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?

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