Thursday, 9 June 2011

AA President agrees: "Blackfriars needs to be improved for cyclists". TfL versus everyone who thinks London needs better road transport?

Last night I profiled how Transport for London was happy to imply that it's fine for motor vehicles to whizz through the Blackfriars pedestrian and cycle crossings however fast they feel like it. I tried to show how I think Blackfriars is a deeply hostile junction for cyclists and pedestrians.

For me, Blackfriars is simply one scheme that bears all the hallmarks of how Transport for London has been going about turning London's streets into places that are ideal - to my mind - for boyracing in fast cars cutting and weaving in and out of bus lanes and which are deeply hostile to anyone who isn't in a car. Whether that's walking to the pub or the shops or cycling through one of London's many traffic-choked junctions. Actually, anyone who drives around London will have horror stories of how some of London's main roads are nasty places to drive too. Where I live, there are loads of kids. But only the 17 year-olds play in the street. Why's that? Because my residential street is a rat-run where people feel they can cane it down my road at whatever speed they like. That's no space for children. Or for older people either, to be honest. It's not just about cycling, believe it or not.

So I asked the AA President on twitter what he thought. "Blackfriars Bridge really needs to be improved for cyclists" came the response.

So that's London's cyclists, London's Green Party, Labour Party, LibDems, one independent Assembly Member all lined up against Transport for London. And now the AA. Oh, and some of London's Conservatives as well: Andrew Boff has been tweeting tonight that he thinks Blackfriars should be 20mph if the City of London wants to go for 20mph.

I don't believe the Mayor is a die-hard anti-cyclist. He can't be. He uses one of the things himself. I've seen him out on his bike often enough.

But I do believe TfL is increasingly out of touch with how a sizeable chunk of Londoners think about transport. Making conditions better for cycling and walking is not about being anti-car. Done right, it's about giving people a choice in how they get about on the surface of the capital. Because most people don't think they have that choice, largely because they're too scared to get on our roads on a bicycle.

And I for one think that's because TfL interprets its duties as being entirely about keeping cars moving as fast as possible. Which might explain why cycle funding seems to have gone down and down since 1981. Legally, TfL isn't allowed to be this focussed on keeping motor speeds high. But for an insight into how TfL thinks try this article or this. I don't think TfL will ever manage to bring London's traffic under control or make it flow nice and smoothly for everyone the way it thinks it can. I believe it's got entirely the wrong strategies. And I think that's to the detriment of everyone in London, whether they walk, cycle, drive or take the bus. Crap Walthamstow blog is completely right:

If you make driving by car fast and convenient, and make cycling slow, unsafe and inconvenient, people who can afford to choose between the two will generally prefer to use a car. 

That is exactly what TfL is doing. And is exactly why London is so unpleasant to drive around and even more unpleasant and downright dangerous to walk or cycle around.

And it's rather encouraging to see a motoring organisation that, on Blackfriars Bridge at least, they see the sense of what people who cycle are talking about.