Sadiq’s New Year resolutions

Photo credit: East London Mosque

For many of us, getting in more cycling kilometres this year might be what we’re determined to achieve (and/or a few less trips to the Christmas cheese board).

But what about our Mayor, Sadiq Khan? He has a lot of big commitments to fulfil after promising to meet LCC’s Sign for Cycling campaign’s three-point agenda to triple the length of protected track, build more Mini-Holland and make “Direct Vision” lorries the norm on our streets. With the end of his first term fast approaching in May 2020, that leaves him a lot to achieve in 2019 and he’s running behind schedule currently.

With that in mind, here are LCC’s suggestions for Sadiq’s New Year resolutions:

1.       Build cycle tracks faster

TfL’s latest figures say Khan inherited 51.1km of protected cycle tracks on the Cycle Superhighways and another 1.6km from Quietways and other schemes. Khan’s team says he is on track to deliver a total of another 113.9km of protected cycle tracks by May 2020, thus completing his promise to triple the mileage of protected main road tracks in London in his first term. Great news, but…

The figures look like he’s making significant and rather optimistic assumptions about how many schemes currently at design or consultation stage he will take to successful completion, despite the significant obstacles they face. Given the recent experience of legal challenges, borough opposition and other setbacks, he needs to simultaneously progress all schemes already in the “pipeline” in case any of them face delays.

He also needs to ensure the current bottleneck around modelling of traffic delays is removed. At the moment, TfL uses computer modelling to check traffic delays in detail on every scheme, but don’t seem able to model many schemes at once. Every tweak to a scheme needs a new run-through – as a result, modelling is introducing huge delays to every scheme.

On top of that, Sadiq, his Deputy Mayor for Transport, Heidi Alexander, and Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, need to use their influence to ensure they get rapid buy-in from councillors, officers and local stakeholders to avoid the “bikelash” watering-down or sinking schemes.

In 2019, Khan must significantly accelerate construction of cycle tracks, and will need to get Cycle Superhighways CS4 and CS9 and several other new major routes in construction in order to keep his promise.

2.       Build better junctions

Khan’s progress on junctions is more rapid than it is on cycle tracks, but far patchier on quality.

In the last three years, 27 of TfL’s priority list of 73 “Safer Junctions” (the most dangerous junctions in London on TfL roads) have been ticked off – with several in the last few months alone. Khan says he will complete at least another 14 this year, with the remainder in design or consultation by the start of 2020.

However, as our live tracker shows, nearly all of the junctions that Khan considers ‘improved’ (bar post-implementation monitoring), need further work to elevate their safety standards to the level necessary to align with his Vision Zero target of ending deaths or serious injuries on London’s roads by 2041.

For example, the Ludgate Circus junction with Fleet Street and Farringdon Street, which TfL ticked off its list in 2016, has seen a fatal and serious collision in the last year (both with pedestrians); and while Cycle Superhighway 6 has made things far safer through this junction going north or south, travelling east or west remains dangerous for cycling.

Other schemes marked as complete include the infamously hostile and dangerous Lewisham “gateway”, the High Road/West Green Road multi-lane snarl at Seven Sisters, the multi-lane roundabout at Bath Road and The Parkway in Hounslow which has been left largely untouched. These schemes aren’t really much safer for cycling, and they’re certainly not Vision Zero.

Given the average lifespan of road improvements and redesigns, it is unlikely junctions “fixed” now will be revisited significantly in the 22 years between now and Khan’s Vision Zero deadline of 2041. So any updates to junctions have to be Vision Zero-compliant now – unless they plan to come back and finish the job.

In 2019, Khan must ensure that not only are a further 14 junctions tackled, but the redesigns are done to a far higher, “Vision Zero”, standard. And that, of the remaining “Better Junctions” programme of his predecessor, Stratford, Old Street and Highbury are complete and a further 5 are in construction.

3.       Get boroughs on board

In 2018, Westminster Council stuck two fingers up at Khan, very publicly, not once, but twice. First they cancelled the planned pedestrianisation of Oxford Street in the summer without any real warning they were going to. Then, just a few weeks later, they took Khan and TfL to court over plans to start on Cycle Superhighway 11 at the infamous Swiss Cottage gyratory.

The infamously car-centric Westminster won the first legal round on Swiss Cottage, meaning the gyratory remains hostile and dangerous for those walking and cycling there. As a result, Khan’s ability to get boroughs to buy-in to big schemes like this was called into question.

In response, the Mayor is increasingly clear that he’ll only provide funding for schemes designed to achieve his strategy and targets. At the start of this year, we’re expecting announcements of the next Liveable Neighbourhoods, and in February, the announcement of which boroughs will receive Local Implementation Plan (LIP) funding (and which won’t). We’ll also see the new quality criteria from the Cycle Action Plan being applied to schemes early in the new year.

All three of these approaches are clearly designed to ensure only boroughs that put forward good cycle schemes will get them funded. But will Khan back up the words with action? If he wants to have any credibility with the boroughs and any chance of achieving his Transport Strategy, then he has no choice but to stand firm.

In 2019 Khan must use both his hard and soft power to bring boroughs in line behind the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. He must publish a strong quality criteria for all schemes relating to cycling (with a motor traffic volume metric that adheres to international best practice such as LCC policy and the Dutch “CROW” manual). He must also refuse to fund any borough that puts forward Local Implementation Plans or other schemes significantly in variance with the aims of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

4.       Make more neighbourhoods liveable

In the run-up to his election, Khan also pledged to LCC members and supporters, and to London, to make funding available for a “mini-Holland” scheme in every borough. This commitment led to the creation of the “Liveable Neighbourhood” programme, a successor to the three mini-Holland boroughs.

However, whereas each mini-Holland borough received approximately £30 million funding, Liveable Neighbourhood (LN) bids are only to a maximum of £10 million, and most are lower. On top of this, the first seven LNs are now nearly one year in – yet none of the schemes have made it to consultation, and the pace isn’t exactly hurried.

In 2019, Khan must fund only the highest quality, most ambitious new Liveable Neighbourhood bids, and withhold money from boroughs who fail to deliver. He must also apply one of the key lessons of the programme to other areas of funding – set the bar high and borough councils will work to meet it.

5.       Take the most dangerous lorries off London’s roads

Khan has pledged to LCC to get the most dangerous lorries off our streets and make the safest ones “the norm on London’s streets as soon as possible”. A good early step was made with the creation of a new “Direct Vision” safety standard for lorries, which ranks them from 0* - 5* based on what the driver can see from the cab and a pledge to remove all 0* rated lorries from London streets by the end of 2020. However, with more than half of current lorries receiving 0*, the freight industry has pushed to allow 0* lorries with “safe system” mitigation measures to be allowed in for a further period. The consultation on these measures will happen in early 2019. So, from October 2020 the most dangerous lorries will only be allowed in if they are fitted with additional measures to improve safety, such as extra cameras and sensors and side guards. In 2024, only lorries above the 3* rating (or which have revised mitigation measures) will be allowed in London, eventually removing the most dangerous lorries from our streets.

At the same time, Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander has told us that by October, all vehicles used for TfL and Greater London Authority (GLA) contracts will need to be 1* rated, and 3* by October 2023, without mitigation measures. However, this approach risks significant pushback from the freight, construction and haulage industries.

In 2019, Khan must remain resolute in progressing TfL and GLA contracts, as we asked him to do during the election campaign, and the general Direct Vision permit system, without bowing to pressure from industry to delay real road safety gains.