Letter in Telegraph, 17 April2016
Environmental groups’ failure over HS2
SIR – It is now very clear indeed that the hugely expensive HS2 project is fundamentally flawed; yet it continues to make progress towards delivery in spite of compelling evidence justifying its cancellation.
Its passage has been assisted by two important factors that are as problematic as the project itself. The first is the failure of both governmental and non-governmental supporters to change direction on the basis of evidence. The second is the dramatic transformation of so-called environmental groups.
The Campaign for Better Transport, Friends of the Earth, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Greenpeace have assisted this extremely environmentally damaging project at every stage.
These groups have betrayed their members as the project will, without question, add to greenhouse gas emissions, seriously damage the countryside, destroy woodland and generate levels of noise greater than those set in World Health Organisation community noise standards.
This marks a serious decline in the legitimacy of these environmental groups. It can be seen as a huge loss in a democracy constantly struggling with the excesses of government policies that emphasise the importance of the environment but in practice contribute to its degradation.
The environmental movement has embraced the old maxim, “if you can’t beat them, join them” – and we are all the losers.
[former Board member of Transport 2000 – now the Campaign for Better Transport
Emeritus Professor, University College London [and member of the original board of directors of FoE]
Senior Fellow Emeritus, Policy Studies Institute
[independent transport planner]
The letters pages of the transport professionals’ fortnightly, Local Transport Today, have recently carried an unprecedentedly long correspondence about the statistical analysis of the effects of speed cameras. We welcome in-depth statistical analysis of “road safety” interventions such as cameras. However, our take on how results should be interpreted – and indeed, what “works” actually means in the overall context of reducing road danger over time – is different from most of the participants. Here is our contribution to – and comments on – the debate: LTT 695
Here’s the latest update. For the main story see this account with a timeline and our latest on lorry safety here and here . The “Cyclists stay back” stickers seem to have disappeared from Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS) registered members’ vehicles. But there is still an obvious problem with stickers on the wrong kind of vehicle – those without “blind spots” such as smaller lorries, vans and cars – belonging to FORS registered members. This includes those registered as Gold in FORS, such as the London Boroughs of Brent and Camden, Murphy and Travis Perkins. Because of continuing concern Darren Johnson MLA asked the Mayor the following question:-
Inappropriate use of cyclist warning stickers
Question No: 2016/0621
Despite providing an assurance (2015/1512) that TfL had contacted operators signed up to its Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) to stress that blind spot stickers should not be used on vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, I have been informed that many operators including gold standard operators are still doing this. Please set out what new measures TfL will take to promote the use of consistent signage by operators and stop the arbitrary use of these stickers from bringing FORS into disrepute.
…and received this answer Written response from the Mayor
Please see my response to MQ 2015/1512.
The Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) standard requires fleet operators to fit approved blind spot warning signage to vehicles over 3.5 tonne gross vehicle weight, as these vehicles have larger blind spots. FORS guidance is that blind spot warning signage is not required on vehicles under 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight. This guidance is communicated to all FORS accredited operators via e-news bulletins, the FORS website and in FORS training and toolkits. This guidance is available online at http://www.fors-online.org.uk/cms/warning-signage/.
The FORS annual audit verifies that approved blind spot warning signage is fitted to vehicles over 3.5 tonne gross vehicle weight. Operators that use non-approved or badly placed stickers, or who fit signage to smaller vehicles, receive an action plan and are expected to address this prior to the next audit. (RDRF emphasis)
I believe this approach is reasonable and proportionate for operators that have blind spot warning signage fitted to smaller vehicles, and therefore does not bring FORS into disrepute
The implication is that operators like Murphy
and LB Camden
have either changed since these photos were taken (they might have – I haven’t checked recently) or have received “action plans” and are in the process of doing so. If that is the case, then we may be finally able to leave this sorry saga behind. However, my perception is that FORS have not managed to get members to follow advice laid down some time ago. And my suggestion is that there has had to be a lot of pressure from TfL’s danger reduction and cyclist stakeholders to get them this far.
So you may want to nudge FORS by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
A recent contact led to: “Thank you for your email and informing us of these companies not displaying the correct signage. We will be contacting the companies and will make sure they are displaying the correct signage from now on. We do our best to ensure that all companies are displaying the correct signage. This is through our audits and our compliance checks. If you have any further queries do not hesitate to contact …”
So you can get results, and we’re happy to be of assistance to TfL/FORS.
I went to an interesting talk at the Guardian’s offices in London yesterday evening, entitled ‘What Can We Do to Get More People Cycling in London?’, featuring a panel of Chris Boardman, Andrew Gilligan, Rachel Aldred, Peter Walker and – as the token ‘opposing’ voice – Steve Macnamara of the LTDA.
The debate was wide-ranging, and largely consensual, with even Steve MacNamara stating that he ‘agreed with 90%’ of what Transport for London was building in central London, and making the reasonable point that taxi drivers don’t really want to be sharing space with people cycling on main roads – it doesn’t really work for either mode of transport. He also made the case for more cycling across London, arguing that more cycling means fewer motor vehicles on the road, and that (humorously) ‘we don’t really want anyone else on the road apart from cabbies’.
But a feature of the discussion that leapt out – for me at least – was delivery. For instance, despite Chris Boardman’s willingness to see improvements in his home town, any potential for change petered out in the face of council indifference and reluctance to do things that weren’t officially approved by central government.
Andrew Gilligan stated that he was ‘jealous’ of New York’s Janette Sadik Khan, who had control over all of that city’s roads, while in London TfL only controls about 5% of the road network. That means boroughs have a big say in whether schemes go ahead, and can effectively block cycling infrastructure if a few awkward individuals have a particular antipathy to it. This is the reason the E-W Superhighway completely bypasses the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, for instance, and why Superhighway 9 was cancelled.
And while there is obviously some very exciting stuff happening on a number of roads in central London, delivery in outer London is very patchy indeed, even when schemes are on TfL roads, designed by TfL. A case in point is the A24 in Morden. This is a road where, way back in 2012, TfL proposed some very poor changes ‘for cyclists’, which I reported on at the time. It essentially consisted of retaining 3-4 lanes of motor traffic, with shared use footways and narrow cycle lanes – repeatedly interrupted by parking bays – running in parallel with each other. I wrote that
with just a little more imagination, and a bit more budgetary commitment, there is great potential for good, separated infrastructure, suitable for all cyclists of all ages and abilities, to be provided along this road. The consultation proposals also bear the hallmarks of compliance with the Hierarchy of Provision; that is, conversion of pavements to shared use in the event that the authority responsible is unwilling to reduce traffic, slow it, or reallocate carriageway space. Likewise it is presumed that those using the pavement are willing to sacrifice their journey time for the privilege of cycling away from traffic.
I also wrote that
I’m not entirely convinced that the A24 immediately to the south of this area has to remain a four (and in places, five) lane road. There is scope for the reallocation of a vehicle lane for a cycle track, at least along the section until the junction with Central Road (but note that reallocation is not strictly necessary, given the existing width available).
I reached that conclusion because, although this road is 3 or 4 lanes wide at the moment, long sections of it are effectively only 2 lanes, because of the parking bays that take up most of one lane.
Well… it turns out that there is a new consultation on this road, or at least a part of it – the southern end – and the proposal is indeed to reduce the four lanes for private motor traffic to just two. But what is proposed for cycling is barely any better than before.
We have a mandatory cycle lane, yes. But it is directly on the outside of parked cars, in a dangerous position, rather than between those cars and the footway.
There’s a bus lane in the opposite direction, which wasn’t there before, but that is the extent of the cycling provision. Right at the bus stop itself, the footway becomes shared use. A ‘bus stop bypass’, but not a very good one.
And that’s pretty much the extent of this scheme – a bus lane in one direction, and an unfriendly and dangerously-positioned cycle lane in the other.
A cycle lane which also gives up at a bus stop –
And in the opposite direction, a cycle lane starts from behind a parking bay, leading you into a three lane-wide ASL. Good luck turning right here.
Given the width of this road – it is really very wide! – and the fact that two of the four lanes for motor traffic are now being lost, this is pretty thin gruel.
The wide grassy median is of course being retained too – valuable space that could have been used for cycling, and would also help to reduce vehicle speeds if it were to be removed.
This is the second attempt at sorting this road in barely three years, and although it is progress of a some degree, what is proposed is very far away from the kind of inclusive cycling design that we are starting to see in central London, and in other British towns and cities. We need more – a lot more – of this higher-quality infrastructure if cycling is going to continue growing; it’s the only thing that will reach those parts of the population that aren’t cycling now. Cycling in bus lanes, or cycling between parked cars and fast motor traffic, on busy roads really isn’t going to cut it.
I’m not quite sure what the root problem is with this scheme. It might be that it hasn’t been allocated enough funding to alter the road properly, to create decent, parking- and kerb-protected cycleways in both directions, and to remove the median. It might be that officers and planners just don’t care enough. Or it might be that there’s only a relatively small amount of people in TfL who ‘get’ how to design for cycling.
Whatever the explanation – it’s still not good enough. If you can, respond this evening to the (very brief) consultation, saying exactly that.