Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Unblock the Embankment Group.
This was a group formed to oppose the closure of the Embankment and Lower/Upper Thames Street route for 6 months, a key east-west route through London, for the construction of a new Super Sewer. It seems they were successful in that regard. But they are now focussed on trying to persuade TfL and the City Corporation to reroute the Cycle Superhighway (CS3) to relieve the congestion on that route. There were representatives of the City Corporation at the meeting including Chris Hayward who chairs the Planning and Transportation Committee. He actually said in the meeting that CS3 has unquestionably made congestion worse, with which I don’t think anyone would disagree. Journey times across London (e.g. City to Westminster and back) have increased very substantially and there are no good alternative routes. One issue raised was that cyclists on the CS3 superhighway have to suffer the high pollution levels when it is known that pollution levels on Upper/Lower Thames Street are some of the worst in London and exceed legal limits. Cyclists might prefer an alternative route and bearing in mind that the City Corporation is planning to improve cycle routes through the City as part of its Transport Strategy, it was suggested that the CS3 could be relocated. Naturally that would require some funding (perhaps £10 million) but it seems HM Treasury might provide some funds to improve traffic flows in London. But will the Mayor of London and TfL support such a move even if funding is available? Has CS3 reduced accidents to cyclists? It was noted that it has not. The City Corporation’s Transport Strategy was discussed and there have been many thousands of responses to their public consultation on that – which is more than expected. The ABD promoted responses among our supporters so perhaps we helped in that regard. The consultation has now closed and it’s too early to give any analysis of responses. It might be March/April before a report is published. One aspect of the Transport Strategy is the proposed 15 mph speed limit across the City, but it was acknowledged that this would require legislation, i.e. the City Corporation cannot impose without an Act of Parliament. With more cycle routes in the City and closure of Bank Junction, even more traffic might be diverted to Upper/Lower Thames Street, making congestion and air pollution even worse. There was some discussion of air pollution trends on the CS3 route, and in London as a whole, on which data seemed to be limited. Incidentally a new initiative on that is to equip Google’s Street View cars with air pollution sensors. This would enable a real time and very localised view of pollution to be obtained. There will also be more fixed sensors attached to lampposts and buildings to obtain even more data. Of course the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is forcing all taxis to become zero emission capable (hybrid/electric) in the near future but surprisingly there are still no electric charging points for taxis in the City. TfL are dragging their feet on providing it seems. There was some discussion on the closure of Bank Junction, and proposals for a zero-emission limit for vehicles on Moor Lane in the Barbican. The City Corporation have now published a report on longer-term proposals for Bank Junction that includes three suggested options – total pedestrianisation, pedestrian priority with some vehicle movement, and thirdly retaining existing vehicle movements. Option 2 includes closure of some of the “arms” of the junction which seems eminently sensible – see illustration provided below – you can see other ones in the Committee Reports here.
But there is still a commitment to turning this key road junction into a “place” and reducing vehicles to improve road safety so it is not at all clear whether even the third option would support taxi movements.
Another subject briefly discussed was the proposal to close Moor Lane to all vehicles other than zero emission ones. Apparently there was a majority of respondents opposed to the scheme in a public consultation (see the Committee Report mentioned above). Confusion between that and TfL’s ULEZ scheme was one objection. What was the response of the City Corporation? They are not dropping the proposal, but intend to either go-ahead of simply postpone it. As I commented in the meeting, will the City Corporation and its elected members actually take account of responses to the public consultation on the City’s Transport Strategy? To date they have not shown any willingness to listen. Is Sadiq Khan responding to the air pollution concerns that he spends so much time talking about? Amusingly there was a report on the Guido Fawkes web site (which is usually accurate) saying that his official vehicle is a 4.4 litre BMW on which the MOT has expired. Not exactly environmentally friendly as Guido pointed out. Meanwhile the Mayor continues to spend money as if it’s going out of fashion on public relations and social media consultants. That includes promoting his views on Brexit very vigorously and Guido also revealed that the Mayor had given £20,000 to a group called “The3million” representing EU citizens in the UK who want to stop Brexit. The Mayor continues to waste money while interfering in national politics rather than sticking to his job of Mayor of London.