The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association has hit back following the London Cycling Campaign’s criticism of its stance on cycling, reported in road.cc last week, which the LTDA says was a "gross misrepresentation" of its position. However, while the LTDA reiterates claims it opposes London’s cycle schemes only because it feels a better balance could be struck between road users, it has failed to suggest a way to achieve this.
The comments are the latest round in a public spat between the taxi driver and cycling organisations after the LCC criticised the LTDA over its protesting of every major cycle route proposed in London, while saying it supports bike routes. The LCC says without suggesting alternatives to physically protected cycle infrastructure, and allowing those alternatives to be tested, the LTDA's "blanket opposition" of cycling routes in London resembles an attack on all cycling infrastructure.
The LTDA set up a petition against a trial bike lane on a popular cycle route, on Tavistock Place in Central London, citing concerns over congestion and pollution on surrounding roads, while last weekend LTDA members appeared at a protest against plans for Cycle Superhighway 11 in North London with a billboard saying "No to CS11, keep the roads open for all".
The LCC also says the LTDA published an alternative wording on an agreement between the two organisations and the City of London in its members’ magazine, Taxi, which appears to place the onus for safety on those cycling, without prior authorisation from the LCC.
A letter sent to road.cc by the LTDA, signed by Chairman Richard Massett and General Secretary Steve McNamara, and addressed to the LCC’s CEO, Dr Ashok Sinha, said: "We are concerned by the statement put out by LCC regarding the LTDA’s position on Tavistock Place and the current consultation that is underway, stating the LTDA have “betrayed their publicly-expressed sentiments” and your subsequent comments to cycling website The Road.CC. These statements are a gross misrepresentation of the LTDA position in relation to both cycling and on Tavistock Place.
“At Tavistock Place we believe that a better solution can be provided by Camden Council: one that works for all road users whilst still providing an improved space for cycling. In all our statements on Tavistock Place we have pledged support for improvements to east to west cycling provision in the Bloomsbury area, however the current measures do not achieve the benefits of reduced congestion and better air quality in the wider area.
“As things stand, the measures have led to increased congestion on neighbouring routes and reduced air quality on key arterial routes such as Euston Road. We have been clear on this since we began campaigning on Tavistock Place and it is therefore strange that the [road.cc] article seems to suggest that we wish the old measures reinstated.”
“Our position is not an attack on cycling. We simply believe that Camden Council can deliver something better that delivers for residents, businesses, cyclists and other road users across the Bloomsbury area as a whole, rather than consider new measures in isolation.”
The letter reiterates a desire to work with the LCC.
The LTDA petition against the Tavistock Place trial calls on Camden Council to "return the road to two way traffic whilst also providing a two way cycle lane and improved pedestrian areas".
LCC’s Infrastructure Campaigner, Simon Munk, says the Tavistock Place scheme has reduced traffic in the area by 3,500 vehicles, with traffic on parallel East-West roads up by one per cent, and North-South roads by four and nine per cent.
He adds reintroducing two-way traffic on the Tavistock Place route would allocate 6.5m of road width to motor traffic, which would mean removal of a pavement or reducing cycle space to close to its previous width.
Munk told road.cc: “We remain committed to working with the LTDA and anyone who’s up for improving infrastructure, safety and conduct on the roads. We are very happy the LTDA says it is in favour of cycle infrastructure but when every single time a major cycling infrastructure project comes up it opposes it, and without suggesting alternative proposals, then we think that can only be read as a clear and calculated attack on cycling infrastructure.”
“If the LTDA has specific proposals to improve a scheme, it should bring them forward, not offer blanket opposition to all schemes without being clear about alternative proposals it would support.
“Any proposals the LTDA would support could then be assessed (as any proposal LCC proposes is) by traffic engineers at Camden Council, TfL etc.”
He said: “It’s very easy to claim to support cycling; for the LTDA to do so credibly, it needs to explain what its alternative vision actually is, and have that assessed on potential performance for motor traffic, cycle safety, cycle numbers etc.”
Munk also writes the joint agreement between the LTDA, City of London and LCC “appears to have been changed by the LTDA without prior authorisation (p15, September issue of LTDA magazine), introducing the word ‘must’ into the sentence ‘A responsible cyclist [must]’; and the word ‘always’ into the first bullet point, to read ‘[Always] looks out…’
The Tavistock Place cycle route, which runs East from Tottenham Court Road towards Islington, was doubled last year from a 2m wide two-way cycle track (1.75m at its narrowest) to two 2m temporary tracks, one in each direction. Before the trial around 43 per cent of traffic was cycles, 13 per cent motor traffic, and there were a high number of collisions on the route, between motor vehicles and both cyclists and pedestrians, which Camden Council hoped the changes would improve.
Since the new layout was introduced there was a 65 per cent increase in cyclists(link is external) on parts of the route, and up to a 21 per cent decrease in Nitrogen Dioxide levels, one of the key air pollutants of concern in Central London. A consultation on the future of the route closes tomorrow.
The LTDA's Steve McNamara has proposed "pop-up bike lanes" in the past but road.cc is not aware of any examples of infrastructure of this sort.