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?

 

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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:

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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.

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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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

 

 

Tyranny of the masses

We are thankful to the Beyond the Kerb blog for adding legal details about the present unsatisfactory court proceedings in cases of drivers pleading not guilty to charges of causing death by dangerous or careless driving. In a recent post, reporting the Coroner’s Court hearing of the case of a pedestrian killed by a driver, only 200 metres from  a much more reported death, we wrote:

The key point that is not addressed by the justice system is  Who should judge the standard? Who is a competent and careful driver?

It would seem obvious that the judge should be someone who is officially recognised to be a competent and careful driver, according to objective standards. This means that the Police expert witness should be asked to make a statement on objective grounds whether the driving was dangerous or careless. That should be taken as a statement of facts, rather than an opinion.

The starting axiom should be that a careful driver does not kill or injure, unless the victim purposefully put herself in harm’s way (i.e. to commit suicide). It should be an extremely difficult hurdle to show that a careful driver would have killed someone.

In practice the judgment is made by a jury that statistically is composed by regular drivers who see themselves as competent and careful according to their own standards. Innumerable studies have shown that people over-rate their abilities in all domains and that driving is particularly rife for over-confidence of own  skills. This is compounded by the very British  “us-and-them” attitude of cataloging people according to accent, transport mode, schooling, etc.

So in effect we have incompetent, biased people making judgments.

The second order consequence of this absurdity is that Prosecutors and Police are extremely shy of charging and prosecuting killers, because of over-sensitivity to failing to obtain convictions.

We have a paradoxical situation where the legal system, rather than raising the standards of people’s behaviour to ensure everyone’s personal safety, is held hostage by the lowest denominator who resist to improving their behaviour.

 

Beyond the Kerb gives us a historical perspective on how we got here:

The problem with this statutory definition [of dangerous driving] (and, indeed, that of careless driving) is cemented in law by way of the Court of Appeal, specifically in response to R v Lawrence 1982, in which Stephen Lawrence’s conviction for reckless driving (as defined in the Road Traffic Act 1972) was overturned. Lord Diplock noted the following:

“It is for the jury to decide whether the risk created by the manner in which the vehicle was being driven was both obvious and serious and, in deciding this, they may apply the standard of the ordinary prudent motorist as represented by themselves.”

Note that the wording of the RTA 1988 postdates Lord Diplock’s comments: this Act of Parliament, the legislation most commonly used to prosecute bad driving, is founded on the very notion that jurors should judge others by their own arbitrary standards of conduct and not by some objective and fixed measure of competence and care. It is a mechanism by which the decline of standards is assured.

Without objectivity, equality of legislation is not possible. And without comprehensively overhauling the Road Traffic Act, objectivity is not possible.

The article masterfully points to the futility (and potential harm) of Matthew Briggs’s campaign. It is incorrect to say that present law is sufficient; the law must be changed, but much more radically than the knee-jerk reaction advocated by Briggs.

The article needs to be read by everyone concerned about fairness in dealing with road violence.

Loadsamoney for loadsarubbish

Recently, As Easy As Riding A Bike has written a report on a piece of Q-rubbish installed by the City of London, from Farringdon Road to the Barbican.

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Mark’s conclusion:

Which just about sums up the usefulness of this entire intervention. It’s a waste of money.

But just how much money?

This is the question that Caroline Russell MLA asked Transport for London. Here are the answers:

How much money did the Corporation of London receive from Transport for London for the Farringdon – Goswell street section of the central London cycling grid?

As part of the Central London Grid programme, there is a Quietway link in the City of London from Farringdon Road to the borough boundary with Islington on Chiswell Street. The alignment for this route follows West Smithfield – Hosier Lane – Cloth Fair – Middle Street – Beech Street. A number of improvements have been made including new segregated cycle tracks, mandatory cycle lanes, traffic islands, footway widening, lighting improvements and wayfinding. The City of London received a contribution of £593,500 from us for these works.

Please share the healthy streets check scores achieved by each section of each of the Quietways.

The Quietways have not been scored using the new Healthy Streets Check at present, but we would of course be happy to send these to Caroline when they have been finalised.

£593,500!!!

And the Corporation of London could not even bother to repaint some faded icons:

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No-one, absolutely no-one uses this route because of the nonsensical meandering.

This is a contemptuous treatment of citizens and tax-payers.  We will urge the London Assembly to investigate deeper.

Images courtesy of As Easy Of Riding A Bike

London Mayor adopts Vision Zero

The new draft Transport Strategy was released on 21st June. We welcome the central role awarded to the Vision Zero approach.

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Here is the relevant text:

Vision Zero to tackle road danger

Minimising road danger is fundamental to the creation of streets where everyone feels safe walking, cycling and using public transport. Road danger disproportionately affects people travelling on foot, by cycle or by motorcycle, with 80 per cent of all those killed or seriously injured on London’s roads travelling by these modes. Safety concerns are the main reasons people give for not cycling more, and for being unwilling to let their children walk unaccompanied.
Adopting Vision Zero – working towards the elimination of road traffic deaths and serious injuries by reducing the dominance of motor vehicles on London’s streets – will be central to the overall success of  the Healthy Streets Approach.

Vision Zero means that road danger will be targeted at its source by ensuring the street environment incorporates safe speeds, safe people, safe street design and safe vehicles. It means reducing the dominance of motor vehicles on streets, and then making the remaining essential motorised journeys as safe as possible.

With Vision Zero, road danger reduction will be considered integral to all the schemes delivered on London’s streets. The proposed pace of progress is set out by the short-, medium- and long-term targets below:
• 2022 – reduce the number of people who are killed or seriously injured by 65 per cent against 2005-09 levels
• 2030 – reduce the number of people who are killed or seriously injured by 70 per cent against 2010-14 levels
• 2041 – eliminate all deaths and serious injuries from road collisions from
London’s streets

In addition, interim targets have been set regarding buses:

• 2022 – reduce the number of people who are killed or seriously injured in, or by, London buses by 70 per cent against 2005-09 levels
• 2030 – reduce the number of people killed in, or by, London buses to zero.

To achieve this, efforts to reduce the danger posed by motor vehicle journeys will be focused in four areas:
Safe speeds – lowering speeds is fundamental to reducing road danger because a person is five times less likely to be fatally injured if hit at 20mph than at 30mph

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Safe street design – ensuring all transport infrastructure projects in London contribute to reducing road danger; attention will focus particularly on areas of highest risk such as busy junctions and roundabouts
Safe vehicles – making sure those vehicles that need to use London’s streets are as safe as possible
Safe people – improving the behaviour of all road users, especially drivers of motorised vehicles, will help make the city a safer place and encourage more people to walk and cycle.

While seeking to reduce the number of deaths and injuries is the first priority, in tragic cases, those responsible must face serious consequences. There is little transparency around the sentencing of people involved in collisions currently.
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) has committed to addressing this with the publication of a joint Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)/TfL annual report of road traffic enforcement in London. MOPAC will also work with the Crown Prosecution Service and the Courts Service to collate and publish information about fatal and serious injuries.

The consultation is open until 02.10.17

Vision Zero is a process, not a target

At a presentation at the Danish Embassy, Will Norman reiterated that Vision Zero will be a guiding principle of the new Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

However he mentioned a term which seems to become a meme among TfL staff: Zero as an “aspiration”. In other words, Zero KSI is a target which is not achievable but TfL will aspire to get close to it. This is similar to the standard TfL line after a fatality on the road: “Every death is a death too many”.

I see it differently: Vision Zero is not focused on targets but on processes: the vision is Mobility for everyone, without fear (real or perceived) of being severely injured or killed.

Vision Zero is the journey not the destination. It is a journey of constant learning and improvement; of experimentation and transparency; moving away from easy blaming and fatalism, towards humane understanding of causes and consequences of failures.

The benefits of Vision Zero go far beyond the headline figures of reductions in fatalities: everyone will benefit from streets which are designed for active travel of citizens of all ages.

The Healthy Street strategy document is certainly congruent with Vision Zero.

We still have to see how it will be implemented. The key hurdle of course is that most of the interventions outlined need to be implemented by local Councils. Transport for London is fond of saying that they control only 5% of London roads. It is vital therefore that they provide leadership by example, as the previous administration (after years of reluctant fudge) finally demonstrated with bold interventions on the Embankment and some bridges.

The present administration (very quick in blaming others, very slow in concrete action) has so far shown nothing on the ground and it is unsurprising that the efforts by local authorities have been of very poor quality.

P.S. The image chosen as cover of the Healthy Street document has very little of a healthy street and it fails in at least six Indicators; for example:
a. Poles in the middle of the pavement, a danger for people with poor sight
b. No cycle tracks
c. Street has high pollution levels

Old Street Roundabout cycle tracks not to be built until 2018

In Nov 14-Jan15 Transport for London consulted on a scheme to make Old Street Roundabout safe for cycling and walking.
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More than 1,300 comments were received. The headline results:

  • 87% of respondents believed that the proposals would improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists
  • 63% believed that bus and tube passengers would also benefit

In May 2015 TfL concluded

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Two years have passed and nothing has happened. If one looks at the TfL website, there is no mention of when the cycle tracks will be built. Moreover the Roundabout was NOT included in the new list of  73 dangerous junctions.

So, what is going on?

We are grateful to Caroline Russell, LAM to ask the following questions to TfL:

1. Why has the scheme not gone ahead, and why is TfL still “working on proposals”?

Following the conclusion of the public consultation on Old Street roundabout in January 2015, we also considered an integrated proposal that included an upgrade of Old Street station and potential commercial development. Consideration was given to both sets of proposals to ensure we secured the best value for our customers with minimal disruption.

It was not prudent for us to continue with detailed design of the roundabout project during this period, as there was a risk of work being aborted if the integrated proposals went ahead. Having decided to progress the original roundabout proposals, we have now issued a tender for the detailed design and construction of the project and expect to award this contract at the beginning of September, with a view to commencing enabling work by the end of the year.

2. Why hasn’t the Roundabout been listed in the 73 junctions to be improved for cycling, walking, motorcycling, under its new safer junctions programme?

The 73 projects recently announced as part of the Safer Junctions programme have been included as they all saw a higher than average collision rate in the three most recent years analysed. Old Street has also had a higher than average number of collisions in previous years, which was one factor that led to it being identified as a key location requiring the improvements we are now looking to deliver.

However, whilst we recognise there are safety improvements to be made, the Old Street project also seeks to transform the public realm and promote active travel, so is included in our new Healthy Streets programme. The project will provide increased cycling facilities, including segregated cycle routes where possible, and will replace three of the four existing subways with surface-level crossings. A new station entrance will also provide a place where people can stop and rest and a new lift will provide step-free access to the retail concourse in St Agnes Well.

The Safer Junctions programme will be reviewed annually to monitor changes and trends, and will include additional locations if and when they are identified.

3. How much has TfL spent so far in preparing the proposals and consulting?

At the end of the last financial year the total value of work done was £2.9m. This includes, but isn’t limited to, preliminary, feasibility and concept design, surveys and modelling of pedestrians and traffic, structural surveys, ground investigations, public consultation and staff time. This represents just over 10 per cent of the estimated final cost of the project, which is £26.6m. As a general rule across the industry, design and development costs usually make up between 15-25 per cent of a total project budget.

At the time of writing, the TfL website says:

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… which seems to be another potential spanner in the works and possible further delays to the start of work.

We are also concerned of this phrase:

segregated cycle routes where possible

This is in line with the shoddy approach to cycle safety by the present Mayor.

No Sadiq, you need to install cycle tracks WHERE NEEDED, not where possible.

Contrast this lethargy with the speed they installed the safety barriers on bridges (in the wrong place) after the London Bridge incident.

Another death attributable to Islington Council’s rejection of the Clerkenwell Boulevard

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On his way to perform at Saddler’s Well, riding his motorbike at 80kph, dancer Jonathan Ollivier met his death as Abdul Qayyum pulled out of a side street while talking on a hands-free phone and misjudged the dancer’s speed.

I let the readers judge whether the killer should be spending time in jail or having his licence revoked (the jury acquitted  him). Certainly this quote by the killer shows no remorse, no understanding of the law and the typical arrogance of people driving big cars:

I did my best, I did not see him. I think my car was large enough to be seen. He didn’t even bother to slow down.

We would like to point out that this death is one more black mark on the conscience of Islington Council Officers and Councillors who have refused to stop Clerkenwell Road being used as a rat run.

Qayyum picked up his passenger in Hackney with Heathrow as destination. We assume that he or she has been picked up in the green area. There is a fairly direct trunk road that takes one from Old Street Roundabout, to the West, the red route in the image below. Why then was the driver on Ray Street (half way on the blue route)?

This is the question no-one asks, because there is no-one who investigates fatal crashes with a Vision Zero approach, i.e. what can we do to avoid a similar tragedy?

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Abdul Qayyum chose to take the blue route because:

  • he thought it would be quicker
  • he could

There is also another possibility:

  • His SatNav told him to take it

Here is where the crash occured:

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The driver of the Mercedes was attempting to cross Farringdon Road, from where the black cab is (left of picture). The motorcyclist was riding on Farringdon Road towards us.

Here is a different angle that shows the point of impact:

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The Mercedes would have traveled from the right, across the Southbound lane of Farringdon Road, intending to go straight across and would have been where the red car is in the picture; Ollivier was riding North (coming from the left of the picture) and obviously had priority. Qayyum didn’t see him (or misjudged his speed) and did not stop. Ollivier crashed into the Mercedes, flew in the air and hit a lamp post.

It is a dreadful junction, very dangerous, because

  • motor traffic on Farringdon Road travels fast, often exceeding the 50kph speed limit
  • there is often poor visibility, as shown in the first picture
  • there is no Keep Clear sign on the Southbound side of the road.
  • there are many conflicting movements (in the second picture the red car may want to turn right at the same time as the black taxi turns right).

Incidentally, the Extension of the North/South Cycle Super Highway (CS6) is planned to use this junction. Sensibly TfL plans to put traffic lights here:

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What TfL, Islington and Camden are NOT planning to do is to plug the rat run. Which means that people will be riding unprotected with drivers of taxis and vans on Ray Street. These drivers are there only because they think that it is a faster route than the trunk road, i.e. they are likely not to be considerate to people on bikes.

Four years ago we proposed this vision for the Clerkenwell Boulevard, from British nastiness to European civility:

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  • Clerkenwell Road should not be used for through traffic; there is a perfectly good road designed for that purpose.
  • It is the most important mid-town East West route for people cycling and it needs to be made safe.
  • It is an extremely dangerous road for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Clerkenwell Road is also very polluted, with NOx levels breaching European guidelines.

In other words, stopping through traffic from blighting Clerkenwell Road should be an obvious thing to do.

But Islington Council refuses to do it, and shamefully both Islington Cyclists and the London Cycling Campaign are too coward to fight them.

And people keep getting killed.

 

“At what point does it become careless?”

Coroner Mary Hassell was not getting the answer she was looking for. The Police expert witness, Simon Gladstone explained that killer Zanah Mohamed was fully aware that more than hundred people were on the pavement at 4:00, many attempting to cross the six lanes of Old Street after a night of clubbing. Driving at 50kmh with the road dog-legging left wasn’t something the Police officer would have done.

The Coroner insisted “Is it therefore “careless” to drive at that speed, when one is aware of the hazards?” The Policeman muffled and cowardly refused to give a resounding “Yes” (i.e. the correct answer). And so Hassell was denied the opportunity to send this case of miscarriage of justice back to the Crown Prosecution Service, who had shamefully refused to progress it.

It was a typical case of not rocking the boat, even more shameful because Gladstone had just retired, so had very little to lose in spelling out the obvious.

The Police covered themselves in more excrement when they even failed to charge the driver for failing to stop, because they missed a procedural deadline. See full report here.

And to complete this abject portrait of institutional failure, the killer was let off from being charged for Contempt of Court (for lying under oath), because the Coroner had forgotten to warn him that he could refuse to answer if he felt he could incriminate himself.

The Inquest was taking place at the fortress of the Old Bailey, where earlier in the week, another attempt to rectify a miscarriage of justice also failed. The private prosecutor was unable to convince twelve jurors that hitting someone perfectly visible is an act of carelessness.

So why is the system broken and why is it important to fix it?

The root cause is the way careless and dangerous driving are defined in the legislation.

According to section 2A of the RTA 1988, a person is to be regarded as driving dangerously if (and only if)—

(a)the way he drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and

(b)it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

Careless is the same as (a) above with “far below” substituted with “below”.

The key point that is not addressed by the justice system is  Who should judge the standard? Who is a competent and careful driver?

It would seem obvious that the judge should be someone who is officially recognised to be a competent and careful driver, according to objective standards. This means that the Police expert witness should be asked to make a statement on objective grounds whether the driving was dangerous or careless. That should be taken as a statement of facts, rather than an opinion.

The starting axiom should be that a careful driver does not kill or injure, unless the victim purposefully put herself in harm’s way (i.e. to commit suicide). It should be an extremely difficult hurdle to show that a careful driver would have killed someone.

In practice the judgment is made by a jury that statistically is composed by regular drivers who see themselves as competent and careful according to their own standards. Innumerable studies have shown that people over-rate their abilities in all domains and that driving is particularly rife for over-confidence of own  skills. This is compounded by the very British  “us-and-them” attitude of cataloging people according to accent, transport mode, schooling, etc.

So in effect we have incompetent, biased people making judgments.

The second order consequence of this absurdity is that Prosecutors and Police are extremely shy of charging and prosecuting killers, because of over-sensitivity to failing to obtain convictions.

We have a paradoxical situation where the legal system, rather than raising the standards of people’s behaviour to ensure everyone’s personal safety, is held hostage by the lowest denominator who resist to improving their behaviour.

It is rule by the mob.

In other words the system is broken. And a broken Justice System has deeply troubling social consequences; if people convince themselves that some people are above the law and the State does nothing to rectify the injustices, people will start using personal violence to rectify miscarriages and stop behaving as compliant citizens.

Duncan Dollimore, of the Cycling Defense Fund, said after the failure to convict Purcell, the killer of Michael Mason:

“If failing to see an illuminated cyclist on a well-lit road is not careless driving, and no explanation for that failure is required, that reinforces the arguments Cycling UK has made through our Road Justice Campaign for many years: namely the definition and identification of bad driving offences needs urgent review.”

In the graph below we see the consequences of this broken system. Please note that the headline is written by an innumerate journalist: Less than 20% of the sample received a prison sentence.

In other words, if you want to kill someone who rides a bike, use a car: you have an 80% chance of getting away with it.

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UPDATE: Duncan Dollimore has written an excellent report of the Old Bailey hearing of the Mason case. It highlights the typical behaviour by Police that we have pointed to several times when they decide not to charge killers: they go in extensive and absurd victim blaming. Duncan adds three recommendations:

1.       The current guidance regarding referral of fatal road collision cases to CPS for charging decisions needs to become a requirement, a rule which police forces can’t simply ignore as they did in this case;

2.       Collision investigation standards are urgently needed, with accreditation and increased transparency as called for by RoadPeace through their collision investigation campaign.

3.       The current classification of careless and dangerous driving offences, how driving standards are assessed, and charging standards, are simply not fit for purpose. They must be changed, with the standard of driving required being more objectively determined. Currently, the law requires jurors to consider whether another driver’s standard of driving fell “below”, or “far below” the standard which they believe would be expected of “a careful and competent driver”, whatever that standard might be. One person might well think they’re a careful and competent driver as they overtake a cyclist whilst speeding, leaving a 30 cm gap. I would disagree, so our perspectives on what falls “below the competent and careful driver” test will be irreconcilable. We are asking jurors to apply a standard that few understand, and which is far too subjective.