The City of London Corporation have issued a note about the road closures and advisory 15 mph speed limits in the square mile. This is claimed to be a response to the Covid-19 epidemic but is consistent with their long-term strategy to remove all traffic from City streets.
To quote: “The City of London Corporation has begun delivery of its transport recovery plan, designed to ensure the safety of residents, workers and visitors as people return to the Square Mile.
The scheme is primarily focused on providing the space needed to maintain social distancing on our streets and to enable safe walking, cycling and the managed use of public transport”.
Key roads such as Cannon Street, Old Broad Street and Leadenhall Street are affected.
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Waltham Forest: This borough proposed a number of “Mini-Holland” schemes that involved road closures before the epidemic hit. Some have been delayed or cut back due to financial limitations, but there are still promoting walking and cycling via “low traffic streets” in the Coppermill and Hilltop areas. See https://enjoywalthamforest.co.uk/enjoy-waltham-forest/walking-and-cycling/ . As in Lewisham, they are using a CommonPlace web site as a consultation method but in this case there is no detailed information yet available. In this and many other London boroughs, there is minimal information on the plans that have been made public and decisions are effectively being taken in secret. Searching the Council’s web site for details of Committee Meetings and Decisions reveals no information. This is a good example of a “bad” borough in terms of democracy.
City of London: The City of London Corporation have issued a note that says the following:
What are the changes? On-street measures will include: Timed closures to motor vehicles, mostly 7am – 7pm, allowing limited access to premises for people with access needs, deliveries and servicing; Reallocation of carriageway to space for walking, queueing and cycling and priority for buses; Closing streets to through traffic or other changes in operation, e.g. switching to one-way.
Where will the changes be? Change is required across the Square Mile and will be delivered in phases. The following streets have been selected for Phase 1 based on pedestrian numbers, pavement widths, cycling demand and connections to destinations, retail and transport hubs: Cannon Street (between Queen Victoria Street and Monument junction); Cheapside and Poultry; Old Jewry and Coleman Street; Lombard Street; Leadenhall Street and St Mary Axe; Threadneedle Street and Old Broad Street.
There are a lot of pedestrians that cross Cannon Street from Cannon Street Station but closing the road when the Bank Junction is already closed is going to be very damaging to traffic flows.
All of these measures are claimed to be justified by the Covid-19 epidemic but they are unlikely to be temporary and are just a continuation of the City Corporation’s attack on all vehicle users. That includes the disabled or infirm to whom few concessions are made.
MAKE SURE YOU OBJECT AND STOP THE CLOSURES SPREADING!
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Last week a 20-mph speed limit was brought in on many major routes in central London. For example it covers the main east-west route of Millbank, Victoria Embankment, Upper and Lower Thames Street, and Tower Hill. Most drivers think such limits are ludicrous and are not justified by the demands of road safety although average traffic speeds on these roads are often less than 20 particularly after the spread of cycle superhighways caused more congestion. But not all roads in London are so congested or justify a 20 limit at all times of the day.
You can go to this web site for an explanation as to why 20 mph signed-only speed limits are unjustifiable on any rational basis: www.20sSenseless.org
But will 20 be the limit in future or will the attack on all forms of vehicle traffic be extended until we are all driving at walking pace? There are certainly some people in power in London who seem to think that the only way to cut accidents is to stop traffic altogether or make it drive at a snail’s pace. It is certainly the case that TfL plan to extend the 20 limit to other major roads across the capital in “Phase 2” of their Safer Speeds proposals.
But the City of London Corporation is going a step further already. They are going to ask for Ministerial approval to impose a 15-mph limit across the Square Mile to replace the existing 20 mph limit. The City has had a 20-mph limit since July 2014. Has it made any difference to casualty numbers? Not obviously so as you can see from the chart below taken from this City Corporation report published in 2018: https://tinyurl.com/vvt58d9 . Pedestrian casualties have actually been rising and other transport mode users have probably fallen simple because there is now less traffic in the City due to concerted efforts to discourage it. In summary there is no good evidence that a 20 limit has worked to reduce road casualties in the City of London, or anywhere else either.
The City Corporation has to get permission from the Secretary of State for Transport to impose a 15 MPH limit for which there is no approved signage for example and enforcement is also doubtful. Anyone who thinks that 15 mph is ludicrous should write to: Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP at Department for Transport, Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 4DR or use the form on this contact page: https://forms.dft.gov.uk/contact-dft-and-agencies/
What limit will be chosen when 15 MPH does not work? 10 or even 5? When will this lunacy end?
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The City of London Corporation has decided to push ahead with their proposal for a 15-mph speed limit across the whole of the City. Almost all the elements of their proposed transport strategy that we covered last October are likely to be implemented including targets for vehicle reduction, zero emission roads, more space given to pedestrians and cyclists and other damaging proposals for taxi/PHV drivers and goods vehicles which service City businesses and residents.
The 15-mph limit is irrational because the limit of 20 mph they imposed in 2014 has proved to be totally ineffective in reducing accidents. In fact minor accidents went up. But City Corporation Council Members and staff of the Corporation seem to have been infected with paranoia and anti-car fever while ignoring the objections they received in a public consultation.
Although the average speed of traffic in the City is less than 10-mph there are some roads at some times of day where traffic of all kinds (including pedestrians) is low so it is safe to do a higher speed than 15-mph. Although it’s not going to have any impact on accident rates, drivers are likely to collect numerous PCNs for speeding. The City of London Police have been quite vigorous in enforcing the 20 limit so presumably will commit even more resources to this wasteful project.
The only thing that may stop the 15-mph limit is that it will require approval from the Department for Transport – there are no DfT approved signs for 15-mph for example. Let us hope they see sense and do so.
I have covered the City of London’s draft Transport Strategy before – see https://tinyurl.com/yd3qne6c . I called it a stinker because it is an aggressive attack on most forms of road transport with a 15-mph speed limit proposed across the Square Mile, a zero-emission standard for all vehicles and road closures.
It’s a good example of how the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy is being followed in the local boroughs and how it is corrupting London’s road transport network. The policies promoted are simply irrational, will not work and fail to cope with the increasing population and business activity in the City.
The City of London Corporation is currently developing its Transport Strategy. The Corporation covers the square mile of the City and in some respects takes the role of other local London borough councils. It therefore has to also develop a “Local Implementation Plan” to match the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy. The aim is to publish a Transport Strategy for the City by Spring 2019.
As part of this exercise they are running a series of “Workshops” for interested parties and I attended one on the 6th March. This is a report on the event.
The meeting was hosted by Bruce McVean who is heading up the strategy development team. Apparently they have 8 people working on this project. It was amusing to note on my journey to the event where I had to walk through the Bank road junction that there were still numerous vehicles driving through it and ignoring the no-entry signs. See previous blog posts on that subject. Although this scheme is “experimental” the Corporation recently decided to postpone any longer-term proposals for improving the situation.
There is also a “Strategy Board” who will be considering the Transport Strategy, but I have previously commented on the lack of representation on that of anyone with a knowledge of transport issues other than City Corporation staff.
The people attending this Workshop were a very mixed bunch and I have no idea how they qualified for an invite. Apart from myself there was at least one elderly City resident, a lady who represented the interests of the disabled and a keen bus rider (also enthusiastic about trams and trolley buses).
The meeting commenced with a short talk by Iain Simmons (Assistant Director – City Transportation). I had previously communicated with him on the closure of Shorter Street. He gave an overview of the process and the public consultations being undertaken which should complete by the end of the year with findings to be published in March 2019. He discussed the current use of transport in the City based on a report they recently published (called “Traffic in the City 2018” which you can find on the web). The chart above, taken from that report, shows traffic trends in the City.
As I said to one of the Corporation’s staff this just shows how the road network in the City has been damaged over the last twenty years as it seems unlikely that the demand by users of cars, taxis and PHVs has declined but usage has been obstructed by road closures, removal of road space, traffic congestion and other factors (the congestion charge is not one of them and claims for the impact of that are spurious).
Iain Simmons said that “virtually nobody is now riding around in the City in private cars” which I can well believe. Such vehicles have not just declined, they have been replaced by PHVs to a large extent (minicabs and Uber like services) with even licensed taxis declining in the last two years. There has also been a reduction in goods vehicles (LGVs) perhaps because of consolidation of trips and companies banning delivery of internet orders to their offices. Note that one cause of the reduction of vehicles is now simply the difficulty of entering the City from surrounding roads – for example TfL are using traffic lights to restrict access along the Highway to Upper/Lower Thames Street and the East-West Cycle Superhighway has obstructed access to some parts of the City. The removal of the Aldgate gyratories in the East has also caused congestion and problems with access from that direction.
There has been a big increase in cycling as you see from the chart, but motorcycling has been declining.
One of the key issues to be faced is that the City “population” is increasing. This is mainly driven by the growth in commuters as business offices increase in number and size. This has resulted in pedestrian KSIs going up while others have remained static. Mr Simmons said they still have “a big problem with road danger reduction”. (Note: the 20-mph wide area scheme was noticeably ineffective in improving the road casualty statistics). He also mentioned there was a drive to “turn streets into places”.
Bruce McVean then covered the transport challenges and the opportunities. He said they had received very mixed responses to the consultation so far, with concerns about cycling and the disabled. But he promoted the concept of turning streets into “places” as there was a desire for more open space for pedestrians in the City.
We then broke up into smaller discussion groups. There were lots of ill-informed suggestions made, but there was some agreement on the growing dangers posed by cyclists to pedestrians in the City due to the former’s inconsiderate behaviour. The difficulty of access to some parts of the City, including tube stations, for the disabled or elderly was mentioned. Route finding by pedestrians was often difficult (the Barbican was an area particularly mentioned as being obstructive).
A Corporation staff member suggested that one way to free up more open space would be to remove on-street parking. It was unclear why visitors were using this as such spaces would be difficult to find and there are several off-street car parks. I suggested they ask the users. Note: I think removal of such spaces would only make sense if more off-street parking was provided as many such car parks are now full to capacity. They are also often difficult to access and difficult to find for casual visitors.
There was some agreement that in some areas there was insufficient capacity for pedestrians on pavements and this problem might get worse.
Suggestions were also made to remove all road traffic from the City, simplify and rationalise the road network, develop a ring road, have a “park and ride” scheme and other oddball or impractical ideas (bring back trams for example). There seemed to be little understanding of why vehicles are on City streets although it was mentioned that there are food deliveries for example.
The large numbers of currently highly polluting buses in the City needs to be looked at, particularly as some of them seem to be on “long distance” routes where there seems little need for them to go through narrow City streets.
It was suggested by a staff member that timed road closures as around the bank junction might help (as to how was not clear). I opposed that because occasional visitors are unlikely to be aware of the timings and hence create the difficulties seen at Bank.
At the end of the session I said that I considered the Mayor of London’s desire to turn roads into “places for social interaction and exercise” to be nonsense. Surely the purpose of roads is to enable the movement of goods and people. This issue was not really debated with the City Corporation seeming to have swallowed the dogma of Transport for London and the Mayor hook line and sinker without any thought. Indeed as I have commented before, City Corporation staff seem to have a prejudice against motor vehicles on the roads of the City and the history of the road network in the City over the last 30 years demonstrates many damaging changes which have increased congestion.
Here’s my analysis of the issues and what improvements should be aimed for:
Air pollution from vehicles and businesses still poor, the former mainly caused by traffic congestion (damaging levels of emissions from vehicles are coming down rapidly due to technological improvements).
What should be aimed for:
Improvements in traffic speeds to provide economic benefits and help to cut pollution.
Safer roads (stopping pedestrians stepping off pavements into the paths of vehicles is still a major problem).
More capacity for all transport modes (i.e. vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians).
I suggest it would be possible to rationalise the road network to gain all those benefits. Bank junction is a good example of where a major redevelopment could simplify the roads, improve traffic flow, free up more open space and reduce road traffic accidents.
One of the problems with releasing more open space is that there is very little unused land in the City and it is of course enormously expensive land. Therefore new office developers like to maximise the developed land space. This is a planning issue that needs to be tackled. Developers really need to have an obligation to ensure some ground space is provided as a public amenity and pavements around new developments should be widened.
In summary there are lots of ways that transport in the City of London could be improved, but I am not convinced that concepts such as turning streets into places, an Orwellian redefinition of the word street, is going to help.
Postscript: Under the City Corporation’s “Road Danger Reduction Plan”, there are some interesting new initiatives. These include:
Lane closures on multi-lane roads at night. Not that there are many in the City but Mansell street is one where there was a pedestrian fatality in 2017.
Part-day filtering of certain vehicle types at peak times.
Active Travel Priority Zones where the recommended speed for vehicles would be no greater than 10 mph.
Lunchtime closures of streets as there are more pedestrians around at that time.
These measures are in response to the latest road safety statistics which show high numbers of pedestrian casualties, mainly from stepping into roads without looking. Pedestrian numbers are rising, and the 20 mph wide area speed limit across the City has had negligible impact. There also seem to be increasing numbers of collisions between cyclists and pedestrians, which can be serious or fatal (e.g. the example of Charlie Alliston on Old Street).
The City of London Corporation, who control the streets in the City, want your views on their transport strategy. They have mounted an exhibition that runs until the end of March and there are some “drop-in” sessions also where you can talk to their staff. In addition they would like you to complete a survey.
If you work in the City or travel there on business, please make sure you complete the survey.
You might wish to state you oppose road closures, and you will also find the survey requires you to indicate a hierarchy of priorities for road usage – cars, PHVs, buses versus cyclists and pedestrians. This is a very divisive approach. It should be a question of what is an appropriate balance in different locations and at different times.
The City of London Corporation are developing a Transport Strategy as part of the Corporation’s “Local Implementation Plan” that all local councils in London have to prepare. The proposals from Steve Presland, Transportation and Public Realm Director, include “measures to reduce traffic” and “the reallocation of road space to increase priority and comfort for people on foot….”. There will be research to agree the optimal allocation of space between all travel modes and a review of the potential “for permanent or timed road closures to improve conditions for people walking, cycling and using public transport”. Yes we are likely to see more damage to the road network such as the one recently introduced at Bank. The move to reduce traffic is despite the fact that the level of business activity in the City is likely to increase over the next few years. So traffic congestion will no doubt get even worse.
The Transport Strategy will be subject to a public consultation in early 2018 but you can see what it is likely to contain.
As first reported back in December 2015, the City of London Corporation are proceeding with a plan to close Bank junction to all but buses and cyclists. Black cab drivers are incensed by this proposal and ran several demonstration at that junction and near the Houses of Parliament last week. This caused widespread traffic chaos.
According to a report by the City of London Corporation, the benefit will be a significant reduction in casualties (often pedestrians and cyclists) around the junction, and average traffic journey times will be neutral or slightly positive. It will also improve bus services based on the modelling done.
All general traffic will be banned from 7.00 am to 7.00 pm from travelling through the junction, which is one of the key parts of the road network in the City of London. Although much traffic already avoids it because it is very heavily congested, it will certainly cause a lot of difficulties for taxi drivers. Diverting traffic will surely make other alternative routes busier.
The scheme will start in April, and last for 18 months on an experimental basis but such schemes tend to become permanent. The Corporation’s report says “The experimental scheme will not solve all safety aspects at Bank, but will make a significant difference without the need for infrastructure changes, which will take more time to plan and deliver”.
Comment: One of the key sources of congestion at Bank are in fact buses of which there are many and who move slowly. The configuration of the junction and the narrow pavements (insufficient for the number of people exiting Bank underground) are major problems and a cause of the poor accident record. So one cannot dispute that some measures needed to be taken to tackle these problems.
However there were other alternatives, such as simplifying the junction, or allowing entry only from certain directions that would have surely helped. Closing this key junction to traffic will be similar to the redesign of other key junctions in central London such as Trafalgar Square and Aldgate which has contributed so much to reduced journey times in central London.
Taxi driver David Morris was quoted in the Financial Times as saying “We are part of the London public transport system and yet we will be denied access”. He suggested there would be horrendous gridlock as a result and questioned where all the traffic will go. One cannot but be sympathetic to his views because this looks like another step that will reduce the capacity of the road network of London. One cannot continue to remove road space and expect congestion to do anything but get worse.
If you wish to object to these plans, I suggest you write to Gillian Howard, at City of London Corporation, Guildhall, PO Box 270, London EC2P 2EJ. Or send an email to email@example.com . There does not appear to be any formal consultation process as yet and given the timescale for implementation it would seem they are not going to bother with one.
The City of London Corporation has recently published a report entitled “Traffic in the City of London”. It acknowledges that “certain major infrastructure project such as Crossrail and the Cycle Superhighway” along with new building development have increased demand on the highway network. As a result traffic congestion in some parts of the City has increased.
Their solutions include “reducing the amount of traffic in the City to a level our community finds acceptable”, making representations for London wide policy change (e.g. changes to the Congestion Charge, which would include higher charges and wider geographic coverage) and reducing goods vehicle movements. They also propose to “actively discourage vehicle movements”.
In addition they suggest bridge tolls over all the Thames bridges using ANPR technology as on the Dartford Crossing to reduce traffic volumes and more active management by TfL of traffic signals to reduce traffic into the City.
Zero Emission Vehicles Only and Beech Street
They also suggest a ban of all vehicles in the City other than zero emission ones and have already firmed up proposals to do that for Beech Street, or close it completely to through traffic. Beech Street runs underneath the Barbican and is heavily used as a cross-city route.
The City Corporation’s report is well worth reading and is a good example of the anti road transport mentality that is now so prevalent.