Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Blackfriars - London Assembly votes tomorrow. Conservative response implies: It's just as important to drive fast as create safe crossings.

Tomorrow, London's Assembly Members vote on a motion tabled by Jenny Jones of the Green Party asking the Mayor to reconsider his decision to raise the speed limit at the north of Blackfriars Bridge - a junction used by tens of thousands of pedestrians and cyclists every day. Last week, yet another cyclist was knocked off her bike on Blackfriars as she tried to turn towards the station and you can review her comments in this video here.

The 20mph recommendation is just one measure to try and undo an insane scheme delivered by Transport for London to turn the junction into a motorway, for fear of slowing down motor vehicle speeds. This, despite the fact, that motor vehicles on this junction are outnumbered by pedestrians and cyclists. There are more cyclists here than private motor vehicles and taxis combined at both rush hours.

Even without Conservative support, the motion could easily be passed, 14 votes to 11, if all assembly members vote as predicted. We know that the Labour and LibDem Assembly Members support the motion and Val Shawcross of Labour and Caroline Pidgeon of the LibDems have both been extremely vocal about the point that Blackfriars is representative of Transport for London's agenda is all about making life more convenient for motoring and less convenient for people walking or cycling.

Last week, twitter followers reported that even the Richard Barmbrook would be voting in support of Jenny Jones's motion. Barnbrook is the former BNP and now independent Assembly Member. That could make it 15 votes to 11. In my opinion, the Conservatives in London are beginning to look a bit out of touch on the issue of safety for London's pedestrians and cyclists.

Richard Tracey, Conservative Member of the London Assembly Transport Committee gives some insight to what the Conservative party line looks like in an email to some of his Wandsworth constituents recently:

"Clearly the key is to ensure a balance for all road users. Just as it was important to protect the bridge for cyclists, it is also important to ensure that all traffic flows at a reasonable rate. My fear is that creating a 20mph zone would run the risk of causing excessive congestion on this busy crossing, but I will listen to arguments."

Smoothing the traffic flow in action on a TfL
trunk road. Complete with parked cars, terrifying cycling
conditions.
The fact is that the junction is ALREADY a 20mph zone. What TfL wants to do is increase the speed limit here.

I suspect that Mr Tracey is having to toe the party line in this statement and having not yet met the man, I don't think it's fair to give him too much grief. But I can't help thinking that Mr Tracey's response hints that driving your car fast is equally important as creating a safe crossing for pedestrians and cyclists? Mr Tracey has four children. I wonder if he'd let them cycle through this junction and whether, when it comes to his own family, if he thinks motor speeds have equal importance to pedestrian crossings and safe crossings for cycles?

I'm beginning to think Transport for London is being handed an agenda by this administration that is simply out of touch with the way the rest of the world is going. Let's compare and contrast:

Place de la Republique, Paris (not too dissimilar to Blackfriars in terms of significance and a horrible car-dominated junction at the momemnt)

Mayor of Paris: "Today, 60% of the square is given over to motor cars. Once the works have been finished, 70% of the square will be dedicated to gentler forms of getting around, namely cycling and walking."

Mayor of Berlin: "Protecting the population against the negative consequences of motor traffic is the long-term goal of the city's traffic strategy".

New York City Department of Transportation street design manual: "Excess width should be reallocated to provide walking, transit, and bicycling facilities"

Conservative Assembly Member, London ""Clearly the key is to ensure a balance for all road users. Just as it was important to protect the bridge for cyclists, it is also important to ensure that all traffic flows at a reasonable rate. My fear is that creating a 20mph zone would run the risk of causing excessive congestion on this busy crossing."

London's Conservatives seem a bit out of touch on transport, don't they?

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News just in. See comment below from Jack Thurston of the Bike Show. Two Conservative Assembly Members: "Clearly the key is to ensure a balance for all road users. Just as it was important to protect the bridge for cyclists, it is also important to ensure that all traffic flows at a reasonable rate." Note the exact same phrase as Richard Tracey's response to "ensure a balance for all road users"

This is what a 'balance for all road users' means in practice. See this link or what War on the Motorist has to say here.