The LTDA has recently submitted its response to the City of London’s transport strategy, which aims to improve access for cyclists and pedestrians. We have highlighted areas where we think the plans will have a positive effect, but also some areas where it be detrimental to the way we work.
We recognise City’s ambition to make the area more pleasant and accommodating to cyclists and pedestrians. The spread of private hire vehicles has contributed to increased pollution and congestion on London’s roads, resulting in worsening air quality, reduced safety and a worse experience for cyclists and pedestrians.
The LTDA recognises the health and wellbeing benefits of walking and cycling,
but notes that these benefits are not equally available to all. In particular, walking and cycling may not be practical for road users with disabilities and visual impairments, and may not be a feasible transport mode for certain lifestyles, including certain professions and those with young children. With this in mind, measures aimed at improving walking and cycling in the City should not create unnecessary barriers to the use of public transport modes such as licensed taxis, and should instead support a vibrant and high-quality transport system which provides a range of options that suit a diverse population and its needs.
We support segregated spaces for cyclists, but the LTDA’s experience with Cycle Superhighways is that due consideration is not given to other road users in terms of the allocation of limited road space, which disproportionately harms disabled and restricted mobility road users. The capacity of several roads to accommodate traffic has been reduced, for instance, to single lanes of traffic in order to allocate more space to cyclists through the introduction of wide permanent cycle lanes in key transport arteries, such as Victoria Embankment.
We have highlighted our concerns that the reduction in capacity of crucial routes increases congestion. This leads to taxi passengers having to endure longer journeys and paying higher fares.
To support an efficient public transportation system, taxis need to be able to provide a door- to-door service, and require convenient and safe drop-off points. However, several of the initiatives already implemented have reduced the number of bus lanes available to taxis.
Bus lanes provide a safe location to unload taxi passengers and to allow them to exit the taxi without stepping out into traffic. The loss of drop-off points presents a threat to the safety of our passengers and stops taxis from offering a door-to-door service to passengers, making journeys less convenient and more dangerous. It is also essential that new cycling infrastructure does not reduce taxi rank numbers, and that where taxi ranks are relocated in order to accommodate cycling infrastructure, they are of the same capacity as those being removed and are conveniently located.
Taxi rank availability reduces congestion and pollution through a reduction in “rat-running” of taxis and idling. It also makes it easy for passengers to locate and board taxis.
Cycling infrastructure which necessitates a loss in rank space is detrimental to the taxi trade and its passengers and must be avoided. The competing needs of different road users must be considered.
The LTDA agrees with City that public transport should accessible and welcoming to all.
All London’s licensed taxis are wheelchair accessible. Indeed, we are the only form of transport currently on London’s roads which are fully accessible, and guide-dog friendly. Measures adopted under or proposed through the Transport Strategy must not worsen accessibility for people.
Taxis form an important part of the public transportation system and it is imperative that taxis continue to have a key, strategic role in any solution.
Safety is of course paramount, but it is important to ensure that any measures adopted are aimed at the causes of collisions and incidents and are evidence-based.
With this in mind, it should be noted that licensed taxis are amongst the safest forms of public transport. TfL’s own data shows that taxi and private hire vehicles cause amongst the lowest numbers of collisions in London, and in the City of London in particular. According to data collected by Transport for London in 2016 (the most recent data available), taxi or private hire vehicles were involved in: one serious casualty in the City of London out of the 51 of such casualties which occurred that year; 20 slight casualties compared to 354 across all road user types; and no fatal casualties.
TfL data does not distinguish between incidents involving licensed taxis and incidents involving private hire vehicles, meaning that the numbers of incidents involving taxis is likely to be even lower than this.
Improving the safety of public transport in the City of London for all road users and improving the travel experience for all are both of utmost importance. However, there must be a sufficient evidence base for any measures adopted by the Corporation. The data currently available suggests that measures which have the effect of restricting or limiting taxi access or mobility are unlikely to improve road safety.
Encouraging the take-up of low-emissions and emissions-free modes of travel is essential to supporting a healthier and cleaner public transportation network – a fact long recognised by the LTDA and demonstrated by its commitment to the take-up of new zero- emissions capable models of taxi.
However, this ambition, shared by the mayor, local authorities, TfL and others, can
be threatened by poor transport planning. As previously stated, the reduction in road space often included in proposals for new cycling infrastructure can lead to increases in congestion and longer journey times. Increased journey times result in vehicles idling on roads for longer periods of time and increasing pollution. This is of concern to the LTDA and its members, who suffer the consequences of poor air quality when working. The reduction of road space available to taxis results in lost fare income. Ultimately, this will serve to delay the take-up of zero-emissions capable models of taxi as drivers will struggle to raise the capital required to purchase new vehicles. Ultimately, limiting taxi access or mobility may result in worse air quality and higher levels of pollution. In the long-term, this can be avoided by ensuring that the optimum conditions are in place to ensure a thriving taxi industry.