Friday 29 June 2012

Bluewash from Boris

The statistics on road safety are out, and the RAC foundation are off the mark blaming pedestrians for being on the phone and the ipod. Never mind there's no data to back that up. Never mind that you could make similar allegations about drivers on the phone, texting, not paying attention. The allegations would be no more valid, but that's the whole point -the RAC Foundation is showing their opinions, not their knowledge.

Where they do make a point is the reduction in road safety campaigns -a direct side effect of cost cutting measures. Yet the one road safety campaign whose costs were covered by the fines they raised were the speed cameras -the ones everyone said should go? They've gone. Has it helped? Has it freed up lots of police to enforce "Bad driving". Bollocks. All that has happened is people can stop complaining about being ticketed.

Why do so many drivers hate speed cameras? Because they catch you, 100% of the time. Not because they focus on speed over "bad driving", but because everyone who sprinted past one got a ticket. Before -you just made sure you went below the speed of the fastest cars out there and let them take the blame. Now -everyone. That complaint about "cash cow" really meant "I get caught".

Why not bring them back and change the rules? Less fine, even a lower penalty -but leave them on, and the people who get caught will soon run out of points. Back that up with actual enforcement of the twelve-points-out rule. Then worry about the dangerous driving issue -which as the helmet cameras show is common out there and yet, when confronted with the videos, the Metropolitan "roadsafe" unit turn out to be the "fuckall" unit. As for London's Taxi Licensing Authority -Gaz45 would be better off complaining that he was overcharged by the taxi drivers than they cut him up and hurled abuse at him when he complained. Because the TLA don't give a fuck about bicycles either.

Returning to the stats, the tragic increase in cyclist Killed and Seriously Injured shows that TfL's actions over the past few years have made things worse, not better. All that money on Cycle Superhigways? Cycle Death Roads would be more accurate.

Cyclists in the city make the key point -the focus on "traffic flow" means "cars, buses, taxis and HGVs at the expense of the city itself". They've ripped out crossings, willfully excluded cyclists from new road designs (Blackfriar's Bridge &c). There's a distinct possibility of a Corporate Manslaughter charge over the Kings Cross design, while if the campaigners can get to the bottom of "who said no to the segregated path" story there may be one there -or at least the blame can be put squarely on the door of Boris or his motorbiking transport minion.

The fact that KSI is increasing faster than the growth in cycling shows that safety-in-numbers isn't valid, safety-in-safe-infrastructure and safety-in-legal-enforcement-of-dangerous-driving is what delivers safety -the numbers follow.

Boris's personal decisions have resulted in the death of cyclists.

The other big issue is the London Shard -if the number of people killed by trucks on the shard's delivery schedule, then somehow the HSE needs to be pulled in. Just as they used to have an "acceptable" death rate building railway lines, the London Shard shows that there is a death rate for cyclists that is being implicitly allowed. Implicitly -because each death is treated as an unrelated incident, not a structural flaw of a delivery schedule that was unrealistic, along with the fact that it generated a lot more lorry traffic in the area.

What could Boris do to dig TfL out of the hole they've dug

Delay and denial

  • Kick the 'go dutch' campaign into the long grass. Promise things, promise reviews -and slow the momentum.
  • Somehow, dampen the Times campaign. This is going to be hard precisely because one of their staff is part of the statistics. It's hard to have dinner with the editor and say "I've give you a scoop on some of my plans if you back of" if the editor knows someone who is in a coma as a result of TfL's plans
  • Get a small amount of money from central govt and say "dangerous junctions" will be fixed, blaming these dangerous junctions as if they are natural things, like "dangerous mountain gorges" or "high earthquake risk areas". 
  • Ppick on some small, symbolic problem they can do something about (e.g. better enforcement  of parking in superhighways) without doing anything to address the larger issues.

The junctions in London are dangerous not just from years of indifference of TfL, but by their active effort in making things worse through "smoothing the flow"

If this is what Boris/TfL do -and let's be realistic, its the first thing they'd think of as it is the one that avoids any admission of blame, much spending, or much effort-

The cycling campaigns need to push back sooner rather than later to stop this happening.

One idea, have a consistent name for TfLs half hearted efforts: call it "bluewash". Refers to whitewash, but brings those blue lanes right to the front as the key example of what's done wrong. Keep calling all of Boris's actions Bluewash and wheel that phrase out whenever any spokesperson -which includes all the excellent bloggers out there- is asked for a quote. Repeat that phrase until it takes hold.

What else could Boris and TfL do? Change direction

  • Admit that the CSH scheme failed to deliver the safety
  • Redo the new TfL junction plans, not just for cycling, but for pedestrians too. 
  • Pick some key streets and put in proper segregated lanes. One of the bridges is the obvious target -there's no secret back route to avoid them, and it would have a tangible difference on the people who use it
  • Provide safe feeder routes to and from this showcase route. If there's a safe river crossing, people will go out their way to use it, so give them ways to do it.

Achieving that would not cost that much -not compared to the bluewash money wasted on the superhighways, not compared to how much TfL are spending "to improve traffic flow"

What it needs is something else: a fundamental change in TfLs outlook away from Traffic Flow as their pure goal. To recognise that joined up routes, segregation and safe junctions are the key. Not "keep your wits about you" junctions but "take the kids to school this way" routes.

Boris got elected. Before that election cyclists did become a political presence. Now he has been elected, he could get complacent. These awful statistics on road safety are a call to action.

For anyone asking, why should S. Gloucs care -London sets an example for the rest of the country. If you can make cycling in London safe, nobody can say "it can't be done here" for any other town or city. We could point to London and say "they managed it -why can't you?".

1 comment:

  1. Great post (I'd have liked a bit more swearing, but still). I love the phrase 'bluewash' - it sums up TfL's attitude to cycling in two syllables!

    One showcase bridge is hard to choose, because they're nearly all wide enough and could all easily have better facilities which would make a huge difference.

    Blackfriars would be an easy start as the pavements and existing cycle lanes are huge. Heading North, we need to route a cycle track around the back of the bus stop, there's tons of room there.

    Southwark Bridge already has segregation (though only by accident because it was cheaper than strengthening the bridge), it just needs better approaches.

    Waterloo Bridge is trickier because of the tunnel at the North end, but I think I have a few solutions. (I'm planning a blog post about it some time.)

    No more bluewash!