Friday, 25 October 2013

Boris Johnson to install rental e-bikes in Haringey

The Evening Standard asked me for a comment piece on the news that next year a rental e-bike scheme will be installed in Haringey. They didn't publish it in the end (perhaps because of the venom in the last paragraph), so I've posted it up here:

I was excited to read in yesterday’s evening standard about Boris Johnson’s plans to install rental e-bikes in Haringey. This will obviously be a great asset to anyone that lives, works or studies in Haringey. However, I believe they will also help bring e-bikes into mainstream British culture and provide an important spark in creating a thriving e-bike industry in Britain.
It is remarkable how popular e-bikes are on the Continent; not only with customers, but also with politicians like Angel Merkel who see the clear economic benefits of boosting cycling rates. Over in Blighty, David Cameron has cynically dropped cycling from his agenda ever since he left opposition so it is good to see Boris Johnson raising the public profile of e-bikes as an easy, cheap, clean, and green way to get from A to B without even having to get sweaty. 
I understand concerns that the large cost of this e-bike rental scheme will be coming out of the Mayor’s £913m fund for cycling infrastructure improvements. It is clear that the single most important thing London needs to boost cycling rates and make it safer is not rental e-bikes, but dedicated, segregated space for cycling which doesn’t involve those on bikes sharing motor traffic lanes with taxis, buses or HGVs. However, creating this dedicated space for cycling is fast becoming a political, rather than financial, issue. 
Take the proposed Cycle Superhighway 9 which TfL would like to build, and segregate, along Kensington High Street. Boris Johnson has the money to do this but is currently being blocked by his intransigent and ignorant fellow Conservatives on the Kensington and Chelsea Council who oppose the creation of any space for cycling in their borough. Councillors like Nicholas Paget-Brown would rather see more Londoners die on streets like Ken High St – or Notting Hill Gate where Eilidh Cairns was killed by a lorry driver in 2009 – than segregate this wide London road. Until local councils like Kensington and Chelsea start placing the lives of their residents above their councillors’ endless desire for private, on-street car parking, Boris Johnson is better off spending his money on e-bikes.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Newspeak of Nicholas Paget-Brown, leader of RBKC Council

Last week I emailed the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, Nicholas Paget-Brown, asking him for an official response on the fact that the Council are currently obstinately blocking a fully segregated cycle lane that TfL want to install on Ken High St as part of the proposed Cycle Superhighway 9 (CS9). I thought he might take a rather more balanced few than Cllr Coleridge on the matter, and was therefore incredibly disappointed by an Orwellian response that would have been more appropriate to Animal Farm. It is copied below:

Another photo of Cllr Paget-Brown.
We have long taken the view that it is important for all road users to share space responsibly and to respect other transport modes. The re-design of the High St was designed to achieve this. Clearly there are also wider concerns in London that cycle superhighways may not be the best solution to the increasing number of cyclists and do not address the concerns of cyclists using other streets. 
You do not explain how a dedicated and separate cycle lane would protect the safety of pedestrians and bus uers and why the Council should consider one mode of travel over all others in this one location. Grosvenor Road and Millbank are much more lightly used roads than the High St and one sits inside the Congestion Charge Zone where volumes of car usage are in any case lower. The junction with Church St and the High St is more than a “T” junction, it has to allow for left and right filters and pedestrian crossing phases at a point just before the carriageway narrows. 
The Council has undertaken a huge number of initiatives to make cycling safer in the Borough but has always considered these in the light of the fact that we need to take account of all modes of traffic in such a busy Borough if we are to improve overall levels of road safety.
I find it deeply insulting (especially to the memory of Eilidh Cairns who was run over and killed by a lorry driver while cycling through Notting Hill Gate in 2009) that Cllr Paget-Brown feels he can blithely equate the dangers posed to someone on a bike by a bus, lorry or HGV, as comparable to those posed to a pedestrian when having to cross a cycle lane that runs behind a bus stop. The threat posed to someone's 'safety' is completely incomparable. In fact, cycle lanes that pedestrians have to cross to reach bus stops are the norm in much of Holland, Germany and Brighton, and are currently being built by TfL on Stratford High Street.

Moreover, I find it extremely worrying that Cllr Paget-Brown feels that taking 2-3m of the ~20m of building-to-building space on Kensington High Street in order to create a segregated cycle lane is 'considering one mode of travel above all others in this one location'. This is just nonsensical. It's newspeak. It's untrue. Anyone can see that using 2-3m of Kensington High Street to create a segregated cycle lane is only using 10-15% of the total available road space for cycling. In no rational world is this 'considering one mode of travel above all others'. There is currently ~8m of space on Kensington High Street used as pavements (discounting additional space created by the wide islands in the middle). Does this mean the Council is 'considering walking above all other modes of transport'?

The story becomes even worse when one remembers that, contrary to Cllr Paget-Brown's implications, there are not any continuous segregated cycle lanes, or even quiet-ish roads, running on parallel routes that cyclists might use instead of 'this one location'.  In fact, there are no continuous segregated cycle lanes anywhere in the Royal Borough. Coupled with Paget-Brown's opening statement that, 'we have long taken the view that it is important for all road users to share space', one can only conclude that Paget-Brown is opposed to the entire idea of dedicated, segregated space for cycling, wherever in his borough it might be suggested.

Paget-Brown's opposition, then, is perhaps not really about Kensington High Street. It's simply about segregated cycle lanes, that he plainly feels shouldn't be built in the first place.

The breathtaking arrogance Paget-Brown's position becomes clear when one remembers that Cllr Paget-Brown is a Conservative and is therefore rejecting the advice and guidance given by his Conservative Prime Minister (David Cameron, who unequivocally endorsed the Get Britain Cycling Report in April), his Conservative Mayor (Boris Johnson, who as head of TfL is proposing the segregating track that Paget-Brown is so stubbornly blocking), and even his Conservative MP (Sir Malcolm Rifkind who wrote last year that: 'a long-term paucity of proper cycling infrastructure has forced many cyclists onto busy roads, where they are bound to come into conflict with drivers of cars.').

The breathtaking ignorance and heartlessness of Paget-Brown's position becomes clear when one remembers that Eilidh Cairns has already been killed through having to 'share space' with fast moving motor traffic at Notting Hill Gate where the Council also refuses to provide a segregated cycle lanes. Furthermore, just last week in the news there were two inquests into the deaths of Brian Dorling and Philippine de Gerin-Ricard where the Coroner, Mary Hassel, clearly stated:
What we would like, of course, is to have cyclists in a separate cycle lane. It would be safer for cyclists, and motorists wouldn’t have the potential in the same way for this appalling experience of perhaps colliding with a cyclist.
Having 'cyclists in a separate cycle lane' is exactly what TfL are now proposing for Ken High St, and exactly what our 'bikeminded' councillors are blocking. It's shocking.

Paget-Brown says, 'there are also wider concerns in London that cycle superhighways may not be the best solution to the increasing number of cyclists'. Again, this is simply untrue. Concerns have not been raised about the concept of cycle superhighways, but rather about them being built in exactly the way Cllr Paget-Brown clearly wants them built; i.e. with HGVs and Londoners on bikes 'sharing space' and no segregated cycle lanes. The 'wider concerns' Paget-Brown cites in defence of his argument are actually critiques of himself, and his own position in opposing the sort of segregated infrastructure that would make cycle superhighways safe for everyone who chose to cycle.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

My Question for Nick

At 6.30pm Tuesday 29 October 2013 RBKC are holding an 'Ask Nick' event where you can ask the leader of the council, Nick Paget-Brown, any questions you like.

It is taking place at St Charles Catholic Sixth Form College, St Charles Square, London, W10 6EY and I would urge any RBKC residents reading this to attend if they are free that evening.

Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown.
Full details are available here. You can also submit questions in advance using the Council's registration system for the event on their website. Mine is copied below. I look forward to Nick's response.
I would like to know why the Council are rejecting TfL's plans for a safe, segregated cycle lane on Ken High St as part of the proposed Cycle Superhighway 9 that would separate vulnerable residents on bikes from large vehicles that can kill them when driven badly?

Where segregation has been rejected in favour of motor traffic capacity, for example with Cycle Superhighway 2 in East London, four people have been killed by drivers while cycling in the last few years.

Why is the Council making the same mistake on Ken High St? Surely the lives of its residents are much important than how fast you can drive down the street? Particularly as it is a shopping high street, not a distributor road and already has appalling levels of air pollution which would be lessened by the increase in cycling that would result if proper, safe cycle routes were given to residents, not blocked by the Council.

I would also like to ask why the Council is rejecting the lead offered by Camden, Islington, Hackney, Southwark, and the City of London by completely blocking 20 MPH limits in RBKC, except on Exhibition Road? Why can't we have 20 MPH outside schools, for instance? Or on narrow residential streets?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Update on Kensington High Street and Cycle Superhighway 9

Following a slightly ambiguous report in a local paper about Kensington and Chelsea Council stalling on Cycle Superhighway 9 plans, I assumed that the real reason for my Council's hostility to Cycle Superhighway 9 was not the blue paint but the fact that they hate segregation because it means reduced amounts of space for motor traffic. They take this extremely reactionary position because most of the Councillors are rich residents who own two or more cars and drive everywhere. They don't take the bus, and they certainly don't cycle!

I blogged accordingly but also sought clarification from Cllr Timothy Coleridge, Cabinet member for Transport. I've decided to reproduce his reply to me in full here because it sets out the Council's position in clear, specific terms:
Thank you for your e-mail. You are correct that the Council is not supportive at this time of a segregated cycle route along Kensington high Street.  

Kensington high street is extremely busy, but the traffic generally flows well and cars and cycles move through it together and without a great degree of difficulty. The main issues we have is the idea of having a segregated cycle lane on the north side of the street, with cycles going both east and west. Pedestrians wishing to catch the many buses that use the high street would have to cross onto an inner pavement to queue for buses, and more difficult is the very complicated junction with Kensington church street. This junction is extremely difficult to solve. The pinch point as you go east past the Royal Garden Hotel would need to be reduced to one lane of traffic and this would reduce traffic flow to an unacceptable level. Finally the high street has been redesigned to a very high spec and we believe it has greatly improved this busy and important shopping destination.
A few very interesting points to note from this. Firstly, TfL/Gilligan have clearly presented RBKC Council with some very detailed, well thought-out plans for segregation which have been rejected by the Council. The natural corollary of this is that campaigning organisations like London Cycling Campaign need to find a way of putting pressure not just on TfL, but on intransigent local councils too, if they want to see London 'Go Dutch'.

As I blogged about with reference to the Cycle Superhighway 5 consultation in June, sometimes it is not TfL but other local government bodies who are actively resisting the separation of cycle and motor traffic. TfL are far, far from perfect. But councils like RBKC aren't either.

It's also remarkable that the main stumbling block to a 'segregated cycle lane' is that it will mean at one point the eastbound road will need to be reduced 'one lane of [motor] traffic', which the council see as 'unacceptable'. Given that most of the time Kensington High Street functions as effectively a single lane street because of parked cars/taxis, buses stopping, and rush hour cyclists filling the entire inside lane, it is particularly galling that the council will not consider reducing the street to one motor traffic lane at ANY point. Moreover, Kensington High Street is a shopping street, not a distributor road, so why on earth should it have two lanes of motor traffic in each direction?! It's completely idiotic to preserve needlessly high levels of motor traffic capacity at the expense of safe cycling, mass cycling, reducing illegal levels of air pollution, cutting carbon emissions, reducing the number of those killed and maimed in road traffic accidents, and improving bus and tube overcrowding during rush hour.

If you ask me, this current RBKC Council is living in the 1970s. As The Ranty Highwayman pointed out on twitter, RBKC Council don't even see pedestrians or cycles as 'traffic' which they have been legally obliged to do since the Traffic Management Act in 2004. Only cars count.

Come the 2014 elections a large part of this evidently useless chaff will hopefully be threshed out of the Council body so more intelligent decisions can be made on behalf of all Kensington and Chelsea residents (including the 60% of households in the borough that are car-free), not just the predominantly fat and lazy motor-obsessive minority that seem to constitute the majority of the Council at the moment.

Below are some photos I took of Ken High Street (+ Hyde Park Gate and Exhibition Road) yesterday showing just how hostile the current 'very high spec' [Timothy Coleridge's words] design is for cycling, and how frequently it is reduced to one lane of motor traffic:

Absolutely no #space4cycling here.

But many people still forced to use this route due to lack of alternatives.

Fancy a dooring, anyone?

Those on bikes are frequently forced into the very dangerous path of traffic overtaking them from behind due to the lack of a segregated cycle lane. The person in front of me was almost taken out by the blue car (pictured) when I took this.

Another instance of someone being forced into the very dangerous path of traffic overtaking them from behind due to the lack of a segregated cycle lane. Again, there was almost a collision here with the white van (pictured). This road layout is not safe and it's insane to refer to it as 'very high spec' (as Coleridge frequently does).

A bus stop by pass is badly needed here. Would fancy squeezing in the slither of space between the bus and the motor traffic? Or sitting behind the bus and inhaling some lovely carcinogenic diesel until it moved off again?

The road is too dangerous for these people to feel safe cycling, with resultant clogging of the pavement for pedestrians.

This person is cycling across the pedestrian crossing because he's worried about getting killed by the motor traffic.

Pictured again. This is inconvenient for pedestrians. Proper segregated cycling facilities would avoid this.

Exhibition Road. Urgh. What an awful design. Looks terrifying.

It would be difficult to come up with something more hostile to cycling if you tried. Also important to note is the two separate cases of Barclays Cycle Hire users that felt the road, in it's current layout, was too dangerous to use and wheeled/cycled on the pavement instead.

If anyone feels like contacting Cllr Timothy Coleridge on this issue to express their support of TfL's desire to segregate Ken High St, his council email is It might be worth cc-ing in the Leader of the Council, Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown, too:

Friday, 11 October 2013

Are Kensington and Chelsea Council deliberately blocking TfL from segregating Cycle Superhighway 9 along Kensington High Street? Yes.

Given that nearly 60% of households in Kensington and Chelsea are car-free, one would expect the council to be prioritising the safety of the majority of their residents who choose not to drive, rather than obstinately preserving road conditions that are straight out of the 1970s and make Kensington and Chelsea one of the worst of London's boroughs for cycling.

However, a recent report in a local newspaper suggests that the Royal Borough council are apparently against plans for a segregated cycle superhighway along Kensington High Street. According to the report, the Council are blocking the proposed Cycle Superhighway 9 on Kensington High Street because they see it as “unnecessary and inappropriate”. It appears the Council are making a big issue about the colour of the cycle lane surface in order to detract from the fact they are also stonewalling on a fully segregated scheme, which TfL have proposed and would require no paint (blue or otherwise) because it would be physically separated from motor traffic.

Despite 'improvement' work in the early 2000s, Kensington High Street remains poorly designed for cyclists, and the large amounts of wasted space in the centre of the road could be far more usefully allocated as space for safe, segregated cycling for those of all ages.

Plenty of space on Ken High Street for full segregation of cycle from motor traffic. This would also radically improve pollution levels on the street for shoppers. But do the council instead want to continue wasting  the space with traffic island bike parking that no one uses because the street is so hostile to cycling?
Indeed, The Council’s own report into casualty records before (1990-2000) and after (2003-2005) the 'improvement' scheme reported a worrying increase of 186% in the number of cyclists killed and seriously injured on Kensington High Street. A map of all road incidents involving cyclists between 2005-12 shows very clearly that the design of the road is failing to provide a safe environment for travelling by bike:

Moreover, the MP for Kensington and Chelsea, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, himself commented last year that “a long-term paucity of proper cycling infrastructure has forced many cyclists onto busy roads, where they are bound to come into conflict with drivers of cars.” The current design of Kensington High Street could not better illustrate this point.

Is the same Council that spends thousands of pounds running 'Bikeminded' (an initiative aimed at encouraging cycling through explicitly non-engineering methods such as free bike training etc.) deliberately ignoring the wise words of their own MP?

It sure looks like it.

If anyone feels like contacting Cllr Timothy Coleridge on this issue to express their support of TfL's desire to segregate Ken High St, his council email is It might be worth cc-ing in the Leader of the Council, Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown, too:

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Tottenham Hale Consultation on 20 mph is fantastic and should be supported, but the plans need to be changed to include new segregated cycle lanes

This is just a quick post to urge any readers of this blog to respond to TfL's Tottenham Hale consultation, available here, before 18 October 2013 when it ends.

20 mph coming soon to Tottenham Hale, and the rest of Haringey?
The proposals for a 20 mph zone (which includes the main road, Broad Lane, rather than just being limited to side streets) is a massive step forward and should be supported. 20 mph limits will become far more adhered to once they are normalised as the right speed limit for dense, urban areas. However, this normalisation will only happen once 20 mph limits are standard all over London (and the UK), not just in Camden! That's why it's important that anyone that cycles in Britain supports the extension of 20 mph limits across all of our urban areas.

However, it's very disappointing that these designs do not include any plans to extend the crap cycle track on Broad Lane (you can see it on google maps here) and give it the priority over side roads which would turn it into an actual viable transport option. I'd would say it's very much worth pointing this out to TfL, as not providing a proper segregated cycle lane here goes directly against the Boris Johnson's Vision for Cycling in London.


Haringey Council are also consulting about whether to adopt a 'possible borough-wide 20 mph limit' on all the non-TfL controlled roads in the borough. The consultation is available here and ends on 31 October 2013. Please do respond if you get a chance. [I believe Broad Lane is being consulted on separately by TfL because it is TfL controlled so would not be subject to a Haringey Council borough-wide limit and would only go 20 mph if TfL let it happen.]