Wednesday, March 30, 2011

20MPH in the City?

The Standard reports that the City of London is considering an area-wide 20MPH speed limit, in a piece that looks rather like a straight lift from Cyclists in the City.

The change is only under consideration at this stage. Here's a few things the City might want to consider in its deliberations. Hopefully City bosses understand that their staff getting run down by speeding motors isn't good for business. There's a huge amount of foot and cycle traffic in the City, which has a poor safety record. The evidence says that 20MPH limits reduce casualties, and there's no doubt about the economic benefits of reducing casualties -each death costs on average £2.7M. On the debit side, the effect on motor journey times is not particularly significant either. So the case stacks up pretty firmly in favour of 20MPH. On the other hand of course, the right to drive a car wherever and however fast you like is a basic human right and must take precedence over all that 'elf and safety' nonsense.

Budget Fuel Duty

Well done George, I thought that went pretty well! Fuel duty cut by a penny, the fuel duty escalator suspended and the inflation rise in fuel duty postponed. Total cost to the Treasury: around £2bn/year for the next 5 years. Paid for by an increase in levies on North Sea oil production...

The Sun reports today that for all that, pump prices have increased from pre-budget levels. Meanwhile Valiant Petroleum, Centrica, Statoil and others have announced they are considering shelving North Sea projects in the light of the tax rises. 

So it looks like everybody loses.
  • Motorists are still complaining about high fuel prices (although they are lower than they would’ve been), and they’ll have no improvement to alternative transport options;
  • The nation will become even more dependent on foreign oil, and more vulnerable to oil price volatility;
  • The total tax take will likely go down if oil companies disinvest, plus UK jobs will be lost.
My nan could’ve done a better Budget than that.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Effects of the Oil Price Rise

The Mirror reports some interesting statistics on the effect of the recent oil price rises.

Petrol sales fell by 9.5% over the three months up to December compared with the same period a year earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics.

the number of drivers paying the central London congestion charge fell by 500,000 between 2009 and last year, despite no rise in the price.

A Department for Transport study measured the average delay time on the slowest part of 100 main roads. It found the average journey time over 10 miles fell to three minutes, 49 seconds. In July 2007 it was four minutes, 19 seconds.

So it looks like people were driving a lot more during the 'war on the motorist, and are driving a lot less now the Tories have declared a ceasefire. Aren't they listening? Don't they know what's good for them?
This does raise a few questions for Government policy. In terms of economic growth, there are three principal scenarios that could play out:

  1. The economy grows and the oil price drops. (the have-your-cake-and-eat-it scenario)
  2. The economy grows but the oil price remains high and on an upward trajectory
  3. Economic growth is weak.
 The first scenario is the one the Government seems to be assuming and aiming for. The 2011 budget is aiming to stimulate growth, transport policy contains very little that is aimed at reducing oil use, and changes to planning permission will make it easier to provide car parking and likely make it easier to develop lands without consideration of transport issues - hence more traffic. However, it's unlikely that the UK economy could grow without a worldwide recovery, and a worldwide recovery would lead to increasing demand for oil and therefore an increasing oil price: in other words, the second scenario.

The second scenario is the most likely outcome if the Government's plans to stimulate growth succeed. However, an economy that is still reliant on oil-fuelled transport when the oil price is high will suffer from an increasing amount of the proceeds of growth being siphoned off to the oil-producing countries. Because the Government are not taking active steps to reduce miles driven, congestion will likely increase, again acting as a brake on growth. Which leads to the third scenario.
Weak economic growth will at least limit our dependency on oil, but the reverse is also true - a dependency on oil will limit economic growth. We are seeing that today: with a high oil price, people are limiting their car journeys, and cutting back on consumer spending. With better alternatives to the car, and more locally-based businesses and facilities, people would be able to spend less money on fuel and spend the savings at UK businesses, which would be likely to create economic growth.

The biggest problem with the Government's strategy is that they are putting all their bets on the horse that's least likely to win the race. Even if we do get strong growth and a declining oil price, we'll be left with the problem of congestion which will tend to throttle growth barring massive investment in roads. In contrast, investing in alternatives to fossil-fuelled transport and reducing car-dependency will pay dividends in all of the scenarios outlined above. The one significant transport investment the Government is making - high-speed rail - will have a very limited effect especially in the absence of measures to limit car use, and no effect at all in the short term.

I've not even mentioned whether growth driven by increasing consumption is a good thing, or the carbon implications of any of the above. You can bet the Government haven't either. They seem to be in denial about the fact that the world has changed and oil prices will likely continue to be a problem that can't be solved with a penny-a-litre duty cut. Not all Tories are so naive. The Independent reported International Aid Minister, Alan Duncan, a former oil trader, suggesting that it was not inconceivable that motorists would end up shelling out £4 a litre. "When I said oil would go through $100, people thought I was bonkers. Now we are not far off $130," he said. If that happens, George Osborne will be left with no fuel in the tank.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Morden Road

Morden Road, SW19 is a pretty frightening prospect for the cyclist and the pedestrian. It's nigh on impossible to cross except late at night due to the high volume of traffic, and there's no junction with a pedestrian phase for about a mile between Kenley Road and High Path. The crossing at Kenley Road is a sheep-pen affair with a cycle time so long most people don't bother waiting. Bear in mind there are a fair number of children who need to cross this road at various points to get to school in the morning. According to Merton Council, Morden Road is one of the most dangerous in the borough (it's 7th on the list).Which is what happens when you put traffic flow above road safety.

In terms of cycling facilities, there's a bus lane (below),
but it inexplicably ends just beyond Dorset Road (below)

and then starts again at Jubilee Way (below).

This is no doubt due to TfL's obsession with traffic flow. However, there were roadworks in the section without the bus lane blocking one lane for a week or two, and they didn't seem to affect traffic flow. The bus lane 'gap' also has other consequences. When the road isn't congested, more aggressive drivers take the emptier inside lane and undertake other traffic at speed, causing serious danger. When the bus lane starts again, there is often traffic blocking the access to it, delaying buses (see the photo above). The bus lane running past the Merantun Way junction is too narrow and it's quite common for buses to be blocked by larger vehicles in the adjacent lane but effectively encroaching into the bus lane.

The bus lane also has limited periods of operation, and again it tends to be aggressive drivers who take advantage of it to undertake slower traffic (and when I say slower, average speeds are likely in excess of the 30MPH limit, at least when there's no congestion). Speeds are currently moderated by a speed camera for a short stretch, but you can expect that to be switched off soon as part of the Government's war on pedestrians.

Southbound, there is a pinch-point as you go over the tram line bridge. A single narrow traffic lane is bordered by double-white lines, and then there's a traffic island (below).

As a cyclist, you have a choice between keeping well left and risking a rear hit from an inattentive driver (see below),

or 'taking the lane', an equally intimidating prospect. After the island (too late) there is a fairly narrow advisory cycle lane (below).

What needs to be done?

First of all, extend the bus lane and make it 24h, and widen it where it's too narrow.

Remove the northbound right-turn lane that serves Lombard Road. This lane is lightly used, and traffic can access Lombard Road by turning right into Jubilee Way. That will free up roadspace that can be used to widen the southbound lane and introduce a proper cycle lane.

Narrow and reconfigure the island at the Dorset Road junction to eliminate the pinch-point and continue the southbound cycle lane through. And make it mandatory. A pedestrian crossing is needed here.

Between High Path and Lombard Road, there doesn't seem much point in the southbound side being two lanes, because it's a single lane before High Path and a single lane after Lombard Road. Having two lanes between the two points simply encourages speeding. Better to have a wide mandatory cycle lane.

There need to be proper pedestrian facilities at the Jubilee Way junction.

All of this could be done, I suspect with little or no effect on traffic flow. But TfL won't take the risk of slowing down the flow of traffic by one iota: cyclist and pedestrian safety is simply not in their DNA. Harsh? Look at the proposed layout of the Blackfriars Bridge junction and call me a liar.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Budget 2011

What effect will the budget have on cycling? Close to none at all, I suspect, in the short term. There's money to fix potholes, so that's good, and will create jobs. Osborne could have created more domestic jobs building decent cycle infrastructure, and that investment would have paid back, as other countries are finding.

For motorists he cut fuel duty by 1p, postponed the inflation increase and abolished the fuel duty escalator. He's paid for this largesse by increasing the oil and gas production levy. However, he did say that "if the oil price sustains a fall below $75 - and we will consult on the precise figure - we will reintroduce the escalator and reduce the new oil tax in proportion".

So it seems that Osborne as in fact introduced a 'fuel price stabiliser', and that he's replaced one tax on oil with another tax on oil. Hmmm.

How well will it work, and what effect will it have?

Those in the oil and gas industry have been protesting that this will cause exploration companies to go and explore where it's more worth their while. I can see why, but it all depends on where the oil price goes. These companies were in business a year ago when oil was $80/barrel, so I would guess they can make money at $115/barrel even with extra tax. So the key will be to set the floor price below which the exploration tax tapers off at a level at which the exploration companies can make money. If the Government get it wrong, the danger - according to the analysts - is that exploration companies desert UK waters, and in the long term this will damage energy security as we become more dependent on imported oil.

The unintended consequence of the Chancellor's oil tax changes will be that they will encourage demand for oil - by holding the retail price steady - but more of the money may go into the coffers of the oil-producing nations, and less into the UK treasury (by virtue of lower receipts from retail fuel duty and possibly also production tax). This is the precise opposite of what Osborne is trying to achieve with his corporation tax cuts, the idea there being to attract companies to do business in the UK by offering lower tax rates.

As I've pointed out before, there's a serious downside risk to the economy from high oil prices, and Osborne as both made the exposure to this risk slightly worse, and failed to take any steps to wean the UK off oil dependency. The Guardian reports that Chris Huhne is unhappy that Osborne's move flies in the face of his speeches saying that higher oil prices should be the cue to become less dependent on oil.

Sustrans have boldly attacked the budget, saying:

"measures to reduce and limit the cost of fuel mean that once again we are incentivising people to use their cars while failing to offer alternatives that would provide a transport lifeline to poorer households without access to a car...we do ourselves no favours by continuing to ignore the obvious – oil is a finite resource and will become unaffordable long before it finally dries up.

They've got it about spot-on. The UK Government really don't have a strategy for dealing with an increasing oil price. They still haven't given a clear signal that the UK should prepare for significant further oil price increases. Every 1p decrease in fuel tax costs the treasury around £500M, so Osborne cannot continue to cut fuel tax with every oil price increase. By talking about the 'stabilizer' mechanism, he's implied that he expects the oil price to go down. It may do, of course, but the downside risks of a higher oil price are much more significant than the benefits of a lower oil price. Put very simply, either Osborne is deluded, or he's deluding the public.

Sorry Mate You Didn't See Me

Riding home last night I encountered a Ford Transit driving with no mirrors. Both mirrors had been entirely removed from their casings, leaving the driver with a massive 180-degree blind spot. It seems a fairly safe bet that both mirrors didn't get damaged at the same time, meaning that the driver had likely been driving with impaired rear visibility for some time. Sorry mate, I reported you to the police.

This isn't the first time I've seen commercial vehicles with missing or broken mirrors. Driving with missing mirrors is as dangerous as driving with defective eyesight, as it means you can't see properly, and everyday manoeuvres like reversing, changing lanes or turning become fraught with danger.

Another worrying trend is the current fashion among the chavs for 'privacy glass'. The law it seems allows the rear window and rear side windows of a car to be tinted to the point of total obscurity. Given that most drivers rely on their interior rear-view mirror, this is a bizarre loophole, but it's quite common for the front side windows to be very dark-tinted as well, which is illegal. But that is no deterrent because there's more chance of Jordan becoming a nun than these drivers being prosecuted.

For vehicles that can be seen with a cursory glance to be illegal  to be able to drive around with impunity, it's pretty clear that something is wrong with road traffic law enforcement. The police are obviously too busy ticketing cyclists. Is it too much to ask that a special unit be set up to police traffic offences, financed by the income from fines? That would not cost law-abiding taxpayers a penny - indeed we could have lower taxes because we wouldn't be spending so much paying for the consequences of accidents caused by dangerous and illegal driving. If I had £60 for every offence I've seen this month, I'd be eating caviar for lunch every day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Insurance 'Black Boxes'

Nice to see the insurance companies taking up Cycalogical’s idea of fitting black boxes to vehicles to monitor driving, rather than waiting for their customers to crash before deciding they’re a bad risk.
The Co-operative look like they’re first out of the traps. Their black box seems to contain an accelerometer, a speed monitor and a clock. It monitors acceleration, braking and cornering forces, as well as speed limit compliance and time of day. The data from the box is monitored and used to compute a discount or a penalty. In other words, if you can balance an egg on your dashboard you can look forward to a discount. Break the egg, though, and an additional premium will be yours: up to 15% extra. Think about that for a minute – based on a £3000 young driver premium, 15% is £450 – considerably more than a speeding fine. Additionally, they will “cancel any policyholder’s insurance should they drive so far above the speed limit that a driving ban be imposed by the Courts.”
The product is aimed at young drivers, but there doesn’t seem much reason why it can’t be extended to all drivers in time: after all, most safe drivers wouldn’t say no to lower premiums in exchange for being monitored. There’s only one reason why you would not want your driving monitored (privacy considerations aside), which is that you don’t intend to drive safely within the law – and who would want to insure such a person?
Of course, the black box can only detect aggressive driving. Detecting distracted driving and mobile phone use seems to be beyond its capabilities for the moment. But it’s a start.

Battersea Cycle Hire

Battersea looks like it’s near the front of the queue of locations for the expansion of the Cycle Hire scheme out towards the ‘burbs. Everyone seems to be in favour. While it won’t do anything to improve the crap infrastructure for cycling (although it has to be said that Wandsworth is better than Westminster), it will help to normalise cycling as a mainstream transport mode. Once that happens, it will be a lot easier to build a political consensus in favour of building better, safer cycle routes. It won’t look good to spend large sums of cash building docking stations and buying bikes if the investment is under-utilised, due to people being afraid to ride the bikes.
I’m convinced that the accessibility of central London is currently a major barrier to the existing hire bikes being used. I recently had the opportunity to go from Charing Cross to Holborn, a distance ideal for cycling. Using the main roads, The Strand, Aldwych, Kingsway and the Holborn Gyratory are a less than appetising prospect, but are at least guaranteed to get you there. The alternative backroads route is very obscure. You are forced to take a circuitous path by the maze of one-way and no-entry restrictions, plus there is very little signage. Even for a lifelong Londoner, it’s a challenge.
For the large number of people who would like to cycle, but are fearful of traffic, you need to give them the confidence that they can get to a destination without finding themselves amongst large amounts of fast-moving traffic on a main road. This problem is not beyond the wit of man to solve. Unfortunately, while the politicians seem to have decided that Cycle Hire is a Good Thing, they’ve not yet grasped the fact that it would be even better if more people actual rode the bikes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Quiz Philip Hammond

You have the opportunity to put a question to the Transport Secretary - The Guardian is inviting questions for an interview with Hammond. Submit a cycling-related question and maybe he'll get the message that there are voters who care.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chelsea Bridge

Reports have been reaching us that Chelsea Bridge has been the focus of a police crackdown on cycling on the footway. Cycling on the wide footway on the east side of the bridge - which is plenty wide enough to accomodate cycling - is an established practice, and the signage up until recently had indicated that it was legal - there's a 'shared path' sign on Grosvenor Road north side, just before the bridge, and no subsequent signage to contradict this, indicating that cycling was permitted on the eastern footway. It seems there's now a well-hidden 'no-cycling' sign, low (about waist-height) on the steel structure of the bridge, and that's the cue for ticketing cyclists who in most cases weren't aware of the change in status of this route.

A shame the police's law-enforcement zeal doesn't extend to other offences committed on Chelsea Bridge. At night, 15% of vehicles are exceeding 39MPH. Over 24 hours, 15% of vehicles exceed 32MPH, which indicates that when congestion isn't preventing it, speeding is commonplace. (Source: Cyclists in the City)

What usually happens is the police turn up mob-handed in one location for a couple of days, in response to some local busybodies, then you won't see them again for years...

Near Misses

They seem to be out to get me at the moment.

Last week, cycling along North Road SW19, a car driven by a young woman emerged without looking from a side road into my path, and I had to swerve out of the way. Unfortunately the field of view of my camera wasn't wide enough to capture the car, and the only image was two headlight beams sweeping across my path. Fortunately I'd anticipated the danger and had my Plan B - brakes on and steer out of the way - at the ready. So no damage done: mildly miffed (3) on the Barber scale of close shaves. Mitigating factors: she was just a kid, and probably more surprised than I was.

At the weekend, riding down Dorset Road SW19, there was a bit of traffic in front of me, and for once the cars were not exceeding the 20MPH limit, so I was easily able to keep up, holding the primary position. That wasn't enough for the chav behind though, who honked his horn once and then overtook uninvited into the non-existent gap between me and the car in front. Thus committed, he had to cut me off, which he did mouthing some abuse. Again I'd seen it coming and was able to get out of the way. No damage done once more: perceptibly peeved (4) on the Barber scale. Mitigating factors: crappy old car and comically inept driving - a total loser.

Today, coming back along Vauxhall Street, Lambeth, a minicab came out of a side-road without stopping at the give-way line, into my path, stopping just before the point where I would have had to take evasive action. Insignificantly irked (2) on the Barber scale this time. Mitigating factors - he did at least stop, if rather close to the wire.

So, three near misses in as many days. None of them of the heart-thumping, life-flashing-before-your-eyes variety, and in two cases, at least the driver saw me. So I live to blog another day. But they all took place on LCN cycle routes, and they were all the kind of incident that would put an inexperienced rider off cycling, and for an untrained rider could have resulted in a crash.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Harp

We don't normally endorse commercial operations on this blog, but I'm making an exception for The Harp, CAMRA Pub of the Year 2010/2011.

Unfortunately, The Harp is rather a small establishment, and due to its deserved popularity the punters spill out onto the pavement of an evening. Even more unfortunately, the pavement is very narrow, so the punters spill out onto the road. The Harp seems to have employed a very polite lady whose job it is to shoo the punters back onto the pavement. This is only necessary because the road is a taxi rat-run. Like virtually every road in central London, there are no restrictions on motor traffic. When I was at The Harp the other evening, it's fair to say that the taxi drivers were in general not driving dangerously or in an intimidating manner (the most intimidating behaviour I saw was a Jaguar driver who scattered a few crossing pedestrians who had right of way), but the constant presence of motor traffic is not exactly conducive to enjoying a relaxing drink. The Harp is, by its Pub of the Year award, the most successful business of its kind in London. So why is such a successful business not entitled to use the public space outside for the benefit of its many customers, when the relatively few taxi drivers, who take up an inordinate amount of roadspace and who could use an alternative route, are entitled to curtail The Harp's business?

I'm not suggesting for a moment that all London roads should be closed for the benefit of businesses. I am suggesting however that the ubiquitous presence of motor traffic on every single central London road (with a very few exceptions) is detracting from some of London's most successful businesses, and from London's status as a tourist destination. Maybe we'd be a more successful city with less traffic.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

London Congestion and Cycling

The London Assembly Transport Committee is investigating congestion and held a meeting to discuss the same on 9th March. I've listened to the webcast, and having recovered from the experience, I'll be reporting the proceedings with a bit of my own spin. The meeting covered many topics and I'm going to cover each topic in a separate post. First up, appropriately enough for a cycling blog, is cycling.

Does cycling have the potential to have any effect on congestion levels? Stephen Glaister of the RAC Foundation told the meeting that the ability of cycling to replace car trips is limited. Converting 20% of trips under 3km would increase modal share 2% to 5% but only reduce traffic by 3%. However, Garrett Emmerson (of TfL) pointed out that an insignificant 3% is actually a very significant 60% of the forecast motor traffic growth in the next 20 yrs. Quite right mate.

James Cleverly (Tory AM) made the not-so-terribly-clever suggestion that cars should be encouraged to use bus lanes outside peak hours. Cleverly, as a cyclist, should know that bus lanes are used by cyclists. He should also know that outside peak hours there is no need to allow cars in bus lanes, because there isn't a congestion problem. If there were a congestion problem, then the buses will need the bus lane. Ergo, allowing cars in a bus lane won't achieve anything, other than further suppressing cycling.

Cyclalogical's view is this. If you could replace 20% of car journeys under 3km with cycle journeys, that would be a massive change. 3km is a relatively short distance by bike, so once you have that many people cycling short distances they are likely to cycle longer distances as well. So Glaister's 3% could easily be more. However, no-one addressed the problem of how to get cycling modal share up.Perhaps it will happen gradually, on the challenging (=crap) infrastructure London currently enjoys. Increased congestion, higher petrol prices and higher public transport fares would all act in favour of cycling. However, mode shift would be a lot more likely to happen if London invested in better infrastructure that gave potential cyclists a good level of confidence. Given the cost of delay and congestion in London is estimated at between £2bn and £4bn annually, cycling investment would have a good payback in this respect, along with the other benefits of reduced healthcare costs, fewer sick days, reduced CO2 emissions and other pollutants, and a better, more attractive street environment.

Another point that didn't get made at the meeting was this. Measures that aim to increase usable road capacity, such as traffic-light re-timing and road building, tend to attract more traffic, so you quickly end up where you started in terms of congestion levels. Therefore, measures that concentrate on demand management and mode switching are much more likely to succeed in reducing congestion.

It was clear listening to the debate that London really is two cities. The inner boroughs, which are well-served by public transport and which are less car-dependent, and outer boroughs (like Merton), where journeys are often complex and difficult to achieve by public transport. So there's a paradox: why is cycling modal share so dismally low in some outer London boroughs, where it's the most practical alternative to the car? It's pretty difficult to avoid the conclusion that cycling is simply too scary for many people. That's the answer that comes back in survey after survey. Stephen Glaister told the Committee that it's too expensive to provide public transport alternatives to car trips in outer London, which means, in the absence of the personal jet-pack or teleportation, cycling is the only alternative to the car for a lot of outer London trips. Or it should be, and it could be. And if it was, more of Londoners' wages could be spent on local goods and services, and less would go to Colonel Gaddafi and his ilk as a result of our oil dependency.

National Trust

A National Trust 'advertorial' appeared on The Guardian website recently, setting out the organization's stall on cycling. The Wandle Trail goes through Morden Hall Park in Merton, which is the nicest cycle path in the borough (not that competition for that crown is very intense). The Trust is developing mountain biking facilities, and generally speaking is fairly cycling-friendly.

However, for a conservation organization it has a pretty poor record on car dependency. When you join the National Trust, you get free car parking. There is no discounted rate for those who don't use a car. At most National Trust sites, there are massive car parks with staff in attendance. Realistically of course, most people will come by car, but it's somewhat disappointing that the organization is not giving more incentives to visitors to leave their cars at home.

A heartwarming story

Everyone comes out of this bike theft story looking good.

The owner got her bikes back.
The cycling community rallied round to track down the bikes on ebay.
The police were described as "fantastic".

And the tea-leaf? He'd "spent more than £150 on repairs in a local bike shop on one model. It was returned to them in better condition than before it disappeared."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

80MPH limit 'rigorously enforced' ?

As I've reported before, 'Killer' Hammond's latest wheeze is to raise the motorway speed limit to 80 MPH. This will increase casualties as well as CO2 emissions, at a time when Spain is cutting its motorway limit to reduce oil dependency. Hammond has apparently now suggested (reported in The Mail) that he would "expect enforcement [of the 80 MPH limit to be more rigorous". This is at a time when police numbers are going down and the Government has set its face against speed camera enforcement. Can you see Hammond increasing the penalties for speeding? Without increased penalties or an increased chance of getting caught, the lawbreakers will carry on breaking the law and people will continue to die.

Not only does a car (or van or 4x4) travelling at 80MPH (or more likely 90MPH+) have considerably more kinetic energy that will be dissipated in a crash, increasing the severity of damage and casualties, the substantial difference in speed between such a vehicle and a an HGV cruising at 60MPH makes collisions more likely. One reason UK motorways are relatively safe is that all the traffic is moving in the same direction at more or less the same speed. Increase the speed differential and you increase crashes. Which leads to the perverse outcome that delays due to crashes may increase, offsetting any improvement in journey time gained by driving faster.

None of this will bother Hammond, I suspect, who is if nothing else consistent in his cynical pursuit of quick political wins, regardless of the environmental and human damage they may cause.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Air Quality in London - the EU Acts (sort of)

Watching London's air quality performance is a bit like watching the final overs of England v Bangladesh - just because England hadn't lost yet didn't fill you with any confidence that the outcome would be anything other than defeat.

It looks like the European Commission have given London a conditional exemption (so we won't get fined yet). Boris will have to revise his Air Quality Strategy (which surely vindicates those who said it wasn't fit for purpose), and will have to include short-term measures.

This appears to mean that should limits be breached after June 2011, short-term measures will have to be invoked, which could mean banning highly-polluting vehicles from areas within London. According to the Campaign for Clean Air:

The Commission considers there may be a risk of the PM10 daily limit value being exceeded after the exemption period ending on 11 June 2011. The time extension reapplication to comply with the PM10 daily limit value in London has therefore been granted on the condition that short-term measures are introduced to control, or, where necessary, suspend activities which contribute to the risk of the limit values being exceeded. In other words: no new short-term air quality measures; no time extension. 

With almost breathtaking chutzpah, the Mayor's office has reportedly said

This is a welcome recognition of the serious steps that the mayor has taken to reduce PM10 pollution in order to confront the legacy of poor air quality he inherited.

He certainly inherited poor air quality but he also inherited measures from Ken Livingstone to deal with it, including taxi emissions checks and low-emission zone changes, which he ditched, while abolishing the WEZ, which was predicted to increase traffic levels.

Manchester Road Rage

It appears police have made an arrest in the case I posted about a few days back. As the Cycling Lawyer points out, compare and contrast the apparent ineffectual procrastination and bungling of Hounslow police with the swift efficiency of their Northern cousins.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day of Inaction ?

LCC is holding a 'Day of Action' to support its 'No More Lethal Lorries' campaign.

Is it holding a mass bike ride to the London Assembly via Westminster Palace? No.

Is it picketing Thames Materials? No.

It's collecting signatures. That's all.

Unfortunately, LCC seems to consider that discretion is permanently the better part of valour, and declines to organize any sort of events that will get cycling in the papers.  Isn't that the point of campaigning organization? I can see the potential of protests to antagonise the public but hiding in SE1 is hardly an adequate response to the challenges facing cycling today. Petitions are an essential part of a campaign, but they're surely not sufficient. Given that Boris Johnson organizes more bike rides than LCC, you can't blame people for asking why...

I'll leave Elvis with the last word:

A little less conversation, a little more action please.

Trafalgar Square Gas Roadworks

There's a gas leak under Trafalgar Square roundabout, so the gas company are digging it up, closing a couple of lanes on the northern side. (below)

This place is a bottleneck at the best of times, so you can imagine what effect it had. I went past on Monday lunchtime, and the traffic was completely gridlocked. I'd never seen it this bad. The police were attending, but were unable to do anything.

By the evening, traffic was moving again, because they'd closed the approach from The Mall and diverted traffic.

Tuesday, The Mall approach to the roundabout was still closed but the traffic was being diverted down Horse Guards Road (see below).

Below is the scene on The Strand on Tuesday:

On a normal weekday, there would be a long tailback. You'll notice in the picture above, The Mall did not appear to be suffering from congestion, Embankment seemed to be OK as well. In fact I didn't see any ill-effects.

So what happened to all those essential motor journeys?

At lunchtime today (9/3/11) the same situation persisted: still the roadworks and still the diversion off The Mall into Horse Guards Road. There was a small tailback along Horse Guards Road of 300m or so, and a small tailback along Birdcage Walk. Traffic at Buckingham Palace was moving freely, as was Hyde Park Corner. Picadilly was tailing back almost to Hyde Park Corner, but then it usually is. Parliament Square was busy (as usual) but moving; Whitehall was very busy but clearly not gridlocking Parliament Square.  Embankment easbound was if anything quieter than normal.

Can we come to the conclusion that this diversion has not made the traffic any worse in central London? It's certainly improved things around Trafalgar Square and along The Strand. If you were actually trying to get to Trafalgar Square from Buckingham Palace, your journey would be slower. Whether there were any serious effects further away is impossible to say.