Author: Andrea

Liveable cities entrepreneur

Sadiq, just as Boris, keeps prioritising ” smoothing traffic flow”

Sadiq Khan, two months before being elected Mayor:

I know that many local people feel that King’s Cross traffic gyratory system desperately needs redesigning, with concerns around safety for all road users and pollution in the densely populated area.

Transport for London (TfL) has been consulting on a redesign since 2011 and that they intend to consult on a high level proposal shortly and on final details in 2017.  I understands there are frustrations around delays with the process and I will contact TfL to seek reassurances around the timetable and that local people are being properly consulted.

As Daniel Zylbersztajn reports, The Wait continues for Changes to the Kings Cross Gyratory:

“After a consultation in 2015 by TfL, the third in 20 years, TfL suggested dramatic changes in 2016. It involved changing streets adding cycle lanes, adding crossings.

Of 1.042 respondents,

  • 81 % supported additional pedestrian crossings at various junctions
  • improvement to pedestrian experience and cycling rated as highest priorities
  • 70 % supported overall proposals
  • 63% supported some two-way streets and changing single lane streets
  • 63% supported the reduction of traffic an improvement of the environment
  • 67% supported new cycling facilities including counterflow lanes for bicycles”

Yet as 2018 draws to a close, nothing is being done. Nigel Hardy, TfL’s Head of Programme Sponsorship admits that TfL is more concerned about traffic flows than safety and pollution; he states:

“The gyratory system runs through one of London’s busiest areas and construction work for our planned transformation needs careful coordination with a number of other significant schemes, including HS2. Work on the gyratory at Judd Street started this week and work at Midland Road is set to begin over the coming months, with further consultation and construction at other sections of the gyratory in 2019.”

Please note that Judd Street/Midland Road have nothing to do with the Gyratory.

Daniel cites another example of TfL prioritising the convenience of people poisoning us over our safety:

 I had found through day-to-day observation over three years now (it is on my daughter’s way to school, which I frequent five days a week) that 90 per cent of Southbound pedestrians, amongst them many school children, did not use the push bottom operated crossing near Weston Rise at all, in spite of it being there. In other words, the local public condemned the crossing as totally not fit for its needs.


Pentonville Road (looking East) – Weston Rise. Far left see bus stop. In front pedestrian traffic light, that must be operated individually to cross each side. Weston Rise on the right. In order to to reach the bus stop one must walk down 40 meters. wait for green to cross West Bound Lane, and then the same for East-bound lane, and then walk back 60-70 meter

However nearby there is a pedestrian crossing with much shorter red phases; why?

A crossing 250 meter up at Rodney Street – Pentonville Road – Penton Rise allows crossing in one go, and the traffic light is phased in a faster cycle after being triggered. The reason? It is cars that are waiting in Rodney Street, not pedestrians. Cars there trigger a movement sensitive traffic light and the wait is relatively short.

One cannot help thinking that all these delays are the consequence of Sadiq’s fear that traffic jams may imperil his reappointment as Mayor.
Problem is the list of broken promises is so long that most Londoners are fed up with the BS.

The trolley problem is a big con

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

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

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

The trolley problem hardly ever comes up in real life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is a victim blaming exercise

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

We are not against the idea of robot cars

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

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

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


City of London to adopt Vision Zero

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

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

Here are some details.

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

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

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

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

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

Pedestrian deaths and injuries per billion journeys by foot

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

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

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

Dr. Aldred will conduct more research.

Meanwhile, here is a couple of possible explanation:

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

Boroughs alarmed by Met’s collision data

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

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

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

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


TransportXtra reports:

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

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

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

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

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


Vision Zero or Zero Vision?


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is the depravity of the woman.


Image: Camden New Journal

Clerkenwell Boulevard Campaign – why nothing has happened in 3 years

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

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

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

Alas, here is a tweet from yesterday:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

But are the key players aware of their failures?

Other articles:

The Clerkenwell Boulevard Campaign – Part 1

The Victoria Lebrec Crash

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

The Bath Street scheme, another failed promise by Islington Council

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

Boris Johnson admits Old Street needs to be filtered

TfL’s delays with Old Street Roundabout

Islington Council refusal to stop Clerkenwell rat runs is lethal




A traumatic experience

A horrific incident:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Nine years later and Petgrave was deep in gang wars:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebranding the oxymorons

The ever-shrewd Hackney Cyclist recently tweeted:


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


Cycling Super Highway

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




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

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

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

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

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

My suggestion: the Active London Network.

Images: CSH by Hackney Cyclist; Q2 by Gosia

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

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

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

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

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


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


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?