Taxi Streetspace ban similar to ‘wrong-headed’ Bank Junction restrictions says Lord Holmes

The decision to ban taxis from London’s Streetspace plans are similar to the ‘wrong-headed’ decision to ban black cabs from Bank Junction, says Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE.

Lord Holmes, a former multiple gold winning British Paralympic swimmer and life peer in the House of Lords, also highlighted the essential role the fully accessible black cab plays in providing public transport for those with mobility impairments and the legal status taxis hold as a form of public transport.

The comments follow last week’s landmark High Court ruling that the Mayor and Transport for London’s (TfL) ‘Streetspace for London Plan’, including the Bishopsgate changes, were 'unlawful'.

The judge found that the needs of disabled Londoners were “not considered", and described parts of the EQIA as “perfunctory or non-existent”.

The landmark judgement follows a judicial review mounted by the London taxi trade, challenging the Mayor and TfL’s Plan, associated Guidance issued to London Boroughs and the Order concerning a specific Streetspace scheme, the A10 Bishopsgate Corridor in the City of London, which removed taxi access to a key arterial route.

The Court has now ordered that the Streetspace Plan, Interim Guidance to Boroughs and the A10 Bishopsgate Traffic Order be quashed, following the judgement.

In 2018 the City of London Corporation’s (COLC) most senior decision-making body voted to make a 16-month experimental safety scheme at the Bank junction, which excluded wheelchair accessible taxis, permanent.

The COLC are now imposing further restrictions on a widespread section of roads across the Square Mile citing COVID-19 distancing requirements.

In Lord Holmes’ blog summing up the Streetspace ruling, he says: ‘The Streetspace scheme involved a rapid construction of a strategic cycling network, wider footpaths and a reduction of traffic on residential streets – there was no mention of taxis. However, taxis play an essential role in providing accessible public transport for those with mobility impairments and enjoy a particular legal status as a form of public transport.

‘The judgement also found that TfL failed to have proper regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). The PSED is part of the Equality Act 2010 that requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities. I am delighted that this was included in the judgement as an important signal for local authorities to better understand this legal obligation when approaching public realm design.

‘The Streetspace programme reminds me of a street design approach known as ‘Shared Space’ in which various design features (such as the removal of pavements to create a level surface) encourage pedestrians and vehicles to ‘share’ the space. Despite laudable aims the schemes suffered from a devastating lack of inclusion; visually impaired people and many vulnerable pedestrians were at a significant disadvantage. In 2015, I produced a report ‘Accidents by Design’ in which we highlighted the problems with ‘Shared Space'.

‘The scheme is similar also to the recent, wrong-headed, decision to ban taxis from Bank Junction even though they had never been involved in an accident. If these schemes are approached, from the start, with the principle of inclusive design then they can be made to work for ALL.

‘There is no doubt that we need to act urgently to address the environmental and health impacts of our current congested roads. In December, a UK coroner found that “excessive air pollution” contributed to the death of 9-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, the first time air pollution has been listed on a UK death certificate. The Covid crisis has highlighted the absolute necessity of public health measures, this is not, and should never be about thwarting measures that encourage more walking and cycling. But we now have the worst case scenario and a horrible waste of public money defending a scheme they should never have put forward in the first place. Desperately disappointing that such foolish, thoughtless plans keep getting put out there.’

Responding to the result of last week’s ruling, a TfL spokesperson told TaxiPoint: “We are disappointed with the court’s ruling and are seeking to appeal this judgment. Temporary Streetspace schemes are enabling safer essential journeys during this exceptionally challenging time and are vital to ensuring that increased car traffic does not threaten London’s recovery from coronavirus.

“We absolutely recognise the need for schemes such as our Bishopsgate corridor to work for the communities they serve and have worked hard to ensure that people across London, including those who use taxis, can continue to get to where they need to be. We also recognise the need for schemes to be delivered in a fair and consistent manner and have worked closely with the boroughs to create clear guidance for implementing schemes, updating this regularly to reflect what we have learnt. These schemes will stay in place pending our appeal."
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