Saturday, 2 February 2008

How the London Cycling Campaign and Living Streets fail London’s cyclists and pedestrians

I have been reading a fascinating report. Not quite as compelling as a John le CarrĂ© thriller perhaps, but very interesting for a London cyclist and pedestrian. I refer to the London Assembly Transport Committee ‘Parking enforcement in London: A Transport Committee investigation into the enforcement of parking controls in London’ (June 2005) You can read the full document (PDF format) here.

Parking controls have an important role to play in improving the lot of cyclists and pedestrians. Effective enforcement of Advanced Stop Lines would make a big difference. But at present, as far as I’m aware, it’s outside the remit of a London local authority’s power. Transferring enforcement from the police (who couldn't care less about it) to local authorities (who would be interested in enforcement because of the revenue it would generate) would represent an enormous improvement in conditions for cyclists at major junctions with ASLs.

Another difficulty for cyclists is the absence of London-wide standards on such matters as when it is appropriate for cycling facilities to be protected by double yellow line 'no waiting at any time' restrictions. After all, if you are going to provide cycle lane access on streets which are closed off at one end to motor vehicles, there is no point in providing such access without permanent parking restrictions. But this, absurdly, is what Waltham Forest does (as I shall illustrate in a future post).

Similarly, the criteria for footway parking exemptions need tightening to stop local authorities like Waltham Forest stealing pavement space for the benefit of 4X4s. The great loophole in the 1985 Greater London footway parking ban legislation is that it set no precise conditions for exemptions. The result is that for the past 23 years local authorities like Waltham Forest have cynically used the legislation to create pavement parking on streets which previously had none. For almost a quarter of a century pedestrians have lacked even the most rudimentary protection against pavement hungry councils like Waltham Forest (where, in that time, the proportion of households owning three or more cars has exploded).

The extension of parking controls to include local authority enforcement against drivers who wait on the yellow hatched lines at junctions is welcome, but it only covers drivers going from one side of a junction to the far side, not drivers who wait in the middle to turn right. The problem with this last form of impatience is that when these drivers are finally able to turn they invariably cut across pedestrian lights at green. Lobbying could have ensured that enforcement against stationary traffic on hatched lines was comprehensive not partial.

The London Assembly has considerable power to shape a wide variety of parking controls and standards of enforcement and lobbying on behalf of cyclists and pedestrians is essential.

The Committee carried out widespread consultation before it produced its report. Many organisations responded, including non-London-based petrolhead outfits like the self-styled ‘Association of British Drivers’.

That the report is dominated by consideration of the ‘needs’ of the driver, not the cyclist or pedestrian, is revealed in these sections, which refer to parking policies:

2.2 These policies must take into account the different requirements of all stakeholders involved. These include: • The motorists who park; • The motorists who wish to drive through the area being enforced; • The retailers who rely on motorists for their business and probably park themselves; • Other businesses who require parking for their employees and visitors; • Residents. 2.3 Each of these stakeholders will have different ideas of what is ‘good’ enforcement. The retailer will want to maximise parking for his customers but will not want them to receive PCNs, the resident wants to ensure that spaces are reserved for them and the through-driver does not want to be delayed by unlawful and obstructive parking.

See what I mean? 'Residents' are defined solely as people with cars, who want to park close to their homes. Residents who don’t own cars and who walk, cycle or use public transport are not ‘stakeholders’.

However the reasons for this are revealed later in the report (6.1):

Other road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists groups were written to for their views on parking enforcement. No evidence was received from the first two groups, however three submissions were received from the motorcyclist (powered two wheeler – PTW) lobby.

And there you have it. Neither of the two leading organisations which represent London’s cyclists and pedestrians could be bothered to send in a submission. Some 400 members of the public submitted their views on parking controls to the Committee, but the London Cycling Campaign couldn’t be bothered, and neither could Living Streets. And with organisations like these purporting to represent the interests of those of us who cycle and walk, is it any wonder we are treated like crap?