Cycle for London
Thursday 22nd September, 8am sharp
Blackfriars Bridge (South side, outside Doggett’s Pub)
Toxic air quality, hundreds of road deaths and the most congested streets in Europe: this is TFL’s gift to London. For as long as Transport for London values cars above cyclists and pedestrians neither our streets nor our lungs will be safe.
In the eyes of TfL one car-user deserves and is given 5x the space of a cyclist or pedestrian. Every time TfL design a road or public space they put the needs of a life-endangering car above the needs of vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists.
It’s time their attitude changed. Our clogged up streets can’t carry this capacity any more. People should be encouraged to leave their car at home, jump on their cycle or use public transport and walk.
Join Climate Rush and London cycling campaigns for an early-morning bike ride followed by a TfL roadblock.
Meet at 8am on the South side of Blackfriars Bridge before we make our way to TfL HQ.
We’ll chalk our messages on their pavement before hurrying off to work (on time!).
What are we asking for?
There are a lot of things wrong with the way TfL currently operates. So we’re asking for three things: an open and democratic Transport for London whose policies are made by people, not computers; 20mph speed limits for a civilised city; and car-free and car-light areas to make London streets safe and London air clean.
1. An open and democratic Transport for London
Despite controlling London’s most important streets, TfL is not democratically controlled and justifies its overruling of people’s views and needs through its ‘smoothing the [motor] traffic agenda’. This has got to change.
When TfL ignored the London Assembly’s unanimous vote in favour of keeping 20mph outside Blackfriars Station, the reality of TfL’s democratic deficit became clear to many Londoners. All sorts of transport interests are represented on its board, other than walking and cycling. TfL has a habit of breaking Freedom of Information laws, when Londoners try to find out what is really going on. Consultation, when it happens, is often a rubber stamping exercise to approve the only option its computer modelling will approve.
Under Boris TfL is worse than ever – his drive to ‘smooth the traffic flow’ in reality means things like removing pedestrian crossings to speed up driving trips. TfL recently refused to let the public have their say on its spending priorities or its emergency Clean Air Fund. The Fund is now going to be spent on ‘ecomarshalls’ to ask idling drivers to turn their engines off, rather than actually cutting traffic. TfL only consulted the public on Blackfriars junction this spring after it was forced to by a public outcry. But it refused to disclose vital background information, saying that ‘the public interest was better served’ by allowing TfL to work without public scrutiny.
- Commitment to real consultation on its schemes and priorities, including sharing of all relevant information in advance.
- Independent review of handling of Blackfriars junction scheme and commitment from the top to follow recommendations
- Dedicated representation of walking, cycling and local community interests on TfL’s board
2. 20mph for a civilised city
20mph is not just about safer streets, it’s about ending the dominance of motor traffic, in particular the stop-surge style of driving that intimidates and causes needless pollution.
Half of the most dangerous air pollution from traffic now comes from tyre and brake wear rather than exhaust pipes and this proportion is predicted to increase. 20mph is a way of reducing this by truly smoothing and civilising the traffic. 20mph should be the norm on all of London’s streets, with higher speed limits only considered on roads that have no community function – housing, shops, schools, etc. along them. On the continent 20km/h (12mph) is increasingly common in minor streets, something that should be trialled here, but at the moment the Department for Transport is resisting permitting speed limits below 20mph.
- Introduction of 20mph on red routes in central London, other town centres and outside major stations, in accordance with official guidance to implement 20mph where there are significant flows of people walking and cycling.
- Dedicated funding for London local authorities to take advantage of new 20mph signing rules to implement 20mph across large areas, something that is much cheaper now than adding zones piecemeal.
- Leadership for implementing 20mph across central London by 2012, where most Londoners visit but few have a vote to influence the policies of the respective local authorities.
3. Car-free and ‘car-light’ areas for London
In a city as full and busy as London we need to prioritise space for people, not metal boxes. Other cities have done this brilliantly with car-free days, cycle streets and the pedestrianisation of their central areas. London needs to step up with its vision and ambitions.
Whether it’s green quarters and summer riverside road closures in Paris, cycle streets in Berlin or the reclaiming of Times Square and turning parking spaces into ‘park(let)s’ and cafe tables in American cities, there are lots of ways to reduce the space given to private motor traffic. Doing this not only cuts pollution and makes our streets more convivial, it gives more people more travel options and makes our transport system more efficient.
Plans to improve the streets around Blackfriars, Elephant & Castle, Finsbury Park, Westminster (Parliament Square) and Vauxhall stations have been vetoed by TfL. Each time TfL’s ‘computer says no’, because it predicts there would be congestion if the exactly the same number of drivers tried to pass through redesigned spaces. It’s time to become more honest that computer modelling can’t accurately cope with the current surge in cycling, let alone a major policy shift to change London’s streets to prioritise the needs of people over the movement of metal boxes.
When Crossrail and Thameslink are completed in 2018, London will benefit from a record increase in public transport, a benefit we should not squander. We need to start now to plan for much more space for people to walk and cycle in central London and to, from and around stations that will be disgorging tens of thousands of people a day. And the only way to create much needed space is to cut the amount of cars in many areas.
- Prioritise more space-efficient forms of travel (cycling, walking and buses) rather than rely on outdated computer modelling to stick with the status quo.
- Give our lungs a break with more weekend and summer road closures.
- Plan car-free and ‘car-light’ areas in Central London, to make our shopping streets, public spaces and cafes a place to linger and enjoy, and our stations safe and welcoming places to get to.