Mayor and TfL told to prioritise cycling and walking to beat London's jams

Greater London Transport Committee lists raft of measures needed to beat predicted growth in congestion

by Tony Farrelly   June 22, 2011  

Traffic Jam in Croydon Pic: Chris McKenna

Priority should be given to walking, cycling and public transport over private car use in London if the capital is to be saved from gridlock says a new report from the Greater London Authority's Transport Committee. The report also calls for more accurate traffic counts by TfL particularly with reference to numbers of walkers and cyclists and says that the Mayor should consider road charging as a means of controlling the growth in congestion.

That London has to do something to tackle the projected growth in congestion over the next 20 years is not at issue, currently it is estimated that London's jams cost the natinal economy £2bn per year, and while the area within the M25 makes up just 5 per cent of the country's road network it accounts for 20 per cent of UK congestion, five of the UK's 10 worst congestion hotspots are in the capital.

The Mayor and TfL already have a strategy for dealing with congestion although TfL has recently cast doubt on some of the numbers underpinning it, but even if the Mayor and TfL's current congestion strategy is implemented in full by their estimates there could still be a 14 per cent rise in traffic levels. In a worse case scenario traffic could rise by more than 20 per cent. Against this backdrop the committee said the Mayor had to face some difficult choices including a return to the a hierarchy of road users with walker, cyclists and public transport at the top, followed by economically necessary freight traffic, and with the private car at the bottom. They also called on TfL to come up with more accurate forecasts and traffic measurement systems and ones which took proper account of other road users –  TfL's most advanced SCOOT technology which users sensors in the road to re-sequence lights in response to changes in traffic flows only counts cars not pedestrians or cyclists, something the committee wants TfL to rectify.

While the the call for the return to a hierarchy of road users and it's inclusion in the Mayor's London Plan was supported by the majority of the committee members drawn up from all the other political parties the Conservatives on the committee opposed such a change. In a dissenting paragraph added to the end of the report they said:

"Roads should be thoroughfares which enable all users, whether they are cyclists, motorists, pedestrians, bus passengers, van drivers, taxi passengers or motorcyclists to get from A to B as swiftly and as safely as possible. Neither the Mayor nor the Government should impose an artificial road user hierarchy as this inevitably has the effect of deliberately slowing down some users. Further to this, the Mayor should encourage cycling by emphasising that it is cheap, healthy and quick, not by worsening conditions for other road users."

The road user hierarchy put in place by Ken Livingstone when he was Mayor was abolished by Boris Johnson on the grounds that it would give transport planners more freedom to respond to local needs. However the report noted that:

"the Panel Report on the draft London Plan’s Examination in Public reported that virtually every organisation which responded to the consultation, including London Councils and London TravelWatch, criticised the removal of the road user hierarchy."

The report also notes that now when conflicts arise between different road user priorities the case is referred to TfL's Network Management Group (NMG) for discussion but that no guidance on how the NMG should balance priorities exists. They called on the Mayor to give such guidance

The Conservative group also opposed a call by the committee for the Mayor to consider road charging as a future method of controlling demand on London's road networks. Recently the Conservative group on the GLA enraged London's cyclists by causing the collapse of a vote on the move to increase the speed limit on Blackfriars Bridge to 30mph by walking out of the chamber leaving the debate short of a quorum meaning a vote could not be taken.

The main recommendations of the report are:

  • Update projections for future growth and how this will affect congestion.
  • Set detailed benchmarks for measuring congestion
  • Look at further expanding car clubs
  • Consider changes to freight delivery practices
  • Assess the pilot lane rental scheme for road works
  • Assess the pros and cons of any new river crossings

To read the reports recommendation and conclusions in full by clicking on the link at the  bottom of this page on the GLA website.
 

9 user comments

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"Conservatives on the committee opposed such a change" ...

And Conservatives at Richmond Council, after being told in a much publicised consultation that 'traffic and congestion' are major issues in the borough decided that the best way to solve this would be to offer free half-hour parking for locals.

Never mind 'nasty party', it's just plain stupid.

timlennon's picture

posted by timlennon [226 posts]
22nd June 2011 - 20:07

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I don't understand the Conservative mentality here.

"the Mayor should encourage cycling by emphasising that it is cheap, healthy and quick, not by worsening conditions for other road users."

Although worsening the road condition for cyclists is something that has been going on for years! How about we encourage cycling by improving the road conditions for road users other than for cars? If there's any heirarchy at the moment it has car users at the top, if it was an even spread there would have been no debate about Blackfriars Bridge, it would have been a given that it would be 20mph and that cyclists would be provided for as they are the most frequent users of the bridge!

Ugh, politics!

botoxking's picture

posted by botoxking [32 posts]
23rd June 2011 - 9:01

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I think what's really galling is two things

a) there is a road user hierarchy by default. Private motor vehicles go at the top. Everyone else at teh bottom.

b) They are genuinely stating that they want motor vehicles to be able to drive faster and that everyone else needs to get out the way.

As @botoxking says above, even in cases where there are more people walking/cycling than driving.

I've profiled the Tories' reaction to the Assembly report here http://cyclelondoncity.blogspot.com/2011/06/conservatives-mayor-shouldnt...

But I also think this makes much clearer Transport for London's obsession with smoothing the traffic flow. It's essentially a political decision and I am beginning to realise that TfL is being asked to interpret its network management duties solely in favour of motor vehicles and that, I suspect, may be illegal.

http://cyclelondoncity.blogspot.com/2011/06/tfl-talks-of-equality-on-roa...

Also, some Tories are making statements that completely conmtradict the statement in this report. I wonder if it's time for cyclists to really start ramming home to the Tories that they're at risk of getting it really wrong?

posted by cyclistsinthecity [1 posts]
23rd June 2011 - 9:28

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The Tory dissenting line gives the lie to their individual claims that they were not deliberately sabotaging the Blackfriars Assembly motion when they cooked up their specious excuse about committee chairs and Ratko Mladic.

In any case, their language is self-contradictory - it is scientifically proven fact that speed and safety are mutually exclusive in a dense urban environment. With the decline in drink driving speed has become the largest single cause of road accidents. What are urban speed limits, or indeed any speed limits, if not "deliberately slowing down" some road users? Duh! Or do they seriously think that speed limits should be increased, or even abolished?

posted by Paul M [305 posts]
23rd June 2011 - 10:37

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Paul M - drivers not looking properly - this is the single largest cause of accidents on British roads, not excess speed. In most and probably all those fatalities in London of cyclists caused by HGVs for example - speed was not a factor and the accidents were caused by the HGV driver not seeing the cyclist (for whatever reason). The main problem with the policy of tackling speeding is that it has overlooked the biggest cause of accidents and this is why the UK's road safety policy of the last five or so years has been relatively ineffective. Only now are measures being taken to crack down on uninsured drivers (who statistically have a very high rate of accidents) and on people driving under the influence of drugs (up to 10% if some reports are to be believed).

Congestion is a factor in road safety, as is traffic flow. Roads that are over-capacity will have more accidents. Typically these will be low speed accidents with few fatalities amongst car, van, truck and bus occupants. These accidents do pose more of a threat for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2114 posts]
23rd June 2011 - 12:45

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Speed, as always can be a contributory factor, but if you've been on the majority of London roads on a bike recently you'll probably have seen (unless of course you're exceptionally unfit) that the bikes tend to maintain a higher average speed, and in all but a few places, maximum speed of motorised vehicles is limited by lights, junctions and other road users.

As ORB says, driver awareness is the primary factor - plenty of roads you could drive at 100mph on if there were no other users, but knowing they're there and adjusting your road behaviour accordingly is surely a factor of awareness...

Quote:
"Roads should be thoroughfares which enable all users, whether they are cyclists, motorists, pedestrians, bus passengers, van drivers, taxi passengers or motorcyclists to get from A to B as swiftly and as safely as possible. Neither the Mayor nor the Government should impose an artificial road user hierarchy as this inevitably has the effect of deliberately slowing down some users. Further to this, the Mayor should encourage cycling by emphasising that it is cheap, healthy and quick, not by worsening conditions for other road users."

As for the statement above, as both a cyclist and driver, that seems perfectly reasonable. It's when you polarise to one or other militant camp then it's possible to pick holes in it. However, in doing that there has to be some recognition that cycling is a minority past time compared to driving, there's different organisations raising awareness of cycling issues (ctc, sustrans etc), and there's not the equivalent commercial or economic clout that business and transport seem to have. I'd support prioritising cycling for my commuting to work, purely as I don't drive in London, but if I did drive, I'd hope for an overall equitable solution.

posted by the-yorkshire-p... [179 posts]
23rd June 2011 - 13:38

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The irony of politicians, from any party, seeking to condemn the imposition of artificial hierarchies ...as if that wasn't basically what politics is, in essence, all about.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
23rd June 2011 - 14:06

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I live in London and commute by public transport, bicycle or motorcycle. We have a car but we don't commute in it and I cannot understand why so many people in London choose to do so when there are so many alternatives. Driving a car in London's inevitable jams is an incredibly frustrating experience. But we do have to accept that cycling (and motorcycling too) is a fringe activity still. The vast majority still see car transport as crucial, despite the fact that people would save money and time by leaving the car at home in many instances, not to say get themselves fitter and healthier by walking or cycling. I think TfL's policy is reasonably balanced, just as it should be. Boris Johnstone, and Ken Livingstone before him, have been trying to encourage cycling but I don't see that there is much more they can do short of banning cars altogether, which neither be practical or economically advisable.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2114 posts]
24th June 2011 - 10:47

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I think this is a good move but I think companies also have a responsiblity to provide facilities in the workplace to encourage would-be cyclists to ditch the car.

I work in a very new, modern building but I have to change in a tiny toilet cubicle often with urine on the floor. Not a great start to the day. So maybe Boris should also be looking to speak with architects or business to build infrastructure thoughout the process?

Regarding cycling on the roads, I have a lovely bike lane along the whole length of a straight road, however, when the road gets to the junction it's a chaotic free-for-all with all traffic!!??! Designed by a non-cyclist I think!

We have to:

1) Get proper cyclists on the commitees
2) Stop worrying about inconveniencing or slowing down people in cars and help people on bikes.
3) Find ways of encouraging people onto bikes - whether that is for health, time benefits, environmental or financial.

I feel so strongly about this and have just built this website to demonstrate the staggering savings in money and time for those who choose to cycle to work:

http://www.cycletoworkcalculator.com

Let's hope this report's reommendations don't take years and years and years to be acted upon.

London based cyclist.
http://www.cycletoworkcalculator.com

posted by richmond [9 posts]
25th June 2011 - 11:39

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