Tuesday 22 February 2011

How TfL puts car parking before buses, cyclists and pedestrians

(Above) Soon, this bus lane will be filled with parked cars. High Road Leyton (A112)

The chutzpah of people like Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor of London’s Transport Advisor, is breathtaking. Like other functionaries at Transport for London (TfL) he has the nerve to come out with stuff like this:

it’s in outer London that the greatest scope exists to increase the number of people travelling by bicycle. 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.

There’s nothing ‘staggering’ about it at all. TfL’s own traffic modelling is based on the fundamental principle that motor vehicle flow is the greatest transport priority of all. Funding for driving infrastructure is on a vastly greater scale than that spent on infrastructure for cycling. (Before anyone swoons with excitement at news of an extra £4 million for cycling in Outer London take a look at this.)

Back in 2007 it was pointed out that

Traffic levels over the past decade have grown in outer London, in some boroughs by as much as 15% – in sharp contrast to most inner London boroughs, which have reduced their traffic

• 87% of all car journeys by Londoners end in outer London

• Only 13% of trips in outer London are made by public transport

Two things are urgently needed. The Mayor must put in place policies to reduce traffic in outer London and get a grip on reducing carbon emissions. And Councillors must support progressive measures.
Tackling the traffic problems where two-thirds of Londoners live is vital.

No one at the Mayor's office, at TfL, or in local government, took the slightest notice of these ‘urgently needed’ projects. Car dependency wasn’t combated one iota. And matters weren’t subsequently helped by this.

And now here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, still going on as before. Incredibly, Outer London’s streets are STILL being carved up to serve the interests of motorists. Here are recent scenes from the London Borough of Waltham Forest, showing how road space is reallocated for car parking – in every instance in partnership with TfL. Cognitive dissonance on a truly epic scale.

(Below) Crownfield Road E15. An area of high deprivation. Car owners on this street are very probably in the minority. But this road is being dedicated to car use and car parking. The footway is just one long car park. This forms part of a LIP scheme, done with the approval of TfL.

(Below) Three scenes from Wood Street E17, where the council has recently seized both the cycle lane and the footway for parking bays – in partnership with TfL.

(Below) The Forest Road Corridor Scheme (A503). Seizing the footway and cycle lane for free car parking bays (cost: £10,000 each bay) and forcing cyclists closer to overtaking traffic on a section of highway where cars travel at 42mph in what is ostensibly a 30 mph zone. A partnership scheme with TfL.

(Below) High Road Leyton. Two cars legally parked in the bus lane, which only operates restricted hours. As far as TfL is concerned, allowing two drivers to park and shop is more important than the passage of people on buses, or for that matter the safety and convenience of cyclists. There’s one cyclist in this photo, incidentally – can you spot him? If you can persuade an extra 3,000 people to cycle in conditions like this every day each year up until 2026 then Waltham Forest will be playing its part in creating a cycling modal share of 5% by 2026. But if you think that a grand total of 45,000 extra cyclists can be persuaded to cycle in traffic conditions like this I’d call you an incorrigible optimist.

Finally, take another look at that first photo above. It shows the southbound A112 in a one-way section forming a mini-gyratory with Grange Park Road and the A1006. This section is four-lanes wide, yet it is totally devoted to the motorist. Two lanes, including the part-time bus lane, are devoted to car parking, and the other two lanes to motor vehicle flow.

This entire gyratory system is deeply hostile to cycling. It could all be so different. The bus lane could be a 24 hour bus lane, and there is ample room for a segregated two-way cycle path built to Dutch standards which would keep cyclists away from two lanes of motor traffic and allow northbound cyclists to avoid the gyratory altogether. That is the kind of infrastructure change you need to make if you seriously want cycling to grow significantly in Outer London.

‘Build it and they will come’ applies just as much to motoring as it does to cycling or walking, and the streets of Outer London continue to be re-engineered for motoring (including next door in ‘Biking Borough’ Redbridge). To pretend that these phenomenal levels of car dependency are not rooted in Transport for London’s own transport priorities is, well, staggering.

Or to put it another way:

There are some pretty stark choices facing us in London. Right now, there are few controls on low-occupancy, large-footprint vehicles, and London is a congested city because of them. The ubiquitous presence of motor traffic is sufficiently intimidating to force many people not to cycle, which puts a greater burden on the bus and tube network.

But buses are made slower and more expensive by congestion. In an ideal world, with unlimited space and money, we could build more roads and everyone could drive everywhere.

In the real world, we've got a choice between allowing the choices of a very few people to damage the smooth, efficient running of the city's transport, or to start making the best use of the resources and roadspace we've got.