Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Conservatives: Mayor shouldn't favour people who cycle or walk because it might slow down people who drive.

Conservatives suggest more of this. No priority for people when they're
cycling because it might slow down other people when they're driving 
Finally, the Conservatives in London seem to be calling a spade a spade. Today, the London Assembly released its report, The Future of Road Congestion in London. The report makes various recommendations about London's road transport plans. In particular, it recommends that the London Plan, which is the strategic plan for London's economic, environmental, transport and social framework over the next 20-25 years, make explicit that walking and cycling are given precedence by transport planners.

What the London Assembly is saying is that priority should be given to waking and cycling over private car use.

That doesn't mean banning cars. It simply means that obstuctions to walking and cycling should be removed. It means that London's roads should be made fit-for-purpose for cycling and for walking and that these forms of transport should be given priority over private car use. It also means that people who cycle should be given greater protection on London's roads.

If you don't do this, you end up with schemes such as Blackfriars. Blackfriars will get two more lanes for motor vehicles and an increased speed limit. This will make it harder and more dangerous to navigate both for people on cycles and on foot but make it easier and faster for people in private motor cars.

In 1982, the House of Lords debated this exact issue. They asked how it would be possible to reduce motor congestion. The most telling comment in that debate was this one, by Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge: "When it comes to too many cars and solo drivers, there is only one way to deal with that; namely, to make motoring short distances in London so disagreeable and expensive that people stop doing it."

The Conservative Assembly Members don't agree. They have specifically added an appendix to the Assembly's report that flatly rejects any form of priority for people on cycles or on foot. Have a look at page 42 on this appendix "Neither the Mayor nor the Government should impose an artificial road user hierarchy as this inevitably has the effect of effect of deliberately slowing down some users. Further to this, the Mayor should encourage cycling by emphasising that it is cheap, healthy and quick, not by worsening conditions for other road users."

Exactly.

There is already an artificial road user hierarchy. It is that the bigger and faster you are, the more you have priority on the roads. If you're on a cycle or on foot, the Conservatives appear to be suggesting you should keep out of the way of people on the roads who have faster or bigger machinery. And this, so that you don't slow down those people in private motor vehicles. Cycling, it seems, ought to be encouraged through marketing alone.

So there you have it.

The nub of Blackfriars is all contained in this one paragraph. It's nothing to do with safety or with traffic models. In complete contrast to previous indications that creating greater protection for cycling might be sensible, the Conservatives are stating they do not want to give priority to people who cycle or walk because that might mean other people (who are no more or less important than those people walking or on cycles) might have to drive slightly more slowly. And they think that some glossy messaging is all that's needed for people to switch from driving to cycling.

It brings a chilling new meaning to Transport for London's policies. TfL states: "all road users have to be considered with equal weighting". If that's the case, then London's Conservatives have declared the death of London as a place where cycling will ever reach 5% share of the traffic (which, coincidentally is the Mayor's policy). Because, if you don't believe that a person on a cycle or on foot needs prioritising and protecting on London's roads, there's only one way to have 'equality' on the road: If you walk or cycle, the only way you have equal weighting to a person in a private motor vehicle will now be to become as big and as fast as them. The rules of the road simply don't allow for anything else.

I think it may be time for cyclists to group together. Not for a go-slow. But to create multiple trains of bicycles all over London's roads. Each moving politely en masse in the same direction, a group of people on cycles, taking as much space as a motor vehicle, creating as much congestion and as much noise. And making it exceedingly obvious why cycling and walking need greater priority.