Monday, 28 February 2011

TfL response to Blackfriars criticism seems to me to miss the two important points about the gyratory scheme. Possible ways to respond

A number of people have received an email from TfL or from their Assembly Members about Blackfriars Bridge and the new gyratory that I've copied below.

I have to say, this is a dismal response but it is the line that TfL and some Assembly Members are cutting and pasting in response to queries about the scheme. 

Having read the TfL email, I think a few points need to be made clear. I'd welcome people's thoughts and comments on this:

No one is questioning the need for space for pedestrians outside Blackfriars station. No one is questioning the need for crossings so that people can leave the station easily. 

However, everyone is questioning why an additional motor vehicle lane that has been removed for a number of years needs to be re-instated to the detriment of the significant number of people walking and cycling in this area.  

The email states that "Reducing the number of lanes on the bridge would greatly restrict traffic movement and lead to significant queuing, potentially over a wide area." No-one's asking them to reduce the number of lanes on the bridge. People are asking them not to install an additional lane that doesn't currently exist through each direction of the gyratory. This is nothing to do with the bridge itself. A point they seem to be willfully ignoring in their responses and which a number of Assembly Members have simply cut and pasted without having realised the distinction between the two. 

Point 1

People are asking TfL for two very simple things. TfL is proposing to add one more lane on the gyratory within a narrower road space. Please don't add an extra lane for motor traffic that isn't even there at the moment. Instead of which, TfL could and should be using that not yet existent lane to create a bicycle lane. And just to be clear, there is no need to reduce the number of lanes on the bridge. Just don't add another one on the gyratory please.  And we know it works because that's how this space has functioned now for several years. So I'm not sure it's possible to buy TfL's assertion that "Reducing (ie, retaining the same number as now) the number of traffic lanes would generate significant congestion throughout a potentially wide area." It hasn't for the last few years so why should it now. 

Point 2

And please account for the needs of people who aren't leaving or entering the station by retaining an existing  pedestrian crossing point between Watergate and the Black Friar pub. There's absolutely no mention of that immensely busy desire-line in this response. And, although this scheme claims to be hugely generous by adding a few more centimetres of pavement, it still plunges people coming off the train into an urban motorway. Not exactly the sort of thing you need here. 


Yes there are lots of buses here. A total 3.7% of traffic going northbound all day consists of buses. But you still have massive cycling volumes. And I'm sorry but I don't think thousands of cyclists every rush hour should be made to jostle for position against speeding motor vehicles in motorway style conditions. And I don't think TfL should be at all proud that it's managed to save an advisory 1.5metre cycle lane in some of the space on the gyratory. 


One reason so many people drive in London, one reason that there is so much of what TfL calls 'traffic' and by which it means 'motor traffic' is that they don't have an alternative. And the bridges are a real crunch point. If you can get to work on quiet roads south or north of the river but you can't face getting across the bridges, you're not going to use your bicycle. I therefore believe that TfL is institutionally designing out cycling by making it something that is not an option for most people. And in doing so, it generates its own issues with motor traffic volumes. It's almost like a fairy story: TfL is sticking to the absolute letter of the law and doing everything it can to make sure London's motor traffic runs smoothly. It seems utterly oblivious to the fact that in doing so TfL itself is generating the monster in the room - the vast amounts of motor traffic, the pollution and the sheer dismal central London streets - that prevent it from allowing motor traffic to run smoothly in the first place. 

Perhaps it's time to write back to your assembly members once again and just make sure they understand the difference between what you're asking for and how TfL, in my opinion, seems to be re-interpreting that to answer a slightly different argument.  


From: Miles Andrew (ST) <Andrew.Miles@tfl.gov.uk>
To:
Cc: Members Correspondence <MembersCorrespondence@tfl.gov.uk>; James Hayley (ST) <Hayley.James@tfl.gov.uk>; garrettemmerson@tfl.gov.uk;davidbrownmd@tfl.gov.uk; Hardy Nigel (ST BR&P) <Nigel.Hardy2@tfl.gov.uk>
Sent: Mon Feb 28 11:00:32 2011
Subject: FW: Blackfriars Bridge North side scheme 

Thank you for your email.

The reopening of Blackfriars Station will greatly increase pedestrian footfall in the area, particularly in the area immediately outside the station. The number of pedestrians accessing the station at street level will be far greater than when it was operating previously.  Accordingly, the Thameslink Works Act 2006 contains a requirement that new crossing facilities be in place before Blackfriars Station can reopen. 

TfL, City of London and Network Rail have been working jointly to develop a scheme that will provide new surface level pedestrian crossing facilities for the new station.  In doing so, it was necessary to review the use of Blackfriars Bridge by all modes, in order to develop a scheme that provides the best balance between the needs of all modes; including pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists.  There were a number of technical considerations to bear in mind, including the physical space and structural restrictions on the bridge, but also security concerns and the need to ensure the traffic capacity of the Blackfriars Bridge junction was not constricted to such an extent that there would be widespread traffic congestion.

The scheme was designed by consultants acting on behalf of Network Rail, and the emerging design was considered by City of London and TfL.  TfL recently consulted key stakeholders and cycling groups about creating a new cycle lane across the Blackfriars Bridge junction, which would allow cyclists to turn right from Embankment onto Blackfriars Bridge more easily. During this, a number of concerns about the more widespread layout changes were raised.  TfL will therefore carry out further engagement with key stakeholders into the proposed changes to junction design and will feedback any significant issues that are raised to Network Rail’s consultants.

Mr Barraball commented on his current experience when cycling north into Queen Victoria Street.  The footways at the section between the Blackfriars on and off slip roads and Victoria Embankment are too narrow to accommodate the significant increase in pedestrians the re-opening of Blackfriars Station will generate. The footway has been widened at this location to allow for more pedestrians, whilst maintaining a cycle lane of 1.5m, which is the minimum width identified within the London Cycle Design Standards.  There are currently no traffic signals in this area of the bridge, and traffic is free flowing.  The installation of new pedestrian crossing points will introduce signal control, allowing cyclists to position themselves more easily, and so improve their passage across the bridge.  Reducing the number of traffic lanes would generate significant congestion throughout a potentially wide area.

Mr Barraball also commented on the removal of the southbound cycle lane at the entrance to the station.  Network Rail data indicates that pedestrian flow at the station will increase to 10,000 pedestrian movements per hour during the AM peak, as a result of the redevelopment of the station.  The majority of the existing subways outside the station will close, and new surface-level pedestrian crossings will be provided in order to meet this enhanced demand.  The footway outside the station will be widened to provide additional space for pedestrians and to meet DfT guidelines for there to be space between the carriageway and the frontage of a national rail station, for security reasons.  It is necessary to remove a short section of the southbound cycle lane in order to meet the significantly increased demand from pedestrians.  At the same time, TfL must bear in mind traffic flow across the bridge.  It is necessary to provide three southbound traffic lanes on the bridge: two for traffic heading south via Blackfriars Road and one for traffic turning right towards Queen Victoria Street.  Reducing the number of lanes on the bridge would greatly restrict traffic movement and lead to significant queuing, potentially over a wide area.  Buses make up a significant proportion of traffic passing through this area: in the busiest hour of AM peak period a total of 64 buses pass north and southbound through the Blackfriars Bridge junction.  TfL has a duty to keep traffic moving throughout its network.  Overall, the scheme has been designed to have a neutral effect on vehicle flow over the bridge. 

If you would find a briefing on this issue useful please let me know,

Regards

Andrew

Andrew Miles I Government Relationship Manager

Blackfriars - response from Jenny Jones A.M.


"Dear Danny, 

Thank you for your email.

I share your concerns about the proposed changes to the layout of Blackfriars Bridge, which appear to make the situation worse for cyclists and many pedestrians.

I do not want to see any changes which will recreate the conditions which led to the death of Vicki McCreery, a cyclist who died on Blackfriars Bridge in 2004 as a bus changed lanes by going across her path http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/may/23/transport.world

I have written to the Mayor asking him to immediately put on hold the TfL plans for Blackfriars Bridge and to give them his personal attention.  I have given the Mayor four suggestions:
* Make the bridge a 20mph zone and ask TfL to re-design it accordingly;
* Install bike lanes north and southbound – this will probably make the current plans for multiple lanes unworkable;
* keep the well used pedestrian crossing on New Bridge Street;
* consider changes to other central London bridges, such as banning cars from  Southwark Bridge and only allowing buses, taxis & licensed mini cabs;

I will let you know what response I receive from the Mayor, and will continue to publicise the issue.

If you would like to be kept informed about my work on cycling then please reply to this email and we will add you to our email circulation list (emails are sent approximately once a month).

Kind regards,

Jenny"


Jenny Jones AM Green Party Group 

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Blackfriars Bridge is not just about one junction: It's about how TfL plans London's streets in general

Blackfriars Bridge. Welcoming cyclists to the South
Bank. Would you let your 12 year-old cycle here?
"Dear Ms Shawcross

I am writing to you as my local Assembly Member and in your capacity of Chair of the Transport Committee on the London Assembly. I live in Lambeth and work in the City of London. I tend to cycle to work but also walk, drive, tube and bus my way into the City.

Last Friday I was alerted by the London Cycling Campaign to the new plans for the northern junction of Blackfriars Bridge. The alert was sent for comments on a small new bicycle track across the proposed gyratory at this end of the bridge. I looked at the plan and was horrified by the nature of the entire scheme. I decided to write about this on my blog, http://cyclelondoncity.blogspot.com/

The story has been read by several thousand people and investigated further by The Guardian, Evening Standard and by a number of other publications.

I should stress that I don't regard myself as a transport campaigner. I am someone who works and lives in London and who happens to cycle to work. Like many of my colleagues, I am increasingly fed up that London's main roads continue to be designed for people in motor cars to move as quickly as possible about the city. I feel this is in sharp contrast to the many other European and American cities in which I work.

The central London bridges are a particular issue. They are spaces where cars move extremely quickly and where 1960s gyratory systems are very much the norm at either end (Blackfriars, Vauxhall gyratory, Aldwych, Aldgate). These create deeply unpleasant environments and are dangerous for the majority of people who use them, who aren't in motor vehicles. Look at the maps of road casualties and you can see that very large numbers of cyclists and pedestrians are killed or seriously injured at either end of central London's bridges.

The dynamics of these bridges is changing. I was sent the latest manual traffic counts for London's bridges by TfL's surface transport team:

On London Bridge, the number of bicycles crossing north from 7am - 10am grew from only 320 bicycles in 1990 to 1,545 in 2010. There are three times more people on bicycles than driving cars (only 665 drove cars).

On Blackfriars Bridge 1,926 bicycles head north in the rush-hour and constitute 35.6% of the total traffic in the mornings. That's more than any other type of vehicle and more than both private motor cars and taxis combined (31.9%).

Across all of the zone 1 bridges, bicycles now comprise 27.7% of total northbound traffic in the rush-hour. Private cars make up 28.2%.

The trend is of continued declined in motor use and a parallel in crease in bicycle use. There will be more bicycles than cars crossing the zone 1 bridges at rush-hour from some point this year.

With that in mind, I find it incredible that Transport for London persists in designing central London's bridges almost exclusively around the needs of the private motor car when Londoners are quite clearly voting with their feet and using the bridges for cycling and walking more than they are for driving. I feel that the London Assembly is not taking the needs of those people cycling or walking (or in mobility scooters, frankly) seriously. My broad point is that the poor conditions for people on bicycles are deeply unfair, given the number of people using these bridges and respective junctions.

Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of meeting Alexandra Goodship - TfL Policy Manager Cycling and Tovin Odusina TfL Regional Planning Manager - Central at a meeting organised by the City of London. I believe Ms Odusina is directly responsible for central London's trunk road network. I was impressed by some of the cycling-focussed TfL initiatives that Ms Goodship described. But I was appalled by Ms Odusina's apparent lack of understanding of just how vulnerable most people feel using central London's bridges when they're not in cars. She simply couldn't answer any of my questions about how the Blackfriars scheme would make it more dangerous and much less convenient for pedestrians or cyclists to navigate this dangerous junction and focussed instead on how important it was for people to access the new station entrance and to maintain 'traffic flow' - ie motor traffic speeds. I can agree with the former. I think the latter point extremely worrying.

I have set out my specific objections to the planned Blackfriars northern end junction in an appendix below. By there are some general principles that I would like to highlight here first.

It is very clear from this scheme and from talking to the relevant planners that:

1) TfL is simply not engaging with making central London's bridges and bridge junctions safer for people to cycle and walk through.

2) The focus is to allow cars to travel faster through these junctions on as many lanes as possible.

3) As a result, these city centre spaces will become less convenient for pedestrians.

4) TfL expects people on bicycles to be part of the traffic flow, even where those people have to sprint across newly-added and utterly unnecessary lanes of fast-moving motor traffic. (imagine your son, daughter, niece or nephew trying to turn right across the proposed three lanes of motor traffic here and you get the idea)

5) That, outside of Cycle Superhighways, TfL is institutionally opposed to helping people get around central London on foot or on bicycle.

6) Consideration of cycling is a last-minute after-thought (for example, TfL requested consultation late on a Friday night and wanted responses within 72 working hours).

I think the junctions on both sides of Blackfriars Bridge are designed almost exclusively for motor vehicles. People, whether on foot, bicycle or mobility scooter, are very much an afterthought.

I urge you to help persuade the Mayor and TfL that, in an age where more and more people are ditching cars, now is the time to start unpicking some of this monstrous 1960s urban planning and create spaces in the centre of our city that are designed around people, not motor vehicles.

With best regards"

Thursday, 24 February 2011

TfL postpones entire Blackfriars consultation following public and media pressure

A reminder of how it used to look and just how difficult this junction
used to be to navigate on a bicycle. Now TfL is planning to make
turn this junction back into a motorway.
Right now. Thanks to citycyclists.org.uk for the image
Hot off the press:

With thanks to CycleofFutility blog for keeping up to date on this.

According to CycleofFutility, Val Shawcross is saying that the entire Blackfriars northern junction plan has been put back into consultation. And a consultation period will be announced shortly.

Just to remind ourselves that this scheme was sent round to interested parties last Friday. And that the consultation was for only one tiny bit of new cycle lane, with responses needed within 72 working hours. Democracy working at its best.

It really is time to keep the pressure mounting on this junction.

What's not clear, though, is what is actually going on. At our meeting with the City of London and TfL on Tuesday, we were told by one politician that Transport for London had railroaded this scheme in fairly last-minute after circulating an original scheme which the City had approved. Whether that's true or not, we can't tell. But it's clear that there's some discord going on.

But we were also told that the entire scheme had been signed and sealed several months ago, possibly as much as a year ago. So how come TfL is suddenly opening up a last-minute consultation on what is, after all, not an insignificant piece of work?

I'm yet to post my own letter to our London Assembly members but will be doing so over the weekend, now that I know I have time to respond in a more considered manner.

In any case, thank you to the dozens of you who have cc'd cyclistsinthecity on your correspondence so far. And thank you to Londonist and to the Guardian for highlighting this insanity after we first flagged it here on Friday night.

Just to recap, if you want to register a complaint about this, I suggest you email relevant London Assembly members including john.biggs@london.gov.uk , jenny.jones@london.gov.uk andvalerie.shawcross@london.gov.uk. You could also add the Mayor mayor@london.gov.uk


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Blackfriars - This is about cyclists AND pedestrians. Can we actually get TfL to listen for once? There's still time for you to help

Blackfriars junction as it used to be. This is how it will soon look again,
only worse. With thanks to citycyclists.org.uk
UPDATED WEDNESDAY EVENING: TfL postponement and review of the entire scheme in the offing?



I've been so busy getting my head around the whole scandal of the new Blackfriars junction design that I haven't had time to write my own letter to our Assembly Members about it. 


But CycleofFutility has. He wrote to Val Shawcross, the Assembly Member responsible for Southwark and Lambeth, and aspiring mayoral deputy. Val is also chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee. 


I recommend you read CycleofFutility's article in full as there is a lot of relevant detail there. A particular highlight, though, is this nugget:


Val was informed by Richard, that TfL have recognised the concerns from both cyclists and pedestrians about the new scheme. Furthermore, the consultation period has now been extended for concerned individuals to highlight their concerns. Val would like you to know that she will continue to liaise with TfL about this on your behalf and that she will stay involved until she gets the best possible outcome for cyclists and pedestrians .


I don't know yet if that means the whole scheme is under review. Or just the right hand turn mentioned at our meeting with TfL last night. 


Dozens of people have contacted me already to say they've written in to TfL and to the various assembly members already. 


I can only say how humbled I am that people are taking this as seriously as I am. 


I think my motivation comes from the fact that I'm fed up of being treated like a third-class citizen because I choose to use a bicycle for most of my London transport needs. I drive, I tube, I bus, I walk. But most of all, I cycle. Because it's the most sensible way to get around our relatively compact city centre. And I feel that these plans for Blackfriars Bridge are simply not a fair representation of the vast numbers of people who, like me, choose to come to work on bicycles. 


The Londonist website said it far better than I can. Perhaps I'm too polite to use these words myself. But I agree with them wholeheartedly when the Londonist says “PLEASE STOP TRYING TO KILL ME ON BLACKFRIARS BRIDGE


If that means anything to you, then please get involved. It's not about cyclists per se. It's about people who get about on their feet or on two feet-powered wheels. Which is by far the majority of people at this junction. TfL wants to turn this junction into a motorway slip road. The very heart of the City of London will simply revert to a dead-zone, packed with fast-moving cars on motorway-style conditions unless you stand up and make your voice heard. 

Just to recap, I wrote in yesterday's article here about why I think this scheme is so awful. And it's not just about cyclists. It's about anyone who's trying to get around this junction on their own feet.

I think it's bad for pedestrians because:
Although the pavement is a bit wider outside the new station entrance and over the top of the flyover, you'll no longer be able to walk between Watergate and the Black Friar pub. If you work in KPMG's offices or Unilever near Watergate, you'll have to cross in a sort of zig zag over three crossings to get to the pub and the shops. If you come out of the new station and want to get to Watergate, it'll work, however.


And frankly, this is a fairly nasty piece of road to walk around anyhow. It's going to get faster and nastier as a result of this plan. So you'll have to leg it across multiple lanes of fast-moving traffic if you want to get across anywhere other than the new crossings. Or walk along surrounded by the droan of even faster-moving motor traffic. Lovely.


I think it's bad for cycling because:
It adds extra traffic lanes which means cars will almost certainly travel much faster through the junction than they do at present. Whether or not there's a tiny bit less traffic is utterly irrelevant. If there's enough motor traffic here and it has multiple nice wide clear lanes in front of it, it will become like Vauxhall gyratory - a car-dominated race track. Try cycling through that with your 12 year old daughter on the way to visit St Paul's. Or with your dad to visit the Museum of London. Or, frankly, on your way to work on a cycle hire bike.

And now, if Val's email is correct, there's more time to register your views. Which means there is still plenty of time to lobby the Mayor and your assembly members about this. To recap, if you want to register a complaint about this, I suggest you email relevant London Assembly members including john.biggs@london.gov.uk , jenny.jones@london.gov.uk andvalerie.shawcross@london.gov.uk. You could also add the Mayor mayor@london.gov.uk

Blackfriars Bridge - Our meeting with TfL last night: Tfl is turning it into Vauxhall Bridge. A very unfair deal for cycling.


UPDATE:


Things seem to be moving fast on this. Please read what's happening down below. But also have a look here for the latest update on how TfL may, if we're lucky, be beginning to wake up and what you can do to help. 

Last night, a handful of us met with Transport for London at the Guildhall in the City of London. The meeting was actually to talk about the City of London's transport plans and I'm going to cover that part of the meeting in more detail soon.

For now, I want to focus on what we learned about Blackfriars Bridge.

Firstly, it seems the plans are set in stone and were agreed upon last year.

So it turns out that TfL is in fact now only consulting on the right hand turn that I've highlighted inside the red circle on this plan. This was sent out to 'interested parties' on Friday and made its way to me that night with a deadline to respond by today. Fabulous.

Which means there is still plenty of time to lobby the Mayor and your assembly members about this. To recap, if you want to register a complaint about this, I suggest you email relevant London Assembly members including  john.biggs@london.gov.uk , jenny.jones@london.gov.uk and valerie.shawcross@london.gov.uk. You could also add the Mayor mayor@london.gov.uk
In any case, I wanted to report back what TfL had to say about the overall scheme last night.

There were two people present from TfL last night. One, a very bubbly and supportive cycling engineer. The other was the woman who is responsible for all of the trunk road network in what is essentially most of zone one - namely Westminster, the City, Lambeth, Southwark. So that would include all of the TfL bridges and basically the main roads in those areas. For reference, she has not cycled in London.

She clearly didn't want to talk about the Blackfriars scheme in general. I suspect because she thinks it's done and dusted. But she did want to talk about the new right hand turn coming off the slip road and turning south onto the bridge and which I've marked in a red circle on the map above. As I said last week, while this is nice to have, it's not hugely useful for more than a handful of people. She seemed a bit shocked to hear that.

The line that TfL was pushing last night was this:

"The new design will make it better for pedestrians. It will allow less traffic over the bridge. It is therefore good for pedestrians." (Note, this is my paraphrasing what the engineer responsible for this scheme was saying. The cycling engineer was notably quite quite silent at this point.)

She seemed quite surprised by us quoting TfL's own statistics that the biggest single group of 'traffic' on this bridge at rush hour is bicycles.

And in her view, as in the view of many people and the law of course, cycles are traffic. So, she more or less stated that the logic works like this: Bridge has lots of pedestrians therefore pedestrians have priority (which is fine) therefore all traffic needs to be secondary to pedestrians. And that's it. That is where TfL's logic just comes to a grinding halt.

She also seemed unaware just how much of a death-trap this junction is for cycling. If you hover over the junction on this map, you can see just how many cyclists have been killed or seriously injured here recently.

When we argued that this scheme is absolutely rubbish for cycling she replied that it's not because it's good for pedestrians and because it allows less traffic overall according to the models.

Who cares what the models say about traffic overall? The point is that TfL is simply not engaging with making this bridge safer for people to cycle over.

So we told her why we think this scheme is bad for cycling and bad for pedestrians. Just to recap:

I think it's bad for pedestrians because:

Although the pavement is a bit wider outside the new station entrance and over the top of the flyover, you'll no longer be able to walk between Watergate and the Black Friars pub. If you work in KPMG's offices or Unilever near Watergate, you'll have to cross in a sort of zig zag over three crossings to get to the pub and the shops. If you come out of the new station and want to get to Watergate, it'll work, however.

And frankly, this is a fairly nasty piece of road to walk around anyhow. It's going to get faster and nastier as a result of this plan. So you'll have to leg it across multiple lanes of fast-moving traffic if you want to get across anywhere other than the new crossings. Or walk along surrounded by the droan of even faster-moving motor traffic. Lovely.

I think it's bad for cycling because:

It adds extra traffic lanes which means cars will almost certainly travel much faster through the junction than they do at present. Whether or not there's a tiny bit less traffic is utterly irrelevant. If there's enough motor traffic here and it has multiple nice wide clear lanes in front of it, it will become like Vauxhall gyratory - a car-dominated race track. Try cycling through that with your 12 year old daughter on the way to visit St Paul's. Or with your dad to visit the Museum of London. Or, frankly, on your way to work on a cycle hire bike.

If you want to see what Vauxhall Bridge looks like for cycling, look at this link. Multiple lanes for motor traffic. Cycles squeezed into tiny lanes. Motor traffic completely and utterly dominates and travels at speed, very close to the majority of people on bicycles who aren't young/fit/brave enough to take a 'vehicular' approach to cycling over this bridge and stick in the insanely dangerous bike lane. It's also pretty nasty to walk over. Very narrow pavements, lots of fast cars. You feel like a fifth-class citizen if you happen to walk or cycle over this bridge.

In my view, at least half of the newly added traffic lane leading south into Blackfriars bridge should be an obligatory bike space. And likewise, at least half of the newly added traffic lane leading north over the gyratory as you come off the bridge as well. After all, there's only one lane for motor traffic at the moment. And cyclists already represent 36% of the traffic at rush hour already. That's only going to increase.

TfL is turning Blackfriars Bridge into another Vauxhall Bridge (and by the way, it's the same team responsible for both). Great for driving across, at speed. But cyclists aren't getting a fair deal. And that's what I think it boils down to. I think that there are enough of us cycling over this bridge to demand we get a fair allocation of space on this junction.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Object to new Blackfriars Bridge scheme now. Five days to respond to insane new layout from TfL. How to let TfL know what you think


UPDATE: We met with Transport for London planners last night.

Read this updated post here which tells you what they had to say about the scheme in more detail





These are the plans just in from Transport for London for the north side of Blackfriars Bridge.

You can object to these plans now. And please do so quickly. All the details on who to write to are below.

Let's just remember that at rush-hour, 35.6% of the traffic heading north through this junction consists of bicycles. Cars plus taxis make up only 31.9%.

There are masses of problems with the layout. I don't know where to start. But I'd urge people to send their comments to the senior traffic design engineer for this project as soon as possible. There are internal deadlines for the project on Wednesday 23rd February.

If you feel very strongly about this, email relevant London Assembly members including  john.biggs@london.gov.uk , jenny.jones@london.gov.uk and valerie.shawcross@london.gov.uk. You could also add the Mayor mayor@london.gov.uk

I would like to suggest emailing Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor's advisor for transport but I can't find his details in any public forum. In all cases, please be nice to the AMs. . 


Where to start?

Firstly, let's say you're heading north into Queen Victoria Street. At the moment, you need to cross one lane of traffic. You'll now have to cross two and get into the third lane. You'll then not be able to get to the front of the motor traffic any longer because there's a giant traffic island in the middle of the filter area. 


Once you get over the bridge, there's a traffic island in the middle which narrows the carriageway but doesn't add anything to the overall road scape - the traffic island isn't going to be a pedestrian crossing any more. So why is it there at all? If you're on New Bridge Street on the other side, heading south, this traffic island just takes up space and makes the entry to the bridge so narrow that it's almost impossible to get to the bridge in the mornings. If you don't believe me, look at these pictures of what this space looks like on a typical rush hour. So why not do away with the traffic island if it's not being used as a pedestrian crossing any more (or at least remove some of the new pavement on the eastern side of the junction just by the lights) and create space for bicycles to get past the stationary traffic. 

Head south into the bridge itself and the cycle lane that is there now, is gone until you get past the new station entrance. So you're in the main traffic flow. At the moment, you get your own space.

That would be fine except that heading south at the moment, there is only one lane of general traffic heading on to the bridge next to you. According to this plan, you'll now have two - basically, TfL is building motorway conditions across a bridge that has a majority of cyclists at both rush-hours. Head south and want to get on to Embankment - you'll have to charge across three lanes of traffic. It is currently only two. Which is far far easier to cross.

There's loads of space for a proper 2.5m wide cycle lane. But it's being used for cars instead. It's already proven that the single lane into the bridge works. So why make it two?

As a pedestrian, you won't be able to cross from the Blackfriars pub over to the other side of New Bridge Street any longer (at Watergate). That's an incredibly busy pedestrian crossing.

The only good addition I can see is a slightly wider cycle lane heading north over Upper Thames Street after you've crossed the bridge (but which means less pavement space for pedestrians crossing the bridge here) and a new crossing for cycles coming off the Embankment to enable them to turn right on to Blackfriars Bridge through the middle of the traffic island. Although I can't really see the point of this new crossing as hardly ever makes that manoeuvre. In any case, to access that new cycle crossing, you'll have to do a sort of right hand turn out of the right hand lane coming up the slip road on to the junction. Something I suspect most motor drivers behind you won't really understand.

My reading of this plan is that it's designed to allow cars to travel faster through the junction on more lanes. To make it less convenient for pedestrians. To make cycles part of the traffic flow, where they have to leg it across multiple lanes of relatively faster moving traffic than now.

It's going to turn something that is currently a fairly slow-paced junction where it is not impossible to get across the lanes into something that is frankly worse than it ever was before. TfL has designed an urban motorway here, it seems to me.

For a bridge where the majority of rush-hour traffic consists of bicycles not cars or taxis, this is just vandalism. I'm sorry to be so frank but it really is.

This is my initial reading of the scheme. And I'll review it in more detail over the weekend. But I'd urge as many people as possible to write to TfL now while we still have time and to get their thoughts sent in by Wednesday of next week.

Once again, the contact is Jamila.Barrett@tfl.gov.uk and a cc to john.biggs@london.gov.uk , jenny.jones@london.gov.uk and valerie.shawcross@london.gov.uk plus mayor@london.gov.uk

By the way, if you want a better understanding of why Transport for London might be planning to turn Blackfriars Bridge into a motorway, read this article on the Crap Cycling in Waltham Forest site which explains very succinctly why TfL is just responding to the Mayor's desire to get private cars moving around London faster. And what that means for London's streets and general environment.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

It's time to try 20mph across the City


Guest blog from our sister site citycyclists.org.uk

The case for a 20mph speed limit in the City of London is now so overwhelming, it is a win-win-win on social, environmental and economic grounds. It is literally costing the economy millions of pounds per year to keep the speed limit at 30mph. Despite this, the City decided in November 2010 that 'it would be preferable to exclude any reference to the City’s plans not to have a 20mph speed limit in the City' in the consultation on its new transport plan.

Safety – There has been no progress in reducing the toll of deaths and serious injuries in the last decade on the City's roads and it has the worst record in London if not the UK. Elsewhere in London, the reduction of the speed limit to 20mph has reduced collisions by as much as two-thirds. A temporary 20mph speed limit on Upper Thames Street, however, reduced collisions by an incredible 89% over three years. The City's strategy now is to try to improve safety by educating road users to be more careful. Given that this is a world financial centre with a high turnover of people, it's no surprise this strategy hasn't worked. 

Besides the terrible emotional cost to friends, families and colleagues, there is an enormous economic cost. Based on Department for Transport figures for the cost of traffic collisions, the cost is over £20million per year. This figures are based on average incomes: in the City where most people are not just employed but on higher than average salaries, the cost of lost productivity is going to be more than double.


Congestion – Collisions are the biggest single cause of congestion, causing as much as 28% of delays, according to a Transport for London study made public in January 2011. While there is some predictability from delays caused by digging up the roads, congestion caused by blocked roads after collisions is not and this has a high economic cost due to the impacts on journey time reliability. Making it safer to walk and cycle would help reduce motor traffic levels and congestion further.

Air pollution – The City has some of the worst air pollution in Europe and is threatened with £300 million fines per year for breaching EU limits. By smoothing the traffic, eliminating unnecessary acceleration as well braking (tyre and brake wear now contribute to 37% of particulate pollution, according to the City's 2011 draft Air Quality Strategy), 20mph would have an immediate impact. Again, by encouraging walking and cycling over time, motor traffic levels would be reduced, reducing pollution levels further.

Noise pollution – Another problem in the City, this would likewise be reduced by avoiding the noise from unnecessary acceleration. Although the impact would vary depending on the time of day and traffic mix, a 20mph speed limit could reduce noise in some areas by 3dB, a noticeable difference.

Public opinion – The City's surveys of the public show that congestion is the biggest concern, followed by air pollution. Two-thirds of people want to improve conditions for cycling, a figure that has no doubt increased following the popularity of the cycle hire scheme, with even more wanting to improve conditions for walking. 20mph is a solution that is not just affordable and easy to implement but would have the greatest single impact for all these issues.

Journey times – The City's figures from 2003 show that drivers only exceed 20mph for a fifth of the time they spend driving in the City. Much of the time is spent stuck waiting at traffic signals. With a 20mph limit, traffic would flow at similar speeds, permitting the gaps between traffic signal phases to be shortened or the signals removed altogether at quieter junctions. There could actually be journey time improvements for drivers during the daytime.

Public policy – The December 2009 refresh of the Department for Transport (DfT) guidance's 'Setting Local Speed Limits' calls for 20mph in town centres and where there are high levels of pedestrians and cyclists. This effectively means the whole City. The September 2010 Manual for Streets 2 (published by expert engineering bodies with wide support) calls for 20mph as the speed limit for town centres, in which it says that walking and cycling should be prioritised. The City's failure to implement 20mph flies in the face of widely accepted policy.

Street clutter – Reducing the speed limit would allow the clutter of signs and lines to be reduced both in terms of sign size and amount of signage. The December 2009 DfT speed limit guidance allows much more flexibility to minimise signage clutter where 20mph is implemented. The few 20mph signs needed at the boundary of the 20mph zone could be merged with other signage, although with all but one of the City's neighbouring authorities implementing 20mph up to the City's boundary, in many instances there could be fewer 20mph signs rather than more.

Outlook
20mph could be introduced across the City in under a year for less than £500,000. By comparison the City plans to spend £130m over the next three years on transport. It's true that Transport for London (TfL) approval would be needed to cover the Bishopsgate A10 and Farringdon Street corridors, but TfL has already drawn up 20mph plans for the former and has a temporary 20mph on the latter. 20mph on the Upper Thames Street corridor, one of three places in Greater London that breaches EU pollution limits, would be more difficult as it is designated as part of the Olympic Route Network and would have to wait until late 2012.

For background, including details of a previous legal challenge that the City backed down from defending at the last minute, see this City Cyclists 20mph campaign page from 2004. In 2004 the City claimed it planned to implement subtle and effective traffic calming measures instead of 20mph. These measures have proved so subtle that, errr, no one has seen them.

It's no accident - the City has the worst road safety record in London

guest blog from sister site citycyclists.org.uk


According to a new road safety report from the City of London, the improvement in its road safety record is 'significant' particularly over the longer term. These claims do not stand up to scrutiny, however.

Using the City's own data and plotting it in a more sensible way that done in the report shows a very different picture to the City's claims. Although there was a slight drop in slight collisions in 2009, the last year figures were available when the report was drawn up, this seems to be a result of the random statistical variation that is usual in this sort of data.

The graph above shows just two statistically valid trends. First a drop in serious injuries during the late 1990s. This may well be due to the introduction of the City's Traffic & Environment Zone, more commonly known as the anti-terrorist 'Ring of Steel', which reduced routes for motor traffic through the City. The other trend is a sharp drop in slight injury collisions in 2003, coinciding with the introduction of the Congestion Charge Zone and a significant drop in motor traffic.
For over a decade, there has been no reduction in Killed or Seriously Injured ('KSI') collision rate, set by the Government as the key performance indicator for road safety. In this regard it is useful to compare the City's performance to the targets it was set, in addition to the performance of neighbouring London boroughs. Most surprisingly, any such comparison was absent from the City's road safety report, perhaps the chart below shows why.


The chart clearly shows that the City's performance not only fell far short of its target for 2010 (second and last set of bars). Note that the KSI figures for 2010 were similar to those for 2008, except for cycling where they were even worse. The chart also shows that the City's performance was worse than any neighbouring authority overall but in particular for walking and cycling. This means that not only does the City have the worst record of anywhere in London, it is probably one of, if not the worst of any local authority in the UK.

Cycling levels are likely to triple in the City over the next decade (according to the City's own targets) while walking will increase significantly with the completion of new skyscrapers and the new Crossrail and upgraded Thameslink rail services. The concept of a balanced transport strategy would require less motor traffic as walking and cycling increase. But the City seems dead set against this. Indeed the performance gap between neighbouring authorities, which are rolling out 20mph and planning for motor traffic reduction, and the City, which is not, is likely to grow.
The continuing failure of the City to set out any credible means by which it will reduce road casualties means that it may be difficult for the Mayor to be able to approve the City's Local (Transport) Implementation Plan, in accordance with the statutory requirement for it to further the Mayor's Transport Strategy, which includes a goal to improve road safety.

No safety in numbers in the City

The City claims it is doing okay because cycling levels have more than doubled and cycling collisions have increased by only 143%. But this ignores the proven 'safety in numbers' effect.
Cycling risk decreases 35-40% as numbers double (known as the 'safety in numbers' effect). So if cycling levels quadrupled, say from 10,000 to 40,000 per day, one would expect, all other things being equal, cycling KSI to increase by two-thirds. Of course there have been various road safety and cycling schemes implemented so the KSI increase should be less than this. The fact that the City's record for pedestrian KSI is so bad too (there were very few serious collisions between cyclists and pedestrians) is further evidence to suggest something is going badly wrong.

The City likes to blame cyclists, saying that most bad cycling accidents involve cyclists undertaking large vehicles. While it is true that many cycling fatalities involve cyclists being on the inside of lorries, this is often because lorries cut up cyclists before turning left, as happened to Alex McVitty who was crushed by a cement mixer on London Wall that had just overtaken her. In terms of serious collisions involving cyclists, there are many different causes. Despite being challenged on this point, the City's Road Safety Team keeps making these misleading claims.

The City's answer to road safety is to education and publicity about safer behaviour, rather than actually trying to make the roads safer. But as the heart of a global financial centre, with a high 'churn' in employees, few residents and many visitors, this is a very inefficient and ineffective use of resources. The City's claim that its education campaigns are working but that they will 'take time' to have an impact clearly don't add up.

St Paul's Churchyard - is it a fountain or a bike lane?


Last year, the City of London unveiled this exciting re-enactment of Victorian gothic pictured on the left.

A rejuvenated drinking fountain. You can read all about the fountain on these pages here where you can track the exciting developments behind the fountain week by week. Plenty of money was spent to publicise this interesting new landmark, it seems.

The fountain is part of the re-design of St Paul's Churchyard, profiled here.

The plan for St Paul's Churchyard involves, you've guessed it, narrowing the road and creating shared space.

Some of the shared space is already there. Carter Lane used to meet St Paul's Churchyard where the fountain now stands. Techincally, it still does and you can still cycle here. The picture below shows where Carter Lane used to meet St Paul's Churcyard and now looks like pavement.

Carter Lane - spot the bike lane. It's there, honest. You just
need to look for it
But look at the picture a little more closely. Can you spot the bicycle lane? This is taken just beside the newly installed fountain. And I have never ever seen a bicycle here. Which, given that I pass here about six times a day, suggests that perhaps no one realises this is a bicycle route. And, done right, it could actually link very neatly into the rest of a route that takes you down quiet roads to Blackfriars Bridge.

If you look really really hard at the picture, you'll see a wooden post near the road. On that post, there's a little blue sign telling you that you can cycle here. But clearly no-one realises that's the case.

That's because, unless you happen to spot the blue sign out the corner of your eye, this space looks like pavement, feels like pavement and if you do cycle it, pedestrians will curse you as being an 'illegal cyclist'.

To be fair to the planners, some of the scheme will be good. The path on the north side of the road pictured above is skimpily narrow if you walk along it and will be a lot nicer under the new plans. But the road is going to be "doing a Cheapside". Lots less space to cycle in, especially in the much much narrower bus lane. There are going to lots of pretty bricks in the road too, ever so fun to cycle on in the rain.

There will be further sensible steps too. The bus stop pictured above will move, making it less of an obstacle to bicycles coming off the junction. A new obligatory bicycle feeder lane heading east will be quite useful too. But possibly the worst new feature: All the coaches from the coach park, will be moved to Queen Victoria Street - a thoroughly miserable road to cycle along where traffic moves at high speed, often forming two lanes and featuring this motorway-style junction here, and where there is plenty of space for segregated bike infrastructure but you will now be squashed between fast traffic and a parked bus.

But let's just focus on this fountain for a moment. I don't know what the fountain cost. But I'd hazard a guess, several hundreds of thousands.
My beef with the fountain is that this is the sort of thing the City of London thinks is important. I can't fault the City for trying to create decent public spaces - there are more places to live now in the Square Mile and there are plenty of exciting new buildings and a new shopping centre at One New Change.

But it's still not thinking seriously about making bicycles a sensible way of getting around the Square Mile. It could do some hugely visionary things. Just imagine a bike corridor between the City and the West End, for example. All those hedge fund-types in Mayfair could pedal to the Bank in less than 20 minutes, far quicker than they can travel by cab. But instead of that, the City feels like a place that's happy to let thousands of taxis plough the streets instead of working with Wesminster and creating a safe cycle route into the West End, for example. (And there isn't one single continuous route you can use from Bank to the West End on a bicycle).

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge - people who commute here in a private motor car are very much the odd-ball minority


London Bridge - volume of vehicles 7-10am northbound
 I've spent some time analysing in more detail the Transport for London 'screenline data' that shows the manual counts of vehicles passing over London's bridges. I profiled this last week here, when I showed that bicycles are now the majority of traffic passing over London's bridges northbound in the morning rush hour.
I wanted to take a look at a couple of the bridges leading to the City of London in particular.

First up, London Bridge. The number of bicycles crossing north from 7am - 10am has boomed from only 320 bicycles in 1990 to 1,545 in 2010. That's actually down sligthtly on 2008 when there were 1,770. By contrast, private cars are down from 2,158 to only 665 in the same period. It's worth noting that the number of taxis has stayed more or less constant in that period, with blips here and there.
Blackfriars Bridge - 7-10am northbound vehicle volumes

The change is more dramatic on Blackfriars Bridge, however.

It's only a few years ago that this bridge had incredibly nasty bicycle lanes hovering down the middle of the northbound carriageway. If you can't remember just how grim this road used to be, have a look at these images here. Two cyclists were killed on these lanes in relatively short succession. The road was narrowed in 2006 and a relatively useful lane for bicycles introduced plus a permanent bus lane. In short, the bridge was literally a death trap.

Blackfriars Bridge as it used to be. Thanks
to our sister site, CityCyclists
It's still got some nasty surprises (more on that below) but the changes have resulted in a massive swing towards cycling. There are now 1,926 bicycles a day heading north on this bridge in the rush-hour. That's up from 432 in 1990 and generally lethargic numbers right through to 2004 when things really started to change. Although, once again, it's interesting to note that taxi volumes are ever so slightly on an upward trend.

In any case, bicycles now comprise 35.6% of the total traffic on Blackfriars Bridge heading north in the mornings. That's more than any other mode of transport and higher than private motor cars and taxis combined (31.9%).

On that basis, I still can't see why, when I'm cycling northbound, I should consistently be made to feel that cars have priority. They're bigger and faster than me. If I want to turn right, I need to be able to pace it in front of two lanes of traffic (taxis can clog up the bus lane quite happily) to get into the right hand lane. If I want to go straight on, I find the bicycle lane narrows to a strip that's no wider than my handle bars. And bear in mind, that on a typical green traffic light phase, there will be up to 40 bicycles squeezing through that tiny lane.



Thursday, 10 February 2011

2011: More bicycles than cars will cross central London's bridges every morning peak

Cycling towards Blackfriars Bridge. We're nearly 30% of the
rush-hour traffic but have to put up with squeezing
between the motor vehicles. Is that right any longer?
I'm lucky enough to have early sight of the 2010 'screenline data' from Transport for London for all London bridges.

What this shows is the number of vehicles crossing London's bridges, counted manually, over various different dates.

And what a fascinating read. I'm going to focus on the bridges in the TfL Zone 1 for now. Zone 1, for those of you outside London, means the following briges (from west to east):

Vauxhall; Lambeth; Westminster; Waterloo; Blackfriars; Southwark, London; Tower Bridges. These bridges start on the south side in the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. And they deliver people into either the City of Westminster of the City of London.

Back in 2006, there were 34,993 vehicle movements northbound over these London bridges between 7am and 10am. That included 13,931 private motor cars and 6,712 bicycles. In other words, bicycles made up 19% of peak hour "traffic" heading into Westminster and the City of London.

By 2008, that had shifted against private cars and towards bicycles. So in 2008, there were 34,214 vehicle movements. Of those, 9,504 were in private motor cars and 8,361 on bicycles. Bicycles made up 24.4% of the traffic heading north over London's zone one bridges.

Leap forward to 2010 and the numbers are startling. There were 34,869 vehicles heading over these bridges into the Cities of London and Westminster during the morning peak. Of that total, 9,657 were bicycles, or 27.7%. And private cars made up 9,842 of the total vehicles, or 28.2%. So, the overall volume of 'vehicles' crossing the bridges has remained broadly flat since 2006 but car use has fallen from nearly 14,000 to under 10,000 movements while bicycle use has grown from under 7,000 to nearly 10,000 in that time.

Now, my reckoning is that most of those cars are carrying only one person in the morning, namely the driver. In fact, on average, according to the Department for Transport, the 'average occupancy' of a commuter motor car between 7-10am is 1.16.

So, let's assume that those 9,842 cars are therefore transporting 11,416 people. That's against 9,657 people being transported by bicycle (note, in Holland, Denmark or Germany, a proportion of those bicycles would be carrying children or other passengers as that's kind of normal there, considered a bit freaky here by the majority of people. Which is daft of them).

Funny, that our bridges are still designed almost exclusively around the private motor car, when you think of it, isn't it? 

Perhaps it's time that the people who use bicycles shouted a bit more loudly at our politicians about redesignating some of our road space towards the bicycle. After all, by the end of 2011, if the current trajectory continues, there are going to be way more of us crossing into Westminster and the City of London by bicycle than there are in private motor cars.

If you need convincing that cycling gets a raw deal on London's bridges, take a look at this video of Vauxhall Bridge heading south and just imagine how you'd like to be riding along in the utterly useless cycle lane when that coach overtakes you (with thanks to christhebull and gaz545)

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Why I reckon Kensington and Chelsea won't need to allocate space to cycling at junctions and why the Mayor will support them

"Our approach to cycling is to encourage a safe mix with other traffic – our busy road network and densely populated area mean that it is not practical to allocate road space specifically to cyclists. Instead, we focus on providing a smooth, debris–free riding surface, cycle parking and increasing the permeability of the local road network."

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea believes that cycling can and should mix safely with other traffic. On the left is a picture of the space for cycling just by the Millenium Bridge, along Queen Victoria Street. It's not in Kensington and Chelsea, I admit, but I feel it's a good representation of what a safe mix of cycling with other traffic actually looks like in London. Basically, on your bike, you'll just have to fight the law of the jungle and try and outwit those more powerful, faster, more dangerous, highly polluting motor vehicles on your little old bicycle.
And it could all be so different. Here's Admiralty Arch by Trafalgar Square. Notice the bollards and the segregated cycle infrastructure. This is the exact opposite of a safe mix with other traffic.

Before they put the bollards in, this was a two-lane motor traffic queue. It was essentially useless as a cycling route in rush hour as you simply couldn't get through on your bike without sitting in the motor queue, going nowhere. A bit like the chaps on New Bridge Street in this pictures here, a lot of people cycled around the queue on the pavement.

All too often, it's really the junctions that hold up people's ability to cycle through London. Junctions and bridges, actually. Just look at the map of cycle casualties in London here (all casualties from 2004 - 8) and you'll see clusters of casualties on bridges or on the approach to junctions. Have a look at the area around Oval station, for example. Or Vauxhall. Or the north side of Blackfriars Bridge. Each red dot is a cyclist death. Each blue dot is a serious injury.

So I passionately disagree with the Kensington and Chelsea transport plan that cycling should always 'mix safely' with other traffic. If we're going to get people on their bicycles in London, then junctions are the place we need to start. And we need to consider ways to keep cycles and motor traffic apart more efficiently than we do at the moment. The City of London is talking about 10% of journeys being made by bicycle. But that's never going to happen unless the roads (starting with 'scary' juntions) are considered a subjectively safe and convenient environment for cycling for a wider group of people than those who currently choose to get on their bikes.

And the infuriating thing, is that even Transport for London seems to recognise that fact. Just look at this written Q&A from last month's London Assembly:

Question No: 22 / 2011



Jenny Jones


Will you investigate turning roads or other routes over to be exclusive arterial cycle routes along the city’s west-east and north-south axes?


Written answer from the Mayor


Cycle Superhighways and other cycling programmes aim to provide high quality arterial cycling routes. Future schemes will continue to provide conditions where cyclists are separated from other traffic where feasible. However, the scope for providing exclusive arterial cycle routes is limited given the space constraints of London’s road network.

Our authorities know they need to separate cycling from motor traffic at key points. Here's the Mayor actually saying exactly that.

But then they simply wimp out by telling us there isn't space. Look at London's streets, in particular at its junctions. There's plenty of space. But no-one's got the political nerve to actually reallocate some of the four lanes for motor vehicles that come off Blackfriars Bridge, for example, and make the space calmer, slower and easier to cycle through.

Which is why I suspect the Mayor will simply wave through the Kensington and Chelsea transport plan and agree with the royal borough that  is not practical to allocate road space specifically to cyclists. It is perfectly practical. The Mayor even acknowledges this is something London needs in his written answer to Jenny Jones. But I, for one, don't believe the Mayor or his transport authoritity TfL have the political nerve to do it.