The Danger of Encouraging Cycling

There is a very good article which has been published by an organisation named “Single File” on the dangers of encouraging cycling. It suggests London is about to have an explosion in cycling deaths as more cyclists on the roads mean more deaths of cyclists.

It also demolishes the myth that Holland has made cycling both safe and popular. Holland has more than twice the number of fatal cycling deaths than the UK despite the fact that they have many more segregated cycle lanes. The article also points out that getting more people to cycle will not solve London’s traffic congestion problems.

One good quotation from the article is this: “When you reallocate limited road space on a 24×7 basis for bicycles, the problem you introduce is this  –  in London only one in 50 road users are cyclists,  and that’s only during peak hour.  The rest of the time that precious road space becomes woefully underused”.

See https://singlefile.org/london-is-about-to-have-an-explosion-in-cycling-deaths/ for the article.

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Cycle Lane on Kensington High Street Removed

A “temporary” cycle lane on Kensington High Street is being removed – note the reference to “temporary”, it was never intended that it would necessarily be made permanent. It was installed as part of the temporary Covid-19 emergency measures and financed accordingly. But cyclists are angered by its removal.

Johnny Thalassites, lead member for transport in the borough has said: ‘The cycle lane was a trial scheme to help those hopping on bikes during lockdowns and encourage shoppers to the High Street. Businesses and residents have told us loud and clear that they believe the experiment has not worked. We are listening”. The council claims to have received hundreds of emails asking for it to be removed and large numbers of signatures to a petition.

The whole scheme was planned to cost over £700,000 and the council has received £313,000 in funding via TfL’s Streetspace fund for the cycle lanes. But Cycling Commissioner Will Norman is suggesting TfL should ask for the cash back.

This is what the petitioners said on Change.org about the scheme: “The Council of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) has, without much consultation, created bike lanes along Kensington High Street, from Hyde Park all the way to Hammersmith, on both sides of the road, restricting the traffic to one lane for all vehicles (cars, vans, motorbikes, buses, etc.).

Kensington High Street was already a busy road, but as a consequence of this scheme, it has become unmanageable. The traffic East to West is now backing up all the way to the Albert Hall and on some days almost to Knightsbridge, and it is taking an unacceptable amount of time for commuters, workers, families dropping off and picking up from schools, taxi drivers and vans delivering goods to residents and businesses, to cross this crucial bottleneck.

This scheme has introduced chaos to an entire area of West London”. See photo above showing the congestion it caused, from the petition site.

Comment: Reducing road space to include cycle lanes so that a whole traffic lane is removed is never a good idea on busy roads. In addition putting cycle lanes on roads where heavy traffic is present and hence some air pollution is also not a good idea. Best to put them on quieter back streets. But the major objection to this scheme was the lack of public consultation before it was installed. It’s now being removed without public consultation.

The lack of public consultation has meant an enormous waste of money and it could never have been justified by the Covid-19 epidemic.

It is also proposed to remove the cycle lane installed on the Euston Road, and there are many objections to the one on Park Lane where there is a good alternative “off-road” route for cyclists.

The ABD suggests that cycle lanes should be off the road, or cyclists should share road space with other road users as they are perfectly capable of doing. The removal of traffic lanes just causes big problems to other road users and there is never any cost/benefit justification provided. With the number of cyclists using the new “pop-up” cycle lanes being small, most of them could never be justified.  

At least it is good to see that the Council in this case has actually listened to local residents and businesses who mainly opposed the scheme.

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More School Streets, Streetspace Consultation, MPs on TV and Travel Statistics

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, is promoting the installation of even more “School Streets” where roads are closed during rush hours to cut pollution. Such closures are typically enforced by cameras, providing another source of revenue to local councils.

Already 430 have been funded with 300 now installed. By 2019 there were actually very few schools remaining where there were illegal levels of pollution. Were these reductions down to the implementation of school streets? Probably not because air pollution blows around and it’s more likely that general improvements in vehicle technology and the ULEZ scheme made the biggest impacts. 

The ABD certainly supports the encouragement of drivers on the school run to use other transport modes (such as children walking to school) but closing roads actually prejudices other road users who have legitimate reasons to be on the roads. Some roads where there are good alternative routes might be closed without too much prejudice but in other cases they are unreasonable. They have been introduced in boroughs such as Lewisham without proper consultation with local residents.

See Reference 1 below for details.

Streetspace Consultation

Numerous “Streetspace” schemes are being installed across London in boroughs such as Bromley, Camden, City of London,  Croydon, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Richmond, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster. They typically involve reallocating road space as the name suggests, with road closures, and more cycle lanes being common aspects.

Transport for London (TfL) have now launched a public consultation on these schemes that anyone can respond to. See https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/general/streetspace-for-london/consultation/

PLEASE RESPOND.

MPs Debate Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

On the 12th November ITV ran a programme called the “Late Debate” which included Janet Daby (M.P. for Lewisham East) and David Simmonds (M.P. for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner). They covered the controversy over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods but did not take a strong position against them unfortunately despite the many complaints they have generated. They both ducked the problems they create to a large extent. But you may want to watch it to see what your M.P. is saying if you live in those constituencies. See Reference 2 below.

Cycling Revolution Not Happening and the Impact on TfL

The Department for Transport (DfT) have published some statistics on travel mode usage since the Covid-19 epidemic hit – see Reference 3 below.

It shows there was a significant increase in April this year and during the summer months, but has now fallen back to more normal lower levels.

It also shows how transport on the Underground and Buses in London was decimated in the early stages of the epidemic and remains at very low levels. Hence the financial difficulties of TfL.

But the Government is about to throw another £175 million at active travel schemes (i.e. more for cycling). The only caveat is that local councils will have to do more consultation or they may lose future funding.

Reference 1: Mayor’s Statement on School Streets: https://tinyurl.com/y3eu5ck4

Reference 2: ITV London Debate:  https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=421993052295871  

Reference 3: DfT Travel Statistics: https://tinyurl.com/yd9xoqss

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Active Travel and Road Safety – The Facts

There has been a big push to encourage people to take up “active travel” in the last few years, i.e. to cycle or walk on the premise that this will improve their health. It is hoped that this will relieve pressure on public transport and reduce traffic congestion by getting people out of their cars. So the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy that he adopted focussed on this well before the latest attempts to encourage active travel in response to the Covid-19 epidemic.

How successful has this strategy been and what are the unintended consequences?

The latest figures available from the Department for Transport (DfT) in their National Travel Survey for 2019 showed no change in the number of stages cycled and an actual fall in the average distance cycled from 58 to 54 miles. The number of stages walked also fell from 347 in 2018 to 332. Cycling remained very much a male dominated travel mode – they made 3 times as many cycle trips as women.

There was little change in the road casualty statistics in 2019. The number of people killed was 1,748. Despite sharp falls in the number prior to 2010, the figures plateaued in the 2010s. The DfT suggests that any changes in recent years are simply random variations (only 2% down in 2019). There has of course been some increase in traffic volumes in the last few years but the results are still very disappointing.

Although overall casualty figures fell by 5% in 2019, this data is probably an under-estimate as it is known that slight casualties are under-reported and recent pressures on police resources mean even fewer are reported with police forces not even turning out to attend many road traffic accidents.

The ABD has been claiming for some time that the failure to bring down casualties is due to defects in road safety policies. For example a concentration on automated speed enforcement rather than spending money on road engineering and education. The encouragement of cycling may not have helped either. These are the relative figures for fatalities per billion miles travelled using different transport modes:

Motorcycling: 113.3

Walking: 34.1

Cycling: 29.4

Car use: 1.8

HGV use: 0.9

Bus use: 0.6

Van use: 0.6

A new negative trend may soon appear if E-Scooters are widely adopted as they appear to be positively dangerous. The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) recently said this: “From evidence and experience around the world, it is now very clear that the public benefits of [e-scooters] are illusory and the disbenefits substantial, at least in a European context”. They oppose the current trials and wider legislation to support them. Very few car trips apparently transfer to e-scooter use and they also are not “active travel”.

They are also a particular danger to pedestrians when ridden on the pavement which is happening all over London at present with the police doing very little to stop it.

What have been the changes in transport modes prompted by the Covid-19 epidemic?  They have been substantial, particularly in London. Underground and London bus usage has fallen greatly as more people worked from home which is why the Mayor and TfL have financial difficulties as income has fallen while the network has not been reduced. Nationwide cycling rose by as much as 300% on some days in the first couple of months (April/May) over the start of the year. The weather does of course have a big impact on cycle use which has been relatively benign in recent months and summer makes cycling more enjoyable. Cycle use rises sharply during weekends and bank holidays which suggests it is dominated by “leisure” and “exercise” use, particularly as gyms and sports venues have been closed. But the cycling numbers are now reverting to more normal levels. You can see the data for different modes during the epidemic here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/transport-use-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic   

Car use fell very substantially during the first few weeks of the epidemic but that has also reverted to near normal levels across the country. Any big increases in traffic congestion in London are surely due to the road closures and removal of road space by cycle and bus lanes using Covid-19 as an excuse.

Comment: The fear of gridlock on the roads as people avoided public transport is not born out by the facts. They have mainly avoided travelling altogether. As people have learned to work from home, it is clear that the demand for central London offices will fall, and the number of commuters may never recover to previous levels. Why should TfL maintain a network of bus and underground services at previous levels when the passengers are much reduced? Any commercial business would cut services to match demand because to do otherwise leads to bankruptcy. That is what will happen to London’s transport services unless the Government bows to Sadiq Khan’s demands for more cash to keep it afloat. The Government should ignore such requests and force TfL to adapt to the new world rather than waste the taxes we all pay.  

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More Cycling During the Epidemic? Actually No.

The reason for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and emergency road closures during the epidemic has been given as encouraging people to walk and cycle more. But are they?  Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, recently said on Twitter that “we’re seeing a huge increase in cycling”.But is there more cycling? In reality there is no change in the numbers cycling and it remains a minority pastime of young males primarily.

The chart above shows the trend since the start of the pandemic (covering the last 19 weeks) from surveys taken by Transport Focus. It shows that both walking and cycling have not changed in the numbers using those modes with the former stuck at about 7% of all people surveyed.

The use of public transport such as buses and trains has been recovering but car/van and taxi use has been rising. Clearly people prefer to use private transport rather than public transport during the epidemic and they are not converting to cycling.  

So in summary, the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are not creating modal shift as expected, even before the harsh winter weather sets in.

You can read the full Transport Focus report here:  https://www.transportfocus.org.uk/research-publications/publications/travel-during-covid-19-survey-week-19/  

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Seminar on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

There is a great deal of irrationality in the world at present. A good example was a webinar I attended this morning run by Landor Links on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). These are being promoted by the Government and frequently consist of road closures using the euphemistically named “modal filters” Several of the speakers promoted the wonders of such schemes typically using slides showing the joy of cycling in sunny weather. They failed to cover how the residents of boroughs such as Waltham Forest got to vote on the proposals, before or after implementation – they did not of course! I know there is a very large amount of opposition in Waltham Forest, in Lewisham in the Oval area, in Islington and several other parts of London. But the Covid-19 epidemic is being used to justify emergency measures without any public consultation.

It’s all quite disgraceful as democracy is being undermined and the road network is being destroyed. Traffic congestion in Lewisham for example has been made a lot worse to my personal knowledge and that’s even before the schools return. Labour controlled Councils are frequently a particular problem as they tend to like to decide what is good for you rather than listening to their electorate or taking into account any rational arguments.

This is all part of the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy which the ABD has been campaigning against for some time (see https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm ). But boroughs such as Lewisham controlled by keen cyclists are pushing through simple anti-car measures without any reason and to the disadvantage of many groups of people who need to use vehicles.

Roger Lawson

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Cycling and Walking Revolution and Highway Code Changes

The Prime Minister has announced a “£2 billion cycling and walking revolution” – see Reference 1 below for the Government’s press release. There is also a consultation launched on changes to the Highway Code – see Reference 2.  I will comment on some of the implications for London and give my personal comments on the Highway Code changes as the ABD nationally will be formulating a formal response in due course – your views might assist.

The £2 billion might sound a lot of money but spread over some years it might not be a great deal. It includes the provision of new “protected” cycle routes. If they were segregated from other road traffic that might make much sense to avoid conflict but the danger is that it will just mean more cycle lanes taking away road space with fairly disastrous results for traffic congestion as seen in London.

Boris Johnson’s press release suggests that getting people to cycle and walk will enable them to lose weight and get fitter thereby generally improving their health. The only problem with this is that, as anyone who has tried to lose weight knows, you have to do an awful lot of exercise to lose much weight. In reality the only way to significantly lose weight is to eat fewer calories and drink less alcohol. Exercise can only contribute in a minor way, not that I would discourage you from taking it.

For the elderly taking up cycling can be positively dangerous. My brother-in-law just fell off a bike in Italy and hurt his shoulder which was already damaged, and he is an experienced cyclist. But if you really want to take up cycling the Government is to provide cycle training, vouchers to fix your old bike, or possibly assistance to buy a new electric one (details not yet clear).

The Government is to encourage “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods” that might include road closures like we have seen in Lewisham and other London boroughs, much to the disgust of many residents. The result has been more traffic congestion, not less, and there has been no public consultation before putting in the measures using the epidemic as an excuse. It’s good to see that the Government says that includes “consulting on communities’ right to close side streets” – I look forward to such consultations! I trust they will be made retrospective.

All this enthusiasm for cycling is of course driven by the fine weather, and the fact that sporting facilities such as gyms have been closed. People may continue to avoid the latter, hence all the weekend cyclists. In London commuters have also been avoiding public transport so cycling has been seen to be a viable alternative to avoid the risk of infection. And it’s cheaper than using public transport unless you have a concessionary fare.

But cyclists are still a minority of traffic on London’s roads (about 2% according to the last reported data from 2018). See Reference 3 below for the trends in traffic data. Will the Government really turn the UK into the cycling capital of the world? I doubt it. It might be popular for young males, but will it ever be for the elderly and never for the disabled or sick surely (of which there are an enormous number in London – actually 21% of adults).

The convenience of a vehicle for transporting people (such as family members) and goods over short and long distances, in all weathers and safely just cannot be beaten. Those who can afford a vehicle and have space to park it usually learn to drive and buy a vehicle sooner or later. It opens up many new leisure and work opportunities and gives you access to a much wider geographic area that may simply be impractical to access via public transport in a sensible timeframe.

Highway Code Changes

The proposed changes, to which you can respond in a public consultation, are not all bad in my opinion (see the link below). But there are some issues I note:

– It introduces a “hierarchy of road users”. I always thought all people who use the roads should be treated equally as in essence all people have the same rights and responsibilities in a free society. They should also share the roads irrespective of their chosen transport modes. To give more obligations and responsibilities to any one class of road user is wrong.

– There is a change that does not dissuade cyclists from overtaking vehicles on the left. That is a dangerous manoeuvre on crowded London roads as cyclists may be in a blind spot on some vehicles.

– They are also proposing to introduce specific passing distances for cyclists which will cause unnecessary difficulties on many narrow London roads. More flexible rules should be set rather than fixed limits. They also encourage cyclists to ride in the centre of a lane which will delay/obstruct other traffic and cause needless annoyance, and they encourage cyclists to ride 2-abreast also.

– They also encourage the use of the “Dutch Reach” when opening a car door. This is really only practical in small vehicles and for those people who can turn their head through 180 degrees – many elderly people cannot. It’s actually safer to look in a door mounted wing mirror when a wider view of traffic approaching from behind can be seen (including cyclists).

In summary, many of the changes favour pedestrians and cyclists and might improve their safety, but those for cyclists are often irrational and unnecessary. They will be particularly problematic in London where the behaviour of cyclists is often quite appallingly bad. There is more helpful guidance for cyclists in the new Code, but will they actually read it? They unfortunately have no obligation to do so and many clearly have historically not done so. At least vehicle owners have to pass a test to ensure they know it.

Roger Lawson

Ref. 1: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-kickstarts-2bn-cycling-and-walking-revolution

Ref. 2: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/review-of-the-highway-code-to-improve-road-safety-for-cyclists-pedestrians-and-horse-riders

Ref. 3: https://roadtraffic.dft.gov.uk/regions/6

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Good News for Londoners, and The Truth About TfL Budgets

As readers probably know, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has run out of money with the result that Transport for London has had to be bailed out by the Government. The Mayor subsequently decided to raise the Congestion Tax by 30% and restrict usage of the Freedom Pass. That’s bad news but one consequence is that the funds provided by TfL to London boroughs for such projects as “Healthy Neighbourhoods” or “Mini-Hollands” will be curtailed.

An article in Local Transport Today (LTT) reports that in a letter to Transport Commissioner, Mike Brown, borough representatives have complained about what this will mean in terms of their operations and their ability to deliver transport projects.

Local boroughs are under great financial pressure from the Covid-19 epidemic because it has resulted in a loss of much of their parking income and PCNs. Now they may lose one of the major sources of funds for transport projects. To quote from the LTT article: “Frost and Jones say there is a risk that boroughs may “no longer be able to assist TfL in delivering the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) in any meaningful way.  This would be particularly damaging because, as the MTS acknowledges, the boroughs are a key delivery partner as the authorities, which manage the vast majority of London’s highway network. They say a “severe reduction” in borough capacity will also “hamper the opportunity for officers to work with TfL to explore how some of the positive behaviour changes observed on the network in recent weeks (improved air quality, more active travel, reduced private vehicle trips etc) can be locked-in and a ‘new normal’ forged.  This could therefore represent an historic missed opportunity in what is likely to be a very small window of time where people may be open to doing things radically differently”.

The ABD suggests that scrapping projects that involve road closures, reducing road capacity and the expenditure on more cycle lanes which are little used would be a very good idea indeed. We have been campaigning against the MTS since it was launched as it is a misconceived attempt to change travel behaviour, force people to travel as the Mayor and TfL want rather than by their choice, and has never been justified by any cost/benefit analysis.

One example of the new financial limitations was indicated in a note issued by a Lewisham councillor. It said: “Healthy Neighbourhoods – while the lockdown has highlighted how pleasant life can be without traffic, TfL’s parlous finances mean it has halted funding for HNP. The Council is looking at whether and how the plans for Lee Green and central Lewisham can be integrated into some temporary measures we have funding for as part of Covid-19 response that would encourage social distancing, walking and cycling. We expect to be able publish these within the next few weeks”.

It seems neither the Council nor central Government is giving up on wanting us all to walk and cycle everywhere to relieve the pressure on public transport and avoid the close contact and hence infection risk on buses and the underground. But the Mayor’s policy of raising the Congestion Tax and taxes such as the ULEZ will pressure people to stop using cars and move to public transport. It’s simply irrational.

A good letter was published in the Times newspaper on this subject from John Hines who lives in Loughton, Essex. This is part of what it said: “This is bound to push more travellers back on to trains, the Tube and buses, where social distancing is next to impossible. One would hope he has calculated the effect this will have on the R number. He should be held to account, particularly as many of us who travel into London do not live in London and have no say in who is elected mayor”.

The Government has made it plain that it was solely the Mayor’s decision to raise the Congestion Tax and that he should not blame them. They also said this in a note issued on the bail-out: “The settlement for TfL was needed for two reasons. Most important is the significant fall in revenue caused by COVID-19. However, an important secondary factor was the pre-existing poor condition of TfL’s financial position as a result of decisions made over the last 4 years. Combined with significant cost increases and delays to Crossrail, this left TfL in serious financial difficulty even before the public health emergency.

The Mayor has claimed a great success in achieving a reduced operating loss in TfL. But this ignores all the wasted capital expenditure on projects such as Cycle Superhighways and the interest on debt that has risen to record levels. A proper analysis of the financial position of TfL, issued before the epidemic hit, is here: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2020/01/17/tfl-business-plan-and-budget-for-the-next-5-years-more-of-the-same/

Is it not time for the Government to step in and take full control of TfL? It is wrong for the Mayor to pursue reckless policies such as his Transport Strategy when there is no financial justification and no democratic mandate for it.

But the Government is actually recklessly encouraging local Councils to “embed new social norms” for travel by restricting vehicle use and encouraging walking and cycling. They want to change the way you wish to travel and to live without consultation and with no justification. That’s not democracy.

Roger Lawson

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More Taxes on Car Drivers, and Londoners in General

I covered the TfL bail-out deal that Sadiq Khan agreed with the Government in a previous blog post. As usual the Mayor blames the Government. So he says today: “The Government is, in effect, making ordinary Londoners pay the cost for doing the right thing on Covid-19”. He also said: “This deal is a sticking plaster. The old model for funding public transport in London simply does not work in this new reality – fares income will not cover the cost of running services while so few people can safely use public transport. Over the next few months we will have to negotiate a new funding model with Government – which will involve either permanent funding from Government or giving London more control over key taxes so we can pay for it ourselves – or a combination of both”. Yes it looks like the Mayor wants to take more from you in taxes!

See the link to the full announcement below.

To help raise more revenue, the Congestion Charge and ULEZ taxes are being immediately reinstated and the Congestion Charge is to go up a whopping 30% from the 22nd June and the times will be extended to between 07:00 and 22:00, seven days a week. It is suggested this might be a temporary change, but don’t bet on it!

In addition there will be road closures and Heidi Alexander has said “One of the world’s largest car free zones will be created in central London as part of our response to Covid-19”.

This is what Black-cab driver and general secretary of the London Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) Steve McNamara said to the BBC: “ It’s an absolute disgrace –  no one had been consulted about plans to change the use of some roads. Usually you have to consult with the public and businesses – they are using a health emergency to get around the laws to consult people before you do these things. London will grind to a halt even with reduced people. It’s a land grab to exclude Londoners from their roads and to widen pavements for more cycling”.

The ABD certainly agrees with those comments and we have pointed out that the Covid-19 epidemic is being used to introduce an agenda that penalises private travel and reduces your freedom. See the link to the ABD’s press release below.

But it’s not just vehicle users who are going to be penalised. The BBC has said this about the Freedom Pass: “Under the new conditions, children will no longer have free travel across London and restrictions on travel passes for people with a disability or over the age of 60 will also be imposed during peak hours”, although no formal announcement has yet to be made. The Freedom Pass might have been overdue for reform but the Mayor will no doubt blame this on the Government also rather than his own financial mismanagement.

Roger Lawson

Mayor’s Announcement: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/statement-from-the-mayor-of-london-regarding-tfl

ABD Press Release: https://www.abd.org.uk/press-release-shapps-announces-2-billion-war-on-drivers/

You can see more details of the proposals from TfL to change London here:  https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/improvements-and-projects/streetspace-for-london

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More on Shapps Announcements

I covered the announcement of the Governments Covid-19 Transport Strategy in a previous blog post. Here are some further comments:

On the 9th May Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said that only 10% of former public transport capacity will be available in some locations if social distancing is to be maintained. It seems likely that will be so for many months even if people are permitted to go back to work. This will clearly cause major problems in London where almost all commuters use public transport such as trains, the underground and buses.

After the Prime Minister spoke on the 10th May, Mr Shapps issued this tweet: “Speaking this evening the PM was clear – if you’re going back to work in a job that cannot be done from home, please avoid public transport if possible. Go by car, or even better, cycle or walk. To help, we’ve announced more than £2bn in the biggest ever boost to cycling and walking”.

An example of how problematic London transport has become is a report in the Times that says Transport for London (TfL) has asked the Government for £2 billion. To quote: “TfL is down to its last £1bn, which is being burnt at a rate of £21m a day — leaving it less than two months from emptying its coffers and illustrating the intense pressure on local authority finances”. The article suggests the Government will attach some strings to any funding.

Mr Shapps was clearly right to point out the public transport capacity problem, but his apparent remedy to get everyone walking and cycling makes little sense. It is a typical view of politicians who can afford to live in central London. But for the vast majority of London commuters who travel many miles to get to work, it’s simply impractical even if they are keen cyclists.

Mr Shapps also justified his proposals by saying the epidemic is a great health opportunity to encourage active travel with the objective to double cycling by 2025. He also proposes to implement at least one “zero emission” city, and argues that one of the few positives will be improved air quality. He actually said there are “more than 20,000 extra deaths a year attributed to NO2 emissions”.

This figure is nonsense. It repeats the past allegation of 40,000 deaths from air pollution in the UK which has been shown to be simply wrong and a corruption of statistical evidence. In reality, there may be a few months shortening of life expectancy from all air pollution sources, a lot of which cannot be removed such as natural sources. But the figure is essentially uncertain and it is clear there are no deaths directly attributable to pollution. To specifically indicate NO2, which mainly comes from transport, as being the problem is also wrong when the Government advisory body COMEAP could not even agree that NO2 contributed to the negative impact on health of air pollution from particulates.

Mr Shapps clearly knows little about air pollution and its impact on health but is using his ignorance to put a positive spin on his actions in response to the transport crisis.

Just to show how there is no direct correlation between traffic levels and air pollution, this is what the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) recently reported: “Levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) has reduced significantly during lockdown, research from King’s College London has found. Concentrations of NO2 have lowered as much as 55% due to less road traffic. However, levels of PM10 and PM2.5 were higher after lockdown than at any other time in 2020, due to easterly winds and pollutants from northern Europe”. The reduction in NO2 is perhaps not surprising when measurements by the LAQN are often taken at the roadside so will be heavily influenced by adjacent traffic. But as particulates (PM10 and PM2.5) are of much greater health concern you can see that Mr Shapps’ spin on the air pollution issue is somewhat misleading. Other UK cities have also shown no direct correlation between traffic reduction from the epidemic and air pollution – at least to date.

The air pollution problem is much more complex than can be solved by encouraging walking and cycling alone.

To conclude the ABD issued the following national press release:

Shapps Announces £2 Billion War On Drivers.

Every city in the UK to be made a traffic hell like London.

Grant Shapps today announced £2 billion to supposedly enhance walking and cycling (See Reference 1 below), but when he expounded the detail it was clear that this amounted to yet more gridlock and bullying for motorists of the type we have unfortunately got used to in London (Reference 2).

Pavements will be widened, cycle lanes introduced, roads will be closed – yet Shapps had the effrontery to suggest that a 5% increase in cycling would benefit motorists by reducing congestion. Not if there are 50% less roads, it won’t, Grant. Do the maths.

And while drivers are bullied with ridiculous speed limits, an expansion of electric scooters is simultaneously mooted – devices capable of breaking urban speed limits but which have no effective braking, crash protection or licensing requirements. This shows that road safety is a sham – just an excuse to make driving unpleasant and stressful and so discourage it.

The result is that getting about in any motor vehicle – car, delivery van, tradesman, taxi – in our cities is going to become a total 24/7 nightmare in every city in the UK.

The excuse for this was Coronavirus, but it’s clear that these disgraceful measures will be permanent. Talk about taking advantage of a crisis to reduce people’s freedom. The day after VE Day and we’ve already forgotten why we fought World War 2.

<Ends>

Notes for Editors

(1) £2 billion package to create new era for walking and cycling: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/2-billion-package-to-create-new-era-for-cycling-and-walking

(2) How London got rid of private cars – and grew more congested than ever:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/11/how-london-got-rid-of-private-cars-and-grew-more-congested-than-ever

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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