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Jenny Jones blog: Mayoral involvement in junction design & safety plans

Hand-on approach welcome - but only if mayor and advisors heed expert advice and prioritie safety, not traffic flow

When I questioned the Mayor about his involvement in the failure to agree adequate safety improvements to Bow Roundabout when the cycling superhighway was built there, Boris made it very clear that neither he, nor his officers, get involved in the detail of individual cycling schemes.

On 11th February 2012 the Mayor stated in a written answer, “The decisions regarding design selections for Barclays Cycle Superhighways at specific locations are taken within the governance and project management meetings for the Cycle Superhighways programme… Neither I nor my advisers attend these meetings.”

He has been very clear and forceful in making this point, especially when defending the role of his Mayoral advisor in charge of cycling (2008 -2012) Kulveer Ranger.

In January there was more confirmation of this hands off approach, when the Mayor stated, “it is not the Mayor’s role to be involved in the detailed development of individual schemes.”

So I was surprised to find indications via an FoI request, that both the Mayor and his advisor had been involved in discussions and decisions about the detail of schemes.

On the 23rd March 2010, Kulver Ranger was at one of his monthly meetings with Transport for London senior officers, discussing the cycling revolution. The minutes of the meeting, in the section under Cycling Superhighways, state that:

“Planned junction improvements and mitigation measures at Stockwell gyratory and Kennington/Oval were discussed in more detail, including design issues and impacts on road capacity. It was acknowledged that the proposals will impact on traffic flow. Detailed discussion on proposed safety barrier at Stockwell gyratory, regarded as an innovative measure being trialled. David Brown (TfL head of Surface Transport) to present progress, options and challenges to the Mayor w/c 29th March and get agreement.”

Following a cyclist fatality at the junction of Vallance Road and Whitechapel Road in 2009, which prompted formal questions to the Mayor, the 26th August 2010 minutes of this monthly meeting, in a section discussing Cycling Superhighways state that:

“Regarding the infrastructure improvement scheme at Vallance Road junction, it was agreed to implement lower cost alternative, which also tackles safety issues… Parliament Square proposal: Kulveer Ranger and David Brown (head of Surface Transport) to discuss and reach a decision about how to take forward. ‘Potential extension’ not to be included in frontage leaflet.”

So, why has the Mayor been so shy about the involvement of his office in the detail of these schemes? Does he want to avoid being associated with the design of individual junctions which has been so second rate?

I have previously argued in relation to Bow Roundabout that I would welcome the involvement of Mayoral advisers, or even the Mayor, in making decisions on major junctions, as long as they take advice from the experts and as long as safety, rather than smoothing traffic flow, was their primary consideration. The review of junctions is a great opportunity for the Mayor and his advisers to step up, get involved, and sign the cheques for the urgent safety improvements we need to London’s roads. Let's hope Boris agrees that safe roads are vital for London.

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