The Good News and the Bad

The good news is that Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is proposing to drop plans for a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) scheme that would charge motorists similar to the Birmingham and London schemes. But it depends on agreement with the Government. The charging scheme had already been “paused” until 2026 but now looks like it will be scrapped. Signs already put up for the scheme will need to be removed. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-61439444 for more details.

The bad news is that the Daily Telegraph have reported that the Government is to finance Mini-Holland cycling schemes to encourage people to ditch their cars in Britain’s major cities under government plans.

Nineteen local authorities, including Manchester, Hull and Nottinghamshire, are to get government funds for mini-Hollands with segregated bike lanes, traffic calming and residential streets blocked to cars.

It is suggested officials have steered away from describing any of the projects as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), which have provoked intense local opposition over road closures and claims of increased congestion on boundary highways in some areas. But they did acknowledge some had LTN features. See Telegraph article here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/05/14/wheels-motion-turn-british-cities-cycle-friendly-mini-hollands/

Comment: I cannot understand why people think that Holland is a good example to follow. There may be more cycling in some Dutch cities such as Amsterdam but nationally there are more casualties to cyclists than in the UK and traffic congestion is also worse. There is no evidence that introducing such schemes increases cycling (or “active travel”) in the UK. Cycling remains a fair-weather transport mode only followed by young males in flat locations. If people calling for mini-Hollands actually bothered to visit Holland they would see a very different picture. The only good aspect is that Holland has encouraged more off-road cycle paths that separate vehicle traffic from cyclists.  

Instead of spending £200 million on encouraging cycling the Government should spend it on improving the road network to improve road safety and cut traffic congestion.

Another good article in the Telegraph was entitled “Why Boris and the elite are determined to wean us off the car”. It said “Exasperated motorists are feeling pushed out of the picture with rising fuel costs, congestion charges, low traffic zones and speeding fines, and motorists, especially those who travel into cities, feel they are being hit from every direction. Dead ahead there are closed off roads in low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs); to the left there are automated cameras monitoring their every move; to the right low emission zones and 20mph limits. And all around are parking charges and fuel costs that put a hefty dent in your wallet”; “There has now developed in Government an anti-car attitude as opposed to car management, a hostility to the motor vehicle rather than how we can manage this, says former transport minister John Spellar. He puts this down to a London-centric approach to transport that focuses on the problems cars cause in congested cities and ignores different conditions in other areas. As Spellar points out, working Britons outside the capital – particularly manual and shift workers – often rely on their vehicles to get to work, unlike city commuters who can travel by train”. See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/cars/features/boris-elite-determined-wean-us-car/ for the full article.

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How Many Objections in Lewisham to the LTN?

Back in November 2020 we submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to obtain the number of objections received by the Council or Councillors to the Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes in Lewisham. Their response after a long delay was that they did not have that information.

We appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and have just received a final decision. The ICO have concluded that the Council breached regulations 5(2) and 14(1) of the EIR by failing to respond within 20 working days and failing to advise that it was relying on regulation 12(4)(b). But they agreed that it was too burdensome a request.  

The FOI Act can be a useful piece of legislation but not when Councils deliberately frustrate or delay answering reasonable questions.

It’s taken so long (eighteen months) to get to this point that the information requested is now somewhat irrelevant so we won’t be pursuing a further appeal. But one item of data obtained as a result was that Louise McBride (Head of Highways and Transport at the Council) alone received 1,040 emails on the subject.

That contradicted a minute of a Council Meeting on the 25th January 2022 where it was stated that Cabinet Member Patrick Codd reported that the Council received approximately 150 emails about the experimental introduction of the LTNs. That was clearly inaccurate and Councillor Codd is arranging for the minute to be corrected.

These events show how Lewisham Council is incompetent in many ways. They failed to record objections in any useful way despite the Lee Green LTN being an “experimental” scheme. I have requested that they at least count the objections to the Permanent LTN properly.

If you have not yet sent in objections to the Lewisham and Lee Green LTN, please use this template email or letter below (simply copy and paste it but modify it as you see fit):

Send to: ParkingDesign@lewisham.gov.uk (or post to Lewisham Transport Policy & Development, 5th Floor Laurence House, 1 Catford Road, London SE6 4RU)

Objection Letter:

Re: Statement of Objections to Traffic Order 4030579

I am writing to object to the proposed Traffic Order 4030579 published on the 25th March 2022 made by the London borough of Lewisham (“Lewisham”) concerning the Lewisham and Lee Green Low Traffic Neighbourhood.

Grounds for Objection

I dispute whether the experimental scheme which is now proposed to be made permanent has actually reduced the volume of traffic (rather than just displaced it). There is no evidence that it has done so during the period of the experimental traffic orders other than within the LTN alone where roads were closed while traffic flows on boundary roads have increased. Neither has it had any impact on overall levels of air pollution as is clear from the evidence in the Monitoring Data Summary published by the council but residents have reported large increases on boundary roads.

One of the objectives was apparently to mitigate the impact of emissions on climate change but there is no way that actions in Lewisham will have any impact on climate change which is driven by major global factors. Any impact from actions in Lewisham will be trivial.    

The effect of the scheme has been highly detrimental for the local community as a whole but especially detrimental for people from protected groups defined in the Equality Act 2010. The proposed mitigation measures do not address the intrinsic flaws in the scheme, which have been readily apparent for the entire duration of the scheme.

In short, the scheme displaces traffic on to certain “strategic” and certain other roads without proper consideration of the consequences. Specifically, the impact on those who are car-dependent and those who are dependent upon visitors (e.g. those who receive social care) are disregarded. Moreover, the gridlock and traffic congestion the scheme has created has had indirect effects on many.

1. The Scheme

The scheme restricts traffic from using certain roads at certain times and prevents traffic using routes that have historically been available. This concentrates traffic onto other roads, increases congestion and acts as a barrier, making it much harder to traverse across the borough, and in particular north to south Lewisham and vice versa. The Blackheath, Lee and Hither Green community was previously a completely holistic one but has now been cut in half by the imposition of a physical barrier to all motorised traffic in the heart of the area.

2. The Public Consultation

The public consultation with local residents had numerous flaws and is therefore unlikely to represent the true extent of the local community’s aversion to the scheme.

The Report on the consultation ignores the views expressed in response to the public consultation, the objections received to the Temporary Traffic Orders and the 12,000 signature petition which was submitted to the Council (from Change.org).

Councillor Patrick Codd is reported as saying: “We believe the LTN is meeting its aims…..” while Mayor Damien Egan said “The world is facing a climate emergency and we urgently need to do more to improve air quality in London” but he seems to have ignored the evidence in the report that air quality is already massively improved and will continue to be so (NO2 concentrations at roadsides have fallen by 42% since 2014).

The Report repeats the false allegation that traffic on local roads in London has increased by 60% since 2009 which is contradicted by the latest TfL report on Travel in London – see this blog post: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2022/01/05/travel-in-london-report-mayors-objectives-not-met/   

The LTN was introduced urgently and without prior consultation as a measure to help social distancing during the pandemic. The Council’s report says “The primary aim was to encourage people to walk and cycle more, and to do so safely…..” (see para. 5.2). But did it? The evidence is not clear particularly as travel patterns changed as a result of the pandemic (see the TfL report above for evidence of how travel was reduced or changed in London). Closure of schools and businesses with more working from home were the main factors.

The Council received 7,065 responses to the public consultation on the LTN. Some 56% of respondents felt negatively about the revised LTN, as opposed to 44% who felt positively or neutral. That’s a clear majority against the current road closures which Councillors have ignored in an anti-democratic fashion. It is unfortunately the case that councillors and council officers once they have taken a dogmatic position, in this case that “deterring the use of vehicles is good for the planet”, they rarely want to change their minds despite the contrary evidence of the negative side effects.

In this case the road closures have increased journey times for many people, increased air pollution on boundary roads and obstructed emergency service vehicles. The conversion to ANPR enforcement will avoid the latter problem but has already resulted in many accidental fines so we do not consider that a sensible solution and it is clearly being motivated by the financial benefit obtained. That is unfair and unreasonable.

The Report comments on the Equalities Impact Assessment but simply ignores the negative consequences of the impact on disabled people who rely on motor vehicles. The Report also ignores the obligations of the Council under the Traffic Management Act 2004.

Although the latest LTN is an improvement on the original version it will still cause many problems. For example the closure of Upwood Road, Manor Lane, Manor Lane Terrace and Manor Park might deter through traffic but will also cause enormous inconvenience to local residents or their visitors who will have to take very circuitous routes. People badly affected by the closures are being ignored.

3. The impact of the scheme on main roads

There can be no doubt that the scheme has displaced substantial traffic onto roads which simply cannot bear the volume of traffic forced on them. This has had a severe impact on local residents and particularly the groups identified above.

4. The day-to-day impact of the scheme

The day-to day impacts to local residents have been overwhelming and are not limited to those outlined below;

5. Impact on certain groups

The Public Consultation confirms that the “overwhelming majority” of people from protected groups oppose the scheme. We strongly believe, and the evidence shows, that, despite this clear opposition, the needs of particular groups have not been adequately thought about and the scheme actually exacerbates challenges for these groups rather than removes them.

Car use is often essential for older and disabled people; and for those who are dependent upon their car it needs to be available at all times to ensure that they can visit urgent health appointments and live independently.

Many have attempted to eliminate their private car use, but the only potentially affordable alternative is taxis or minicabs (PHVs). However, as a result of the scheme, some residents are reporting that taxis and minicabs are struggling or refusing to access streets within the scheme.

The other alternative to private car use, buses, are slower and unreliable plus difficult to use for people with mobility problems meaning that older people do not feel that this is a viable alternative.

For many older people, cycling and walking extended distances are simply not viable.

Access to visitors who travel by car, such as community nurses, social care staff, pharmacists and GPs, is equally essential. Similarly, these health and social care professionals need to be available at all times to provide care and deliver prescriptions.

Cumulatively, older people describe the impact as severe; as well as the obvious health impacts caused by struggling to access services, they spoke of being kettled-in or cut-off from their friends and family.

Accessing school for disabled children has become exceptionally difficult with journeys that should take a maximum of 15 minutes now taking 45 minutes.

The consideration of those who are car-dependent has been wholly unsatisfactory.

Given that Lewisham is required to think about the impact of these schemes on protected groups and remove obstacles that prevent protected groups participating in society, Lewisham has failed to meet its duty since it has failed to make any effective mitigation for those who are largely or wholly car-dependent and whose mobility has been drastically reduced or removed by this scheme. Cumulatively, the scheme exacerbates obstacles for protected groups rather than removing them. These obvious disadvantages, explained in exacting detail in the Public Consultation, and Lewisham’s own Equality Impact Assessment, are completely discounted.

6. Add a statement about how you personally have been inconvenienced by this scheme:

7. Conclusion

For the reasons set out above, I object to Traffic Orders 4030579 in the strongest possible terms and ask that you reverse your decision to make the Lewisham and Lee Green Low Traffic Neighbourhood permanent given the impact on local residents, local businesses and, in particular, those in protected groups. I urge Lewisham to recognise that this experiment has thus far failed and to show its courage by not ploughing on with an obviously divisive, detrimental and unsuccessful scheme that fails to fulfil its aims.

Yours faithfully

(Name)

(Address)

<END>

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Manchester Campaign Against CAZ and Bromley Air Quality

While Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, plans to expand his ULEZ scheme, in Manchester there has been a very effective campaign against their proposed CAZ scheme. Mayor Andy Burnham is now back-tracking on the proposals.

Daily charges for the most polluting vehicles that don’t meet emission standards – HGVs, buses, non-Greater Manchester licensed taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) – had been due to begin on 30 May 2022 but will now not go ahead. The withdrawn legal direction would have led to charges for non-compliant vans, Greater Manchester-licensed taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) from June 2023. Private cars, motorcycles and mopeds were exempt. Concerns about financial hardship for local people and the availability of compliant vehicles led the Mayor of Greater Manchester and Greater Manchester local authority leaders to ask government to lift its legal direction. Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities have until 1 July 2022 to work with government to develop a new plan that will clean up the air while protecting livelihoods.

The campaign against the Manchester CAZ has 90,000 supporters under the banner Rethink GM. Go here for more information: www.rethinkgm.co.uk and to register support. On the home page click “Forums” then “Register” with just your name and email. The web site also provides a link to an active Facebook page.

Meanwhile the London Borough of Bromley have shown that it is not necessary to impose expensive ULEZ or CAZ schemes to clean up the air (most of that borough is outside the London ULEZ scheme). A press release from Bromley reports that updated data from the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory shows that between 2016 and 2019 there was a 23% decline in NO2 across the borough, a 19% decline in PM2.5 and a 28% decline in PM10 particulates.

Bromley claims to now be the “cleanest and greenest borough in London”.

For more details see Bromley press release here: https://www.bromley.gov.uk/news/article/2825/big_improvements_in_air_quality

Comment: Bromley has of course ignored demands for LTNs and road closures and is keen to keep traffic moving. But they have pursued positive initiatives such as electric bus trials. Unlike many Labour controlled boroughs in London they have taken a more empirical and less dogmatic approach to the air quality issue.

Readers are reminded that the London ULEZ did little to contribute to improvements in air quality so why is the Mayor wanting to expand it? See https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/11/17/ulez-had-minimal-impact-on-air-pollution/ . It will cost a great deal to install hundreds of new cameras to expand the zone and high operating costs, apart from the impact on residents who will need to buy new vehicles or pay £12.50 per day. Although the Mayor says he has abandoned the idea of a boundary charge for people driving into London from outside, the extra cameras will make it very easy to introduce such a scheme!

Roger Lawson

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Increased Delays to Fire Engines Due to Traffic Calming in London

A report in the Daily Telegraph has covered the increasing delays to fire engines due to traffic calming measures. That includes the impact of LTNs. To quote from the report: “Analysis of the latest data published by the London Fire Brigade show firefighters experienced slowed response times 3,035 times, equivalent to 253 each month, due to “traffic calming” measures”.

Hackney and Lambeth boroughs were the most badly affected with increases of 66% and 92% in such incidents.

Such events are regularly reported to us and on social media so it is not surprising that the data now shows the problem, although the Fire Brigade say they are still meeting their response targets.

See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/01/22/fury-low-traffic-neighbourhoods-slowed-3000-fire-engines-last/

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Councillors in Lewisham Decide LTN Should Be Permanent

Last night (12/1/2022) Lewisham Council’s Mayor and Cabinet Committee decided to make the Lee Green LTN permanent. While other London boroughs are removing their LTNs due to residents’ objections, Lewisham is sticking to its dogmatic approach that an LTN is good for you. That’s despite all the evidence to the contrary and the majority of responses to their public consultation opposing retention (see previous blog post here: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2022/01/07/lewisham-ltn-to-be-made-permanent/ ).

There was a good speech by Rosamund Kissi-Debrah whose daughter died following an asthma attack exacerbated by the air pollution near the South Circular. But she was ignored. Air pollution on the South Circular (A205) has worsened as a result of the LTN as traffic cannot now avoid the jams on the A205. Rosamund threatened the Council with a judicial review if they did not back down but to no avail.

Comment: as a former sufferer from asthma, I personally think the Council’s attitude is despicable. They may have removed traffic from some roads but they have made other areas much worse. This is not social justice.

In summary the Committee have decided to make the LTN permanent when the evidence was unclear and there was a majority of residents opposed to retaining it. It’s both irrational and a corruption of democracy.

In addition they seem to be ignoring the legal requirement to publish a Permanent Traffic Order (PTO) and allow 21 days for objections before it is implemented. There is a need for a formal consultation process in the case of Permanent Traffic Orders and the use of Temporary Traffic Orders preceding as happened in Lewisham does not exclude that requirement.

The vote to make the LTN permanent was unanimous by the Committee and apart from possible objections to the PTO or legal actions, the only certain way to get the council to reconsider is to change some of the councillors at the upcoming elections in May.

The LibDems spelled out the problem in a recent note which was headlined: “There is no democracy in Lewisham’s one-party state”. See https://www.lewishamlibdems.org.uk/no_democracy_in_lewisham_one_party_state . It’s well worth reading.

They might provide some significant opposition to the dominance of the Labour Party in Lewisham. Other parties that might put up opposition are the Conservatives who have opposed the LTN, and the Reform Party are looking for local election candidates based on an email I recently received. Or of course you could stand as an “independent” which is not difficult to do. Please contact me if you need more information on that.

We certainly need people to step forward to oppose the one-party state that exists in Lewisham where a few people decide policies and everyone else is ignored.

We will be giving recommendations at a later date on who Lewisham residents should vote for subject to sight of their manifestos first and their views on the LTN.

Roger Lawson

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Lewisham LTN to be Made Permanent

Lewisham Council have published a report on the Lewisham and Lee Green Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) and are recommending that the road closures are retained. This will be put to a Mayor and Cabinet Meeting on the 12th of January. See link below for full details.

This is of course a most disappointing outcome and ignores the views expressed in response to the public consultation, the objections received to the Temporary Traffic Orders and the 12,000 signature petition which we submitted to the Council.

There were some changes made to the scheme to meet some of the objections in November 2020 and there are some minor changes proposed now. These include:

  • The physical modal filters within the LTN will be converted to automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) camera enforcement and  Lewisham blue badge holders and emergency services will be exempt.
  • More school streets where schools are supportive
  • Additional complementary measures may be implemented within the LTN and surrounding areas, such as planters/trees and green spaces, additional electric vehicle charging points, additional bike hangars and cycle stands, additional and/or improved pedestrian crossing points and new seating.

Councillor Patrick Codd who is responsible for Environment and Transport said: “We believe the LTN is meeting its aims…..” while Mayor Damien Egan said “The world is facing a climate emergency and we urgently need to do more to improve air quality in London” but he seems to have ignored the evidence in the report that air quality is already massively improved and will continue to be so (NO2 concentrations at roadsides have fallen by 42% since 2014).

The report repeats the false allegation that traffic on local roads in London has increased by 60% since 2009 which is contradicted by the latest TfL report on Travel in London – see this blog post: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2022/01/05/travel-in-london-report-mayors-objectives-not-met/  

The LTN was introduced urgently and without prior consultation as a measure to help social distancing during the pandemic. The Council’s report says “The primary aim was to encourage people to walk and cycle more, and to do so safely…..” (see para. 5.2). But did it? The evidence is not clear particularly as travel patterns changed as a result of the pandemic (see the TfL report above for evidence of how travel was reduced or changed in London). Closure of schools and businesses with more working from home were the main factors.

The Council received 7,065 responses to the public consultation on the LTN. Some 56% of respondents felt negatively about the revised LTN, as opposed to 44% who felt positively or neutral. That’s a clear majority against the current road closures which Councillors have ignored in a typical anti-democratic fashion. It is unfortunately the case that councillors and council officers once they have taken a dogmatic position, in this case that “deterring the use of vehicles is good for the planet”, they rarely want to change their minds despite the contrary evidence of the negative side effects.

In this case the road closures have increased journey times for many people, increased air pollution on boundary roads and obstructed emergency service vehicles. At least the conversion to ANPR enforcement will avoid the latter problem but it will also result in many accidental fines.

The Report comments on the Equalities Impact Assessment but simply ignores the negative consequences of the impact on disabled people who rely on motor vehicles. The Report also ignores the obligations of the Council under the Traffic Management Act 2004. In our view the Transport Minister cannot override that legislation by issuing “guidance”.

Although the latest LTN is an improvement on the original version it will still cause many problems. For example the closure of Upwood Road, Manor Lane, Manor Lane Terrace and Manor Park might deter through traffic but will also cause enormous inconvenience to local residents who will have to take very circuitous routes. People badly affected by the closures are being ignored.

What can residents of Lewisham do about the proposed decision? You can make representations to Mayor Damien Egan or to Councillor Codd (email addresses are damien.egan@lewisham.gov.uk and Cllr_Patrick.Codd@lewisham.gov.uk ) or to your local ward councillors. But as a last resort as Council elections are taking place in May you can vote for other people to represent you! You can also make objections to the Permanent Traffic Orders when they are published.

Lewisham Mayor & Cabinet Agenda and Report: https://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=31225#mgDocuments

Roger Lawson

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Travel in London Report – Mayor’s Objectives Not Met

Before Christmas Transport for London (TfL) published its 14th Report on Travel in London. It’s basically a collection of data on transport trends in the capital. At 263 pages I’ll only provide a brief summary of some of the key points here – see link below for the full report.

Pandemic Impact

The Report includes data showing the impact of the pandemic. By November 2021 the demand for public transport overall was down to around 70% from pre-pandemic levels. London Underground was 65% and bus demand was about 75%. But road traffic only reduced to about 95% as people chose to avoid using public transport by using private transport (i.e. cars or PHVs) or walking.

Walking actually increased substantially and cycling did increase but mainly for leisure cycling at weekends. Weekday peak commuter travel is not recovering rapidly as there is more working from home, and this is particularly noticeable in central London.

Mode Share

The mode share proportion since 2000 is shown in the above chart. You can see that despite the encouragement for cycling in recent years and particularly by the LTNs of late, cycling has remained a very small proportion and any increase during the pandemic was mainly for leisure.

To quote from page 11 of the Report: “The overall active, efficient and sustainable mode share for travel in 2020 is estimated at 58.3 per cent, compared to 63.2 per cent in 2019”. That includes walking, cycling and public transport use, although why public transport should be considered “sustainable” is not clear. But clearly the effect of the pandemic has been to frustrate the Mayor’s objective to get us all out of our cars and increase “sustainable travel” modes to 80% by 2041. In fact, the active travel mode objective of 20 minutes per day (walking/cycling) for 70% of the population has instead fallen to 35% in the latest quarter probably due to less by those working from home.

Air Pollution

The Report contains some data on air pollution some of which comes from road and other transport of course. But it shows how air pollution has been substantially reducing in the last few years. One interesting comment in the Report is that “The Mayor’s Transport Strategy set a target for London to be a zero carbon city by 2050. However, the Mayor has recently called for this to be brought forward to 2030, recognising the importance of the climate change emergency we face”. That’s news to me. So a diesel/petrol car bought this year might be banned in eight years time if the Mayor has his way!

London’s Population

The good news is that limited data suggests the population of London has decreased with significant reductions in international inward migration. The pandemic has deterred international travel while Londoners have moved out to homes in the country and there may have been some “excess deaths” from the pandemic.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

The Report comments on the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) on page 123 but the data reported is very selective and biased. They conclude with this statement: “In summary, LTNs have a wide range of different and interconnected impacts but the evidence suggests that these are largely positive and that it is in the longer term where most of the benefits become apparent. Therefore, TfL shall continue to support and, where appropriate, conduct further research for a complete and thorough evaluation of LTN impacts”. It seems they have not yet accepted that the majority of residents do not support LTNs as is clear from recent surveys and public consultations in local boroughs, Lewisham being the latest one which we will comment on later.

Traffic Congestion

A section of the Report covers traffic congestion (pages 143 on). It reports that over the last decade “A slow but generally consistent trend of reducing traffic volumes in central and inner London…”; “Traffic volumes in outer London have, however, grown over this period; and “Generally lower car traffic, higher freight traffic, particularly LGVs, and dramatic changes to the numbers of private hire vehicles”. But this comment shows the impact of the Mayor’s policies: “Continued reductions to the effective capacity of London’s roads, generally reflecting other Mayoral priorities such as reducing road danger, requiring enhanced operational management of the road network”. Yes as we all know, London has become more congested in the last few years due to damaging policies.

There has been an allegation widely reported that traffic on minor roads in London has increased substantially in recent years but the Report contradicts that. It says: “Notably, the volume estimates for London’s major roads remained broadly unchanged, and there was no evidence of an (observed) increasing year-on-year trend in minor road traffic from available independent data over the preceding decade”. It seems the claimed increase might have been an aberration based on misleading statistical data.

How do you measure traffic congestion? One way is by traffic speed but that can be misleading. The best way is to look at “excess delay” which compares actual travel time versus that under “free-flow” conditions. The Report actually shows some data on this which is the first for some time to my knowledge. The chart below shows congestion worsening from 2010 and particularly in the period 2015-2019, but a big improvement thereafter as travel generally was reduced due to the pandemic. But it is still worse than ten years ago!

In conclusion, the Travel in London Report does contain some very interesting data, albeit distorted by the pandemic as travel patterns and volume changed. But it shows how defective has been the Mayor’s Transport Strategy as people have resisted change to modes while road capacity has been reduced.

Travel in London Report 14: https://content.tfl.gov.uk/travel-in-london-report-14.pdf

Roger Lawson

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Year End News Wrap Up

This article covers the news items that have appeared in the last couple of weeks that will be of interest to drivers:

Cycle Licensing. The Government has rejected a petition to introduce identification for cycle and e-scooter riders – in effect a licensing system. This was signed by over 10,000 people amid growing concerns about the behaviour or cyclists, particularly in major cities such as London, and the illegal use of e-scooters. The Government thinks it would be too expensive and licensing would deter cycling. See https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/585474?reveal_response=yes#response-threshold

Comment: This is an example of where more signatures might have been obtained, and a more positive response from the Government, if the petition had been more carefully worded. Other countries have introduced registration systems for cyclists in the past but often abandoned them subsequently because of the high costs of administration. But an on-line registration system might be very low cost. There should be no qualification or ability test system, but the ability to identify cyclists after involvement in an accident is important.

Bus Lanes in London.  Transport for London (TfL) have announced that the conversion of bus lanes to operate 24 hours per day has been made permanent. They say that this change that was introduced on some routes recently has improved bus journey times. For the announcement, see: https://tfl-newsroom.prgloo.com/news/tfl-press-release-24-hour-bus-lanes-trial-set-to-become-permanent-as-bus-journey-times-improve

Comment: Of course the recent reduction in bus journey times might have been down to overall traffic reduction as more people worked from home and avoided shopping during the epidemic. Bus lanes are discriminatory in that they favour one transport mode over another for no good reason and do not necessarily maximise the use of road space or the number of people carried. The photograph from the TfL Press Release above shows how underutilised are many bus lanes.

Driver Distraction. There is growing concern about the number of accidents caused by driver distraction. This is not just people using their mobile phones to call or send/receive text messages but using other in-car devices such as satnav systems. An extreme example is the ability of passengers to use touch-screen displays in Tesla vehicles for “gameplay” which is now being investigated by US safety body NHTSA – see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-59760366

Comment: As in-car electronic devices have proliferated and more control options have been provided, it’s become more complex over recent years and inexperienced drivers are the most easily distracted. This certainly requires some investigation because “failed to notice” is a big cause of accidents according to police reports. It may be worth considering whether satnav and infotainment systems should be controllable only when a vehicle is stationary.

ABD Ejected. The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has been thrown out of PACTS (the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety) apparently due to the issue of an injudicious tweet. The ABD claims this is down to pressure from “anonymous extreme cycling lobby trolls” but that is a typical unwise comment from ABD Directors and was one reason why I tried to get some changes made in the ABD and am no longer connected with them. PACTS may be an ineffective organisation in promoting transport safety with poor leadership but association with the extremists at the ABD is becoming something no responsible organisation wishes to be linked to.

Car Insurance Costs. One positive change in the New Year for car drivers is that insurers will no longer be able to charge a different rate for new customers to old ones. So renewals should not automatically rise as they have done in the past.

Comment: This should ensure that we do not have to waste time looking at alternative quotes to avoid being stiffed by insurers reliance on our apathy. However despite Willis Towers Watson claiming that insurance rates are at a six year low, my quote to renew insurance was increased by 7% this week. That’s despite my 22 years of no claims bonus and nothing of significance otherwise in recent years. I will be shopping around for an alternative quote. I expected my insurance to fall as I have been driving less in the last two years due to the pandemic and that is generally true of the wider population so accidents have fallen.

Postscript: I got an alternative insurance quotation and managed to cut the cost by £99 from the proposed renewal cost so switched to Saga who I have used in the past. A most efficient on-line quotation system. The moral is that it still pays to shop around.

Croydon Streetspace Schemes and Governance. The London Borough of Croydon is pushing ahead with its Streetspace schemes despite very strong local opposition – see https://news.croydon.gov.uk/next-phase-of-walking-and-cycling-schemes-approved/ . But Croydon residents have also voted to move to a directly elected Mayor which shows the dissatisfaction with the way the borough has been run recently.

Comment: I am not sure this will make a big difference. In Lewisham who have a directly elected Mayor we still see extreme and unwise policies being promoted by the Mayor.

Conclusion. What does the new year hold for private motorists? Probably more prejudice as extreme cyclists continue to dominate policy and the Government’s net zero policies prejudice all private transport. Irrationality continues to be rampant with no proper cost/benefit analysis of new policies or projects.

There is unfortunately a decline in moderation in all politics so we see rushed decisions being taken about responses to the pandemic including using it as an excuse to close roads. We all need to return to sanity and not let the extremists dominate debate.

The Freedom for Drivers Foundation is trying to promote rational and moderate policies so please support us in doing so.

Roger Lawson

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Another Legal Challenge to Hackney LTN Rejected

Another challenge to an Experimental Traffic Order used to implement an LTN in Hackney, brought on behalf of a disabled child, has been rejected by the High Court. This was not a judicial review but using provisions in the Road Traffic Regulation Act. The challenge was based on increased journey times which breached the Equality Act, the failure to consult properly and that the Traffic Order was unjustified. But all the grounds were rejected.

Comment: This case demonstrates how difficult it is to challenge Experimental Traffic Orders which only have limited duration and which were supported by Government Guidance when the pandemic arose. The judiciary seem to be accepting that local councils are not unreasonable in taking emergency steps to close roads irrespective of how irrational that was in practice.

For a fuller report on the case and the judgement, see this report by Local Government Lawyer:  https://tinyurl.com/2d9dch9c

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London Is Now The Most Congested City

A report by traffic information supplier Inrix says London has become the most congested city in the world. Its drivers are losing an average of 148 hours per years sitting in traffic. Other UK cities with major congestion problems are Cambridge, Bristol, Exeter and Cheltenham.

Inrix’s Peter Lees blames a lot of the problem on cycle lanes which have made congestion worse. That is certainly true in London where the expenditure on cycle lanes has been very counter-productive. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) have also contributed in a big way to increased traffic congestion in many parts of London.

Comment: The result in London is a direct consequence of the defective Mayor’s Transport Strategy which has encouraged cycling when that remains a minority interest. Public transport has been massively subsidised while the road network has been corrupted by dogmatic policies.

The Mayor needs to learn that you cannot solve traffic congestion by taxing motorists as should be self-evident by now. Clearly a different approach is needed but the Mayor and TfL management put their heads in the sand and ignore the problems they have created.

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