Last week TfL voted in the E-W CSH.
From the perspective of liveable British cities, this is significant event. It means that Londoners crossing the city by bicycle will be able to do so, confident that they will reach their destination alive. At least once they get to the CSH.
That guarantee "cross London alive" is the same guarantee that the city extends to anyone driving, taking the tube, a bus, or a train across London(*). A guarantee that was not, until this week, available. Until now: hope.
(*) Pedestrians. You are still fucked by TfL and Westminster Council.
If you look at why cycling in London is restricted to the city centre, to bold people (usually 20-25, male), it is that: only people bold and confident would cycle through London, usually with a compelling reason such as "didn't want to wait sit in traffic jams or pay to be crushed in the tube every day". Which is why cycling in the suburbs is less than in the busier, riskier, city centre. There's millions of commuters in London. It only takes a small fraction of them to be bold enough to cycle and you end up with the peak-hour numbers London gets today.
The credit for this should be spread wide. A unified front pushing segregated cycling, rather than vehicular cycling advocates hoping for safety in numbers. If the cycle lane achieves its expected success, then the VC advocates will have little to say. The London cycling bloggers and the reporters in BBC, the Times, the Evening standard and Guardian kept cycling and its safety mainstream. Everyone who protested, saying "this is unacceptable!"
The effort everyone put in to get so many businesses behind it has also to be viewed as critical -it stopped the campaign being viewed as "the metropolitan elite cyclists" vs "the businesses of London".
That is, unless you are the Canary Wharf company, the GMBpro union, the London Taxi Drivers Association and delivery companies, all of whom appear to be using the same text: too sudden, need a trial.
Which as Cyclists in the City notes is not a coincidence.
Canary Wharf appear to be leading the attack. One possible justification is for their CEO's drive to work. There's a more generous one, which is: if it increases the effective distance of Canary Wharf from the City or Westminster, then it potentially reduces the value of Canary Wharf. Is it really going to hurt them? No. It's what it represents: change.
Change that they are not in control of.
The vote signifies the establishment losing a control of the City of London. Arguably, it represents this establishment, the elite of the Baby Boomers, discovering that their power is over, generation X, Y and the Millenials setting the agenda.
Last week, Schroeders published a report arguing that peak car was a generational shift in lifestyle and hence transport; that repeat sales to baby-boomers to result in a static market.
The CSH is open to baby-boomers: it'll be open to anyone. Only, the elite of the baby-boomers don't want to cycle, they're not dutch. They are happy with their motorised lifestyle -apart from the congestion and delays, obviously. The CSH is a complete attack on their way of life: something that represents the future, shows that the future is not the status quo -and that this future is being designed by others.
They feel threatened, they don't want it, and presumably expected to kill this. Except they haven't. They've tried the classic tactics: discreet words in people's ears, off the record briefings and lobbying at party conferences. Not only has it failed, that lobbying and briefing itself has shown up the old guarded. Canary Wharf's management are tainted.
Which is why, presumably, Canary Wharf itself didn't personally email the TfL board. Instead they appear to have drafted the letters for others to send. It's notable here that the timing is similar, they all had the email addresses of the board, and there's a few recurrent phrases. "laudable" is a key one, as "its sweet but unrealistic to care about the lives of cyclists". There's also that classic "environmental impact" phrase. It's not the cyclists causing the pollution problems, so stop trying to make them or TfL feel guilty about it. No organisation that drives diesel vehicles in city centres is in a position to complain about the environmental impact of cycle paths. Then there's the introduction, which usually starts with "support in principle, however..." ,as a way of making clear they don't support the idea if it comes anywhere near them.
Let's look at the letters that came in.
Jan 29th: Federation of small businesses. Welcomes work to improve cyclist safety. However... Makes the point that 3 months is hard for them to plan around it. Of course, they've really had 6+ months.
Jan 30th: Dr Leon Mannings, Motorcycle Action Group. Cites PhD, then "greatest level of new constraints on vehicular road use ever to be imposed anywhere in the UK". (Clearly Leon's PhD missed the "what is a vehicle?" section). Assumes that motor traffic is inelastic/only going to rise, CSH will cause congestion, air-pollution and misery for all.
"The laudable objectives are to improve safety for riders of a mode that currently facilitates around 3% of transport by road in London, and to deliver a dramatic rise...in the centre. [Dr Manning uses city-wide numbers, not c-zone numbers, to minimise cyclist percentage]"
"However...laudable...the negative impacts on the other 90+% of road users will be greater than poosal in the history of UK transport policy...moreover increase congestion and environmental and economic problems."
...Discusses impact of safety to motorbikes, segues into motorcycle based paramedics/police and how lives are threatened. More specifically
this scheme as currently proposed will increase the risk of injury of death for PTW riders -and significantly resuce the avantages that PTW's offer for essential journeys
Leon could have made a better argument focusing on the safety of motorbikes. As it is, his "biggest UK transport changes, restrictions on vehicular movements and congestion & pollution" claims make him sound like he hates the very idea of cycle paths.
Jan 30th: British Beer and Pub Association
This organisation comes over as odd. No organisation claiming to represent supermarkets, chip shops and kebab vendors has criticised the proposals. Yet those businesses need to unload their products. The BBPA claims to represent owners of 40% of pubs and 90% of the beer produced. This implies that they are the beer manufacturers with their tied/owned pubs. These are not the independents and the microbreweries.
"support the improvement of road safety for all road users in London and elsewhere, however"..."100 delivery accounts"..."dangerous to cyclists"..."and to delivery staff who will need to cross busy cycle lanes". "pub businesses will be affected as it is conceivable that distributors will find it simply too risky to deliver"
"we support cycle superhighways but feel there should be a hold on development until there's a resolution"..."cycle superhighway safety from deliveries"
Then they propose: a trial with removable markings.
The behaviour of this organisation has to be called out as outstandingly bad. They are arguing that the fact that they don't know how to deliver beer over a cycle path as a reason to halt the most transformational cycling project in Britain. And, given their objection is to delivering beer over any cycle path, they are against segregated cycle paths in Britain. What do they want instead? Presumably they want shit-paint cycle ways which their vans can park in. For years they've been doing that, yet only now, as safe cycling routes get delivered, do they suddenly start claiming to care about cyclist safety.
They could do some research here. Two obvious tactics spring to mind.
- Look at their member list, identify any who have major NL or CPH operations and say "find out what they do". Heineken UK, for example. Or Carlsberg.
- Ask cyclists: "would you prefer sharing a lane with an HGV, or have to deal with some vans delivering beer across the path?"
But no, they call for an immediate halt and the bollocks "trial with cones" story. That won't offer tangible safety, won't get serious takeup, and will let them say "it's a failure: stop it everywhere". Should cyclists boycott pubs in retaliation? No: only the big brewer's beers and their tied houses. Look up members of the the society of independent brewers and drink their beers at independent pubs. Indeed, that could be a good national protest couldn't it: a "cyclists don't let friends drink BPA-member's beers"
Feb 2: CBI
"support in principle"..."want more information for planning", All well and good, until the phrase "any threats to London's transport network must be fully communicated in advance". What the fuck?
The CSH is considered threat to London's transport network? And of course they close with "balanced network for both motorists and cyclists". Fine. Let's count the number of roads with safe cycling facilities, the number of roads without them: and push for balance. The CBI have said that balance is what they want, so lets call them out on it. For every lane-mile of road within then M25 ring, cyclists deserve the equivalent. Anything else would be an unbalanced network. From that perspective, the E-W CSH constitutes a fraction of the lane capacity of the Chiswick Flyover: there's going to be a lot more cycle paths out there before balance can be achieved.
Feb 2: GMB Professional Drivers Branch
This is clearly the diesel-head part of the GMB trade union. This branch doesn't like change. "request your reconsideration" ... "major flaws"..."increased journey times", "increased emissions" Notice how its always people on bicycles that get blamed for "increased emissions".
Nobody driving a diesel vehicle in the city has the right to blame the cyclists for their increased NO2 emissions.
With the exception of black cab and red bus drivers, everyone had a choice of what kind of engine to drive. Don't blame the cyclists for GMB pro members going for diesel. They eventually get round to concluding that it "could prove disastrous on the economics of London and indeed of the whole of the UK". This is potentially the first time that anyone has accused a cycle path of threatening the economics of Britain.
Feb 2: Freight Transport Association and Road Haulage Association
This is the letter known to have come from Canary Wharf. "support the superhighway approach in principal", "improve safety for cyclists"..."however"..."a sensible balance between the needs of different road users". OK. Let's have some balance. Here are some basic needs of different road users.
- Londoners on bicycles: get home alive.
- Londoners walking: get home alive.
- Londoners not walking or cycling: get home alive.
If you oppose safe cycling options in the city you are saying "your journey time matters more than the lives of others" Their letter goes on to talk about deliveries, emissions, costs etc. But assuming that the whole letter was ghost-written by Canary Wharf, who gives a fuck what the rest of it says. It's just Canary Wharf choreographing opposition with a list of talking points.
Feb 2: UPS
Notice this flurry of emails on Jan 2? Often with that opening phrase "we support in principle". These could all be a sign that Canary Wharf management provided the bullet points to use when drafting a message.
Here's UPS's "not opposed in principle"..."but are concerned"..."damaging impact on our operations"..."will ultimately hinder business growth in the capital" Got that: the barrier to business growth in London is UPS's delivery timetable. Delay that and London will fall. Therefore the UPS delivery schedule is more important than the lives of cyclists.
Feb 2: Association of Internation Courier and Express Services ..."supports TfL's objective to ensure that cycling in London is safer and where possible to ensure properly segregated lanes". This is calm, balanced request for some time to help get their issues about more delivery space resolved. Of all the letters, this is the one that does not imply that the CSH will destroy London. Even so, that, "where possible" is a warning sign.
In contrast, the RAC foundation:
Feb 3: RAC Foundation Argues that the 38M investment will cost London 200M, and that it is real damage to "bus users, business and commerce in the heart of a world financial centre which is a vital engine of economic prosperity for the UK economy." There's not even a mention of saved lives. There's no "We support it in principle, however..". The RAC foundation has just come out and argued against it on economics. If ever anyone felt that the RAC foundation cared about people: if you cycle, they don't. They care about press and TV, are happy to make press events to discuss a future of self-driving cars, but don't care about the live of of cyclists, today.
Feb 3: DHL "we support your work", "however we share the concerns of the FTA and RHA". As it arrives a day after, they may have just been cc:'d a copy of the FTA/RHA "canary wharf" letter, rather than had this drafted by canary wharf.
Feb 3: London Chamber of Commerce
Want more details on economic impact. No mention of cyclist safety.
There you go: CBI views this as a threat to the London transport network, GMB Pro a threat to the entire country. Brewers and Pub association a threat to the very existence of pubs in his country. And the RAC foundation: they don't give a fuck about cyclists and use the "economic prosperity of Britain" as their argument against.
The good news: their letters didn't stop the vote. The briefings failed, the "lets have a trial" arguments dismissed.
Nor did the people who sit on the board -and didn't need to bother with the letters. There's no emails from the LTDA, nothing from Canary Wharf itself. With their members on the board: no need.
Yet something profound happened instead. The people who have influence changed. And the old guard? They may have just pissed off Boris. Who may be leader of the Conservative party in six months, while still Mayor of London.
While the vote went through, it's highlited the difference between that old guard and the future inheritors of the city. The business "spokesman" organisations: CBI, London Chamber of Commerce -they come out as particularly out of touch, criticising the moves as if the CSH project is not for the benefit of the staff of its member, or indeed its customers.
Every organisation that came out in support of the CSH needs to check their membership of these organisations, then get in touch and say: you didn't speak for us. Ask them to start qualifying your statements or change their position, because they are not representative of the future economy of London.