Author: Andrea

Liveable cities entrepreneur

Is Sadiq Khan purposely hiding real time pollution data?

If you subscribe to the AirText messaging service you will have received a number of SMS alerts recently saying “MODERATE air pollution”.

Notice how their website calls them Air Quality Alerts, thus leading one to think that quality is moderate, leading people to think that it is not so bad.

Indeed, why use the word “moderate” rather than “medium” or indeed “poor”?

Let’s assume you want to clear this bullshit fog with actual numbers and guidelines.

Sadiq Khan has made Air Quality his spitzen policy, so let’s see how he communicates with citizens. His policy page is here. The only map does not show the dire situation of today’s air, rather “the Mayor’s air quality actions across London”.

What a stupendous piece of self-aggrandising bullshit! The information on it is useless. For instance, the “Current Air Quality Data” is actually three years old …

Khan awarded a contract to friends to set up the BreatheLondon network of monitors. These seem to record lower levels than the official monitoring stations. Notice how most official stations show a level of 3

whereas the BreatheLondon monitors are all 2s

The above screenshots were taken at the same time. We don’t know if the numbers are comparable (but if they weren’t, what is the point?).

Let’s look at London Air which has comprehensive data from all the main official monitoring stations in London. We can see for example that on Monday 23rd January 2023, the Horseferry Road station (which is right next to a school playground) recorded unacceptably high levels of both NO2 and PM2.5 particulates

WHO hourly safety limits: NO2 = 200, PM2.5 = 35

The London Air website is fairly comprehensive, but it takes time to understand how to extract precise information. Its RSS feed of incidents of medium to high pollution events is no longer working.

What about other sources?

The BBC has for many years refused to provide accurate pollution information. Notice how wind, rainfall, temperature is measured accurately, whereas air quality just has an undefined badge, with uncertain provenance.

It is also probably wrong. At the same time the screenshot above was taken, another site, AQICN was calling air pollution in London “Moderate” – again that weasel word (If I find the asshole who started this ruse, I will give him a moderate smack in the head, and he will know what is coming)

AccuWeather uses data from PlumeLabs and this morning they were calling the Air Quality “Poor”, with PM2.5 at more than twice the safe limit (Where exactly?)

So we get a very mixed picture according to where we look, and numbers which are not easy to compare.

Knowing how slimy Khan is, we cannot help deducing that this obfuscation is deliberate. The reason is that if citizens knew exactly how bad sometimes the air we breath becomes, we would demand what other European cities do: forbid half or more of the drivers from using their poisoning vehicles at times of poor air quality.

But that takes cojones, which Khan does not have. So Londoners are told not to exercise outdoor, so that poisoners can keep on poisoning.

Mothers and fathers are left wondering why they have outlived a child

To mark the 30th birthday of RoadPeace, the Gallery@OXO in London will exhibit When Lives Collide, the stories of 30+ berieved families through portraits by Paul Wenham-Clarke, a Professor of Photography at Arts University Bournemouth

These include:

  • Lucy Harrison, of Redditch, Worcestershire, whose brother Peter Price was killed while walking by a hit-and-run driver at 93mph
  • Emma Butler and Mark Hackett, whose son Lee Ferguson, from Dudley, was killed in a crash while riding his motorbike
  • Jane Evans, from Birmingham, whose husband was killed in a hit-and-run collision outside the school they both worked at. The driver has never been found
  • Bev Abbey, whose 19-year-old son, Harry, was killed in Warrington while riding his motorbike to work
  • Steve Newcam, whose wife Annette Booth was killed by a drunk driver in Leicester
  • Mandy Gayle, whose father Hopton Gayle was killed in a hit-and-run crash in Wolverhampton
  • Diane Gall, of Dudley, whose husband Martyn was killed while cycling
  • Kate Uzzel (below), from North Somerset, whose husband Martyn was killed in North Yorkshire while taking part in a charity bike ride from Land Ends to John O’Groats

Professor Wenham-Clarke said: “These images serve as a window into the soul of people who have experienced a nightmare, and they address the emotional consequences of devastating collisions, which radiate out like waves on a pond.

“Some of the portraits capture raw emotions as they surge and flow through the participants, ranging from grief-stricken crying to smiling, as they remember their lost one. Mothers and fathers are left wondering why they have outlived a child and lovers are separated forever with no opportunity to say goodbye.”

Gallery@OXO, OXO Tower Wharf, London SE1 from Wednesday 4th January to Sunday 15th January, 2023

Illogically illegal and an illogical coroner

Fatima Abukar died earlier this year while riding an e-scooter.

This is what the investigation found:

Here is what Green Street looks like

A typical busy shopping street that is awful to use on two wheels. Most of the drivers of those motor vehicles are not there to shop, but to go somewhere else from somewhere else. In other words they are intruders: they bring noise, pollution and death. People have been brainwashed in accepting this as normal.

One of the zombies is Graeme Irvine, senior coroner in east London. He was obviously distressed by the killing of a 14 year old. However, instead of pointing the finger at the intruders, at the people who bring death to the street, he claims that the preventable cause of the collision was the e-scooter.

Without any grasp of statistics, Irvine noticed a correlation between Police enforcement action against e-scooter riders and number of deaths

E-scooters have been acknowledged as a useful arm of the micromobility revolution that will make our cities more liveable. That is why most European cities have successful hire schemes. The only reason why a citizen cannot ride one’s own legally purchased e-scooter in England is that authorities are too lazy to change illogical regulations. If e-hire scooters are deemed safe, why shouldn’t private ones be, if properly vetted?

So Irvine has written a non-sensical Prevention of Future Deaths report to:

basically saying that e-scooters are a problem, not a solution.

When will these people accept that motor vehicles in busy shopping streets are THE problem?

Interactive web tool helps participatory design of LTNs

A/B Street is an open source web tool designed to help citizens and Council officers play around with ideas on how best to implement a Low Traffic Neighbourhood.

The project started in collaboration with Bristol City Council, who were aiming to engage with residents in East Bristol in designing a Liveable Neighbourhood in their area

The Turing Institute reports:

To capture Bristol residents’ needs, BCC launched a process with three phases: co-discover, co-develop, and co-design.

First, they collected feedback through online citizen engagement platform Commonplace, and paper surveys, on residents’ current experiences of their neighbourhood, aggregated on a digital map.

Second, they invited a diverse group of residents to attend virtual and in-person sessions to learn about the different street design options, and propose ideas based on their priorities. To reach people who may not typically attend public consultations, such as those new to the UK or who don’t speak English as their first language, BCC worked directly with volunteers (‘community champions’) in ethnic minority communities.

Third, BCC will now analyse these resident designs and work with traffic engineers to propose two schemes to pilot in East Bristol in 2023.

To facilitate the participation of citizens, BCC used the A/B Street tool

This interactive web tool allows anyone to visualise how small street changes, such as redirecting car traffic from certain residential streets, will affect the route options of cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. In other words, it provides a shared canvas for residents, planners and policy makers to suggest, discuss and evaluate street designs. With a similar look and feel to other mapping apps, A/B Street can make creating a street design as easy as planning a route on Open Street Maps. Beyond usability, the tool’s map-based interface also helps BCC to answer questions that it has struggled to answer in the past, such as “where will traffic divert if we make a change on this street?”.

The A/B Street team is now working with planners and residents on street-design projects in places as varied as Islington, Taipei and Seattle.

Police officer who caused crash where two people died cleared by Jury

One afternoon in 2016, two police officers were driving in Penge, South London, when they identified a stolen Ford Focus in front of them. The Police driver activated his lights and sirens but the driver of the stolen car chose not to stop and accelerated in a dangerous manner.

What happened next was a mad chase with speeds over 100kph in residential roads, through red lights and driving the wrong way down one way streets. It could only end badly, and tragically it did end: the car thief lost control and killed two people.

Before the chase the thief posed no threat to members of the public; it was clearly the irresponsible action of the police officers which caused the crash. The chase lasted 6 minutes, over 6 km. Any professional driver would have been in no doubt that the chase was extremely dangerous and that the danger created by the chase was totally disproportionate to the threat that the thief constituted before the fateful encounter.

It is difficult to understand how anyone could argue that the police driver and his companion are not guilty of causing the death of two innocent people. Indeed one year after the crash, the Independent Police Complaints Commission sent the folder of its investigation to the Crown Prosecution Service. The latter decided to drop the charges against the navigator (even though there is no evidence he tried to stop his companion) but went ahead prosecuting the driver

Interestingly, following the incident, the Police Federation started to lobby for a licence to kill:

The Police Federation has held several meetings with ministers over the proposal to exempt pursuit drivers from prosecution for dangerous or careless driving – providing they have followed their training.

The car thief was duly convicted of two counts of manslaughter by gross negligence and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Six years after the crash, the case against the police driver finally came to court

The Prosecutor case:

“On any sensible analysis the risk posed by the pursuit, taking account of the driving of both vehicles, was at a higher level of risk,

“PC Welch engaged in a chase where to do so was inappropriate, and, more importantly, persisted in that chase when it should have been clear that this was disproportionate and posed a clear risk to other road users and pedestrians.

“This was not a police officer heading to an emergency, let alone an emergency involving a risk to life.

“Rather, all he wanted to do was to speak to the driver.”

The jury disagreed and acquitted the police officer

Yet another case that shows that road crime should not be tried by jury.

New phase in Milan Open Square project targets school streets

In the past 4 years the city of Milan has rejuvenated 40 public squares and streets, by giving them back to citizens.

Following the playbook used by Janette Sadik-Khan in New York, the transformations were introduced as temporary measures. The typical objections by the usual suspects melt away after a few months, as everyone can see the massive improvements in quality of life.

Before
After

Now the local authority is asking schools and citizens to propose new spaces outside kindergartens and schools.

Coupled with the plan of a 750 km network of cycle tracks in the metropolitan area, the Open Squares programme is transforming the Northern Italian city once famous for its smog.

And for all those cities too timid to reduce car-centric wastelands, please note: Mayor Sala was comfortably re-elected.

Why do Canal & River Trust, Canary Wharf Group and Tower Hamlets Council treat disabled people with such contempt?

The Thames Path at Canary Wharf has been closed for some weeks. A bridge over a lock is in need of urgent repairs, and the Canal & River Trust (responsible of all the inland water on the Isle of Dogs) has locked the gate, put up a sign and … problem solved.

They have not bothered to ask themselves: “If we close this gate, what will people walking and cycling (this is NCN Route 1) do? Is the diversion accessible to people on wheel chairs?” You can see from their sheet that no diversion route is shown.

Here is the diversion: the red line is the natural path one would take if no directions are given; the green line shows the longer, safer, accessible route. Without signs, no one would know it existed.

Let’s see what happens in both directions.

Going North, one meets the sign at A and would naturally follow the red line to B. There the pavement stops.

The first two lanes of the road go down an underground roundabout, a no-go area for pedestrians. The third lane goes up a slipway. One thus has to cross two lanes of fast traffic, with no zebra…

… only to find the slipway has the tiniest of pavements. Imagine you are on a wheel chair or have a push chair with a baby.

If you are walking from the North, you encounter the same issues, with the added insult that there is no warning sign at C that the path is closed.

The NCN signs tells you to go straight, and a big red sign in the middle of the path is just for advertising.

So one ends walking/cycling to D, only to find the path closed, and has to return to C, cursing the sheer incompetence of the idiots in charge.

The three authorities will probably say “Nothing to do with us”. And that is the crux of the matter: they are checkbox tickers, rather than human beings with concern for people with disabilities.

UPDATE 1 OCT – We have received the following from Canary Wharf Group:

Thanks for your feedback regarding the bridge works and accessibility issues. The bridge and signage is the responsibility of Canal & River Trust and the bridge itself is outside of the Canary Wharf estate boundary however, I flagged this with our estate management team when I saw your tweets and they have been to assess and as a result, we will have signage made up to post an alternative route including a safely accessible route. We have also reached out to Canal & River Trust to ask them about the repairs and schedule of works. I hope this eases some of your frustrations.

UPDATE 5 OCT – From the Reclaim Our River Campaign

UPDATE 15th October: Canary Wharf Group has placed a diversion sign on the North side of the bridge (Point C in the map above); however they refuse to put one on the South side, because “it is not their land”

.

UPDATE 25th October: Canal and River Trust has written to us. Effectively, these idiots don’t have a budget for emergency repairs, so they wil do nothing until next financial year, April 2023.

I can confirm that our contractors attended site on the 18/10/22 to scope out the requirements for the first stage of the works. We will start the planning stage over the coming month. A financial provision has been made in our budget for 2023/24 to allow the replacement to take place in April/May 2023. 

Additional signage is being arranged to divert users along the footway to the adjoining road and will be installed at the first opportunity.   

We have been advised by the local authority that the Thames Tow Path is a permissive right of way and not a designated right of way. Following identification of a concern regarding the condition of the bridge, we have acted to manage public safety. We have made financial provision at the earliest opportunity within our planning cycle to undertake the works and are developing the design in to allow us to act as soon as funding is available. 


UPDATE 25th November. Canal & River Trust have finally placed a diversion sign (the one we made and published) on the South side of the bridge

UPDATE 1 DECEMBER Tower Hamlets Council officers refuse to speed up the works required (see letter below). Subsequently, we have met again with Councillor Talukdar, who agrees that waiting eight months to fix the wooden boards is very unsatisfactory.

Victims are not just numbers

Everytime a TfL manager or the Mayor is asked to comment on a road crash that resulted in the death of a citizen walking and cycling, they parrot the same refrain “Every death on London’s streets is one too many” (see for example here)

It has become formulaic and therefore insulting to the families of the victims, because they know that there is no belief behind those words.

Therefore, as thirtyfour of our fellow citizens have so far been killed this year, while walking or cycling in London, we reproduce this moving speech by the mother of a young victim, by kind permission of RoadPeace, where it was first published

I wanted to start by saying a little about my daughter Anisha because I feel she has often been absent from the whole legal process that we have been caught up in for so long and a road death is, after all, about someone losing their life.

Anisha was 20 and in her first year studying philosophy and Spanish at King’s College. She was a beautiful person in every single way. She has three siblings and she was, although not in any bossy sense, the leader of the team. Everything she loved we all loved because her enthusiasm for it was overwhelming. She was incredibly witty and smart with a broad knowledge of culture. She was not fussy in what she read or watched or listened to – from cartoons to obscure Italian 1960s art movies. She absorbed it all. She did one philosophy essay on whether the Sugababes are still the Sugababes if none of the original members are in the band. She always looked for the best in people. She went out of her way to make people feel better about themselves. Her boss at the cafe where she worked remarked that she was ‘effortlessly adorable’. Her little brother Gael wrote: “Anisha is a truly spectacular person. She’s smart, funny and caring. She’s always there for you and never won’t be. She is loved no matter what. Her love is endless. She is an immortal, and that’s what she deserves.”

On 19th February 2020 Anisha, her boyfriend Rory and his friend Liam arrived at Brixton tube station having met up in central London. They got on the bus on their way to a club and then got off to get some money from the cashpoint on Brixton Hill. Anisha had got to the middle of the road when a car came out of nowhere driving at great speed on both sides of the road and through two red lights. She tried to jump back, but the car swerved into her. She died instantly. The driver did not stop. He only handed himself in 48 hours later after speaking to his father – a barrister – and after the police went to his and his father’s house, thus avoiding a test for alcohol or drugs [he had a previous conviction for driving under the influence of drugs]. 

He pleaded guilty – he was caught on CCTV so what else could he do? – and immediately got a third off his sentence for doing so and saving court time. Twice he refused to leave his cell to come to court to be sentenced and was sentenced in absentia with only us in court to witness it. Both Rory and I had written impact statements to read in court – to read to him so that he understood the impact of his actions and who Anisha was. That for me was a major part of his sentence. 

He got 10.5 years – the maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving is 14 years [one asks how much more dangerous one needs to drive to get the full sentence – he could have killed several people. Anisha’s boyfriend and friend could have easily been killed as well. The driver was heading down to the busy Brixton tube station]. He will be out next year. He applied to be moved to an open prison around six months after he was sentenced, which is where he is now. The law is being changed to allow for a life sentence, but, as we have seen, one thing is the law; another is its implementation.

It transpired that the driver had been flagged by an unmarked police car moments before he hit Anisha because he had been driving dangerously for some time beforehand. He slowed down, but then when a gap opened in the traffic he took off. So we had to wait a year for an independent police report which was basically a long debate on the difference between the words pursue and follow. Because he was sentenced and there was an independent police report we were told by the coroner’s office – and only when I asked for an update a year later – that the inquest had been closed. Nothing more could be learned from her death.

I have spent the last two years writing impact statement after impact statement to find out exactly what happened, given the sentencing was short and bizarre with the person who killed her not even there. As a mother, I had to know – it was the last thing I could do for Anisha – and I wanted to see if there was anything that could be done to stop such crimes happening again.

I now know that stretch of road has been the site of several serious accidents in the last five years, including at least one other fatal one. In my imagination I thought the road was a wide one. In fact, it is just two lanes. Anisha was seconds from safety. 

And yet, it was as if no one cared to look at what could be learned from what happened. After going through traffic campaign groups, I contacted the local council and after several months found that there had been a meeting with councillors, the police and the coroner to decide that the accident was such a criminal act that effectively nothing could be learned from it. No-one bothered to tell us about this meeting. In fact, the coroner, when he told us that the case was closed, said ‘you may know that the driver has been sentenced’ as if we would not even care enough about what happened to Anisha to follow it up. Since then I have visited the police station in Catford – in March this year – to see the files and understand a bit more about what happened in the absence of an inquest. I had to instigate all of this.

And that is why I am here today because if there is anything I can do to stop this happening to one other family I will do it. The impact of Anisha’s death will last all of our lives and beyond. Death by dangerous driving is hugely traumatic, which is something that organisations like Road Peace are so good at acknowledging. Their role is absolutely vital. It is as if I am reliving every day the trauma of that moment. I wake up suddenly, violently, hearing the sound of knocking on the door even two years on. Our children are going through this too in their own ways. Yet there is very little – if any – recognition of this legally. There is so much that is wrong with the justice system in this country – the laws are outdated, the process is a game in which the victim’s family is a bystander, the victim’s family is forced to make endless impact statements and to relive things constantly. It is a form of mental torture and it makes things worse, if that is possible. 

It is the cumulative effect of it all that is so damaging and so exhausting and I don’t think that is acknowledged in any way. I hope I can in some small way highlight the terrible and ongoing impact of road deaths and the inadequate way we as a society currently respond. Surely it make sense to get everyone involved together to work on prevention and who has more of an interest than the victim’s family? We may have lost the person we loved, but we surely don’t want it to happen to anyone else. Yet all too often it seems that we are excluded and have to fight a system that doesn’t recognise us all on our own. I hope that events like this are a start to including the voices of victim’s families more.”

UK Government announces new Road Safety Investigation Branch (RSIB)

This is an important step to achieve Vision Zero, point 4 of our Strategy

From the Government’s announcement:

  • The government will recruit a specialised team of inspectors to join the country’s first ever Road Safety Investigation Branch (RSIB), looking at
    • how and why incidents happen
      • The branch will investigate themes in the causes of collisions, as well as specific incidents of concern, to learn valuable road safety lessons.
        • It will make independent safety recommendations to organisations, such as government and police forces, to better shape the future of road safety policy and provide better, greener and safer journeys for people right across the country.
    • to provide real insight into how new technologies – such as self-driving and electric vehicles – can be rolled out on our roads.
      • The specialised unit will also provide vital insight into safety trends related to new and evolving technologies, which could include self-driving vehicles, e-scooters and electric vehicles (EVs), to ensure the country maintains some of the highest road safety standards in the world and exciting new technology is deployed safely.
  • Currently, data and evidence is collated using in-depth study programmes, the Collision Reporting and Sharing System (CRASH), Forensic Collision Investigation reports and Prevention of Future Death reports.
    • Government expects the RSIB to use this data alongside that from insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers, the emergency services and the NHS to deepen the body of evidence on incident causes and improve road safety interventions even further nationwide.
  • The branch will not identify blame or liability and so does not replace police investigation. It will instead draw on all the available evidence to make recommendations to improve road safety and mitigate or prevent similar incidents in the future.
  • The Department for Transport expects to include measures to enable the creation of the branch in the forthcoming Transport Bill.

How much is Khan pocketing from his cozy relationship with Deliveroo?

Johnson may be gone, but we was a symptom of the malaise of the country rather than an outlier. Law breaking, letting powerful entities mistreat workers, ignorance, corruption and impunity are endemic.

Take the use of electric bikes by Deliveroo riders. We have all witnessed their riders on bicycle with illegal motors, either propelling the bike at speed much higher than the 25 kph limit, or functioning with no pedal stroke, or both. These bikes are not only illegal, but also a danger to the riders, to pedestrians and other cyclists.

We first reported a number of riders to Deliveroo, but they didn’t care. We tried to escalate the complaint higher up, and we were told the typical bullshit “the welfare of our riders is of outmost concern”. But what are they actually doing to ensure that their riders use legal bikes? No response.

My name is Gary and I work in the Serious Complaints team at Deliveroo.

We appreciate you bringing this issue to our attention and I am very sorry that you had this experience.

Safety for everyone is our highest priority. As with all road users, we expect all our riders including cyclists, to obey the highway code at all times.

I have shared this information with our Rider Operations team to review and follow up with the riders in the area directly, as in line with our internal policy.

We then contacted the local police. We received the typical ignorant response: “e-bikes are not illegal to be ridden on the roads therefore there is no action to take against this.”. We had to explain these people the law of the country (which admittedly was imported from the EU; but is that an excuse for such flagrant ignorance?).

We escalated to the top Metropolitan Police officer in charge of Vision Zero, Daniel Card. He was non committal:

“we have considered taking action and do so where there are offences apparent.”

So we issued a FOIA request to the Metropolitan Police, inquiring what specific actions have been taken against the company?

The response seemed to have been written by the Deliveroo legal team:

In other words, Deliveroo is making a mockery of the law and the Police is happy allowing them to do it.

This is very English: let the powerful do what they want and fuck the country, let’s concentrate on persecuting the poor, especially if they come from ethnic backgrounds.

Dangerous to themselves and to others. Photo via Reuters

We then asked our representative at the London General Assembly to ask the Mayor if he was happy with this exploitation of gig workers. Maybe the fact that these workers have a similar status to that of his father at a young age, would move him to act. But in England, class trumps ethnicity, and the former lawyer doesn’t seem to care about gig workers (or bus drivers, as he has shown during the first year of the pandemic)

The office of Caroline Russell was quite slow in getting an answer and seemed uninterested in pursuing this issue.

This is the response we received ten months after having asked.

I am afraid it is very difficult to get the police to change their policy on something like this, and they are right that under the law riders are self-employed and Deliveroo does not provide the bikes and it is down to the individual rider to ensure that their bike is compliant with the law.

The Mayor has said previously that he met with the founder and CEO of Deliveroo in December 2020 to discuss a range of issues, including rider conditions and wellbeing and that he calls on all digital platform operators across sectors to recognise the right of workers to organise and bargain collectively for better working conditions.  so hopefully there can be improvements.

Let’s see again what the Mayor stated in July last year

I met with the founder and CEO of Deliveroo in December to discuss a range of issues, including rider conditions and wellbeing. …

Genuine two-way flexibility where both boss and worker have a say in working patterns is a good thing. But when abused by unscrupulous businesses, it creates a race to the bottom in low pay, insecurity and bad practice.

In my second term, I will work with Londoners, businesses, unions, and other stakeholders to develop a charter for the on-demand economy, to help promote the highest standards and shine a light on bad practices.

To be fair the Mayor, he has created the Good Work Standard but it is again the typical bullshit PR exercise, where companies sign up to get a badge, but nothing is done against rogue operators who “create a race to the bottom of bad practices”.

Fortunately the race to the bottom is not presently happening; some of the Deliveroo’s competitors provide good legal ebikes to their riders.

Why then does the Mayor let Deliveroo act like Qatari builders? Is it because the company gave him some cheap shares at the IPO?

And dear reader, if you are so lazy that you cannot walk or ride your bike to your favourite restaurant, at least delete the Deliveroo app.