Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Vote Bike on Thursday (Green 1st preference; Labour 2nd preference)

Polling day (5th May 2016) is coming up very soon, and we all want to make sure we have the most pro-cycling administration possible in City Hall post-Thursday.

Boris Johnson was a wet-fish for most of his Mayoralty, putting down lines of blue paint which, especially in East London, have led to the needless, tragic, and horrible deaths of many Londoners.

However, in 2012/3 Boris had what can only be described as a Damascene Conversion, and for the last three years he's become a real champion of safe cycling infrastructure; rolling out 38 miles of safe segregated TfL cycle track, most notably along the Embankment. I cycled many of these routes last Sunday, and they're brilliant.

The fantastic new Blackfriars Bridge cycle track. I think it's my favourite, because of it's typically Danish lack of trench-like kerbs separating cyclists and pedestrians. This lighter, but still clear, touch is more pleasant for everyone.
Blackfriars Bridge segregated cycling underpass. Building a genuine network at last.
The new East-West cycling superhighway outside Portcullis House working well for both cyclists and pedestrians. Massive improvement to the whole area.
Bicycle road adjacent to Upper Thames Street Tunnel

These gains have not been easily won. There was sustained and well-financed opposition from Canary Wharf and the City of London to the Embankment cycle track, as well as trenchant attacks from market traders in Tower Hamlets that mean part of CS2 on Whitechapel Road is still a death trap...

Cycle "Superhighway" 2 in Tower Hamlets even after millions of pounds of upgrade work. Dangerous, unpleasant, and often fatal.
The photo above shows the kind of cycling "infrastructure" we will be left with if our political leader(s) lack(s) the will to push through objectively safe plans, even in the face of local opposition.

Where genuinely top cycling facilities have been built, they're already incredibly busy. Even on a Sunday. Even when they're not even finished yet!

Cyclists waiting patiently at the lights at Embankment cycle lane. Red light jumping is far less frequent when cyclists are given safe facilities.

So we need a Mayor who will invest in safe cycling infrastructure, and will have the bravery to make sure that it is built to a high standard so that it isn't a death trap (like the recent photo of the CS2 above). If we want that I believe we need to vote:

1st preference: Sian Berry (Greens)
2nd preference: Sadiq Khan (Labour)

And for London Assembly Members, the orange ballot paper:

Vote Green

The reasons behind this are simple. The Greens have consistently backed cycling in the London Assembly for the last 8 years. Assembly Members (AMs) Darren Johnson and Baroness Jenny Jones have not only criticised Boris Johnson's 5 years of folly, when he put blue paint over dangerous, arterial roads. But, perhaps even more impressively, they have had the objectivity to praise Mr Johnson's genuinely brilliant cycling plans of the last 3 years, and the fruits they are already yielding.

The Green candidate for Mayor, Sian Berry, has similarly consistently championed cycling throughout her career, as well as clean air which I'm sure we all care about. She's been to many cycling and air pollution protests which every other mayoral candidate has ignored.

However, it is unlikely the Greens will win the Mayoralty. The top two candidates will get put into a run-off, and all first preference votes for other candidates reallocated to their second preference vote. This diagram from a recent poll indicates how this would happen:

Recent poll for London Mayoral Election 2016
So, even if one was inclined to vote Green, we still need to be tactical with our second preference: essentially between Labour and Conservative in this two-horse race.

Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate, hasn't been as bullishly supportive on cycling as Boris Johnson, but he has been significantly better than Zac Goldsmith, his Tory rival.

Sadiq met with Chris Boardman from British Cycling many weeks ago and committed to maintaining TfL's cycling budget. Zac initially fobbed this meeting off, and only met Chris Boardman very recently.

Similarly, Sadiq was the first mayor candidate to agree to the London Cycling Campaign's campaign pledges. Namely:

1. More space for cycling on main roads and at junctions
LCC secured a huge investment in cycling at the last election. But London urgently needs more high-quality, protected space on main roads and at junctions – these places force cyclists to mix with heavy or fast moving motor traffic, which can put people off cycling. Our next Mayor must triple the number of miles of protected cycle lanes on London’s roads, to help people of all ages and abilities access the road network by bike.
2. A ‘Mini-Holland’ for every London borough
‘Mini-Holland’ schemes create cycle-friendly town-centres. They encourage people to make local journeys by bike or on foot, help regenerate communities, and bring more customers to local businesses. We’ve already secured new schemes in Waltham Forest, Enfield, and Kingston. Now we want every borough to get its very own Mini-Holland.
3. An end to lorry danger
Lorries are the largest vehicles on our streets and pose the greatest risk to cyclists - their design restricts the driver’s vision. London’s next Mayor must act to end lorry danger. This must include upgrading the Safer Lorry Scheme and using planning powers over major construction projects so that only the safest lorries, with ‘Direct Vision’ cabs and minimal ‘blind spots’, are allowed onto London’s streets.

To be fair to Zac, he has also now signed the same pledges. However, Mr Goldsmith decided to sign the day after Sadiq Khan did, which suggests he was more playing 'catch-up' with his rival, than being genuinely committed to a progressive cycling programme for London.

In terms of air quality - a crucial issues for cyclists that are so over-exposed to pollutants drivers create - Sadiq is also ahead of Zac. Mr Goldsmith won't bring in an 'Ultra Low Emission Zone' (ULEZ) - essentially extra taxing of super-polluting motor vehicles to discourage their use - until 2020 (that's FOUR YEARS!). Sadiq has said he will look at bringing in the ULEZ by 2018, and expand it's scope so it's not only Londoners in Zone 1 that can avoid adult-onset asthma, respiratory failure, and heart disease.
Mr Goldsmith also threatened to 'rip up' London's new cycle lanes (which are so self-evidently brilliant) on LBC Radio, as well as to ignore the 6,000 respondents to the Cycle Superhighway 11 consultation which had majority support for proper cycling and walking improvements in Regent's Park and Swiss Cottage.

Since then Zac's recognised than some of the new cycle lanes do work for everyone, particularly the new TfL cycle track in Vauxhall (CS5), and that minority local opposition can stoke unrealistic fears, for example in terms of congestion, that never materialise.
Vauxhall Bridge Cycle Track (CS5) - new design, safe for all. Pic via I Bike London.
Vauxhall Cross Old Layout. Terrifying, incompetent, fatal. Pic via Cyclists in the City.

However, it's a case of too-little-too-late, and it's certainly not enough to challenge Sadiq's more consistent and caveat-free support of London's cycling programme.

Pic via London Cycling Campaign. A charity worth being a member of!
So vote bike on Thursday, vote for safer cycling, cleaner air, less congestion, less obesity, more happiness, and fewer road accident fatalities.

(and for your first-past-the-post local London Assembly Member you'll have to look at their personal record on cycling, but speaking generally the Labour Assembly Members have been far more pro-cycling than the Conservative ones, so if you don't have time to research then vote Labour.)

Also, if this was confusing, there's a handy explanation of how London voting system works here: https://www.londonelects.org.uk/im-voter/counting-votes

Friday, 15 May 2015

Response to Cambridge Circus Consultation

Westminster Council have recently come up with plans to close Moor St to cycling as part of 'changes' to Cambridge Circus. These plans are so appalling I've publicly posted my response to the consultation below.

Moor Street

Westminster Council's planned closure


Dear Mr Warden and Mr Balboa,

I'm writing to respond to the Cambridge Circus consultation as a local resident and worker who regularly cycles.

I think the plans are a significant step backwards for cycling in Westminster and wholeheartedly reject them. 

Closing Moor St to cycling is a very bad idea. Moor St is one of the few genuinely quiet and safe streets to cycle on in Westminster (due to the fact it is not a route for motorised through-traffic). People on bikes can already use Old Compton St but choose not to because it is far more dangerous and unpleasant due to rat-running traffic. Why further limit the already limited amount of routes there are for cycling in Westminster, especially when Moor St already contains a rather expensive cycle hire docking station?!

Furthermore, I believe it is perfectly easy to keep Moor St open to cycling. Cyclists and pedestrians currently interact harmoniously at the junction of Moor St and Charing Cross Road, and pedestrians do not need significantly more space here. If you are keen to improve things for pedestrians, areas like Oxford Street or parts of Soho could be much more fruitfully investigated, in my opinion.

It would be a terrible shame in Westminster Council were the only Council in London to be publicly closing cycle routes, especially given the current political, social and economic consensus on the benefits of increasing cycle rates.

I note that the Quietway plans are not finalised yet and I believe it would be incredibly retrograde to start closing cycle routes before you have even begun consulting on building any new ones.

Finally, the additional of 4 new bike parking stands is incredibly paltry given how much demand there is for cycle parking the West End. A scheme like this should be delivering closer to 40-50 new parking stands to cope with increasing demand in the West End and encourage sustainable transport. There's plenty of space for both bike parking and pedestrians and would be interested to see any evidence you might have to the contrary.

I think we should learn from the mistakes that were made with the changes to Haymarket over the last year (i.e. completely failing to design for cycling), rather than repeat them.

Very best wishes,

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Why pinch points are awful for cycling

We came across this photo in the archives from Headington, Oxford which demonstrates exactly why pinch points are such a bad idea for cycling.

When designing new cycle routes, especially so called 'Quietways', across the UK, I'd urge road planners to resist the urge to install pinch points in order to 'slow' traffic. It makes things much more dangerous and unpleasant for those on bikes. Much better to install a segregated cycle lane and reduce space for motor traffic that way. 

In the above photo there could be a segregated bike track where the cycle racks are currently situated, and everyone would be a lot happier!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Royal Parks are being used as a car parking lot for the rich and privileged

Got some snaps recently cycling through the Royal Parks that show they value car parking over safe cycling. You'd think, being a Park and all, the people that run them would prefer to have bikes than heavily polluting motor vehicles on their roads, but.... seems otherwise

These photos are from South Carriage Drive which is hopefully soon to gain full segregation of bikes and motor traffic as part of TfL's East-West Cycle Superhighway (Crossrail for Bikes)

Friday, 13 March 2015

More bike parking needed on St John's Lane

I went to St John's Lane recently and was astonished by how difficult it was to park my bike. It had got to the stage where companies are now claiming bike racks on their land as 'Private Property' so that their employees have somewhere to park their bikes. The local authorities need to sort it out!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Full Steam Ahead! After months of pressure from Boris Johnson, TfL Board approves Cycle Superhighways Programme

Yesterday the TfL Board formerly approved a massive cycle superhighway programme that will continue into mid-2016. This includes many routes and junction upgrades that have already been consulted on and documented in this blog. The important thing is that these transformational improvements to cycle infrastructure in London will now almost certainly be going ahead despite concerted opposition from Canary Wharf PLC (whose boss likes to commute by limo along the Embankment and is oh-so-angry at the possibility of his journey to work being a few minutes longer) and the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (who constantly oppose any measures that mean Londoners could make a 2 mile journey for free [on a bike] as opposed to for £20 [in a cab]).

An artist's impression of how the N-S and E-W cycle routes will intersect at Blackfriars Bridge
The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) have threatened launching a judicial review against the scheme because they hate the idea of anyone feeling safe enough to cycle around London instead of wasting their time and money on a taxi. However, the legal grounds for such an attack would have to be that there was not 'proper consultation'. Such a position is not credible in the context of a two month long consultation process by TfL in which over 20,000 people responded, and over 80% of respondents were in favour. Therefore we hope the LTDA will see the wisdom in not wasting their precious and time and money in such a hopeless venture. And will stop claiming that people who cycle are the 'ISIS of London'. It's just sick.

And next time, chaps, we'd recommend getting an Uber instead.


A full recording of TfL's board meeting has been archived here if any readers are interested: https://www.london.gov.uk/mayor-assembly/mayor/webcasts

Friday, 26 December 2014

Consultations Galore! (Part 3)

Seasonal best wishes and even more consultations for us all to fill in!

Cheapside and Guildhall Enhancement Strategy - closes 31 December! (extended deadline)

It's great that the City are consulting on this but they are currently planning on building loads and loads and loads of pavement, and no #space4cycling. They should change their plans so that reclaimed road space is used to create dedicated and separated cycle lanes not just massive pavements. Otherwise they will have huge amounts of conflict between bicycles and cars, and bicycles and pedestrians, resulting in unnecessary injuries and deaths.

Two options being considered for the St Paul's gyratory..

Neither of which contains a shred of #space4cycling. This is atrocious and the design need a complete rethink and dedicated cycle lanes should be added.

The City are also consulting on changes to a number of adjoining streets, including Cannon Street (pictured here). Again, there are no cycle facilities on these streets at present and that means they are dangerous. Three people have been killed cycling in the Square Mile this year alone. The way to stop people being killed in the future is to provide dedicated cycling facilities, not try and use cyclists as human speed bumps (as the City currently attempts to do, particularly on Cheapside).

Transforming Vauxhall Cross

This is a rather large consultation on what TfL should do with the whole Vauxhall Cross area over the next few years, particularly with regard to removing the 1960s gyratory which they appear keen to do. Fortunately the powers that be at TfL have recognised that the CS5 cannot be postponed for another 3 years while gyratories are removed so that Cycle Superhighway will be built immediately, with overall Vauxhall Cross plans being integrated at a later stage into the cycle superhighway design.

Here is the current layout of the area, complete with some very poor (or either non-existent) cycling facilities:

And here are the proposed improvements:

And a rather inspiring TfL artist's impression of what the new layout will look like, complete with a lovely wide separated bike track and a woman cycling on it who isn't wearing a helmet, and even looks quite normal!

Is this London or Copenhagen?

The plans are definitely an improvement but still contain many flaws. More could be done to make the area appealing for cycling and walking,  such as making the whole area 20 MPH (like the Waterloo IMAX Roundabout now is) or by building dedicated cycle tracks on both sides of Parry Street and making these segregated cycling facilities run continuously through the junction onto Nine Elms Lane (using special cycle-only traffic signals if necessary; as is done in Denmark).

And a final thought... Why does TfL never consider the convenience of changing between cycle and bus/rail/underground transport connections? (especially when deciding the location of cycle hire docking stations?!)

A survey on the Vauxhall Cross consultation asks Londoners to rate the importance of "Convenience of changing between bus, rail and underground". Cycling isn't included. It should be. The ease of interchange from cycling to another mode of transport can be the factor which determines if someone decides to cycle at all for their journeys around London.