Thursday, 14 July 2011

Boris Johnson: No to 20mph but seems to suggest Blackfriars Bridge needs reviewing from scratch. Things may not be quite as they seem?

Yesterday, Boris Johnson clearly opposed a 20mph speed limit across Blackfriars Bridge and other London bridges. To do so, he said, would not allow the 'traffic' to flow smoothly. In this context, I think what he means by 'traffic' is motor traffic.
"Smoothing the traffic (read motor traffic) flow" is one of the Mayor's two transport policies. I've used this quote once or twice before but as Caroline Pidgeon put it, "smoothing the traffic flow [is] for motorists and worsening conditions for pedestrians and cyclists".

Traffic but not as we know it. Elephant & Castle as my
grandparents knew it when they lived here.

Earlier this week, Val Shawcross also accused the Mayor of putting his smoothing the traffic flow agenda ahead of plans to replace the miserable northern roundabout at the top of Elephant & Castle. A move that will deny tube passengers better access to the Northern Line, deny developers the chance to re-invigorate an area that was once a thriving business environment, deny people on foot and on cycle better access to south London. Shawcross is quoted as saying: "It looks like TfL thinking is going down the route of continuing to have a roundabout with a traffic island in the middle."

During his defence of his anti-20mph policy, which you can watch in the video above, he often refers to advice given to him by his expert transport advisors. Let's just remember who these people are: In June, the man who is head of London's roads told us that there is no safety benefit to giving people two metres of space to cycle in, to protect them from larger motor vehicles. In saying so, he contravenes the Department for Transport and he also contravenes the guidelines prepared by his employer, Transport for London.

So far, so Boris Johnson. Anti-walking, anti-cycling, anti-tube users, even anti-developers. All in the name of 'smoothing the traffic flow'.

Or is it?

Almost all the commentary on Boris Johnson's statements yesterday has pointed out how dismal the future looks if you want to get about London in any other form than the private motor car.

But listen very carefully to the start of Boris Johnson's comments in the video. Among the first points he makes: "what I do think is that more work needs to be done on cycling over Blackfriars Bridge and the accessibility of cycling over Blackfriars Bridge”. So, he doesn't support 20mph. But is he implying that he knows Transport for London' design will condemn people on foot or on cycle to dodging multiple lanes of fast-moving motor vehicles in the heart of the City? We know that the City of London hates the plans Transport for London has designed but won't say so publicly.

When this rubbish scheme was first made public back in February I posted this article criticising the design of the scheme. Nearly 600 people took pen to paper and wrote to the Mayor to criticise the scheme. I've seen a large number of those letters. Most of them criticise the layout of the junction as well as the speed limit issue.

That volly of complaint resulted in some changes back in May. But note, I really only mean a handful of changes. You can review those amendments here.

Boris is not backing 20mph. But I can't help wondering if he's playing a political game here. In the first few seconds of this video, Boris sounds like he is seriously suggesting that he knows the layout of the junction is still dreadful and hinting that he's going to do something about it. And then we spend several minutes on the 20mph and the smoothing the traffic flow issues.

However, if the Mayor is seriously suggesting that Blackfriars and its junctions need a serious re-design and that the designs we have in front of us are not up to scratch, then I for one, would support that view wholeheartedly.

But he needs to come out and say it more loudly and he needs to show he understands the context. Yesterday's grilling looked to me like a man who's been very badly briefed by Transport for London. Feels to me like Transport for London is running the Mayor on this topic. And very poorly at that.

If he doesn't come out and make a case for re-designing the urban motorway that TfL is planning here, then I agree with Crap Waltham Forest: It's war.

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