Speed Humps Come to Chislehurst

New speed humps have appeared in the Chislehurst High Street Car Park. Such humps are exceedingly painful to people like me with back pain complaints (of which there are a great number).

As Bromley Council have an adopted policy of a preference for non-vertical deflection traffic calming schemes I am very surprised that these humps have been installed. I would guess they have been installed to stop wheelies and other motorised ASB in this car park, no doubt to the annoyance of local residents, but I am not sure they will stop that anyway. Why has the Council ignored its own policy?

Was there any consultation with councillors or the Chislehurst Society before these were installed? I am not currently aware of any.

I have campaigned against the use of speed humps for many years. You can read all about the negative aspects of them on this web page: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-humps.htm

Roger Lawson

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The Death of the UK Motor Industry?

Toyota have warned the Government that it may cease making cars in the UK if a ban on sales of hybrid vehicles is introduced. That is currently scheduled for 2035 but even after 2030 there may be very tight restrictions on what qualifies for an exemption. Self-charging cars such as the Corolla might not qualify.

Toyota have a big car manufacturing plant employing 3,000 people in Burnaston, Derbyshire and in Deeside, North Wales. There is also the problem that Toyota might be impacted by Government mandates on the proportion of vehicles sold that are purely electric when Toyota has promoted hybrid vehicles for some years starting with the Prius.

Honda has also closed their plant in Swindon and these closures will reduce UK car production very significantly. Meanwhile it looks like Aston Martin will need another bailout to keep it afloat.

The Corolla is a reasonably priced self-charging hybrid with either a 1.8 or 2.0 litre petrol engine. It is a reasonable compromise between emission reduction and flexibility. It is a great pity that the UK Government is not encouraging the retention of hybrid vehicle sales past 2030 or 2035 which are not far away now. Purely electric vehicles are far from ideal for those in remote parts of the country where charging points are limited, or for those who do not have off-road parking.

A self-charging hybrid can go some distance on electric power alone so can substantially reduce emissions on short trips which are common in city driving conditions.

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Telegraph Article on Our Right to Drive Freely

There was a very good article by David Frost on the right to drive freely published by the Daily Telegraph today (29/7/2022). He talks about a world where private cars are banned. He suggests Governments haven’t quite done that but there are people who want to ban cars in some large cities and suggests one day some feeble Red-Green mayor somewhere in Europe will surely give in to it. Meanwhile our leaders are doing everything short of it.

To quote from the article: “But this is not just about technology. It is about human flourishing. The bicycle first allowed people to move from where they lived. The car hugely expanded it. The van and delivery lorry got goods all around the country and the car gave people access to this huge choice. People could go out whatever the weather. They could buy enough food for a week and free up time for things they preferred doing. The disabled, the old, or just those seeking a day out somewhere different, all could get to where they needed to go”; and “There is obviously no substitute for the car outside urban areas. But, even in big cities, public transport will never do everything we need. It runs where the planners want it and when the transport unions allow it. Not everyone wants to travel to the city centre or along a tube line. Only the private car, under autonomous control, can take you where you want to go. Too many of our modern rulers would rather you didn’t.”

He concludes with the comment “Cars are about freedom – going where you want and no one saying you can’t”. That well summarises what the Freedom for Drivers Foundation stands for.

To read the article go here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/07/29/must-never-surrender-right-drive-freely/

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Mayor Falsely Claims ULEZ has Improved Air in London

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has issued a press release and a report claiming that the air in London is a lot cleaner after the last expansion of the ULEZ. For example, it is suggested that NO2 concentrations alongside roads in inner London are estimated to be 20 per cent lower than they would have been without the ULEZ and its expansion.

This is no doubt an attempt to justify a further expansion to the whole of London which is still open to public consultation.  However if you read the detailed report it is not at all clear why air quality in some locations has improved, however much it is to be welcomed.

Other factors that may have affected the figures have been ignored. For example the report says this: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (“the pandemic”) and individual, regional and national responses to address it, mean that 2020 and 2021 have been different from previous years. This is particularly so for travel and transport as people reacted to lockdown measures and wider concerns about the pandemic by changing their work and travel habits. The pandemic impacted traffic volumes in London in 2020 and 2021, with central London being especially affected. This will in turn have impacted pollution levels across the city. In July 2021 most lockdown restrictions were formally lifted, and much of the economy has now returned to near normal levels of activity. However, central London traffic levels are still not back to pre-pandemic levels”.

It is also worth noting that as vehicles get replaced or upgraded, newer ones tend to be a lot cleaner. There is a natural turnover of vehicles and newer ones are cleaner plus people have been avoiding buying diesel vehicles whose numbers registered in London have fallen. Many people and businesses are also now buying electric vehicles and not just to avoid paying a ULEZ charge.

Another big change is that more London buses are now ULEZ compliant and HGVs have also been replaced with cleaner vehicles. These have had big impacts on air pollution in London along main roads.

But all these changes have not justified the ULEZ expansion and the costs imposed on car and van drivers. Neither do they justify further expansion of the ULEZ which will cost TfL many millions of pounds to implement and cost some drivers a great deal also. If you have not already responded to the public consultation, please do so from the link below:

Clean Air Consultation: https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/cleanair

TfL cannot afford to spend the money on expanding the ULEZ as they are already desperately short of money so why do they want to do it? Probably because it will give them the capability to introduce a London-wide road charging system using the cameras that will be installed.

TfL Report: https://www.london.gov.uk/WHAT-WE-DO/environment/environment-publications/expanded-ultra-low-emission-zone-six-month-report

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Attempts to Undermine Democratic Processes in Bromley over School Streets

School Streets are liked by some people but heartily disliked by others. There is little evidence of real benefits while they cause problems for some residents within the area, block delivery or service vehicles and can simply cause school-run vehicles to move to nearby roads.

On the 15th July there was another attempt by a concerted political campaign of Labour and LibDem sympathisers, and supported by newly -elected Chislehurst councillors, to attack the Conservative administrations policy on School Streets in Bromley. A special “call-in” meeting of the Environment and Community Services PDS Committee was held to review the adopted policy with many questions being submitted by the public to it.

This is what Committee Chairman Councillor Will Rowlands had to say in response to one question: “The committee discussed, at some length, the matter at its meeting on June 21st. Two opposition parties have abused, in my view, the ‘call in’ procedure to have a second meeting on the subject by either misunderstanding or wilfully misrepresenting the amended recommendations by the PDS Committee, which I accepted in full. It has been further exacerbated by a politically motivated campaign to flood the agenda with 41 very similar questions again based on a false premise. These questions have taken up the valuable time of senior staff when they could be engaged in more productive work. I have referred the matter to the Constitution Working Party with a view to tightening the rules on ‘call ins’ and on questions to meetings called to do with ‘call ins”.

Comment: Clearly there is a difference of opinion on the merits of School Streets among the public and councillors. But a decision was taken and a policy adopted in the normal manner. I suggest such Streets can only be appropriate in limited circumstances, and where both immediate local residents and the wider community supports them, and there is good and specific justification on cost/benefit grounds.

Public highways need to be kept open at all times for vehicles if only to ensure that disabled people who rely on them can use the roads. The use of cameras to enforce School Streets is also to be opposed as we already have too many cameras infringing privacy and they should not be used to raise income for councils as has been happening in other London boroughs such as Lewisham, Hackney, Islington and Croydon (typically those one might classify as being “anti-car”).

It is most unfortunate that those members of the public in Bromley who support School Streets are ignoring the rules on Council meetings and hence attempting to undermine the democratic process. They are also misrepresenting the Council’s policy in that Bromley has not ruled out the use of School Streets altogether.

When an issue is contentious, it should not be decided by who shouts loudest but on rational analysis of the issues. The Council’s policy decision was not unreasonable.

To see a report on the questions posed at the Council meeting and the responses, go here: https://cds.bromley.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=7485&x=1

From the questions posed it would seem some people believe School Streets will solve the problem of child obesity, tackle air pollution issues (if any) and reduce road casualties. There is little evidence to support any of these statements. If parents want to have healthier children they should stop feeding them junk foods, stop driving them to school and give them some education about how to stay safe.

Note: See our previous comments about School Streets in Bromley here: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2022/06/22/school-streets-in-bromley/

Roger Lawson

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ULEZ Expansion to Cost £200 Million

The expansion of the ULEZ scheme to the whole of London will cost £200 million according to a report in the Evening Standard. Based on FOI Act requests, they report that this is required mainly to pay for the extra cameras and does not include the cost of a scrappage scheme which has been promised. Neither does it include the cost imposed on London residents who would need to change their vehicles.

As many as 40,000 vehicles would need to be changed so that’s potentially many more millions of pounds imposed on a proportion of the population with very little benefit.

Nick Rogers, a Tory member of the London Assembly, is quoted as saying “£200m could buy 500 electric buses or fund hundreds of low-traffic “school streets”.

This is yet another example of the reckless expenditure by Mayor Sadiq Khan and TfL. When you are running out of money (as TfL is), you need to stop spending it. TfL might get more income in the short term from non-compliant vehicles paying the charge or from fines on those who don’t pay, but that would likely soon disappear as people changed their vehicles.

Another recent example of gross waste was the disclosure that almost 600 TfL staff earn more than £100,000. The financial management of TfL is clearly out of control. TfL pays such high salaries that it sucks in traffic engineers and management from London boroughs and outside London thus denuding them of valuable expertise.

TfL needs to be removed from the control of the Mayor, and a public transport authority (which is what TfL is) should not have control of the roads used by private vehicles. As we have said before, major reform of the governance and control of TfL is required.  

Evening Standard article: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/ulez-expansion-greater-london-boundary-cost-two-hundred-million-pounds-b1011721.html

The public consultation on expansion of the ULEZ is still open so please respond to it here if you have not already done so: https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/cleanair?cid=clean-air

Roger Lawson

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Grant Shapps for Prime Minister?

Transport Minister Grant Shapps has announced his candidacy for the position of Prime Minister and with two others yesterday the field is getting quite crowded.

But Shapps has a very poor record as Transport Minister. Among his negative contributions has been the promotion of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) to tackle the Covid epidemic – a totally misconceived policy and implemented without local consultations; support for HS2 – an enormous white elephant; a rewrite of the Highway Code which makes some people more equal than others on the road; a £2 billion investment in cycling and walking to promote “active travel” and “behaviour change” and he keeps bailing out Transport for London (TfL) allowing Sadiq Khan to continue to run an uneconomic service instead of reforming it. His response to the national rail strikes has also been to line up for a fight with the unions while committing £1 billion to “modernisation” of the railways; basically throwing more money at an uneconomic and outdated transport technology.

Meanwhile the road transport network gets ever more congested and drivers pay ever more in taxes and road charges such as in CAZ and ULEZ schemes.

I certainly would not support Shapps for Prime Minister. But what of the other candidates? A number wish to cut taxes. A laudable policy but to be able to do that without increasing public borrowing means a reduction in public expenditure. None seem to be promising that (for example Shapps wants to spend considerably more on defence).

We would all like a cut in the price of diesel/petrol which might help to stimulate the economy as high prices impact the delivery of goods and services. But most of the increase of late has come from the market price of oil not from taxes (Fuel Duty rates have actually been reduced recently).

Rishi Sunak seems to be one of the few candidates who is wisely not promising hand-outs to the electorate if he gets the job.

But no doubt we will learn more about the other candidates over the next few weeks. As in previous Conservative Party elections, it may be a case of who avoids the most gaffs and who is least disliked by MPs that wins the day. Boris Johnson only got the job because he seemed likely to break the deadlock over Brexit but there should surely be no rush to appoint a replacement.

Roger Lawson

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Comments on the Energy Security Bill and the Next Prime Minister

Yesterday the Government introduced the Energy Security Bill into Parliament. It is good to see that the Government continues to function after the recent political upheavals, but would it not be good to get back to some normality as opposed to the recent dramas?

The new Bill aims to:

–         Boost Britain’s energy independence and security.

–         Attract private investment, reindustrialise our economy and create jobs through new clean technologies, as well as protect consumers.

–         Introduce new powers to help prevent disruption to fuel supply because of industrial action, malicious protests and on grounds of national security (comment: surely to be welcomed).

See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plans-to-bolster-uk-energy-security-set-to-become-law  for details.

It includes new powers which will enable the extension of the energy price cap beyond 2023, shielding millions of customers across the country from being charged “unfair” prices as they call it. Or to put it another way – to protect consumers from the real world of market prices and hence making it uneconomic for some companies to operate in this sector. This is surely not a very “conservative” approach!  There are better ways to subsidise household fuel bills.

The clear objective is to reduce reliance on imported oil and gas and encourage offshore wind farms, nuclear power generation and other infrastructure that we need to achieve carbon reductions although the growth of nuclear is still at a snail’s pace. It is certainly worth reading the document on the Bill’s contents and the associated British Energy Security Strategy mentioned in it.

But will any new Government back-track on the net zero commitment which has made for some very expensive (the public do not know how expensive) policies as regards motor transport.

Let us hope that any new Prime Minister does not get the job by promising more tax cuts. It’s clear that Government expenditure is rising by commitments in the Energy Security Bill for example and in many other areas when what is really needed is reducing the amount of our wealth that is spent by the Government. In the last couple of years we have had a quasi-socialist economy with more willingness to interfere in the economy by the Government. But civil servants consistently back the wrong horses.

What the country really needs is a period of stability under a competent leader who everyone can support.

Roger Lawson

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New Road Safety Investigation Branch

Chislehurst Commons Incident

The Government has announced the formation of a new Road Safety Investigation Branch (RSIB) to investigate road accidents and advise on how to improve road safety.

This has been called for by the RAC Foundation and others for a long time to match the success of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch. At present road accidents are investigated by the police primarily to identify any culpability. As a result, drivers involved tend to clam up and refuse to give evidence in case they are identified as being to blame.

The new RSIB will not identify blame or liability but will anyone providing evidence to it be excluded from consideration of criminal or civil liability? It is not clear at present.

In principle the new body is to be welcomed but there is still the problem that any evidence it produces may be ignored as it is at present. For example the lack of effectiveness of 20 MPH signed only speed limits is well documented in a DfT report but local councils still promote them as a road safety measure. Dogma from the ignorant overrides the evidence.

See DfT announcement: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-launches-countrys-first-ever-investigation-branch-focused-on-road-safety

Roger Lawson

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Census Results – A Problem the Government is Ignoring

Yesterday (28/6/2022) the Office of National Statistics released the first results from the 2021 Census in the UK. The population of England and Wales rose to 59.6 million which is an increase of 6.3% since the last census 10 years ago.

This substantial change which directly affects our quality of life was barely covered in the national media. More people mean more stress on housing provision, more vehicles on our roads and a bigger demand for health services (particularly as the population has aged – there are more older people and they are living longer). Some of the age increase can be blamed on baby boomers growing old.

The population increase has been concentrated in London and the South-East but older people have tended to move out of London being replaced by young immigrants (not just from overseas but from within the UK). The census data might also have been distorted as people tended to move out of central London boroughs to the country during the pandemic.

England now has the highest population density of all major European countries.

One major impact of more population is degradation of the environment – more air pollution and more waste. Here’s a good quote from Sir David Attenborough that is very relevant: “All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people”.

What is the Government doing to try and tackle this problem?  In essence very little apart from rather feebly trying to restrict immigration. The birth rate is forecast to fall, but there is as yet no sign of any reduction in the population growth. A growing population might mean a healthy economy but the shortage of housing, particularly in the South-East, has been a major factor in political unrest while the elderly are facing problems in getting medical treatment as the NHS is over-stretched to cope.

The Government is being distracted by many other issues at present in a reactive fashion. Such problems as food and energy security would not be a problem if the UK population was reduced.

Likewise the growth of population, particularly in London and the South-East, has put great stress on the road network. Population growth has zoomed ahead of road capacity which has barely changed in the last few years. This is a recipe for more traffic congestion.

The Government surely needs to be less reactive to short-term problems and look at the longer-term issue of excessive population growth.

Roger Lawson

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