Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Blackfriars Bridge: Kulveer Ranger just doesn’t get it

Kulveer Ranger, from the Mayor of London's office said the safety of cyclists was the Mayor's absolute priority but a 20mph speed limit would not be of benefit when traffic is lower during the remainder of the day.


Ranger’s logic seems warped in three ways.

Firstly, he seems to imply that nobody cycles over Blackfriars Bridge during the daytime outside the rush hour or if they do their safety is of no consequence. That’s no way to encourage cycling among non-commuters. (Or perhaps he means that vehicles passing close at 30 mph aren't a problem when the volume is low. Which is equally bonkers.)

Secondly, Transport for London is fixated on ‘congestion’ but if ‘traffic is lower during the remainder of the day’ than surely the spectre of congestion is much reduced.

Thirdly, as usual the term ‘traffic’ is used as if it applied only to motor vehicles. But pedestrians are traffic. Cyclists are traffic. And both groups are systematically discriminated against at every level in Greater London, which remains a city where the car is king. Even, grotesquely, on streets like Regent Street.

Remember that this is the same Kulveer Ranger who remarked last year

It’s staggering that half of all car trips in outer London are less than two miles in length, a distance you can cover on a bike in around 10 minutes.

No it isn’t. If you make driving by car fast and convenient, and make cycling slow, unsafe and inconvenient, people who can afford to choose between the two will generally prefer to use a car.

In the London Borough of Waltham Forest, Transport for London has been a very willing accomplice in reallocating pavements and cycle lanes for car parking and making travel by car as attractive and convenient as possible at the expense of benign street users, as outlined here.

While I’m inclined to agree with those people who think that complete bridge closures to motor traffic are the answer, pragmatically even a relatively low key demand like a 20 mph speed limit provides a great way of unifying all the various strands of cycling opinion, whether vehicular or segregationist. The Blackfriars Bridge debacle provides the opportunity to rally all cyclists against the car supremacists at TfL. Media interest in this friction between TfL and London’s cyclists is starting to take off, with now even the BBC sniffing a story.

More on this from Cyclists in the City and Cycle of Futility.