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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More Road Closures in London

I mentioned in previous blog posts the road closures in Lewisham and Hackney using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse. There are also road closures being installed in:

Tower Hamlets. This borough proposes to close numerous roads. See this Traffic Order for details of some of them and where to send your objections:

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 . 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.



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Cable Street Road Closures

In addition to the closures of Shorter Street and Tower Bridge mentioned in a previous article, there are proposals afoot to close some roads around Cable Street which is not far away.

Cable Street (famous for the defeat of English fascists in the East End before the Second World War which was recently commemorated on its 80th anniversary) is a road that runs east-west parallel to The Highway. It was remodelled to accept part of the East-West Cycle Superhighway, but clearly the design was done in a rush and it contains lots of defects. The result is conflicts among cyclists (both going at high speed in two directions on a narrow strip of blue coloured tarmac), conflicts between vehicles and cyclists and between pedestrians and cyclists. It could therefore certainly do with improving, but the proposals, include several road closures effectively making the area very difficult for any through traffic or even for local residents.

This is what I have said to Tower Hamlets Council on this matter (Tom Rawlings is the Project Manager):

  1. We represent private car users nationally and I am personally responsible for the London area. I only recently learned about these proposals and I even had to issue a Freedom of Information Act request to find out the details as there was nothing publicly available on your web site and I could not get an answer by telephoning either. So please ensure that we are on the consultation list for any future public consultations on this matter.
  2. Please also note our objections to these proposals, which I explain in more detail below.
  3. The consultation leaflet you issued in March is grossly biased. It refers to “rat-running” when that is an emotive and unreasonable term to use. Roads are there to be used by anyone and a lot of the traffic is clearly either local residents or vehicles serving local residents or businesses. Some of them may have turned off the Highway but they might be doing that simply to access locations further north than where the Highway would take them. The note suggests that 76% of the road users are “non-essential” through traffic but that might apply to almost any road. Roads are meant to take vehicles from one location to another.
  4. The results of the consultation as reported in the “Briefing Note” are exceedingly biased. The pie chart showing the numbers against include the automated responses from “The Wheelers” and “LCC” (counting 176 in total), but completely ignores the 700 signatures you received on an objecting petition. Why?
  5. Please advise who organised the aforementioned petition and their contact details. 
  6. As regards the proposals themselves (and I am reasonably familiar with Cable Street as I use it occasionally), I have the following comments:  
  7. The design of the Cycle Superhighway along that stretch of road was poorly done and clearly was rushed through to ensure rapid completion of that stretch. There are numerous defects that almost ensure conflicts among cyclists, or between motor vehicles and cyclists, or between pedestrians and cyclists. Any new design should try to rectify those faults without removing vehicular traffic which is essential not just to local residents.  
  8. I will not attempt to define all the problems with the existing or new proposals, but it is clear from the responses you have already received that the proposed design does not even satisfy the views of many cyclists.
  9. I think it is most unfortunate that you appear to have consulted closely on the new design with cyclists representative groups without doing the same with vehicle users. I request that we be so consulted and I suggest you should do the same for taxi drivers, the police, ambulance services, fire service, the Freight Transport Association, etc. Transport for London (TfL) could no doubt give you a list of relevant consultees if you do not have one.

Anyone who uses the roads in the area of Cable Street should contact me, or write to Mr Rawlings at Tower Hamlets Council with your objections.

Roger Lawson