Stop Killing Cyclists – my response to the 10 by 2020 challenge

Stop Killing Cyclists demo at BankI’m very happy to support Stop Killing Cyclists. Their events and campaigning are a vital part of keeping cycling – particularly safety – high on the political agenda. I cycle to work myself, and know that there are many more journeys I would make by bike (notably from Hackney to Westminster for meetings) much more often if there were safe, segregated routes that were easy to navigate and didn’t mean risking being dumped onto a dangerous, unfamiliar junction if I lost my way.

Making cycling an easier and safer way to travel would make our city better in so many ways: reducing traffic and congestion, cutting the pollution that causes nearly 10,000 early deaths every year, reducing noise, allowing more space to be given to pedestrians, play and life on the streets, and helping citizens stay fit and healthy too.

I welcome the 10 by 2020 Mayoral Safer Cycling Challenge, and my responses to the questions are below. I’m standing for Mayor and for the Assembly, and while the detail of London Green Party policy is decided collectively, as a transport campaigner in my current job I’d be a real champion for these issues as Mayoral candidate or as an Assembly Member if I were selected by the Greens.Cycling demo Sian Berry Jenny Jones

1. 10% BY 2020 – Will you commit to investing 10% of TfL budget on cycling infrastructure by 2020, building up each year from current minuscule 1.4%?

Investment is a really important measure to put at the top of the list. Providing ten per cent of the current budget would be a real challenge – as Mayor I’d be responsible for making sure bus and tube services didn’t suffer as a result – but I think that putting ten per cent of the capital budget into cycle infrastructure would be an ambitious and realistic plan if additional funds could be pulled in from elsewhere.

With me as Mayor or on the Assembly, you’d have someone with the political will to pull every lever possible to get to this figure, and a track record of finding creative ways to get good transport policies enacted. Some ways to get to the level of investment needed could include:

  • Shifting funds from the planned new motorway bridges and tunnels in East London. These should be replaced by new cycling, walking and public transport links across the river, which would cost much less, releasing funds for elsewhere in the cycling plan.
  • Introducing a Workplace Parking Levy. Powers exist for this to be done at a GLA or local council level anywhere in the city. In my role as a Councillor in Camden, I’ve already put this proposal forward as a way of reducing traffic and raising money for transport plans. If done London-wide, any funds raised should be shared with the boroughs, but could add significantly to both TfL and local cycling investment.
  • Replacing the creaking Congestion Charge, which first started 12 years ago, with something much more sophisticated, covering all of London not just a small central zone. A replacement scheme should start consultation as soon as the next mayor takes over, with a set of fair new charges based on three principles: how far you drive, how polluting your vehicle is, and the time of day. The law says additional funds should be spent on giving drivers better and cheaper alternatives, and cycling investment qualifies roundly for this.
  • Negotiating increased grants from central Government, justified by the savings in healthcare, access to jobs, reduced pollution, and other benefits of increasing cycling. These could come partly via the planned Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, an historic commitment to funding that was passed into law last week, and which ought to include helping London develop its policies in these areas.
  • Talking to Highways England about using some of their £250 million cycling, safety and integration fund over the next five years to improve cycling around the parts of the strategic road network in London (e.g. around junctions with the M1, M4 and M13). These funds were introduced as part of a ‘green retrofit’ programme in the new Road Investment Strategy, which I helped push for in my job at Campaign for Better Transport

2. END HGV/BUS BLIND SPOT – Will you require full blind-spot safety equipment (Left Hand Side CCTV and alarms) to be installed in all existing and new HGVs, buses, coaches and Tipper Trucks entering London?

I completely agree with this. A heartbreaking number of deaths and injuries are being caused by the inability of drivers in large vehicles to see cyclists and pedestrians around them. All public vehicles should be replaced with low cab designs as quickly as possible, along with retrofitted safety measures on all vehicles entering the city. Conditions on safe construction vehicles should be put into all new planning agreements, and an ambitious scheme of incentives and regulations created for the freight industry, including freight consolidation and switching to smaller vehicles as well as new designs for HGVs.

3. MINI-HOLLANDS FOR ALL – Will you fund a Mini-Holland Programme for all London Boroughs within your first term?

I’ve seen enough ‘pilots’ of these kinds of measures over the years, and the value for money is unarguable, so yes this would be a big priority for me, particularly as car dependency in outer London has been neglected so much. Boroughs have a lot to gain from being involved, and many have shown an interest so there is no need to wait before rolling out Mini-Hollands everywhere.

It’s important that evaluation and evidence from the initial schemes is collected and published in good time too. For example on the gains to local businesses from friendlier streets, as I know that many small businesses still believe they depend on drivers for their custom, and don’t appreciate how many more customers have the potential to reach them on foot and by bike.

4. PHYSICALLY PROTECTED CYCLE-LANES – Will you support a comprehensive grid of Go-Dutch standard physically protected cycle-routes across the TfL road network to enable people of all ages and abilities to cycle safely?

This is a clear priority for me, and (along with Mini-Hollands) I’d put new segregated cycling infrastructure  top of the list for new investment plans. For me it’s the number one measure that would get a wider range of people cycling, and get current cyclists using their bikes for more journeys.

I’ve written here about how Transport for London’s traffic models overestimate the potential impact on car journey times and how these need to be changed to reflect the real impact of shifting road space to more efficient modes of travel. If New York can do it, we’re well overdue this kind of road space revolution in London!

5. LONDON 20 MPH ZONE – Will you support a 20mph speed limit across London (excluding motorways)?

Absolutely! The exclusion of many red routes in boroughs that have brought in a 20mph speed limit feels completely wrong now that so many roads are calmer. I regularly cycle along and across Camden Road, for example, and the extra speed (and speeding) I encounter is a real shock after spending the rest of my journey on 20mph streets in Camden and Islington. In practice – on roads like this that pass through residential areas – the extra speed only serves to get vehicles more quickly to the next traffic light or crossing and is a needless danger.

A comprehensive speed limit of 20 across London would help make the city consistent for drivers and foster a real sense of a city that was moving away from dominance by the car and giving priority to other ways of getting around.

6. SAFER LEFT HAND TURNS: EMERGENCY PROGRAMME + IDAHO LAW – Will you support the introduction of the Idaho law, allowing cyclists to turn left when traffic is free at junctions, with full legal priority for pedestrians, when doing so and support an emergency programme of installing safe protected left-hand turns at a minimum of the 500 junctions that were originally promised to be reviewed by Boris Johnson by the end of your first term?

These two measures I think are complementary – the Idaho law is essentially an emergency measure to make up for danger inherent in current junctions, and would need introducing with great care and lots of communication if we’re not to leave the impression that all London’s cyclists have started to defy traffic lights. Very strong messages would need to be sent out about the hierarchy and the need to give way to pedestrians too. The review of junctions to make them safe for all the people using them needs to be done urgently, and I’d make this an important priority for new investment funds if elected.

7. END LETHAL TIME PRESSURES ON BUSES/TIPPER TRUCKS – Will you end the lethal paid by timed delivery regimes for HGVs in the construction industry and end dangerous system of paying for bus performance by contracted Excess Waiting Time Targets?

This is a very important root cause of a lot of poor driving and congratulations for highlighting and identifying it. Within the GLA, we can make sure that no contract we procure ever specifies this, and we can also work with boroughs and other public authorities to reduce the practice there too. The construction and freight industries needs to be engaged as well – on this and other issues in this plan – and forging an agreement to stop these contracts altogether would be something I’d aim to push through. See also my reply to question 10 below.

8. SQUARES AND STREETS FIT FOR HUMANS – Will you support a programme of making our beautiful major squares and shopping streets fit for humans, by closing them to motorised transport, including: Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, Parliament Square, Bank Junction, etc?

This list is a bare minimum of the streets that could be closed to traffic in central London. I’ve written here about how there’s virtually a consensus among businesses and mayoral candidates that Oxford Street needs clearing of traffic altogether and how we can follow the lead of New York’s public space programme to seriously boost business as well as safety and pollution.

As a councillor I’ve supported Camden Council’s plans for Tottenham Court Road, which cuts down on road capacity into the West End (which should also help with making more schemes possible there) while helping buses and cyclists and pedestrians in another key shopping area.

We shouldn’t ignore outer London in this, and within the Mini-Holland programme we can be more ambitious about closing roads and creating new public spaces there too.

9. TWO TfL BOARD PLACES FOR CYCLISTS – Will you appoint two cycling representatives to the TfL Board, nominated by cycling groups and change its name to the London Cycling, Walking and Transport Authority?

The board of TfL needs a proper shake-up, and representatives of many more groups added, while business representatives need to be reduced. I would definitely support two places for cycling representatives – one for inner and one for outer London would be my preference – as well as unions, public health specialists and the full range of pedestrians.

I am not sure about the new name proposed above – as a transport campaigner for many years I’ve always considered ‘transport’ to include walking and cycling and have campaigned on both of these under that heading, as well as for local communities affected by the impact of roads and other transport while not going anywhere.

10. TIPPER TRUCK BAN – Will you ban tipper trucks at rush hour and introduce a scheme whereby electric delivery trucks to bring in goods from HGVs parked in outer London, into central London and promote cargo bikes for last mile deliveries?

Tipper trucks and other construction lorries desperately need keeping off the streets at the busiest times and I am strongly in favour of a simple ban on these, as well as strong conditions added to future planning agreements, which are fully justified and don’t risk any kind of challenge.

For other large vehicles, freight, shop deliveries and vans, London needs a real plan, and we must work with the freight industry to do this as they are not against avoiding rush hour (this after all is the time they have the least reliable deliveries and most delays) and don’t see it as a simple cost to them.

However, there are complications due to the delivery time restrictions built into literally thousands of planning agreements for shops and businesses, and a clear need to engage with local residents if vehicles are to arrive earlier in the morning. The need for a comprehensive plan that also involves switching to smaller vehicles – including bikes – and co-operation and consolidation to avoid empty loads, is absolutely vital to solving this problem once and for all.