Are You Suffering from London Throat?

An article in the Daily Telegraph today (9/1/2020) suggests that if you have a constant foggy feeling with repeated coughs and colds then you are suffering from a hitherto unknown disease called “London Throat”. The suggestion is that this condition arises from breathing in polluted air and very specifically inhaling brake dust that damages the immune system, thus preventing the cells called macrophages from clearing away bacteria.

The research on which this claim was based was carried out by Dr Liza Selley and published in the journal Metallomics. Apparently the concentration of tiny metal particles in brake dust is three times higher on roads with speed humps due to the repeated braking they induce.

Comment: If there is such a cause then those who live, work and travel in London are much more likely to have suffered from exposure to particulates on the London Underground where levels of dust pollution are very high and are known to have high concentrations of metal particles.

However, the removal of speed humps which the Telegraph article suggested as a solution, and has also been recommended by NICE to cut pollution, would certainly be a good idea. We have consistently opposed speed humps on the grounds that they generate more air pollution but also for many other reasons. See this web page for a full analysis of how damaging and effective they are:  https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-humps.htm

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Mayor Lies at the People’s Question Time in Bexley

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On the 14th March there was a “People’s Question Time” in Bexley where Mayor Sadiq Khan answered questions from the public (photo left).

It commenced by the Mayor suggesting that London’s roads were unsafe because he had no control over road safety in response to a question on junction improvement. He claimed that 95% of the roads are controlled by local boroughs, suggesting it was their fault. But in reality, the Mayor via TfL controls almost all the money spent on roads and road safety. TfL dictates what projects local boroughs can spend on by only funding what they like. In addition they dictate transport strategy directly. As a result, boroughs are forced to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on 20 mph wide area speed limits that have been proven to be totally ineffective, on cycle lanes, speed hump schemes and other pointless measures.

The Mayor was also criticised for spending £400 million on the proposed Rotherhithe cycle/pedestrian bridge, and when it came to policing there was applause from the audience when one person suggested he could solve the crime problem overnight by just diverting money spent on cycle lanes to the police.

When discussing public transport the Mayor said that London is the only city in the world that is not subsidised by Government. That is simply not true. TfL receives £3.2 billion in grants which is 31% of TfL’s income. Most of that money comes from taxes and much comes from central Government – see https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/how-we-work/how-we-are-funded .

In response to questions on the environment the Mayor said that London air is a killer which is a gross exaggeration. But he got one point right – namely that diesel buses are a major problem. He said the worst areas for air pollution in London are those with the most buses. He said they are not buying any more diesel buses and are retrofitting existing ones.

He got criticism on the ULEZ but apparently expects central Government to bail out folks who cannot afford to buy a new car, which is highly unlikely to happen.

His final major point was to promote another referendum on Brexit. What a pity that Parliament ruled it out the same day which probably pleased the audience and certainly pleased me.

You can see a recording of the meeting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lmqgw6OjMD4

Mayor’s Tax Precept Rises

There were a number of criticisms of the Mayor’s financial policies at the meeting described above. London residents may have just realised that their local Council Tax is rising significantly this year and one reason is that the Mayor’s tax precept that you pay in your Council Tax, and is passed through to the GLA, is rising by 8.93%. That’s way ahead of inflation and is another example of the Mayor’s financial incompetence.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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National Accident Trends and Bus Accidents in London

Fatal accidents on Britain’s roads rose 4% to 1,792 last year. That’s the highest level since 2011 and is clear evidence that fatal accidents are not falling despite all the chest beating of politicians about excessive speeds, and millions of pounds spent on speed cameras, speed awareness courses and traffic calming.

The DfT say the change in fatalities are not statistically significant, but even more alarming is the KSI figure which was up 8% in 2016 over the previous year and which is more statistically significant. The slight injuries were only up 4% but that may have been particularly affected by a change in the reporting system and are notoriously senstive to “under-reporting”.

Explanations from the DfT are the impact of the weather, the fact that accidents tend to rise when the economy is bouyant, plus lots of other factors. Note that the growth in traffic is only a very minor possible factor, and more traffic congestion can actually reduce accidents.

So in summary, the UK road safety industry and its experts have been an abject failure since about 2011 when the accident figures started to flatline.

An example of political posturing that is irrelevant to tackling the real road safety problems is the ambition of the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, in his Mayor’s Transport Strategy to reduce injuries from bus collisions in London to zero. In reality data from TfL show the number of collisions have been rising – up from 22,676 in 2013 to 28,035 in 2016. The number of injuries also rose to 1,231 in 2016.

What might be the reasons for these increases? Possibly more cyclists on the roads, more pedestrians who cross the road without looking, many using their phones at the time, and lots of other factors. So the response of the Mayor is to look at speed limiting technology for buses and anti-collision sensors. Will they solve the problem? Nobody knows because there is no road accident investigation branch similar to those used for rail and aviation, as we have repeatedly called for.

In my view, only when Government politicians, the Mayor and TfL stop looking for quick answers to complex problems will we get some sense back into the road safety debate. In the meantime, it’s just a disgrace that nobody in power seems to be facing up to the reality that the UK is going backwards in road safety.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Speed Humps to Slow Cyclists

There is a problem in Hyde Park where cyclists have been clocked travelling at more than 30 mph even though there is a posted speed limit of 10 mph. The paths in Hyde Park are shared by pedestrians and cyclists and the Royal Parks staff said they observed several near misses when they monitored the paths. Pedestrians need to walk across the cycle path at some point but cyclists do not slow down and frequently verbally harass pedestrians who get in their way.

So the Royal Parks plan to install rows of granite setts as “rumble strips” to slow cyclists at a cost of £215,000. Needless to say the always vociferous cycling lobby are objecting with the London Cycling Campaign calling the plan “outrageous”.

It is surely regrettable that this is another example of cyclists ignoring regulations and taking the attitude that everyone else should get out of their way.

Roger Lawson

Publicity for Traffic Management Proposals

We have set up a petition on the government website demanding that traffic authorities should be required to give greater publicity to proposed traffic management measures, such as reduced speed limits, traffic calming schemes, waiting restrictions etc, so that all road users, including drivers who use the roads but don’t live in the area, are made aware of them and have the opportunity to object.  The petition is now live and is at:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/186407

Please consider signing the petition and passing the details on to others who may wish to do so.

Roger Lawson

Richard Branson Survives Speed Hump Collision

Well known entrepreneur Richard Branson has had a bad accident caused by a speed hump. When cycling in the British Virgin Islands he hit a speed hump and suffered a cracked cheek, torn ligaments and extensive bruising. He claims only his cycle helmet saved him from death.

He said: “I was heading down a hill towards Leverick Bay when it suddenly got really dark and I managed to hit a sleeping policeman hump in the road head on. The next thing I knew, I was being hurled over the handlebars and my life was literally flashing before my eyes. I really thought I was going to die. I went flying head-first towards the concrete road, but fortunately my shoulder and cheek took the brunt of the impact.”

This writer has of course campaigned against speed humps over many years and this is not the first example of the danger speed humps cause to cyclists. There was a very similar case in the London Borough of Bromley in 2005 which is documented here (fast cyclist on a hill in poor light conditions): http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-humps-old-hill.htm (and there is lots more information on the dangers of speed humps on that web site).

With the negligible road safety benefits of speed humps, simply in the interests of improving safety for cyclists would it not be a good idea to remove them all?

Roger Lawson

Speed Humps and Air Pollution

Air pollution from motor vehicles, particularly in major conurbations such as London, has been a hot topic of late. The impact may be exaggerated but it has certainly become a matter of public concern with the increase in diesel vehicles allegedly making it worse.

It has been known for many years that speed humps actually result in more air pollution. For example this writer published an article back in 2002 which said the following: “Pollution Caused by Traffic Calming. As a contribution to the local debate on the merits of speed bumps, it is worth covering a report produced by the  TRL (Transport Research Lab.) last year. In the past, different studies in different countries seemed to produce very diverse results, but the latest methodology seems more likely to have produced accurate figures. TRL Report No. 482 studies the effect of a number of different traffic calming measures, including road humps, cushions, pinch points and mini-roundabouts. They also studied the impact on traffic flows and delays experienced by fire engines. To quote from the report “The results of the study clearly indicate that traffic calming measures increase the emissions of some pollutants from passenger cars. For petrol non-catalyst, petrol catalyst and diesel cars, mean emissions of CO per vehicle-km increased by 34%, 59% and 39% respectively. For all three vehicle categories the increase in mean HC emissions was close to 50%. Emissions of NOX from petrol vehicles increased only slightly, but such emissions from diesel vehicles increased by around 30%. Emissions of CO2 from each of the three vehicle categories increased by between 20% and 26%. Emissions of particulate matter from the diesel vehicles increased by 30%.

The advocates of speed humps ignored this negative evidence in their commitment to road safety even though their impact on accidents is very marginal and may be a mirage.

As confirmation for the above a recent study from Imperial College, London also found high levels of pollution from road humps – indeed higher than from other forms of traffic calming (see the Daily Telegraph on the 11/6/2016 for a fuller report on this and some quotes from me).

For example they got 47% more particulates and 64% more NO2 from a petrol car when driven over humps, and even higher figures for diesel cars.

As I pointed out in my comments to the Daily Telegraph, accidents to school children are not particularly frequent outside schools so putting humps there is unnecessary. But the health impact on children of air pollution may be particularly severe. There are numerous reasons why the use of speed humps should be banned and this is yet another – see this page for lots more information written by the author on this topic some years ago (and the facts have not changed since): http://www.bromleytransport.org.uk/Humps.htm

Roger Lawson