, which was sent to the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government last December for approval.

The reference to cycling in the City's Core Strategy states the following:

My own view is that pedestrians and cyclists need to have more road space and that is incompatible with retaining road capacity for those who 'depend' on motor vehicle access. I'm not sure how many people in the City of London truly 'depend' on motor vehicle access. And I'm not sure why cycling has to be labelled as 'responsible' but there is no such compulsion on the drivers of motor vehicles, which are the cause of almost all the people killed or seriously injured on the City's roads.

It doesn't have to be this way. Hackney's Core Strategy realises that motor vehicle use needs to start giving way to people who cycle and walk. While the City of London stresses that it won't reduce road capacity for 'those who depend on motor vehicle[s]', Hackney will be 'encouraging a shift from car usage to public transport, walking and cycling'.

But it's not just Hackney that can shame the City of London as a backwater of modern traffic and town planning.

Let us take the case of Waverley borough council in the south of Surrey - a leafy, semi-rural area comprised of small towns in rolling hills. The borough is relatively pro-cycling. It is considering proposals for minimum standards for cycle parking in new B1 office space of one bicycle space per 125 square metres. That should, in the minds of Waverley councillors, equate to one bicycle space per ten members of staff. Not bad.

In the City of London, meanwhile, the equivalent requirement is for one space for every 250 sqm. This is because the City's guidance on office use suggests that each member of staff should have an incredible 25 sqm of gross floor space (that includes a bit of corridor, stairwell and lavatory as well as the space around their own desk). 

Senior City officials and politicians like to claim that the policy equates to one bicycle space per 10 employees. But if you apply the Waverley ratio, then that City mantra is clearly rubbish because it would equate to less than one bike parking space per 20 members of staff.

We went to a talk recently by Land Securities about one of their new schemes in the City of London where they told us they assume 10sqm gross floor space per member of staff. So, by Land Securities' own measure, the City fathers are currently encouraging only one bicycle space per 25 members of staff. Nothing like the one in 10 ratio that senior City planners seem to think Square Mile employees are enjoying in their gleaming new offices.

There is some movement, though. The City is drafting a new cycle parking strategy where it may amend the cycle parking ratio to one per 160 sqm. So, using the Land Securities ratio, that would make one cycle parking space per 16 employees. Still nowhere near the one in 10 ratio that the City would like to believe it is setting in its planning guidance.

On the one hand, we have Land Securities, one of the biggest City developers and we have Waverley Borough Council. Both give us an indication that to get one bike parking space per 10 employees, you need to install roughly 1 bike stand per 100 - 125 sqm. But for some magical reason, the City of London reckons that ratio is somewhere between 160 - 250 sqm.