H&F Council is failing to promote cycling

peddleHammersmith and Fulham Council’s Air Quality Commission has produced its report.

Quite rightly the importance of encouraging cycling features prominently. It recommendations include:

“More people to take up cycling to travel around the borough and beyond.”

I’m sure the Council will agree. The difficulty arises over what happens in practice.

While the Council has an annual Public Health budget of £22.7 million none of this goes on promoting cycling. The only money the Council spends on this comes from Transport for London.

Recently a request for modest funding to facilitate second hand bike markets was refused. Peddle My Wheels has hosted such events in Westminster and Lambeth. It includes a free service to check the conditions of the bikes and carry out repairs. There is also the chance to encourage attendance at cycle training events (which is already funded by TfL.) Typically half a dozen markets would take place a year around the borough in various school playgrounds. The cost to the Council would be around £4,000 with over 100 bikes being sold for adults as well as children.

The people who would benefit the most are those who can’t afford to buy a new bike. To buy a new kids bike might cost £100 or £150. A second hand one might be £10 or £20.

Holding these School Bike Markets each year would make the difference between hundreds of children and adults a year being able to cycle or not. It would also help reduce childhood obesity and avoid the cost to the Councils of piling out bikes onto landfill sites. The cost would be 0.02 per cent of the Public Health budget.

It’s all very well for the Council to appoint a Cycling Champion and to produce reports. But when it comes to doing anything practical the Council are hopeless.


H&F Council rejects allowing electric cars to use bus lanes

A Nissan Leaf

A Nissan Leaf

I wrote last week about the urgent priority to encourage motorists to switch to electric cars. At present air pollution kills 72 borough residents a year – as well as diminishing the quality of life for the rest of us. A big switch to electric cars would be transformational. A significant incentive could be allowing electric cars to use bus lanes. So it is disappointing that Hammersmith and Fulham Council has rejected the idea.

Edward Stubbing, a Transport Planner for the Council’s Transport and Highways Department writes to me to say:

“Modelling suggest that there is a eight fold increase in fully electric vehicle ownership year on year, as such the bus lanes are likely to quickly become congested with electric vehicles over time as the level of ownership quickly rises. Bus lanes are currently used by both buses and Taxi’s in recognition of the shared mode of transport they represent. Introducing other vehicles into these priority lanes would likely damage the effectiveness and advantage of these modes of travel.”

He concludes:

“As such at present it is the view of officers that the benefits of allowing electric vehicles into bus lanes, does not outway the disadvantages it would cause other road users.”

Now there can be a more general argument about whether bus lanes are an overall benefit in terms of traffic congestion and passenger journey times. In Liverpool most bus lanes have been abolished to ease traffic congestion for motorists. The length of time for bus journeys only increased fractionally and the number of bus passengers actually increased. At Holborn tube station passengers were asked to stand on both sides of the escalators – instead of walking on the left and standing on the right. This meant congestion was eased as capacity increased. One can see the same logic provides a case for getting rid of bus lanes.

On the other hand perhaps Mr Stubbing is correct and that allowing electric cars to use bus lanes would increase overall journey times. I think he’s wrong – but let us suppose he is right. What is more serious? That a bus journey takes a minute or two longer or that air pollution continues to cause us to die an year earlier than we otherwise would and means we are wheezing and spluttering before it finally finishes us off?

Will H&F Council take action to promote electric cars?

In November I wrote about the failure of Hammersmith and Fulham Council to take action on reducing air pollution – which kills 72 residents of the Borough a year. I suggested that one way of doing this would be to following the example of Westminster Council and provide free parking permits for electric cars.

I emailed the Council as follows to chase them up:

“I understand that we charge a £60 annual parking permit for electric cars while Westminster Council charge nothing. Please advise if there are any plans to provide free annual parking permit for electric cars as an incentive to encourage them. Also I understand that at present electric cars are charged the full £1.80 an hour Smart Visitor Permit. Are there any plans to reduce or abolish this charge for electric cars?”

This morning came the following reply:

“Dear Councillor Phibbs,

A cabinet report recommending a change to the existing parking permit structure is currently being reviewed by cabinet members. At present this report has been to political cabinet and is due before Cabinet later this year.

We are currently in the process of upgrading our existing pay & display technology. This upgrade will give us a larger range of options in terms of pricing and vehicle classification. We are currently exploring options for pay & display policies that include different pricing based on emission.

Kind regards

Edward Stubbing

Transport Planner

Transport and Highways

London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham”

So that is mildly encouraging but does lack a sense of urgency given the significant number of deaths involved. Surely the technical difficulties of giving a free parking permit to those with electric cars can’t be that challenging?

I have also asked put in the following query regarding bus lanes:

“Please advise if there would be any technical of legal reasons that would prevent us from allowing electric cars to be driven in bus lanes on our roads. If not please advise if we could allow this and thus provide an incentive for motorists to switch to electric cars and thus help reduce air pollution.”

Action on all these points would amount to a tangible incentive for motorists to switch vehicles and thus save lives. Let’s hope the Council gets a move on.

Clean air or hot air? The council has not done enough to reduce pollution

borisbikesw-300x225One of the achievements of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London is that the air we breathe is cleaner. The bad news is that each year in this borough 72 of us are still killed by air pollution.

So what can Hammersmith and Fulham Council do about it? I blogged recently about electric cars. Westminster Council provide free parking permits for them. Hammersmith and Fulham Council doesn’t. It should.

Also there are 1,400 electric charging points that have been added across London’s 32 boroughs in the past three years. Yet at present Hammersmith and Fulham has no on-street charging points. (There are charging points at Charing Cross Hospital, King’s Mall car park and Westfield Shopping Centre but the Council has been dragging its feet.)

The Council has just announced plans for ten charging points early next year and ten more by the end of next year. That is welcome but more is needed. We are playing catch up while our residents are left wheezing.

Also what about the Council setting an example? I recently asked how many cars the council owns and leases and how many of them are electric or hybrid vehicles. The Council has 11 cars and none of them are electric or hybrid.

Encouraging electric cars is only part of what is needed.

The Council could use Section 106 money to expand the number Boris Bikes docking stations.

At present the Council backs the £300 million Counters Creek relief sewer. The building works for that would increase pollution. But if the money was to be spent on SUDS schemes instead that would be a better way to reduce the risk of flooding. That is because SUDS would also reduce air pollution – for example with “green roofs”, “permeable pavements” or simply replacing concrete with grass and trees. £300 million on SUDS would be transformational.

Another huge opportunity would be the flyunder – yet the Council has allowed progress on this to drift.

Then there is dust suppressant spray. I have written about this before. It involves retrofitting a salt gritter which costs around £70,000 a time and can provide a significant reduction in PM10 – the dust which we inhale into our respiratory tracts and which impedes our lung capacity. Depending on the frequency of respraying and the type of site chosen air pollution is reduced by something between a quarter and a half.

At a recent Council meeting Cllr Adam Connell said he thought use of the spray was a “pritt stick” treatment. It was “a waste of public money because the moment they stop the spraying the problem happens again”.

Given that Cllr Connell is Chairman of the Planning Committee his view is particularly unfortunate. One of the most important uses of the spray is to require its regular use is funded by property developers during construction work.

But why stop the spraying? Why doesn’t the Council regular dust spraying given what is relatively the very low cost? If the roads need to be sprayed again every couple of weeks, then spray them every couple of weeks.

Cllr Connell’s logic is flawed. He wouldn’t say to his dustman: “Don’t bother emptying my bin as I will only fill it up again” or to the road sweepers: “Don’t bother sweeping my street there will be more litter dropped by next week anyway.”

It is not enough for the Council to say how concerned they are about air pollution. The time for virtue signalling is over. It is time for some serious action.