The trolley problem is a big con

In 2016 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched a global online survey to test whether there are cultural differences in response to the trolley problem, applied to robot cars.

Packaged as The Moral Machine, it asked players to instruct robot cars to “choose the lesser of two evils, such as killing two passengers or five pedestrians”.

This type of exercise is a pernicious con orchestrated for the benefit of the car manufacturers. Here is why.

The trolley problem hardly ever comes up in real life

If one looks at real life situations, where car drivers kill or injure pedestrians or cyclists, it is extremely rare that the driver was “choosing the lesser evil”, i.e. was trying to save another life. The trolley problem is non-problem, a masturbation for so-called theoretical ethics professors.

The trolley problem is an attempt to frame the ethical issues involved with robot cars for the benefit of the machines

By focusing on the trolley problem, i.e.a non-problem, the industry is perversely trying to shape public opinion towards its objectives.

It promotes the fallacy that robot cars will kill only to save lives

Robot cars are promoted as being much safer than human operators, capable of erasing the million+ yearly butchery on our roads. It is trying to sell the idea that robot cars will kill only when forced into an impossible dilemma. The truth is that robot cars have and will continue to kill for very different reasons, namely

  • the inadequacy of the software to deal with anything more sophisticated than the cultural desert of a North American suburb.
  • the vulnerability of robot cars to hacking attacks
  • the willing interference by operators of safety systems to improve performance, as when evil Uber switched off one of the braking systems in a car that killed a pedestrian.

It does not focus on the real issue: why would the robot car be in such a position to be faced with the trolley problem

The key moral Vision Zero question is “what measures do we need to take to ensure that robot cars do not kill innocent citizens?” In other words we need to treat robot cars as fallible machines, and we need to create environments where they are very unlikely to kill or seriously injure. this means adopting similar measures that Vision Zero mandates for human-driven machines:

  • minimise their presence in busy urban areas
  • limit their speed, to reduce the impact of crashes (much easier to enforce with robot cars)
  • devote road space to bicycle-only travel

You can understand how car manufacturers can be against the Vision Zero agenda, which necessarily limits the freedom to drive as and where one pleases.

It is a pre-emptive fight to disable citizens from being able to reduce the mobility of robot cars

Car manufacturers are terrified by the idea that if safety guidelines are too strict, and robot cars are regulated in such a way to prevent all avoidable crashes, the cars would not be able to move because anyone can step off the pavement and block the progress of a robot car. A Vision Zero robot car would not be able to move. The car manufacturers are always lobbying to prevent any interference with the privileged position of drivers and are already trying to make sure that such a scenario will not be contemplated by regulators.

It is a victim blaming exercise

By framing the issue as a trolley problem, they are shifting the blame from the cars to the pedestrians. Note how the MIT survey tries to show the cultural differences to whether a robot car should kill someone crossing the street not at a designated crossing site, (Global preferences for who to save in self-driving car crashes revealed). It perpetuates the immoral proposition, so dear to the British (un)Justice System, that drivers are allowed to act as vigilantes, absolved of blame if they kill a pedestrian who has broken the rules, rules of course that have been designed prioritising the convenience of drivers over the safety of ordinary citizens.

We are not against the idea of robot cars

A technology that has the potential of reducing the consequences of human error is to be welcomed. However, we have to be very careful that the car industry is hi-jacking what can be a life-saving technology, with the goal of entrenching the privileges of its customers. The safest car is a car off the road. The reduction of the number and the speed of vehicles on our roads is a much more effective way to eliminate avoidable road deaths. That should the primary goal of urban planners. Opposed to this vision of cities designed for the benefit of ordinary citizens, robot cars are being sold as the solution of future mobility: that is snake oil and the trolley problem is a pernicious way to frame the public discourse for the benefit of car manufacturers.

The proper response to people pushing the trolley problem is “Wank off”.

Finally, here is an anecdote that shows the total lack of ethics of many involved in pushing robot cars:

 

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City of London to adopt Vision Zero

The City of London’s draft Transport Strategy is an ambitious plan which puts walking and cycling at its core. Integral to the strategy is the adoption of Vision Zero concepts:

We will deliver Vision Zero to eliminate death and serious injuries on the City’s streets by 2040.
Measures to deliver Vision Zero and reduce road danger will be delivered across four themes:
• Safer streets
• Safer speeds
• Safer vehicles
• Safer behaviours
This means:
Being proportional in our efforts to tackle the sources of road danger, focussing on those users of our streets who have the greatest potential to harm others due to the size and speed of their vehicle
• Recognising that people will always make mistakes and that collisions can never be
entirely eliminated. Our streets must therefore be designed, managed and used to cater for an element of human error and unpredictability
Reducing vehicle speeds on our streets to minimise the energy involved in collisions and protect people from death or injury
Seeking to reduce slight injuries and fear of road danger alongside the principal focus on eliminating death and serious injuries

Here are some details.

Safer streetsSeven dangerous streets/junctions (including St Paul gyratory, High Holborn and Aldersgate) will be redesigned by 2030.  They will also be narrowing and raising the entrances to side streets to require drivers and riders to manoeuvre more slowly
Safer speeds – Adoption of a City-wide 25kph speed limit by 2022
Safer vehicles – Improving the FORS standards and widening the scheme to coaches and vans
Safer behaviours – Among various measures, “Encouraging TfL to require safety training as part of private hire and taxi licensing. This will include Bikeability Level 3 training”

In order to ensure that the Strategy translates in real action, the City proposes a Road Danger Reduction Action Plan, “a five-year delivery plan for measures to achieve Vision Zero and implement the Safe Systems approach”.

Overall the Strategy shows ambition. It also acknowledges that there is a lot of work to do:

Only 4% of people currently consider the experience of cycling in the City to be pleasant (and 56% consider it to be unpleasant). We want this figure to be 75% by 2044. More than half of people cycling in the City scored their feeling of safety while cycling as a 1 or 2 out of 5.

On average 19 people cycling have been killed or seriously injured on our streets every year for the last 5 years

Pedestrian deaths and injuries per billion journeys by foot

Rachel Aldred has divided the casualty data by the average distance people walk and the results are quite startling:

Someone walking in Barking runs more than twice the risk of being seriously injured or killed than if she were walking in Kingston.

Both boroughs have low walking shares, so is the difference linked to income levels?

Dr. Aldred will conduct more research.

Meanwhile, here is a couple of possible explanation:

  • Kingston’s affluent residents demand money to be spent on a beautiful public realm; that often means better and safer infrastructure for pedestrians; Kingston was also recipient of Mini Holland money, and safe cycling infrastructure also improves the safety of pedestrians. On the other hand Barking, where Ford used to have a large factory, is still married to “car culture” and its authority is not devoting sufficient attention to pedestrian safety.
  • However, there may be another factor that may influence the income/danger correlation: culture. In poor neighbourhoods, a car is still perceived as a status sign; car owners are more likely to act disrespectfully towards non-owners. Additionally, poor neighbourhoods have a larger percentage of immigrants from countries (such as India, Arab and African countries) where this disrespect is endemic. In more affluent neighbourhoods, people don’t need to prove their status by driving aggressively.

Boroughs alarmed by Met’s collision data

One of the key principles of Vision Zero is learning from failure. In order to draw valuable conclusions and reduce the number of avoidable deaths, it is essential to have good timely granular data and have the willingness to analyse it.

In November 2016, the Metropolitan Police introduced a new input database for collision data. It seems that they did not ask themselves “What is this data for? What social good can we or others extract from it?” They certainly did not have any leadership from Transport for London, which, in spite of Khan’s stated intention of “leading the most transparent, engaged and accessible administration London has ever seen” see collision data as a dangerous weapon if it falls in public hands. In spite of continuous requests for the past four years, TfL refuses to publish a real-time database of KSIs of vulnerable road users on London streets. If we can do it, why can’t the organisation tasked to oversee the safety of citizens on London streets do it?

The consequences of the introduction of the new database have been pretty bad:

  1. For the past two years, the Metropolitan Police has been unable to meet the June deadline for reporting the previous year’s collision data, thus delaying by several months the release of national statistics
  2. London Borough engineers have noticed a reduction in data and data quality in respect to collision information sent to them via Transport for London.

 

TransportXtra reports:

“It seems that previously the Met had a designated team who would process collision data but it has now been disbanded and police officers are recording their own collision records electronically via COPA, the Case Overview and Preparation Application.”

Frost says boroughs are now receiving records “with no description of how the collision occurred”.

This makes it near-on impossible to identify patterns in the collision data or within clusters of collisions. Poor data quality is impacting on the level of analysis boroughs can undertake, making it harder to prioritise and plan our programmes, or to design effective remedial measures.

“Also, because the data is very delayed it is affecting reporting of annual and quarterly targets in a timely manner.”

Frost says injury severity reporting has also changed. “The criteria for severity categorisation has been altered in such a way that more collisions than in previous years are now being classed as a serious injury where before they would have been recorded as slight injury. This means, going forward, producing meaningful data comparisons with previous years and the tracking of year-on-year trends will be extremely difficult.”

 

Vision Zero or Zero Vision?

 

Playing politics with people’s lives and deaths – part 1

The junction between Goswell Road and Lever Street is not particularly dangerous for people walking or cycling. It has traffic lights, it has speed humps on the Lever Road side. The map below shows Cycling KSIs for the past 15 years in South Islington. The junction is in the middle of the map, with no incidents.

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Soren Aarlev was killed there at 00:20 while riding home. We don’t know the circumstances and Vision Zero principles require to study well the dynamics of the crash to examine whether the design of the junction can be improved. We do know that there are two interventions in the area which will greatly improve the safety of the majority of people cycling in a East West direction:

  • reduce the volume of motor traffic who use Skinner-Percival-Lever Streets as a rat run between Farringdon Road and Old Street, by making them one-way, in opposite directions
  • transform the advisory cycle lane on Percival Street to mandatory, thus preventing people from parking there in the evening and on week-ends

Shortly after the death of Soren, Councillor Claudia Webbe did not miss the opportunity of covering herself with excrement:

Transport chief Councillor Claudia Webbe said: “I am writing to the Mayor of London to urgently request funding that will allow us to look at options for how best to improve this junction, making it safer for all road users – particularly more vulnerable users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motor­cyclists.”

She expressed her con­dolences to the cyclist’s family and added: “Tackling dangerous junctions and rebalancing roads in favour of pedestrians and cyclists is one of my top priorities.”

This is truly an outrageous statement from a despicable woman who has done NOTHING for the safety of citizens walking and cycling, while at the head of Transport & Environment.

We have documented how Islington Council has received a grant of £2,000,000 from Transport for London, half of it earmarked for improving the safety of the thousands of people cycling on Old Street and Clerkenwell Road, which is the long strings of serious incidents at the bottom of the map. The Council, while Webbe was directly responsible for spending the money, has not done anything at all, except spending hundreds of thousands pounds in consultants fees.

The two interventions we propose above are anathema to the Council which has a long history of opposing plugging rat runs and removing car parking privileges in order to improve cycling safety. Therefore it is unlikely that any money from TfL will be spent to tackle issues that prevent people from cycling in safety.

In other words, Webbe has been given £millions to improve the safety of people cycling in Islington, she has decided not to do anything concrete with the money, and then when someone is killed at a safe junction, without knowing any details of the crash, she uses the death of the poor victim to score political points.

That is the depravity of the woman.

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Image: Camden New Journal

Clerkenwell Boulevard Campaign – why nothing has happened in 3 years

This evening. 08.11 there will be a die-in on Upper Street in front of Islington Town Hall, to protest against the Council’s refusal to build safe cycling infrastructure. A few days ago, Islington Cycle campaigners wrote a painfully cringy open letter to Claudia Webbe, supporting the cause of the die-in but emphasising that “We wish to make it clear that no one in CI has initiated or asked for this action.”

It didn’t have to be this way. If you read our previous report, THREE years ago Islington Council had prepared plans for segregated cycle tracks on Clerkenwell Road and Old Street; not perfect, but at the time they were the best that London had seen.

This was a golden opportunity to steer this traditionally reluctant Council towards implementing state-of the-art safe cycling provisions; the Clerkenwell Boulevard would have been a turning point for the way Councils invested public money to create Healthy Streets, and other Councils would have started to compete with Islington on who was putting the best infrastructure in their borough.

Alas, here is a tweet from yesterday:

Yes. Nothing, absolutely nothing has been done, in spite of several deaths and amputations in the past three years.

Islington Council is run by a Labour administration which has the perverse attitude that cycling is a middle-class activity that has no appeal to the “working class” or (as stated by Webbe) to black people; and therefore they see no reason to waste their time on it. “Their” people take the bus and sod everyone else. Actually there is another large minority that these Labour dinosaurs (no coincidence that Corbyn lives here) are keen to protect: car owners; their right to park their tanks on public property or to poison our children is sacrosanct.

Facing these troglodytes, campaigners need to show strength in numbers, shrewdness and ruthlessness.

Unfortunately campaigners from Camden Cyclists, Islington Cycle and London Cycle Campaign displayed the exact opposite: internal disunity, strategic naivety and timidity.

Here is what happened to Andrea Casalotti, the lead campaigner:

  • Jean Dollimore, of Camden Cyclists colluded with Camden Council to have Andrea excluded from negotiations about Holborn. Result: in spite of empty promises following the Coroner’ PFD report relating to the killing of Francis Golding, nothing has been done to make this death trap safer.
  • The Board of Islington Cycle refused to challenge Islington Council’s attempt to blackball Andrea from stakeholder meetings, meaning that the leading Boulevard campaigner could not negotiate on the Boulevard
  • The London Cycling Campaign refused to give any technical or promotional support to the Boulevard campaign. It then started a witch-hunt Tribunal against Andrea, spurred by Camden Cyclists, claiming that “Honorary Campaigner” Dollimore had been libelled by him.

 

It was no surprise that after this treatment by these so-called “campaigners”, Andrea resigned from his position in spring 2015 and devoted himself to the Vision Zero London effort.

The “campaigners” must have heaved a sigh of relief: this troublesome European gone, we can go back to our comfortable cosying up with the Councils.

It is a tragedy; this is what Clerkenwell Road could look like:

Instead for thousands of people their daily commute is a dreadful cocktail of danger and noxious air.

But are the key players aware of their failures?

Other articles:

The Clerkenwell Boulevard Campaign – Part 1

The Victoria Lebrec Crash

How Islington Council spent £500,000 of cycle money without doing anything on the ground

The Bath Street scheme, another failed promise by Islington Council

The broken TfL Traffic models, the alleged excuse Islington Council gives for not going ahead with the Boulevard plans

Boris Johnson admits Old Street needs to be filtered

TfL’s delays with Old Street Roundabout

Islington Council refusal to stop Clerkenwell rat runs is lethal

 

 

 

A traumatic experience

A horrific incident:

Pascoe Petgrave, 21, was behind the wheel of a grey BMW which struck 30-year-old Chanelle Higgins and her friend Nikisha Cox as they walked home from a night out in south London.

CCTV caught the moment Petgrave’s car, driving along the pavement in Norwood High Street, in West Norwood, sent the two women crashing to the ground.

Ms Higgins was paralysed from the waist down and is now in a wheelchair. Ms Cox was hurt in the crash but escaped serious injury.

Petgrave did not stop after the 4.30am crash, handing himself in to police more than two weeks later.

A quick search of the driver leads to this story (warning: Daily Mail) when he was 12:

More than 50 police officers swarmed on a 12-year-old boy accused of stealing a £10 note which was hanging out of a cashpoint. The army of officers was called after a row broke out when a woman, 27, accused Pascoe Petgrave of stealing the tenner from an HSBC bank machine in Thornton Heath, south London. Pascoe, who stands at just 1.40m, said he had been given his mum’s bank card to withdraw money when he spotted the note – but the woman who had been nearby claimed it belonged to her. Pascoe’s cousins – two women aged 21 and 28 – stepped in to stand up for him and a large crowd gathered before the trio were arrested on suspicion of theft.

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The boy’s mother Maxine who was called to the scene by the cousins, then watched in astonishment as her son was handcuffed and taken into police custody. All three cousins have since been bailed while enquiries continue. Mrs Petgrave said yesterday: ‘He’s never been in any trouble before. This was a horrific ordeal for my 12-year-old boy, he was handcuffed and put into a headlock. When my house was burgled a year ago I wish they had sent just one of those officers. How did a row over a £10 note hanging out of an ATM machine get to that point?’

Nine years later and Petgrave was deep in gang wars:

Croydon Police gang’s task force recommended Petgrave be moved out of Croydon for the safety of him and his family. Petgrave had been twice chased by men armed with knives in the weeks before the crash, and was deemed “at risk of gang violence”.

pascoe1a“Pascoe poses a huge risk both to himself and his immediate family of serious harm from other gang rivals. His lifestyle is having a detrimental effect on his family life.”

One wonders how much influence that incident in front of the ATM machine had in shaping Pascoe’s life. Was being the victim of institutionalised violence a tipping point to a life of crime?

The result is that a woman is paralysed for life because of the recklessness of Petgrave.

Vision Zero means going beyond blaming drivers for specific incidents. It is understanding that gangs members are often at the wheels of powerful vehicles, with scant concern of the safety of others. They don’t just kill each other, they terrorise ordinary citizens and occasionally kill and maim them.

A car in their hands is no different than a knife. Indeed a number of gang disputes have ended in murders-by car. So why not treat motor vehicles the same way we treat knives? For example, imagine if any criminal conviction would lead to an automatic five year driving ban, and driving without licence would lead to an automatic ten year jail sentence.

Of course the stick is not sufficient; one must start by treating everyone with respect starting from 12 year old black children.

Rebranding the oxymorons

The ever-shrewd Hackney Cyclist recently tweeted:

2017-10-23_1728

The myopic vision of creating two types of cycle routes according to who is in charge of building them has created the paradoxical result that the Super Highways, meant for fast cyclists, actually deliver perceived safety to everyone, most importantly for young and old,

2017-10-23_1756

Cycling Super Highway

whereas the Quietways, left in the hands of lazy Councils, fail completely in providing a pleasant environment for the “less confident cyclists”.

2017-10-23_1758

Quietway

 

It is a paradox that the branding guru, now Cycling and Walking Commissioner, Will Norman cannot fail to perceive.

He has already expressed his opinion that the term Cycling Super Highway has become toxic, because (wrongly) associated with fast, anti-social cycling. Many people who are not presently cycling, perceive CSHs as facilities for existing cyclists, not as civilising intervention to make our streets more liveable and more usable by everyone.

Whereas the brand launched by Lucy Saunders, Healthy Streets, is a winning one, (as long as it actually delivers), the dichotomy of Fast/Quiet Cycle Routes should now be discarded.

Of course the problem is not just one of names but of strategy. As Mark Treasure and David Arditti (the most eloquent amongst many others) have pointed out, what people want is a network of safe routes that can take them between A and B efficiently.

So Will Norman, who understands that the value of the brand rests on its ability to deliver what it promises, needs thoroughly to redraft the Cycling Strategy concentrating on creating a network of safe, direct routes. With this new focus, the present oxymorons can be dropped, and a new name for the network be introduced.

My suggestion: the Active London Network.

Images: CSH by Hackney Cyclist; Q2 by Gosia

Why the Motoring Grid is an essential tool to deliver Healthy Streets

We elect people to take decisions not to waste our money with exercises such as the 4-week long Public Inquiry over 800m of cycle track in Bloomsbury.

Everyone’s time and money would be better spent in solving some of the issues raised by the experimental phase in the creation of the cycle track. That is exactly why one runs a preliminary phase: to be able to improve the project by observing the behaviour of people using the infrastructure.

The key objection to the scheme has been that traffic has been displaced to other streets in Bloomsbury. That is the problem to solve, not whether to retain the cycle tracks, because they have been an indisputable success. So the whole essence of the Public Enquiry is bogus: it focuses on the viability of something that is obviously successful, rather than focusing efforts in solving some of the “collateral” issues.

When I suggested that Camden Council should adopt the principle that Bloomsbury should not be used by through traffic, someone tweeted:

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Bloomsbury is indeed between the City and Euston, but there are four arterial roads that link the two, without having to enter Bloomsbury:

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There are a number of steps that Camden Council needs to take within the context of a vision for Healthy Streets Bloomsbury

  • Most urgent: Coordinate with TfL to allow right turns from Euston Road into Euston Station.
  • Plug all the rat runs. (One can argue that the North-South Southampton Row could be considered an arterial road, but it is better not to slice through neighbourhoods – better to use Gower Street as arterial road). One should not be able to drive between opposite sides of the green square.
  • Communicate the Vision

 

Of course, the Motoring Grid needs to be adopted on a city-wide basis, so that all neighbourhoods can benefit from reduced motor traffic.

We have introduced the concept exactly 3 years ago, and the Dutch have been implementing it for decades. How many yeas before authorities in London understand that it is an essential tool to deliver Healthy Streets?

 

The Clerkenwell Boulevard Campaign – Part 1, The First Year

In a recent post, Graham Parks has laid bare the total lack of action by Islington Council to implement any sort of cycle-friendly infrastructure. It is a topic we have covered before, but our readers may be interested in reading this diary of the Clerkenwell Boulevard Campaign, which started so well and was close to achieving real change.

November 2013

Andrea Casalotti (AC) proposes the idea of a traffic-light Boulevard from Old Street roundabout to the British Museum, as a bold implementation of one of the key routes of the Central London Cycling Grid. He sends the proposal to various activists for feedback.

Camden Cyclists writes that “of the Grid routes,  Bloomsbury Way – Theobolds Road routing [the Camden section of the Boulevard] is number 1 in our priorities”

December 2013

Proposal presented to Islington Cyclists. From the minutes:

“Andrea had discussed the scheme with Andrew Gilligan, specifically about limiting
bus speeds and getting TfL funding for traffic modelling. Camden Cycling
Campaign is meeting with their local officers about the grid but ICAG had
not discussed the grid with Islington officers.  Andrea to refine scheme
and keep promoting it.  One possible difficulty might be the number of
taxis that currently use the route”

Deputy head of London Cycling Campaign tweets:

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Peter Murray, Chair of New London Architecture states: “This is a great idea and fits well with our views about active transportation and the integration of walking, cycling and public transport.” This is a film he shot in 2011

TfL updates the Central London Cycling Grid map, with Note C referring to the Boulevard Route:

2017-09-06_1259

Camden Councillor Julian Fulbrook writes:

“Clerkenwell Boulevard sounds very interesting!
Can I suggest we actually set up a meeting with the ward councillors, Phil Jones and Paul Braithwaite at the Town Hall to work on a ‘road map’ to achieve this?”

Camden Cyclists responds:

“Andrea makes suggestions about eliminating through journeys by private motor vehicles (i.e. just access allowed) which I think will be essential to making something safe and convenient for the masses of cyclists that use the route, particularly in the morning. The private motors would need to be reduced to a level where a single motor lane in each direction will allow for a reasonable bus service.”

Islington Cyclists responds:

“We (Islington Cyclists) are very keen on this scheme in Islington as well.  If you’d like to invite/involve Labour councillors further along the route, we’d love it.”

January 2014

Islington Cyclists meet Eshwyn Prabhu, officer at Islington Council and present the Boulevard proposal. Report:

“He’s concerned about

1. traffic diversion – how will it affects the currently being redesigned Old Street which he says has to be very carefully designed to avoid queue build up.

2. huge impact on local streets, therefore impact on local residents and therefore political ramifications.

He accepts that there will be traffic evaporation.

He thinks they (LBI) will make suggestions to TfL and they will be watered down (seems unlikely to me in current climate!).

He wants to approach Clerkenwell Road in a drip drip fashion over 10 or 20 years.”

Videos taken of the morning rush hour on Clerkenwell Road:

Presentation of proposal to Camden Cyclists; Councillor Phil Jones attended.

Blogger Alternative Department for Transport prepares some visualisations. Bidirectional tracks are one of the two options presented, the other being stepped tracks on both sides.

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The London Cycling Campaign is not enthusiastic about the Boulevard:

“Our view is that the Clerkenwell Boulevard should be taken on as a separate project – it is more of an exemplar of what a cycle superhighway route should be, providing for high volumes of commuter traffic. The separated cycle and bus routes and the major junction redesigns of the Boulevard put it into a different category of project. We don’t want the potential gains of the GRID delayed by the grand projects, including the central London Superhighways that TfL have included in the consultation. The Boulevard concept could also be applied to the Blackfriars road section of the NS superhighway, if they sorted access at the Elephant it would carry similar volumes of cycle traffic as Clerkenwell.”

Camden Cyclists responds by supporting the Boulevard:

“Seeing the extreme need for improvements for cyclists, CCC actually said that this link (Bloomsbury Way-Theobalds Road-Clerkenwel Road) had the highest priority. This was before anyone suggested Clerkenwell Boulevard.

Therefore on the evening at the actual meeting I was astonished to find that LCC’s Infrastructure Review Group were against supporting it. At that time and in subsequent emails Clare Neely (chair) was taking the line that LCC would not back it, but on the other hand wouldn’t mention it, therefore not specifically reject it. But Rik Andrew (deputy chair) spoke against it at the meeting and in later emails refused to have it in the LCC GRID and then suggested that LCC should propose that it be removed from the TfL GRID.

An important point is that the IRG is a small group assembled originally to discuss junctions and the mailing list was restricted because TfL’s designs were supposed to be confidential. The people at the IRG meeting were 5 of the core members. This is hardly a democratic way of deciding on what should be said to TfL.

Besides, the GRID represents a network of routes including QWs, CSHs and some others that fall between the two. This alignment should be on the GRID.

The text from the TfL consultation says the following:

East of here, the Theobald’s Road – Clerkenwell Road – Old Street corridor from Holborn to Old Street roundabout is one of the most heavily-cycled routes in London (more than 50 per cent of the westbound traffic in the morning peak is bicycles, and 64 per cent at the western end).However, it is busy with other traffic and there is no quiet side-street to use as an alternative route. Fully-segregated cycle tracks will also be difficult here because of the narrowness of the road and the large numbers of bus stops along it.
The three councils responsible for the area – Camden, Islington and Hackney – and TfL will undertake a study into how cycle facilities can be safely implemented on this corridor and to address the impacts of traffic. No options have been ruled in or out.

I don’t think that’s the same as ‘too hard to solve’.

February 2014

Two Camden officers want to commission Urban Movement to make a visualisation of Clerkenwell Boulevard.

Camden Cyclists prepares a presentation supporting the Clerkenwell Boulevard:

Two boroughs, one boulevard

CCC and ICAG would like to see a single design team

  • e.g. we hear Islington has started a study of filtering whereas the entire route needs to be studied as one
  • in the later stages this will be even more essential
  • to get a consistent look and functionality throughout as in Royal College Street
  • and to grasp all possible opportunities for inserting “extras” in an interesting way

A picture gallery is presented:

Campaign Clerkenwell Boulevard, Theobalds 6

March 2014

Andrew Gilligan attends Islington Cyclists meeting. He is briefed about the Boulevard. His comment: “Something bold needs to be done because there is no practical alternative route”

Movement for Liveable London organises a Street Walk along the length of the Boulevard. Participants provide ideas and feedback on all the junctions.

BiwybMyIEAArGkN

April 2014

At a meeting with Camden Council officers, AC points out that given the number of people killed at the Holborn Gyratory (Alan Neve and Francis Golding died in the previous 12 months), the Council had a duty to introduce safety features as a matter of urgency. The response of the Officers was to ask Camden Cyclists not to invite AC to any further meeting. AC responds:

It is the duty of all of us to ensure that no one else suffers the end of Francis Goulding, and Alan Neve. The Clerkenwell Boulevard needs to be implemented as speedily as possible.

The Council has to stop putting the convenience of the few above the safety of us all. Let me assure you that the Clerkenwell Boulevard will be immensely popular with the majority of people: everywhere in the world when similar schemes have been introduced, they have been met with overwhelming support.

I give you the benefit of doubt that you probably were just the messenger. You seem to say that Council officers were not pleased that I pointed out that:

a. Coroner Hassell is “very concerned” at Camden Council’s lack of action in the six months since the death of architectural expert Francis Golding. That is why she is issuing a PFD report.

b. The Metropolitan Police witness at the inquest stated that ” redesign ought to be reconsidered ”

c. Alan Neve was killed in Holborn because the safer route was blocked by Camden Council for several years, in spite of the Camden Cycling Campaign repeated requests of letting people cycle on the Bloomsbury Way Bus Lane.

d. Half measures don’t work. Andrew Gilligan is very clear that TfL money is available only to schemes that satisfy the soon-to-be-published Standards.

Can someone in the Council please explain in writing why you think that the person most knowledgeable about the Clerkenwell Boulevard should not be present at future meetings.

Camden Cyclists is concerned and sides with the Council:

Andrea was rather more confrontational that we (CCC) ever would be. Our way of working with officers leads back to the days of our predecessors and it has always worked very well. Following that meeting, [the officer] Sam Longman called me mid afternoon to discuss the problem.

The part in the email above that I have emboldened is to my mind totally unacceptable, particularly the sentence. “The Council has to stop putting the convenience of the few above the safety of us all”. This is so patently untrue about Camden Council as to be ridiculous. To them, it is insulting.

I feel that I misjudged inviting Andrea to a meeting with Camden officers. Although I will be very happy to continue to work with him and others in ICAG, I will avoid involving Andrea in meetings with Camden officers.

In the run-up of the Local Elections, Islington Labour responds to Islington Cyclists ward asks:

The Council has received ICAG’s proposals for the Clerkenwell Boulevard and will consider these proposals as part of a full feasibility and design study of the route that is currently being carried out. The Council will develop proposals for public consultation and has requested TfL fund this route for delivery by March 2016.

June 2014

Sustrans prepares a proposal for temporary measures on sections of Clerkenwell Road affected by the road closures as a result of works on the Old Street Roundabout in 2015. Islington Council rejects the proposal.

For six months St. John Street, which crosses Clerkenwell Road, has been closed to through traffic because of Crossrail work. AC proposes to Islington Council to keep the street filtered, as the quality of life on it was markedly better, and the diversions have had no negative effect. The Council rejects the proposal:

Taking these matters into consideration, the Council considers reopening St John Street after Crossrail have completed their works to be beneficial to all residents, businesses and visitors in the Farringdon area.

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AC feels insulted by this obvious lie and doesn’t mince his words:

You are either an incompetent fool or an arrogant liar.

Protest action at Farringdon Bridge, with newly elected Islington Councillor, Caroline Russell, Camden Councillor Sian Berry and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett

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Islington Tribune:

The cyclists, including Islington’s newly-elected Green councillor Caroline Russell, converged on the 20m by 3m stretch of raised concrete at Clerkenwell Road, close to the junction with Farringdon Road, during on Monday evening.

The cycle path was installed by Camden Council 10 years ago at an estimated cost of £30,000, and then quietly abandoned before it could be finished.  
The path should have continued into the Islington section of Clerkenwell Road and towards Old Street. But Islington Council also failed to take up the initiative.”

and Camden New Journal

“Camden’s environment chief Councillor Phil Jones confirmed that the hope had been that Islington would have continued the cycle path along their stretch.

“We are now working with Islington and Transport for London to bring about much-needed improvements to this route,” he said.

“The old cycle path could still be integrated into a new system or could be scrapped and replaced by something new. I’m only sorry that all this is taking such a long time.”

Campaigners believe a safe boulevard would almost certainly have saved the life of architectural heritage consultant Francis Golding, who was killed in a collision with a coach at the Theobalds Road end of the route last November.

Claudia Webbe, Islington Environment Chief responds:

“Islington Council is working closely with Camden Council, Hackney Council and Transport for London to prepare designs for improvements to Old Street and Clerkenwell Road.

“We propose to create high-quality cycling routes running across the south of Islington, including Clerkenwell Road, that link in with our neighbouring boroughs’ plans for new routes.

“It’s essential that residents and businesses have the chance to have their say on any planned improvements, and there will be public consultations when the proposals are ready.”

July 2014

Islington Council Executive Committee accepts a grant of £2,000,000 from Transport for London to deliver three cycle routes in the South of the Borough. Of the total £900,000 is allocated to Clerkenwell Road and Old Street, i.e. Islington section of the Boulevard

Christian Wolmar tweets:

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August 2014

Guerilla action to expose the absurdity of the layout at Farringdon Bridge

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Presentation at London Cycling Summit

September 2014

AC meets Islington Council and is told that the contracted designers will present proposals in a few months.

Claudia Webbe writes to the Islington Tribune:

IN the coming months Islington Council will be undertaking public consultation on proposals for new cycling facilities on Clerkenwell Road, alongside two other cycle routes planned in Islington – all delivered under a £2m programme the council has secured from Transport for London. TfL has agreed that improvements to the Farringdon Road and Clerkenwell Road junction will be in place early in 2016.

We need to make sure we carefully design proposals that minimise conflict between the most vulnerable road users and traffic in this very busy part of Islington. The design process is likely to take a few months, and once it is complete the council will begin public consultation so residents can have their say.

October 2014

Preparation work for leaflets to be distributed in the area and an online petition on a major platform.

Website launched.

November 2014

Islington Council presents draft plans for Old Street / Clerkenwell Road to Islington Cyclists.

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Old Street / Goswell Road Junction

The drawings, prepared by Project Cenre, show a mixture of mandatory cycle lanes and protected sections at junctions (such as the above). The initial response is positive: this is much better than any Local Authority had done in London. Islington Cyclists prepares a detailed response with five key areas of improvement.

Joint action between Islington Cyclists and Client Earth’s Healthy Air initiative, to map NO2 levels on the Clerkenwell Boulevard and side streets, some of which are notorious rat runs.

Campaign - Clerkenwell Boulevard, Lifting Tubes, Andrea Lee and tree

Results (published in January 2015) will show that average NO2 levels on Clerkenwell Road exceed legal levels.

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December 2014

An avoidable tragedy” At the St. John Street junction a lorry turns left without looking crushing Victoria Lebrec. The Air Ambulance crew undertakes an heroic operation on the tarmac and saves her life; but she does lose one leg. Ten years earlier, Harriet Tory was not as fortunate: she was killed in exactly the same circumstances at exactly the same spot.

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Camden Cyclists sends a formal complaint to the Board of the London Cycling Campaign citing comments made by AC regarding CCC’s collusion with Camden Council in having him expelled from negotiations (see April 2014). Mustafa Arif seeks to mediate.

At a private conversation, a Council Officer tells AC that Andrew Gilligan has promised to top up the £2m already promised if the Clerkenwell Boulevard plans are good. The date pencilled in for taking the proposals to consultation is Summer 2015.

AC consults with members of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, AsEasyAsRiding and RantyHighwayman, on Islington Council’s plans and provides further feedback to Islington Council.

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So one year after the start of the campaign we had achieved a lot: some bold plans by Islington Council, backed by serious money from TfL to transform Old Street and Clerkenwell Road to probably the best throughfare for cycling in London (at the time, work on the Embankment tracks had not started). The Council had planned to put the plans to consultation in six months and Islington Cyclists was getting ready to prepare an engagement campaign to ensure public support for the plans

It didn’t happen.

Actually nothing happened, and almost three years later people are still riding in the same distasteful conditions exposed above.

In these three years of inaction

In a second article we will look what happened to the promising Clerkenwell Boulevard Campaign.