What changes will Transport for London make at the Aldgate East junction, where Philippine De Gerin-Ricard was killed just over one week ago?
What changes will be made at Holborn, where another person was killed by a lorry today?
They’ve tried doing tiny bits of good stuff, they’ve tried doing long stretches of crap stuff, they’ve tried fiddly back streets many many times (though they never really got even that right, so are determined to give that failed concept yet another go anyway).
What else can they try? Surely TfL have exhausted the list of things which may or may not make cycling safe and attractive. They’ve certainly exhausted the list of cheap, ineffective and motor traffic-neutral interventions.
There’s only one thing left to do: Bite the bullet and do what the Dutch did.
Five years too long
Boris Johnson was re-elected as Mayor over one year ago now and has been the “cycling Mayor” for five years, yet progress has been glacial over this time. Is London significantly better for cycling than it was five years ago? The appointment of Andrew Gilligan as part-time Cycling Commissioner has moved things on a bit, as he seems to be eager to do good things and prevent bad things from happening.
But despite all the fine words, there have still been few firm plans, let alone any concrete changes on the ground (though the CS2 extension was due to be started a few weeks ago, I don’t know if it has yet). I’d settle for some plastic changes – and by that I mean trials of new road layouts.
One of the many things Andrew Gilligan said at the LCC seminar in April (three months ago already!) was that he’d like to trial removing a lane here, adding a cycle track there, by using temporary measures. I’d really like to see this happen now. Set up some bollards and some temporary lights, let’s see how a separate green phase for bikes affects things.
We’ll almost certainly discover that it works just fine, as Leicester did.
All hail the Mayor (of Leicester)!
Earlier this year, Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby closed one lane of Newarke Street to see what effect it would have on congestion. (See local news articles before, at the start, during, and after the experiment.) Despite Newarke Street being a busy thoroughfare and part of the city’s inner ring road, the council wanted to see if some of the three-lane one-way carriageway could be reclaimed for walking and cycling. After a four-month trial, they concluded that the road worked just fine with two lanes, and the extra lane will be used to extend the footpath and install “a separate cycle lane, surfaced in red asphalt” – aah, bliss! I can’t wait to see it (don’t mess this up, Leicester!).
So that’s how easy it is. But you know what? I reckon Leicester could have gone one step further and instead of coning off the lane to all vehicles they could have created a temporary cycle path to see whether more people chose to cycle along there when protected from motor traffic. Sturdy plastic and concrete barriers are available, which would remove the risk of a motor vehicle driver careering through a row of flimsy cones.
Put the roads on a diet
There’s plenty of space to try this on our over-wide highways. Look at Holborn, the location of today’s corporate manslaughter:
Is there really no room for a cycle path here? Is there really nothing that can be done? Nothing that can be tried? Just fast-moving heavy vehicles day after day, killing some by force and killing thousands by suffocation and fear.
Andrew Gilligan recently told us that we can’t expect change overnight. In his case I guess that’s fair enough, it’s a part-time position and he’s only been in the job a few months.
But what about Boris Johnson? He’s had five years to sort this out and yet has spectacularly failed to do so. Most of London’s roads are no-go areas for cycling as far as I’m concerned. (And millions of other Londoners feel the same way – 30% of people would like to cycle but don’t, and the main reason is fear of motor traffic.)
Boris and TfL: it’s time to stop talking and start taking space from our bloated roads, because without doing that London will remain a dangerous smog-filled mess.
Update: Of course, it’s not just TfL who need to up their game, but the local London councils too. Most roads (even a large chunk of the ‘main’ roads) are controlled by the councils, not TfL. So this post is really aimed at them too, just as much.