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.

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