Protest ride today on Blackfriars Bridge

Incredibly, it seems that Transport for London are entirely disregarding the welter of criticisms their plans for ‘improving’ Blackfriars Bridge have received over the last few months, and are simply pressing ahead, regardless, with their preferred scheme. This evening.

In doing so, they are ignoring the hundreds of letters of protest, the thousands of petition signatures, their own safety audit, the unanimous decision of the Assembly Members in calling for a review of the scheme, and Boris himself.

Their sole argument for ignoring this mountain of opposition appears to lie in this passage -

Analysis by TfL shows that usage by cyclists through this junction is predominantly for travelling to and from work and is therefore concentrated during traditional ‘rush hour’ periods, particularly in the morning heading northbound and in the afternoon heading southbound. Vehicular speeds are predicted to be at their lowest through the junction during peak time, at an estimated speed of just 12mph, creating a much improved and safer environment for cyclists to pass through.

It’s hard to know where to start with this guff. All modes of transport will peak during the rush hour, as Cycle of Futility points out, and be at their lowest at other times. So this is a particularly weak argument for ignoring the safety of cyclists, especially outside of peak hours, when traffic speeds, by Transport for London’s own logic, will be substantially higher, and numbers of cyclists will still be significant.

In addition, a mere ‘average speed’ of 12 mph does not reflect the reality of peak speeds on the bridge, and it is quite obviously the peak speeds that present the real danger. Here is a video taken by a cyclist, moving through the current 20 mph speed limit on the bridge.

No doubt ‘average speeds’ at the time this video was taken were around 12 mph (note the slow-moving northbound traffic) – that doesn’t, however, remove the fact that a biker travelling at close to 50 mph presents a serious safety issue. But Transport for London apparently think differently – average speeds are their indicator of safety.

But to suggest that because average speeds are low, there is no need for an upper speed limit, leads inevitably to the farcical conclusion that there should be no speed limit on Blackfriars Bridge at all. It is this paper-thin argument that Boris presented to the Assembly a few weeks ago; I thought, at the time, that it was Boris simply clutching at whatever superficial justification simply popped into his head. Yet it seems, astoundingly, that it has originated with Transport for London themselves. Boris has simply swallowed their stupid logic and regurgitated it.

The final baffling piece of the argument is what someone has termed ‘safety through congestion’. To me, the idea that Transport for London could be selling a clogged road network as some kind of bonus for cyclists shows how desperate they are.

What are they playing at? I think the best explanation is the one  At War With The Motorist comes up with -

TfL have misjudged the mood on this one. In the 1950s the future was the car and road transport, and for five decades TfL could get away with their assumptions and their institutional motorism. The times are a changin’. We need to show TfL that they can’t get away with this in 2011.

Indeed, it’s time to show Transport for London that their stone-age assumptions about how our cities should be organized are out of step with what the vast majority of citizens  want. It’s time to get angry. 

There’s a large protest ride planned for 6pm this evening, which will merge with the later monthly critical mass.

I will be there.

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This entry was posted in 20 mph limits, Cycling policy, London, Road safety, Transport for London. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Protest ride today on Blackfriars Bridge

  1. Ok so what’s this about, I just watched it on BBC news and noticed how many cyclist just don’t wear helmets. If your that worried about your safety get a helmet then maybe I’ll listen to your protests.

    • Do you wear a helmet in your car, Gillian? Perhaps you should, given that the risks of a serious head injury are far greater behind the wheel of a motor vehicle than they are when using a bicycle.

      In any case, a thin bit of polystyrene is no protection at all against impacts from a motor vehicle at 30 mph – in high speed impacts the helmet will simply deform far too quickly to present any protection at all to the skull.

      I suggest you read the information contained in Anthony’s links.

  2. @Gillian – see http://www.cyclehelmets.org, read the evidence and facts, and you’ll change your mind :)

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