Mayor launches new Transport Strategy – LCC’s initial take

The Mayor has announced a new Transport Strategy, covering up to 2041 and even beyond on some pledges. It’s out for public consultation until 2 October, and we’re keen for you to feed into our Cyclescape thread. We’ll then assess and compile everyone’s ideas and publish a proposed response soon.

What follows is LCC’s initial take on the big ticket items and some of the detail we’ve picked up on so far. But by no means should this be considered an exhaustive list of what this huge, and very important, document contains!

The tone is good

There are increasing numbers of us concerned about the gap in action between Boris Johnson’s reign ending and any new schemes moving forward. Sadiq may well have had his hands full with restructuring TfL and its board extensively, with appointing his new Walking & Cycling Commissioner and with creating some of the behind-the-scenes moves that led to this document. But it’s undeniable more could have been done in terms of getting the diggers out and actually building schemes – several of which were nearly ready to go before the election.

That said, the tone and mood music of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) is amazingly positive. His foreword says: “London must become a city where walking, cycling and green public transport become the most appealing and practical choices for many more journeys. These active and sustainable transport choices not only support the health and wellbeing of Londoners, but also the city as a whole by reducing congestion and providing the most efficient use of valuable street space… We aim to change the transport mix across London, providing viable and attractive alternatives that will allow Londoners to reduce their dependence on private cars.”

Throughout the document, the transport hierarchy of walking, cycling, then public transport is reinforced. As is the need to reduce car usage rapidly – for pollution, congestion and inactivity reasons.

The “vision” chapter of the MTS says it perhaps most starkly: “Reducing car dependency is the only way to keep London moving.”

The big picture pledges

The fine words translate into exciting numbers. But will the action follow to make them reality?

The Mayor’s “aim” is by 2041, only 20% of London journeys will be done by private motor vehicle, private hire or taxi. Currently 36% of journeys, nearly double the proportion, are done that way. And this is against a growing city, where there are predicted to be an extra 5 million journeys happening daily, requiring Khan and his successors to not just hold car journeys steady as the system grows, but remove 3 million car journeys against today’s figures from our streets by 2041.

One of the key ways Khan is likely to get the ball rolling is his pledge to look at “the next generation of road user charging systems”. Smart charging per mile/minute, and modified by time of day, engine/emissions for instance, could be on the way.

By 2041, Khan wants all Londoners to do a minimum of 20 minutes of “active travel” a day. And he wants zero – literally none – deaths or serious injuries from collisions on our streets. Both of these targets seem ambitious – but ambition is a good thing. And who knows what could be achieved with autonomous vehicles potentially removing driver error, and dangerous or aggressive driving?

London Buses go “Vision Zero” early on fatalities, with the aim to eliminate them from London by 2030. The Bus network will also by zero emissions by 2037, with the entire transport system zero emissions by 2050.

Freight also will reduce, rather than replace current car journeys – by 2026, the aim is for there to be 10 percent less freight movements in central London in the AM peak. And freight consolidation, banning private deliveries to offices, retiming deliveries and waste consolidation are all on the menu also.

The biggest pledge for cycling is, arguably, that 70 percent of Londoners will live within 400 metres of a “high-quality, safe” cycle route by 2041. Although this pledge raises many questions. Could he build a true network faster than that? Is 400 metres “mesh density” tight enough? Is 70 percent a high enough number? And what does the Mayor think is acceptably “high-quality” and “safe”? We’re looking at these issues now – and your input appreciated.

Trains, planes, housing, jobs

The Mayor’s Transport Strategy also has a lot to say about trains (more Crossrail, more metro rail, more suburban rail interchanges etc.), planes (no third runway at Heathrow, please), housing (transport improvements needed to unlock good growth) and jobs. But those issues haven’t been pored over by LCC staff with as much detail, yet.

Central, inner and outer London

To keep people moving in Central London with the predicted congestion levels by 2041, we’ll need 80 percent more transport capacity overall.  Cycling is recognised through the document as a very efficient way of moving people in capacity terms, and that means TfL and the Mayor will need boroughs that are currently lagging in providing decent space for cycling (we’re looking at you Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea) to step up their game.

That’s not to say the rest of London doesn’t need cycling. The document recognises that the greatest growth potential for cycling is actually car-dominated outer London. Overall, nearly 5 million journeys a day could be cycled right now, if conditions were good enough for people to feel comfortable doing so, says TfL and the Mayor.

How does the Mayor plan on delivering the shift needed?

There is a huge emphasis throughout the document on “Healthy Streets”. But also on planning for and providing a real cycling network (and is clear on the need, in tandem, for changes to the bus network and changes to the private motor vehicle network too), and on making cycling an inclusive and diverse transport mode.

Liveable Neighbourhoods, Quietways and Cycle Superhighways are all in the mix and there is repeated support for “modal filters”, traffic restriction and many of the measures seen in the first wave of mini-Hollands, including rapid trials of infrastructure.

Bridges

Good news – lots of new walking and cycling river crossings are suggested. Bad news – the Mayor continues to try and justify the Silvertown Tunnel. It’s being billed as a “public transport initiative” as buses are allowed to use it, and other motor traffic will have to pay a toll.

The bad bits

Of course, there’s always a fly in the ointment. For this Transport Strategy, beyond the continued Silvertown support (see above) so far we’ve spotted:

  • Support for motorbikes in every bus lane (however, will this be as much of an issue as “high-quality, safe” routes should never be in a bus lane anyway, surely?)
  • Taxis get a lot of love (although there is a repeat of Khan’s calls to further regulate private hire vehicle numbers).

And that’s it in the negatives column so far. Fine words, not a lot of action on the ground. But if this document begins to get translated into reality, cycling in London is set to dramatically increase.

Right here, right now

Of course, the MTS is a long-term strategy document. Right now, we're continuing to press Sadiq and his team on progress on the key "Sign for Cycling" pledges he made to us all when he became Mayor: to triple mileage of protected space, finish the Better Junctions programme, provide funding for a mini-Holland (now Liveable Neighbourhood) in every borough and make Direct Vision lorries the norm in London.

That's now; the Transport Strategy and Strategic Cycling Analysis is next. So, what do you think of the Transport Strategy?