Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Thoughts on TfL's Cycle Superhighway 5 (CS5) 'Response to Consultation'

TfL recently published the responses to the consultation they held on the new, improved Cycle Superhighway 5 (CS5), they will build running from Victoria to New Cross Gate. It's a fairly long document (download here), so I thought it might be worth picking out some of the more pertinent details for those interested in cycling:

The poorly designed CS3. Much of the new CS5 route will be physically segregated 'using cats’ eyes, rumble strips, traffic wands or similar' , leading (among other benefits) to less of the above occurring.

A) Some politicians are getting it (very) right:

Caroline Pidgeon, London Assembly AM (Lib Dem, twitter) gave a fantastic response:


I had the pleasure of briefly conversing with Caroline Pidgeon via email last September, as one of many people she spoke to when investigating cycling in London. She clearly 'gets cycling' now. This is fantastic to see since it's this kind of political support that's needed if we want segregated lanes to be built in London.

B) Some politicians are getting it (very) wrong:

The responses from Westminster City Council by Cllr Edward Argar (Conservative) and Cllr Alan Bradley (Conservative) were, frankly, awful:


1) Countless scientific studies have shown that motor traffic levels expand and contract to match capacity. Thus, Los Angeles has one of the world's largest road systems, but also many of the world's worst traffic jams:

Los Angeles' freeways: a case study in why more roads doesn't mean less congestion.
And on the flip-side, when London's motor traffic capacity was drastically cut by up to 33% (source: RAC) for the 2012 Olympics, was there increased congestion? No, in fact in many places there was less congestion. Did London grind to a halt? No, we delivered a great Olympic Games, while the City and everything else continued running very smoothly.

Edward Argar's and Alan Bradley's 'serious concerns' about 'increased congestion' are therefore simply not grounded in reality. This is what gets my goat. Edward Argar is 'Cabinet Member for City Management & Transport'. He also studied History at Oriel College, Oxford. He's clearly an intelligent person. Yet, he's not looking at the data (even though that's what he's paid to do) about how traffic congestion is and isn't caused. Westminster Cyclists seem much better informed:


It's surely Edward Argar's job to note that 'a similar approach on Grosvenor Road and Millbank has led to a large increase in cyclists without seeming to significantly increase traffic congestion'. Disappointingly, he hasn't; yet.

2) Both councillors also expressed concerns about 'increased rat-running'. This is perhaps even more frustrating since it is blatantly hypocritical. Westminster Council are actually currently opposing measures to curb rat-running such as 20mph limits and blocking motor traffic through-routes:

Warren Street, Camden: through-route closed to motor traffic. This is what Westminster Council would be doing if they were actually concerned about rat-running.
If Westminster Council wants to discourage rat-running there are many easier (and more effectual) ways to do it than by blocking the CS5.

C) TfL are (broadly) trying their best:

1) Bizarrely, the Department for Transport seems to be against any cycle stop boxes larger than 7.5m:


It's clear that 2m segregated cycle lanes are better than advance stop lines (ASLs), but if I've got a truck behind me, I'd rather have 10m than 7.5m space between me and a vehicle that can easily kill. This is where The Times's #cyclesafe petition to get the Coalition to actively support cycling comes in. There's a limit to how much TfL can do if their efforts are being actively retarded by central government. 

Cameron needs to get behind cycling, or face the political consequences at the next election.

TfL should not have to 'win' support from the DfT to make infrastructure safer for cyclists. The DfT should be pushing TfL to make these changes. That the impetus is coming from TfL, under direct control of the Mayor, says a lot about the drastically different stances on cycling of Boris Johnson and David Cameron respectively....

2) TfL are having safer cycling infrastructure blocked by local residents and businesses:


This is an unusual instance where the proposed improvements have actually worsened following consultation. I believe we need to pay attention to examples like this because it doesn't make sense to beat up TfL on everything, if (occasionally) the real opposition lies elsewhere. If TfL's attitude to cycling is changing this should be welcomed and embraced, even if it can't always yield results.

How to get past resident and business opposition is a more difficult matter. For starters, I'd propose two ways:
If anyone else has any ideas, comments are most welcomed. I suppose I feel that in 2013 though TfL is very far from perfect, they're not always the key interested party that needs convincing. Cycle campaigners should, perhaps, be supporting TfL (in certain cases) and trying to win around these resistant groups instead.