I got an email today from London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon. It wasn’t personal, it was sent out to what I assume is her cycling email list.
Now, as far as I can tell, Caroline is one of the good guys when it comes to cycling. She’s chair of the Transport Committee which was behind the London Assembly’s report into cycling last year, and – while nearly everybody was saying how wonderful Boris’ cycling daydream Vision was – she was calling on the Mayor to increase funding for cycling projects, while the cycling hero Boris and his Conservative comrades were preventing an additional increase to the cycling budget.
I don’t want this post to turn into a party political broadcast for whatever party Ms Pidgeon is a member of, I merely mention these things because she seems to have been batting consistently for cycling while Boris has been making excuses over the past five years. Please let me know in the comments if I’m wrong!
Anyway, this email contained the following:
“Peter Hendy, the Commissioner at Transport for London … stated that TfL and the Boroughs lacked sufficient expertise… Their approach will be to focus on a handful of projects and learn as they go. …TfL hopes they will be able to test what interventions work…”
TfL are admitting that they lack sufficient expertise, and yet they’re planning to spend millions of pounds inventing their own cycling infrastructure?
I know I made this point before, but why hasn’t anybody from TfL been sent on David Hembrow’s study tour? Apparently they considered it but decided not to (probably because that would mean they’d have to actually do it right which might mean upsetting the motor-centric Network Assurance goons). As they’re planning to spend hundreds of millions of pounds in the next few years, I reckon a few grand and a week in Assen would be an incredibly good investment at a bargain price, all things considered.
But instead TfL would rather figure it all out for themselves from scratch. This is madness – all the research is available from the Netherlands, which went through the learning process 35 years ago (and is still improving its cycling facilities). They made the mistakes so we don’t have to.
Yet TfL will “test what interventions work”? We already know what interventions work! They’re going to play around with our money, making it up as they go along because they can’t be arsed to go see what makes roads in the Netherlands work so well.
Attempting to massively increase cycling without looking to the world’s number one cycling nation is a waste of money. TfL will inevitably spend millions of pounds experimenting with the same things that the Dutch tried in the 1970s and 1980s, before finding that they’re not good enough. Meanwhile, people will continue to die because our roads are badly and incompetently designed.
Do we want more experiments such as the untried-and-untested Cycle Superhighways which failed so miserably – native, home-grown TfL engineering at its best? Or do we want to learn from global best practice – i.e. the Netherlands?
Why are TfL refusing to learn from the experts? Why are they seemingly so keen on reinventing the wheel and starting from scratch?
Addendum: Caroline is asking for cycling and road safety issues or questions that people would like her to put to the Mayor. You can email her at Caroline (dot) Pidgeon (at) london.gov.uk (obviously, type it out properly, I’ve mangled it here to prevent auto-junkmail software reading it).