Dear Mayor of London,
I applaud and support the direction of travel of the Mayor’s draft Transport Strategy.
The ambitious plans to improve the health and well-being of London’s citizens by reducing the need to use cars is exactly what we need to reduce congestion, air and noise pollution, road danger, community severance, carbon emissions, obesity and inactivity. Your bold and visionary document sets the agenda for real political leadership as our city. country and planet face unprecedented challenges.
As this graph from the European Environment Agency shows, CO2 emissions are falling in most other sectors, by 24 per cent between 1990 and 2014. But road transport emissions rose by 17%. Since Cities are responsible for 70% of world emissions but make up on 2% of global land, it is imperative that London plays its part in mitigating
catastrophic Climate Change.
The three most obvious questions presented by the document are:
- Can we do this faster than 2041?
- And is the ambition of 80% of Londoners trips by foot, cycle or public transport enough to hit desired reductions on inactivity, obesity, air pollution, carbon emissions, congestion, and road danger?
- Can we make cycling and walking accessible and safe for all Londoners, from 4 years old to 104?
- My answer would be yes we can do this quicker. I will try and set out some solutions
- Yes we can be even more ambitious on reduction in car use. A ‘Spring clean’ of London’s roads is well overdue.
- Yes it is essential that we make our streets available to all Londoners to cycle and walk so that they can access the ‘miracle pill’ of active travel. But we need 1 billion investment ASAP.
It would be ideal if London’s Mayor had more devolved powers over the whole road network. The patchy response of boroughs to the strategic needs of Londoners can be frustrating. But given that you, the Mayor, have the ability to extend the Congestion hours of the current CCZ, I would say that is a quick win. And increasing the charge too.
I have received 24/7 data of all vehicles entering Congestion Charge Zone from Transport for London in April 2017. It clearly shows surges in cars at 6pm when the CCZ hours finish in the week and throughout the weekend. Also cutting CCZ exemptions for vehicles like Private Hire Vehicles and Taxis, which are private journeys too, will curb congestion. The new night tube is providing a valuable service that can replace many of those private car journeys late into the night. The availability of apps like pedalmeapp provide a real sustainable option to private car journeys, be they Taxi or PHV or privately owned cars or car club.
So called ‘cleaner’ motor vehicle exemptions must also be reviewed immediately. Professor Frank Kelly has advised that private car trips by polluting diesel and petrol must not be automatically replaced by Electric and Hydrogen. He believes car journeys must be replaced by walking and cycling wherever feasible. This supporting evidence shows why: 75% particulates come from road tyre and brake wear.
As a quick, emergency measure, I believe it is possible to raise the CCZ charge on high air pollution days?
Another big issue, not mentioned here, is that Motor vehicle tyres are 60% plastic derivative and therefore a major contributor to ‘plastic soup’ water pollution.
Extending the Congestion Charge zone to apply road pricing to the whole of London will ensure that car use is never cheaper than cycling or public transport. Making walking and cycling the most comfortable, enjoyable and convenient modes will require a sea change in attitude to prioritising these modes. This is deeply embedded at Transport for London and in the current culture and algorithms used in traffic modelling. This needs root and branch culture change.
I understand there will be significant and intense lobbying by a well funded and organised motoring lobby to build more roads, tunnels and bridges for motor vehicles as a way of curbing congestion. May I point to the new Queensferry Crossing at the Firth of Forth:
‘The first cars drove over the bridge shortly before 2am on Wednesday after traffic was diverted from the Forth Road Bridge. A long procession followed police vehicles, with many honking their horns and blowing whistles as they crossed the bridge. However, by rush-hour drivers were facing long delays in both directions.’
£1.35bn spent but not a solution. Merely induced demand.
My understanding is that the cost of road pricing infrastructure across Greater London would be in the region of £200 million. Meanwhile the Silvertown Tunnel is eating into the budget by approximately 1 billion. The most cost effective and effective way of reducing motor traffic must be road pricing whilst providing healthy alternatives for all ages.
Central Copenhagen currently has a 91% share of journeys by walking, cycling and public transport. With an increasing population, I believe this 91% figure to be a more realistic target for the appropriate transformation of streets across London.
We used to make space for designated play streets in London. Unfortunately these have disappeared as cars have made inroads into our most precious of public space:
‘London authorities recognised the value of children being able to play safely in their neighbourhoods in 1938 when they passed legislation preventing traffic from entering designated roads for certain periods of time. The popularity of play streets then spread throughout the capital until the popularisation of car ownership in the 1950’s and 1960’s.’
Common Law sets out the duty of Councils to protect people when creating, designing or maintaining highways. Discriminating against Children, inadvertently or knowingly is a breach of that duty of care.
Cars have assumed and consumed children’s space more than any other group. Children’s ability to travel independently in their local environment has been significantly impeded by infrastructure design that is dangerous and intimidating. Speeding, aggressive motor vehicles, parked cars and shared space bring specific dangers for Children.
However this was not always the case. In Islington I have met many older people in their seventies who cycled independently across London and beyond as 11 year olds. One gentleman described cycling to Southend and back as a twelve year old. We infantalize older children by restricting their accessibility to safe, independent active travel.
Outdoor activity is a crucial component in the growth and development of the child’s brain, body and intellect
The importance of outdoor activity cannot be overstated; instead of sitting on a couch watching cartoons, children learn how to ride a bike, roller skate, kick about a ball.
Physical activity develops social, emotional and cognitive competencies. It is also essential for healthy bone development and exposes children to natural vitamin D, sunlight.
Children acquire knowledge experientially through play, experimentation, exploration and discovery. Learning by doing creates more neural networks in the brain and throughout the body, making the entire body a tool for learning. The more neural pathways, the larger the brain.
Physical activity activates the brain much more than doing seat work because moderate to vigorous movement feeds oxygen, water and to the brain, optimizing performance. Sitting, on the contrary, increases fatigue and reduces concentration.
Activity helps children develop their fine and gross motor skills as well as dexterity and balance, all through exploring, risk taking and having fun. This enhances their anticipation and prediction. In short it helps them become streetwise!
Independent travel by bike or on foot is the perfect way for children to make choices, plan and expand their creativity. It is also necessary outlet for reducing stress, allowing the brain to recharge.
The shocking statistics of
- 4 in 10 children now obese or overweight
- 8 out of 10 children in London not doing the minimum activity required for good health
must be a wake up call.
Here are my recommendations, specifically but not exclusively aimed at London’s children:
- We need road pricing across London to reduce motor traffic to ‘essential’. This will decrease road danger, air pollution and congestion that impedes children’s access to outside play and independent travel.
- We must remove car parking strategically to reintroduce dedicated play streets and a car-free cycling network across London. Children need to see and be seen.
- The Healthy Streets approach needs to include cyclists from all walks of life as well as pedestrians from all walks of life.
- Staggered crossings are not acceptable design, leaving children stranded in the most polluted part of the road.
- No child should be severed from school or parks through lack of safe crossings
- We need 20 MPH speed cameras or police enforcement. 20 MPH London streets are worthless without appropriate enforcement.
- We need weekly car-free Sundays in Central London and Town Centres for families to enjoy.
- Cycling infrastructure must be suitable for children cycling independently, as a minimum requirement. NB Bus lanes are not appropriate cycling infrastructure for children.
- Children’s health and wellbeing must be prioritised over car use and storage.
- Transport for London must be open about how it uses data and algorithms in traffic modelling that can discriminate against children’s human rights.
- We must ban and price polluting cars, whether petrol, diesel, hybrid, electric or hydrogen by real world emissions. Our children’s future must not be burdened by our failures on emissions, including air pollution , water pollution and greenhouse gases.
Road safety is a major issue for buses on London’s streets. Pedestrians and cyclists are being killed and injured in tragic numbers.
Safety must be prioritized and rewarded over timetables. The hierarchy of pedestrians first, cyclists second and buses third must be upheld if we are to encourage Healthy Streets.
The unethical approach that suggests cyclists be used to calm traffic in bus lanes is simply bizarre. Nobody wants their cycling kids or granny to be used like ‘speed humps’ to reduce bus speed.
This 2014 report by Darren Johnson says that Buses are as dangerous as lorries for cyclists, but not as fatal
Working conditions of bus drivers must be legal, ethical and considerate. Safer bus working conditions make streets safer for all Londoners. I support their Bill of Rights.
The introduction of Automated brakes and cruise control in motor vehicles has an unfortunate alignment with a 5% spike in UK road traffic KSIs in 2016. Reliance on new technology with little scrutiny is a cause for major concern. The correlation between automated tech and increased KSIs has not been proven but we must investigate to see if there is a connection between the two before considering automated brakes in London buses. Automated brakes can be hacked.
Pedestrianisation of Oxford Street is a no-brainer for safety. The Elizabeth line, opening in 2018, will provide completely accessible transport. Exiting pedestrians will flood Oxford St and surrounding areas in large numbers. Again the pedestrian, cycling, bus hierarchy must apply.
Transport modelling rather than traffic modelling that counts pedestrians and potential cycling routes must be considered when deciding if buses present unacceptable dangers and areas need to be cycling and walking only. This must be part of the Vision zero.
At Living Streets Walking Summit in March 2017, Janette Sadik-Khan said ‘road traffic reduction is a priority bus measure’. Road pricing or banishing non-essential motor traffic from our strategic road network and bus routes, will ensure more reliable bus journey times.
Motorbikes, Taxis, private cars are private motor traffic journeys that are not part of your ambition to achieve 80% Londoners journeys by walking, cycling and public transport. They should not be allowed to use bus lanes.
Removing all parking and other motor vehicles from bus lanes and bus routes 24/7 is paramount to prioritising this public transport mode.
Creating separate dedicated cycling lanes with well designed floating bus stops will avoid entangling of inappropriate modes. Buses and Cyclists 4-104 yrs are not suitable partners. Separating out modes of traffic has proved to be more efficient in New York.
Orbital bus routes with dedicated bus lanes in Greater London are welcomed. These can produce real alternatives to car use. Linking to hospitals and other community services is vital.
Bendy buses, responsible for twice as many injuries are not welcomed.
I support moving Buses to as cleaner technology as soon as possible, whilst accepting they will never be ‘zero-emission’ but only zero-emission capable.
Commercial vehicles have become a real danger and major cause of congestion and air pollution on residential streets. Thanks to apps like Waze and Google maps, speeding and rat-running are now the norm.
The gig economy like Uber and Deliveroo encourage speeding as part of their business model where drivers are rewarded for timed delivery. This business model must change. Profit at the expense of lives and health is unacceptable.
In Islington, the first Borough to introduce 20MPH, drivers show contempt for the safety of residents. In 2011, research by Royal Holloway College, London University revealed that children ‘cannot detect’ cars travelling faster than 20MPH. This report was concrete evidence for introduction of 20MPH throughout urban areas.
However there seems to have been little thought given to how to enforce this progressive initiative. This is vital if we are to make Healthy Streets for all Londoners and hit Vision Zero targets.
- Police must be apportioned and suitably funded if we want to enforce this and other motoring offences.
- Speed cameras may provide some deterrent if used wisely.
- Residential roads need to be closed to rat-running by suitable bollards.
Another useful tool might be the development of an app, available to Londoners to monitor speeding on their streets. I recently mooted this idea at a Citizens Power data meeting at Bartlett School of Architecture and technically it seems it would be possible.
According to Val Shawcross, two thirds of online deliveries fail. All that extra congestion, air pollution, carbon and road danger for such little commercial success is crazy. How do the economics stack up when drivers or delivery companies feel this waste is economically viable? Let’s make sure we make it wholly economically unviable. Our streets and roads are too valuable to be used in such a reckless way.
- Safer design regulation on HGVs faster
- Consolidation centres and smart rationalisation
- Road pricing to encourage efficient economic use of vehicles
Recycling, composting and Packaging reduction. Plastic can only be recycled three times. More efficient to ban plastic packaging.
- 2/3 online deliveries fail. Make it economically non-viable to pollute and congest our streets
- Road pricing
- Transfer deliveries where feasible to cargo bikes and cycling
- Close roads to stop residential rat-running
- Develop an app to empower citizen reporting and mapping of speeding.
PHVs and Taxis
- Private, inefficient journeys need to be capped and road priced
- Transfer to truly zero-emission pedicabs and new apps like pedalmeapp
I agree that there should be no Heathrow expansion. In fact I believe Heathrow should be contracted to meet air pollution, noise pollution and carbon emission targets.
Whole swathes of West London residents are blighted by air and noise pollution. Are their human rights being violated? I would say there is evidence to support this.
However there is also a notable absence of strategy on City Airport. This also blights large areas of London. I wonder why the health and well-being of residents of East London affected by noise and air pollution are not in the draft Transport Strategy?
I believe it is wholly inappropriate to have an airport within the heart of East London. We can use this land to improve the health and well-being of local residents. building housing and beneficial green infrastructure.
Drones have been involved in a series of near misses with flights at Heathrow. The number of near-misses keeps growing every year. There were 70 drone near-misses at Heathrow in 2016.
Do we have to wait for a catastrophic crash over the capital before these are banned?
Driverless vehicles are presented in very simplistic terms, as futuristic saviours, solving congestion, making streets safer and even saving the planet. Like Uber, they claim to work for the good of the community but in reality
such companies are not actually interested in genuine change, for all their bluster about “radical disruption”. Self-driving cars are a sticking plaster over existing conditions.
My year-long research reveals a complex, darker and more disturbing picture that mirrors the uncertain times we are living in. I believe that if we accept this Trojan Horse through our city gates, we will be more vulnerable to cyber attack. We also become easier prey to a dystopian world where our public space can be controlled by outside forces. This is a very serious threat to our national security.
These ‘mobile couch potatoes’ in no way provide a solution to the inactivity crisis enveloping our city. In fact they will impede progress on this public health emergency.
Replacing the current dangerous motor vehicle technology with an equally or potentially more dangerous tech does not make logical sense. Blowing our limited carbon budget on tech that does not provide real solutions is dangerous and reckless.
Money, resources, time and energy are being sucked into a sci-fi fantasy that should remain on the silver screen. At one meeting I suggested it might be a scam? The answer was revealing ‘It’s a bubble, people will lose money’ said professor George T Martin, Montclair State University.
An algorithmic organisation of society that takes out the human element can only lead to a dystopia; systematic dehumanisation and marginalisation . We must embrace our humanity, become closer to nature and ourselves. Building a more sustainable society is building a more human one, feeding our senses not sensors. Human happiness, creativity and wellbeing are algorithmically unquantifiable.