A short piece on the Evening Standard’s reporting of the Superhighway proposals.
The first article in the Standard came on the 11th September, entitled Business leaders in revolt over Boris Johnson’s cycle superhighway plans, quoting an (unnamed) business leader describing the plan as ‘an absolute mess’ that ‘will cause gridlock’, without providing any evidence to back up these claims. This ‘gridlock’ theme is one the paper returned to later, as we shall see.
The next article appeared nearly a week later, on the 18th September. This was an ‘exclusive’ which revealed, in a large headline, that
Really? In the article, an unnamed ‘source’ (another one) had this to say –
“The idea is that they do the cycle superhighway in 2015 and then in 2016 take it out all again for Thames Water. The concern is you are going to have to pay tens of millions of pounds and you are going to have to take it all out.”
The implication of this comment (and the article in general) is that tens of millions of pounds will be going to waste; once the Superhighway is built, TfL will ‘have to take it all out’. But the ‘tens of millions of pounds’ cost of the Superhighways is for the whole project, both E-W and N-S routes, from end-to-end. How much of the Superhighways might have to be taken out for the ‘supersewer’?
The Thames Tideway Tunnel website confirms that between Horse Guards Avenue and Northumberland Avenue along the Victoria Embankment a section of “roadway and pavement” will be required on the westbound carriageway.
How long is this section?
… Just 200 metres.
A tiny, tiny percentage of the whole Superhighways scheme. And in any case –
Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport at TfL said: “We are working closely with Thames Water to ensure that there is no impact on the superhighway. It is planned that in the event of any closures, a safe, segregated and clearly signed cycle lane will be installed to get cyclists past the works.”
This silly article was followed on the 23rd September by an article that contained this bizarre passage –
… transport chiefs have pledged that all major sports will be able to take place as usual along the Victoria Embankment despite the [Superhighway] changes.
It follows concerns that there would be insufficient space to stage the BUPA 10k, British 10k, Royal Parks 10k and half marathon, London triathlon, and cycling’s Tour of Britain.
Again, unnamed, unreferenced ‘concerns’, this time about sporting events being unable to take place – ‘concerns’ that are completely unjustified. Here’s Leon Daniels again –
Leon Daniels, managing director of surface transport at TfL said: “Major sporting events in the capital will not be affected by the east-west Superhighway.”
Sporting events – just like supersewers – will happily coexist with the Superhighways. But plainly they are extremely ‘concerning’ for the anonymous people being quoted in the Standard. Where next for this paper, in its trawl for negative things to write about this project?
Yesterday Transport for London published the (projected) effects of the Superhighways on journey times for motor vehicles, and the effects on pedestrian crossing times. The Standard splashed with the headline
Which was subsequently changed to include the crucial detail ‘up to 16 minutes longer’ –the original wording is contained in this tweet from the author, Matthew Beard.
Update – Beard has now set his tweets to private, so here is a screen capture of that tweet.
As the article reveals, this ’16 minute’ figure is the very worst case scenario, the maximum possible delay for people driving from the Limehouse Link to Hyde Park, at peak times.
The TfL summary of effects of the E-W route is here, and the table of modelling impacts is here. The effects on motoring journey times is shown below. The right hand columns show the difference, either positive or negative, if the scheme were to be implemented, against current journey times. The ‘headline’ figure is in the top row.
From the same table, here’s the potential delay to pedestrians at a variety of crossings (in seconds). The right hand columns show the difference in maximum waiting time, in the AM and PM peak, if the Superhighways were to be built.
At worst – 9 seconds, and mostly no change. This should be set in the context of a 4000 square metre gain of pedestrian space, 25 crossings being shortened, and 4 staggered crossings changed to direct crossings. The figures released by TfL confirm that the project as a whole will offer significant benefits to pedestrians.
Much the same is true of the north-south route. Again, the net gain for pedestrians will be 3000 square metres, there will be six shortened crossings, and three staggered crossings will become direct crossings.
Amazingly TfL don’t even mention new crossings, like the one on the north side of the Blackfriars Bridge junction.
The modelling suggests that maximum waits for a green signal for pedestrians will increase by up to 24 seconds at some crossings, but as Cycalogical points out, this extra delay (indeed, any delay at pedestrian crossings) is purely a function of an attempt to accommodate motor traffic, rather than cycle tracks, in and of themselves. More people cycling means less motor traffic, and less delay for pedestrians, in the long term.
One final point here is that the TfL modelling (as is increasingly becoming clear) is extremely conservative, not least because these figures are based on static motor traffic. The modelling assumes no continuing decline in motor traffic in central London, and no modal shift to cycling.
The Evening Standard has chosen to focus on the very worst headline figures from the TfL modelling release, without setting them in context, or even mentioning the positive effects of the Superhighways, either for drivers, or pedestrians, or for the functioning of London as a modern multi-modal city. Getting more people cycling – rather than causing causing gridlock – is in reality a way of avoiding it.
The Standard’s latest report fits into a pattern of negativity about the Superhighways, with worst case scenarios, and unjustified ‘concerns’ from unnamed sources, forming the basis for articles. What’s going on?