Archive for the 'Transport' Category
10. Year of the Bike
11. Big Green Jewish – a coalition of organisations in the Jewish Community concerned about environmental issues have declared 2012 the ‘Year of the Bike’. Tackling the impact of transport on the environment more generally, they are campaigning within the community to take pledges on decreasing their carbon footprints by making greener transport decisions, including taking up cycling as a viable and safe alternative when commuting.
12. The proposed Cycle Superhighway 11, running from Marylebone will stop at border of Camden and Barnet, avoiding the Brent Cross Cricklewood development, and not crossing the North Circular, the biggest physical barrier to cycling in North West London. TfL should seriously consider extending the route of CS11 to ensure that residents in Barnet can benefit from better access to a safe and faster cycle network.
I notice that they have Breakfast meetings organised with each of the main Mayoral candidates for Jewish Londoners to come and express their concerns directly. Perhaps one or two of my Jewish readers might wish to attend and and press the case for cycling?
The first of LJF’s candidates breakfasts is on 17 April with Boris Johnson in Golders Green. You can register for the breakfast with Boris and find the dates for the other candidates on the LJF web site.
You may also be interested in the Rabbi Relay Ride.
Finally a belated ‘Chag Pesach Sameach’ to my Jewish readers!
In July, London Cycling Campaign (LCC) members voted overwhelmingly (58.4%) for ‘Go Dutch‘ to be our single-issue demand for the 2012 Mayoral elections. Our chosen strapline is ‘clear space for cycling on main roads’ – which has attracted some negative comment from those who consider it ambiguous or dilatory in some way. There is particular criticism at the choice of the word “clear”.
Personally, I think the choice of the word ‘clear’ (first proposed by Ben Tansley, Co-ordinator of Brent LCC) is a master stroke. What some seem to have missed is precisely that “clear” is deliberately ambiguous: it is both an adjective and a verb – and the latter form is the most powerful.
Let’s stick the adjective, first. To me, “clear space for cycling” means:
- Clear from the dangers of cycling in motor traffic: On the busiest roads I expect this to mean separate bike paths, on other roads it might be possible to divert motor vehicles elsewhere (e.g. by closing to through-traffic); most importantly it means not having to play chicken at junctions.
- Clear from conflict with pedestrians: No-one wants any more painted pavement rubbish.
- Clear from obstructions: Cycle paths that are properly maintained, free of debris, and certainly no parked cars.
- Clearly visible: Well sign-posted so it’s easy to know where I’m supposed to go.
- Clear air: Always a relative thing in London but… cycle routes shouldn’t take me through a load of smog where there’s a convenient, non motor-vehicle clogged alternative.
- Clear from weather effects: Unlike Islington, remember that cycle paths need proper drainage; unlike Camden, remember to grit them in winter!
- Clear from slower cyclists in my way: wide enough for me to overtake on my commute to work.
That’s just a few off-the-top-of my head. I’m sure one could think up many more and indeed LCC will be publishing our comprehensive policy position for Go Dutch, in due course.
But remember, “clear” is also a verb – that’s where it comes in most useful: Proper cycling facilities cannot be made from thin air. On London’s roads that means space needs to be taken away from other purposes (motor traffic lanes, on-street parking, overly-wide footpaths, etc.) in order to provide good quality, cycle paths that most people would feel safe riding on. The Mayor of London’s Cycling Superhighways have been poor primarily because that political will isn’t there to take road space away from private cars. Lobbying highway engineers to create good facilities is like banging one’s head against a brick wall when the politicians are unwilling to provide them with the road space to do so.
The cycle paths of Copenhagen are the most visible aspect of that city’s cycling revolution. However, what they hide is the more important enabler – the removal of on-street car parking that previously used to be where many of those cycle paths are today. I can’t find a reference just now but I believe the then Mayor of Copenhagen cited ‘on-street car parking’ as both the single biggest barrier to cycling – and its removal as the single most important step they took. Without creating space they could not have built those cycle paths – which whilst good are still not up to the standards of the Netherlands.
How much is it right to constrain car use to provide for good cycling facilities? Rightly this is a political issue. Car use is an important part of life, especially in outer London, and politicians risk voters’ wrath if they are seen to unfairly constrain people’s freedom. However there are some points that our representatives need to digest and understand:
- Current levels of car use are unsustainable. As London’s population inevitably grows (and remember the working population that commutes in from the shires is far greater than the residential population) we have to find better ways of making use of scarce road space. Private cars just take up far too much of it.
- Increasing cycling is much cheaper than building mass transit – and even then there are only so many tube lines we can dig.
- Londoner’s want to cycle more but don’t feel it is safe to do so. Transport for London’s 2008 survey showed that 58% of residents of outer London wanted to cycle more and that 32% of outer London households don’t own a car. Providing good cycling facilities will give all these people the freedom to cycle safely.
Ultimately, the thrust of the campaign is about the verb, not the adjective: we are asking the next Mayor (and the wider public) to clear space for cycling on London’s main roads. We don’t want the same old junk in the gutter.
Anyone still unclear?
I’m no stranger to the M4 and the bottleneck around the bus lane at Junction 3, getting back into London is infuriating. The news been somewhat drowned out by benefit changes but Phil Hammond’s shamelessly populist announcement that the M4 bus lane will be scrapped is going to make things worse, not better.
The rationale for the M4 bus lane is poorly understood – and not helped by New Labour spinning it as an environmental measure when it was, and remains, primarily an important traffic management technique.
The reason there is a bottleneck on the M4 is that between junctions 3 and 2 the road reaches on elevated section, just two lanes wide on each side, and with a 40mph limit. It’s not hard to see that this would cause a bottleneck at the head of the a 70mph motorway with 3 lanes and a hard shoulder on each side. Widening the final section of the M4 is impractical/expensive/politicallly “brave” as widening an elevated motorway in London involves requisitioning and demolishing so much private property.
So the Highways Agency came up with a simple, yet ingenious measure. In order to manage the flow of traffic better they brought the narrowing of the road forward to junction 3, when much traffic is leaving the M4 anyway, and dropping the speed to 50mph (since raised to 60mph). That left them with a “spare” lane and rather than painting it with white lines (or planting trees or whatever) they decided to paint it red so that the few busses and taxis on the M4 could take advantage – and why not? Of course, the bus lane is under-utilised, if it wasn’t it wouldn’t solve the bottleneck!
Although the bus lane reduces the space available on the road it smoothes traffic flow: the well-respected Transport Research Laboratory’s research showed that despite increased traffic, peak-time journey times were actually reduced for all vehicles; off-peak times did go up slightly for cars, but all journeys were more reliable.
For more detail, including a graphical explanation on the M4 bus lane, see Chris Marshall’s explanation.
Phil Hammond’s announcement may well earn him some brownie points for seeming to oppose an “anti-motorist” measure. Yet the real anti-motorism here is this surrender of logic and evidence-based policy to shamless populism.