I was in the City of London last week, and walked through the Bank Junction area, as I often do. It was very clear that the “experimental” closure of that junction to all traffic except buses and cyclists during the hours of 7.00 am to 7.00 pm had certainly reduced the volume of traffic. But it was also obvious that some vehicle drivers were still not aware of the restriction (and the fines they will collect) as I reported back in May (see https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2017/05/24/bank-junction-closed-to-most-traffic/ ).
This junction is of course the central hub of the road network in the City so closing it was bound to disrupt the network and cause congestion elsewhere. For example, it has noticeably worsened traffic congestion on the alternative routes such as Cannon Street and Gracechurch Street/Bishopsgate. These were already badly congested before this experiment was implemented but now you often get stationary traffic for much of the day. And that includes buses resulting in appalling bad air pollution.
This closure also causes major problems for delivery drivers and taxi drivers. A representative of The NED Hotel has contacted me about their difficulties. This is a new luxury hotel which recently opened on Poultry very close to the junction. The front entrance cannot even be reached by taxis without incurring a fine. Although there is a rear entrance, visitors obviously have great difficulties persuading taxi drivers or other vehicles such as PHVs (minicabs) to go anywhere near the location. They probably would not have opened the hotel if they had known the roads around Bank would be closed.
Comment: A large proportion of the accidents and casualties, which this closure was aimed to reduce, are caused by pedestrians stepping into the road without looking. It is undoubtedly the case that with rising numbers of pedestrians in this location, and with pavements that are too narrow, it would make sense to redesign this junction. In addition, the traffic congestion that existed before this scheme was introduced caused high air pollution. A better solution would be to reduce the complexity of the junction so as to smooth traffic flows.
The City of London Corporation is looking at some longer-term options for this junction, although they are all very expensive. These include:
- Closure to motor vehicles on the North/South Axis (King William Street/Princes Street).
- Closure on the East/West Axis (Poultry, Queen Victoria St, Cornhill, Threadneedle Street)
- Closure on Cornhill and Poultry.
- A reduction in available capacity, perhaps by use of a “shared space” scheme.
It is not clear why those roads are proposed for closure rather than say Victoria Street, Lombard Street and Threadneedle Street. But reducing the number of roads feeding into the junction is clearly a priority to simplify the junction and increase the pedestrian space. A shared space scheme may be a viable option and we have no objections to such schemes so long as they are carefully and well designed, which sometimes they are not. At present pedestrians in the area take little notice of formal crossing points so reflecting that in the road design may make sense.
In summary, we would support development of solutions that ensure that this junction remains a key and useable part of the road network. In other words, not just a “place” as the transport planners might desire. It is simply not acceptable to corrupt and damage the road network in the way currently happening.
There is a public consultation being undertaken on the current experimental scheme. Please go here for more information and to respond to it: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/transport-and-streets/traffic-management/Pages/Bank-On-Safety.aspx
You need to do that before the 24th November so do it now!
Postscript: The City of London Corporation have published an initial report on the closure of Bank junction to most traffic, here are some more comments having read the report entitled “Update on Monitoring” authored by Gillian Howard:
- From Figure 3 in the report it is obvious that although the number of infringers dropped from the initial level, it has now stabilised and is still running at around 4,000 per week, i.e. 800 per working day. This is obviously an unacceptable level and indicates that either the restriction is inadequately signed or that drivers simply do not expect to meet such a restriction. One problem is that SatNav systems may not be updated for many months if not years and in the meantime, hundreds of thousands of people are likely to be issued with fines for contraventions every year. This is simply unacceptable.
- As regards the initial collision data, although this shows a reduction (which it should do because of the reduction in traffic volumes), to try and interpret such data over such a short period of time after a change in the road layout would be inappropriate. Any road safety expert knows that after a road layout change, the immediate result tends to be a reduction in accidents for a few months but that often the change disappears over time as drivers become familiar with the new layout and revert to old habits. That is why 3-year before and after data is normally used to identify any real impact.
- One very unsatisfactory aspect of the reported data is that no information on traffic volumes through the junction is reported (before and after) so one could examine whether the change in accident figures is due solely to removing traffic or not.
- The report also refers to meeting the “success criteria”. But these have clearly been chosen to ensure that the outcome is beneficial. Nowhere in the criteria is the need to maintain a viable road network for all traffic on what is a key junction in the road network. Nor is there any criteria to minimise the additional journey times imposed on all traffic. This is clearly a biased approach to judging the merits of this change to the road layout.
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