It's a 'Nightmare on Your Street' from Transport for London

Today we've responded to Transport for London's draft strategy explaining how it intends to manage traffic on London's major road network for the foreseeable future.

It's called the Network Operating Strategy.

You can download the LCC objection.

You can object too.

After working our way through the full 90 pages, we've realised that it's a 'Nightmare Operating Strategy'.

At first, TfL's world appears to be a reasonable vision for managing road transport in London.

Then you realise something is wrong; nothing in its vision is quite real.

To some degree, the strategy is talking about the London we know, but it's a city where machines are much more important than people.

Respond to the consultation

We're writing our formal response to the consultation, and if you're quick - the deadline is today, Friday 15 July 2011 - you can tell TfL your views via the online consultation.

TfL's draft Network Operating Strategy sets out some objectives from the Mayor's Transport strategy, including:

  • Public transport capacity and reliability
  • Reducing road casualties
  • An increase in walking and cycling
  • Smoothing traffic flow (managing delay, improving journey time reliability and resilience)
  • Improving road user satisfaction (for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists)

This reads like a balanced list, but you soon realise that smoothing traffic flow to reduce congestion is prioritised beyond all else.

In the whole document there is only one paragraph about reducing road casualties.

And the only mention of increasing cycling and walking is where these modes of transport are seen as a way of reducing traffic at locations where everything else has failed.

TfL has a legal duty under the Traffic Management Act to "secure the expeditious movement of traffic ".

However, it clearly hasn't noticed that Section 31 of the Act specifically states that the term 'traffic' includes pedestrians.

It has a legal duty to consider the movement of all road users: pedestrians and cyclists, as well as motorists.

But this duty must not override other policy objectives: for example, securing the expeditious movement of vehicles must not be at the expense of road safety, or promoting cycling objectives.

Did the Mayor's advisors know this when they told him not to consider 20mph on Blackfriars bridge because it "was not successful in managing traffic flow".

Our Mayor has made a public policy commitment to increasing cycling, saying he wants to create a London where cyclists are "no longer in thrall to the motor car".

TfL research has shown that the major barrier to increased cycling is the fear of motor traffic, so perhaps TfL should be looking at ways to reduce motor traffic to help meet the Mayor's policy objectives?

What's wrong with the Nightmare Operating Strategy?

The journey figures ignore milliions of walking journeys

A key statistic that's been used to bring about this strategy is 'stages' or partial trips by different types of transport... except they ignore millions of journeys on foot.

TfL bizarrely doesn't count the millions of walking trips to and from bus stops, or tube and train stations.

All those people you see streaming out of the tube and rail stations every morning are invisible to TfL, as is every tourist on foot in the city.

Put simply, if you walk 10 minutes to a tube station, then 15 minutes at the other end to your workplace, five days per week, then TfL doesn't consider you a walker

Because of this, TfL is not considering millions of journeys that Londoners take each day on foot. 

We don't know how many cycle journeys are made each day

TfL doesn't know how many cyclist journey stages are made each day and, to be fair, neither do we.

That's because the survey data is not strong enough to give reliable results.

TfL has been saying that there are "around half a million cycle journeys per day" for years, but there has been a 150% increase in cycling in a decade, so there must be more than that.

We do know that in the city centre, where many roads are TfL-managed, cyclists make up approximately a quarter of all vehicles in the morning peak, and we make up over a third of vehicles on Blackfriars Bridge and over 40% on Southwark Bridge.

TfL's 6 measures of performance

1. Journey time reliability
Every London cyclist knows that a bike journey is far more predictable than driving or waiting for public transport, but TfL only considers "light goods vehicles, heavy goods vehicles and cars".

2. Journey time/traffic speed
TfL is only measuring car journey information here, not cycle journeys, which are much quicker for most of the journeys Londoners make.

3. Volume of demand
TfL is measuring the number of vehicles on its 23 main corridor routes. It does not say if the numbers include cycles, nor if it only counts them as one fifth of a car (as happens when it models traffic flows).

The strategy says very little about reducing demand by encouraging people to change travel behaviour, and TfL clearly hasn't noticed that motor vehicle traffic in London is falling as more people choose to travel in different ways.

The strategy is overflowing with high-tech ways of increasing the capacity of junctions, when decades of experience shows that such an approach only encourages more traffic, not smoother traffic.

4. Delay and disruption
TfL has identified injury collisions as the most common cause of delay and congestion, with planned and unplanned roadworks as the next most common cause.

Yet reducing the number of injuries and collisions is only considered at a few specific locations, with the preferred solution being better monitoring and information systems to guide road users around the 'problems'.

Network-wide measures to reduce road danger, such as speed reduction, are not considered.

5. Roadworks
This section of the strategy makes more sense than most of it. TfL plans to limit the number and timing of roadworks, with fines for those that overrun.

In the most sensitive areas, companies will have to pay 'lane rental' charges if they wish to dig up the road.

6. Customer satisfaction
What do the people think? Not surprisingly cyclists are the least satisfied users of the network. We also know that fear of motor traffic keeps many more people off their bikes.                        

Other horrors

  • London Living Streets has noted that the strategy to revise traffic signal timings is increasing the time pedestrians have to wait on a red light. TfL has chosen only to look at how many people get across on green.
  • TfL blocked proposals to put more pedestrian and cycle crossings on main roads where they can see 'an alternative', which usually means walkers and cyclists going the long way round. Car journeys times are paramount, and people on foot are forced to waste more time to save a few seconds for them.
  • Allowing motorcycles in bus lanes is presented as a positive improvement, glossing over the results of the first 18-month trial during which the number and rate of injuries to motorcyclists increased significantly, and where the rate for cyclist casualties was worse on roads where motorcyclists were in the bus lanes. There is no estimate for how much congestions these extra collisions created.
  • Some people might remember that in 2003 London introduced a congestion charge zone, and it works. There was no chaos, cycling began to increase rapidly, millions of bus users had quicker, less frustrating journeys. The only mention of congestion charging in this document is that the cameras help TfL count vehicles. There is no hint that traffic within the zone might have a very different mix of users than traffic outside, or that lower levels of motor traffic have greatly improved the amenity and street front economy within the zone.
  • Charging companies lane rental if they are digging holes is seen as a good idea. but charging drivers who cause congestion by blocking up the same lanes every day is a forbidden topic.

Is it any surprise that the Mayor's transport advisors oppose safer 20mph limits on bridges, oppose humanising Parliament square and block plans to remove deadly speeding traffic from Elephant and Castle?

Can it be that they cannot see the people for the vehicles in between?