Mayoral Transport Strategy 2017

The draft Mayoral Transport Strategy is open for consultation: https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/how-we-work/planning-for-the-future/the-mayors-transport-strategy

This is Harrow Cyclists’ draft response:

Harrow Cyclists response to Mayoral Transport Strategy

18 September 2017

We are responding to the draft Mayoral Strategy as Harrow Cyclists, a local borough group of the London Cycling Campaign, a membership organisation which campaigns for better conditions for cycling in London.

Overview

The draft Mayoral Transport Strategy has the broad aim of increasing active travel and reducing car use, as recommended in the Association of Directors of Public Health’s call for action on active travel [1]. However, it is based on projections to 2041, and there is a risk that short term interventions to reduce the dominance of motor traffic on London’s streets will be avoided because of opposition from the motor lobby.

High quality road schemes such as the East-West cycle superhighway and the Waltham Forest mini-Holland required strong political leadership in order to succeed against this opposition. Current public concern about air pollution should bolster support for better streets, but the motor industry is heavily promoting electric cars (rather than walking and cycling) as the solution. These will maintain income for car manufacturers and may reduce local pollution, but will not solve the problems of congestion, physical inactivity or carbon dioxide emissions.

Currently, London’s transport system encourages widespread ownership and use of cars, the most inefficient means of urban transport. Car parking in outer London is free or highly subsidised, and fees for road use are charged only in a small area of central London. A key intervention to improve the efficiency of the roads would be to introduce charges for car parking and road use. These will reduce the volume of traffic and reduce congestion, and create space for cycle lanes or wider footways. Car clubs should be provided as an alternative to car ownership. Cycling should be enabled for everyone, including women, children and disabled people; this requires convenient, direct routes that are protected from motor vehicles.

Specific comments

Chapter 1 – the challenge

The challenges of poor health and overcrowding on public transport are correctly identified. A key underlying reason is that the cars can use most of the roads freely and prevent use of other modes of transport (e.g. walking, cycling, buses) which could solve many of London’s transport problems.

We feel there are two additional challenges that need to be addressed directly:

1. Commercial lobby groups with vested interests

Transport is a significant source of revenue for commercial organisations including the oil and energy sector, the motor industry and privatised bus companies. Cycling is much cheaper than other forms of transport, so a shift from cars to bikes results in a net loss of commercial income (but financial gain for individuals). Influence from think-tanks, the media and professional lobbyists may explain why provision for such an efficient and effective mode of transport as cycling has been resisted.

The Mayor was elected by Londoners and should act in the best interests of Londoners rather than attempting to appease an interest group. The Mayoral Transport Strategy should be informed by evidence-based advice from public health and transport researchers, such as the National Institute of Health and care Excellence guidelines [2,3], which recommend that walking and cycling are prioritised in all new road schemes. If people in England cycled as much as people in Denmark, reductions in diseases such as diabetes and dementia would save 1% of the entire NHS budget [4].

It is important to note there was initial opposition to cycling schemes even in the Netherlands, but it is now one of the most cycle-friendly countries in the world.

2. Car ownership, parking and use of road space

A huge proportion of road space in London is currently used for residential car parking. This is because of a historical lack of parking charges while cars gradually became more affordable and more common over the past few decades. New parking charges can be unpopular. In outer London boroughs such as Harrow, regulated parking is introduced only if local residents ask for it, and its sole aim is to prevent non-residents (e.g. commuters) from parking rather than actively reduce car ownership. Parking fees are just high enough to cover the administration costs of the scheme and do not generate much income.

The Mayoral Transport Strategy should have an explicit aim to reduce car ownership by increasing parking charges, providing car clubs (i.e. an alternative to car ownership) and providing alternatives to car use (better cycling facilities and public transport) throughout London.

Chapter 2 – the vision

The Mayor’s aim for 2041 is for 80% of trips to be on foot, cycle or public transport; this is a long term aim, and there is a risk that effective long-term measures with short-term disbenefits will be avoided during the current Mayoralty. The strategy should include short term aims (over 5-10 years) that current policies can directly act towards.

‘Healthy streets’

Current schemes branded as ‘Healthy Streets’ (e.g. the Baker Street two-way project, Kingsbury Road, Tottenham Court Road) do not provide cycling infrastructure separate from motor vehicles, and we do not consider them ‘Healthy’. There needs to be much stricter eligibility for a street to be considered ‘Healthy’; it should not be just a tick-box exercise. A high cycling level of service (London Cycling Design Standard) should be an essential criterion, and healthy streets should have ‘pedestrians and cyclists from all walks of life’.

The strategy should specifically consider ‘rat-running’ (inappropriate through motor vehicle traffic on minor roads). Closing streets to through motor traffic is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of improving the street environment for walking and cycling, but can lead to short term opposition from motorists. The mini-Holland competition incentivised councils to propose the removal of through traffic from residential areas with the potential prize of a substantial funding pot for other improvements.

Chapter 3 – Healthy streets

The strategy should include short-term aims. The aim of Policy 1 (‘The Mayor’s aim is that, by 2041, all Londoners do at least the 20 minutes of active travel they need to stay healthy each day’) is a nice aspiration but is too far in the future and difficult to measure. It would be more useful to set specific aims directly relating to short-medium term policies, such as the percentage of children walking or cycling to school.

Proposal 1

a) ‘Liveable neighbourhoods’

It is essential that liveable neighbourhoods continue the good examples of the mini-Hollands, and require the creation of space for walking and cycling by removing or restricting through motor traffic. Without this condition, these schemes may end up being just cosmetic urban realm improvements (e.g. repaving, art, street trees) with no improvements for walking or cycling. Funding should be sufficient for all boroughs to have a substantial scheme in place within 10 years.

b) ‘Healthy routes’

These should be high quality walking and cycling routes separate from motor traffic, with segregation between pedestrians and cyclists on busy routes. The routes should not give up or take long detours on encountering barriers such as busy roads.

d) Improving accessibility, removing street clutter

The strategy should specifically mention the removal of on-street parking, particularly footway parking. Inappropriate on-street parking blocks traffic and causes delays to buses, as well as endangering cyclists and pedestrians.

e) Ensuring any scheme being undertaken on London’s streets for any reason improves conditions for walking and cycling.

This proposal is very important, and needs to be enforced. Currently it is not being followed – either walking and cycling are not considered, or there is not enough funding, or modelling shows an increase in motor vehicle journey times if walking or cycling facilities are provided so the decision is taken not to provide these facilities.

Proposal 2

We strongly support changes to Oxford Street and Parliament Square to reduce the domination of motor traffic. If Oxford Street is fully pedestrianised is it essential that a high quality parallel cycle route is provided. However, it would be best to provide a cycle track on Oxford Street itself to improve accessibility for disabled people, some of whom use a bicycle as a mobility aid.

Proposal 3 – a London-wide network of cycle routes by 2041

We believe it is possible to build an initial network much more quickly. The mini-Hollands are being built within a few years, and it should be possible to make major changes to London’s roads within 10 years. A distant 2041 aim is a potential excuse for inaction now.

Proposal 4 – leisure walking routes

It is important to improve walking conditions in London’s parks by removing through motor traffic, such as in Regent’s Park Outer Circle.

Policy 2 – Vision Zero

We approve the aim of eliminating all road casualties through safe road design. It is essential that schemes to improve safety do not reduce convenience (and lead to people taking dangerous shortcuts); for example some boroughs have cited safety concerns as reasons why they do not permit two-way cycling on one-way streets, or use guardrails to force pedestrians to cross roads where it is convenient for motorists. There is a need for much stricter enforcement of traffic laws such as speed limits, with resources targeted at road users that cause the most harm (i.e. motorists).

Proposal 9

a) Speed limits

Some boroughs are more proactive than others in introducing 20mph speed limits on non-trunk roads. This is partly due to the attitude of councillors and partly due to misunderstandings by trafic officers, some of whom believe that speed humps are required on any 20mph street. There should be better enforcement of speed limits by much wider use of average speed cameras.

b) Road danger reduction

People avoid the most dangerous junctions so they do not have high casualties. A network-wide strategy is needed to remove barriers to walking and cycling.

c) Safety standards for vehicles

Safety standards for vehicles should be built into TfL and local authority contracts.

Proposal 11

Bus lanes do not constitute adequate space for cycling. If space is at a premium, the priority should be to provide segregated cycle lanes, because motor vehicles can use general traffic lanes safely but many people will be prevented from cycling at all if they have to mix with motor vehicles. Proposal

Proposal 15

Charging for road use will incentivise logistics companies to plan journeys in a more cost-effective way. Companies should be encouraged to use cargo bikes for local deliveries.

Proposal 17 – car clubs

Car clubs should be provided throughout London, and all on-street parking should be regulated. Parking charges should be set according to demand to ensure that there are always free spaces available, and should be high enough to deter unnecessary car ownership. Ideally only people who need to commute regularly to places outside London would need to own a car.

Proposal 18 – congestion charging

The proposal to ‘keep congestion charging schemes under review’ is a weak statement on the future development of road user charging. The existing congestion charge applies at limited times on weekdays only, for a tiny area of London. However, the camera technology has been well tested. It would be reasonably straightforward to extend the hours of the existing zone and remove exemptions for private hire vehicles. Similar zones should be set up elsewhere across London, for example in each borough (where people driving into a borough pay a contribution towards the cost of traffic in the borough) – this would provide much-needed income for boroughs.

Proposal 20 – borough traffic reduction strategies

Although improvements to other modes of transport may encourage motorists to switch from driving, the resultant decrease in congestion may encourage more people to drive until traffic returns to its previous level. Charges for parking and road use are therefore essential elements of a strategy to reduce traffic.

Proposal 21 – TfL will work with boroughs who wish traffic demand management strategies

Some of the boroughs which urgently need traffic reduction strategies will be politically unwilling to upset motorists. TfL and the mayor need to provide top-down leadership (e.g. incentives for councils to implement parking and road user charges) to ensure that local politics do not get in the way. TfL should standardise the charging systems for motorists to ensure fairness, convenience and consistency.

Policy 5 – to reduce emissions

In view of particulate pollution from electric vehicles and the public health benefits of active travel, reduction in motor vehicle use is much more important than switching from one type of vehicle to another. The commercial pressure from the automotive industry to switch to electric cars rather than walking, cycling or public transport must be resisted.

Proposal 24 – emergency measures to restrict vehicle use during high pollution

The primary aim of such measures should be to reduce pollution by reducing traffic. It is not acceptable to tell victims of pollution to try to protect themselves.

Proposal 25 – local pollution hotspots

The number of pollution hotspots is so large, and they will occur on every major road, so we believe that pollution reduction strategies will be more effective if they aim to reduce traffic overall in the entire road network.

Proposal 41 – trees on TRLN road network

We encourage the planting of more street trees, but it is also important to note that trees can be replaced and moved when streets are redesigned. This can improve the road layout and accommodate cycle lanes. Where a street has car parking, trees should be planted ideally between parking spaces rather than on the footway, where they reduce the available width of footway.

Proposal 42 – reduce run-off

We welcome strategies to reduce water run-off by reducing the amount of hard surfacing. We recommend that road widths and the number of lanes are reduced where possible.

Chapter 4 – public transport

Policy 10 – affordability

Road user charges and parking charges should be used to subsidise public transport and reduce tube and train fares.

Proposal 54 – bus priority schemes

Key strategies to improve bus journey times are to reduce motor traffic by road user charging and removing obstructing parking. Bus lanes may be helpful in some locations, but not if the road does not have segregated cycling infrastructure, because buses will be stuck behind slow cyclists.

Proposal 102 – funding

Currently the majority of TfL’s funding comes from public transport users. Additional funding for transport should be derived from from road user charging, workplace parking levy and residential parking charges.

Policy 21 – technology

Although it is important to be aware of new technology, appropriate implementation of traditional technology will go along way to solving London’s transport problems. The key barriers are social and political. Bicycles have existed for over a hundred years and high quality cycle networks have been built in the Netherlands for the past 40 years. Many road schemes in London still continue to ignore cycling. There is a need for clear guidelines on future road capacity in new developments; for example junctions near the Kodak development in Harrow ar being rebuilt to accommodate huge numbers of cars, leaving no space for cycling. The guidance should plan for a decline in motor traffic, ensuring that more space can be allocated to walking and cycling at junctions.

Policy 23 – Local Implementation Plan

Councils need more money for local walking and cycling infrastructure in order to be able to implement a high quality cycle network. The current low level of funding means that current schemes have such a low ambition they will never enable mass cycling.

Summary of recommended changes

We would recommend the following changes to make the Mayoral Transport Strategy fit for purpose:

1. Short term goals (e.g. over 5 to 10 years) to ensure that action is taken now.

2. Tighter oversight of road schemes, with funding withdrawn from schemes that fail to provide an adequate Cycling Level of Service

3. A mini-Holland style scheme in every borough within the next 10 years

4. London-wide road user charging

5. London-wide regulated car parking

Conclusion

The Mayoral Transport Strategy broadly aims to improve health and transport provision for all Londoners by aspiring to a shift away from cars. However, for these benefits to be realised, it needs to set short term (5-10 year) targets and include concrete measures to reduce car ownership (e.g. parking charges), reduce car use (e.g. road user charges), remove through traffic from minor roads, improve pedestrian crossings and build a comprehensive cycle network.

References

1. Association of Directors of Public Health. Is England taking action on active travel? 2012. http://www.adph.org.uk/2012/01/action-on-active-travel-2012-update-2/

2. NICE public health guideline on walking and cycling, https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/PH41/

3. NICE clinical guideline on obesity prevention, https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg43/

4. Jarrett J, Woodcock J, Griffiths U et al. Effect of increasing active travel in urban England and Wales on costs to the National Health Service. Lancet 2012; 379: 2198–205.