"SERVING OUR COMMUNITY" or
"SERVING OUR COMMUNITY" or
London boroughs have been required to produce a plan of action in response to the Mayor's Transport Strategy produced by Ken Livingstone. This plan is called a Local Implementation Plan (LIP).
This is one resident's reply to the comprehensive consultation document issued by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (aka 'LBHF', 'the Borough').
This is essentially a personal response, although I have a number of standpoints:
- local businessman
- local council tax payer
- keen walker & shopper within the Borough
- supporter of the Association of British Drivers, which seeks a balanced debate on transport
- host to several friends who enjoy staying in the Borough
I appreciate the help of LBHF staff in making available the consultation document when technical difficulties impacted its early hosting on the Council website.
I am grateful that the Council has extended its response deadline to today, however, I feel that in view of the weight of the document (over 300 pages), an extra 2 weeks would have been useful.
It was only luck that I saw the consultation leaflet in Hammersmith Library; such an important consultation might have been better advertised, perhaps by the GLA, which has a large publicity budget.
The PDF document is very large (16MB) - perhaps in the interest of social inclusion, a text-only version could have been hosted for those residents without high speed broadband connections?
Also, most people still use and prefer feet & inches; it would be more socially inclusive to include dual measurements.
The word 'noise' only appears once. There is no policy on those drivers who wantonly inflict overly loud bass rhythms on other road users. Such sound systems will probably damage their own hearing which will in turn impact their alertness as a motorist.
EQUITY AND INCLUSIVENESS TOWARDS ALL TRANSPORT USERS
Given that our government is supposed to be against all forms of discrimination, it is regrettable that some prejudices have crept into the document.
Obesity is caused by too great an intake of calories - not by driving, which actually burns up calories. Even a passenger would lose weight marginally in being driven through normal respiration.
It is therefore a false trail, and diet should be the main focus on tackling obesity.
(As a keen walker, I would support the thrust behind encouraging greater exercise, though)
The document holds that both walking and cycling are environment-friendly/do not cause pollution (and may even 'reduce pollution')
An industrial chemist calculated that four cyclists can produce as much CO2 as taking a car journey together.
It could equally be admitted that petrol vehicles do not cause 'carbon pollution'. But that is not an image that the Mayor wishes to convey.
It should be noted that by no means all scientists accept that 'global warming' is caused or significantly aggravated by transport; 17,000+ scientists have signed the Oregon Petition, and others have disowned the methods used by the UN panel on climate change in constructing their highly selective theoretical computer models.
At the same time some forms of public transport, such as buses, emit diesel fumes which are high on carcinogenic substances (e.g. particulates).
Although Paddington 'national rail' (BR) station is not in the Borough, some of the Borough's residents will of course use it, and will find that the air quality is appalling. This is an area in need of 'Londonwide action', a topic touched on by the LIP.
3. Prejudice against the driver
p239 and following pages praise cycling as a 'more sociable' form of transport than the car. As a former cyclist (before my bike was vandalised) I don't doubt that many cyclists are sociable people, but one could argue that car sharers - and those that drive to see their friends and relatives - are equally sociable?
As regards a comment that 'cyclists are more tuned into their surroundings', I would suggest that this is wishful thinking. There is no reason why motorists should be less 'tuned in', particularly as they can more readily suffer penalties for breaking speed limits or higher insurance premiums for being involved in accidents? If anything they have more incentives than cyclists to concentrate.
Just as an irresponsible minority of car drivers use non-hands-free mobiles when driving, an irresponsible minority of cyclists wear personal hi-fis that if anything reduce the awareness of their senses to the road. I would expect all road users to be alert and responsible, and the strategy to encourage this without inbuilt discrimination.
On p246, young males are singled out for their cycling misdemeanours. Why not jettison the distinction, and insist on courtesy by all cyclists regardless of background?
The comment about 'freeing road capacity for cyclists' should be reviewed in the context that most cycle lanes seem to be seldom used, even dedicated lanes such as in King Street. Indulging in anti-driver prejudices will just increase congestion on the roads; creating frustration and tiredness is in nobody's interests.
Surely the priority of a transport strategy should be to get - and keep - traffic moving?
p223 alleges that studies have found that 'air quality is worse inside vehicles'. Some studies have found that air quality is worst in homes as a result of dust, domestic chemicals etc, and that some vehicles (e.g. one type of Saab) actually clean road air by decomposing pollutants with their catalytic filters.
I am pleased to see some prominence given to education; however the Council should bear in mind that Sections 406 and 407 of the 1996 Education Act forbid political bias in school education; controversial topics such as global warming theory and the causes of accidents should be tackled impartially and even-handedly.
Road safety education should be part of life long learning rather than just for one age group. For instance, it would be good if pedestrians were discouraged from dashing out in front of traffic at Hammersmith Broadway, as this could easily lead to tragedy.
I would question the wisdom of promoting Home Zones, as roads are designed for vehicles. It is not a good precedent to encourage children to play in them, when their minds are preoccupied with fun rather than safety; in my view it would be as inappropriate as encouraging motorists to drive on pavements, which are there for pedestrians.
Surveys have shown that speed (in the sense of inappropriate speed for the road conditions) is only a minor causal factor in accidents; inattention and errors of judgement are more prevalent.
I am pleased to see examples of re-engineering mentioned, such as mending pot-holes in the interest of road safety.
The LIP omits to say what is the effect of road furniture such as humps on vehicles' suspensions and axles - on Parsons Green Lane, even taking a hump at 15mph is jarring. Maybe such humps should be re-engineered.
In many of the Borough's roads, road speed is naturally reduced in the interest of a driver not losing their wing mirror. The artificial narrowing (chicanes) by 'The Cumberland' on Peterborough Road should be removed as these block the free-flow of traffic and can lead to frustration as well as dangerous hold-ups on the junction with the New Kings Road.
Some common sense is needed.
The notional 'improvement' caused by Central London congestion charging since February 2003 appears to have had a negative effect on tube users. Rush hour tube trains at Hammersmith Broadway are more packed, more difficult to board, and passengers increasingly have to fight through to be able to get off at their desired stop.
Extending the congestion charge westwards is likely to aggravate things further.
In spite of car ownership levels less than Italy and Germany, the RAC Foundation has found that the greatest transport challenge is not congestion but creating enough parking spaces to accommodate cars. A third of drivers have abandoned a journey and gone home after being unable to find a parking space at their destination, according to a survey commissioned by the Foundation. (Source: Times, April 18, 2005)
The lack of spaces contributes to congestion because up to 80 per cent of traffic in city centres is made up of drivers searching for somewhere to park.
This indicates that, although high-minded, some of the 'Green transport strategies' of reducing Borough parking space might achieve the opposite result to that officially intended. Motorists spend money when they visit shops and help to generate jobs and prosperity. See them as part of an integrated solution - not a social pariah. They pay far more into the Exchequer than they get back in transport-related benefits; the balance needs to change.
Although Park'n'Ride is said to be a 'Zone 3' concern (i.e. for other boroughs), the Borough should seek at least consultation on a Londonwide basis as to a means of giving commuters an option not to bring their vehicles into the central zone.
p59 talks of a 'bus stop audit'. Can we also have a bus lane audit, please, as some of the bus lanes seem to be an inappropriate use of road space. The infrequency of some buses will mean greater delays in queues (and increased fuel consumption) for other vehicles.
Although there is maybe some justification for a bus (priority) lane on Fulham Palace Rd, its hours of operation include Saturdays when there are minimal commuters. These should be reviewed.
It would also be useful to have a lights system for bus lanes allowing vehicles to use them like box junctions - OK to enter so long as the exit is not obstructed. This would still allow priority to be given to approaching buses, but would not leave road space unnecessarily empty.
Also, the hours of operation on some bus lanes need to be made clear - some drivers stay out of the lanes outside the hours of operation. This creates and aggravates congestion.
29 April 2005
This story updated: 30 April 2005, linked articles updated: 11 March 2007