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.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.