Friday, 18 April 2008

The week’s news

The number of uninsured drivers on our roads has rocketed.

If emissions from aviation and shipping are included, Britain's carbon dioxide emissions are higher now than in 1990.

Motorists drove around a cyclist as he lay dying in the road rather than stopping to help. One car may have run over him, breaking his legs. Stephen Wills, 55, suffered fatal head injuries when he was knocked off his bike by suspected joyriders in a stolen car in Moss Side, Greater Manchester early on Saturday. But in the aftermath of the incident, drivers simply swerved around his body and police believe one may have driven over him.

The AA, which is never short of an excuse to promote car dependency and reckless driving, is now blaming traffic calming for global warming:

Badly phased traffic lights and unco-ordinated roadworks are trapping thousands of vehicles in tailbacks, increasing the amount of pollution generated by their engines, said the AA report. Pavement build-outs, bus stops that project into the road and road humps add to the problem, it added.

Every day the Evening Standard carries a new hatchet job on Ken. Some of them are bonkers but some, alas, contain more than a few grains of truth. For example, back in 2002

Livingstone promised 100 new or transformed public spaces across London and a million new trees. The growth area of the Thames Gateway would be developed according to the well-considered master-plans of the mayor's Architecture and Urbanism Unit. The London Plan would direct the city's boroughs to achieve the "beautiful city" through the planning permissions they gave or withheld. Six years after his draft London Plan, and eight years after he first took office, cranes have been whirring on the skyline as the city has been through one of the greatest construction booms in its history. Developers and architects have been busy as never before.

But if any visitor came to London asking to see what made it the new Barcelona, there would not be very many places to send them.
The one million new trees never arrived, and to date only five of the 100 public spaces, although a total of 42 are at some stage of development. Developers in the Thames Gateway built their uninspired standard product, with only gestures towards the master-plans they were supposed to follow. The streets of London have become more populous, more active, more frenetic, but few people-walking them would say they have become more civilised and humane.

Argues Rowan Moore ‘Architecture Critic’

The physical legacy of Livingstone's first two terms is a series of massive commercial developments, within which there are high-quality, well-maintained and privately controlled open spaces, and outside which there is a sea of public grot, little changed in eight years. It is also a city of crude new apartment blocks, with tiny flats stacked up simply to maximise the numbers, and with little regard to any idea of creating good places to live. The beautiful, open and socially responsible city promised in the London Plan hasn't yet arrived.

Not that Boris would be better. He plainly wouldn’t be. His agenda is anti-pedestrian, with a plan to

rephase traffic lights to unclog jams

Making pedestrians wait even longer to cross roads is blatantly at odds with his pious claim that he is interested in

encouraging alternatives to car travel.

Meanwhile in case you missed it, the car lobby has won in New York and the proposed congestion charge has been scrapped.