Month: July 2015

Has Boris Johnson finally admitted that the Clerkenwell Boulevard needs to be filtered?

At a recent mayoral Q&A, assembly member Darren Johnson asked the mayor:

Clerkenwell Boulevard

Question No: 2015/2071

Darren Johnson
What action are you and Transport for London taking to help finish the Clerkenwell Boulevard? Do you agree that it is a scandalous waste that a cycle path started 10 years ago on a stretch of Clerkenwell Road, close to the junction with Farringdon Road, has been left unfinished, whilst the number of cyclists using this route has doubled?
Written answer from the Mayor
The section of Clerkenwell Road, which will form part of the Central London Grid, is a borough road under the responsibility of the London Borough of Islington. This scheme will be delivered by 2016. The junction will be modified and the intention is that the footway on the north side of the bridge over the railway will be cut back to provide cycling facilities in each direction. Clerkenwell Road will also be bought up to Quietway standards, with kerb realignments and protected cycle lanes in both directions.

Old Street/Clerkenwell Road/Theobald’s Road is a key element of the Central London Cycling Grid. It carries thousands of cyclists everyday (on some sections bikes represent more than 60% of all rush hour vehicles) and it has no direct alternative.

At the moment it shows the contempt that most council officers and counsellors have for people riding bicycles:

  • No protection whatsoever. 
  • Dangerous pinch points. 
  • Pollution at illegal levels. 
  • No investigation of fatal crashes. 
  • No enforcement of 20 miles per hour. 
  • Lack of communication between Council, with the only stretch of protected Lane (3 metres!) been bricked over because of lack of continuation. 
  • Vision Zero London banned by both Camden and Islington Council for pointing out their criminal behaviour. 

Anyone who spends half an hour in the morning or evening rush hour cannot feel bewilderment on how so many people can be treated so poorly. Anyone whose responsibility is to manage the roads cannot have spent half an hour here, otherwise she or he would have said “we need to do something urgently”.

Does Claudia Webbe know that this happens every morning and evening?

Since Vision Zero London has started its campaign for the Clerkenwell Boulevard, several people have been killed or severely injured on this stretch of road but no sense of urgency has arisen among officers or counsellors.

One key element of our campaign has been the ban of through traffic on the Boulevard. The narrowness of the road and the illegal pollution levels require filtering the Boulevard so that only bicycles, buses and local access traffic are allowed. This is what the Boulevard should look like:

If the Dutch can do this, why can’t the Brits?

Camden Council are considering filtering in the context of their review of the Holborn Gyratory, but are moving at glacial pace. Islington has refused to consider filtering Clerkenwell Road and Old Street. Even Sukky Choongh-Campbell, the person in charge of air quality in Islington, has voiced against the only measure that would effectively reduce pollution to legal levels.

So we come to the Mayor’s answer. “Clerkenwell Road will be brought to QuietWay standards.” Now, even a bullshitter like Boris Johnson can claim that Clerkenwell Road is a quiet way. At the moment it is an Arterial Road. The only way to bring it to QuietWay standards is to filter it so that it is not used by through traffic.

We have often pointed out that Islington council have a golden opportunity to put in place a temporary filter during the forthcoming work on the Old Street roundabout, to study the effect on air quality, traffic evaporation, etc. If the experiment is successful, it can then be made permanent.

Andrew Gilligan has repeatedly said that he would not pay for crap. Given his boss promise that Clerkenwell Road will be a QuietWay, will he reject Islington Council proposals which do not include filtering? He certainly cannot possibly accept proposals that keep the same level of motor traffic and apply the insignificant interventions that are currently applied to so called QuietWays. That would be a mockery of the Mayor’s Cycling Vision and the Central London Cycling Grid would be laughed at by the whole world as another British Botch Job.

Taking advantage of the dead

Most British people are like Romanian orphans, traumatised by a hostile, intolerant environment, permanently scarred by daily traffic violence, unable to vision a humane world where people are respected.

Take Coroner Mary Hassell, who describes herself a “cyclist”, and yet, at the inquest of Federica Baldassa, killed by a lorry driver at Holborn, commented:

“It only takes a moment’s lapse of concentration and I think that’s what happened here”. Yes, she means Federica’s lapse.

Ms. Hassell, Federica was not Dean Potter, she did not choose to put her life at risk in an activity where a moment’s lack of concentration means you are killed. Federica just wanted to go home on a bicycle, the most natural way to get around a city.

The reason she was killed is that Camden Council and Transport for London are dragging their feet in redesigning this hellish gyratory which has claimed the life of five people in the past few years.

No civilised city should force its citizens to cycle here, slaloming between gridlocked traffic:

Here is the view from the other side:
Federica was riding  where the woman in the red jacket was. in front of her a lorry was where the grey car was. 
Notice how the bus stop is so close to the junction. This picture shows it better:
This creates a very dangerous situation for anyone crossing the street (notice: no zebras, and this being the UK, forget about respect for Rule 170 of the Highway Code, giving priority to pedestrians crossing a street), because left turning vehicles have impaired vision until the last minute. Indeed if you spend a few minutes here, you will witness several near misses. But the Coroner, under advice from the Police and TfL, decided that it would be impractical to move the bus stop back. Impractical because there are too many buses on this road. Too many buses, because most people are scared of cycling or do not want to be treated as third class citizens and have to slalom between lethal machines. But Londoners don’t understand the simple logic that to reduce congestion you need to reallocate road space to people on bicycles, so that fewer people will feel the need to catch a bus or a taxi. Like Romanian orphans their mental capacity has been impaired and they have become asocial and imbeciles.
The lorry in front of Federica was indicating left, but notice that it would have just passed an arrow painted on the ground pointing “straight only”. It is probable that Federica thought that the lorry was going to turn left at the traffic lights, 30 metres ahead. As many other women, she would have felt uncomfortable in riding in the middle of the road, and once passed the bus, she rejoined the left lane. Alas, the driver’s intention was to make a sharp left and she was run over and killed instantly.
Federica was unable to attend the hearing, so we will never know what she was thinking. However, at least out of respect to her human dignity, one should assume that she was acting in a reasonable, careful manner. To blame her for a lapse of concentration, when she cannot vouch for herself, is cowardice of the highest sort.

So Federica becomes just an other statistic, another small price to pay for running a bloated bus service, and for managing roads for the benefit of motorists and not for ordinary citizens.

Last year, Camden Council blacklisted us for suggesting that this stretch of road needs urgent work to keep people safe. The Camden Cycling Campaign, another set of zombies, supported Camden Council in their lethargic approach. When Hassell issued a Prevention of Future Death report, following the killing of Francis Golding, 30 metres ahead, Camden Council ignored it. It is Contempt of Court, but British Justice doesn’t pursue the institutional killers.

#NastyBritain has been very successful in brainwashing the population that the convenience of motorists comes before the safety and enjoyment of everyone.

We repeat our appeal to young Europeans, fooled by a mirage of false opportunities: London is a Third World city, run by idiots and charlatans; the Brits will kill you and then blame you. Find your future elsewhere.

How Islington Council spent half of £million in cycling money, without doing anything on the ground

In July 2014, Islington Council accepted £2,000,000 from Transport for London for three sections of the Central London Cycling Grid.

Instead of saying thank you, getting down to work, produce some good schemes and then apply for more funding, Councillor Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, has spent the last year complaining that TfL is not giving her enough money and her officers have managed to spend a quarter of the money and produced nichts, nada, rien.

The Greek Government sure has competition in wasting money given to them in good faith and then blaming others.

Here is the breakdown on how £598,464 has been wasted, achieving nothing and making consultants rich:

Here is what they have achieved:

CLCG Route 1 Clerkenwell Road/Old Street [The most cycled route in the Borough] – After paying £95,503 for some decent proposals by Project Centre, Council officers seem reluctant to go ahead, afraid to deviate from Usual British Botch Standards (UBBS) – see more below.

CLCG Route 2 – Bath Street/Bunhill Row/Chiswell St/Finsbury Square – The first half had already received  its UBBS treatment, with dangerous contraflows, un-negotiable junctions, etc. To make this an appealing North South route, the Bath Street junction with City Road needs to be fixed; apparently TfL is going to do this, so Islington need not worry about the most difficult challenge. Chiswell Street is a nightmare and needs to be filtered, but Islington has no intention to do this; nevertheless they managed to spend £129,403 on absolutely nothing: if they have developed designs, they have not shown them to anyone.

CLCG Route3 / QuietWay 2 – £208,820 spent on absolutely nothing. This was already a LCN+ route and Islington Council has refused to make any substantial improvements, like closing rat-runs

CLCG Route 4 – Vincent Terrace/Graham St/Central St/ Golden Lane/Banner St/ Leonard St – This is a fairly quiet route, which needs two quick interventions: a contraflow on Banner Street and sorting out the Leonard St/City Rd junction which is an insult to decency. Nothing done, except spending £69,909 on who knows what; nobody has seen any plans. Islington is additionally spending more money on consultants to produce a so called Master Plan for Central Street.

CLCG Route 5  St John Street – When Crossrail closed the bottom of St John Street for six months to through traffic, people realised what a beautiful public space it could be turned to. It was a perfect opportunity to study the feasibility of making the filtering permanent. But oh no, Islington does not do something so obvious; otherwise it wouldn’t be able to waste money on modelling. Is that how they frittered away £38,698? To add insult to injury, when we suggested to keep St John civilised, back came the Great British Bullshit line: “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.”

Please note that Route 2 and 4 run across Bunhill Ward, the constituency of Cllr Webbe, who is on record for “being too scared to cycle”. So here we have the person in charge of Active Travel in the Council, who admits that things are terribly wrong but is unwilling to fix them.

The tragedy of this scandal is that people are dying because Islington Council are frittering our money instead of making our roads safe to walk and cycle. Take for instance the junctions of Clerkenwell Road with Goswell Road and with St. John Street. Rebecca Goosen was killed at the former and Harriet Tory was killed at the latter, both by left turning lorries. Section 39 of the Road traffic Act 1988 mandates the Council to make the junctions safe and prevent similar fatal collisions.

Islington Council has yet not done what the laws requires (in other words they are criminal). As a consequence of their misuse of public money and flaunting of the law, in December 2014, Victoria Lebrec was almost killed at the junction with St John Street, in exactly the same way Harriet Tory lost her life; Victoria was saved by the heroics of the London Air Ambulance.

Project Centre produced the following plans for the two junctions:

St John Street


Goswell Road

The brown bits are protection. The key new element are the protective islands at the corners. It is not clear why they are in black and not in brown, but if they were physical separators, they would prevent collisions like the one that cost Victoria her leg.

There is much to improve on the above design, but it is going in the right direction. Alas, Islington officers are refusing to contemplate this design; they are also refusing to install continuous cycle tracks, happy for 10 year olds to cycle around buses and stopped vans. In other words, they are proposing yet another Usual British Botch Job, which means more people getting killed or losing limbs and the majority of the population too scared to cycle.

So Claudia Webbe, isn’t it time you stop taking selfies and wasting our money and actually start making walking and cycling in Islington safe for everyone, including yourself. That is what we are paying you for.

And Andrew Gilligan, shouldn’t you be auditing how the Councils are spending our money?

Incidentally, a three-day immersive course at David Hembrow learning Dutch infrastructure costs €675. Why doesn’t the Council send a couple of Officers for a month to the Netherlands and study how the Masters do it. It would cost max. £10,000 and then they could design everything in-house? Or maybe they prefer to receive kickbacks from the consultants?