Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Newsnight: Shared Space: getting rid of traffic lights

Newsnight ran a report last night on improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians by getting rid of traffic lights and other street furniture. You can see it again - about 30 minutes in.

The campaign against lights is championed by Martin Cassini, and built on the shared space ideas of Hans Monderman, who died recently.

A case study is shown in the Swedish town of Skvallertorget. It probably only works because there are so few cars: pedestrians and cyclists take priority. Maybe it could work here in London with a more draconian congestion charge.

Why are taxis given such priority in London?

The London Traffic Report 2007 shows that taxi carry just 2.9% of commuters on the roads in the morning peak and just 0.6% of all commuters in central London. Yet taxis are allowed to take up a huge and disproportionate amount of the road space, including being given access to the bus lanes. Why is this?

I posted this question on the excellent Another Cycling Forum and despite 30 or so comments am none the wise. The closest to a consensus is that the The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) has a lot of political clout, though it is not clear why that should be. Someone suggested that it is because the great and the good use taxis a lot.

We all need to use taxis occasionally and I wouldn’t want to price them out of the market. Perhaps this is a red herring: it is the cars we need to get off the road, create safer road space for cyclists and then all will be well.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Road Rage: The Battle for Britain's Roads

There was an excellent programme on BBC One last night (Monday 7th January, 9pm). To quote the blurb, “Britain is in the grip of an escalating road rage crisis. Filming on some of the UK's most traffic-choked streets, this special investigation exposes just how bad the situation has become; as violence and abuse in the war between motorists, cyclists, wardens and police escalates without any solution in sight. For decades, the UK's ever-growing number of motorists have been kings of the road; paying tax and fuel duty, they believe the streets belong to them. But now the balance of power is shifting. Increasing numbers of cyclists and pedestrians are demanding, and exercising, equal rights to the road and the anger on each side is mounting. Strong language.”

It was produced by Steadfast Productions Ltd and narrated by Jamie Theakston. It would be great if they could make it available for repeat viewing. It might be available on the BBC iPlayer.

Overall it was fairly balanced and there was some great footage showing the problems cyclists face in London. Having said that it is somewhat spoilt by a section on an excessive City of London police crackdown on cyclists while they continue to ignore drivers breaking the rules. The Evening Standard wrote about this last night. 'Mike Bowron, City of London police commissioner, says there is "a significant minority, known as Lycra louts, who are literally trying to dominate the road and they are a sort of clan". Police dismiss a recent report claiming cyclists can be safer if they jump red lights.'

More Tfl Cycling Data

I wrote to Tfl asking for clarification on some of the data in the London Travel Report (colinshepherd@tfl.gov.uk or Londonstreets@tfl.gov.uk).

They write, “Chart 3.5.5 in the London Travel Report (LTR) shows that the areas with higher percentages of journey to work by cycling coincide with the Thames in west and central London, which may indicate why the Thames crossings show a higher percentage than the average. Conversely, figure 3.5.5 shows areas of outer London with very low levels which is in agreement with the cycle flows we observe in outer London. However, the percentages obtained from the total cycle flows observed on screenlines, including the Thames, may be different to the percentages of commuting cyclists.

“Further information on the numbers of cyclists crossing all screenlines and cordons is available at the following link. In summary, this shows that in 2005 cycle percentages were 0.35% for the boundary cordon, 1.7% for the inner London cordon and 6.7% for the central London cordon. Again this is in broad agreement with figure 3.5.5.”

The latest Tfl data shows 18,000 cyclists entering central London in the morning peak against 78,000 people by car in 2006. There was also a slight reduction in the number of cyclists crossing the Thames screenline, in 2007, at 39,000 down from 43,000 in 2006. It is not clear what caused this.

Another way of looking at the data is to ignore rail and tube and focus on the totals for road users. Not only do cars take up a disproportionate amount of road space for the number of people carried (in addition to the accidents and pollution) but also taxis seem extraordinarily wasteful. Why are taxis given such priority?

Buses: 116,000 (47.9%)
Cars: 78,000 (32.2%)
Cycles: 18,000 (7.4%)
Motorcycles: 15,000 (6.2%)
Coaches/Minibuses: 8,000 (3.3%)
Taxis: 7,000 (2.9%)
Total: 242,000 (100.0%)

(Table 1.3.1: People entering central London in the morning peak, 2007)

Overall it is very hard to deduce a lot from the cycling data as different sources with different definitions are used for each of the tables. The one thing we can say with certainty is that more comprehensive and consistent data is needed.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Matthew Parris Apologises

From January 3, 2008 Matthew Parris writes, "I offended many with my Christmas attack on cyclists. It was meant humorously but so many cyclists have taken it seriously that I plainly misjudged. I am sorry."

It is not exactly a fulsome apology but it is good to see the cycling community making its voice heard.