Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How Westminster is Anti-Business

Here's a bunch of tourists who have rented bikes for the day.

I bet they thought they'd have a relaxing ride around and see the sights.

Instead, they are wobbling along, stuck in traffic with taxis, buses, HGVs, vans and cars. In short, the typical crap experience that Londoners know and avoid.

Will they want to repeat the experience? Probably not. Will they leave with their impression of our great capital enhanced by their bike ride, and will they be more likely to return as a result? Probably not. Will they want to stop at a roadside cafe and enjoy an espresso by a busy, noisy, polluted road? Probably not.

The streets of London should be an asset, enabling people to get around and enjoy the experience. Instead, they are a liability. Far too many people in taxis and private cars clogging up the roads and ruining the experience for everyone. And it's not just the main routes like the Strand (above); Westminster's stubborn insistence that motor vehicles dominate almost every single street in central London is costing the capital dear, by presenting visitors and residents alike with a grim and uninviting street scene that is hardly the welcome that businesses dependent on tourism want.


  1. Not just businesses dependent on tourism. Why is Canary Wharf more attractive to some businesses than the City? Because once you are inside the perimeter road, you are in a largely pedestrian environment, whether you are indoors or outdoors. Why do people travel miles to visit a Westfield or Bluewater? Not simply because it is easy to park there, more importantly because once parked, you again enter a pedestrian environment, free of cars and traffic, where children are safe and you can enjoy a coffee or a beer in a pavement bar.

    While by no means perfect, the City of London does at least seem to have some understanding of the fact that 350,000 or more people arrive and work there every day and only 4% of those do so by car or taxi. The rest complete their journey from bus stop of rail station on foot, or in a few cases arrive by bicycle.

    Westminster really doesn’t get it. Apart from a couple of oddities like Burlington Arcade, even the smartest shopping streets are fume-filled hellholes. Jermyn Street, for example, a one-way rat-run. The while area around Charing Cross Road and Trafalgar Square. Streets to the north of Piccadilly, like Dover St and Albemarle St. Oxford St. Just think how much more appealing they would be without the cars, taxis and buses which jostle along all of these streets.

    Much of the problem is with Westminster’s unhealthy obsession with parking. I don’t know whether it is because they really do favour cars over people, or because parking raises cash which can make the council tax precept seem cheap and keep the Tories re-elected. Whatever, it demonstrates a poverty of imagination on a breathtaking scale.

    And the opposition, led by Dimoldenberg, are no better.

  2. Parking in Westminster is run as a business, pure and simple - every little place they can charge they do and all the while the walking and cycling experience is horrible (unless at 7am on a sunny weekend - it is wonderful to drift past the history on a bike)