This post is part of a series by the Campaign For Cycling In London (CCL), the organisation which seeks policies to encourage cycling in the city.
City squares are a major battle ground in the War On The Motorist. The notoriously anti-car Bristol City Council go so far in persecuting the Motorist that they have even closed major roads in city squares. You might be thinking that this could never happen in sensible London, but just remember how Ken Livingstone ruined Trafalgar Square by closing a tiny fraction of the road space. The biggest insult to the Motorist in the city though is not Trafalgar Square, but is in fact just down the road, symbolically placed right in the centre of democracy and government: Parliament Square.
Parliament Square sits at the intersection of a number of major roads; vital arteries of our city. The Embankments, Victoria Street, Whitehall, Westminster Bridge. Big roads that are required for Very Important People — like politicians and senior civil servants; commanders of the Metropolitan Police, execs at Channel 4, directors of the National Gallery, and senior management of Transport For London — to go about doing their Very Important Things. Therefore, Parliament Square has to be one big signal-controlled roundabout, organising traffic. Nothing else would do the job.It is quite clear that Parliament Square is part of a poorly disguised stealth operation in the War On The Motorist. Look at these pictures. There are people walking through the square. Through the centre of the square. The island. They’re walking along wide paved paths which have clearly been put in by anti-car administrators to encourage this kind of behaviour. There are even a number of street lights here. How did these people get there? Despite the presence of Westminster tube in the north eastern corner, there is no subway to the island. And there are obviously no crossings. How are people getting to the middle of the square?
Jaywalking. Every day hundreds — thousands — of people are putting Motorists at risk by blithely walking out across the three lanes of traffic that surround the square. And an anti-car administration is clearly encouraging this reckless behaviour by failing to install sufficient crash railings along the pavements to prevent it. Not even a sign to tell them not to do it. Westminster City Council clearly want people to be walking in Parliament Square and don’t care a damn how many Very Important People they inconvenience. There is no other explanation for their having created such an attractive environment for walking.
Recently, the council remodelled the north-eastern junction, where Whitehall and Westminster Bridge meet the square. In a blatant act of war, they changed the signal timings for a left turn from the Bridge to Whitehall, making Motorists wait up to thirty seconds longer for the chance to screech off and pull up to the next set of lights at the Embankment. Another consequence of this work was to introduce two new traffic islands — two new irresistible invitations for pedestrians to step out into a busy road full of busy and important people. They might as well have just gone all the way and openly installed a pedestrian crossing to the island.Fortunately Westminster have not yet done anything quite so crazy as to put an actual real crossing in place, so the square remains officially out of bounds, despite all the blind eyes turned, the nudges nudged and the winks winked. But the so-called democracy village protest has forced the issue out in the open: people are in Parliament Square. Not just walking in the square, but camping. And they didn’t even drive there. They have even erected huge banners to rub the persecution in the poor Motorist’s face. The protesters are now finally being thrown out, but it’s too late to cover up the farcical situation. If a ceasefire is ever to be achieved, Westminster Council and the London authorities will surely need to make reparations for these war crimes. An end to the blatant discrimination that bans vehicles from the island is surely in order — a new direct connection from Abingdon Street to Birdcage Walk, and a flyover from Victoria Street to the Embankment would surely go some way to relieving the effects of this petty war on the Motorist.Those who witnessed at last month’s critical mass the dignified gentleman who exited his vehicle at this spot in order to explain with an admirable air of calm that the behaviour of the participants was like that of children will surely now better understand the stress that the Very Important users of this cruelly crippled infrastructure are put under.