Surge in Driving Fines

The London Evening Standard have reported that there has been a big surge in driving fines fuelled by the increase in Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). Some 7.4 million PCNs were issued in London last year – an increase of 41% on the prior year.

There are only 2.6 million cars registered in London so you can see that the number of PCNs issued per vehicle is very high even allowing for some PCNs being issued to drivers from outside the London area. These enormous numbers of PCNs are of course now being caused by the desire of some local councils to raise money from fines by installing camera systems to monitor LTNs and School Streets.

Boroughs such as Islington, Hackney and Lambeth are the leaders in this unethical practice but Transport for London (TfL) themselves issued 329,000 fines for infringement of bus lanes, yellow box junctions and other moving traffic offences.

The Covid epidemic was used as an excuse to implement LTNs without prior public consultation as temporary measures but have been made permanent as councils realised how much money they could extract from motorists using camera systems.

Standard report: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/transport/driving-parking-tickets-penalty-fines-increase-low-traffic-zones-ltn-b1032725.html

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Sadiq Khan’s Book and Tower Hamlets Legal Action over LTN

Sadiq Khan is publishing a book he has written. It’s called “Breathe: Tackling the Climate Emergency” and links air pollution to climate change. Khan was diagnosed with asthma a few years ago at the age of 51 – in other words he suffers from “adult-onset asthma” which is moderately rare and can be caused by a number of different things – but not usually background air pollution. Since then he has been promoting restrictions on vehicles to improve air quality and to raise taxes to support TfL such as the ULEZ scheme. But there is no evidence that the ULEZ scheme has reduced the incidence of asthma which is rising from other causes.

Without reading it (it’s not yet available) the book seems to be a manifesto for climate activists. One wonders how the Mayor found time to write this book as he has so many other problems to deal with. Perhaps it was ghost written.

One can sympathise with anyone who has asthma, but this book already looks like a political manifesto to justify the Mayor’s actions rather than a scientific analysis of air pollution or climate change issues.

Tower Hamlets

Another item of recent news is the threat of legal action over plans to remove road closures in Tower Hamlets after the election of Mayor Lutfur Rahman who had it as a manifesto promise. A group called “Save our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets” is raising money for a legal challenge via a judicial review and has raised over £13,000 so far.

A particular focus is on the closure of Old Bethnal Green Road under the “Liveable Streets” programme (see photo above). This was a “B” road and carried as many as 8,000 vehicles per day it is claimed – that surely demonstrates how important it was as part of the local road distribution network!

Comment: The grounds for a judicial review seem poor and the groups budget for it totally inadequate even if it is permitted. Councillors have wide discretion on decision making so long as it is not perverse. The basis of the challenge is poor public consultation but even if the case was permitted and won it might just result in more money being wasted on more consultation. This attempt to overturn the will of voters should not be allowed.

Roger Lawson

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Queens Death, New Transport Ministers and Oxford Traffic Filters

The sad death of Queen Elizabeth reminds me of my own mother’s death at the age of 100. They looked similar in later life. Both managed to die in their own home which is the best place from which to leave. Will Charles III make a good king? We will have to wait and see but his name is not propitious bearing in mind the track record of the previous two. As I am not a monarchist I will say no more.

It was interesting to see an open coal fire in use in the photographs of Liz Truss with the Queen. Balmoral does not have central heating apparently while Buckingham Palace does have a CHP plant. But the bill to run the later was about half a million pounds per annum before the projected price increases. So King Charles might welcome Truss’s announcement to cap the maximum price of gas and electricity.

This is a cap on prices, not on overall cost so people with big houses with large gas consumption will still pay more. But at least it will replace the OFGEM price cap which was an irrational policy. Fracking is also being permitted to boost local gas production.

Truss did not give in to calls for this largess to be funded through a windfall tax. She said this would undermine the national interest by discouraging the very investment we need to secure home-grown energy supplies. You can’t tax your way to growth she said. So it will be funded by more Government debt in essence.

Is this wise? I believe it is the lesser of evils as it will help to bring inflation under control which is essential to keep the economy healthy and avoid a severe recession. These decisions by Truss and her new cabinet are positive in my view. But she is still committed to net zero by 2050 which is simply an unrealistic and unachievable objective.

With a new Prime Minister we are getting a new Cabinet. Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps has gone, thank god, to be replaced by Anne-Marie Trevelyan. She might be pro road building as in 2007 she campaigned to dual the A1 in the North of England. Liz Truss also supports road building – in a recent speech she said “We will get spades in the ground to make sure people are not facing unaffordable energy bills and we will also make sure, that we are building hospitals, schools, roads, and broadband”.

Other new Ministers in the Department for Transport are Kevin Foster MP and Lucy Frazer MP.

This is all positive news. Other good news is that Andrew Gilligan, the transport advisor to Boris Johnson and a keen promoter of cycling, has gone.

But the attack on private cars continues. Oxfordshire County Council is proposing to restrict private cars from the City Centre altogether but permitting taxis, PHVs, LGVs, HGVs etc. Local residents will be given permits to use on 100 days per year. This draconian measure is subject to a public consultation – see https://letstalk.oxfordshire.gov.uk/traffic-filters-2022 . Please respond to it before the 3rd October although this is a very biased survey with way too many questions. I added these comments however: “This survey is totally biased with preconceived answers to the questions imposed to get the answers you are looking for. A total disgrace!”.

I hope the new Transport Ministers will put a stop to such schemes which are inherently illogical.

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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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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Beech Street to Reopen

Beech Street runs under the Barbican in the City of London. It was closed to all but zero emission vehicles recently using an Experimental Traffic Order. But that order will expire in September and it seems a mistake has been made by the City Corporation so it will be reopened. This closure was exceedingly inconvenient to Barbican residents and this is what a residents association had to say about this news:

There has been an unexpected development in the continuing saga of the Beech Street traffic experiment. It appears that Beech Street is to re-open to all traffic for anything up to a year when the experiment traffic order expires on 18 September 2021 because the City has bungled the introduction of a permanent traffic order which would be necessary to keep the traffic restrictions in place.

This means that on 18 September 2021, Beech Street will revert to how it was before the experiment began. All vehicles of all types will be at liberty to use Beech Street at any time without penalty, just as they were before the traffic scheme came into operation. The traffic signs will be taken down, the cameras will be de-activated, the junctions with Bridgwater Street and Golden Lane will re-open, the concrete blocks will be taken away and the new gaps in the central reservation allowing right turns into Lauderdale Place and Defoe House car park will be blocked off.

You may be wondering why the gaps in the central reservation have to be closed since they are of value with or without the experiment. The City says the gaps can only operate safely at low levels of traffic because vehicles making right turns into off-street premises leave their tail ends sticking out into the eastbound carriageway.

The reason why Beech Street is to re-open is a little convoluted. As many will know, the City’s refusal to postpone the experiment when the pandemic struck has been challenged in the High Court. The ground for the challenge was that a traffic experiment carried out in abnormal traffic conditions was not a fair test and that the start of the experiment should have been delayed until traffic conditions returned to normal.

The High Court hearing took place on 29 and 30 June. Prior to the hearing, on 15 April 2021, the High Court issued an injunction prohibiting the City from making the Beech Street scheme permanent in advance of the court’s decision on the challenge. The City wasn’t sure whether this meant it had to stop all monitoring and consultation in relation to the experiment. Instead of asking the judge for clarification, it took the decision to suspend the monitoring and consultation, which threw its timetable for making a permanent traffic order into disarray.

At the hearing, the judge said this was entirely unnecessary since she had never intended the monitoring and consultation to stop and if the City had sent her an email asking for clarification, which was what everyone else did when they wanted the meaning of a court order clarified, she would have told them there and then.

The City told the court that it would not now be possible to make a permanent traffic order until February 2022 at the earliest and possibly not until autumn 2022.

A ruling on the High Court challenge is likely to come in about a month. It is possible that the High Court will revoke the experimental traffic order which in the circumstances would be good news. It would mean that the City could start a new experiment as soon as traffic conditions returned to normal, thereby reintroducing the Beech Street traffic restrictions much earlier than would be possible if it were to make a permanent traffic order. And there would then be a proper experiment”.

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Lewisham Cancels School Streets with No Schools Idea

Lewisham Council has been introducing “School Streets” recently, i.e. timed closures around schools. This was apparently to overcome the objections to the road closures such as in the Lee Green LTN which has been causing much worse traffic congestion. As there seemed to be some public support for School Streets, the Council then decided to introduce “School Streets” into roads where there were no schools. This was probably aimed at reducing through traffic.

But they have now reconsidered. They now say: “After careful consideration, and having listened to the feedback we received, we will not go ahead with the proposals. The feedback was mixed, with some strongly in favour and some strongly opposed to the approach”.

Comment: It is good that they have back-tracked on this which was an unethical way of sneaking in road closures.

They are also promising a public consultation shortly, which they say will be widely publicised, in the Lewisham and Lee Green Low Traffic LTN. But why is it taking so long? And it’s never a very good idea to do public consultations in the middle of summer for obvious reasons.

See https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/news/ltn-consultation-june-2021? for more details.

Roger Lawson

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Telegraph Summarises Surveys Against LTNs, and John Redwood’s Blog Article

The Daily Telegraph has published an analysis of the 10 consultations on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) that local councils have reported to date. Three quarters of the people consulted over LTNs and cycle lanes opposed them.

The councils reporting their survey results include Harrow (82% opposed) and Windsor + Maidenhead (89% opposed). One exception was Bromley though with 64% supporting but their schemes are very limited in scope.

The newspaper also reported that one in three councils have axed, modified or reduced their active travel schemes. They also quote Tony Devenish, Conservative London Assembly Members as saying: “My Government is at fault to some extent, because they gave councils the power not to publicly consult for up to 18 months. You can’t just do these things to people. There has been absolute outcry from the Great British public – and that’s why so many councils have had to U-turn”.

But some Councils such as Lewisham have avoided doing public consultations despite promising to do them, or they keep moving the goalposts by changing the nature of the road closures (for example by changing them to “School Streets” or by reissuing Traffic Orders to avoid legal challenges).

Comment: Such public surveys show that the general public (even those who don’t own a car but rely on public transport such as buses), are opposed to the obstruction of our roads. Roads are essential for the movement of people and goods.

In Praise of the Car

John Redwood, M.P., has spelled out the advantages of cars in a good article on his blog (see Reference 2 below). He says: “Acquiring your first vehicle is a major advance in your personal freedom. Yet today government, Councils and better off greens from the security of their homes in major cities lecture the rest of us on the wickedness of the car. The better off Green city dweller can rely more on the tube or mass transit and has the money for taxis when needed. The aim is to get people out of car ownership or to reduce their use of the car, and in the meantime to cow people into keeping quiet about their reliance on this flexible and most popular form of transport”.

He explains at length why cars are more practical and economic for most of the journeys which he takes. A number of good comments have been added. I hope Grant Shapps reads the article.

Reference 1: Telegraph Article: https://tinyurl.com/2d44vbcn

Reference 2: Redwood Article: https://tinyurl.com/cchhcurc

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More Changes at Bank

The City of London Corporation have been working assiduously to remove all traffic from London’s streets in the last couple of years regardless of the impact on residents, businesses and visitors. Bank Junction has already been subjected to severe restrictions on all vehicles except buses and cycles, thus effectively closing this key junction in the centre of the City. Even taxis have been excluded much to the annoyance of taxi drivers. The Corporation are now proposing to go a step further and close more of the roads, even to buses.

The latest changes include the following:

  • The closure of Threadneedle Street to motor vehicles that runs along the south of the Bank of England.
  • The closure of Queen Victoria Street between Bucklersbury and Bank Junction for motor vehicles, except those vehicles exiting Walbrook in a westbound direction.
  • Closing Princes Street except for buses and cycles northbound; and except as a route for servicing to Cornhill in a southbound direction.

It includes proposals for widening pavements around the junction which the road closures will enable (artist’s impression above). Bus routes will also have to be changed.

For more details and to respond to a public consultation go here: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/streets/all-change-at-bank-project

Comment: It was certainly the case that Bank Junction was a problem on two grounds: 1) the volume of pedestrians using the junction with the station being enlarged when pavements are very narrow (at least until the recent epidemic); and 2) as regards road safety with frequent casualties including fatalities. The complex nature of the junction with many buses passing through it and high pedestrian traffic were partly to blame.

It therefore was not unreasonable to look at simplifying the junction to enable more pedestrian space and improve the environment. However, the removal of all traffic was very damaging to the road network in the City of London, and has caused traffic to simply move to other roads with additional congestion.  

The latest changes do not improve matters but will make things worse. For example if Threadneedle Street is to be closed it should also be closed to cyclists to avoid conflicts with pedestrians.

Please respond to the public consultation if you have an interest in these roads.

Roger Lawson

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