Thursday 16 June 2011

Blackfriars Bridge and strategy

Boris Johnson and Transport for London have apparently decided to raise two fingers to the great Blackfriars Bridge campaign. If I have understood their position correctly, the speed limit will be raised to 30 mph, and cyclists will be left to negotiate fast-moving high-volume traffic. Or as one commenter sarcastically puts it in the comments here:

The junction at the north end of Blackfriars Bridge is needlessly complex and a lot of work has gone in to try and increase the speed of all motorised users to ensure they can pass through the junction without delay.

Transport for London, working on behalf of Network Rail, will begin work on the changes in June 2011 ahead of the reopening of Blackfriars station at the end of the year. Whether you like it or not.

David Arditti writes:

The "Battle for Blackfriars" has become totemic of the struggle to establish decent treatment for pedestrians and cyclists in the way that major roads in London are engineered. If the campaign on Blackfriars fails, TfL will probably try to impose the same engineering style on all the Thames bridges, and, by extension, all other major road junctions in London under their control. I don't cycle in central London much, but this matters enormously to me, as it must do to all London cyclists.

Now that TfL apparently plans to ignore London’s cycling campaign community, the question is what next? (I mean, after the petition)

I think Blackfriars Bridge offers a huge campaigning opportunity, focused on the demand that the 20 mph limit be retained. That is a broad and populist demand that all strands of cycling opinion can unite behind. It’s also something that benefits pedestrians and indeed all road users. It’s also something that ordinary members of the public can understand.

What is to be done?

Danny suggests a two-minute silence. That’s not a strategy I personally find appealing. (A ‘no cycling’ day might be more effective – let every cyclist who drives a car bring it to Blackfriars Bridge at the same time with a suitable message in the window.)

I do think cycle campaigning has to become vastly more imaginative and more combative than it has been in the past. Blackfriars Bridge offers a great window of opportunity for London’s disgruntled cyclists to make an impact. TfL mustn’t be allowed to get away with raising the speed limit, because Blackfriars Bridge is a symbol of everything that is rotten about TfL and it is replicated all over the capital.

What form protests and stunts should take is a matter for those prepared to engage in them, but I hope someone will be doing something dramatic once all the conventional channels have been exhausted, as they seem to have been.