Participatory democracy (London edition)

Central government have decided to roll back their red tape and give power back to the people!  In reality, this is power going to the county and borough councilors (who don’t have the budgets needed to do anything productive with their new powers), or in some cases it could amount to less power for the councilors to resist the pressures of developers.  It is now more important than ever to keep an eye on local developments: to provide the local opposition that the councilors will need if they are to justify turning down bad proposals, and the local support that they need to get funding for good proposals.

For those who don’t care about London (or care about more than just London), I’ll compile another post.

London boroughs Local Implementation Plans

The London Authority requires the boroughs to periodically outline their transport plans for a forthcoming timespan, to compliment the Mayor’s own transport strategy.  The last set of plans were written five years ago; it’s time for the boroughs to produce new ones and consult with their “stakeholders”.  These plans will include specific detailed initiatives for the next few years, but also propose high-level policy directions for the next few decades.  The boroughs should make these plans available for everyone to read, and any of you can give feedback if you think you hold any stake in the future of transport in that borough.  You don’t need to be a resident — you could comment on a borough that you work in, commute through, or even which you never visit, but whose transport plan you think could have knock-on effects on your own borough’s transport situation (I never visit the northern or western outer boroughs, but it is their pro-car policies that help make much of the central area a nasty place to be).

When reading the LIPs, check what the council plans to do to make the city livable — their plans, if any, for calm residential streets, pleasant high streets, and cycling infrastructure that actually works.  And watch out for failed fantasies like “congestion relief” and “smoother traffic flow”.

Here are a few LIPs that might be of interest:

I couldn’t find anything for Hackney, Islington, or Westminster — perhaps those are not ready yet.  I also searched for Waltham Forest, for a laugh, but they too have nothing obvious available for comment so far.  If you can find those, or any other LIPs that are worthy of comment, do let us know.  So far I haven’t looked at the content of any the LIPs except the City, Camden, and Southwark — if you do look at any of the documents and spot anything outstanding or outrageous in them, let us know.

Other stuff that needs action

Email Lambeth Council to oppose the removal of one of the few off-road routes we have in central London — the riverside path:

Subscribe the TfL’s consultations — they include major streetscape changes on the red routes, Bus routes, taxis, etc.

Find your borough’s streets & transport consultations web page — e.g. Lewisham’s is here — and subscribe to it (if the council are too useless to have provided their own feed, you can improvise one with tools like this).  Look out for changes to speed restrictions, official approval of pavement parking, poorly designed one-way systems, etc.  Most consultations are small and dull so get very few responses, and proposals easily go through unopposed — but this means that when people do speak up, they can potentially get noticed more easily.

Also keep an eye on the major projects in the central boroughs — especially Westminster and The City, since these are usually designed to support our current car-centric mess.  Westminster’s transport/streetscapes consultations page was particularly difficult to find, but I believe this is it.  It includes their proposals for half of the grubbier eastern end of Oxford Street, to be built later this year: more car parking spaces and loading bays; helping pedestrians by, erm, pushing them onto other “under-utilised streets” (shove ’em round the back by the bins — that’s gotta be good for business); and no mention of cycling at all.  (Of course, what Oxford Street and its traders desperately need is proper pedestrianisation — but then, this same observation was made in the 1963 Buchanan report and it hasn’t happened yet.)  You have two months to send Westminster your comments on that one.

I must stop the list there, else I won’t have time to respond to any of these plans myself…

Weekly War Bulletin, 27 Nov

The Evening Standard learn that only 1 in 3 hire bike users are women and then dictate that this is because women are scared and don’t want to get sweaty.  Of course.  Not because men are too scared to commit to buying a bicycle of their own, or because all the men’s own bicycles are broken and they’re too embarrassed to take them to the workshop and admit that they can’t fix them, or because men want to be able to ride sitting upright and with a basket without being called a girl, or because women with their frivolous romantic novels about wealthy gentlemen and swooning ladies enjoy taking the train while men with their very important spreadsheets and reports don’t.  In gender asymmetries there’s always something wrong with the women, and it’s just obvious that this has something to do with fear and sweat.  Right, Evening Standard?

The hire bikes will finally open to spontaneous unregistered users next week, months over schedule (but a few weeks earlier than the xmas prediction that we were last given from TfL).

The London Cycling Campaign step in to timidly ask the question we’ve all been asking: er, should the hardened criminal killer of Catriona Patel really have been free to drive his truck over the cyclist in the first place?

The big news this week, though, has been all the wonderful things that the coalition are doing for the railways!  (Nobody mention that these are merely the few Labour rail projects that the Tories are not cutting.)  Thameslink goes ahead in full (nobody mention that the Tories will make it eighteen years late rather than sixteen), the Paddington lines will be electrified to Dave, Gideon, and Phil’s old home, Oxford (nobody mention that the Tories will drop the electrification further down to Bristol, Cardiff, and Swansea), there will be hundreds of new carriages (nobody mention that the Tories will order fewer and later).  Thanks, Tories!  The amount of cash saved will probably almost pay for the overspend on the futile M25 congestion relief work.

ATOC didn’t do quite so well at disguising their bad news: despite their best efforts to cover up, the media spotted that there was going to be another massively above inflation rail fares hike this new year.

Meanwhile, Virgin Trains, they of the chronically overcrowded WCML, are apparently holding new carriages hostage, demanding a franchise extension as ransom before they will extend their trains.

And Network Rail have cut £200m costs.  The directors must deserve another £200m in bonuses for that.

Rural bus services might also suffer from fares fiddling.

It’s just too dangerous to ride a bicycle in London.  It is if you’re the deputy prime-minister, anyway: Nick has to take the ministerial car to protect himself from missiles and hit men.

But boo hoo, local authorities want to raise the penalties for illegal parking, you know, to be an actual disincentive.

I thought everyone had already arranged to be on holiday during the Olympics, but apparently some people still haven’t been frightened off — so All Newspapers have been roped in to spread the word of the apocalyptic traffic chaos that will hit London.

This weekend, Oxford Street will be how it should always have been: pedestrians only.  Incidentally, this morning the postman turned up with a tatty copy of the 1963 Traffic in Towns (aka, The Buchanan Report to the Minister of Transport on the long term problems of traffic in urban areas), one of the earliest government documents to acknowledge that British towns and cities might not be able to comfortably accommodate widespread motor vehicle use.  Its author even in 1963 said that Oxford Street, “the most uncivilised street in Europe”, “epitomizes the conflict between traffic and environment”.  (Their solution is given at the bottom of this post.)

The helmetcam doesn’t lie: 88% of accidents involving cyclists in Australia are caused by bad motor vehicle drivers.

Cutting Cycling England wasn’t about cutting cycling: it was just about bringing it in-house to DfT, where it will be transparent and get the attention it deserves.  So nobody mention that the first CE-funded projects are going under.

Imagine if workmen knocked off early leaving the Blackwall or Rotherhithe tunnels closed without warning — the Standard would howl and the mayor would seek to fine the contractors.  Seems nobody cares when it’s the Greenwich or Woolwich foot tunnels, though.  Bath don’t seem to think that pedestrians and cyclists need alternative river crossings when their bridges are closed, either.

There’s a good chance of Bristol getting a citywide 20mph limit.  It’s a shame individual cities have to introduce this one-by-one at £500k a time, though.  Surely it would save on printing signs and cluttering the streets with them if we simply made 20 the default for built up areas…

Probably we will never ever see a weekend of full tube service; certainly not until 2012, though.

Got an old rusty bicycle that’s of no use?  Want to do your bit for the War On The Motorist?  Chain it to the railings outside MI6.  You’ll have all the roads in Vauxhall closed while they blow it up.

This is no more “news” than “tubes go on stike” or “rail fares rise”, but: yet another study says speed cameras save lives.

Twat leaves injured blind pensioner on the side of the street.  But the twat happened to be on a bicycle and the street happened to be a shared use de-motorized street: therefore all cyclists are dangerously selfish lycra louts -or- all shared use paths are dangerous.  Delete as applicable.  Obviously, no such conclusions can be drawn from somebody driving their car into a woman and leaving her to freeze to death in a Somerset ditch.

MP upsets constituents with bad parking-fine advice.  Apparently the Motorists were upset because they were caught by cameras that were designed to tackle anti-social behaviour.  Because middle-class crimes like blocking pavements, taking disabled parking bays, or leaving your car in the way of buses and ambulances are perfectly acceptable and social behaviours.  At least drink-driving is no longer acceptable to the middle-classes — if it’s a Labour MP doing the drink-driving, that is.

Here are the numbers on kids and roads: how many are forbidden from walking and cycling by their parents, and how many have been hit by cars.

One single police force are putting up billboards reminding Motorists how to drive.  As the comments thread points out, that’s the War On The Motorist, that is.

Some councils fill in potholes, some don’t.  How well does yours do?

Double yellow lines will “deter” car users from parking in Cambridge bike lanes.

Your moment of zen: from Traffic in Towns, a plan for the modernisation of Fitzrovia, including the Euston and Totenham Court Motorways, and the widening of Oxford Street to approximately 7 times its current width, for parking purposes:

And Virgin Trains, they of the chronically overcrowded WCML, are apparently holding new carriages hostage, demanding a franchise extension as ransom before they will extend their trains.

Weekly War Bulletin, 31 July

Apparently some sort of new bicycle thing — a hire scheme of some sort — launched in London on Friday.  After things got heated with an organised anti-bank stickering campaign, a man was arrested for kicking one of the poor things.  And if we had known that usage on Friday would be free — and with hindsight, we probably should have expected it — we’d have taken one on the Mass.

The Olympic Road Network (the news have been misnaming it Route — all of the routes are in fact roads) has been confirmed: Park Lane, Embankment and Upper Thames Street are in.  25,000 “sponsors and their guests” will be able to use them, thus guaranteeing that the Olympics will not be ruined by the absence of “sponsors and their guests”.  Some are already expressing their shock at hearing that even taxis will not be allowed to use them.  We really have been expertly conditioned to believe that taxis have some sort of right push in and drive wherever they like.  With the fine for “improper use” at £100 (or, in newspeak, £200 with a 50% discount if paid on time), a nicely flowing Olympic lane will no doubt prove very tempting to the sort of idiot who already thinks it’s a good idea to drive in the congestion charging zone.

Ho ho.  Parking, eh?  Harrods owners’ luxuary cars clamped on Knightsbridge.  Kensington & Chelsea council have realised that a £70 fine means nothing to the sort of person who already thinks that it’s a good idea to drive into their borough, and so instead of a token fine that merely gives the fine payer the feeling of having paid for a service, K&C are taking away the children’s toys and making them stand in the corner.

Those new Victoria line trains that we’ve been expecting for three years turn out not to work perfectly first time.  They shut down if you stand too close to the doors, and are therefore described as “23 times less reliable” than the old ones.  Except, as London Reconnections points out, this won’t be a surprise to the engineers and project managers, who will know that this is how engineering projects work, and be ready with the fix right away.

Of a more long term concern to tube commuters should be the cuts to station staff, which this week are prompting strike ballots, and the Mayor’s great Air Con.

Meanwhile, talentless banjolele players accuse TfL of discrimination after being told they’re not good enough to play on the tube.

Bus firm repudiates last week’s racist abuse story.

Camera on world’s most blindingly obvious “Buses and taxis only” road rakes in £2 million from Motorists who get confused and think they’re a bus.  I for one welcome this tax on the stupid.

The New West End Company have an artists impression of St Giles’ Circus after the Crossrail works are completed at the station below: a scene delightfully free from street furniture clutter, where pedestrians and cyclists meander about in the junction, while buses, whose motion blur implies quite some speed, plough through them.  Most depressingly of all, they tell us that the Queen musical will still be playing a decade from now.

Finally, after Tom Hall suggested six uses for a hire bike, your moment of zen: the author demonstrates how a 20kg hire bike can be a complete replacement for a gym membership:

On Oxford Street

Wikipedia / GFDL

The Grauniad Bike Blog asks, “why are taxis the king of the road when they carry so few passengers?”  That is, the obvious question that most people in London have been asking for some time, why, given that taxis are responsible for at most one in every 200 commuter journeys in London, and given that for the vast majority of these journeys a taxi is a needless and extravagant luxury, and given that taxis are a major contributor to congestion and pollution, why the fuck do we publicly subsidise their industry by allowing them to use the infrastructure that is supposed to be set aside for the transport modes which actually solve those problems?  Why, when politicians words are of increasing bus and bike share, do their actions say: we don’t care for bus users, we will penalise your transport choice by creating taxi jams to hold up your bus; we don’t care for cyclists, we will force you to share space with some of the widest, tallest, most polluting, and most erratically driven vehicles on the road?

Well, think, dears.  Who uses taxis in London?  The people who can afford it.  Politicians, for example, and the businessmen that fund their parties.  Councillors, mayors, and assemblymen aren’t going to do anything to inconvenience taxi drivers, because that would inconvenience themselves, and perhaps even make the businessman who arranged to buy them lunch late.

And anyway, taxis need to use London’s bus lanes: they need to make sudden swerves into the pavement on a red route, cutting up bicycles and buses, because they need to pick up fares.  It’s in the interest of everybody’s safety if they only brake suddenly in one lane, without having to cut across two.  But still, they would need to use bus lanes for a third reason, because otherwise it would take them hours to get across town, and then how would they be able to compete in the free and fair market for transport modes?

But one bus lane they don’t need to use is Oxford Street.  People who can afford taxis don’t go to Oxford Street.  They go to the arcades of Knightsbridge or Kensington; Smithfield boutiques if they’re trendy; or jump on a Eurostar and combine it with lunch.  So taxis don’t need to go to Oxford Street for their fares.  But do they need to go through Oxford Street in order to avoid the jams on the conventional roads which would amount to an unfair burden on their industry?  Well, according to the BBC, taxi drivers are complaining about how long it takes to get down Oxford Street — because of all the buses and pedestrian crossings full of common non-taxi using plebs getting in their way.

Perhaps Westminster council and the London authority could consider doing a little something to help taxi drivers, by banning them from Oxford Street entirely — thus doing their bit to end the end the war on the motorist, and, in the process, creating the city’s first real bus lane.