A taxi protest planned today against a daytime ban on all vehicles bar buses at Bank junction has been called misguided by cycling and walking charities who say changes would improve safety as well as benefiting journey times.
The 18 month trial by the City of London Corporation will see the junction, on which cyclist Ying Tao was killed in 2015, closed to all traffic bar buses, cycles and people on foot between 7am and 7pm. There were more than 100 collisions at Bank in the period 2010-14. Seventy-five per cent were between those times, with people on foot and bikes the main casualties.
The RMT union claims the cause of congestion is a rise in Uber vehicles on the road, and that people are taking to cycling out of “desperation”. The taxi protest will take place this afternoon from 5pm.
Meanwhile, cycling and walking campaigners are backing the City, who say changes will save lives and improve the public realm, while reducing driver journey times by around half a minute by bypassing the “inefficient” Bank junction.
“This is not about cars versus bicycles, or pedestrians versus taxis,” said Ashok Sinha, CEO of the London Cycling Campaign. “It’s about stopping more terrible fatalities, celebrating the City’s iconic buildings and spaces, and making the area a hugely more attractive place to work, do business and visit. That’s good for everyone – including those taxi drivers misguidedly protesting today, whose journey times through the area are actually set to improve when these plans go ahead.”
Tompion Platt, Head of Policy and Communications, Living Streets said: “The vast majority of people using Bank Junction are on foot – 18,000 in the morning peak. For everyone walking and cycling there, Bank Junction is woefully inadequate. It’s hugely polluted, overcrowded and unsafe – as demonstrated by its shocking casualty record. These changes will improve Bank Junction for everyone who works, lives and visits the City by making it a safer and healthier place.”
In a blog for road.cc, the City of London Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee Chairman, Christopher Hayward writes: “A number of casualties and fatalities have highlighted very real concerns about safety at this junction. With cyclists now making up to 50% of the traffic crossing the junction in peak times, we felt that it was fundamental that cyclist safety be seen as a very important.
“I would like to underline that this is an experimental scheme. It may last up to 18 months, but the scheme will be under regular review.”
According to the City of London’s own statistics between 64 and 77 per cent of casualties at Bank are people on foot or bikes. Forty-six cyclists were injured between 2010 and 2014, six seriously, with eight serious pedestrian casualties in the same timeframe. Forty-five per cent of collisions occur in the centre of the six-road intersection.
The majority of collisions occur in daylight, most between 8am and 8.59am, the most common cause being pedestrians stepping off pavements into the path of vehicles. The second most common cause was vehicles turning left during daylight hours. Data also shows there were nine reported collisions between pedestrians and cyclists in the five years, seven slight, and two serious.
The City of London calculates from previous collision data a bus and cycle only junction would result in an 85 per cent casualty reduction; if taxis were also permitted, there is the potential for eight additional cycling casualties and two pedestrian casualties over four years, it says.
The City’s analysis (above) shows the traffic impact of the scheme to be neutral overall, with a small delay on some streets, while others will see reduced journey times. With buses and cycles only through Bank, average general traffic journey times around Bank in 2018 would be 7 minutes, as opposed to 7.5 in a “do nothing” scenario.
Allowing taxis through the junction would produce a similar, or longer journey time as in the do nothing scenario. The City’s explanation for this is the six arm junction is inefficient at moving traffic. By reallocating green traffic light time to more efficient surrounding junctions, it says, journeys may be longer in distance, but faster overall.
London Cycling Campaign’s Infrastructure Campaigner, Simon Munk, told road.cc: “The idea that there is some absolute need for taxis to get through is a fallacy; they’re going to be allowed right up to the junction, they just won’t be able to get through it.
“This seems to be some kind of ideological battle on their part, despite the fact modelling shows they are better off out of Bank junction and despite the fact City have shown there is very little in the way of pick-ups and drop-offs there. The question is why they are demanding access.”
The protest, planned by the United Cabbies Group, is scheduled for this evening, from 5pm. The junction is expected to be closed from 4.30pm.
In an article on the RMT’s website a bizarre statement blames Uber for the problems at Bank, and says an overcrowded tube system means people are “turning out of desperation to commuting by bicycle … despite its impracticality”.
RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash, said: “RMT agrees with proposals which improve public safety, but it is clear that the driving factor behind the decision is to improve bus journey times under a buckling road network.
“Black cabs are an integral part of the public transport system and as the data shows, one of the safest.
“The decision to close Bank Junction to traffic is a comicly [sic] inept one, made exceptionally bitter as the Mayor promised greater access to road space for black cabs.”