Hammersmith Society warns against flawed “Cycle Superhighway” plan

Recently I wrote about the flawed “Cycle Superhighway” plan from Transport for London.

Now Tom Ryland, the Chairman of the Hammersmith Society, has written to his members expressing concern and urging them to respond to their consultation.

He says:

I personally have talked to a number of local residents and cyclists who without exception are unhappy with the scheme as it stands.

In addition to the points of objection set out below, the following issues should also be noted :

1. The consultation exercise is flawed in that only residents near the route have been notified, but these proposals will affect all users of Hammersmith and Chiswick. (For example, no TfL letters have been sent to residents living north of Goldhawk Road). 

2. On other existing Cycle Superhighways, TfL concede that levels of pollution have increased because of the slowing of the traffic.

3. There will be a loss of at least 6 mature trees (3 in Hammersmith : 3 in Chiswick). Other trees are also likely to be endangered where the new cycle route will be laid over tree roots.

4. In Chiswick, where some pavements will be narrowed, there will be insufficient space for the existing café tables.

5. The arguments against using the largely unused wide verges adjacent the A4 seem to revolve around pollution (Is it really that much worse than adjacent the other busy roads?) and that there are too many ‘turnings’ (But on the Hammersmith section, there are only Weltje and Rivercourt Roads and the petrol filling stations).

6. TfL say that their plans take into account their previous consultation in 2016 on the cycle routes on the broadway – but this was flawed because it only addressed the northern half of the Broadway and ignores the A4 and Fulham Palace Road.

So here are main objections/concerns : 

– It does not seem that there is proven need for such a drastic scheme along this route. (TfL argue that it will attract cyclists).

– Cycle Superhighways encourage high speed relatively long distance commuter cycling and would be of no benefit to a town centre such as King Street that is already struggling.

– High speed cycling can be very intimidating to pedestrians and slower cyclists (Many cyclists I have spoken to tell me they will not use the Cycle Superhighways because they are intimidated by the other cyclists).

– The main ‘high street’ section of King Street including its already very narrow. The scheme will involve further restrictions on footway widths for pedestrians and road widths (single lane) for buses and traffic generally. There will be no allowance for passing, stopping off, breakdowns and emergencies, deliveries and servicing to shops and banks or parking in King Street. This will almost certainly lead to regular traffic snarl ups in King Street and delay bus times.

– The slowed or stationary traffic will lead to an increase in pollution levels.

– Some existing bus lanes will be removed and bus stops relocated sometimes onto ‘traffic islands’, which will be intimidating for users, particularly the frail or elderly and users with pushchairs.

– The closing off and restricted use of some turnings off King Street (Eg. British Grove) will be disruptive to local residents and businesses and often quite impractical.

– The existing cycle contraflow in King Street does cause problems to cycle users and pedestrians but as an alternative to the two-way Cycle Superhighway, it could be retained (as a ‘Quietway’) and extended for the rest of King Street and onto the Broadway.

– The use of other roads (Eg Glenthorne Road/Blacks Road) and the A4 verges must be considered.

– The Cycle Superhighway should not be bulldozed through as an end in itself but should be considered in conjunction with long term re-organisation of the Broadway and King Street which although part of the draft Local Plan seem to have been kicked into the long grass.

Transport for London TfL who are promoting and consulting on the scheme will potentially drive it through unless there is a groundswell of opinion against the scheme.

This scheme must be rethought : Please make your views known to TfL and Hammersmith and Fulham Council before the deadline of 31 October 2017. (And of course let us know).

Full details of the scheme including several computer generated images, and how to comment can be found at:
consultations@tfl.gov.uk/cs9 or you can write to them at FREEPOST TFL CONSULTATIONS.”

All good points. But Tom didn’t mention the money. This disastrous scheme would cost £70 million. Just imagine the alternative ways that cycling could be advanced with that funding without causing all this disruption to others?

For instance in 2013, under the previous Conservative administration, Boris Bikes were introduced to Hammersmith and Fulham. There was a significant cost in setting it up – there were a lot of “docking stations” and the technology is rather sophisticated. That cost or £2 million was covered through Section 106 payments from property developers. What about spending another million or two to increase its availability into the north of the borough? The Council refuses even my modest request for docking stations at Starch Green and the junction of Brackenbury Road and Goldhawk Road.

Transport for London’s flawed “Cycle Superhighway” proposals

I am a strong supporter of sensible measures to promote cycling. Indeed I have written about this regularly on this site – see here, here, here and here.

However the proposed Transport for London Cycle Superhighway strike me as deeply flawed. As Charlie Dewhirst has noted it would worsen traffic congestion and lengthen pedestrian journeys.

The scheme would cost £70 million. Hammersmith and Fulham Council is backing it – but there is a huge financial conflict of interest for the Council with these big TfL schemes. That is because the Council is provided with substantial funding from TfL to help promote and implement them. That makes it impossible for the Council to be objective in delivering a verdict on whether such schemes are beneficial or harmful to our borough. I have asked the Council how much money it has been promised.

There is concern among residents that as well as limiting access to the side streets the Superhighway will cross, there will be a damaging impact on the businesses, nurseries and schools on the south side of King Street.

For example of particular concern is the impact of changes to the Goldhawk/ King Street/ Chiswick High Road/ British Grove junction. This includes changes to access and the reversal of the one way system at the south end of British Grove onto Berestede Road such that instead of turning from a narrow street with no pavements (British Grove) into a wider one (Berestede Road) it will be the other way round.

When challenged on the risk to pedestrians this could entail at a consultation in Chiswick, I hear the TfL response was “… well it is a mistake that they will only make once…”

Would it not be less disruptive to route the Superhighway along the A4?

Please let me know your views.

Artists impression of the new scheme looking east along Hammersmith Road

Here are the dates for some proposed exhibitions of the scheme:

Grove Neighbourhood Centre  Sunday 1 October 11am-4pm

Lyric Square  Friday 6 October 11am – 3pm

Cross Keys Pub, Black Lion Lane Wednesday 11 October  5pm-9pm

Ravenscourt Park  (TfL doesn’t say where in the Park) Sunday 22 October 11am-3pm

The deadline for comments is Tuesday 31 October. You can respond here.

The letter from TfL gives more details.

Hands urges Khan to drop the ban on Uber as half a million sign petition in protest

Greg Hands MP, Minister for London and MP for Chelsea and Fulham, has responded to the Mayor of London ban on Uber.

Greg says:

“At the flick of a pen Sadiq Khan is threatening to put 40,000 people out of work and leave 3.5 million users of Uber stranded.

“Uber must address safety concerns and it is important there is a level playing field across the private hire market. But a blanket ban will cause massive inconvenience to millions of Londoners, all while showing that the Mayor of London is closed to business and innovation.

“Once again Labour are taking it too far and ordinary working people will pay the price for it.”

Natalie Roberts, at The Spectator, says the Uber ban is “anti-women, anti-youth and anti-London.”

The Guido Fawkes website notes that the GMB, a trade union which donates to the Labour Party, have been campaigning for the ban.

Sam Dumitriu of the Adam Smith Institute said:

“This decision is not about safety, it is about protecting the market share for black cab drivers even thought they don’t offer a better service or competitive prices.

“There are three main reasons why Londoners use Uber.

1. It is much quicker than waiting for a black cab and they will pick you up anywhere, not just on a main road.

2. They are also a lot cheaper than if you were to use a black cab.

3. People actually think that it is safer than a black cab because they know every journey is logged, they are being tracked by GPS and they’re immediately asked for feedback. In fact Uber drivers have to undergo the exact same safety checks to be able to work, the same as black cab drivers.

The reality is that if Uber can’t operate in London, people will have to wait longer for cabs, pay much higher prices and some might even put their safety in jeopardy by choosing to walk home after a night out.

The reality is that if Uber can’t operate in London, people will have to wait longer for cabs and pay much higher prices.

Just over a year ago, Sadiq Khan said that London was open for business but this decision today shows exactly the opposite. It looks like London is closed to entrepreneurs, innovation and competition.

He also keeps talking about London’s night time economy. But how are people   There have been many campaigns to try and stop Uber from operating in London.

But its not just that, there are 40,000 drivers who chose to work for Uber due to its flexibility and people can fit their work around time with their families and other commitments.

Now they will be left worried about where they will get work from and how they will support themselves and their families. It is ridiculous.”

Mark Littlewood of the Institute of Economic Affairs says:

“Apps like Uber have a large role to play in our increasingly dynamic economy, and it is a mistake to cling onto out-dated views of working arrangements. Uber is not an ’employer’ – it is simply a platform that allows drivers and customers to meet and trade under a specific set of rules.
 
“Banning Uber, and clamping down on the Gig Economy more generally, is a restriction upon freedom of choice, both for Uber’s drivers and passengers. In doing so, Transport for London has privileged the views of a powerful minority who wish to restrict consumer choice over the will of millions of ordinary Londoners.”
 
“Today’s decision is an assault on drivers and customers alike, and a victory for protectionism.”

The ban will particularly punish ambitious, young, hard working immigrants in our City who are providing a great service to their fellow Londoners.

Andrew Boff, a Conservative member of the London Assembly says:

“The Mayor consistently tells us London is open but in shutting down the operations of an innovative market leader like Uber he has caused immense reputational damage to our city as a global business hub.

“With 3.5million registered users – almost half the city’s adult population – Uber has shown to be providing a hugely beneficial service to Londoners.

“Sadiq Khan has ignored their needs and instead believed the smears and propaganda propagated by Uber’s rivals.

“Yes there are elements of the industry that need tweaking, yes there needs to be a reduction of bureaucracy for black cab drivers, but snuffing out the competition at the expense of thousands of employees and millions of customers is not the solution.”

“All allegations around passenger safety, especially those alleging assault, have to be taken seriously and referred to the police but I would expect the same standard to apply to all operators.

“In addition, TfL must answer questions about why its background checks on licence applicants appear to be failing. Uber provides the platform but it is TfL that conducts checks on the drivers.”

An online petition started yesterday which (at the time of writing) already has half a million signatures.

It says:

“TfL and their chairman, the Mayor of London, today announced that they have decided not to renew Uber’s Operator Licence when it expires on 30th September.

“By wanting to ban our app from the capital, Transport for London and their chairman the Mayor have given in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice. If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive millions of Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport. This decision is affecting the real lives of a huge number of honest and hard-working drivers in London.

“The 3.5 million Londoners who rely on Uber to get a safe, reliable and affordable ride around the best city in the world will be astounded by the decision to ban Uber from the capital.

“This ban shows the world that London is far from being open and is closed to innovative companies, who bring choice to consumers and work opportunities to those who need them.

“Safety is of the highest importance and drivers who use Uber are licensed by Transport for London and have been through the same enhanced background checks as black cab drivers. Our pioneering technology has gone further to enhance safety with every trip tracked and recorded by GPS.

“To defend the livelihoods of 40,000 drivers – and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners – sign this petition asking to reverse the decision to ban Uber in London.”

You can sign it here.

 

Failure of Labour’s 20mph speed limit in H&F

There was a Cabinet meeting of Hammersmith and Fulham Council this evening with a report that showed the astonishing failure of Labour’s 20mph speed limit. They had already retreated from their proposal to have a borough wide limit. But they did apply the limit to many new roads. As I gently warned them given that the police made clear they would not enforce  the lower limit it was just virtue signalling – albeit of a pretty expensive variety.

Of course they could put humps everywhere – but that would be an appalling prospect not least due to the increase in pollution that would result.

Anyway the Council’s own survey finds that on road where the speed limit has been cut from 30mph to 20mph the impact has been negligible. Overall they found a reduction in speed of just half a mile an hour. Council officers at this evening’s meeting did not even attempt to claim this was statistically significant. It is very much within the “margin of error”.

Many of the streets where the speed limit had been cut found that average speeds have increased. The Council compared speeds in a selection of roads where the limit was cut in September 2016. It looked at the speeds it measured in 2015 and 2017.

For instance:

Avonmore Road 14.65mph to 24.73mph – an increase of 10.08.

Clancarty Road 21.8mph to 21.25mph – an increase of 0.55

Dalling Road 22.35mph to  22.645mph – to increase 0.295

Rannoch Road 20.5mph to 27.16mph – an increase of 6.66.

Rivercourt Road 16.65mph to 18.7mph – an increase of 2.045

Rockley Road 22.8mph to 25.4mph – an increase of 2.6

Rylston Road 11.85mph to 26.34mph – an increase of 14.4

Pennard Road 23.5mph to 25.43mph – an increase of 1.93

Some of the other roads where the survey was sampled did see significant reductions in speed – Pearscroft Road recorded a reduction from 31.3 to 17.53 which amounted to 13.77. But they cancelled each other out. So what was the point of it? The upshot is that this gimmick has achieved diddly squat.

 

We need electric buses in Hammersmith to improve air quality

I am pleased to see that more electric buses are being introduced given the serious issue of air pollution and the ill health that it causes. But so far none are planned for the bus routes for that run through Ravenscourt Park Ward – the 27, 220, 267 and 391.

Tony Devenish, the London Assembly member for London West Central, has raised this concern with Transport for London and got the following response:

“The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham will benefit from this initiative, with electric buses entering service on routes 70 and C1 in the first half of next year. We are also pioneering the use of double-deck electric buses on route 98 to push the market forward.

“The pace at which we convert the fleet is currently restrained by the early commercial development of the electric bus industry. Electric buses cannot travel as far on a single charge as conventional diesel buses, requiring either widespread supporting charging infrastructure or a significantly greater number of buses to allow some to charge while others operate in service. This makes electric bus technology very costly.

“When the contracts for routes 27, 220, 267 and 391 come up for renewal we will investigate the options available for replacing the vehicles with electric or hybrid technology. In the meantime, we are retrofitting and replacing conventional vehicles across the entire fleet to make them much cleaner, with the aim of raising all buses to the cleanest Euro VI engine emission standard or better by 2020.”

So it comes down to funding. But why doesn’t the Council assist with offering some Section 106 funds from property developers? After all one of the objections to the building of new homes comes from concerns about air quality – both the dust during the building works and the extra traffic once it has been completed. We keep hearing claims from the Council about vast Section 106 sums being negotiated. But where is the money?

There is a precedent. When under Conservative control the Council used Section 106 funds to help pay to set up Boris Bikes. Again that was about mitigating congestion and pollution. Why not extend the cycle hire scheme using a (modest) sum to set up new docking stations? For instance at Starch Green or near the junction of Brackenbury Road and Goldhawk Road. The Council refuses.

When it comes to clean air the Council is willing to issue press releases, pass motions and set up commissions. All we stress what a priority it is. On practical measures there is always rather more resistance….

Let’s warn van drivers not to get stuck in Bradmore Park Road

Satnavs are wonderful inventions but they are not perfect. One problem is when they tell drivers of larger vehicles to turn into narrow streets when then get stuck.

Recently a resident in Bradmore Park Road  contacted me to point out that her section of the road is “extremely narrow – enough for cars to pass but not enough for furniture vans, dust carts and skips to come down the road which means that they frequently get stuck. During the week this is a frequent phenomenon and all the parked cars have their wing mirrors regularly struck or torn off.”

Once they reverse back down Glenthorne Road to turn into Lamington Street instead it is dangerous as Glenthorne Road is one way.

I have asked the Council to put up a  public notice on the junction of Bradmore Park Road and Glenthorne Road saying something like ‘Not suitable for wide vehicles’, for example.

The response is as follows:

“The Council share your concerns around the use of residential roads by larger vehicles and you may have noted recent changes to HGV signage on Hammersmith Grove, which is intended to reduce the volume of ‘rat-running’ HGV’s using this street.

Roll out of similar signage is planned for a number of residential side streets in the surrounding area over the coming months (subject to consultation) and this includes the junction of Bradmore Park Road and Glenthorne Road. The signage indicates a ban on all vehicles over 7.5T, unless access for deliveries or removals is required. We will certainly take into account your observations around positioning of the signs.

With regards to sat-navs it is quite difficult for us to feed information to be picked up by drivers due to the vast amount of databases which are used across various systems. Although we do feed changes such as the above to a central database and as part of this project we are in contact with the freight haulage association, who provide such information to lorry drivers.”

New cycle hire scheme blocking pavements

Picture by Nigel Walley

I am all for encouraging cycling – especially given the problem with air pollution in the borough.

Also I yield to nobody in my admiration for innovation and entrepreneurial zeal to promote choice and competition. However there is a difficulty with oBike cycle hire scheme which is that their bikes are being strewn all over the pavement.

I have written to the Council’s Director for Transport and Highways who replies:

“This is a commercial enterprise that has rolled out these bicycles across London without proper consultation with local authorities. There is no regulation that requires cyclists to only leave their bikes at designated locations (such as attached to cycle racks) so by implication the bikes can be left virtually anywhere on the highway. The only caveat is that the Highways Act prohibits placing any object on the highway where it causes an obstruction to other road users, and we have the powers to issue a fixed penalty notice or to impound the bike. There is also the factor that they are operating a business on the highway without permission.

“We have been in contact with oBike and notified them that we will take enforcement action if the bikes are not removed. They have agreed to remove the bikes they have deposited in the borough and to meet us to agree the ground rules. I believe the bikes are now being removed. I suspect they are having similar conversations with the other boroughs.”