My response to the draft London Plan

Dear Mayor of London,

 

I welcome the new London Plan emphasis on Good Growth; of a healthy, inclusive city and its determination to limit unsustainable modes of transport.  I support

GG3 1.3.4 The Healthy Streets Approach outlined in this plan. This puts improving health and reducing health inequalities at the heart of planning London’s public space. It will tackle London’s inactivity crisis, improve air quality and reduce the other health impacts of living in a car-dominated city by planning street networks that work well for people on foot and on bikes, and providing public transport networks that are attractive alternatives to car use. It will also ensure that streets become more social spaces.

 GG5 I support the aim of maximising London’s existing and future public transport; its walking and cycling network, as well as its network of town centres, to support agglomeration and economic activity.

 GG2 I welcome the policy of encouraging densification around major transport interchange points.
 

Where I feel the draft London Plan is not robust or ambitious in its objectives:

Road Pricing

T2 Road pricing: existing schemes reviewed – 2018-2020
 This must be more specific. Road pricing must include Taxis, PHVs and remove exemptions, all motor vehicles cause congestion. The hours of the Congestion Charge need to be extended to 24/7. And the price needs to be raised.
Road pricing: next generation charging (subject to further assessment) – 2022-2041
This need to be prioritised and ASAP.  The time frame is not ambitious enough.

 Parking

The car parking standards for outer London (policies T6.1, T6.2 and T6.3) seem unnecessarily generous and difficult to reconcile with the welcome objective of increasing to 80% the proportion of journeys to be made by sustainable modes of transport. We already have 6.8 million parking spaces taking up more than 78.5 km sq. We cannot afford to allocate any more precious floor space or land to this economically illiterate use of prime space. Carfree development must cover the whole of Greater London not just CAZ.
I support Policy T6.1  F. The provision of car parking should not be a reason for reducing the level of affordable housing in a proposed development. [But the definition of affordable housing must be clear. This is a loophole and needs to be more robust. Social housing must be clearly defined and not open to loopholes.]
Policy T6.1 makes the crucial point that car parking diminishes the ability to make full economic and socially inclusive use of prime space. Residential car lots and spaces make individual units less and less affordable for tenants. They also result in fewer units as a whole, meaning the supply of housing across the city is reduced. That too hikes up rents over time, as Boroughs run out of sites to develop
Table-10-3 in the draft London Plan sets out maximum parking provision for residential units, based on PTAL. Whilst I support CAZ being car-free, parts of inner London and Outer London PTAL have maximum car parking of between 0.25-1.5 per unit. If the Mayor achieves the increase from 29,000 homes a year to 66,000 per year, we can anticipate a significant rise in the number of car parking spaces in London.
This runs totally counter to the Mayors ambition to reduce car dependency. And how much potential housing and office floor space will be lost to more car storage? We must have NO more car parking in London. We need clear reductions in parking and car infrastructure to facilitate maximum usage of prime land for housing.
Conversely, the minimum cycle parking standards (Policy T5 and Table 10.2) are insufficient to drive “the ambitious aim to reduce Londoners’ dependency on cars”. Additionally we must supply  60,000 ambient cycle parking in the London Plan. This will facilitate a wide range of cycling trips.
Cycling CTAL replacing PTAL would increase access to public transport through cycling infrastructure. This is laid out on Page 40, 41, 42 of The Strategic Cycling Analysis Such an approach would unlock carfree development throughout Greater London. CTAL cycling infrastructure must compliment PTAL to open up areas throughout Greater London to car-free development.

 Cycling infrastructure

Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy must contribute funding to appropriate CTAL cycling infrastructure.
Licensing of pedicabs and emerging cycling taxi apps must be included as vital sustainable transport for ‘Good Growth’ Dedicated pedicab ranks at major interchanges must be provided in the London Plan.
I support all proposed walking and cycling bridges Rotherhithe, Nine Elms to Pimlico and would like these to be prioritised.
I do not support Silvertown Tunnel. We must not build new roads which induce more motor traffic use.
 The London Plan must include dedicated play streets across London.

Aviation

 I welcome the Mayor’s stance on Heathrow (policy T8D).  But am opposed to any expansion of airport capacity in the south-east including City Airport and Gatwick and believe that all journeys over land should be made by rail rather than air.

Housing

I believe using open green space for housing is unnecessary and counter to the ‘Good growth’ aim. Gardens are vital for biodiversity, Healthy soils store carbon and mitigate flash flooding. I support densification of the Outer boroughs but within their current footprint. We must not lose small green spaces and back gardens when car parking has such a high footprint.(6.8 million car parking spaces in London taking up a minimum of 78.5 km sq).
Under occupation of dwellings shows where densification is possible. Car Parks and car infrastructure like garages must be the first to be developed for housing.

Water and light

Water consumption must be addressed with more robust policies in the London Plan. Londoners are using 170 litres per day when the UK average is 140 litres. Cape Town is now down to 50 litres per person per day and still running dry. London is one of the 11 cities most likely to run out of drinking water
Access to sunlight must be embedded in the London Plan. Food growing which needs sun must be available to all Londoners. The sun is also vital for vitamin D and mental and physical wellbeing.
Solar must be integral to all new development.

Food

POLICY 4.8.e I support the range of London’s markets, including street, farmers’ and, where relevant, strategic markets, complementing other measures to improve their management, enhance their offer and contribute to the vitality of town centres. This must be broadened to develop the relationship between Londoners and the local food growers outside London. Helping with picking and building cultural exchanges.This is important for food security, health and well being.

Automation and tech

 Automation is a high energy user. The rush to automation cannot reduce our energy consumption sufficiently to meet the climate targets set by the Paris agreement.We must prioritise low energy, carbon efficient strategy.

The London plan must be worded in such a way that ‘takeover from the inside’ by tech corporations is not possible. WAZE is owned by google. Transport for London and the London Assembly must be wary of ‘free’ services.

Algorithmic transparency must be embedded in the London plan so that citizens can democratically scrutinise decision making. A bill was recently passed in New York so that the city’s ‘automated decision systems’ are fairer and more open to scrutiny. The bill would require the city to make public the computer instructions that are used, invisibly, in all kinds of government decision-making.
I would would also like all Section 106 to be held separately and independently. The London Ramblers have noticed that Section 106 are going missing and public access originally granted can be denied without documented evidence. This is effectively ‘land grab’.

Will much needed housing replace car storage in London?

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Two major challenges for London are housing and transport

6.8 million car parking spaces in London take up at least 78.5 km sq, based on the minimum parking space. When land for housing is in short supply and cars are greedily sucking up space, we have an escalating crisis.

So it is encouraging to see the Mayor of London’s draft London plan  set the ambition to reduce car dependency and use space more efficiently. This is what the Mayor calls ‘Good growth’.
The Evening Standard  reported that Sadiq Khan had unveiled plans to Ban Parking Spaces from new London homes and office blocks in an attempt to cut car use in the capital:

“If you buy or rent a home in London and make regular journeys to the work or shops, I want to see safe and secure cycle parking available for every journey, across all parts of the city. For too long our housing and infrastructure has been built solely around the car”, the Mayor explained. Car parking spaces for disabled people are to be be prioritised and cycle parking will be increased.

This is exactly what we need.

The real story is hidden in the detail

Policy T5 Cycling is not as ambitious as we were lead to believe. This table,  kindly supplied by Ecocycles, compares the current London Plan with the new draft plan for Cycle Parking Standards for Office Buildings. In this context the numbers seem stagnant or lacking in ambition.

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Meanwhile Table 10.2  sets out minimum residential cycle parking. This is clearly not generous enough, especially for dwellings with 2 bedrooms or more. I couldn’t find any mention of parking provision for cargo bikes or customised trikes and recumbents? Short-stay visitor parking of 1 cycling space per 40 units seems derisory.

Ambient cycle parking is not mentioned in the draft London Plan. Stop Killing Cyclists have estimated that we need 60,000 across Greater London.

 The London plan states that ‘Development should facilitate and encourage cycling, and reduce car dependency and the health problems it creates’. These cycle parking standards must be redrawn to reflect that admirable vision.

Table 10.2 – Minimum cycle parking standards

Use Class Description of use Long-stay (e.g. for residents or employees) Short-stay (e.g. for visitors or customers)
C3-C4 Dwellings (all) 1 space per studio, 1.5 spaces per 1 bedroom unit, 2 spaces per all other dwellings 1 space per 40 units

The high cost of residential car parking

Policy T6.1  Residential parking states:

F. The provision of car parking should not be a reason for reducing the level of affordable housing in a proposed development.

This makes the crucial point that car parking diminishes the ability to make full economic and socially inclusive use of prime land. Residential car lots and spaces make individual units less and less affordable for tenants. They also result in fewer units as a whole, meaning the supply of housing across the city is reduced. That too hikes up rents over time, as Boroughs run out of sites to develop.

This table in the draft London Plan sets out maximum parking provision for residential units. Whilst CAZ is car-free, parts of inner London and Outer London have maximum car parking of between 0.25-1.5 per unit. If the Mayor achieves the increase from 29,000 homes a year to 66,000 per year, we can anticipate a significant rise in the number of car parking spaces in London. This runs totally counter to the Mayors ambition to reduce car dependency. And how much potential floor space will be lost to more car storage?Table 10.3

CTAL the new tool that could make car-free development possible across all parts of London

The public Transport Access Level (PTAL) is a measure of access to public transport across London. Each area in London is given a PTAL value between 0 and 6, based on the number and frequency of public transport services that can be accessed by a short walk. Areas with higher PTAL values have better access to the
public transport network.

CTALs are based on the current geography of London. They show the current potential for cycling accessibility in an area but this potential might be unrealised without complementary infrastructure. For example, someone may live 15 minutes walk from a London Underground station in an area of low PTAL. But if a cycle route was provided linking them to their nearest London Underground station in less than five minutes on a bike, and additional cycle parking was provided, the CTAL could be realised.

The Cycling CTAL tool  must compliment or replace PTAL by unlocking access to public transport through active travel infrastructure.  This is outlined in the Strategic Cycling Analysis by Transport for London Page 40, 41, 42

This will enable carfree development throughout Greater London.

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If you can’t ban cars, just take away the parking spaces

Transport in Oslo accounts for 61% of the city’s CO2 emissions – a full 39% of it coming from private cars. This despite Oslo having the world’s highest proportion of electric vehicles. In 2015, Oslo’s politicians decided the only way to meet its carbon targets was to ban cars from its centre.

Not surprisingly the car lobby resisted. So instead of an outright car ban, Oslo followed a tactical-urbanism approach to limiting vehicle movement through the city centre by simply removing all the parking spots from the area and building entire new residential towers that are expected to be car-free.

Car-free development is a vital policy and must cover all areas of London, We cannot cut emissions and achieve the Healthy Streets agenda by perpetuating damaging car culture. Car parking provision must no longer play a part in the London Plan.

Sadly green space, such as back gardens may be lost to new developments as suitable sites dry up. Once cemented over it is hard to reclaim this land. It is lost forever. Green cover is advocated as mitigation but this is not the earth. Does the Mayor really want to erase the earth for more car storage?

I believe we must have year on year targets to reduce parking spaces. Only by shrinking the car(bon) footprint that blights our cities, will we achieve a living environment we can be proud of.

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Ground floor of Dalston Square. How many units of housing used for car storage?

 

 

 

 

Our irrational addiction to cars is frying the planet. Time for some carbon literate strategy in 2018

Roads are the biggest threat to nature

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Economics is the study of how societies use scarce resources to produce valuable commodities and distribute them among different people. Behind this definition are two key ideas in economics: that goods are scarce and that society must use its resources efficiently.

The big challenge of our age is how to live within the scarcity of a 1.5C carbon budget, so we can mitigate further global warming and avoid the tipping point of runaway climate change.

Part of this challenge is to examine with candour and depth some of our endemic habits that are needlessly frying the planet.

One of these habits, which could  be aptly described as an addiction, is cars. And they are increasingly becoming our biggest Climate headache.

Passenger cars are responsible for around 12% of EU CO2 emissions. Despite some technological ‘solutions’ like ‘clean diesel’ , traffic numbers and vehicle size have rendered any ‘advancement’ redundant. For the last 20 years the carbon emitted by cars has continued to increase and there are no signs that this is slowing down. We are driving ourselves off a Climate Change cliff.

The rational response is to acknowledge that this model is not working. that the desire to have individualised motorised transport is fundamentally flawed and that Europe needs to wean itself off automobiles as a core industrial strategy and transport choice.

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In the United States private vehicles are an even bigger contributor to global warming. Vehicles are now America’s biggest CO2 source.  Collectively, 263.6 million US personal cars and trucks account for nearly 20% of all US emissions, emitting around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases for every gallon of gas. US also tops the list of vehicle miles travelled.

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But unbelievably the answer is staring us right in the face: 69.1% of car journeys in the US are under 2 miles. These are short journeys that could be potentially cycled or walked with safe and well designed infrastructure. It is these short journeys that are frying the planet. But equally these short journeys offer redemption.

The global strategy so far has relied on switching personal vehicles to ‘lower emission’ Electric or hydrogen.

In a recent Facebook post, Donnachadh McCarthy challenged the carbon literacy of this approach. He warned that ‘every new EV is a carbon bomb lasting 100 years…..’

‘Electric vehicles are 15% higher for embedded energy but lower depending on source of electricity for full lifetime analysis but still far far too high and unaffordable’

Here is his analysis of embedded energy:

  • The average electric version of a compact car (e.g. Nissan Leaf) emits about 8 tons of carbon to manufacture it.
  • The average electric version of a sedan (e.g. Ford Mondeo) emits about 19.5 tons of carbon in manufacture.
  • The average electric version of a SUV (e.g. Ford Land-Rover Discovery) would take a whopping 39 tons to manufacture.
  • There are currently about 37.5 million vehicles licenced in the UK.
  • Taking an average of 17 tons per new electric vehicle (EV), to replace the entire fleet could take up to 637 million tons of carbon to manufacture.
  • This massive potential EV carbon bomb is more than the entire domestic UK carbon footprint of 530 million tons for everything for an entire year!
  • And this is without them being driven a single mile using UK electricity, which is still predominantly sourced from fossil fuels.
  • At most we can afford a personal carbon budget of 1ton/person per year.
  • Thus, buying a new EV would blow your entire carbon budget from 8 to 39 years!!
  • Globally 1.2 billion vehicles
    Embedded carbon replacement = 20.4 billion tons
    That is 14% of remaining 1.5C carbon budget, which is
    TOTALLY UNAFFORDABLE
    Remember 1.5C = lots of coastal cities under water and lots of pacific nations gone

The absolute imperative is to rapidly de-carbonise Energy. This means Conservation of energy is the forgotten half of the conversation. Renewables must not be a licence to waste, something that technocrats constantly fail to acknowledge and accept.

Squandering gains in clean energy transition by investing in high energy technology is irrational. Rapid charging, ICT connectivity and autonomy add high energy use to an already greedy low occupancy energy user.

Energy hogs like Google are sucking up renewables to power their operations for the year, This does not mean Google is “powered” by renewables but is buying renewable energy certificates (RECs), which ensure a certain quantity of wind and solar electricity is allocated to a given use. In other words, Google bought renewable power in quantities that match its consumption, even though that renewable electricity isn’t necessarily powering its operations directly

The company has such a massive energy appetite, matching its size: In 2015, for instance, it devoured 5.7 terawatt-hours of electricity, about as much as the city of San Francisco uses in a year. But it wants to make claims it is ‘carbon neutral’.

Among Google’s most voracious power guzzlers are the 15 data centers across the world that make up the “physical internet” — the servers running 24/7 to power the search engine and the cloud.

Across the United States, data centers are increasingly supplanting smog-belching factories as the humming engines of the economy as industries expand their footprints online. They’re also soaking up 3 percent of the country’s electricity. This is set to rise exponentially with automation of motor vehicles.

Some ecologists like Oliver Tickell  believe ultimately our future is ‘one of abundant, zero carbon, very cheap energy in which we do not need to worry either about energy cost, nor its carbon emissions.’

This is making a lot of assumptions. Roads are the biggest threat to nature and motor vehicle infrastructure threatens our ability to restore that natural green cover that will help absorb carbon.

Meanwhile solar and wind farms have their own environmental footprint beyond electricity, facilities like data centers also require land and consume water.

Here are some global strategic solutions I believe we should adopt in 2018:

  1. Strategically, to stand the best chance of mitigating climate change, we need to invest our limited carbon budget wisely
  2. The World Bank has recently declared it will no longer fund fossil fuel extraction
  3. The World Bank, IMF and Governments must not fund more roads or motor vehicle infrastructure.
  4.  The World Bank, IMF and Governents must prioritise and fund a global protected cycling network, safer crossings, junctions and infrastructure for people to cycle and walk
  5. And a global rail network and bus and tram transit network.
  6. We need to culturally and economically adjust to minimising motor vehicles.
  7. We must ban diesel and petrol personal vehicles from densely populated areas.
  8. We must be careful to only switch essential motor vehicles to Electric or hydrogen.
  9. We must cap motorised taxis and cabs and car sharing/hire vehicles
  10. We must Rationalise freight and delivery, switching all that is feasible to rail and last mile cargo bike delivery.

My response to the Mayor’s draft Environmental Strategy

 

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Dear Mayor of London,

There is much to admire in the Mayor’s draft transport strategy and it is very comprehensive.

My over arching concern is that short-term carbon targets have been cut.

I believe we need to move more quickly to reduce London’s carbon emissions. As I understand it, the strategy deletes the target of 60% reduction in carbon by 2025. The explanation for this seems to be the wider context of national policy. Central Government is not acting quickly enough to de-carbonise energy, which makes it difficult to meet these targets?

But there is more than one way to skin a cat…

I am also concerned that the promise to divest the London Pension Fund from fossil fuels has not been kept?

The momentum for change is currently too slow

The UN Environment Programme has said in its annual emissions gap report, that government commitments are only a third of what is needed.  

Many cities have been slow to prepare “situations in which climate changes are considered within the scope of planning’.  This can lead to everyday climate change denial.

We need the strongest possible determination, leadership, responsibility and urgency to deal with the current unpredictable and escalating crisis. This must be Top down and Bottom up if we are to save millions of people from a miserable future. We need policies throughout planning and governance that reflect this urgency.

Yes we must build flood defences, and adapt to global warming but avoiding runaway climate change is vital. Mitigating against global warming has never been important.

The combination of a very real potential for runaway climate change with the shrinking and degradation of the last bastions of a bio-diverse natural world for profit, means we are facing a very serious situation.

Meanwhile there is an alarming reduction in flying insects and aquatic life; whole food webs could be under threat as our assault on nature continues unabated. Lastly, pollution, be it agricultural run-off, airborne or plastic waste in our drinking water, rivers and oceans is an imminent threat to life on this planet.

 

The head of the UN Environment Assembly for 2017, Edgar Gutierrez – Espleta warns ‘We face a stark choice; up our ambition or face the consequences’. Adding that there is a ‘catastrophic gap between what needs to be done, and what Governments are actually doing’. This is procrastination on a global level.

A new enlightenment

London Coffee houses of the 17th and 18th century were ‘engines of creation that helped drive the Enlightenment’ I believe the challenges of Climate Change and addressing the environmental externalities of our current London model need the most creative, deeply considered and enlightened debate and social interaction. A radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles.

Only by engaging residents, businesses, unions, activists, campaigners, educators and creatives to take steps individually and organisationally to improve the environment for the common good, will we turn this grave situation around. Again, I reiterate, this must be a top down and bottom up approach.

“Only when the last fish is gone, the last river poisoned, the last tree cut down…will mankind realize they cannot eat money.”

A deep love for our children. For our nieces and nephews. For our godchildren. For our grandchildren and children that we encounter whilst going about our daily life. And for the children we will never meet or who become climate refugees. They are our Future. And we owe it to them to bring all our collective resources to the fore.

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Fundamentals of life

I believe we need to move from the current nihilistic approach to reaffirming what we value. Investing in what we value. Acknowledging what is vital to life. What are our priorities? Humans and life on this planet, do not survive very long without air, water and food. What is common to us all for a good life, for the common good.

  1. Good air
  2. Good water
  3. Quality food
  • Food security
  • Access to sunlight
  • Freedom to roam by foot or cycling
  • Biodiversity
  • Trees
  • Soil quality
  • Children
  • Economics of the common good
  • Equality
  • Active health
  • Education
  • An active engaged democracy
  • Shorter working hours
  • Basic Income
  • Police that are responsive to the common good
  • Equality of Public space or the commons
  • Housing that is fit for purpose
  • Peace and quiet for down time and reflection
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Circle of Ducks – the commons on Hampstead Heath

 Public Health Crisis

Climate Change not only hurts the planet, but is a public health emergency. this is the clear message from doctors:

When the doctor tells you that your cholesterol is too high, you tend to listen and change your diet. When the world’s climate scientists tell us that temperatures are rising to dangerous levels, we should heed their advice. It’s time to give up climate change, it’s bad for our health.

Air pollution and carbon emissions are inexorably linked. Reducing air pollution will save lives and help slow the pace of climate change.

Meanwhile the UK is the most obese country in Western Europe. We have engineered an obesegenic environment, every time a car is used or parked, we have less safe space for walking and cycling. Obesity could bankrupt NHS if left unchecked

Stranded Assets and stranded jobs

In a remarkable speech at Lloyd’s of London on 29 September 2015 Mark Carney said that a carbon budget consistent with a 2°C target “would render the vast majority of reserves ‘stranded’ — oil, gas and coal that will be literally unburnable without expensive carbon capture technology, which itself alters fossil fuel economics”. Echoing CTI’s warnings about the risks of a disorderly transition to a low-carbon economy, Governor Carney added that ‘a wholesale reassessment of prospects, especially if it were to occur suddenly, could potentially destabilise markets’.

Mark Carney believes London is a Carbon Bubble.

“The exposure of UK investors, including insurance companies, to these shifts is potentially huge.

In their comment on Nature, International weekly journal of science, Anthony J. Webster and Richard H. Clarke suggest that 

‘Insurance companies can and should do more. They are central to the global climate challenge, helping to redress its consequences. Now they need to lead.

Here we propose that insurers collect a levy from energy producers according to the carbon intensity of their products. The funds generated should be invested in climate adaptation and low-carbon energy. This would be fair — polluters should redress the problems they create. The biggest beneficiaries of fossil fuels would then pay for the benefits they have derived at the expense of others, including future generations.’

At the end of the day, it’s what works. And it may be multi-pronged strategy that works best.

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No jobs on a dead planet

I believe unions want to be involved in job transition, and be essential part of an open public discussion on sustainable jobs. The  Green Collar Nation  gives voice to the Unions who understand they have a pivotal role to play.

This is something that CLASS (Centre for Labour and Social Studies) are interested in debating in an open and inclusive way. As their president Samuel Terry, National Policy officer TSSA said at their 5th Birthday party, there are ‘No jobs on a dead planet’.

Dagenham, which was an industrial centre for car production, is an interesting point of reference. Cars defined the area, but now the Film industry and market gardening in Growing Communities are giving it a new identity with new more sustainable jobs.

Menders, gardeners, rail workers, carbon accountants, cycling engineers, food growers, sustainable builders, educators, carers are some of the job growth areas that may be needed. The idea that high carbon, high tech robots will replace these vital labour intensive areas is bewildering.

The German car manufacturers and their illegal cartel, locked into diesel and petrol cars are what stranded assets and jobs look like.

In 2014, before dieselgate broke, 184 were employed as car lobbyists in Brussells, at a cost of £18.5 million. Their aim, to keep the diesel car industry churning out its toxic merchandise. The dieselgate cheat was prepared to perpetuate that business model at the expense of human lives and the environment. These may well be crimes against humanity.

Carbon Omissions

‘Like a Swiss finishing school, corporate social responsibility (CSR) teams are very adept at delivering environmental messages in a manner acceptable at the Court of King Carbon – a media-centred circus where ‘green’ appearances are often more important than ‘green’ realities.’ – Richard H. Clarke Predicting the Price of Carbon

When Google makes claims that it is Carbon Neutral? or Renault claims in its adverts its Electric cars are ‘zero emission’ We need real and independent scrutiny and oversight. We don’t want another ‘clean diesel’. I was happy to see this more in depth carbon accounting of ‘zero emission’ vehicles in the Financial Times.

I would be even happier if there was more scrutiny of Automation which adds a hefty ICT carbon footprint to products and services. And is a high energy user. Autonomous vehicles are currently being described as ‘Green’ or ‘sustainable’. I believe this ‘greenwash’ is not being transparent on the additional ICT costs of data processing or the extra infrastructure needed to support this technology.

This is why we need independent carbon accounting that digs deep into the carbon embedded in a ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ product. A whole new generation of carbon accountants, trusted and verified, would be a wonderful new career choice for young people in London. We don’t want to invest a limited carbon budget  and become locked -in to a carbon infrastructure that is environmentally damaging. We want to invest wisely and with insight.

I am dismayed how much time is given to lobbyists for high carbon and polluting products at City Hall London Assembly committees. These so-called ‘experts’ giving ‘evidence’ are paid to sell stuff. Quality, independent evidence is needed for real democratic scrutiny.

We need mechanisms and political scrutiny that are sensitive to measuring the environmental and health externalities of products and services.

Economic vision

What does economic success look like? A secure and healthy environment must be at the core of an economic vision.

So how do we get there?

I would urge the Mayor to take leadership on Carbon pricing, rather than playing catch up with potential big losses in stranded assets and stranded jobs. We need a road map.

Carbon pricing is the method favoured by many economists for reducing global-warming emissions. It charges those who emit carbon dioxide for their emissions. That charge, called a carbon price, is the amount that must be paid for the right to emit one tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Carbon pricing solves the economic problem that CO2, a known greenhouse gas, is what economics calls a negative externality, a detrimental product that is not priced (charged for) by any market.

carbon price not only has the effect of encouraging lower-carbon behaviour (eg using a bike rather than driving a car). With a carbon price in place, the costs of stopping climate change are distributed across generations rather than being borne overwhelmingly by future generations

‘An effective carbon price is an essential, if insufficient, part of a policy package that can lower emissions and drive the economy towards  a low carbon, resilient future’ – says Rachel Kyte, Vice president World Bank group. ‘It makes pollution more expensive, incentivises efficiency, and helps business leaders and investors understand the long-term direction of travel’.

But as Olivier Coispeau of Maverlinn says, it must also be qualified by the common good. Polluting because you can pay to do so is not enough.

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The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries (2017)

  • Imagine if everyone had a real Carbon credit card?
  • Is Doughnut economics the most suitable sustainable economic model to follow?
  • How do we decouple economic growth from carbon emissions?
  • What is the metric for investment?
  • What is the carbon price for adaptation and mitigation?
  • What is the real price of 1 ton of carbon?
  • Is Dieter Helm right to call for a Universal Carbon price?

Recycling?

I would like a more sophisticated conversation on recycling. When is it better to ban plastic packaging and engage with plastic free shopping as illustrated here?

Recycling is not always the best solution. It should not be automatically the default position. I understand that rubbish collection for a growing population would add many more motor vehicles to our roads. We need to stop consuming rubbish in the first place. I have cut my rubbish significantly by shopping plastic free.

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Bulk Market Dalston

 

Education

I believe the Mayor has a vital role as an educator. The Mayor is essentially lighting the road.

Children absorb and get it very quickly and pester power will indeed have some effect. But role models, be they parents, teachers, politicians or other adult citizens provide the authentic do as I do rather than do as I say.

To be frank, it is adults that need education on how to live sustainably and within their personal carbon budget.

Education could have been provided in a meaningful way by mainstream media but vested interests, as we now know, have provided disinformation and the vital message has not reached consumers. You could say that a whole generation has been brainwashed into consuming stuff, giving absolutely no thought to how its degrades our environment, and all that is vital for health and wellbeing.

Voting with our consumer feet is a major part of the move toward a more sustainable model. This is backed up by my conversations with eminent Economists who want to work for the common good or ‘Good growth’.

Educating citizens on personal lifestyles will help cut London’s carbon emissions:

  • Eat less meat
  • Walk and cycle and take Public Transport whenever feasible
  • Dry clothes naturally where possible
  • The high carbon cost of flying on holiday
  • Use water more economically
  • Buy locally grown food
  • Don’t buy new things you don’t really need
  • Buy vintage or 2nd hand goods
  • Switch to renewable energy provider like Good Energy
  • Use ICT more economically

ICT emissions and energy use are much overlooked. Prof Erol Gelenbe is an expert  in the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department at Imperial College,  who thinks we need more education on ICT and Autonomy. Some seem to treat ICT and Data as an endless resource? There is the Silicon Valley version of the world versus what is actually healthy.

 

Investment priorities

  • Climate budget that operates alongside the traditional budget
  • We can not expect a low or zero carbon future, if we keep building infrastructure for high carbon transport…locked-in carbon.
  • Transport is central – Cycling walking public transport prioritised
  • Thames solar corridor – solar boats
  • Aviation a 10% increase in air fares generates a 5-15% reduction in demand. Potentially levying 9 billion in extra taxes.
  • Water fountains, economic water use and systems
  • SUDS
  • Urban Food growing could supply 20% of London’s needs
  • Resident allotment permits could replace resident  parking permits. Growing greens outside your home cuts high carbon imported perishable greens
  • Green biodiversity
  • Trees,  fruit trees
  • Plastic free shopping
  • Reclaiming public space from motor vehicles

Low Tech V High Tech

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Phil Hale

 

In Houston, the recent hurricane claimed half a million cars. Cycling proved far more adaptable. Less high carbon replacement value equals more resilient cities.

Strategic solutions don’t cost the earth, they require political interventions.

Car free Fly free days are one solution to escalating global warming. Down tools. And have a day of rest.

Leaves are gold

I’m writing this on a fine Autumn day as COP 23 kicks off in Bonn. Collecting leaves which make rich compost are vital to maintaining soil quality. By putting value on things that are worth collecting, sourcing, returning to the earth. We understand the cycle of life.

Response to Mayor’s draft Transport Strategy

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.
graph

The three most obvious questions presented by the document are:

  1. Can we do this faster than 2041?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
image
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.
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Road Building

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.

Children

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
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.

Bus safety

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.
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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
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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.
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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.

Bus Efficiency

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

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.

Freight

  • Safer design regulation on HGVs faster
  • Consolidation centres and smart rationalisation
  • Road pricing to encourage efficient economic use of vehicles

Rubbish collection

Recycling, composting and Packaging reduction. Plastic can only be recycled three times. More efficient to ban plastic packaging.

Delivery

  • 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

London Airports

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

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

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
image
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.
Kind regards
Rosalind Readhead

Londoners: Beware the Driverless Trojan Horse

We’ve been Ubered!

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

image

 

 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.

What’s in the code?

What does the dieselgate scandal tell us about the algorithmic transparency of driverless vehicles?  It took a year for researchers to find and identify the dieselgate code responsible for an estimated 38,000  global deaths per year from extra air pollution. Tracing illegal and unethical code is very difficult.

Many experts believe that corporations and governments are taking advantage of conceptual control gaps or lack of computer literacy, meaning communities become unable to understand and thereby scrutinise new technologies like drones and automated vehicles.

However Robert Bell, co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum believes it goes even further :

“Transparency is the great challenge. As these things exert more and more influence, we want to know how they work, what choices are being made and who is responsible. The irony is that, as the algorithms become more complex, the creators of them increasingly do not know what is going on inside the black box. How, then, can they improve transparency?”

Blurring of military and commercial driverless technology

Both Elon Musk and Steven Hawking have been warning about an Artificial intelligence ‘arms race’. Leaders in robotics and artificial intelligence from around the globe are calling on the United Nations to protect humanity from what they say is a developing threat: killer robots.

Unlike many technology bosses, Musk has been a vocal AI sceptic, warning that the potential consequences could outweigh benefits like self-driving cars.

The crossover between corporations working for Military and Commercial operations makes this scenario even more worrying. For instance Siemens, Google and Volvo all work for the US military. I have asked for clarification on the cyber security, algorithmic transparency and accountability of driverless vehicles at public meetings and have been quickly closed down on grounds of ‘sensitivity’.

The main players, China, Russia, US and Israel all have automated weaponry.

  • The US military has ‘Zombie trucks’ and drones,
  • Russia has its killer robot ‘Iron Man’ and a driverless vehicle programme
  • Israel operates driverless patrols of the Gaza strip

Military automated technology has the potential to be used in civilian public space and commercial autonomous vehicles may well have some form of automated weaponry algorithms embedded in their programmes. In the labyrinth of Artificial Intelligence, the lines between commercial and military are not clear.

An obvious question is who wants this killer technology? The answer is stark and chilling:

“They are going to go to tyrannical dictators who often have trouble convincing their militaries to attack their own people, which we saw in Egypt….The military refused to attack people in Tahrir Square.”

The question of who is to be killed in an ‘accident’ also remains problematic. There are so-called “algorithms of death”

Would some commercial operators prefer to save their valued paying customer over a non paying pedestrian or cyclist? Would that algorithm be transparent and accountable? And are there facial recognition algorithms that can even identify targets for assassination, as used by military drones?

A totalitarian state may not be concerned about this kind of algorithmic transparency and accountability, but a democracy like London must be aware of what it is unleashing onto its streets.

Stuxnet: the worm that turned

Wikipedia states that Stuxnet is a malicious computer worm, first identified in 2010 but thought to have been in development since at least 2005, that targets industrial computer systems and was responsible for causing substantial damage to Iran’s nuclear program. Although neither country has admitted responsibility, since 2012 the worm is frequently described as a jointly built AmericanIsraeli cyberweapon

Stuxnet was originally under the radar, not to be detected but able to be significantly disruptive to the nuclear programme. Targeting

  1. The Windows operating system,
  2. Siemens PCS 7, WinCC and STEP7 industrial software applications that run on Windows and
  3. One or more Siemens S7 PLCs.

With its release and subsequent discovery, anyone can download and manipulate the Stuxnet code for their own purpose, targeting industrial facilities, computer systems or driverless vehicles.

This has opened a can of worms. Criminals or foreign powers can demand ransomewear in bitcoins as in the recent NHS cyber attack. They can also attack by disrupting infrastructure, putting lives at risk and blackmailing Governments or corporations.

When is an accident really an attack?

Under the radar hacking means that a driverless ‘accident’ could actually be a cyberattack. Accountability and transparency becomes impossible when there is no identifiable, traceable perpetrator.

Dr Lisa Collingwood of Kingston University believes that driverless vehicles are not ‘safer’ but  ‘just dangerous in different ways’ . At a recent meeing at London Cycling Campaign, she told the audience that autonomous vehicles could be used as ‘weapons of mass destruction’

I understand Transport for London are looking into automated brakes for buses. Whilst I support greater bus safety measures,  they may take caution from this episode, where a team of Chinese hackers took  remote control of Tesla Model S brakes from 12 miles away.

Charlie Miller who  remotely hacked a Jeep Cherokee via its internet connection sparking a 1.4 million recall says ‘Securing autonomous cars from hackers is a very difficult problem’

“Autonomous vehicles are at the apex of all the terrible things that can go wrong,” says Miller, who spent years on the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations team of elite hackers before stints at Twitter and Uber. “Cars are already insecure, and you’re adding a bunch of sensors and computers that are controlling them…If a bad guy gets control of that, it’s going to be even worse.”

Anything that can be built can be hacked: The difference is that we are not normally driving around behind our computer on a busy London Street. If vehicles can be hacked and operated by remote control , they can become weapons of mass destruction, or used for targeted assassinations and no trace of the perpetrator may ever be found.

And then there are glitches and malfunctions. Machines go wrong more than we like to think. The minefield of who bears responsibility for injury and death is a very difficult problem too.

Human Streets not Robot Streets

The Mayors draft Transport Strategy sets out a direction of travel where London’s streets become more liveable and healthy. Prioritising active travel like walking and cycling seeks to address the urgent public health crises of obesity, inactivity, air pollution, diabetes type2 and climate change.

Wellbeing, health, social cohesion and equality are at the heart of a liveable city. It is very concerning then that some driverless advocates are suggesting all citizens carry ‘beacons’ or are radio-tagged to stop them being victims of driverless technology. Maybe they would like children to be micro-chipped at birth too?

The reason for this is that ‘pesky cyclists’ are difficult for self-driving cars to detect. Or pedestrians might get smart to the driverless algorithms and override their physical advantage. Tom Cohen of University College London has warned that we must be wary of attempts by autonomous vehicle lobbyists to alter the Healthy Streets hierarchy of pedestrians and cyclists first.

original

Equality of public space

Self-driving advocates have plans for an elite tiered system, where paying customers can go faster on certain roads. Hyperlanes might see driverless vehicles reaching 100 miles per hour.

Anyone who is interested in the equality of public space, must be worried about the carving up of our public space into elite, robot superhighways. The business model that annexes public space to operate a motor vehicle product for the few is unfair. If it operates for everyone then we have stagnant congestion which is untenable and debillitating.

Active travel, like Walking and cycling, provide the most social cohesion and equality of public space. They can be accessible to children for independent travel, for older people, women and people with disabilities. But we must build the appropriate, accessible and safe infrastructure.

Closer to nature

One of the more bizarre meetings I attended, in the process of this research, was a presentation on Climate Change that rightly urged us to move closer to nature. The twist was that the answer to ‘moving closer to nature’ was robots and robot cars. I was astonished at this disconnect.

Faceless vehicles with the human component of eye contact removed, are intutively less engaging and unnerving. How do you communicate with a metal box machine? But the environmental claims are plainly not true.

Neo-environmentalists believe that we don’t need to worry about climate change because technology will save us. They even have their favourite Cedric Price mantra:

‘Technology is the answer. But what is the question?”

Unfortunately the ‘shiny new toy’ is more valued than deep strategic thinking.

I am completely on board with technology that has been scrutinised and found to be the best solution. I believe many renewables fall into this category.  But the fake ‘zero-emission’ claims of Electric Vehicle manufacturers remind me of the ‘clean diesel’ lobby.

Just the manufacture of an electric vehicle produces a massive carbon belch. Add on new electric infrastructure, the source of the electric grid etc and the embedded carbon is enormous. And of course 75% particulates come from road tyre and brake wear, meaning that EV are not a solution to air pollution and water pollution either.

The other carbon element, often ignored is the carbon footprint of data. Artifical intelligence, used by driverless technology, is a voracious consumer and producer of data.

At present the energy consumed by the worlds data centres puts an enormous strain on energy supplies Data has the same carbon footprint as the aviation industry. This is set to rise exponentially with the advent of Artificial Intelligence, like driverless technology. Electric vehicles and data centres are a big risk for energy demand and yet autonomous lobbyists are making ‘sustainable’ ‘green’ claims?

Basically driverless advocates are lobbying for high carbon infrastructure for a high carbon product. 

Strategic solutions

At a White Paper presentation on Autonomous Vehicles, I asked whether minimising motor vehicles to essential traffic would be an alternative, strategic solution to reduce congestion, parking,  road danger and unlocking space. The answer was yes, and a genuine smile.

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.

 

 

 To be continued….

 

 

Are Children’s Rights addressed sufficiently in the Draft Mayor’s Transport Strategy 2017?

School’s out for Summer!

Many children will be heading out of London for the Summer holidays but a large proportion will be here for all or part of the six week break. 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:

image

‘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.

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

New York has provided play streets for over 100 years

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

must be a wake up call.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The UN convention on the rights of the child sets out some basic principles. I have selected a few that might be appropriate to the Mayors Transport Strategy:

  • Article 4 (implementation of
    the Convention)
    Governments must do all they can to make
    sure every child can enjoy their rights by
    creating systems and passing laws that
    promote and protect children’s rights.
  • Article 6 (life, survival and development)
    Every child has the right to life.
    Governments must do all they can to
    ensure that children survive and develop to
    their full potential.
  • Article 27 (adequate standard of living)
    Every child has the right to a standard of
    living that is good enough to meet their
    physical and social needs and support
    their development. Governments must
    help families who cannot afford to
    provide this.
  • Article 31 (leisure, play and culture)
    Every child has the right to relax, play and
    take part in a wide range of cultural and
    artistic activities.

Are Children being airbrushed from the planning system?

Our public space is so unwelcoming for children that George Monbiot believes they have been ‘airbrushed from the planning system’.

For the last 20 years, traffic modelling has used secret algorithms to prioritise cars over children’s rights to play, roam and travel independently on our streets. This has meant children have been effectively chased off our streets with what I call Pied Piper algorithms. There has been no debate or democratic transparency on how software is used in making these decisions. Accountability has been avoided with lack of tech scrutiny.

In New York, James Vacca, Deputy leader of NYC Council and Chair of Committee on Technology is trying to introduce a bill whereby secret algorithms making Governmental decisions are accountable and transparent to the public. I would like Transport for London to be open about the algorithms it uses, and how that affect the lives of London’s children in profound ways. Secret prioritisation of the right to drive over the right to life, health and safe housing of children is unethical and could be illegal.

I sit in on many Transport Committees at City Hall, where the interests of business and needs of adults are listened to at length. But rarely do I hear the interests of children raised and debated. The absence of representation in the halls of power creates a system where children are essentially ‘prisoners of bad design’

Jay Griffiths describes starkly how children are penned in and marginalised in her seminal book Kith: The Riddle Of The Childscape:

“Today’s children are enclosed in school and home, enclosed in cars to shuttle between them, enclosed by fear, by surveillance and poverty and enclosed in rigid schedules of time.”

These metal boxes that shuttle children from brick box to brick box bring their particular dangers. Air pollution is ‘nine to 12 times higher inside the car than outside’. They are effectively ‘pollution boxes’.

Children’s special needs must be taken into consideration when designing streets

In 2011, research by Royal Holloway College, London University revealed that children ‘cannot detect’ cars travelling faster than 20MPH:

‘children’s perceptive limitations place them at greater risk of stepping in front of cars travelling at higher speeds’

Meanwhile their lower height puts them more at risk of ‘backovers’ because they cannot be seen in the blind zone behind a vehicle.

This picture illustrates how children cycling can’t see and be seen through a solid wall of parked cars. It has also been pointed out to me by Isabelle Clement, director of Wheels for Wellbeing, that Londoners in wheelchairs, hand cycles and recumbents face similar issues with parked cars. This is an equality and accessibility issue.

Range Rover bonnets meet the shoulders of an average 8 yr old. Small children are shorter so the car bumper more likely to strike them in the pelvis or torso. Armoured 4X4 vehicles designed to ‘protect’ children are ironically weapons against their potential independence.

How will our children meet the daily level of activity vital for health?

Lucy Saunders, one of the key architects of the Healthy Streets approach, embedded in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy Draft, writes:

‘Our efforts to tackle childhood obesity have focused on modifying diet, but the other side of the ‘energy in/energy out’ equation deserves careful consideration for the many co-benefits we can reap. A study by Mackett and Paskins (2004) assessed children’s energy expenditure during different activities and found that children burned the most calories when playing outdoors unsupervised or travelling actively. Neither activity is a routine use of time for the majority of children in the UK. Unlike past generations, most children in the U.K. do not spend several hours a day drifting around the streets looking for adventure and opportunity. Instead a car ride to organised activities, playing computer games and watching tv are more common.

There is good reason for this, over recent decades cars have filled our streets in ever increasing numbers. Now more affordable, convenient, comfortable and faster than ever their ubiquity means we don’t think to question their right to line our streets when parked and take precedence over other uses and users of the streets when they are moving. As a result many parents are reluctant for their child to walk with their friends to school, the park, the community centre or library and the sight of a child kicking a ball around in their street is rare. While many children living in urban areas live within walking distance of parks their ability to access them is constrained by the availability of an adult to accompany them. If we are to address inactivity amongst children then this is the issue we must face head on: how we will create street environments which are safe enough for children to travel on foot or by bike unsupervised.’

My response to the Mayor’s Transport Strategy Draft

I support and welcome the radical direction of The Mayor’s Transport Strategy Draft. Minimising motor traffic is the only strategic solution to London’s congestion, air pollution, inactivity and obesity crises. And of course Climate Change. But I want children to be at the heart of redesigning our streets too.

So here are some of my early 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.

 

Review: Evidence supporting Mayor’s Transport Strategy 2017

The key conclusion is that for London to grow and thrive, it is essential that London’s residents, workers and visitors do more walking and cycling and use public transport more to improve their health and the environment, to make streets work more efficiently & keep London moving.

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Car use

The car mode share is highest in the evening and overnight, at weekends and lowest in the daytime interpeak. The car mode share is highest for middle distance trips (2-5km), with longer trips more likely to be made by public transport. Nevertheless, a third of jobs are in outer London, with a 56% car mode share for commuting. As London grows, we need to ensure more sustainable commuter patterns for travel beyond the centre.

Health

The life expectancy of Londoners has been increasing but adults are living more of their lives in poor health. This has major repercussions for the NHS and adult social care.Adults need at least 150 minutes and children 420 minutes of physical activity a week to stay healthy and reduce their risk of common, preventable diseases. Building physical activity into your daily routine by walking or cycling is one of the best ways to stay active and healthy. Currently, a third of Londoners achieve their recommended level of physical activity from active travel alone.

Mode shift

Inner Londoners walk more than outer Londoners, women walk more than men, and
adults aged 17-44 walk the most whilst older people walk the least.

Cycle travel grew by 133% London-wide and 221% in central London between 2000 – 2015. There is considerable opportunity to deliver growth in cycle travel, with more than nine million journeys currently made by a motorised mode every day that could be cycled instead. 77% of Londoners believe that cycling is enjoyable and people continue to cycle in London because it is fun, quick, convenient, cheap and a good way to keep fit.

People that don’t currently cycle in London can be concerned about safety and worried that cycling may not be a convenient option for them – to help them start cycling means overcoming the following barriers:

• Fear and vulnerability
• Lack of infrastructure
• Whether they identify with cycling and
how attractive it is to them
• The physical effort of cycling
• Access to a bike
• How cycling compares to the alternatives
• Lack of confidence

Over 8 million trips could feasibly be cycled but aren’t now. Over 1 million stages as part of a longer trip could feasibly be cycled but aren’t now. More high quality, safe and pleasant routes, supported by plentiful and secure cycle parking.

Road danger

  • Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are most at risk of being KSIs by road user type
    involved in a collision.
    • Londoners from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups suffer a
    disproportionately high number of road casualties.
    • Pedestrians in the most deprived areas are more than twice as
    likely to be injured as those in the least deprived areas.
    • Between 2005/09 and 2015, child pedestrian KSI reduced by
    52% and child car occupants by 72% showing more needs to be
    done to increase child pedestrian safety.

Space economics

At present, 57% of London households own a car, making 6.8m car trips per day. Car
ownership is the strongest determinant of inactivity – 70% of people without a car do
some activity compared to 50% with one car. Since its invention, the car has provided
welcome connectivity and opened up new opportunities. Even in a densely populated
city such as London, some journeys can only reasonably be made by car. But the amount of space that can or should be taken up by private road transport is limited, and the population is growing.
As well as prioritising more space-efficient and sustainable modes, research suggests that most people agree that the limited remaining space should be prioritised for
‘essential’ traffic.

Private cars, taxis and private hire vehicles take up three quarters of the road space used for personal travel in central London but account for just a fifth of the personal
distance travelled.

93% of car journeys under 2km have an alternative available, but just 16% of trips over 8km. Shorter trips are also more likely to have more than one alternative available.

 

Air pollution

Under the most recent government plans, London will not comply with
legal limits for NO2 until 2025, 15 years after the original deadline.
About 25% of London’s roads are forecast to be non-compliant with
NO2 levels in 2020. Of these, about a third require reductions of
between 25% and 50% of road transport NOx emissions, and a tenth
require at least a 50% reduction.

Transport is the biggest source of emissions damaging to health in
London: around half of emissions (NOx and particulate matter
(PM)) in Greater London come from road transport. London is in breach of legal limits on NO2 and while there is no safe level for particulates, does not meet levels recommended by the World Health Organisation of PM smaller than 2.5 micrograms.

The communities suffering most from poor air quality are often the
most vulnerable. 360+ primary schools are in areas exceeding safe
legal pollution levels.

Without further action, London is expected to exceed World
Health Organisation levels of PM2.5 until well after 2030. 75%
of road transport PM comes from tyre and brake wear. There
are limited technological solutions so only a reduction in road
traffic can effectively tackle PM in the medium/long term.

 

Carbon Emissions

Climate change is a serious threat to global quality of life. Carbon dioxide concentration is 40% higher than in pre-industrial times and between 1880 and 2012, the earth’s surface warmed 0.85O Celsius. London’s transport providers must play their part in delivering reductions in carbon emissions. The Mayor’s ultimate ambition is to make London a zero carbon city by 2050.

While transport CO2 emissions are projected to have fallen by more than 2 million tonnes by 2025 from 1990 levels, they will still be 2.35 million tonnes above the target previously set for 2025. Meeting this would require a reduction in emissions equivalent to a 40% reduction in road traffic.

Technological advances will reduce vehicle emissions but this will be made quicker and more feasible if the distance travelled by car is reduced. London’s bus, taxis and private hire fleets are on a pathway to reach zero emission.
London’s rail services are primarily electric so CO2 emissions will decline with the decarbonisation of the energy supply. Need the government to electrify all remaining
diesel lines. Emissions arise from the taxiing, take off and landing of aircraft at Heathrow and City Airport. Plans to expand Heathrow’s third runway are unclear on what this would mean for meeting the UK’s climate change targets.

Private Car problem solved in Central London? Not according to new 24/7 data 

 

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Why we urgently need to review the Congestion Charge

When the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone brought in the Congestion Charge Zone on February 17 2003 it was a brave and radical new policy for London and a timely birthday present for me.

In those intervening 14 years our economy has changed markedly. Anecdotally many Central London residents and visitors have become aware of increased congestion in the day time, evening and at weekends. People complain of increased road danger, air and noise pollution, slower bus journeys and more sirens disturbing sleep as emergency services struggle to move efficiently through stagnant evening and night time car traffic.

In Fitzrovia, 70% of residents live car-free lives. This is in line with the majority of Central London residents. It begs the question where is this extra traffic coming from?

Reasons for Freedom of Information request

When I stood as an Independent London Mayoral Candidate in 2015-16, I asked Transport For London why the Congestion Charge only covered a third of the week, when there was clearly a problem 24/7?

I was also incensed when TFL  waived the Congestion Charge during a spike in air pollution over Christmas and New Year 2016/17. This meant all residents, workers and visitors were exposed to higher air pollution in Central London. It is highly likely this build up of particulates contributed to the black alert in January 2017.

Current and historical TFL data releases have only showed motor traffic composition for the Congestion Charge hours, which is one third of the calendar week. I believe this is not giving the whole picture.

Reasons for data selection

In February  2017, I made a  Freedom of Information request  FOI- 2560-1617 for 24/7 data of motor vehicle composition entering Central London.

I have extracted data for cars, Taxis and PHVs because they are the least efficient use of public space and contribute more proportionately to road danger, air pollution and congestion.

24/7 data gives us a clearer picture of the car problem

The  data I received for April 2017 clearly shows a marked escalation in cars from 6pm Monday-Friday and at weekends. On Sunday alone, 137,461 cars are entering Central London.

This is my my initial interpretation of the data:

  • The wave of cars triggered at 6pm, doubles the car traffic facing commuters trying to make their way home.
  • This inevitably impacts on road danger at junctions and crossings for commuting pedestrians and cyclists.
  •  It results in slower journey times for pedestrians and cyclists who are held at controlled signals as TFL prioritises ‘traffic flow’.
  • It increases exposure to air pollution at a time when many people are out on the streets, coming home from work and studies.
  • It increases bus journey times for commuting Londoners, stuck in toxic traffic.
  • It increases exposure to road danger, air pollution and journey time for those visitors coming into London to enjoy the evening and night time economy.
  • It disturbs residents sleep at night time and in the evening, with wailing sirens of emergency vehicles stuck in car traffic
  • it increases emergency vehicle attendance times
  • If ever there was data to support car-free Sundays, this is it
  • Every car journey contributes to carbon emissions, we can count the carbon released and carbon costs to our environment.

Mike Brown, head of Transport for London said at the London assembly Transport Committee this year that “anyone bringing a car into London has got the wrong end of the stick”. He is absolutely right. This is echoed by Janette Sadik-Khan, a former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation. She commented recently at the Living Streets Summit 2017 that reducing motor traffic IS a bus priority measure. It is a priority measure for walking and cycling too.

 

The Mayor of London and Transport for London have a duty of care to protect Londoners, workers and visitors and increase quality of life and health. Prioritising cars over the well-being of residents is an equality, social justice and moral issue. I hope that the new London Transport Strategy will address this seriously and urgently.

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