Monday, January 23, 2012

West End Commission

Contrite Conservative councillor Lee Rowley - who declared War on the Motorist in Westminster and lost - is desparately trying to surrender whilst hanging onto his job, and the Standard has very graciously given him a platform to plead his case. "Getting parking right in the heart of London is difficult...we have listened", he wheedles. In the same way that you listen when someone threatens to punch your lights out for taking their parking space, rather than the open-minded, democratic consultative type of listening. Strangely enough it's this latter type of listening that the newly spot-free leopard Rowley is now proposing. About bloody time, you might say.

"We have announced a new beginning - the West End Commission. We want groups, business owners and individuals, for and against our parking plans, to join us in an honest, open debate...[to] give a strong, fresh and independent perspective. We will invite a range of people, from the Standard's editor" (aha! No wonder they've given him a column) "to representatives of London's cabbies, to help us with that work." Cyclists as well perhaps? Strangely, cycling seems to have slipped Rowley's mind, as the word doesn't appear once in his article. Thankfully he hasn't forgotten cabbies though - which is a good job seeing as they're responsible for a very substantial contribution to central London traffic. I'm sure they'd be happy to see congestion reduced as long as they continue to have free rein on the West End's streets. Unfortunately though, it's going to be rather difficult to address congestion and improve the public realm without reducing the number of cab journeys.

On the other hand, retailers would like to see more car-free days because they boost sales. But of course if you close roads you create congestion...unless you have a strategy to reduce demand - something Westminster has never been good at. Does this mark a turning point? I very much doubt it. I don't think they want to learn lessons from European cities that manage their roads for the benefit of all, not just a small number of drivers. Westminster want to reduce congestion, but only because it is a symptom of their failure to manage the roads properly. But they're still trying to figure out a way of reducing congestion without limiting car use. Have you spotted the flaw yet? Their only hope is the closure of the Straits of Hormuz sending oil prices skyrocketing...and with supreme irony, HMS Westminster is on its way to stop that happening.

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